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He said his name was Darcy. He said he was 47, although I probably misheard him, and he’s probably 27. He said he grew up just across the river from me, a few hundreds miles away, in another country. And there we were, meeting on the other side of the planet, somewhere in the jungle of Thailand.

I saw a wild monkey that day, as we drove away from the jungle in the tour bus. There he sat, on the edge of the dirt road, chewing on some kind of fruit. I blinked and he was gone, we had passed him, but he stayed in my mind for several more minutes. A monkey. A wild, tiny monkey. What an adventure my life is turning out to be.

These are not my words. I read them, translated them, because they were in some language I can’t speak. Spanish? No, Portuguese. The words said that everyone has dreams. But that some people have dreams when they’re not sleeping, too. Some people live their dreams.

Today is my birthday. I woke up, on the other side of the planet from where I was born, alone in my tiny Korean apartment. My family Skyped me and sang me happy birthday, holding up the chocolate birthday cake they baked and frosted to celebrate with me. I “blew” out my candle and made a wish. I thought about what else I want to do with my life. How do I want to spend age 23? What do I want to do? Where do I want to go? What sorts of people do I want to meet?

When I ended the call with my family, I didn’t feel particularly adventurous. Part of me wanted to immediately pack my belongings, leave Korea, go home, and have a piece of cake with my family. And I could, of course. I could go. But what kind of story is that? Where are the wild monkeys in that tale? What dreams would I be living, then?

A larger part of me wants to stay, wants to go on more adventures, do more things, dream more dreams. It’s always been this way, for all of my 23 years.

These are my words, translated from whatever is up there in my head. Sometimes it’s hard to read, sometimes the grammar isn’t so good. I don’t really know where I’m going, anymore than I know where that monkey is right now. But it’s okay, because so far it seems like I’m going along just fine.

 

 

 

 

I was writing a letter to a friend today (snail mail, anyone? Heard of it?) talking about how even when you live in foreign countries, there are times when it doesn’t feel foreign at all. And then there are times when your “immigrant” status hits you right in your face when you’re crossing the street. Oh wait, that was a guy on a bike. But you get my point.

Today something like that happened, but in a positive way. There I was, wandering around a Seoul neighborhood, with only a vague idea of how to get back to the subway station, searching for a “mart” (aka grocery store) that was bigger than the dinky one in my neighborhood. As I walked, reading the signs that were in Korean like I knew any Korean at all, I enjoyed the nice Spring morning, the weird spindly trees, and noted the location of the numerous parks and libraries and cafes I passed. I had walked up and down three of the four cross-streets near the subway station when I finally found a big ole Mart. I stepped inside, grabbing bananas and hot sauce! and tortillas! and wandered around in the refrigerated section. I was doing some more eye-skimming of Korean words: colorful bags of something that looked like potato chips, crazy-large bottom-feeder fish that were in giants tanks in the seafood area, some tiny bottles of Yakult.

While this gazing and wandering was happening, a song came on the radio and for some reason it caught my attention. The beginning was only melody, no lyrics, and my face crumpled in confusion. How did I know this song? I’m not yet versed in any K-pop, I don’t listen to the radio. I know approximately zero Korean songs. And then…

Paolo Nutini started singing to me in the middle of the snack aisle. In English! My head whipped back in silent laughter. I was just listening to this song, talking about this song to my friends! Good old Paolo. It was a beautiful moment; I could have cried it was so beautiful. But I didn’t. In that moment, there in that strange store in a strange neighborhood in a new country, I didn’t feel so far away from anything, I didn’t feel so foreign. And I may have danced a little after that, still wandering around my new favorite Mart, singing with Paolo and pondering buying a weekly supply of seaweed.

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1. I hope you are happy.

2. People are still living their lives even when you can’t see them.

3. You are beautiful, you know that. Tell me why you need to keep posting poorly-lit pictures of yourself to prove it.

4. Our planet is both the largest and smallest thing that exists; the largest hunk of rock you’ll ever live on, a tiny speck in the universe. You can be thousands of miles (kilometers?) away from someone, and yet they’re just at your fingertips, on your computer screen, in your pocket. Big and small, near and far, finite and infinite.

5. Yes, Frozen is amazing. But think of all the other great Disney songs young kids are missing out on! Someone dig out the Lion King/Aladdin/Little Mermaid VHS!!

6. If you appear to other people to be what you dream of yet becoming, what are you? Who are we all trying to be, anyway? Are we even trying to be anything?

7. For the love of all that exists, please can we stop saying “literally“?!! Even if you actually truly really mean literally. Just don’t. Get a thesaurus. Stop. Stop. Stop.

8. Someone save me from my apparently über-Canadian fate. Irish? Italians? French? Is anyone out there?! It’s me, Margaret. Wait, what?

9. It makes me sad that when someone asks a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, the only socially acceptable examples are, “A doctor? A lawyer? Scientist?” No one says artist, philosopher, barkeeper — whatever. It’s 2014 and we still can’t speak the truth.

10. You’re not alone. Even when it feels like it. Even when you physically are. You’re just not.

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1. I’ve never believed anyone when they said it couldn’t be done.

2. My spirit animal is sticky velcro dots. Those things are amazing.

3. Love where you are, or leave. Love the people around you, or find new people.

4. You might be a grammar nerd if a stylishly placed comma in an email makes you a little bit gleeful.

5. If Hell exists, I bet it is in the middle of a never-ending casino filled with old people pushing slot machine buttons over and over again and grinning wildly.

6. Remember Adele?

7. Every additional person you love takes a small part of your heart with them when they leave you. You’re never a whole person until you’re surrounded by every single person that you love.

8. They say friendships are give-and-take. Right? So if you find yourself doing all –and I mean all– of the giving, it can’t really be a friendship. Maybe it was once. Not anymore. Let it go.

9. I’ll say it again: Only you find your pet stories hilarious. Only I find my pet stories hilarious. Some things, you just can’t share with other people. Or, at least, you shouldn’t.

10. Saying what you mean is sometimes the hardest thing to do on the planet.

It’s always the same thoughts in different situations:

 
“He’s so close, yet so far away.”

“It’s going to happen.”

“It’s never going to happen.”

I hate feeling this way, this deep-down bubbly terrified feeling that seems to be a product of either evolution or of thinking too much. Maybe both.

I wish it were easy. I wish you could know me, without the awkward pauses or silliness, without the socially-agreed-upon acquaintance behavior.

I wish words worked better for me, wish I could tell you about how a few nights ago I sat in the dark grinning to myself, thinking about how wonderful and horrible it all is. I wish that would flow out smoothly from my mouth, make you understand that I’m a creature just like you, with dreams and plans and more than just an empty swivel chair figure taking up too much elbow space.

“It’s going to happen.”

“It’s never going to happen.”

But it’s always the same: always too much bravery or not enough at all the wrong times. Always too much contact or not enough; You’re either always there or never there and it doesn’t matter which because nothing ever happens anyway.

“It’s never going to happen.”

Always the same: a lot of laughing and smiling and refusing to cry over something so silly, over something so nothing.

“It’s never going to happen.”

And it ends the same, too: me, alone, grinning in the dark at how horrible and wonderful it all is.

1. The only person who needs to believe in you is yourself.

2. If you hang around cool/interesting people who do cool/interesting things, you just might become one of them.

3. If you say yes to everything you want to do, and you say no to everything you don’t want to do, you will eventually find yourself in the place you want to be.

4. Try not to be one of those people who get excited about getting unexciting jobs.

5. Why is ending a phone conversation so difficult? It looks so easy in movies, people say cute things and hang up. In real life, you have to be all: Person #1: “Ok, good talking to you.” Person #2: “Yep!” Person #2:”Talk to you later.” Person #1: “Ok!” Person #2:”Ok, bye.” Person #1: “Bye.” No! Why?! No!

6. Finding something that you are truly excited/motivated about is the best feeling — sort of like finding a purpose for your life. If you’re not excited about what you do, do something else!

7. If you think hard enough about anything, it becomes very strange. Like bowling, for instance: throwing chunks of rock down lanes of super-waxy wood and knocking things down. What? Who thought that one up?

8. If it feels like everything in your life is changing, you’re doing something right.

9. If you spot a guy randomly carrying around a guitar, stop whatever it is you’re doing and follow him. Trust me.

10. There needs to be a hand signal for “Don’t smoke that’s gross”, or, “I was only staring at you because you’re polluting the Earth”. This is why everyone needs to learn sign language. Think how useful that would be!

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1. Sometimes people don’t want to talk about themselves – and instead will do so while talking about other things.

2. Stop talking about how unintelligent other people are. It makes you sound stupid.

3. Always remind yourself to love other people’s love.

4. Listen to your favorite music right before that job interview/first date/other really exciting/scary event in your life! It will calm you down and remind you of the person that you actually are – not the person who’s really fucking nervous!

5. If you find that the people who you love/care about most have nothing left in common with you, it might be time to find new people to love/care about. Not that you have to drop those old relationships – it’s just time for some new ones.

6.I love you but your spelling is terrible.

7. Sometimes you just need a little reminder that there is so much more out there than what you can see.

8. Endings are sad/hard/can be the end of something good. However, endings are also the beginning. Of what, who knows – but something!

9. A baby dog crying is way worse than a baby human crying!

10. Sure, that thing you’re supposed to do later takes the effort of getting out of your chair/bed/house – and sometimes all you want to do is not do anything. But, it’s always better to experience new things – even if you have to force yourself into it, even if you really would rather lay on that nice, comfy couch… The couch will wait for you! The experience, not so much.

1. Every time I get a text message, my heart beats a little faster because it might be from you. Or maybe that’s some weird medical condition? Hmm.

2. What would the world do if banana bread had never been invented? What would people do with all of their overripe bananas?!

3. Your goal shouldn’t be to save the world, just to help make it a little bit better. If we all do small things, big things will happen.

4. Don’t let people walk away – literally or figuratively or both – if you still have something to say to them! It sucks, and it’s going to suck more later, thinking back on it. Be strong in the moment and say it!

5. They probably love you back.

6. If you have a positive attitude about it, it’s more likely to happen.

7. Horoscopes may or may not be true, but they’re fun to read! Right? Leo and Cancer are made for each other this month! How cool is that?

8. If you’re doing something for the wrong reasons, other people will know that something’s not quite right.

9. Stop assuming that people who walk around looking unhappy are unhappy! Maybe that’s just the way their face is – it’s not your job to tell complete strangers to cheer up! “Smile!” Stop doing that! You’re just making them even more pissed, or, if they were perfectly OK to begin with, now you’ve went and made them angry!

10. If you’re unhappy with your life, maybe you just need to buy more pillows for your bed. Hey, it could work.

1. Gas prices will always go down the minute/hour/day after you fill up your gas tank at the higher price!

2. Guys: Even if you’re ugly, dressing well, being intelligent, and/or having self-confidence will make you attractive.

3. Focus on the good in your life, not the bad. Surround yourself with interesting, happy people and you will become interesting and happy, too!

4. Never say that your life is meaningless. Well, duh! Welcome to reality! Now, shut up and go do something. Anything!

5. Even if you can’t force yourself to be a coffee person, you can still be a cappuccino person! If you can’t do that, try tea.

6. Don’t be an afraid or lazy or weak person – you’ll never become the person you want to be if you’re not brave, strong, and/or a go-getter. Beat what scares you, do what makes you nervous. Become who you want to be!

7. It may suck, but late Summer/early Fall is a beautiful time of year! Don’t forget to examine the world around you (always!) and take in the beauty of it all – quick, before winter hits!

8. A loud voice is not always a wise voice.

9. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Be nice to everyone, talk to everyone, be a citizen of the world! Your life will be better for it, and you’ll know people who know people.

10. Did you just say gnarly?