Bittersweet

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I don’t remember the last time I simply went for a run outside.

It’s not something I’ve enjoyed for quite a while. But, the second I got home from work today and opened the window, I smelled the fresh air and knew I needed to run. My body registered the transition from summer to fall and I immediately craved something I strongly associate with fall.

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Adding Value: Rob Bell is So Good

Adding Value is a collection of posts where I recommend books, movies, podcasts, or anything that has been adding value to my life lately, and hopefully will add value to yours too. 

I first heard of Rob Bell from The Minimalists (whose documentary is featured in a previous Adding Value post). While at a local bookstore in Minneapolis this June, I saw a copy of his book How to Be Here. I recognized the title, as it had been given high accolades from The Minimalists. Rob Bell happened to have been at that bookstore recently while on a book tour, so the copy was signed.

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Sitting in Gratitude

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// December 2016, Malibu, California

When self-doubt, anxiety, stress, and confusion creep into our brains, it is easy to sit in sadness. Rather, we should sit in gratitude. To be grateful for what we have in this moment and what we can do in the next.

I’ve recently learned that it is easy to play the “my struggle is greater than your struggle” game. It’s easy to think that someone doesn’t deserve to feel sad because they are more fortunate in other areas of their lives; whether it’s money, education, family support, etc. But everyone has hard days. Everyone. Just because someone is fortunate doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve to feel negative emotions.

The last week was tough for me, and there were times that I felt I did not deserve to feel sad. I am acutely aware that I have been incredibly fortunate in my life; I have had no “great” struggle. In those moments, I felt that I was not allowed to have negative emotions.

But, I realized that I am allowed. Everyone is allowed.

However, it is what we do with our negative emotions that can shape us. We should first recognize our emotions (burying them helps no one), then instinctively turn to gratitude. We can be grateful for even the smallest of things. I am grateful for the two strong legs I stand on, the breeze and the fresh air outside, and a bed to sleep in at night. I am grateful for just being here.

After gratitude, what are our next steps? What constructive action can we take to alleviate our negative emotions? Sitting in sadness will not enact change. We must first recognize how we are feeling, find gratitude, and then move.

Our natural state is peace. Gratitude helps us get there.

What is Water?

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Change your perspective // September 2015, Capri, Italy

If there was ever only one reason to travel, this is it. But first, you have to ask yourself, what is water?

It’s okay if you’re confused right now. I’ll explain.

Today in my entrepreneurship class, we were discussing why a much higher percentage of entrepreneurs in any country are immigrants.

As my professor explained, if we live in a blue house in a blue world and everything around us is blue, what is the one color we can’t see? Answer: it’s blue.

Confused again?

Let’s try another analogy. My professor’s “blue” story immediately made me think of the following parable from David Foster Wallace:

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes,

“What the hell is water?”

Wallace gave an entire commencement speech about this story, but I never really understood its message until today. The fish don’t know what water is because it’s the only thing they’re used to. The reason so many immigrants start businesses is that they go to a new country and they can see blue. They know what water is.

When we have lived in the same country our entire lives and have never traveled, we are viewing everything from the same perspective. We are conditioned to see everything around us as “normal” (whatever normal is). When we go to a new country, we not only bring a fresh perspective to the country we are visiting, but we also bring back home a new way of thinking. We start to question why things are the way they are. It’s why immigrants start such successful ventures. They can see problems and think of ways to fix them.

We should incessantly ask questions, just as children do. The first question we need to ask ourselves is, “what is water?”  Then, let’s go find out.

Intention for a New Year

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My favorite time to reflect is with a view // March 2016, El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico

2016 was… well, not as good as 2015. But there was good in it.

I will always be biased towards 2015 because it was the year I studied abroad in Budapest, my home away from home. However, I think it is better to appreciate 2015 for all that it gave me, rather than compare it to 2016.

In 2016 I found myself in new places as well: Puerto Rico, New York City, Los Angeles, and even Arkansas and Wisconsin. Though in my ideal world I would have traveled even more, I cherish each new location I visit.

As I see everyone say “good riddance” to 2016, I can’t help but dwell on my own downturns this past year. However, each down also had a corresponding up. I moved apartments in Chicago three times; despite the exhausting process and moving fees, I made friends with new roommates and experienced Chicago from a slightly different perspective with each move. I landed a coveted internship… and then learned it was not for me; but without that experience, I would not have learned what I am looking for in the future. In 2016 I turned 21; while being 21 has been fun, it has also caused me to neglect my health. I have fallen into ruts and neglected to cultivate my hobbies into passions (namely, not writing enough); but I have also simplified my life. I’ve faced rejection and learned to pick myself back up.

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Copenhagen, Denmark

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I’m excited to finally be sitting down to write about Copenhagen, even if it is five months later. When people ask me my favorite place I went, I always say, besides Budapest (which of course I am biased about because I spent the longest time there), it was Copenhagen.

It was one of the only cities I could picture myself actually living in, if it wasn’t for the lack of daylight in the winter and the outrageous prices. But I’m from the Midwest, so I’m used to dark winters, and if I made a salary in Danish krone, then I think I could make it work.

Our outstandingly comfortable Ryan Air flight (hint – sarcasm) landed around 5pm, so our first day in the city was short. We took public transit from the airport to our hostel; the trains in Copenhagen are very clean and they have nifty headphone ports built in for you to listen to the radio, albeit with a lot of static.

If you’re traveling to Copenhagen though, I don’t recommend relying on public transit. You have to specify when buying your ticket which station you are getting off at and tickets are very infrequently checked by patrolling workers, which leaves you with the moral dilemma of paying for a $5 ticket or risking it in the hope that yours won’t get checked. It’s also just inconvenient – there aren’t enough stops to make it easy to get around the whole city. But while I was there, they were building new stations, so I think the city knows it has room to improve in that department. We found it quickest and easiest to bike, although it’s a little difficult when you have to stop and pull out your phone for directions frequently. So most of the time we walked. A lot.

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Good Weather

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Life has been busy and these next two weeks are going to get even busier, so I apologize to you (and to myself) for the lack of recent posts, and therefore I’m going to keep this short and sweet.

I started a new internship two weeks ago, finals are next week, and The Walking Dead is back on TV, but today’s remarkably warm weather and a few lines from I book I read inspired me to fit in a short blog post today.

For my Effective Business Communication class, we are required to read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. So yeah, I usually try to hide the title while I’m reading it in public. Despite the fact that I’m reading it for a class requirement and the funny looks you may get while reading it on the train, I  would definitely recommend this book. It was published during the Great Depression and the lessons it offers still hold today.

The quote that stood out to me today isn’t actually from Dale Carnegie himself, but rather Elbert Hubbard, whom Carnegie provides an excerpt from.

Whenever you go out-of-doors, draw the chin in, carry the crown of the head high, and fill the lungs to the utmost; drink in the sunshine; greet your friends with a smile, and put soul into every handclasp.

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Lessons Learned Abroad

This post is what I’m going to call my “final installment” of reflective posts from studying abroad. Saying Goodbye captured my feelings right after leaving Europe, Cultural Differences in Hungary provided a more lighthearted look back on the experience (which I think I really needed more than anyone), and now that I’ve had some time to sit back and reflect, I’ve come up with a few lessons I learned while abroad.

The semester came and went faster than I could have ever possibly imagined. It seems like not long ago I was arriving in Budapest, nervous and excited. But four months quickly passed and as cliché and corny as it sounds, I wouldn’t trade those months for anything. Whenever I saw Facebook posts from my friends returning from study abroad spouting how life-changing the experience was and how they will never forget it, I just passed them off as humble-brags and didn’t think much of it. But they were right. It opens your mind and pushes you out of comfort zones. It provides new firsts, new friends, and some life lessons along the way too.

One lesson I learned is that material things are completely unimportant. When your life can fit into a single suitcase and carry-on bag for four months, you re-wear the same clothes, wear through the same few pairs of shoes, and make-do with what you have. And did I ever feel deprived? Not once. It was almost nice to not have as many options to choose from when getting dressed in the morning!

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2016 Resolutions: New Year, Better Me

Each New Year I often hear the saying: “New Year, New Me”, but that implies that you aren’t currently good enough. Which is why I prefer the phrase “New Year, Better Me”. I like who I am right now, so I don’t feel the need to be a new person, but I think we can always work on bettering ourselves. Because when we better ourselves, we better those around us. New Year’s is a great opportunity to reflect on the previous year and make goals for the coming year; I also believe it is important to put your reflection and goals down in writing so that you can go back and check in on your goal progress throughout the year.

With that said, 2015 may have been my best year yet, so 2016 has a lot of work to do if it wants to top it. I spent 2015 pretty equally divided living in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Budapest. I visited nine new countries, met countless new friends, and didn’t work at any fast-food chains, which I spent far too much time doing in 2014. I hope 2016 brings just as much fun and adventure.

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My favorite time to reflect usually involves a good view

And with each New Year brings the inevitable resolutions that I tend to forget after two or three months. However this year I am determined not to forget them, so I am putting them out here to keep me accountable. I would say that my unofficial first resolution of 2016 is to not forget my resolutions. So without further ado, here are my New Year’s resolutions:

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Learning to Sit Still: A Two-Month Reflection

In three short days I will have been in Europe for exactly two months. It’s really nuts to think about – the time has certainly flown by! Coming up on this two-month mark, I decided it was an appropriate time to reflect a little on what I’ve learned so far. As you are probably wondering from the title of this, what do I mean by learning to sit still? Well, let me elaborate.

Before this, the longest trip I’ve ever been on was two weeks. A semester is certainly longer than that. On short trips I’m used to packing in as much as possible. I’m always thinking about the next thing to see or do. Even at DePaul I am constantly on the move. My calendar is packed with classes, clubs, internships, and social events.

In Budapest I actually have quite a bit of free-time. I hesitate to say in Europe, because I’m usually gone on the weekends visiting other countries where my “Go, go, go” motto falls back into play. But when I’m home in Budapest I get to sit and breathe. That’s right, home in Budapest; this city quickly felt like home after the first few weeks. However, it took me a while to learn how this whole free-time thing works. My initial mentality was, I’m in a new city! I must see, do, and try everything right now! Then it hit me: I have until late December to explore Budapest. It’s okay to take a nap. It’s okay to watch a movie.

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