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.

Leave the Clutter in 2018: Things to Get Rid of Before 2019 Begins

As one year turns to another, we are always seeking new ways to improve our lives in the new year. As I continue my Minimalism Challenge throughout December, I’ve been considering the things that everyone should consider cleaning out before the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, indicating the start of a new year. 

Here are some of the things that I personally believe would help you to start 2019 heading in a positive direction.

Unsubscribe from e-mail lists

Every morning I wake up and I have loads of unread e-mails, the majority of which are announcing sales and coupons for stores I no longer shop at now that I am living in Korea. Even before moving, I never looked at these e-mails. Rarely was the subject line catchy enough to make me open the e-mail. In the majority of cases, I signed up for the e-mail list in order to get some sort of discount when shopping online.

If your inbox looks like mine, consider taking the time to unsubscribe from these e-mail lists. You can do this manually, or you can download an app like Unroll Me, which does all the hard work for you. While you might spend anywhere from 5-15 minutes unsubscribing from e-mails, that’s nothing compared to the time you’ll save over the course of a year when you aren’t taking the time to delete unopened e-mails every day.

Clean out your junk drawer for good

Every home has one. I grew up with a junk drawer. My grandparents had junk drawers. I had a junk drawer in my apartment in Pennsylvania. But when I moved to Korea with next to nothing, I didn’t make a junk drawer, because I had no junk. Before today, I hadn’t even thought about the fact that I have no junk drawer. But after going three months without one, I have come to one very simple realization: you don’t need a junk drawer.

Seriously.

Clean it out. Put things where they belong. Throw away those old manuals for things you know how to use, get rid of those dead batteries, and stop hoarding garbage you don’t need. Say goodbye to your junk drawer and don’t look back.

Discard old papers

Nothing builds up in our living spaces like old papers. Receipts, bills, manuals, holiday and birthday cards, old photographs. They’re everywhere. It seems every time I turn around there is another receipt laying on my table or sticking out from under my bed. Where do they all come from? When will this cycle of finding and throwing away receipts end?! 

Before the new year ends, go through all those old papers laying around your home. Get rid of them. And make it a habit to ask for no receipt. If you’re given one, put it in the recycling immediately. Stop letting them pile up and slowly take over your living spaces. 

Bad habits

Bad habits may be the trickiest thing to give up as the new year begins. We often like to think about how great and wonderful we will be in the new year, because it’s not now. It’s later. We can always be better later. We can ditch our bad habits later, but for now, we can revel in them. Ditch that way of thinking and start breaking down those bad habits now. Changing habits takes time, and creating an arbitrary start date for an arbitrary reason is not going to help you change. Instead, start now. And if you slip, keep going. Try every single day to break down those bad habits. Because if you keep trying, even after failing time and time again, one day they won’t be habits anymore. 

It’s never too late to live the life you want to live or be the person you want to be. Don’t wait until you have more time or more money or a “reason” to start. Start today, and keep restarting every single day until you are living a life you love. And then, keep going.

Ringing in the New Year

January 1, 2018

A new month, a new day, a new year. With the passing of each 365 days, we are reminded that once a year, we are given a symbolic new beginning, and that while every day is the chance to start anew, this one day in particular is special, being celebrated across the globe, and is a visible reminder that we can always do better and be better.

I spent New Years Eve with one of my close friends, her parents, brothers, aunts, and uncles. We ate a large and late dinner, chatted about travel, books, movies, and shared stories from our lives. It was relaxing, peaceful, and full of love. We toasted the new year with champagne, and I quickly went off to sleep on a pull-out couch, reminiscing back to my childhood in the late 90’s. This upcoming year would be a good one, because I vowed to make it so.

Each year I set not one, but many resolutions and goals for myself. It’s something I have always done. At least if I fail at one, I have others I can fall back on. Each year I set a goal for how many books I would like to read. This number changes every year and if often based on how many I read the year before. In 2017, I read all of nine books, probably the lowest number of books I’ve read in a year since before I learned how to read. So, naturally, I set the bar low for this upcoming year, and I have already finished a book of essays I began back in July about life after college. It felt great to have already accomplished something so early in the new year.

I’ve also set other resolutions: go 100% vegan, beginning today, visit at least two new states, pay off at least one credit card, journal every day, and stop scrolling through Twitter before I even get out of bed in the morning. I’d also like to prioritize my days better, create new habits and routines, volunteer more, and try new things. I know this is a lot to take on, particularly all at once, but even small changes can lead to big results. One of my best friends bought me a daily journal that has a question and a few lines to write a short response each day over the course of five years. Guided journaling makes the resolution to journal every day seem a lot more attainable. Creating routines, like reading each day before bed kills two birds with one stone. And prioritizing getting a shower over scrolling through Twitter will help me be a lot more productive in the morning. So while I have a lot of resolutions, many of them are intertwined.

So while I am optimistic that this may be the year I accomplish much of what I have set out to do, only time will tell, and I am incredibly excited to see what 2018 has to offer.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: 2017

I began 2017 with high hopes that it would finally be my year. I was going to graduate college, hopefully find a job I love, reclaim my personal fitness, and cultivate loving and nurturing relationships. After the whirlwind year I had in 2016, I truly believed the only way to go was up.

2016 had not been good to me. Between health problems and eight months of intense fighting before ending a long-term relationship over infidelity, it had been a rough year. Top it off with an overload of upper-level classes and increased responsibilities as a resident assistant, all while battling the demons that come along with declining mental health, and you have the recipe for a complete dumpster fire year. I really have no other way to describe it.

So when 2017 started off with my car breaking down, I felt incredibly resentful. How much more could I handle? Next came the ending of my first “serious” relationship since my break-up: one that I rushed into too quickly, developed feelings too strongly, and projected my subconscious desire to be the other half of someone else because it was all I had known for the past three years.

But then it all began an upward swing. I spent an incredible amount of time with friends (hello, Snowpocolypse), dove into my work, and vowed to enjoy my last semester of college. When I finally walked across the stage at graduation decked out in all of my regalia, Summa Cum Laude, I finally realized the culmunation of all I had achieved. I had been an active participant in my education. It was also this moment when I finally realized where my path in life was taking me: Academia. Sure, I wasn’t going to graduate school immediately in the fall, but I would get there, one way or another. It was my passion, my joy, and the thing I always took the most pride in. So when I got hired in higher education three months later, I was overjoyed. Better yet, my job allowed me to travel. I was able to visit cities I had never been to, like Baltimore and Wilmington. I also walked on the beach in early November, feeling completely at peace with where I was.

I also made other huge steps this year. I moved into my own apartment. I switched to my own cell phone plan. I began adopting a vegan diet.

So while 2017 may have been a rough start for me, I believe this year took me exactly where I needed to be. My personal growth has been astounding. The people who have lifted me up over and over again I’m sure have not failed to feel their worth to me. And maybe I can’t talk about a significant other when I attend holiday gatherings, which seems to always be a hot topic at the dinner table, but I can talk about where I see my life going, not just in the next year, but in the next five years. And I couldn’t be more excited to keep traveling down that path.