The Big Picture

Now imagine the pitter patter of little toddler feet bumbling down the hallway. A baby out on a journey! Everything about that journey is glittered by the newness and amazingness of everything around us. This carpet feels funny. That wall makes a sound when I touch it. But that feeling fades with time, unfailingly, as we begin to conquer the tasks that hadn’t once seemed so easy. To maintain that amazement state we crave to conquer more and more difficult tasks. And with time our mind aligns with the way we spend our time, climbing higher on the staircase than ever before or learning how to roll forward on the floor. A wonderful process blossoms as we make our way through a system designed to both challenge and represent our desire to continue learning. But for some reason this blossom’s loss of color begins when we decide in our minds to get a job. What is a job? Is it a socially decided upon way of converting human energy into economic energy? And economic energy for the sake of what? To provide us with more presents? Presents, we all know sometimes, just don’t cut it. What we’ve always been looking for lies behind the only place one would never consider looking for. The place behind the Irises is indicated by the entrance to the now. Only in the now do presents become presence, an all becomes a one.

 

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We All Know Nothing is Perfect, but….

You have a project your supposed to do and you spend HOURS AND HOURS on it. You continue to revise, improve, fix, and slave over it. When its “done” you step away and all of a sudden realize 14 other things about it that still need to be fixed. Ever been in this situation? I sure have, and when ever I have been faced with it I usually settle down and remind myself, “Hey, nothings perfect.” Well, that is precisely the wisdom I would like to expand upon today.

If you have the desire to be perfect (or near it) in whatever you do, and you know that nothing is perfect, then why not be nothing? Maybe that seems strange to think about or for some reason it doesn’t click right away. But when you think about it, it is actually quite simple. If you’re anything like me, a bit of a perfectionist sometimes, then its likely that when you set out to accomplish a goal or task, you structure your action so that you can finish as close to “perfect” as possible. So in your mind, you believe that creating a perfect outcome will then project onto who you are. However, if I followed that logic, it would seem that because I am able to write these blogs about complex things, I must be perfect in how I execute them in my life. Well I hate to break it to you, that’s actually dead wrong.

Which leads me to the crux of this topic: That very discrepancy, between the things I write here and how I apply them in my life, is actually a manifestation of the “nothing” mindset. To reiterate, I saw that no matter how well I can put advice into words, I still make those very same mistakes, even after the fact. Earlier in my life, I wanted to be perfect at everything I did – and failed at it relentlessly. In essence, wanting to be perfect is equivalent to living in constant failure. So why not do the opposite? If you want to be ________ (read: nothing) then there is no failure. And if there is no failure then all that remains is success.

eye am nothing

 

THE TAKEAWAY: This may be hard to wrap your head around, and it obviously has been for me since it has taken me my entire life thus far to put into words, let alone practice. But it really is as simple as this: if we view thoughts as tools, then having the thought “I am nothing” can function as a way of creating the resulting mindset of permanent and constant success. Think about the person who runs a dog rehabilitation clinic in a small town and loves every minute of it. They probably don’t have the money to travel freely, drive nice cars, motivate masses of people, or experience success in the traditional sense of the word. And yet, because they realize they don’t have to be any of those things (in other words, nothing) they are free to see themselves in their current situation as successful. Success and failure are really one in the same. Steve Jobs will be viewed of by most as a success for his contributions to the technological world. And yet, he will be view by a lesser number of people as a failure for silent conversations at restaurants – iPhones in hand, or for not taking care of his family (he had a daughter out of wedlock with whom he spent very little time with), and the list could go on forever. So I ask that today, throw out your traditional thoughts about being successful. Stop trying to be something you’re not – in fact, stop trying to be something at all. Try being nothing for a change. After all, you really can’t fail? So what do you have to lose?

 

 

 

You Are a Child

Giggling to yourself when someone farts, playing imaginary games, and allowing yourself to get utterly excited over the simplest of things are just part of everyday life for a child. When I was around ten years old, me, my younger brother, and a few of our friends found a small orange pipe tip that had been cut off and left somewhere as garbage. We, on the other hand, saw it as the greatest thing that had happened to our lives thus far. We picked it up and rolled it down the hill, watching it to see how long it stayed up. After an unusually long roll down the hill, we decided that this piece of PVC pipe had a personality of its own and therefore deserved a name; Orange Wheel we dubbed it, ever so creatively. And for the rest of our lives, all of us will remember the stories of our times together in great detail.

Now let’s consider for a second how strange that story would sound coming from an adult. That person might be in danger of being forcibly checked into a mental institution and yet, if a child says it we encourage it. Why are we, as a society, so two faced? If a little girl wants to imagine she is a magical wizardress, with her spoon as her wand and her breakfast cereal as her magic potion, we think its perfectly fine! But if you’re boss came into work one day and told everyone that from now on her pen was a magic wand and anyone she waved it at would be transported to another dimension (insert “department” for a more realistic scenario) then what? The employees would literally have a LEGAL standing to get her fired. Where’s the disconnect?

On the contrary now, lets think about how ridiculous two people who are madly in love seem to outsiders. They make ridiculous nicknames for each other like smoopy woopy, rub noses together, and stand to make people around them either jealous or sick to their stomach. Well children do these things all the time, and once again, we don’t see it as ridiculous. In fact, we usually smile instead. You see, it is that love, and therefore feeling of fulfillment, that we lack in our adult lives that holds us back from expressing ourselves in our truest form. When we were children, we knew nothing about cars, expensive watches, sexuality, or weight loss. All we knew was all we had, and in that, we were fulfilled. So is it no wonder that when two adults are in the thick of love that they, inspired by that long lost feeling of fulfillment, are not afraid to display their childishness and thus, show themselves in their true form.

THE TAKEAWAY: The first step toward solving any problem is being aware of it. And if by now you are aware that you rarely allow yourself to act like a little kid, then that’s good – that means you have already taken the first step. Now that you are aware, you can pay attention to your actions – watching them as if you were someone else looking back at yourself – and actively ask the following questions: “Why am I being so serious right now? Does this situation really have to be this stressful? When was the last time I let myself have fun for the sake of fun?” The reason I wrote this blog today was to remind you that you’re natural state of being is that of a child. Child is to still water as adult is to white water. So if it is stillness in your life you are seeking – if you feel like there is room to add some more happiness and fun in your life – then start asking the little kid inside you what they want to do. I promise you, whatever it is, it’ll be a whole lot of fun.

It’s nice to let go sometimes

Fall in Love with Yourself

These days you really don’t see too many romantic comedies where the main character has this long drawn out battle with him/herself and at the end of the movie, stands in the middle of a bridge on a rainy day and says, “I love myself!!!” with an orchestra playing climactic music in the background. Maybe it is for this reason that there aren’t many of us who ever really come around to loving ourselves. Recently my brother and I have been discussing a book called The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz and we came to a few conclusions I’d like to share here:

1. Virtually every relationship problem is caused by a lack of self love. When we are not in a relationship, we fantasize about finding the person that will one day make us happy because we don’t know how to be happy on our own. Then if we finally do find someone we eventually start to depend on that person to make us happy, but that’s not fair. Our happiness is our own responsibility, no one else’s. As soon as we start to depend on them, we place expectations upon them and set them up for failure. Then, when they finally do fail, we get angry at them, blame them, hurt them, and maybe even end the relationship with them (I know I have done this a few times in my life). And the saddest part of this is, this doesn’t just pertain to romantic relationships, this goes for all types of relationships.

2. The economy doesn’t want your self-love. As sad as it may seem, it is not in the best interest of mainstream media to help you learn to love yourself. The only thing that makes the gears turn in this capitalistic society we have are the dollars and cents that we put into it. If we suddenly all became perfectly content with two different outfits of clothing, a small home, and a garden in our backyard, then the economy would collapse almost immediately. Perhaps this really is why we don’t see any romantic movies about self-love. These days true self-love seems far more rare than its dual counter part.

3. You cannot love another until you love yourself. If you do not love yourself, then how is it possible to expect another person to do that? In essence, you are starting off the relationship with a MAJOR disagreement if you do. I think that this is the reason why true love seems to be so allusive for so many people. If we never learn to consider the concept of self love, then true love seems almost mythical. For me, I had to learn this the hard way. I had to make many mistakes, date the wrong people, hurt others, and learn that I must first love and accept myself before I can accept another. And it’s no coincidence that my soul mate learned to do the same at the same time in her life.

4. You are NOT your mind. You are not the internal monologue in your head. You are not your clothes. You are not your job, your friends, or your political beliefs. For a moment, please look away from your computer screen and consider the question, “Who am I?”

**********

If you started by saying something like, “I am a happy, loving, outgoing, man, friend, construction manager, scientist…” then you were not answering the right question. You were answering the question, “How do I define myself?” And these two questions are very different. When we use certain qualities, roles, or words to describe ourselves, we are limiting ourselves to what we believe those words to mean. For instance, if I say that I am a happy person, then does that mean I am never sad? If I say that I am a man, then am I implying to myself and others that I do not do feminine things? If I say that I am a writer, am I saying that that is the only talent I believe I have? Everyone is different in terms of how they define themselves, and that defining is the problem. The solution to this is not to define ourselves at all. We are nothing and we are everything at the same time. We are many and we are one. We are not our thoughts because we are the producers of those thoughts, we are the window through which they are shown. Ruiz beautifully depicts this point here:

 “You are life itself passing through your body, passing through your mind, passing through your soul. Once you find that out, not with logic, not with the intellect, but because you feel that life,  you find out that you are the force that makes the flowers open and close, makes the humming bird fly from flower to flower. You find out that you are in every tree, every animal, vegetable, rock. You are the force that moves the wind and breathes through your body. The whole universe is a living being that is moved by that force. And that is what you are. You are life.”

THE TAKEAWAY: I wrote this post today because I was sad. When I learned about how simple self love can be, it deeply saddened me to know that so many people live their entire lives without ever truly loving themselves. For most of my life, I disliked so many things about myself that sometimes I would even punish myself. “You don’t deserve a friend like that Jeremy, what are you thinking?” or “You’re probably going to screw this all up Jeremy, you might as well not even try,” are a couple of examples of things I can vividly remember thinking. If you can remember thinking something similar in your lifetime, then it is my sincerest hope that you ask yourself, what have you done for yourself lately? Do you love yourself? Your mind? Your body? If not, then maybe its time to take yourself out on a date and get to know you a little better. As for me, here I am after a long drawn out battle in my life, sitting on a bridge at the climax of my personal romantic comedy, saying (** romantic background music***) “I LOVE ME!!!”


Life of Pursuits: A story for all

Once upon a time, there was a family who lived nowhere in particular, but for now, we’ll say they lived smack in the middle of the civilized world. This family was made up of a Father, a Mother, and an adopted child. This child’s name was Wun. Wun would live the majority of his life with no knowledge of his adoption, but on the day that he would find out, a small crack in the foundation of the civilized world would begin to form. But in order to understand what this crack meant, we must start at the beginning of Wun’s life.  When he was very young, his Father sat him down and taught him one of the most meaningful lessons of his life.

“Son, all that matters in this life is that you make as much money as possible. I know that sometimes it will be difficult, but as long as you make lots of money, someday you will be happy. Someday you may even be able to do something great with your money.”

His mind was so untouched by the world, at his tender age,  that although this perplexed him, he silently agreed. The thought that he could one day use his money for great things made him smile. A few days later his Mother asked to have a talk with him as well. She sat him down, and told him another one of the most meaningful lessons of his life.

“My dear, I want you to know something. This will help guide you through your life and will steer you toward great happiness. Do you want to know what it is?”

“Of course! You’re my Mother. I always want to listen to you when you speak,” Wun replied.

“All that matters in this life is your visual beauty. Your goal in life should be to be as beautiful as possible at all times,” she said with a hint of whimsical pride.

“Okay Mother. But how do I know who is beautiful and who is not?”

“Keep your eyes open. Everywhere you go in life there are signs to point the way.”

And so it began. Wun wandered  his way through life, listening to the advice of those around him about how to make as much money as possible. He asked his teachers in school for help and they gave him textbooks. He asked his peers and they told him to get an advanced degree. He watched those who were successful before him and learned that one must work very very hard to be successful. Using everything he had learned, upon graduation of college, he found himself a job that allowed him to work very very hard.

But after a few years at his job, he started to realize that something was missing, without being sure of what it was. He remembered back to his childhood when his Mother told him that his goal should be to be as beautiful as possible, and he decided that must be what was missing. He wasn’t beautiful enough. Luckily, in pursuit of his goal to make as much money as possible, he had accumulated some wealth. So he decided to start spending it on his beauty, and luckily, there were signs everywhere helping to point the way. First they showed him he should get expensive haircuts twice a month, then encouraged him to buy the most expensive watch he could find. Then he saw one that suggested he buy a bright red sports car to match his watch. Unfortunately, his single bedroom apartment no longer fit with his new car and appearance so he decided to buy a condo in a wealthy area. He made new friends, who were more beautiful than him, and they made him feel inferior. So he paid for an expensive physical trainer and gym membership.

Years went by and he realized that he was still missing something. Everyone around him seemed to have someone they loved, and he had not found someone yet. So he decided to work harder to make more money.

Then, after he had been working for 30 years, he decided that it was time to speak with a financial adviser to see if he could do something great with all the money he had saved, just like his Father had always told him. The adviser disappointed him by saying that he simply didn’t have enough money to do anything significant. It would take far more than he had. Upon realizing how little money he had saved, and keeping everything his parents taught him in mind, he asked himself a question that would crack the foundation of his reality. How is it possible to make a lot of money AND to stay beautiful? He needed money to pay for all the things that made him valuable in the eyes of others, his expensive clothes, home, car, jewelry, appearance, and yet, he also needed money to do something great. After thinking about this for some time to no end, a much scarier question entered his mind. Why would his parents teach him two conflicting values to set him up for failure like that?

Then, on a rainy Sunday morning, he found the courage to confront them. Without knocking, he walked through the arched double doors in front of his parents’ home and made his way to the backyard where they spent most of their leisure time. Along the way he passed framed newspapers of major headlines from the past 30 years and massive portraits of his Mother, each with their own ceiling mounted light. They both sat under their own separate massive umbrellas, although they clearly should have been sharing one. His Father was reading the next week’s newspaper, chuckling to himself, while his Mother admired herself in a vanity mirror aside her lounge chair. Upon noticing Wun’s presence, they both stopped what they were doing, and, without even the slightest sense of surprise, greeted him.  He told them he had something serious to talk about. He sat down in a stool opposite them and asked them why they had set him up for failure so early in his life.

Their answer changed him forever.

“You see, things are not what they seem my child,” his Mother said, caressing his arm, and looking impossibly beautiful for her age.

“She’s right. We have something we should tell you,” his Father said, squeezing his shoulder with the assurance of a man with an infinitly thick wallet. “We are not really your parents. We adopted you at the very beginning of your life, and since we knew you wouldn’t remember it, we decided not to tell you.”

“What…what do you mean you’re not my parents?!? Who are you then?” his voice cracked with fear and disbelief.

“I am the Government,” the man said.

“And I am the Media,” the woman followed with strikingly similar tone.

“You see, as the Government, it has always been my job to govern the people and to govern is to maintain order. The best way to do that is to unite everyone with a common pursuit. A life of pursuit is a life of purpose.”

“And what’s that?” Wun replied.

“Well, you already know the answer to that question. I’ve been teaching you that since the day you were born.” Father Government smirked empathetically.

“To make as much money as possible!? But I’ve been working for money my entire life and I still don’t have enough to do something great!”

“Well, that’s because you spent most of it,” Mother Media chimed in, “And that’s where I come in. You see, with lots of money comes lots of power, and people with power threaten the stability of the system your Father and I created. So, in order to keep people from getting too much money, and power, it’s my job to convince them to spend most of their money on things that won’t threaten our system.”

“So you’re saying that from the day I was born, you have KNOWINGLY been setting me up for failure?!?” Wun roared, outraged. “How could you do this to me? I’ve suffered so many days, feeling like I’m a worthless, ugly, poor human being who doesn’t deserve anyone else. I never found true love because I never thought I was good enough for anyone. I never learned to love myself because, compared to the people I saw on television, I was always so ugly and stupid. I never explored the world because I thought I had to save money to make as much as possible. I was never happy… because…” he began to choke up, “because you never… wanted me to be…”

Father Government paused for a moment, “You know Son, we really do love you. It’s just that, the system would fall apart if we didn’t teach you those things. We had no other choice.”

“No other choice!? What’s so wrong with a person who thinks for themselves and lives a life of their own design? What’s so wrong with being happy!?” tears were streaming down his face. “I gave up all my childhood dreams to follow your advice. I followed those before me because YOU taught me that it would lead to success and happiness!”

“People don’t know how to be happy on their own, dear. They need us to provide the structure,” Mother Media said coldly. “Why do you think I’ve been showing you all those movies and sitcoms all these years? Those characters seem pretty happy, right?”

“And why do you think, all those years ago, I made sure they wrote ‘the pursuit of happiness’ in the Constitution?” Father Government followed, mimicking Mother Media’s sensitive tone.

A heavy silence fell upon them. So heavy that it seemed to dampen the air and Wun began to choke. Then, all at once, he stood up with a strength he had never felt before in entire his life. A stir of emotions coursed through his veins as he began to walk away, but, after a few steps, he turned to face the two who had raised him since birth.

“You know, I almost walked out of here without saying anything because I realize how useless it would be, since you aren’t my parents, to tell you what I think. But I feel like I have a responsibility to speak… if not for myself then for all those who never have.

I understand that you have a complex problem before you… organizing large amounts of individual minds, maintaining order, and progressing forward. And admittedly, you have done that. But at what price? There are billions of people out there just like me… who live a life of disappointment and despair, simply because of the values that you two have been teaching us for our entire lives. But without us, you have nothing. Don’t you think that you should give us the chance to find happiness on our own? We don’t need you two to tell us how to live our lives from the day we are born. We already have all the guidance we need innately within us. And frankly, you two are just distractions. Goodbye.” Wun curtly turned and walked back through the house, through the arched double doors, and never looked back.

THE TAKEAWAY: The idea for this story presented itself to me during one of my classes, in which my students unanimously recited, in order, the five most important things Korean’s look for in a marriage partner. They were one: face, two: body, three: money, four: house and five: personality. This particular class had been the third class that day to recite these answers in precisely the same order. After I walked out of the classroom and into my office, I sat down to start writing this story, one I think that we all can relate to, regardless of what country we were raised in. Its purpose was not to answer, but rather, to raise a question. What if we all didn’t live a life defined by the powers that be? Could we all live a life of our own design? I truly believe, someday, we will find the answer to these questions. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later. 

Give That Which You Wish to Receive

Think about this for a second… What is one thing that you give and receive each day, all day, everyday? ***Jeopardy Music*** You guessed it! Air! From the moment we are born we begin the practice of giving and receiving. Then, somewhere down the line, we realize that if we give our favorite toy to the wrong person, we don’t get it back. And since we don’t get it back, we stop giving all together. Then, at some point in our lives we find ourselves asking the question, “How come no one ever helps me out? Why can’t I get a break? Nothing good ever happens to me!”

Well, I think it’s time we change that mindset. Today, I started reading The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler and one of the chapters focused on this very concept. I felt compelled to write about this here because this echoed one of Deepak Chopra’s spiritual laws from his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Give that which you wish to receive. At first when I thought about this it seemed a little crazy. “So you mean, if I want money, I should give all my money away?” Raise your hand if that was your first thought too… Okay, you can put your hand down… People are probably staring at you.

All jokes aside, there is a lot more logic to this spiritual concept than meets the eye. Bad people are often surrounded by bad people, and good by good. People that love money over everything often find themselves with friends who have increasingly expensive cars and possessions. People that give their time to charities and the needy receive some of the greatest joys from the experience. And as counter-intuitive as it may seem, those who openly give their money to others will often receive such warm responses that those whom they help often return the gift to them in the form of friends, opportunities, experience, and joy – which are the basic reasons we want to make money anyway… right?

Since I have been here in Korea I have been a living example of this. When I came here I had no foundation of the language, little understanding of the culture, and almost no control over my life. For almost a month I took cold showers because I couldn’t read the buttons that turned the hot water on. With little else to do, I started pouring everything I had into helping everyone I could. Here, English is a commodity, one that is worth a lot of money. But instead of charging others for it, I gave my time to as many people as I could help… for free. In return, they taught me their language. In learning their language, I became a better teacher of English, and so on and so on.

When I first arrived at my school, it was a bleek, negative place. No one wanted to be here. The only thing I knew how to do was to emit as much positivity as I had inside me, and so I did. Soon people started to seem a little happier. My students were laughing more and sleeping less in class. I was getting to know students – receiving notes on my desk.

THE TAKEAWAY: I hope that my experience can serve as proof that anyone can do the same. As impossible as it may seem, whatever you wish to have in your life can be achieved. By giving the very thing that you hope to receive in the future, you are letting those around you, your God, the Universe, and everything in this world know what you want. If you give it, then you certainly deserve to receive it. So, give relentlessly and I assure you, you will live a life that is full.

What’s Your Favorite Food? – True Love

I don’t know about you but whenever someone asks me about my favorite food, I usually have to think for a second because I feel the need to justify my choice. “It really depends, but I guess I would say chocolate because if someone offered me chocolate, I would probably accept in almost any situation.” Now consider how you would answer that question: What’s your favorite food?

Now, for a moment, think about that food. I will use chocolate for the sake of explanation. Now, when I think about chocolate, I know exactly what it tastes like, what it smells like, how it feels in my mouth, what goes well with it and what doesn’t, and all the varying types of chocolate that exist out there. I also know that studies have shown the chocolate releases chemicals in the brain that bring about better mood and alertness in the body and mind. Sometimes, even, cacao chocolate can be very good for your health. So, I think that is it sufficient to say that I know enough about chocolate to say that I like everything about it. I know that at no point in my life am I going to change my mind and say, “Actually, I don’t like chocolate. Nevermind.” 

In contrast, there have also been foods I once loved, hot dogs for instance, that I changed my mind about when I realized what they were really made of. I used to enjoy them simply because they tasted good. But then when I learned all the junk that goes into them and the process involved, I saw what they were really doing to my body, and moved them down quite a few notches on my list of favorite foods. (No offense to you hot dog lovers out there)

This past weekend I spent three days straight with my girlfriend whom I’ve been waiting over 5 months to see. There was never a single second where we were not happy or out of sync with one another. And now today, after we are apart again, I realized why I know that this is true love and will never change. It’s just like the example above. I know everything about her – her personality, likes and dislikes, life goals, strengths and weaknesses, her facial expressions, her walk, her most commonly used words in speech, how she acts when she’s frustrated, how she deals with excitement/ anxiety/ stress/ sadness, her favorite food, her favorite book, her music style, her talents, and most of all, the person whom she loves more than anything. And when I take all these things into consideration, it is so easy to say, “Yes. That’s the girl I’m going to spend my life with. I’m never going to change my mind someday and say, ‘Nevermind. I don’t like all of that stuff.’ ” 

I think all too often we become so excited at the idea of love that we blind ourselves to things that we don’t want to see. And those things, in the future, become the root of the very problems that destroy that love, and turn it to evil. Sometimes, we choose not to ask certain questions, like what they are made of, and so we don’t really know how that person is affecting our life until its too late. I made these mistakes many times in my life before I met her. But it is only because I made those mistakes, that I was able to notice the real thing when it hit me in the nose (or heart, I guess you could say).

THE TAKEAWAY: Maybe you feel that you have it now, maybe you’re still looking for it, or maybe you’ve already made up your mind that it doesn’t exist.  Whatever the case, for a moment, think about how certain you are about your favorite food. Are you ever going to change your mind? Why not? If you have or are looking for a love that’s true, then consider how much you know about that person. If you don’t know enough to be sure, find out. If there are things that you try not to think about or ignore, address them with that person in an honest and constructive way. It is difficult to find, but only because of the process involved with getting there, not because of its rarity. If you want it bad enough, the Universe will conspire to make it happen.

Artwork by my beautifully talented girlfriend

It is my sincerest hope that writing about my experience with true love will help someone out there who reads this. The majority of songs, movies, television shows, books, and plays that have been created throughout the history of mankind have been about finding it in some way, and it is my hope that whatever I can write about it here will help someone… hopefully, you. 

The Wait is Over… Forever

Five months ago I left the love of my life and now she will be here in just two days.This past week, ironically enough, has felt like one of the most painful though. Everyday I woke up thinking about how many days were left, how many hours until I can see her again. Two months ago though? I woke up each morning and didn’t really think about the time left. It was just this lofty date that didn’t need to be worried about yet.

How is it possible that time could seem so slow and so fast at the same time? Looking back, I cannot believe it has been five months already. Looking forward, the next two days seem like an eternity. How much more useless can time be?

In an effort to channel all this energy into something positive, I have used my anxiousness and frustration to push myself further into the moment, to appreciate each and every second of each day, because whether she is here yet or not, this moment is a gift. Whenever I do this, I forget about the anxiety and, ironically enough, time seems to move faster. So the key to solving the problem of that anxiety was in the least likely place… inside of the “pain.”

THE TAKEAWAY: As I’m sure anyone who reads these knows, I am absolutely ecstatic that she is going to be here with me. We have looked forward to and talked about this for what seems like such a long time, and now it is here. But I felt it pertinent to use this experience to learn something. That something is what I hoped to share with you today. If you ever find yourself waiting for something, whether it is tomorrow or in six months, take a step back. What are you missing right now?  What beautiful things does life have waiting right in front of you for you to see? It really is the simple things in life that make it worth while. For me, today it is this blog. In two days, it is true loves gaze.

Money and Happiness

Yesterday, I had one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. Not to say that I’ve been having bad days, of course, but yesterday was special. It started out like any other Monday. My CoTeacher No Ra and I talked over coffee at our desks in the morning and discussed what were going to do for this week’s lesson. I had prepared a short lesson about Christmas in America” in which I show them a few quirky traditions (stockings, Christmas cards, opening presents, and Black Friday) and that was about it. We were both a little nervous about how the second half of the class was going to go because we really hadn’t planned much. All we were going to do was let them sing Christmas songs or make cards. During the second class of the day, after very little instruction, the following transpired before our eyes.

http://youtu.be/MT4qIdRTKww

After the class ended, and some of the students and I said our goodbyes (these are second year students, and next semester they will be third years, which means I won’t be teaching them anymore), No Ra and I looked at each other like two proud parents. We couldn’t believe what had just happened. These boys at this school are known to be some of the worst in the city. In fact, this class in particular was one of our most difficult classes. We were on cloud nine. 

Then, after lunch, one of my students came into my office with a Santa hat and fake beard on and presented me with a card, a cupcake, and a small bear she had made me. She then explained to me how she was studying English very hard because she wants to be able to talk to me. The cupcakes were delicious, the gesture was precious, and I was feeling great. Until later in the afternoon, when I saw the mail on my desk.

It was my cell phone bill. Now, last month I mistakenly used an application to call home that I thought was free, and it turned out it wasn’t. So for the end of October and the first half of November I was making international calls without knowing. Last month, I went over by $100 on my bill, which I had already made my peace with. Opening this bill I just said to myself, “As long as it isn’t more than last month, I’m okay.” Wrong-o. It turns out it was more than double last months overage at $250. Upon seeing the number, I instantly felt like whatever was in my stomach wanted out. All the wonderful events of the day seemed to pale in comparison to what had just happened. For the next five minutes or so I thought about how much I hated the fact that money had so much control over me. And then, I made a decision that will likely change the rest of my life. 

THE TAKEAWAY: Yesterday, I made the decision that I will never let money control my happiness. Money is, of course, a functionally necessesary part of life. I mean, we all gotta eat. But it does NOT need to have the control over our lives that it does now. Currently, 50% of all marriages in America end in divorce and of those the majority claim financial discrepancies to be the cause. America, Korea, and England are three of the most monetarily sound countries in the world, and yet they are reported to have the most unhappy people. All the while many third world countries report the highest levels of happiness. The truth of the matter is that if money causes us stress, it is sabotaging that which it is supposed to provide us with: a happy life. For the rest of my life,  I will gauge my happiness not by how much money I have, but by the experiences I am able to have.

As long as there is food on the table, and a roof over my head, then I will have, within me, all I need to live a happy, fulfilling life. 

Sometimes We Just Need Someone to Relate to

Today I feel like I had a bit of a breakthrough with my students. After months of searching for that sweet spot between useless entertainment and stupefying boredom, I found the atmosphere I wanted in the classroom. And what was the topic you might ask? “Why does English suck?”

Although I know that may seem completely counterintuitive, I’ve realized recently that that is precisely why so many kids try NOT to pay attention in my class. Even when I’m talking to them about Soccer or American Club Dances or Fashion there are still some who stay frozen the entire class, with icicles of boredom hanging from the tips of their nose. So this week I decided, let me talk about what they least expect me to; hence the title.

So I started the lesson with a funny video from The Pink Panther with Steve Martin where he is trying to pronounce the sentence, “I would like to buy a hamburger.” With his fake French accent, he absolutely butchers the sentence countless times and the students all laugh in unison. Then I go on to explain that their mouths are not used to making the sounds that English words require. In addition, their grammar is completely the opposite of ours. When we say, “Did you eat your meal?” they say, “Meal eat did?” They don’t even use words like “your,” “my,” and “our” most of the time. This means that every time they speak they have to unwind what they are trying to say and string a new sentence together. Then I tell them that I have the very same troubles when I am trying to speak Korean. I have to unwind my sentences, my mouth does not cooperate with my brain, and I’m often too shy to say anything. And as my CoTeacher No Ra translates what I’m saying, I begin to see something completely new to me. I see heads nodding.

Now these aren’t the usual heads that nod. They are not the ones who sit in the front, blurt out whatever English they know and volunteer for every game. No. These are the heads with permanently combed hair and reek of cigarettes. These are the heads of young men who were forced to learn English their entire lives without ever once wanting to. And as they nod, I feel as if this is the first time they are realizing why.

We begin a game I call Pronunciation Game in which teams send up one student at a time to compete to say the word I put on the board most correctly. After about ten seconds of instruction, I tell them each to go one by one, and the winner scores a point for their team. As I am explaining one of the words I notice that the boys in the back of the room are leaning forward and blurting out the words over and over and laughing. I cannot help but laugh with them. At the end of class I walk up to one of those students, we look each other in the eyes, smile, and nod together. In that moment we understood each other perfectly.

 

THE TAKEAWAY: These students have been forced to learn this language since they were 12 years old. At my school in particular, some of the worst students in the city (as my fellow teachers tell me), maybe 15% of them actually try to learn English. But, they are still lower than most average elementary school students. All it took for me to get through to them was to show them that they were not alone in their struggle, and that there was a reason why it was so difficult. I asked them to be my teachers, and told them that I would be theirs. I guess, sometimes, all we need is someone to relate to.