Hello New Life!

Has it really been that long since I have written? It’s amazing how quickly time can pass. Since then my life has changed in a variety of ways…
…I finished my teaching contract in Korea, visited the fam in the US, spent a month in Chiang Mai, Thailand obtaining my CELTA certificate to increase my hire-ability, moved to Taichung, Taiwan, moved in with my boyfriend, started learning traditional Mandarin, got a new job, and started working out.
…It’s been crazy hectic and I’ve had my emotional ups and downs along the way, but all in all I’m quite happy and still loving expat life. Over time I’ll post about each of these new changes as the reflections occur to me, but for now:
GREETINGS FROM TAICHUNG, TAIWAN! ^^

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“Happy People are Initiators…”

A moment of true happiness while visiting Croatia. Photo by: Hassan Ali

I read the following quote in an ivillage article I read on Yahoo called “11 Secrets of Happy People.”

“Happy people are initiators…

Don’t wait for life to happen. You have to make it happen.”

I used to be the girl in the cubicle, complaining about not having the money to make myself happy.  I’m sure I drove my co-workers crazy with my constant desire and rambling about wanting to get out.  I’d be reading National Geographic at my desk (because my job was not inspiring to me and I couldn’t bring myself to do it for 8 hours a day) and wishing I could be one of those people who traveled and really saw things.  I was – correction am – in thousands of dollars of debt due to student loans and felt as though the world of travel was out of my reach.  I couldn’t afford to live in Spain on minimum wages, or volunteer in South America.  I couldn’t even afford language classes in my own hometown.  A bitterness began to overtake me as day after day, year after year I went back to the same type of job, always knowing there was something more for me, but not feeling as though it was within my grasp.  I was waiting for someone to show me the way – for life to bring me something fun and exciting to do.

Then, one day I decided I had had enough.  My 20s had been lost to the land of the cubicles and damn it I was going to find some way out of this rut no matter what it took.

And what it took was me moving to Asia, something I never thought I would’ve done before.  It was a little scary at first, moving across the world, signing a one year contract, not sure if me and my set ways were going to like it here, but it was the best decision I could’ve made.  I am much happier in life since I’ve been here for several reasons:  although not out of debt, I no longer use credit cards (except to purchase flights which I then pay off) and am not living paycheck to paycheck; I now have the means to travel more often and have seen 8 new countries since arriving 2 years ago; I broke out of my daily routine, made new friends, found a whole new lifestyle and a career that keeps me on my feet and more active.

None of this happiness would have occurred had I not decided to be an initiator.  I realized that many of the people I read about in travel magazines were not simply lucky, they found a way to make it happen and they created their own happiness.

And so did I.

Don’t wait for life to hand you a goodie bag of opportunity and dreams.  If you long for something better no matter how big or small, go out and get it.  Be willing to step out of your comfort zone if needed.  You may need to get creative to make things happen, so think outside the box.  No idea is too crazy – trust me!  Be an initiator.  Be your own reason for happiness.

Love at My Age

Love at my age is a mixed bag of emotions. You reach in to grab a handful and never know if you will come out with fear or joy.

By the time you reach your 30s, most of us have had our share of relationships of every category – puppy love, first love, flings, true love, friends with benefits, one night stands, cohabitation, engagements or even marriages. No matter if these relationships brought you smile or tears they still affect you in some way and the accumulation of all of that gets brought with you into a new relationship and into the arms of the poor sap who has to deal with it all.

So it is with these emotions, for better or worse, that I have entered into my current relationship. I am insanely in love and much happier than I have been in a very long time. I couldn’t ask for more. I am even more fortunate that he and I have been close friends for 7 years. The fact that he knows me so well and vice versa has made it that much easier to deal with these past emotions because we have been present in each other’s lives during most of the big relationships. There is great comfort in knowing that he loves me in spite of all of that chaos from the past.

However despite how much I trust him and how mutual our love is, those “Cinderella scars” (see one of the first posts on this blog) still resurface and stab What Ifs into my mind…What if he’s like the others? What if he cheats on me? What if he leaves me? What if he lies? It is a constant struggle to remind myself that HE IS NOT THEM. He actually helped me get over them over the years. The key is to focus on all of the good things he does for me everyday that reminds me of his love for me.

On the other end of this emotional scale is the joy. I cannot express how glad I am that I didn’t get married sooner because at my age I have gained a greater amount of confidence. I know what I want and what I won’t accept. I’m more tolerant, more patient and more rational. I think before I act or speak (I don’t know about you but I certainly didn’t have that skill in my early 20s). Handling a serious relationship at this level of maturity is less stressful. I appreciate him and what he brings to the relationship more now because I am more secure with who I am and what I can bring to the relationship.

Perhaps it’s because he’s my best friend or perhaps it’s because we are both older and more mature, but I feel an intense amount of satisfaction and a deeper connection with him than any of the others in the past because I’m finally ready for this…

OCD

Perhaps in a previous post somewhere (can’t remember where now) I mentioned that I’d discuss with you one day my OCD(Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) tendencies.  I have hesitated before now because I have not been officially diagnosed by a mental health professional and I don’t wish to be seen as one of those people who self-diagnoses off Web-MD, then blows their symptoms out of proportion.  What could also sometimes be referred to as internet hypochondriacs.  However, it has been several years now since I realized that what I do is not normal, so I feel justified in my self-diagnosis that I do in fact suffer from OCD.  I tend to hide it from people, but I remember one particular event where my brother was visiting from out of town and we were getting ready to leave the house.  I stopped to check the stove 3 or 4 times and he asked me why since I had been the only one home all day and I hadn’t used the stove in several days.  I didn’t have an answer as to why.  I knew it wasn’t logical, yet I couldn’t prevent myself from doing it.  Not to mention, since he distracted me, I had to go back and do it again.

You may ask why I have never been diagnosed nor treated.  I have wanted treatment for quite some time.  Not in the form of pills, but simply techniques or mental exercises that I can do to reduce the anxiety I get if I don’t check things.  However, when I lived in the US, treatment just wasn’t affordable.  I could barely afford the doctor’s visit and prescription for my allergies let alone a therapist.  Then I moved to Korea and although it is probably less expensive here and I have more financial flexibility, therapy here is not as common as it’s still seen as unacceptable to admit that you have a mental disorder so I don’t think I would be comfortable going to someone here, not to mention the difference in language.  I am sure I could find a practitioner who spoke good English, but I need someone who will understand my rapid thinking pace (my train of thought is faster than the KTX, no pun intended) and not have to stop my trains of thought to be sure they are fully understood.  So instead I just deal with it.  Just like with any mental disorder, I have good days and bad.  Some days I only have to check things once.  Other days it takes 7,8,9 times to get it right.

I noticed that when I’m not alone, such as when having a guest stay with me or living with others, I am not as bad about checking things multiple times.  Perhaps that is for fear of what they will think of me or perhaps it’s that I feel less anxiety and more stability and safety when others are around.  To reiterate, being OCD does not produce logical thought processes and many parts of the way I think cannot be explained, but it is what it is.  I am thankful that it is not worse and I am thankful that my family and friends are supportive.  My parents even bought me Howie Mandel’s book a couple years ago, which helped make me feel a little less alone (Howie often speaks publicly about his rituals and dealing with these anxieties on a daily basis).  I am able to laugh at myself because me being a logical thinker, having these uncontrollable illogical thoughts can be amusing.  It is quite an internal battle, but since I can’t change it, might as well accept it.

For those who don’t know much about OCD, I can’t tell you much.  Sorry.  I don’t know much about it myself.  There are different types of OCD, mine is the obsession with checking things for safety, such as locks, outlets, stoves, lights, etc.  To give you a glimpse of my particular brand of OCD, here is a clip from the show that A&E has called “Obsessed.”  It shows a man who is afflicted with many of the same obsessions I am.  I do not write down a list as he does, nor do I check the water (I sometimes do but not often).  Nor do I know what triggered my OCD like he does, but a lot of the rituals are very similar.

Until I can get proper treatment, if anyone out there suffers from OCD or knows someone who does and knows of any mental exercises to try on my own, please let me know.  I am thankful that it does not affect my daily life, besides being part of the reason I’m always running late, so I am not in need of urgent care, but living a little more at peace would be nice.  I realize that putting it all out there means sharing a very personal issue with my friends, acquaintances and unknown readers, but I think knowing these types of issues that people generally hide only helps us all to understand each other better, so I think it is worth that feeling of vulnerability that will inevitably follow when I publish this post.

And as a send off, here’s a short interview Howie Mandel did on the Ellen show where he balances the seriousness with the ability to laugh about it too.  I’ve always been a fan of Howie’s.  My germ obsessions aren’t overly strong these days, but they are still there, so I sympathize with him.

A Complicated Conundrum

I remember sitting in the guidance counselor’s office of my high school pouring through a very large book of scholarships for college. Yes, a BOOK, those things we had to use to look up info prior to the internet. I was not having much success finding any for my skill set. I wasn’t a star athlete, I wasn’t a minority (with the exception of being left handed), I wasn’t part of some group like the Daughters of the Amer. Revolution. I had a GPA well over 3.0 but that wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t rich but I wasn’t financially needy by their standards either.

I suddenly came to the disheartening realization that despite feeling smart, confident and unique, on paper I appeared merely average. I didn’t win any scholarships despite my research (hence all the student loans) and that disheartening feeling I felt…I’m just now realizing that it is still lingering with me.

With the numerous job paths I’ve wanted to go on – writer, flight attendant, English teacher (in a better job and different country), etc – I always felt like I had exactly what it took to be good at the job, but didn’t think that others would see what I have to offer because on paper, I am merely average. I excel in interviews, I just need them to notice my resume to get face time.

This applies to my love life as well I’m sure. The guys I have been and am now interested in, I don’t know how to make them see how amazing I can be or how much I can offer them in life. I see it, but do they?

I suppose this is how I ended up as a Spanish speaking, salsa dancing, blonde American living in Korea. I became obsessed with being different. Following a path of normalcy is not an option for me. I love that my life is no longer average, I am just surprised that this desire to be different stemmed from a scholarship search.

This is my complicated conundrum. I have the confidence a woman in her 30s should have, I just don’t know how to make others see it on first impression.

Hero of the Day

I was doing my daily scanning of Yahoo headlines and I came across this article: http://news.yahoo.com/90-days-without-cell-phone-email-social-media-015300257.html

I had talked about another hero of the day HERE, so here’s a new one for you…

This guy had turned off all his social networks and cell phone and TV for 90 days. I am one of those people who often says that we rely too much on these gadgets and aren’t appreciating the world around us anymore, but at the same time I cannot bring myself to stop.  I, too, am guilty of having my iphone in hand constantly searching for something to play with or watch or learn on there.  For someone like me who can be shy in some social situations, it’s a savior.  On the subway my theory is if I bury my head in my iphone, the elderly people won’t talk to me and I won’t have to have one of those weird conversations where I smile and nod because I have no idea what they want to tell me (due to difference in language plus a great mumbling talent they have).  Or the awkward conversation where the drunken ajosshi asks me if I’m from Russia and I’m forced to resist rolling my eyes.  I also won’t have to see people staring at me because I look different.  I understand the staring and I like looking different, but some days I’d rather just not be noticed.  So I put in my headphones and play with something – anything on my phone to be lost in my own personal world where I feel less alone.  And I’m certainly not the only one.  One day soon I will snap a pic for you of the Seoul subways where entire rows of passengers are staring at their mobile devices, watching TV or texting.  Can all of this be classified as an addiction?  Like some kind of drug?

Point being, I greatly admire what he has done with his project.  Could you do it?  Could I do it?  Should we attempt some small version of this to see how it affects our life?  For example, should we commit to trying one month where we vow to turn it all off for two hours a day?  Or even one hour?  And if we can’t even commit to one hour a day, what does that say about our society and where we are headed in the future?  Is this what we will end up like?  (FYI – it’s a reference to Wall-E so if you haven’t seen it, watch it just for this effect of the future human world…)

Without technology, I think I’d study my Korean for more hours.  I’d read more.  I’d spend more time at a coffee shop watching the people on the street, instead of watching the people on my screen.  I’d relearn how to have an actual phone call (I am notorious for avoiding phone calls because for some reason they make me anxious).  I’d probably sleep more.  I’d have more time to simply lie on my bed and think while staring at the ceiling, like I used to do when I was a kid.  I’d actually look out the window.  I’d appreciate the architecture of the city (not that Seoul is known for that but still) instead of appreciating the sidewalk making sure I’m not tripping while texting.  I’d get off my chair and dance around in my pjs without stopping to instant message someone.  And maybe I’d stop and appreciate how cool it is that I live on the other side of the world.

What do you think you’d accomplish if you turned it all off?

The Good Stuff

A box of Lucky Charms from 2011

Image via Wikipedia

You know what I wonder?  Why is it that cereal companies haven’t realized the profits they could make by selling the good parts of the cereal separately?  I would pay top dollar for a separate bag of the good stuff.  Just think about these examples…

– Lucky Charms – mini marshmallows

– Clusters – it’s all about the clusters

– Count Chocula – again with the marshmallows

– Special K – the strawberry slices

Any more you can think of?

Or…ORRRRR…they could just make a trail mix of all of the above and it would be like cereal heaven!!!!!

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