adventure is…

…hearing Korean spoken and getting giddy inside.

…seeing places in person you’ve only read about.

…collecting memories to treasure forever.

…meeting a place, saying hello, and promising to return.

…hearing “Happy Birthday” sung in Korean out your window.

…hearing people spitting boisterously. Frequently.

…realizing a place is better than you ever imagined, and feeling sad you have to wait to return.

…passing a vendor selling pancakes shaped like poop. Right next to the poop café.

…deciding which members of 2pm to pass through at every metro gate.

…telling people how much you love Asia and getting some weird looks in return. From Asians.

…enduring endless rejection from felines at a cat café.

…going down escalators, realizing you’re in the wrong place halfway down, and then riding the up escalator immediately afterward, all to the enjoyment of the natives.

…being in Gangnam and discovering there is such a thing as “Gangnam Style.” And that you do not fit in, but stick out like a sore thumb. A sore, slobby, not-rich thumb.

…coming home from a five day vacation and being pestered with inquiries into whether you’ve gotten plastic surgery.

…knowing that the dream is now a memory.

otter.

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personal success

success

A few weeks ago I made a diagram of what I wanted in my life – something definable I could label as success. I mean, what does success really mean? There’s no list in the world that lays out a very specific idea. There are generalizations, like being rich, famous, happy, married, or whatever you’ve heard, but nothing detailed. The amounts of wealth vary, as do the definitions of happiness and fame.

For me, I’ve struggled with the pressure to be successful my whole life, most of it self-inflicted. But I had no notions of what that success would look like. How dumb is it to go chasing something with no parameters? Very dumb.

In order to escape this faceless demon of undefined success, I decided to create the diagram. What would success look like for me? What did I hope to accomplish that I could label as having been successful in that area, and by extension, in life?

Here are a few things from my diagram (some of them were too personal to include).

Success Is:

– Being free from money worries – having x amount saved and invested

– Being able to pay cash for a home and car

– Working with language – as a translator, blogger, or writer

– Being fluent in Korean and Chinese

– Being able to eat out at nice restaurants and shop where I want – (I was specific here, you should be too)

– Being fit – which means reaching my goal weight, and engaging in some sort of sport or martial art

– Eating healthy, organic food

– Having an active ministry in a church I can fully support

– Having a small group of close friends I can rely on

– Being married and having kids, homeschooling those kids and equipping them to be independent of us

– Living in Asia – meeting awesome people

There you have it. Notice that most of these are money or lifestyle related, and none of them involve a certain education, job, or amount of fame. Per my definition, success is an ongoing thing. It’s not a destination, it’s a way of traveling. Some of these things I can start right away, and say, “I’m successful now,” which is really rewarding. I still struggle with wanting the normal ideas of success, like being famous or super rich, but I know deep down that I wouldn’t be any happier in that lifestyle, and it would create more problems than it would fix.

If you made a diagram, what would success look like for you?

otter.

dream burnout/disappointment

As COPs and EDs*, it’s easy for us to overload on planning. But there’s always a point where there’s just nothing left to plan. If you suffer from COP, then you’ve probably done this; planned everything a thousand ways, tweaked it endlessly, and now there’s nothing left for that dream. You’re left twiddling your thumbs, bored and aimless, until one day…BAM. Another grand idea comes along, whisking you off to Planningland. If you don’t stop yourself from planning and dreaming, you’re going to be caught in the never-ending search for the new, next-best dream, the next something to plan and dream about. And you’ll wind up at the end of your life with none of the dreams accomplished. You may even have twenty cats. (Well, that doesn’t sound half bad…) At any rate, dream burnout is easy to get. I’ve done it hundreds of times.

Here’s a piece of advice. Don’t make idols of your dreams. Dreams are wonderful, shiny, grandiose things that are called “dreams” for a reason. They don’t exist in reality in the way we think they will. They never can, because we can’t see the future. 100% of the time, they surprise us in how they turn out. Come on, you know I’m right. Nothing is perfect, and even if we plan out the flaws or dangers, reality always has something we don’t expect. Dreams can’t meet your highest expectations. If you think they will, you will set yourself up for dream disappointment.

Remember, even if you reach achieve your dream life, it won’t always be exciting and infinitely more wonderful than the life you have now. Life is mostly made up of endless days and in-between moments, not the biggest, brightest times. Think back on your happiest memories. When you were living that moment, was it as wonderful as the memory it created? I’ve discovered that often enough, a moment is better in memory than when I was living it. Mostly because I’m not thinking about how wonderful the thing is all the while I’m in it. Find time to create wonderful memories, but remember that life is never a continuous succession of adventure, and watch out for dream burnout and disappointment.

otter.

*COP – Chronic Over-Planner/Planning

ED – Excessive Dreamer/Dreaming

right attitude

hanging

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”  ~Romans 5:3-5

Not all of this work is sunshiney happiness and roses floating in the background. Sometimes we don’t want to wake up, get up, teach, smile, be happy, be patient, be understanding, tolerate our differences, say the kind words, encourage and praise, make the effort, do hard things, and above all show love to one another.

But it’s so necessary. I remind myself every time I want to blow that it will cause much more damage than I want to repair, and that much anger can be averted by gentle words. I fail a lot. I get tired, irritable, irascible, annoyed, lazy, fed up, and every other nasty thing I could be.

However, I think that this time of testing is fantastic. I get a little excited every time I have to endure something I don’t like, because I feel like every time I do the right thing, a little party is going on inside my soul. I’m growing! I’m showing good character! I’m learning self-control!

When I’m tired or irritable, I have to remind myself why I’m here; to love the people of Taiwan, kids, teachers, even my team-mates, with God’s love. So it doesn’t matter what I feel. I have to be joyful to love them and bless them. To make their lives and burdens easier, I have to be strong and happy and helpful.

When I’m stressed, I have to remind myself that in the end, it doesn’t matter so long as I gave my best. If the kids don’t remember a word of English, but smile when they see me, I will have succeeded. One lesson is not going to be the end of the world if it falls flat.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that my time is not my own, that I am here to work, and that I should be always joyful, even if I don’t feel happy. Sometimes I need to bang my head against the wall to remind myself of all this.

Sometimes you just gotta hang out and let loose.

otter.

the unBirthday

Two of our team members had birthdays soon after we arrived; myself and my friend, whose birthdays fall in August, are so unfortunate as to not be able to celebrate ours while here. However, my lovely team-mates put their errant heads together and decided that, to be fair, they should surprise us with an “unBirthday.”

unb

They took us to a mall wherein lies a magical restaurant called “Café Grazie,” where unBirthdays are celebrated year-round.

unb1

We had appetizers of chicken and fried potatoes,

unb2

pumpkin potage soup and apple peach Italian soda,

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pizza, homemade mascarpone, and a giant brownie.

Needless to say, it was amazing. Pricey for Taiwan, about normal for America, but definitely a treat. I think we should make this a monthly tradition, eh guys? Eh?

Afterwards we looked around the outlying shops. In the mall, you’re bound to find the nicer, pricier stuff, and after getting used to three dollar shirts, I was getting major sticker shock. But we found some cheaper shops on the streets, where the prices are better but the English is…uh…

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DIFFERENT. This one turned out a little blurry, so if you can’t read it, it says “Yeep a Sptle.” I don’t even want to know what they were trying to say.

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And, of course, if you lick the Find Tab on your computer, you will install your company’s software. I think. Definitely need my shoes to remind me.

otter.

P.S. Thanks to my friend K for letting me steal the pictures she took!

peculiar joys

It’s been two months exactly since the day I left America to come teach in Taiwan. It’s been a time of learning, of gaining insight and experience into another culture and my own capabilities, and a time to learn to trust God to see to my needs. For one thing, I haven’t been sick, really sick, at all since I came. Sure, the food sometimes turns my stomach, but overall I have been abundantly blessed with good health and supernatural levels of energy. (If you could see these kids, the mere fact that I could keep up with them is cause for celebration.)

Why did I call this post “peculiar joys?” Because during this time of teaching, especially these first months, it’s been a time of stretching and doing things I don’t always want to do. It’s hard to make yourself get up and teach and be on call for ten or twelve hours a day (when we have night class, even if we’re not teaching a solid amount of time, we’re in the office, on work mode, from about seven in the morning to seven or eight at night.) It’s tiring. Exhausting sometimes. I can get pretty tired. But there’s a peculiar joy in knowing that this is part of adult-hood. Knowing this is making me have a better work ethic, a better outlook, a better dedication to duty, a higher tolerance for unpleasant things, and a resilience whenever I think I’ve had it, is terribly satisfying. Like the peculiar satisfaction that comes from denying yourself something you shouldn’t have but want: it’s the same. I can look back on the day, knowing I’ve put in hard work, and whether it’s gone well or not, I’m happy about that. I’m happy when I have an experience, good or bad, that gives me experience. When I’m old and wrinkled, I want to be happy and full of stories about things I’ve done and things I can do. I won’t get those stories unless I push myself to do everything I can, hard or easy, whether I feel like it or not.

This year will be a growing year. It will come gradually but greatly. Everyone has certain years that weigh more in their lives. This year will definitely be one for me.

playtime2

Keep on smiling!

otter.