Angell, The Ugly Caterpillar: Parte Dos

A special person told me his observation of volunteers serving in other countries (such as…Peace Corps Volunteers):

“They come and think they can change Colombia, but Colombia will change you!

At that word, “you,” I sensed many imaginary fingers pointing at me.

This took me a moment to realize…

Yes, I am guilty of the Ugly American syndrome with idealist thinking by wanting to change the host country with ridiculous, extravagant ideas for the sake of making a difference or changing the world.

I looked back on my old notebooks that I wrote in upon my arrival to Colombia, and I chuckled at how silly I was. I had so many notes about what I wanted to do during my 2 years. Do this, do that, do it all all to change Colombia, make a difference, leave an impact, and [enter whatever cliché phrase you know here.]

Well, that special person was right. The idea to change Colombia didn’t go according to plan and I’m the one that’s ending up going through change.

During a PC-hosted tech conference, I had a conversation with a fellow PCV from the Community Economic Development sector, Akil. We happened to be talking about how we’ve changed during our service and her story went a little like this…

“When I was in training, my host mom cooked me something and there were ants all over it. I asked her about it and my host mom replied that those were called crazy ants but were ok. I didn’t have a huge stink about it, but I had a stink.”

She did not eat the meal, by the way.

“Then, the other day, I opened my pancake mix and when I opened it, I saw ants in it. I thought about my mix: how I bought them, how I waited for the bus, how I carried it on the bus, how I brought it home, and all the struggles along with buying that mix. So, I just started scraping and patting the ants out of that batter and made my pancakes.”

We laughed so hard.

That’s how you know one has changed. Another PCV, Audrey, chirped in after and said, the next level of adaptation is to just eat the pancakes without taking the ants out.

One thing I want to point out in this thing called, CHANGE, is that I feel it in the problem-solving department. I remember at my previous job at a medical device consulting company, every little problem I faced, every complaint I received from a client, every whatever obstacle that came my way with the softwares, finances, etc, I would seek help from my boss or colleagues like a big, whiny baby.

Now…please entertain yourselves with the problems I’ve encountered in Colombia and their respective following solutions:

  • One time, I had this mysterious animal coming into my bathroom (my bathroom is located outside the house with a sliding door) and eating a trillion seeds of some kind and leaving the shells all over the ground and in the shower! For those of you who don’t know me…I am OCD, a neat freak, and very orderly…so these seeds drove me nuts. Every morning when I entered, seeds…seeds…and more seeds. After days of the seed mystery, I started to close the door at night so whatever the animal was, it couldn’t enter to eat and leave those d### seeds. Well, to my extreme annoyance and disappointment, I still found seeds the next day. I observed my surroundings of my bathroom and after some careful looking around and meditating to lower my blood pressure, I figured out that I should also close the small window.. And voila! – the next day, there were no more bathroom seeds. I will never know what kind of animal was entering my bathroom, but it had wings and it liked seeds. Animal kingdom…ugh.

 

 

  • At the beginning of my service, I was not eating well because my host family´s kitchen is so tiny and very messy. Fruit flies, ants, leftover food, no space to place anything, etc (sorry, host mom…) Reminder, I am a clean person so this can cause huge amounts of stress for me. The desire to cook or meal prep?? Forget about it… it went down the drain as well as my appetite. So for a few months, I ate sancocho de la tienda…basically, chips and cookies from the nearby store. Such nutrition! I was miserable. I was gaining weight. When I could not stand the feeling of weight gain any longer, I finally did something about it. I started waking up at 4 am to use the kitchen when it was clean and to use it before my host mom occupied it. 4 am to cut food, use the pressure cooker, cook my breakfast and few days’ worth of lunch and dinner. It has been working out nicely. The feeling of having control of my health and something like a kitchen for a few hours makes me feel like a million bucks. Although I cannot control the insects, the personality of my host mom, the physical space of the kitchen, I have control of my way of thinking and adapting to this situation. It´s a really strange feeling when you realize that something that drove you crazy is now not such a big deal. The power of the mind, I tell ya.

 

  • The nearest grocery store (think Kroger, Wal Mart, etc) is in the city, which is an hour and half away from me by bus. The nearby stores do not carry the foods I crave and need, so I have to go to the city. It was an extreme inconvenience to lug back so many groceries in a huge sack and with a huge backpack from the city on a bus with several other sweaty people. Mind you, these buses not only carry people but also, a range of THINGS…from bed mattresses, window glass, other peoples’ sacks, tourists’ HUGE backpacks, and my favorite…chickens. Picture me with a fat backpack on my back, a full sack of groceries on one hand and a tray of 36 eggs on the other hand.  (I eat a lot of eggs.) I hated doing this. I felt like such a loser with my tray of eggs and my grocery sack. It’s tiring and it was embarrassing for me. I never looked good going into the city and Colombia is very much a beauty pageant country. Like, people get dressed up to go the city or the mall and the women wear a lot of makeup. I never wear make up here because I sweat it all off. Colombia women just don´t seem to sweat??? Anyway, looking polished is pretty important in Colombia and I felt so ugly and lame going to the city.

Well, here is where the real, internal change has happened, ladies and gentlemen….

I don’t care now. I repeat. I do not care. I don’t care how I am looked at, whether or not I am carrying a grocery cart in the mall like a homeless person, or if I simply look ridiculous. Just don’t break my eggs!

What others think of me is not my business and you gotta do what you gotta do. I wear my campesina (farmer) clothes, jeans, tennis shoes, carry my sweat towel, bring my sack and get ready to rock n roll at the grocery store now. It is like a mission to me. I have no shame in carrying 36 eggs, a Santa Claus sized sack on a bus, and a backpack filled with 6 packs of heavy, bagged milk. JUST MOVE OUT THE WAY! For a person who used to think about the past often, this is significant progress. Now, I am trying to not think about the future so much. We are working on it, folks. Baby steps.

 

  • The school system in Colombia is very different than the U.S.’s. Recently, we had a month long strike with the teacher’s union, FECODE, and the government for better pay for the teachers and more funds and resources in the schools. This strike meant no school for one month. A more usual disruption in our schools is that we would get several Fridays off for a plethora of reasons and there are many holidays that fall on Mondays. Basically, a full of week school can be a rarity lol. When I would co-plan with my colleagues for class and there would be these surprise day offs or holidays or strikes, we could never carry out those plans. Talk about banging your head on the table several times. I was this pestering American pushing for these lesson plans to be carried out for the days we planned and Colombia was like, “Yeah right, get lost, gringa..” I pushed so much. Got frustrated so much. I was like WTF all the time. But, the tidal waves of Colombia got to me and are still getting to me like an eroding rock. Now, I just say, “Ok, we will postpone this plan for the next week or next class.” I am even shocked at my current peaceful composure. I assure you, I am not being complacent or lazy. I am just accepting things I cannot control…slowly and surely.

 

  • Now, my favorite story that even my site mate, Karen, still to this day makes fun of me, but ends with extreme awe for me was my first trip to the hair salon in Colombia. My hair was starting to feel very heavy due to its thickness and it was time for a haircut. I usually get it thinned out through layers because I like to keep the length but want to take out some of the weight. After asking several PCVs, I learned that the phrase I need to say is Quiero sacar el volumen de mi pelo, I want to take out the volume in my hair. I repeated this to the hairdresser and had her repeat it back to me and confirmed she understood me. So, I trusted her. She was working hard in the back of my head and made three braids. I was wondering what was up, but just tried to relax because I was treating myself to a haircut. Then, without notice or warning, she cut one of the braids from my scalp and then threw the braid on the table in front of me. As I saw a braid of my hair fly onto the table, my eyes popped out of their sockets, and my insides just fell to the bottom of my gut. She asked me boldly after if I want her to cut the other two braids and I yelled, “No!” I told her that is NOT what I wanted and that I needed a moment. She looked at me expressionless, while I was internally freaking out. So, this is what sacar el volumen means…What could I do? Couldn’t glue the braid back to my head, couldn’t go back through time…So, pursing my lips, I just told her to please cut the split ends. Well, if you saw me now, you can’t see the tragedy. However, when I put my hair in a ponytail at a certain angle, you can feel the bald spot. And if you look carefully, you can see the bald spot. Now, I gotta wait 10 years for that area of hair to be the same length as the rest of my hair. I thought about hair for a long time that day. I did confide in some of my friends of what happened and they all told me that they would’ve cried. I don’t know why, but I didn’t cry.

 

After I left the salon, I actually laughed at how ridiculous my situation was and how ridiculous my bald spot felt. I couldn’t stop rubbing it which were followed by deep, pathetic breaths. Then, I thought about my mom when she had chemotherapy and was a cute, bald lady. I thought about other people who don’t have hair because of disease or other causes. I realized hair grows. My mom has a full head of hair now. I still have so much hair that covers the bald spot. I’m ok. That silly hairdresser said I could keep the braid…I just threw it in the trash. Good riddance to the memory and I am never coming back to your hair salon, you soul-less woman!

I told my friend, Juju, about what had happened and she replied…

“And knowing how you usually are…that reaction showed extreme..patience. lol”

This is pretty major, because I am not a patient person.

 

I haven’t completely grasped this cógela suave, take it easy, mentality or culture, but ya know, I’m doing it. I am still told to CÓGELA SUAVE every day, especially from my special person, but I would like to proudly say that hey, I am doing a pretty d### good job.

The problems I face here aren’t extremely serious, but they were and are so very, annoying. I still feel overwhelmed with new problems or let it get to me, but…I try to break it down to get to a solution. It sounds so basic, so simple, but it’s hard to actually apply when you get lost in the OMG WTF phase of the problem. I am slowly overcoming that crazy phase to get to the steps towards a solution.

This is part of the process of  my ~* change *~

 I am on that Mario Kart rainbow road of transformation! It is annoying, and in the PC everything feels 10x more annoying, but I keep on going because I refuse to be a big, whiny baby. I want to brag and say I am proud of myself.

So there you go. Angell Kim, the constantly changing, caterpillar. Life would be boring if there was no change. So, although it is all so uncomfortable, it is nice and fulfilling to know that you’re becoming something better than you were. You were able to do something you couldn’t before. You were able to endure and overcome something when you almost wanted to give up. To recognize the change and to see the progress of it, is pretty nice. It is like seeing yourself in a before and after photoshoot. Nowadays, I am starting to look real good.

 

P.S.

Hey grandma, speaking of change and transformation…you know, every time I call you, you always ask me your two fave questions…?

“Have you lost weight?”

The answer is still no, but I look skinnier…does that count?

“Do you have a boyfriend? (남자친구)”

Well, that special person I mentioned earlier in this post is actually my 남자친구.

He really, really likes kimchi and tries everything, by the way.

He, too, is going through a Korean transformation.

 

 

How wonderful life is.

 

Rainbow Road Mario Kart Picture

Angell, the Ugly Caterpillar

 

Colombia’s changed me.

Physically, I haven’t lost or gained weight…or so I think.

However, my hair has grown a lot, like the hair on my head and face. Yes, my face. I broke my room mirror twice (talk about bad luck) and don’t really know what I truly look like. But when I do come across a mirror and good lighting, I discover some interesting things on my face. I think I may be growing some peach fuzz.

It must be the water.

 

But, I will be dramatic to say that in addition to my hairs, my soul has changed.

There are some rewarding experiences as a PCV, such as students behaving well, finally mastering the system of living and surviving in a new environment, students appreciating you through actions, getting things checked off the to-do list, and much more. However, being a PCV also brings tsunami waves of emotional break-downs, sadness, and craziness, and the goal is to maintain your calmness, coolness, and collectedness through it all.

So with that said…

My feelings to empathize and understand are out of the roof. Sad movies – I can’t watch them because I feel the impact for days.

Still not that patient, but I am proud to say my patience scale with technology has improved tremendously. Instead of giving up, I perservere with the obstacles technology throws at me. With good internet signal, a 2 to 3 prong plug converter, extension cord, prayers and patience, one can do anything with a projector with no audio, computer, and a cellphone.

My sensitivity and irritability levels are at peak at times.

My disagreement with other people are intense to the point I cannot sleep due to rage or anxiety.

 

I am an emotional being, but now, I am an emotional mess.

 

 

Then, God comes through with advice sent through friends and I receive an article by Mark Manson from Helena.

The last three paragraphs include the golden nugget that I needed.

“You may view the world through family values, but most people do not. You may view the world through the metric of attractiveness, but most people do not. You may view the world through the metric of freedom and worldliness, but most people do not. You may view the world through the positivity and friendliness, but most people do not.

And that’s simply part of being human. Accepting that others measure themselves and the world differently than you do is one of the most important steps to consciously choosing the right relationships for yourself. It’s necessary for developing strong boundaries and deciding who you want to be a part of your life and who you do not. You may not accept a person’s ideas or behaviors.

But you must accept that you cannot change a person’s values for them. Just as we must choose our own measurement by ourselves and for ourselves. They must do it by themselves and for themselves.”

“You may not accept a person’s ideas or behaviors. But you must accept that you cannot change a person’s values for them.”

 

This part makes me question…why am I mentally strangling others to abide by my standards or way I see things? Why cannot I accept them for them? Why can’t I let go?

 

WHY?

 

Because struggle makes my feelings 10x more intense.

Because struggle makes my feelings more easily hurt and long-lasting.

Because struggle makes me prone to emotional break-downs.

IT’S BECAUSE I CARE SO D### MUCH.

IT’S ALSO BECAUSE I WANT TO BE TREATED THE WAY I TREAT OTHERS!

I always try to give a benefit of a doubt to people. Do they do that to me?

Why, oh, why, VivaColombia airlines representative must you be so rude? I’ve been in customer service positions, too, and I know how that is because some people make you want to punch them in the face! But, I am being nice to you! You aren’t being so nice to me right now!!!! Now, YOU are driving ME crazy!!!!!!

 

It’s always a battle between fighting for my thoughts or letting go.

And I always fall victim to holding onto my hurt and making someone accountable for it.

Which is why sometimes I wake up at freakin 2 am talking to myself back to sleep.

Colombia has taught me to be more caring, empathetic, and humbler. However, she’s made me a little  crazier and a more annoyed person.

So, in a nutshell, my mental state is going through puberty. Voice cracks, body changes, hormone imbalances, the works.

If I make it through my two year service, I hope to make it through this transformation successfully and come back to the U.S. with a healthier and more positive perspective of people, abundance of acceptance, and the freedom to let go…because I love sleep without interruptions.

I am an ugly caterpillar right now waiting to be a sexy, beautiful butterfly.

So in the meantime, please tell me I am pretty even with my peach fuzz.

 

Sources:

Caterpillar photo

Mark Manson Article, “How We Judge Others is How we Judge Ourselves”

 

TOLERANCE

You know you’re in the Peace Corps when you freely discuss, elaborate, and describe explosive diarrhea symptoms with your volunteer peers without any ounce of shame.

We all got hit with the D-bug in July.

Without giving you the details here has been my experience in a mathematical formula:

No toilet seats + squatting + diarrhea = extremely firm thunder thighs acquired

 

Hola amigos y familia,

 

Thank you shout out to…

 

  1. Carrie, my PC volunteer friend who lent her movie library to all of us. We are forever grateful. I did not know how behind the times I was with movie watching.
  2. Galen, my PC volunteer site mate and buddy who keeps me sane. We got lost going to our training in Turipana, ate pity party ice cream together to re-strategize and think clearly, got back up on our feet, and got to our point of destination in one piece.
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This is Galen and me after finding the right bus to get to Turipana. We both closed our eyes on accident. I think.

3. Helena, my PC volunteer friend, who checks in on me regularly, who laughs so hard about so many things with me, and truly is a gem of a person.

4. Carmen, my Spanish teacher, who is just on the same page as me all the time.

5. My parents back in Texas. Thank you for your love and support.

 

After six months of being in Colombia, it was time for our IN-SERVICE TRAINING in Turipana, Colombia. This was a check-in point with our Peace Corps colleagues, staff, and Colombian counterparts.

The first three days included trainings and events with our counterparts. It was an opportunity to meet other volunteers’ counterparts, learn of their accomplishments, learn new methodologies, and basically, fire a rod in our counterparts’ buttocks to get them motivated when they returned back to school.

Here are my cute counterparts:

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Alicia from Buritaca and Giovanni from Perico Aguao.

 

Giovanni and Alicia are my teammates and I am forever grateful for their genuine compassion for their jobs, cooperativeness to work with me, and friendship with a gringa.

The last three days was for just us volunteers. We shared our struggles and achievements and I learned that we were all in this same boat with the same frustrations but we just were too afraid to be vulnerable and admit. However, we all cracked a little and when person A would say, “I have had difficulty with ABC,” person B would nod furiously in agreement. I also learned how much I missed air conditioning, but also realized how easily I got cold and how I was a master of turning it on and off throughout the night. How something I yearn for like AC could not be fully enjoyed due to adaptation of this fiery heat of a weather…

Additionally in Turipana, we surprised our fellow PC volunteer friend, Jackie, and her new-born grandson. 10 pound baby! We also learned how to document our progresses and accomplishments in the Volunteer Record Form (VRF), which is tedious, but very necessary to record our work here in Colombia.

I felt that my volunteer colleagues and I got closer during our Turipana training. Especially when one-by-one we all fell victim to diarrhea, headache, and vomiting afterwards. Natalie, my PC volunteer friend, calls it the curse of Turipana.

 

DRASTIC MOOD CHANGE. WARNING SAD POINT WARNING!

 

On August 19, 2016, I almost cried while reading out loud in English a story about Ashley and her career aspirations. I was asked to read out loud to articulate proper English pronunciation of a story far above the English skill level for the students. Some days, work as a PC volunteer makes you want to cry because you realize you can’t change the world, you are frustrated, you are tired, or you feel helpless. I was all of the above that day.

In my classes, there is room for improvement such as breaking down material so your students understand and reviewing that material for reinforcement. Unfortunately, as an outsider, I cannot just come in and enforce my own principles or ways of running things just like trying to put a box in a circle. I cannot just do that that because it’s not my classroom and I am solely here to lend a hand. This is a taste of being a diplomat trying to strengthen relations and improve policy through tact, patience, and tolerance. But in my case, I am trying to instill interest in English and support bilingualism through improved teaching methodologies.

I show all these cool pictures of sea turtles and exotic scenery and yes, Colombia, she is beautiful, and I show her off, but life as a PC volunteer is not all rainbows and bluebonnets.

I changed my life 360 degrees. I moved from Texas to Colombia. I spoke English a 100% of the time to now speaking Spanish. I ate all kinds of diverse foods and all the foods I wanted in the States to now eating solely Colombian food. I used to live on my own in my own apartment to now living with a host family. I lived in the popping city of Austin, Texas, to now living in a rural village of 200-300 people.

It is hard.

So after this period of sadness, I went through this phase of “WTF AM I DOING HERE!!?!?!?!?!??!”

I couldn’t sleep one night due to thoughts of “What the heck am I doing here? Am I really doing something useful???” and randomly watched 7 Years in Tibet. I pretended I was Heinrich Harrer in Tibet (played by Brad Pitt) but I am in a movie called, 2 Years in Colombia. There was a part where Henrich says he was regrettable as having been “intolerant as the Chinese” referencing to when the Chinese at the time were invading Tibet in 1950. That part struck me weirdly. It made me question…Am I intolerant? Is it because of my intolerance that I feel like my purpose here is pointless?

Then, my counterpart Alicia invited me to a place up in the mountains in a village called, San Rafael. She told me how she could empathize with me as she noted that I must be struggling to understand Colombia. The coast of Colombia is different. The lifestyle and mentality are different. Alicia comes from the interior, the capital of Colombia, Bogota, and it’s completely different there, too: the lifestyle and mentality. So, she feels me. She added that she has a Master’s in Tolerance and I am still in school to obtain that kind of degree. The word tolerance has been circling around me lately and visiting San Rafael made me experience some kind of ENLIGHTENMENT. It was a place where I closed my mouth and listened to nature for the first time. It was a place where I shut off my talkative brain. We are always thinking and our minds are so loud, and I am happy to say that San Rafael shut me up.

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San Rafael.
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La Piscinita in San Rafael. The depth was unknown and I dare not try to reach the bottom.

 

So, after my ENLIGHTENMENT, I jotted down some notes to be wise as the Dalai Lama and to share with you. These tips are applicable to everyone and anyone. Maybe except 6 if you are living in a developed world…

TIPS TO SURVIVE ANGELL KIM STYLE:

  1. When you are sad, write a grocery list, then categorize that list by aisles, then re-write it in a colored marker. Finalize it with a sticker.
  2. Bring a sweat towel at all times. I enjoy whipping that out when there is a waterfall on my face.
  3. Pack snacks every time. The hangry-ness of Angell Kim is even scarier here. Friends, BEWARE!
  4. When you are craving Korean food, improvise and go to a Chinese restaurant in the city.
  5. When you can’t sleep, watch movies until you’re sleepy, but beware, you may suffer lack of sleep the next day, but try to solve today’s problems today and tomorrow’s problems tomorrow.
  6. Back-up charge everything because the power will go out sometime.
  7. Have a back-up emergency cash fund in a drawer. The nearest ATM machine is in the city and the realization of a back-up emergency cash fund when you are in panic poverty mode, makes you get on your knees and pray Thank you God for His back-up support.
  8. Helping to change and improve something takes time. Remember, not everyone’s buttocks are on fire like mine. So, you have to dim your own butt fire to be in sync with the other butt fires. However, you can’t be complacent, don’t just trot along with the same butt fire level and speed forever. You have to still maintain rigor and passion to help, improve, and focus on your goal(s). This is an art I have yet to master. Unfortunately right now, my butt’s been really burnt out and I need to try to dim the fire.
  9. Write and log all accomplishments and activities that you’ve done in your life, in your job, in your Peace Corps Volunteer service. The PC Volunteer Report Form  will sure teach you a lesson. The VRF is like the Matryoshka doll or Russian doll. When you open one doll, there’s another mini one, and when you open that one, there is another one. The VRF has many buttons with many other mini buttons. This advice is pretty applicable for the working man and woman for any career. Keep track of your awesomeness. It will come in handy.doll.jpg
  10. For the OCD American, carry on hand soap is amazing or…a bar of soap. Different form, but same ability to give you clean hands.
  11. Cut your nails so you don’t collect scum under them or scratch your mosquito bites to death.
  12. TO BE CONTINUED…

Things that I realized that make me OH SO HAPPY and helped me get back to my healthy level of happiness:

  1. Running water, showers, and my Korean bath scrub. I am so filthy here and that scrub thing makes me feel 100% clean.
  2. Clean clothes and clean plentiful underwear.
  3. When someone can relate to me.
  4. The screaming children who yell, “llego la luz!! – the lights are back!” and my fan slowly recovers back from its slumber.
  5. The books my English high school teacher, Wendi, had sent me.

 

So, I didn’t really answer the question of why I am truly here, but I am not here for no purpose, that is for sure.

I know for a fact that I am here to help. I am here to help myself to be able to help others. I am here for a new learning experience. I am here to be a better person. I am here to learn if I fall down 8 times, I know how to get back up 9 times. I am here to become more tolerant.

I think we all are here on this Earth to be more of a kinder person, but I am only a 20-something year old who’s just hit a bumpy road on the road called LIFE.

So, we keep trekking…

 

TO END ON A GOOD NOTE WITH A SHOUT OUT FULL OF LOVE:

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Made seaweed soup (미역국) a thousand miles away for my momma Kim’s 50th birthday. I miss you very much. It is Korean tradition to make seaweed soup to celebrate one’s birthday.
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Alicia and my 4th grade class. These kids are so rowdy, but I love them.

 

 

Thank you for reading the highs and lows of Angell Kim.

 

*Google credit to 7 Years in Tibet featured photo and Russian doll photos

23

Welcome to the Michael Jordan years.

These are 23 things lessons I’d like to share with this world:

1. I saw this on Tumblr and it is very true: “Your fear of looking stupid will hold you back.” So, I guess I may look stupid, but hey- I am too busy grinding away, getting stuff done, and being a boss.

2. CrossFit will test you. It will test your mental capabilities to your very core and it will bring you discomfort. But once you complete the WOD, you’re just like…I did it. It will build your mental strength, tolerance, and this improved mindset will transfer to your daily personal life as well. CrossFit teaches you that you will overcome. It will also make those traps and biceps defined as hell. I’ll show you later.

3. Build strong relations with friends and people you meet and be kind to them. Good karma is planted that way.

4. You are tired from work, school, balancing both, working 2/3 jobs, etc, but remember, people work hard every day. Knowing that across the world, people are working very hard to survive, to help their children, to feed their family, reassures you that you can so do it. You can.

5. Read a Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralick. One of my best mentors gave this book to me and it has truly lifted me up when I felt that my life was depressing or when I lacked motivation. Every one goes through a roadblock in life. Appreciating what you have and others will give you perspective. Nothing horrible lasts forever.

6. Don’t act so pompous, because God will humble you.

7. People age, but we can either be an old fart or be a kid at heart. I got a perm and I finally dress up for work just so I could look older, but you know…I still reference SpongeBob and make lots of animated noises when I talk. It keeps me young and pleasant to be around. Just ask my colleagues.

8. Thanking people surprises them. People just aren’t thanked enough. Thank your friends for texting you when they check in to see how you’re doing. Thank God. Pat yourself on the butt and thank yourself for being so awesome.

9. Life is good working with people who are kind, helpful, and pleasant. Be that kind of person, too.

10. Do laundry on Friday evenings before going out. That way, you don’t have to worry about it on Sunday evening or freak out knowing you have very limited articles of clothing like underwear. A little “struggle” now is like a big reward later.

11. Incorporate yoga or deep stretching before rigorous activities or working out. Your body at 21 changes at 22. Seriously.

12. Have an aggressive attitude when living life. Work, study, work out, do it all aggressively. It helps you beat the wimp out of you when a challenge arises.

13. Stop texting and eating. If you look around at a restaurant, you will see 90% of the people texting and eating. I saw a mom and son eating together and they were just texting while eating. I used to do this when I was with my siblings at home. We’d all just be glued to our little screens. Can we bring back the sexy in one-on-one talking?

14. You can’t always eat what you want. Practicing good eating habits now will be easier when you get older. When I was on the subway in Korea, an old grandpa had told me that I should not eat everything I wanted. At that cherubic 19 years of life, I was like, “Who is this man? Whatever, YOLO, I eat whatever and whenever I want!!!!” However, now as I observe the eating habits of others around me and the many diseases that come with poor eating habits, following that veggie life is a must.

15. Don’t look at your work emails when you are on paid time off (PTO) or vacation. Just spare yourself.

16. Reconcile and apologize if you have hurt someone or there was a misunderstanding. However, if the other individual will not return the open mindedness, close that door, let it go, and make new friends and relations.

17. If you reach out to someone and do not hear from them, do not be quick to judge thinking that they are ignoring you. Life can be pretty hectic so try to understand.

18. When you’re at the gym, don’t carry your phone. The gym is my fortress to not think about anything, but the sweat coming down my face. It’s the one time when I do not care about the texts, calls, or emails.

19. Call your grandparents. They love the crap out of you and get so happy when you take the time to ask how they are. For goodness sake, without them and the struggles they experienced to be alive during all the wars, history, you would not be alive.

20. Just go out and enjoy outings. You can sleep when you die.

21. Shop at thrift stores. You can seriously get 10 articles of clothes for around $20. Whereas the mall life, one shirt is $20. Be smart and spend your hard-earned money on a vacation; that is something you cannot get at a thrift store.

22. Stop saying you’re busy. Everyone and their moms are busy. Saying that makes you sound like you’re so important, because you’re not the only one important. Make time for things important to you.

23. Care about people. This world is pretty mean, and not enough love, apologies, or gratitude is shared among us.

Happy birthday to me.