“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.


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.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I was emailing my teenage niece tonight and I asked her this:

If you could be any career without thinking about the salary or talent or education needed or anything like that – ie no obstacles – what would you be?

It got me thinking.  Then I thought some more.  And I realized that I wasn’t sure I could even answer that question for myself.  At least I didn’t have an immediate answer.  I’m sure there are many of you out there who don’t have an immediate answer either.

So that is your project.  Take a few minutes out of your day today and think about what you truly want to be.  Don’t give me the practical answer – you know, the career that you want to be because it will make you enough money or because that is what you know you can get a job in.  Give me your inner child’s answer.  That’s right, pretend you are 7.  Like back in the days when all kids wanted to be firemen, astronauts, models, actors and rock stars.  And don’t give me your parent’s answer either (I can’t tell you how many Korean children have told me they want to be lawyers and diplomats when they don’t even know what lawyers and diplomats do).  Give me YOUR answer.  Like the question above says, don’t think about talent or degrees, just what you would do if you had the choice.

To be fair, I will give you my answer to get things going.  I would be…well, a couple things actually.  Here they are in all their random glory:

If I'm going to be a librarian, you bet I'd be a hot one!

  • Librarian.  Odd right?  But I love books.  Not just reading them.  I love to see them lined up and organized all pretty.  Really old books and really new books are especially smile-worthy.  Why am I not a library you ask?  Because it requires a master’s degree and then the salaries are not worthy of the debt that the master’s degree would put me further into.


I want to learn how to make this perfect combo of caffeine and art.

  • Barista.  No, I don’t have a love of coffee or a desire to work with scalding liquids all day at a fast pace (which opens the imagination to visualize all kinds of dangerous spillage).  I just love the feel of a coffee shop, especially the non-franchisey ones.  The ones with the Goodwill couches, Thursday night local guitarist and no uniforms.  And I love the idea of a non-professional job where I can be my goofy self all day.  I’d get to listen to mood music all day and people watch during the non-rush hour.  Once I get out of debt, this is part of my plan.  Don’t cha just love it?  😉


  • Writer.  Can’t decide what kind of writer.  Novelist.  Travel writer.  Magazine writer.  Any of the above would be great.  And this is something I’m currently working on.  Being a language learner, I am very passionate about words and using them as a form of expression.  And I am a big advocate of sharing information.  I like the idea that it can be part-time or full-time and I can write from anywhere in the world thanks to the inventors of the computer and the internet.  Fingers crossed this one pans out.


Great shot of Keira Knightley from the movie the Edge of Love

  • Lounge singer.  I have no desire to be a big pop star or anything like (despite my 7 year old aspirations to be Debbie Gibson or Tiffany).  I don’t think my paranoid side would deal well with the fame and being in the public eye.  I want to be the woman at a dark, sophisticated piano bar with the sultry voice singing Diana Krall songs like Peel Me a Grape, Temptation and Cry Me a River.  (Those who have heard me at noraebang, stop snickering…I do much better with real music, less beer and no cheesy video distractions.  HA!  😀 ).  I’m Jessica Rabbit biotches.  Accept it.

When I was 7 I wanted to be a teacher and a dancer.  Without even realizing it, I ended up becoming both.  So I truly believe that if you tap into what you truly want and where you truly want to go in life, your raw passion for it will make sure you get there.