Year-end Improvements

Who said New Year should be the only time for self-reflection and resolutions? For the remaining 50+ days of this year, here are some of the improvements I’d like to focus on:

Self Care

  • Exercise at least 3 hrs a week
  • Eat home made meals 80% time (assuming 20 meals a week, that means 16 meals at home, and 4 meals outside)
    • This follows a 80-20 rule, which I will try to use as a rough guide for balance
    • 4 meals will also provide a reasonable allocation for my social life and indulgences
  • Masks, exfoliate, Epsom salt bath at least 2x / wk
  • Stretch every day

Life Optimization

  • Review finances (budget, credit card statements, bills, etc.) weekly
  • Organize / purge quarterly
  • Roomba weekly / laundry bi-weekly
  • Reflect daily (journal / blog)

I will return at the end of this year and see how I have done. 

 

 

Things I never regret doing

Thanks to Daylight Savings, I woke up before 6:30 again this morning and successfully dragged my lazy ass out of the bed and exercised again. As expected, it was difficult but I felt pretty good about it afterwards. This of course always happens. It got me thinking: there are quite a few things that are always hard to do at the moment, but I never regret it afterwards. Here are just some that come to mind immediately:

  • Exercising:
    • Why I don’t do it: laziness.
    • How I feel when I actually do it: proud of myself, a good kind of soreness.
    • Goal: 4-6 times a week
  • Facial masks:
    • Why I don’t do it: laziness.
    • How I feel when I actually do it: amazing! My skin always looks clearer, the pores look smaller, and everything just looks 10x better.
    • Goal: 2-3 times a week.
  • Stretching
    • Why I don’t do it: laziness
    • How I feel when I actually do it: great! much more limber and just overall fantastic.
    • Goal: 7 times a week.
  • Reading:
    • Why I don’t do it: I get distracted by…other stuff (usually the internet)
    • How I feel when I actually do it: inspired. It’s definitely food for my brain.
    • Goal: 3 days a week
  • Writing:
    • Why I don’t do it: Laziness / I get distracted
    • How I feel when I actually do it: Accomplished, and my thoughts are much more organized.
    • Goal: Every day
  • Organizing / Getting rid of things (mostly clothes)
    • Why I don’t do it: Laziness
    • How I feel when I actually do it: Relieved and lighter and freer. It really does feel like getting rid of all that weight of the stuff. 
    • Goal: Every quarter.

Overall conclusion? Be less lazy and spend less time on inconsequential things (i.e. things with minimal to no real / meaningful return…like fb / IG).

Chicago

In the summer of 2014, I arrived in this city with two suitcases and an abundance of hope, curiosity, naivete, and a palpable sadness for having just left my favorite city that had all my friends. In two days, on the eve of my two year anniversary in the Windy City, I will be returning to the Northeast. I will be leaving in very much the same way that I came, in a whirlwind of moving stress, with too many things that cost too much to move, and suitcases containing more than the bare essentials. This time, I will be returning to my group of dear friends in NYC, though I won’t be living in the city with them. My next adventure will take me to just an hour north of the city, in a small town that I had never even heard of a few weeks ago, much less considering living in. But that’s how life is, isn’t it? It comes at us in a breakneck speed that is simultaneously exhilarating and frightening. All we can do is either embrace it with as much bravado as we can muster, or shy away and forever wonder what if I took the jump, what if…?

It’s funny how things worked out. I came here almost convinced that I would never quite like the city, because my heart already belonged to another. And yet, in the last half year, I have finally come around to truly appreciating the myriad of things this city offers. From the affordable urban lifestyle, to the plethora of food options, and the accessibility of the city to and from the rest of the world, Chicago has finally won me over. The city has its drawbacks and flaws just like any other city, but its strengths and pros are undeniable. I have finally stopped comparing it against NYC and appreciating it on its own merit. It will never be NYC, because there is only one NYC, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find happiness here. Because I absolutely have, through all the ups and downs, the city grew on me, and often offered more than I gave it credit for.

On the other hand, nothing could have prepared me for the disappointment and struggles that I experienced in my first job out of school. I don’t wish to go into the details here, but suffice to say it was far from the right fit for me in many aspects. However, as one of my favorite saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s true, though on many instances I definitely felt that it very almost did (okay, I’m probably being a little melodramatic here, but just a little). Let’s just say I left with a little less naivete and hair, and a little more resilience and understanding of the world that will hopefully save me from similar heartaches in my next venture.

And so it is with a dose of nostalgia and a bittersweet sentiment that I sit here in an almost empty apartment beginning to say my farewell to this city that I have come to love. Yes, I never thought I would say this, but here I am. Perhaps it is true that what they say about only coming to fully appreciate something when you are on the verge of losing it. I had some of the worst times of my life, and some of the best times of my life, in this city next to the lake. Rest assured, I am glad I came here. On Thursday, I will board that plane with countless memories, lessons, and yes, a palpable sadness for leaving a city that made an indelible print in my heart and offered me much more than I ever expected.

Mid year update

It’s half way through 2016; how did that happen? Looking at my previous post, I thought I’d take a page from my own posts and write a brief update:

  • what am I doing well?

I’ve been eating better, granted that is much easier now that I spend more time at home. Eating less at restaurants has definitely been good for my waistline and wallet.

I’m still exercising on a regular basis, averaging 3-5 times a week.

I’ve been reading much more! Finished a couple of novels in the last couple of months, and working my way through a non-fiction. Hoping this will be the second non-fiction that I can finish.

  • what needs improvement?

I still occasionally relapse in the eating part. Those snacks and pasta still get to me sometimes!

I could spend more time in my career development part.

  • what should I let go of?

Anxiety and worrying! It’s so hard to want something so much and not get all worked up about it. I have literally been kept awake at nights, unable to sleep, because of all the anxiety and worrying that I can’t get rid of.

I guess I will keep telling myself that everything really will be okay, no matter what. Maybe if i repeat this enough times, I will really begin to believe it?

  • what do I need to focus on?

Doing more, and worrying less. If I’m worried and anxious, do something, anything! Sitting (or lying) there and just let myself drown in anxiety is the worst.

I can have it, but I don’t want it.

For the last year or so I have been struggling with my eating habits. Food has become an obsession, with both good and bad consequences. On the positive side, this obsession has propelled me into investing more time and resources into cooking and expanding my culinary repertoire. The down side, however, is I have also developed an unhealthy relationship with food. I would mindlessly stuff myself with any sweets I came across (mostly in the office), only to mire in self hatred for the rest of the day. I would look at pastries with an all consuming desire and feel utterly incapable of resisting them, and I would wage this internal battle on a daily basis. If this sounds like the mentality associated with eating disorder, it’s probably because it is. Fortunately, I don’t have an eating disorder. This is most likely the result of having the importance of health pounded into my head by my parents all my life.

Nevertheless, I can’t ignore the fact that my relationship with food is no longer a healthy one. While talking about this with a friend, she pointed out that I was relying on food more for the pleasure it gave me than the nutritional value it offered. I would never deny that food is a great source of pleasure and should remain so. However, food should be primarily a source of fuel for our bodies, and the pleasure it brings should be secondary. Viewing food primarily as a source of pleasure was what led to this love-and-hate relationship. Food became this incredibly desirable thing that I craved regularly, all the while agonizing over the fact that I should not give into it. It was the classic case of desperately wanting something that I knew was not good for me. The more I knew I shouldn’t have it the more obsessed I became. This line of thinking drove me into a series of downward spirals into self hatred. I felt disappointed and scared. Disappointed at my lack of self control and scared that there was nothing I could do to overcome it.

I have come to suspect that at the core of all of this is the fear of deprivation. I am not very good with deprivation (perhaps no one is). But if I ever feel deprived of anything, it only makes me want that thing even more. In fact, knowing that I can’t have something is almost a guarantee for me to become obsessed with possessing it, at any cost. Again, back to the wanting what I cannot / should not have. This mental struggle is not unique to my relationship with food. I suspect it is also at the root of my relationship with money and spending habits. Growing up, I was always told what I cannot have because of the lack of money. So as soon as I had the means of buying the things I wanted, I was unstoppable. Anything and everything I wanted, I would buy it, even if I knew I should not. I was sick of feeling deprived and did everything to be free from it. Except the unbridled pursuit of satisfaction of every desire only led me to becoming a prisoner of excess. Yet even as I was fully aware of my bad habits and the havoc they wrecked, I could not stop myself at those moments. The Buy buttons and the cookies still beckoned like dangerous sirens.

Then one day I heard this phrase, “I can have it, but I don’t want it”.  I was immediately intrigued by it. It was a deceptively simple phrase, but a surprisingly powerful one. It was the reverse of what I have been telling myself all this time : I want it, but I can’t have it. It completely turned my toxic thought process on its head. By telling myself, I can have it but I don’t want it, I was able to distinguish between things that I truly wanted, from things that I wanted merely because I can’t have it.  This has been a recent revelation and I have not had the chance to test it out in the office, where most of my daily battles with temptations happen. However, I have already found myself saying the phrase this weekend while contemplating whether to have that piece of cake or not. So far, it has led me to drinking more water and eating more fruits instead. Only time can tell how effective this will be, but I am hopeful!