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.
On my afternoon flight to Amsterdam, I had some white wine and the best cheese sandwich of my life (as chronicled in a previous post). Thus began my cheese-filled weekend in the Netherlands.
My friend Margaret and I stayed at the Van Gogh hostel conveniently located near many of the museums in the city while the rest of our group stayed in an Airbnb on the outskirts of the city center. After dropping off our bags, Margaret and I took a scenic walk along one of Amsterdam’s many canals to meet the rest of the gang at their Airbnb. Google Maps got us within a few blocks of the apartment but failed to fully execute. Once again, living that #NoData life left us stranded and lost. The neighborhood was eerily empty and gray. However, I yet again had Lady Luck to bail me out. After about fifteen minutes of aimlessly wandering, we coincidentally ran into everyone else returning from buying groceries. That night we ate too much pasta and watched Monster’s Inc (I couldn’t tell you why that was our choice in a movie). Because of our late afternoon arrival, we took the evening easy and waited until the next morning to begin exploring.
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.
Berlin was off to a crazy start before I even got there. The night before my flight to Berlin, I lost my wallet in a bar. My wallet had almost $100 worth of Hungarian cash in it, and all of my credit and debit cards. So, not only did I not have any cash, I also had no way of obtaining any cash or buying anything for that matter. Luckily, I hadn’t lost my key card to my dorm room in Budapest, my public transit pass, or my drivers license, so I went to bed and decided to face my problems in the morning. Thankfully, my flight wasn’t until the afternoon, so I spent the morning ordering new credit cards and asking my parents to wire me money to a Western Union until the cards came in the mail. Still stressed out, with 200 euros in my pocket borrowed from my generous roommate, I set off to the airport to meet my friend Mallory in Berlin.
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!
Today was one of those days where I had no social plans and spent the day doing stuff on my own. While I like that for about half the day, my extroverted side gets bored quickly. However, when I’m not talking much to others during the day, I end up talking to myself. The question I found myself asking today was, where do we find the balance between health, happiness, and hustle?
Let me elaborate. Not having any plans for the day got me thinking about the balance between health and having a social life. When I think of being healthy, I think of having a consistent sleep schedule with at least eight hours a night, cooking healthy meals at home, and drinking in moderation. In contrast, when I think of the typical “college” social life, I think of staying out late and sleeping in late the next day, eating out with friends at not-so-healthy restaurants, and drinking maybe more than one would consider “in moderation”.
Being healthy makes me happy and so does having a social life. But in terms of the typical “college” social life I just mentioned, those rarely overlap. Yes, of course there are ways to be social without drinking and staying out late. I love working out and cooking with friends, as well as hanging out during normal daytime hours. But if you’re like me and you enjoy the occasional party, it’s not likely that you’ll stay home from a party you want to attend for the sake of your health (unless you’re a pro-athlete that relies on your body for your job, but most of us aren’t).
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.
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:
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.
Last week I ran. No timer, no splits, no pace goal. I ran to run and for no other reason than it was what my body was craving. I took the tram to Margaret Island by myself because I’d been wanting to check out the 5km track there for a while. As I ran, I was surrounded by other runners, old couples walking hand in hand, groups of friends sitting beside the river, and dogs racing each other. Despite the bustling island, I felt very at peace. There is something to be said for running with no goals or expectations. Runners are often motivated by numbers and results, however I think that there is a time when it’s okay to step back and run for no other reason than the joy of running. Hop off the treadmill, leave the watch at home, and go explore. Make nature your playground. There is a dreary workout room in my dorm building, but why would I go there when I can breathe the fresh air and get outside?
The experience reminded me of something even more important though – it’s okay to be alone. Living down the hall from most of my friends and constantly being around other people has sometimes made me forget what it’s like to do something alone. I’ve gotten used to doing almost everything with other people. The run reminded me how good it feels to be alone sometimes. When I haven’t had time to think by myself, my head starts to spin with too many thoughts and sometimes I need to write them down. (Which explains this blog post.) I’ve found that I’m most inspired to write after being alone for a bit.
I consider myself to be a pretty extroverted person; I enjoy doing things with other people and I feed off the energy of others. Would I want to travel solo? Probably not. Some people love it, but of the trips I’ve gone on so far, I can’t imagine I would have quite as much fun alone. I’ve learned that balance is key. Sometimes you need that coffee with a friend to vent to and sometimes that coffee is better with headphones, some James Vincent McMorrow tunes, and a relaxing location by oneself. My mission this week is to find a little more of the latter. And coffee is almost always involved.
Now here’s where I try to get deep and pull a life lesson out of yoga.
Nothing beats a good savasana. If you aren’t a yogi and have no idea what savasana is, it’s when you lay in corpse pose at the end of a yoga class for a few minutes. Corpse pose is exactly what it sounds like: laying flat on your back with all your muscles completely relaxed.
Savasana is like meditation. You try to clear all thoughts from your mind and breathe naturally (no controlled breathing sequences, like some meditation suggests). However, whether or not you are able to really meditate during savasana depends on the teacher in my opinion.
This may sound a little corny, but some of the happiest moments of my life have been laying in savasana. For me, if the song is just right, something very blissful and peaceful just clicks. Here are my two favorite songs that I have experienced during savasana: