January Update: Where I’ve Been and What I’ve Been Doing

January has been quite a crazy month for me, and I have to admit, I haven’t been able to dedicate as much time to blogging as I would have liked. Amid all the winter camp chaos and using my weekends to catch up on everything I wasn’t able to do during the week, I had to put my blog on the back burner. But I’ve learned, and now when the next camp rolls around I’ll be more prepared.

Winter Camp

The first full week of the month started Winter Camp. Planning for camp started way back in the fall, and by the end of November my lesson plans were finished. Despite having written down how camp would go, I really had no idea what to expect. I would be teaching a different level, and multiple classes a day. Even prep time was minimal throughout the day, so I spent most of December and the last week before camp making sure I had everything I needed made and ready to go.

Naturally, I was nervous about camp, as I tend to be nervous about most unpredictable circumstances, but after the first day, I was back in the groove. Teaching lower level elementary students turned out to be a lot of fun. While they were filled to the brim with energy, they also really seemed to enjoy being in class.

Each day, we read a page or two in the book I chose for the class, The Sword in the Stone. We also played large group games with the other classes, and did in-class activities, games, and crafts.

In the early evenings, I had a group of middle schoolers. These students were also a lot of fun, but it took a bit more coaxing to get them to come out of their shells. But by the end of camp, the students were having fun with the games and activities. They even surprised me on the last day with a note they all wrote little messages on for me. It was incredibly thoughtful and very kind.

So even though I spent the majority of my days at work, the last three weeks of camp have been a lot of fun and a great experience for me. I hope the students feel the same way. Come next week, it’ll be time to start thinking about the spring semester and getting a head start on planning that out.

Graduate School

Another exciting life event that happened this month is that I officially went back to school. I knew when I completed my undergraduate degree I didn’t want to wait too long to go back for my master’s degree. I hadn’t anticipated that I could complete it online, or that I would be living in Korea, but life has a way of surprising us all.

I spent a good amount of time back in September researching different online English programs in order to find the best one for me. I knew I wanted to pursue something that would equip me with the knowledge to teach at the college level and allow me to take courses in literature. I settled on a program that allows for specialization in college teaching in conjunction with literature and writing courses.

When I received my acceptance, I was incredibly excited. The thought of going back to school for a degree I wanted to pursue was satisfying. Even when I was stressed about finding my textbooks and wondering whether or not I would get them before the semester starts, I just had to keep reminding myself that it would all be worth it. And it will be. I’ve already started reading my textbooks and am frequently checking the online learning portal to see if any assignments have been posted yet. It really is a great feeling knowing I’m finally doing what I’ve wanted to do since my senior year of college.

Everything In Between

Aside from working and eagerly anticipating graduate school, I’ve also kicked off the new year with some new habits. My coworker Sam and I have been going to the gym after work every day. Living and working in a city allows me to walk everywhere, and since I live and work downtown, everything is accessible. While gyms are far more expensive in Korea, I decided the investment in my health would be worth it. I actually look forward to going to the gym at the end of the day. And that includes all those days I was at work for twelve hours.

I’ve also been working on some other projects that I’ll hopefully be announcing within the next month. So far, 2019 is turning out to be the year I finally stop dreaming and start doing all the things I’ve wanted to do for far too long.

A Busy Life and Living with Intention

Every winter it seems I find myself tangled up in a busy schedule that leaves little time for me to relax, at least not if I want to get enough sleep to keep powering through the days ahead.

This winter has been no different, with my first Winter Camp spanning from January 7th to 25th. The days are long, but the work is incredibly fulfilling. Even though I feel happy each night when I finally make it home, I’m fairly exhausted by the end of the week.

But even with my busy schedule, I’ve still managed to make intentional living a priority. Each night after work, my coworker Sam and I go to the gym for at least half an hour. I’ve been using my lunch break to catch up on my reading, and when I wake up in the morning, I make it a priority to read at least one news article. When I walk to work in the morning, I listen to The Daily and I don’t go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.

Some days, doing these things feels like work. More than work feels like work, actually. But I know if I don’t do it, everything around me will begin to pile up and I’ll be easily consumed by the chaos. What these last few weeks have taught me is that allowing my space to become a mess triggers my stress more than stressful situations actually do. If my house is literally in order, I find it much easier to cope with the daily challenges I am presented with. It feels great to come home at 8:15 p.m. to a sink free of dirty dishes and a bed that’s made.

Sure, when life gets busy I might seem easier to forget our intentions and let life has its way with us. But taking the time to take care of yourself, even in the smallest of ways, can make a huge difference.

Vegetarian in Korea

One of the biggest challenges I have living in Korea is finding food I can eat that wasn’t prepared in my own kitchen. Living in a small city by Korean standards, my options for eating out tend to be pretty limited. After nearly five months of living in Jinju, I’ve become used to it and have really grown my culinary skills. I guess I’m lucky that I’ve always loved to cook.

I stopped eating meat nearly two and a half years ago for many reasons, the biggest one being my health. The hormones pumped into livestock exacerbated some already existing health problems and I decided to see how my health would improve without it. I also watched one too many documentaries on industrial agriculture and decided that was not something I wanted any part in. I knew when I moved abroad, my feelings wouldn’t change and that I would somehow find a way to stay true to my beliefs and do whats best for my health.

There are many reasons that it’s difficult to find vegetarian meals in Korea, the biggest one being the sheer prevalence of meat. Similar to America, most dishes are centered around meat. In fact, many restaurants do not offer any options without meat, and not knowing the language makes it difficult to ask for something without it.

Another reason it’s difficult is how common hidden meat ingredients are. Soups are typically made with some type of animal or fish stock, and different types of fish sauces are used to flavor foods, so even something that is seemingly vegetarian-friendly might not be. What makes this more difficult is that many people tend to forget that these ingredients are not vegetarian-friendly.

Saladen avocado salad with sesame dressing

But although it’s hard, I have found a way to make it work. Typically, I just prepare my own food at home, picking up staples at the grocery store and outdoor market, or ordering hard to find ingredients online. Since moving, I’ve probably learned how to prepare tofu 50 different ways. I’ve also found some really great places around Jinju for when Subway just isn’t cutting it. So whether its homemade chana masala or a hearty salad from Saladen, being vegetarian in Korea really isn’t that bad.

A Year Without Shopping: January

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve put more time into thinking about what I want my New Years Resolution to be, often considering how I want to challenge myself in the new year weeks before midnight strikes on January 1st.

This year, I decided to challenge myself in a big way. I would give up shopping for a year. For twelve months, I will not buy new clothes, new shoes, or new accessories. If something happens and I desperately need to buy anything in the aforementioned categories, I will buy them second-hand.

The Shopping Ban

  • Clothing, including casual wear, outerwear, professional clothing, and activewear
  • Shoes
  • Accessories, including jewelry, purses, bags
  • Electronics
  • Home decor
  • Home wares, like bowls, plates, cups, cutlery, etc.
  • Convenience store lunches
  • Take-out dinners
  • Take-out coffee or other take-out drinks
  • Books
  • Journals
  • Candles

Shopping Ban Exceptions and Rules

  • Second-hand clothing, following the one in, one out rule
  • New headphones in the instance mine break or stop working
  • Gifts for other people
  • Textbooks for class
  • Monthly subscriptions to Audible and Spotify
  • Groceries, toiletries, and cleaning products
  • Having clothing tailored or mended

There’s a lot of reasons I decided to go on a twelve-month shopping ban. The most obvious reasons are financial. If I am not spending money on clothing, convenient lunches, or other material items, I will have more money to travel and pay for graduate school.

Other reasons are more personal. I’d like to lesson my environmental impact. The fashion industry is one of the most destructive forces on our planet. If you’d like to learn more about how fast fashion is impacting our world, I highly recommend watching The True Cost on Netflix. The best way to leave less of a mark is to lessen consumption. And quite honestly, since starting Project 333, I’ve realized how little clothing I actually need to have a functioning wardrobe. After all, I have a washer and am able to do laundry as often as I need to. And quite honestly, have a smaller wardrobe helps me save time in the morning and helps me to have my own signature look thats versatile, functional, and comfortable. Avoiding convenience eating will also help me to be environmentally conscious while also avoiding foods that are high in calories and low in nutritional value.

Along with being more environmentally friendly, not shopping will help me to be more intentional with my time. I’ll no longer spend weekends wandering around downtown looking at clothing and shoes. Because let’s face it, shopping is not and should not be a hobby. Instead, I can spend that time with friends, trying new recipes, being active, writing, and working toward my master’s degree.

So January 1st will officially kick off my twelve-month, self-imposed shopping ban. I am excited to see where this journey will take me, and I am looking forward to all I learn along the way.

Chasing Happiness

It’s the time of year when people begin to make resolutions, often weighed down by the guilt they harbor after weeks of holiday treats and parties. For many, resolutions involve some new fitness regiment or a crash diet to “cleanse” after the new year begins and the holidays are once again behind us.

While health is important, convincing yourself to adopt new habits out of guilt and shame is a sure-fire way to fail. I’ve come to this conclusion in two ways. One was influence from someone I follow on Instagram whose posts and messages always challenge me to think about health and food in new ways. The other is living in another country where there aren’t six straight weeks of holiday celebrations. Instead, holiday meals pretty much take place the day of the holiday. There were no Christmas cookie parties and office ugly sweater parties, so I was able to forgo the sugary, though delicious, treats this year.

I’ve also been putting a lot of thought into what I’d like my intentions for 2019 to be. While I do want to work out more and try my hand at some awesome new recipes in the kitchen, I know that ultimately, I want to live a happier life in 2019.

So many people talk about “achieving happiness.” If only these key pieces fall into place, they will finally be happy and fulfilled, but what I’ve come to learn is that happiness is not a destination. You don’t just arrive at happiness and stay there in a perpetual state. Instead, happiness is something that must be sustained. There are no key pieces that ultimately lead to a happy life. 

Happiness must always be pursued and how we come to happiness will change as our lives and circumstances change.

And it’s important to remember while in the pursuit of happiness, there will be bad moments, there will be bad days, and there may even be bad weeks, but if you truly want happiness, you can’t forget to find joy in every day, otherwise you may just fast track yourself to a bad life.

So while I have set many intentions for 2019, including the intentions to be more active and go a year without shopping, my ultimate intention is to keep chasing happiness and build on all the joy that I found in 2018.