17 things I love in 2017

I started drafting this post a few days ago, then my car got stolen, so I was going to discard this and not post anything because I’m pretty upset. But as I wait with hope that my car will show up somewhere somehow, I realized that maybe now more than ever, I need to reflect on these moments of joy to help me through this tough time. I didn’t want to end my year sulking about my stolen car.

I’m not going to lie, this year was pretty rough for me. I started the year with two fractured fingers. It was the evening before my flight to Hong Kong and I was on my way to dinner. On the way out of the car, I slammed the car door on my fingers. I reacted quickly by pulling my fingers out of the car instead of releasing them by opening the door. I spent the evening at the urgent care, found out two of my fingers were fractured, was in pain, had to wear splinters (for the entirety of my Hong Kong trip), got home super late from the hospital, had to pack, and barely got any sleep for my early morning flight out of the country.

After coming back from Hong Kong, I struggled a lot with my mental health. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling half of the things I felt. I fought a war everyday inside my mind. Having to get out of bed, go to work, and act like I was okay was exhausting.

Then the second half of the year rolled around and I finally got a grasp on my mental health. But I started to have other pain that I needed to take care of. I was in and out of the doctor’s office and had to go on a soft food diet for nearly two months. I lost weight. Some might see that as a good thing, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t getting enough nutrients. All I ate was rice porridge and eggs. It wasn’t healthy, but it was all I could manage to eat. When things started to improve, I slowly reintroduced food back into my diet.

This was a rough year for me from learning to tend to my mental health to taking care of myself. And I can sit here and feel sorry for myself, but I don’t want to. Because as hard of a year as it was for me, it was equally as amazing and wonderful, and I’ve worked hard all year to try to be more positive and to appreciate the good things in each day.

So, here are 17 things I love in 2017:

1. Hong Kong
img_9818Hong Kong is one of my favorite cities in the world. I think I like it so much because I have so many fond memories there. The first time I was there was with my study abroad group and by the time we were in Hong Kong, we’ve already traveled to 5 other countries and had been traveling for over two months.

In Hong Kong, I was able to slip away and wander on my own and felt safe to do so. I was able to go grocery shopping and cook for myself for the first time in months. I made myself tea and breakfast in the mornings before heading out to class. It was a big city in the midst of mountains and surrounded by water, all aspects of things I love. Transportation was so easy to use and there were shopping malls everywhere. I saw for the first time designer brands, brands that I can only dream of wearing, and shamelessly, I went in to these stores in my old clothes that I’ve wore day in and day out because I lived out of my suitcase.

And going back to Hong Kong on my own was one of the happiest things I did for myself. To be able to rest after a long day at Victoria Harbor, visit Victoria’s Peak, or wander the streets of Mongkok, it just felt so familiar and felt so comfortable. Hong Kong is so special to me because when I’m there, I feel so free and so happy to be who I am. The person I am in Hong Kong is who I aspire to be all the time.

2. Big Bang 0.to.10 Final in Hong Kong
The first time I was close to seeing Big Bang was in Hong Kong. It was their Alive tour back in 2012 and I didn’t have a ticket but I thought I would go to the venue to see what it would be like. So I went there, hung out for a bit, and pretended like I would be able to go to the concert. It was sold out.

The first time I saw them live was in October of 2016 in Hawaii. I don’t even have words to describe what I felt when they came out of the stage and I saw them with my very own eyes. It’s a moment I want to relive.

I saw them live again a few months later in Hong Kong at their 0.to.10 final concert. It was the last stage that all 5 members were together. I’m happy that I took advantage of these opportunities and have these experiences and stories to share. I tell myself when I travel to pay for experiences, not things. My souvenirs are the photos that captured whatever it is on the other side that made me smile.

3. No more alcohol
I decided to stop drinking alcohol. I haven’t had any alcohol for about 9 months now and it is a decision that I am really happy with.

4. Exercise
I participated in a diet bet with my cousins and got a proper gym membership for the first time. I started working out regularly this summer and I love it. I also don’t hate running as much as I thought I did. On days where I can’t be bother with weights or a run, a nice stroll with a podcast is the best.

5. Kwon Ji Yong
I throughly enjoyed this album. Give it a listen, here.
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6. Meditation
I started using the app Headspace for the first time this year. I’ve tried a few others but I ended up coming back to Headspace. I found that meditation helped me be more cognizant of my thinking and also taking a step back to separate myself from my thoughts. This was super helpful in both my personal life and work. For example, I realized that when I was overloaded at work, I was able to take a step back, talk myself through my to-do list and what was stressing me about it, prioritize my tasks, and tackle my projects with a clearer head. Remember, thoughts are just thoughts. Let them come, notice them, and let them go.

7. Chicago
I’ve traveled through ORD so many times and I grew up in the midwest but I’ve never been to Chicago until this summer. It’s a city that is really growing on me. Plus, I saw my favorite artists there, so not bad for the first few times in Chicago.

8. Act III : Motte
Wow. This concert just makes me so happy. Even just thinking about it now I still get a little giddy. I had to work really hard to get my tickets switched to better seats, and we ended up in the VIP section without VIP tickets. The time I spent waiting to talk to a sales person was so worth it. Be persistent in what you want and make it happen.

9. White Night World Tour
My gosh, and then a few months later, I went back to Chicago to see Tae Yang’s White Night World Tour. We waited in line all day to get front row and center at the concert and it was worth it. Determine what’s worth your time and don’t let others make you feel bad for liking what you like. If it makes you happy and makes your heart sing, then what does it matter what anyone else thinks?!

10. Tae Yang
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I would’ve never thought in a million years that I would get to meet a K-Pop star, let alone it being Tae Yang. That moment felt so surreal. I waited all day to see him and the meeting was short, but…I don’t even have words for it. I shook his hand and said to him, “It’s such an honor and privilege to meet you,” because it really is. He had a really good energy to him and he was so calm, patient, and kind. There wasn’t any urgency in the meeting, he really took his time. Although there were so many people waiting to meet him, he was there, he was present, he listened, he talked with his fans, and he met everyone and greeted everyone. Thank you, for this memory.

11. No more caffeine
In addition to alcohol, I made the decision to stop drinking any beverage with caffeine. I noticed that every single time I had a cup of coffee, I would function well throughout the day but at night, I realized that I get really, really anxious for unknown reasons. I tried a few different things but it wasn’t until I cut out coffee that I noticed that my night anxieties went away. I realized that caffeine triggers anxiety in me hours later after consumption. It was hard to cut it out but my well-being was more important to me. I listened to my body and I respect it so I cut out what was making me feel unwell.

12. My first car
I finally saved enough money to buy a car.

13. Son & Park Beauty Water
I struggle with acne and I’ve tried many, many different products. This year, I tried this toner for the first time and I love it. My skin has cleared up a bit and I don’t know if it’s because of this toner alone, but this is a product that I really like. I’ve tried so many different kinds of toners in the past and they were okay for my skin type, but I’m glad I found this one that works for me.

14. South Korea
I took a 3-week vacation to South Korea and it was one that I really needed. I was so burnt out from work and from personal life that I noticed my quality of work and effort was not acceptable and I wasn’t as productive as I needed to be. After this trip, I came home refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to work again. I think it’s important to take time off work to care for yourself, so you can be the best version of yourself and do your best work.

I also saw many friends there. I didn’t know that one of my friend had moved to South Korea and on my first night there, she messaged me about how long I was staying and if I would have time to meet up. I realized that I hadn’t told anyone that I was going to South Korea so I asked how she knew I was there. She then explained that while she was waiting for her sister at the airport, she was at the wrong gate and saw me leaving the plane. It was a huge coincidence but I’m so happy to see her there. She was one of my pod-mates in college and I really enjoy spending time with her. I was really happy that she reached out.

I also met up with my friend who is serving in the Peace Corps in Thailand who happened to be visiting South Korea for vacation at the same time! I haven’t seen her in almost two years!
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15. Bossam
I ate bossam for the first time this year and it’s now my favorite Korean dish. I love the simplicity of it, but how filling it is. A simple meal of rice, vegetables with ssamjang, and some bossam with a side soup would be a perfect meal for me.

16. How to be a Bawse
I haven’t been really good with reading this year but I read How to be a Bawse by Lilly Singh and it is such a good motivator. I would read a few chapters each night before bed and instead of feeling tired or sleepy, I would want to get up and actually go get some work done. It’s motivating and inspirational and Lilly hustles real hard and I want to hustle as hard as her so I can someday be a bawse.

17. Myself.
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This year, I noticed a change in myself. The first half of the year with my struggle with my mental health really put things in perspective for me. I’ve learned to listen to my body, hence cutting out alcohol and caffeine, and to honor and appreciate what I have. I am appreciating the people in my life more, spending more time with them, listening to their stories, and getting to know them as individuals. I’m learning to be more honest, and to model actions I want to see. I’m learning to take it easy and to not stress about things I can’t control.

This year, I realized that I’m growing up.

 

Happy New Year and best wishes.

Love,
Thao

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