bingo!

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Occasionally I’ll look back over my most motivational posts and say to myself, “Yeah, that’s a fantastic point! I so agree with that! How inspiring!” Aside from being shamelessly self-serving, I love going back to see what I was thinking and feeling in the past. I’m sure most of you have experienced revisiting interests and feeling the desire burn once again. It’s the same for me.

Here are some of my favorite motivational, dream-chasing, kick-in-the-pants posts;

otter.

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success revisited

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In this picture I’m in Taiwan, at the foot of Alishan mountain with a great friend. I count that successful, and I sure as heck wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else…take that OCD!

I recently read this article on the All Groan Up site. It reminded me of when I first started thinking about what success means. Success is often viewed as an unyielding standard to which we all aspire. But this definition is wrong. Success is inherently personal in that embodies the dreams and desires of each individual.

I won’t reiterate my idea of success – it hasn’t changed all that much. But recently, I have been losing sight of it. I was glad to read the above article and be reminded that success is measured by my own standards, not some universal constant of which I am constantly falling short.

The All Groan Up site frequently mentions OCD. Not the usual “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,” but rather “Obsessive Comparison Disorder.” It really is an epidemic, and an insidious one as no one seems to ever label it. People today seem to have an unhealthy fixation with comparing themselves to everybody else. I do it all the time, especially now that I’m in school and surrounded by people my own age. People I “could” be, in other words. Except that I can’t. I’m me, and I will always be me; you are you, and always will be you. I could go off on metaphysical realities and whatnot, but you know it’s the truth. To bring home the point, here are a few quotes.

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of someone else.” ~Judy Garland

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” ~Oscar Wilde

“Today You are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” ~Dr. Suess

I feel the last one is particularly poignant…

Silliness aside, I need a strong reminder every now and then to keep the important things in focus. It’s really easy to get bogged down in exams and clubs and mindlessly go from activity to activity without taking a moment to assess my growth. You wouldn’t run a business like that, and you shouldn’t run yourself like that.

So stop every once in a while and ask these questions; am I where I want to be? Am I on the path to my own personal definition of success? Am I making decisions that reflect the person I want to be? Would the person I want to be be friends with the me now?

Good luck!

otter.

my dream again; hello old friend

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When I was in Taiwan, I developed a dream. It was a grand dream, well-cared for, nurtured every day with food, pop culture, music, and language, and thrived in its environment, becoming a large creature full of life and verve.

But the dream shrank as it met American life. The old habits, old ways of thinking stifled it somewhat, and a lack of drive and enthusiasm drained it slowly of life, until it was just the most recent of the dusty things on a shelf in some far way corner of the dreamer’s mind.

I had a dream to go to Korea. It was so strong it consumed me from within, pushing me towards itself with vigor. But it did fade. It’s still there, and it is still my plan – but it’s changed and shrunk a bit. Before, I thought Korea would be my end, my future permanent home. Now, I’m not so sure I want to stay there forever. I love things in America, and my family’s here.

It upset me when the dream faded. I was scared that I had lost a good deal of my passion for life inside it. I couldn’t get excited about anything. But I think it was a symptom of my transition period – without a cause or purpose I was just floating, and my dreams suffered for it.

Fortunately, I started school, joined the Korean Club at my University, and that all changed. Having people who share my dream has breathed new, fresh life into the dusty artifact. I’m eager and excited to move to Korea, and spend a lot of time researching study abroad programs, summer language courses, and teaching programs.

And now that I’m excited about my dream again, I’m more excited about life in general. It feels nice to have that energy back. Once the ball starts rolling, it just keeps going! Huzzah! I’m hoping things like diet and exercise will catch onto the ball too and sort themselves out…but, baby steps, right? Baby steps…

otter.

thumb-twiddling

Preparations for moving out are going well. I have at least gone through all the rubbish in various corners of my room and decided what to keep, toss, or sell. A rather large accomplishment and one that has been niggling vociferously in my noggin for some time. Go me.

I have sent off all of the paperwork on my end, signed what needs to be signed, and we have a definite date for moving in and the enlisted help of some friends.

So, what now? I have a couple weeks left until the actual move – I’m stuck at home waiting and twiddling my thumbs, playing hours of pyramid solitaire and trying to blog. Books and TV only vaguely old my interest, and most of the time I’m just waiting in the time between meals.

But never fear, oh readers of mine who despair over my lethargy; I am not all lost. I have created some lists to help me set down good roots in my new abode. For instance, I have created both a morning and evening routine full of relaxing and/or productive things to help me round out my days. A day well rounded is, well, rounded.

I got the idea from the book One Bite at a Time by Tsh Oxenreider. She has 52 projects to help streamline your life, finances, and home. I love the book. Simple and doable. As far as the morning and evening routines go, she argues that having a set of habits that you repeat, as simple as they may be, helps structure your life by providing ‘book-ends.’ I agree.

For a taster, my morning routine;

  • Drink water
  • Make bed
  • Shower/get ready
  • Breakfast outside on the patio (my apartment has one. Huzzah!)
  • Pray/Meditate

And the evening;

  • Make to-do list for next day
  • Bible reading
  • Quick Journal/Brain dump
  • Pick out clothes for next day
  • Read for 10-15 minutes

She has more options and ideas – I just picked the ones I thought would work for me. I tend to be on the computer right before bed, and it makes sleeping difficult, so I want to change that.

I honestly think it will help me, especially as I have added brain dump for my list of evening habits. My brain is one of those that like to poke at me all through the night with interesting anecdotes and ideas. Accursed thing.

I’m also slowly working on a meal and exercise plan, to be started immediately upon arrival at the new place, and school will start soon after, so my schedule will be full and unable to be gotten round. I do love being busy because it saves me the trouble of doing it myself. I sound utterly lazy. For shame.

otter.

my blog journey; we’re still trucking

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(A really old picture from my first blogging days. Yikes.)

If, as Ernest Hemingway so rightly said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” then I am convinced that to blog, all one must do is sit down at a computer and drool.

I read a post recently by my fellow blogger Lani about who we write for; ourselves or an audience. It got me thinking about who I write for. Which got me thinking about why I write, which got me thinking about where I started and where I am now. (Yeah, the long, meandering paths of my brainwaves are fascinating.) I know that to be a really effective lifestyle blogger, you have to write what you want. Obviously the quality of writing counts, but the most important thing is to write about something you care about. This was good advice for essays in high school, and it’s good advice for blogging.

I got started on my blog a few years ago. I think I may have changed names a few times, so you can’t find my very first posts. At that time, I was obsessed with A Beautiful Mess blog. It’s changed in the years too, but it was absolutely visually addicting to me at the time. I don’t remember if I started my blog before I found the site or after, but it definitely made a huge impact on my style and intent. I had no focus at first; it was really just a random web log, full of inanity about silly things. ABM helped me create an intent and purpose for my blog.

I struggled in the next few months, trying to find the balance between writing what I wanted and writing for an audience to attract a readership. Elsie from ABM gave very provocative numbers for her viewers, and she made a heck of a lot of money off of her site. I wanted that too, so I was challenged to find some avenue that wasn’t hackneyed that I could actually write about with any authority.

My posts in those days ran from daily life anecdotes, which were awful, short stories, and random cool stuff I found on the internet. It wasn’t any good, really, and I knew it. I stopped blogging for a while before I came to Taiwan. It was only in the, hmm, maybe four months or so before I moved that I started it up again. This time my focus was on natural living and remedies. I’d gotten on a kick of homeopathy, so my posts were a lot of natural beauty care trials, making water kefir, etc. I think it was at that point that I renamed it ‘The Flying Armchair.’ I sure had a lot of fun doing the natural stuff, but it didn’t really attract many readers.

After knowing I was coming to Taiwan, I revamped the blog and started tailoring it for a travel direction. But even then it wasn’t super successful. I still hadn’t gotten a hang of photo-editing, and I was posting almost every day. I knew that blogs that posted more often did better, but only if they had quality stuff. My stuff was okay, but I would push for content and it showed.

I was still writing to reach an audience, one that shared my interests, but I was way too focused on a crowd. As such, by New Year’s, I was flagging. I had lost interest and was just posting to keep my friends and family updated. Fortunately, that all changed.

In February, and I know the date because I know the post that began my new journey, I started a new focus for my blog. I was tired of writing silly stuff or just posting boring play-by-play narratives of what I did. I was really into living the dream life at the time (still am), and was reading a lot about ways to optimize performance, ways to increase productivity, why loving your job matters, and so on.

So I posted a motivational post, and voila. People seemed to like it. I did more. They liked that too. I started getting more comments and more followers. I’m still small, and that’s okay. I like what I’m doing and what I’m writing. It’s finally become as fun as I had hoped. I like posting my thoughts on life. I didn’t think anyone would care, but it seems they do.

Right now this blog is still a travel lifestyle blog, but it’s changed in the past and it will continue to change with me. It’s on this journey of life alongside me. I can’t predict if people who followed me for my Taiwan adventure will care about my college experience, but I’m optimistic that other people will enjoy it.

So that’s my blogging story. I’ve come a long way, and I like where I’m headed. What’s your story?

otter.

reflections; Korea

First impressions are funny. Whether accurate or not, they are never complete. I barely scratched the surface of Korea, despite hitting most of the main tourist areas in Seoul. I think I got a good taste, strong enough to assert my obsession with the place, but it was too brief, too tantalizing, and it made me upset to leave after such a short time. Upset. More like I wanted to hug the ground and cry and never let go until I knew Korea like I know Taiwan, like I know America. Til I can call Korea home. The fact that that could be another two years is painful. Maybe I’m being melodramatic.

I’ve never done anything like that before – going somewhere foreign all alone and figuring out what to do and where to go all by myself. I always assumed people who did that were so cool and brave and had no trouble. No, “Ohmygosh I don’t want to leave this room just let me lie here in my puddle of nerves and watch life go on around me without actually taking part,” moments, no uncertainty, no fear of talking to strangers. It’s like I thought backpackers and travelers were privy to some grand secret of travel that made them better at it.

Well, maybe some are. But I’m sure some of you are like me, equally scared and excited, forcing yourself to be adventurous because you know you really do want to, but it’s just buried under a lot of insecurity.

But now I know that when I return, it will be a return, not an introduction. Every time now will be another time, not the first. I’ve done the first. It’s over, and now I can be more confident each time I go. There’s nothing so psychologically unnerving as a first time.

The one thing I do sort of regret is that I didn’t meet very many Koreans. None, in fact. I spoke to a few, but didn’t get a chance to know any. Of course, this was a very brief vacation, so that’s hardly surprising. I got an impression of the country, not the people. Next time I go, I intend it to be a longer stay, one in which I can get to know the Korean people.

It’s been a few weeks now since I was in Seoul. Memories are already starting to blur, with a few highlights standing out clearly. I wonder if chronic travelers ever have trouble remembering everything they’ve done. Do cities start to feel the same after a while?

I still have my map of the Seoul subway. It’s starting to tear along the creases. But when I open it, it seems like I’m back in the stations, sitting at a random bench, marking my course, hearing the trains and gate noises, waiting to go somewhere new. I can close my eyes and recall the adventure, the feeling of complete control and yet a total lack of it, the thrills and the underlying uncertainty. It can be addicting, I think, and now I really see why so many people travel constantly.

I didn’t feel ready when I went to Seoul. The days leading up to it were a mixture of “what have I DONE?” and “Almost, almost, almost, almost, almost…” There were plenty of moments when I just wanted to cancel my ticket and stay home. I just didn’t feel ready. But I knew that, as Lemony Snicket so wisely said;

“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of our lives.”

So here’s to never being ready. Here’s to the people who do things that scare them. Here’s to the adventurers and seekers of life. Huzzah!

otter.

being assertive? or; I’m afraid of suitcases

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I should probably think of a witty caption here, but skies have little do with fear. But I don’t have any pictures of fear.

I would never call myself a fearful person. I see threats and dangers and avoid them when possible, but I try not to let that dictate my life. In the last few years, I’ve found out how silly most fears are. When I say fears here, I’m talking more specifically about personal fears; fear of the unknown, fear of looking stupid, fear of doing the wrong thing, or fear of rejection and failure. Dangerous situations should never be overlooked or disregarded, and caution should be taken at all times.

But these less rational, more personal fears are another matter. They can keep us from doing what we want and being happy. I’ve had more situations here where I’ve had to forcefully assert myself and thrust aside a fear in order to do something. Sometimes I fail at this.

Here’s a funny story that makes me cringe; my best friend and I wanted to eat at Sushi Express. We’d been once before with a co-worker in Taipei, but this location was inside of a grocery store. We’d tried already to eat there before, but it was super crowded and the waitresses had some difficulty trying to explain that there was a wait. It was awkward; she showed us waiting slips and said wait a few times and tried to mime it, all in front of a packed restaurant. I think we embarrassed her. Embarrassed ourselves too. Anyway, so we wanted to try again, this time when we could clearly see many vacant seats. Sushi Express is all about speed, so you pick a spot round the long circular-ish bar and get the plates sliding around, then pay according to how many plates you have. Simple.

The second time we tried, we’d already been turned down that one time, so we were unsure if we needed to be seen to our seats or if we should just sit anywhere. We stood in front of the place for a good three minutes whispering and trying to decide, all while making a spectacle of ourselves and being stared at by customers. We knew how to ask the waitress in broken Chinese, but I was terrified of approaching her. Still don’t really know why. I think I was afraid she wouldn’t understand, that we’d be run off again, and everyone would laugh at us. My friend tried unsuccessfully to make me ask, but I was sweating and refusing with all my might, my eyes getting buggier every second, so eventually she asked and we just sat down where we wanted. I wanted to hide under the table, as my face was about the color of the crab scooting along.

Ugh. So, long story short, I was afraid, and it was annoying. I hated myself a little inside for being such a wuss. But there you are. I’m much more comfortable using what little Chinese I have with my co-workers than total strangers. I feel like my co-workers will judge me less, and it won’t be as awkward since they speak English anyway. Not so with strangers, where a mutually unintelligible conversation results in a really awkward stand-off.

The situation I describe above has happened maybe twice in my recollection, but that one was pretty epic. Normally I feel more confident about going after what I want or need, saying what little words I know or using strange body language to mime stuff. You have to lose some inhibitions when you don’t speak the same language. I’ve mimed shoes being too small, clothes being too big or weirdly shaped, being on a bike, and other things I can’t remember. But, as I say, sometimes I fail. (I’ve been to Sushi Express again since that time and successfully been seated and asked for our check. By pointing and nodding. Huzzah?)

I like doing stuff alone because then I’m forced to challenge my fears. I have no choice. When I’m with someone else, I can take the back seat if I want and let them lead. I don’t like leading other people except when it’s necessary. I can find my way just fine through train stations, but if someone else is there to guide me, I’ll let them go ahead. A personality quirk that means it’s necessary for me to look for situations where I need to assert myself. I have been to town alone a few times for this purpose, but a much bigger challenge is ahead.

Namely, Korea. Going it alone is a little scary (mini panic attacks at the sight of a suitcase, anyone?). I’m not over-worried about my personal safety, since Korea is known for being safe, even for lone girls, but what if I get lost? What if I make a fool of myself? I have no wing-man to be there for me, no fellow traveler to commiserate with, no second guest for dining out. Most places don’t like if you eat alone, but I can avoid peak times and fancy places and probably be fine. As it is, I want to know I can traverse a country alone. Psychologically, this is important. It’s a roadblock in my head, and once I get around it, I think a lot more venues will open up. I won’t be as afraid of other things once I get that under my belt.

Fear is a constant in my life, and probably in yours. Don’t let it stop you from doing things. Forge ahead, assert yourself, and be amazed at what you can do. Remember Nike; Just Do It.

otter.