Project Happiness, 2013

I have so many great, wonderful things in my life that make me happy: my family, my job, living in Chicago, new friends and old, a past to be proud of, but I still feel a tinge of unhappiness or sadness, like I’m missing something. As if all of the puzzle pieces but one are there; I’m incomplete. And this one missing piece is the final key to happiness. I’ve looked in small towns, across the world in big cities, on yoga retreats, and on the streets of Chicago. What am I searching for? Is it love and companionship? Is that what’s missing from the puzzle? If so, I can’t wait around for it; I need to start being happy without it. And then when it arrives, I’ll know how to be my true self, my genuinely happy self with that person and not because of that person. 

This means that I need to start a happiness project of my own. How can I become this truly happy person that I deserve to be? First, I think I need to start partaking in activities that I find fun, pleasing, and relaxing. So, find/start a book club, join a yoga studio, start meditating, take ballet classes again, and cooking more at home are all New Years’ resolutions. I also need to find my Sassy Hong Kong. I’m jonesing to get writing again and to see my name in print. Yoga, of course, is important to me, too, so I want to start looking for teaching jobs. I had a lead the other day that I’m excited to see where it may go. 

Next, I need to make new friends. I’ve been lucky to meet some great girls in the city so far, but I need more great people in my life. Whether that means going to more meetup groups by myself, talking to more people in social settings, or meeting friends of friends, I need to get myself out there. This includes dating. In the modern day and at 29 years old, I think dating is a fun part of life that doesn’t necessarily mean love, but the chance to try new things and meet new people. 

Lastly and probably most importantly, I need to learn to let go. Relax. Stop being a control freak. Stop judging others and worry about me. Chill the f*ck out. My new (but learned long ago) trick is every time a negative thought crosses my mind, a positive one needs to follow it. For example, my roommate left a nasty note the other day. Instead of responding, I simply threw it in the garbage, and every time her rude comments flitted back to my mind, I told myself, “It doesn’t matter, it was just a note.” I didn’t talk about it to other people, and didn’t fret over it. Now, I don’t care about it. This is where meditation and yoga come into my life more often. I’m also hoping it’ll help me be nicer to people, especially my mom (there’s another New Year’s resolution).

I’m not much for resolutions, never really made them before. So here’s to sticking to a plan and becoming happy. Cheers!

Real World: Chicago!

This is the story of 4 strangers picked to live in a house and have their lives blogged about in order to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. The Real World: Chicago!

For the past 5 years, I’ve lived by myself, even choosing in college to live in a single room for a year and a half. That means I took out my own garbage, washed my own dishes, and put away everything. When I got my job in Chicago, I knew it was a financial necessity to have roommates; I also thought it would be a great idea to make new friends since Chicago is a new city to me. Overall, it’s been pretty good. My roomies and I all get along well, with only a few hiccups in the past six weeks.

We certainly couldn’t make good television, but we can make for a pretty darn good blog post. Here’s what’s happened so far that just might make producers pick up their cameras:

*The second night of living in my apartment, I was sitting on my couch enjoying my first-ever DVRed show, when in storms one of my roommates. She was a sobbing mess. She’d just caught her boyfriend sleeping with someone else. I consoled this stranger, supplied a hug, and gave her advice on getting over losers. Bonding moment!

*A week later, I’m peacefully sleeping at 1:30am, when into the house busts roommate #2. She’s screaming at her boyfriend, “I can’t believe you flirted with her! And by the way, you owe me $300. If you don’t pay me, I’ll take you to small claims court, Judge Judy style.”

*My landlord is the oldest, randomest man I ever did meet. His house was 96˚ and his wife is a chimney. He told me that the only way to get over the squeaky floors that were waking me up was to imagine sleeping through it; after 10-14 days I’d be cured! Welp, he was wrong.

*Heard this one the other day: “Why the f*ck would someone send me a Christmas card of their baby? I want a picture of my friend, not their f*cking baby!!”

*I’ve lived in a foreign country and I know what it’s like to be in a room full of people speaking a language that I don’t know a lick of. In Asia, it’s not rude because I was the foreigner, but in the comfort of your American home, it’s rude when there are others around who don’t know the language. It makes it seem like they’re talking about you and usually not nice things. I’m sure that’s not the case, but you just don’t know. Please speak in English, you know how.

*The notes, oh the notes! It was too late one night to take the empty toilet paper roll to the recycling downstairs, so I left it on the bathroom counter. The next morning, I woke to a handwritten note ON the toilet paper roll: “Please take this to the can downstairs <3”

*I was warned of this before I moved in, but we have a chore list. One of the roommates made it, never cleaning the bathroom. “I’m just really good at cleaning the kitchen.”

Squeaky Floors

Usually when I write my titles, I try to come up with something witty to describe the situation, but this time my title is the flat out truth. I guess I could’ve called this “Pulling my Hair Out” because that’s what squeaky floors make me want to do on a daily basis, but I think the honest truth here works. 

It all started the morning after I moved into my new apartment. With bright eyes and a smile, I woke up before my alarm, having just gotten 8 straight hours of glorious sleep. I was back on my old mattress and fate was most certainly telling me that I’d made the right choice in apartments. 

Two days later one of my roommates walks in the house sobbing; she and her boyfriend just broke up. The next morning at 5:30am, the torture began…she was actually home in the morning instead of frolicking at her boyfriend’s, which means she had to walk on her incredibly creaky floors. That also means I was awake with her at 5:30am…for an hour and a half. I was awake before my alarm again, but there was no smile and no bright eyes. Because my flatmate and her bf stayed broken up, she has had to sleep in her bed, and walk on her floors, and wake me up every day for the last month and a half at an ungodly hour. 

So yea, maybe “Pulling my Hair Out” would’ve been a good name for this post. 

Here’s what I’ve done so far so as not to go crazy:

1.    Ask my dad what he thinks could be done. He said the hardwood underneath could use a few more nails. Rip the carpet up and get ‘er done.

2.    Tell these ideas to my landlord, attempting not to whine, but pleading to the best of my ability. He says he’ll think about it. Then proceeds to tell me that if I just think about sleeping through the noise before bed, that after 10-14 days it will no longer bother me. He did a study when he was in college…70 years ago…and it worked back then. 

3.    Try the crazy guy’s suggestion…doesn’t work…of course. 

4.    Politely inquire if my roommate cannot organize her closet at half past 5 in the morning. She agrees, but continues to walk in a circle around her room every day.

5.    Play my radio everyday at 5:30 to help me fall back asleep. Instead, I hear Kenny Chesney over and over again just below the din of the squeaks. 

6.    Call the landlord again, this time with a bit more whine. Tell him that the study he did in the past did not work on me. He says he’s considering his options. 

7.    Consider moving out every morning at the crack of dawn, but rethink that because I’ve already moved 12 times in 15 years. 

8.    Put a white noise machine on my Christmas list and hope that Santa thinks that I’ve been a good girl this year. 

9.    A suggestion of your choosing would be especially helpful before I go bald.

Thankful

The thankful season is upon us and with this time, we reflect upon all that makes us grateful and appreciative in our lives. I have a bevy of things and people to be thankful for:

*My parents are the best! Not only have they moved me 12 times in 15 years, they’ve sent me away to live in a foreign country for 2 years, helped me financially when I wasn’t on my own two feet, let me live at their house when I needed it, and all around are supportive of my choices. When I said that I wanted to move to Asia, they were shocked and sad, but let me spread my wings. When I said that I wanted to quit teaching, my mom didn’t even flinch when she told me to do what made my heart happy. I am definitely lucky!

*My entire family may be a bit on the crazy side, but they, too, are extremely supportive and open-minded to the many changes I’ve made in recent years. I get frequent texts from my Aunt Joyce telling me how proud she is of me and that she loves me. My cousins are funny and we all get along so well. Matthew and Kristen are star-quality siblings who gave me an adorable, sweet niece whom I love to pieces.

*I’m so glad I’ve had the experiences in my life that I’ve had. Even the “bad” things that’ve happened to me have helped me grow to be a more independent and well-rounded person. Having lived in a small town, in Hong Kong, and now Chicago means I’m lucky to have choices and an education to support my thirst for new things. Illinois Wesleyan was the perfect school for me to attend, living in Ottawa taught me life lessons, and living abroad taught me the self-determination to do what I need in my life.

*I’ll be forever grateful for yoga being a part of my life. Everyone needs a stress relief, and not only do I get relaxation from yoga, I also get peace of mind, flexibility, strength, and all-around happiness. Also, the fact that I really wanted to do yoga teacher training allowed me to not go back to teaching and find a job that I hope will really fulfill my career needs and my heart’s needs.

*True friends are few and far between, but because they’re true friends that means they’re genuine people who care for each other. I am fortunate to have met so many great people living in HK that I can still call friends. I also have friends from high school and a select few from college that I know will be at my wedding someday (in the not so near future). Thankfully, I can also call my family my friends because they always have been and always will be there for me.

*Lastly, I’m thankful for the opportunity I have at hand. A job that really impacts others’ lives, money to afford a nice apartment with funny roommates, and a bright future full of friends, family, and love.

My First “I Love Chicago” Moment

Today was my first official “I love Chicago” moment, a phenomenon similar to the overwhelming feelings I’d had in Hong Kong, interestingly enough called “I love Hong Kong” moments.

Here’s what happened: I’d just picked up Nutcracker tickets in the Joffrey Ballet building. The Macy’s windows were decorated with Christmas care, a homeless man was playing “Silent Night” on his saxophone for tips, and smoke lingered in the air from those standing 15 feet from the entrance. It was then that the tingles started and the goosebumps rose; I really do love Chicago and I am so glad my life brought me here.

The scene reminded me of the days of my youth traveling to the big city to see the Christmas lights with my family. Almost every year, our tradition was to ride the train in and spend the day shopping, sightseeing, eating at restaurants, and freezing our butts off. This upcoming Saturday, my family will take the train in to come visit me and we’ll repeat one of our favorite pastimes, this time adding A Christmas Carol into the mix. I’m thankful for my family, our fun traditions, and that I now can call myself a Chicagoan. 

The First 24 Hours

I’ve officially lived in Chicago for over 24 hours and it’s already been one helluva ride! Here are a few bright spots (and quirky tells) from Day 1:

*My parents are the best!! With my 12th move in 15 years, they have been there for every step of the way. Thank you!

*Slept like a baby last night. No panic dreams about living in a strange new place or about my new job. It’s meant to be.

*Had to wait out three trains this morning because they were all too full. Just like the HK MTR, dumbasses don’t huddle in the middle making it impossible for the people at the door to go anywhere. #nothingschanged

*Guys on the “el” (for my foreign friends, that stands for elevated train aka the “subway in the air”…and sometimes underground) listen to the music impossibly loud. Turn it down, or you’ll go deaf!

*Heard motha f*ck*r at least 50 times on one 15-minute train ride to work. Must have been quite a story to get that lady so pissed off…

*I suck at directions. Even with a smart phone, I get lost all the time. If I do it once, though, I got it. But because I went the wrong way today, that means it’s back to square one tomorrow morning.

*My job is amazing! My boss is really nice and very relaxed about times to be at work and providing comp time for working nights/weekends. My coworkers are all super friendly and helpful. I’m excited to go back!

*Awesome events I’m already signed up to go see/do for free with work: stay at the Chicago Hostel for a night, have dinner with travelers to Chicago, and see Les Mis; watch A Christmas Carol as a kick-off to the holiday season with a bunch of kids and their families (and hopefully mine, too!).

*Saw a girl that I’ve known since dance classes starting in second grade in my building! New friend to reconnect with!!

*Made plans with two other friends for the week. Chicago is shaping up to be quite the social place – exactly why I wanted to move here!

*Today made me so happy that I couldn’t stop smiling on the way to the train this evening. I just had this huge sloppy grin for about 30 minutes because I had such a good day. I’m so psyched about what’s to come with my job!

*Met a girl on the morning train and ran into her on the evening train, too. Made a new friend…

*Haven’t worked a real 9-5 job before and man is it tiring! I do love the flexibility of it, though. No kiddos staring at you and watching your every move. Just do what I want when I want…I can pee when I gotta, I can take a walk to the cafeteria with a bunch of hot bankers if I want a brownie, etc.

*Groceries here are hella expensive. I will no longer go to Treasure Island for my weekly grocery visits. Seriously, a bag of grapes was over 7 bucks!!!!

*Joined Groupon Chicago – the official sign I’m living in a city [and that I’ll be spending lots of money and getting lots of massages]

*My roommates are all so funny, sweet, and quirky. Had a blast laughing tonight at random stuff.

*Seriously, the guys here are freaking hot! Who can resist a dapper young gentleman in a suit?!

Taking Chicago by storm…one date, one yoga class, one salsa lesson, one blog post, one trip, one drink, one meal, one new friendship at a time.