To Me: Patience and Gratitude

It’s difficult to wrap my head around the fact that this Covid-19 pandemic has gone on for more than a year. Last winter feels like a lifetime ago. I didn’t know where Wuhan was, and the only thing I had to really worry about was finishing my graduate degree. This year certainly hasn’t been the easiest in any sense, but in comparison, I’m part of the lucky few who weathered the storm in a better position than I started. So I should be beyond happy, right? However, it doesn’t always feel like that. As if, no matter how many accomplishments I achieve, it still doesn’t bring the happiness I thought it would.

Some days I get into a funk and wonder why I don’t have the same spark or enthusiasm for life that I did even a day ago. I look at the window, and hope to find that feeling of “being content with where you are and the person you are today”, but instead, are left feeling kind of empty and directionless. Some days I think I’ve found what that feeling of “not wanting anything more in life” feels like, and the next day I go right back to day-dreaming of the day were I think I will be finally happy. I don’t know. You would think the feeling would stick. But I guess not.

So, I’ve deduced that I need a slight pick-me-up, to remind myself that this year wasn’t a complete waste, and that there is much to be happy and content with. I have much to be grateful for. So, me of right now, remember, during this year you:

  1. Completed and received your graduate degree
  2. Found a well paying job in the field you are interested in
  3. Are building a new home, the dream home you always wanted
  4. Communicated with your family and friends more than you ever did before
  5. Lost 10lbs and developed a workout routine (you lost this routine over the winter, but I have faith you’ll get it back)
  6. Started to read more
  7. Developed more patience and empathy for those who don’t agree with you, and found a way to love them nonetheless
  8. Fell even further in love with your partner, and strengthened your relationship with him
  9. Grew your passion for cooking, something you always wanted to dedicate yourself to
  10. Woke up, got out of bed, made the bed, and remembered to greet the morning with a smile.

Today, after what feels like the thousandth repeated groundhog’s day, I feel the need to remind myself that even though life still feels very monotonous and it isn’t so easy to tell the difference between yesterday and today, that doesn’t mean it’s anything to be sad or depressed about, for there is always something to be grateful for, even for something as simple yet profound as the gift of being alive and healthy, especially now when it’s so easily taken for granted.

So, to the me of today, tomorrow is a new day, with more blessings to appreciate and challenges to overcome. You won’t get everything right. Heck, you’ll rarely do anything perfectly. But that’s okay. Take it easier on yourself. Count your blessings, and happiness will come to you, in one form or another. Keep your head high, and smile, not at anyone in particular, but at yourself and your ability to live another day with confidence, grace, and strength. You’ll find what you’re looking for, with time and patience.

For those who might be reading this, how do you pick yourself up? What makes you happy? How have you found, or are working towards finding your happiness?

So much plastic…

Early January, I had the opportunity to visit one of Waste Management’s offices and learn more about the energy consumption and life cycle of the waste we produce. This includes the empty pizza boxes, the take out utensils, hazardous waste like batteries and e-waste, and the multitude of food scraps. One of the biggest mind-blowing moment was how much plastic is produced and either sent to the landfill because of contamination; it can be sold to other countries which either burn it for energy (adding tons of GHG to the atmosphere), or it ends up in a huge outdoor dump, where is would sit forever. Plastic doesn’t decompose like regular organic materials like wood or produce. It just sits there and further broken down into microplastics, which pollute the soil, air, and waters all about us. I couldn’t help but feel angry at myself for contributing to it.

So, I had a good hard look at myself and my habits, contemplating how unnecessarily wasteful I’ve been. I went through my daily routine, and marked how much plastic I kept in my life, and how much of it I wouldn’t think twice about throwing away. Toothpaste, coffee cups, plastic boxes from take-out sushi… I felt disgusting.

Disclaimer: I’m not the “love mother earth” kind of person, I fully believe we need oil and gas to keep our economy running at this moment and we aren’t in any place to get rid of fossil fuels entirely. I shamefully would feel almost naked if my phone did not have any charge because of lack of electricity, and I enjoy driving a stick with an engine that revs. I have my vices, like we all do. However, the amount of waste that a single person produces, that I produce, is ridiculous, and that is something I can fix.

Since January, I’ve looked further into the zero waste movement, learning about living a waste-free life, and I’ll admit, some of y’all go 110%, and I totally support that. I am not at that level yet to dive so far deep in, but I’m making baby steps.

  1. I looked into composting, and spent a good many hours trying to find places around me that accepts food scraps (I can’t compost where I live right now). Luckily there is a MOMs Organic Market near me
  2. I don’t leave my house without a water bottle (I have a zojirushi bottle that I’ve had around the house; I didn’t go out and buy a new one) and a portable kleen kanteen carrier (I did invest in this because I needed one that wouldn’t spill in my bag; all the portables I have were not spill proof and I drink a LOT of coffee)
  3. I have an ever growing reusable bag collection for groceries (they are always one of the swag items at events)
  4. Most importantly of all, I look at what I have and don’t just see what it is right now; I’m seeing its end-of-life self and where the materials go once I deem it “unusable” and that is what reminds me to be mindful of what I consume

One of the multitudes of youtubers I follow was talking about her Zero Waste “journey” (I dislike that word so much, because it is so overused and means almost nothing now, but I digress), and the one idea I loved was using what you have before consuming more. I’ve heard many looking to join the Zero Waste Movement wanting to throw out all of the plastic in their life and buy new things for a specific purpose that could have been fulfilled by a previous, albeit plastic, option that could last a long time and one can get a lot of use out. I really appreciated this, because I felt weird thinking I should throw out all of these perfectly good products that aren’t eco-friendly, just to replace it with eco-friendly products. It didn’t sit right with me because they were perfectly good items that had a lot of use left, so to throw it out almost felt even more wasteful. I took this idea to heart and told myself it’s okay to use your current shampoo, it’s okay to finish your toothpaste in your plastic tube, and it’s okay to have plastic tupperware in your kitchen. Use all that you have to best of your abilities to make sure the plastic used was worth the years it will sit on this earth after you.

So… my hair routine hasn’t changed. My clothes are still the same and made with synthetic material. I still have plenty of non-vegan non-sustainable make-up to use up and I will use them all. I still drive my non-electric car with the windows down. On the flip side, now I won’t throw away the onion root just because I’m not eating it. I won’t put the pizza box in the recycling because it has grease on it, but I’ll compost it. When I run out of shampoo, I’ll put much more thought on the ingredients going into my next shampoo and what package (if any) it comes in. I carry a portable chopstick set wherever I go, as well as a recycled bag that folds into a pouch for emergencies (already had a few). I bring my own cotton produce bags to the grocery store (guilty of buying these on amazon). Last but not least, I will definitely not buy the potato wrapped in plastic.

I’ll do some more updates later on as I move towards slowly phasing out the plastic in my life, but better late to the party than to not show up. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

In Pursuit of Nuclear

Today’s energy consumers have gradually moved towards cleaner energy sources in response to climate change and environmental pollution. Demand for clean energy like natural gas and renewables has continued to grow, especially in developing markets like China and India. However, in the Middle East, a different source has gained traction. Demand for nuclear powered electricity has grown significantly, as generation capacity is expected to increase from 3.5 GW in 2018 to 14.5 GW by 2028 in UAE alone, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Oil-dependent gulf countries, faced with their dependence on oil for economic continuity, are working to diversify their energy portfolios to gradually move their economies off of fossil fuels. One such method is through investment in nuclear facilities. The United Arab Emirates had led the race for nuclear, constructing four new nuclear reactors with help from Korea Electric Power Corp. The first of the four, Unit 1 of the Barakah complex, is expected to come online in 2021, once it meets all regulatory requirements.

Despite multiple countries utilizing nuclear energy for electricity generation, many countries that wish for this source of energy will find it difficult getting the okay for a new facility if it’s from the United States. To build a new reactor, the United States government must deem your country trustworthy, meaning the country can be trusted to not contribute to nuclear proliferation. As well, the US requires the receiving country to agree to the 123 Agreement, which involves the US’ production, processing, and handling of nuclear fuel.

Saudi Arabia has wished for nuclear facilities to balance their energy portfolio for some time. The country has been in talks with the US government for a number of new reactors, stressing “whatever the Iranian’s build, we will build”. However, the country demands the ability to produce its own fuel. This would give Saudi Arabia the nuclear technology it needs, as well as the possibility to pursuit nuclear weapons, which would cause a huge international power shift. Prince Mohammed has previously stated that Saudi Arabia would pursue the development of armed nuclear capabilities in haste if Iran was found to possess weapons of mass destruction.

Because of this high probability of nuclear proliferation, the United States has continued to deny construction of nuclear facilities unless it agrees to import enriched fuel from elsewhere. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid Al-Falih has rebutted this, stating that it is only natural to develop its own uranium deposits, and would continue to pursuit its own production of atomic fuel.

Will Saudi Arabia be able to come to a deal with the current US administration? With the current political opinion in the US of Saudi Arabia, it is highly unlikely, especially after the PR fiasco involving the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We can only hope that Saudi Arabia does not turn to Russia or China to fulfill its goal of nuclear capability.

Good morning

6am: My faux sunrise lamp begins to emit its faint warm glow. I do not notice.

6:30am: The room is now filled with a comforting orange hue. Birds begin to chirp from this lamp, alerting me to the time. I still have not fully woken up.

6:45am: The birds are now much louder than they were at 6:30am. I press the lamp to turn off the birds. I am now awake, staring at the ceiling, stretching and pondering what is on my to-do list. Phone in hand, I go through my emails, check BBC’s app to see what news I missed during my sleep, swipe through instagram to see some inspirational posts (I follow a lot of self-love instagram accounts).

7:30am: I’m out of bed finally. Put water on the stove to make coffee. Grind the beans. Prep the french press. Cereal in the bowl, I open youtube and watch some educational video. The Defranco Show, Extra History, Bloomberg, and the Financial Diet are a few favorites. The water is boiled. Time to steep the coffee. Prep a quick salad for lunch. Coffee is done.

8am: Do a quick 15 minute yoga sesh. Shower. Get dressed. Listen to music.

8:30am: Brush teeth. Quick skin care. Get my bag together. Grab my lunch. Do the dishes quickly, then out the door!

8:45am: Off to class. Put on the news, or listen to a new podcast, or continue my audiobook (working through Hamilton’s biography at the moment). From then, it will be an hour and 15 minute drive to get to school.

This is my morning routine. I am very much a morning person, and if I don’t have my morning routine, I am a grumpy person for the rest of the day. However, I find myself lacking in enough time during the day to work on everything I want to work on. One of my goals for the year is the write and read more. I’m not much of an evening writer, as I’m much more awake in the morning. So, I hope starting tomorrow to begin waking up earlier to have an extra hour or so to practice writing, to get a further jump on my day.

To make this happen, I think an earlier bedtime would be helpful. Typically I go to bed around 10:30 pm, but perhaps a 9:30 pm bedtime would be better. That would allow for at least 8 hours of sleep. We shall see how this goes. Wish me luck!

In Another Life…

Have you ever had that moment when you watched a movie or seen in real life a character or person you wanted to be? Surely we’ve all found characters that sounded so fun to play or be.

For me, one of my other lives would be as the lone-wolf biker chick, the sexy, cool woman who travels on her own and doesn’t take shit from anyone. She doesn’t subscribe to social conventions and takes jobs here and there, but never gives up her freedom. She always seems so sure of herself in movies that have this character. When I walk down a street alone with my headphones in, that’s what I imagine myself like, as I strut to the Black Keys.

In another life, it would be a romantic to be a simple European housewife, whose job was to manage the home and cook to her heart’s content. Perhaps take in a book or two, and tend to the garden. A simple life, although entirely dependent on someone else’s salary. That I would not like. But having the time to enjoy the small things sounds lovely. It’s certainly a romantic fantasy.

And then, the powerful boss of a woman. She comes with the air of a commander, with a schedule filled with meetings, decisions to make, and business to be done. Her dress or suit is impeccably chosen, and she commands respect wherever she walks. Refusing to be unheard, she speaks with depth and grit behind every word, while still maintaining her femininity in the way she holds herself. Confident, sure of herself, she is a woman to be feared and revered.

Oh to be all three, if that was possible… Do any of these characters remind you of someone you know?

If I could sum up the qualities of these three women that I admire, it would be the freedom of spirit the first, the contentedness of the simple life of the second, and the self-confidence of the third. I hope this year to work on all three of them, to appreciate these different qualities in others as well as cultivate them in myself. One can be happy with who one is, while also striving to be a better you, the “you” you want to be.

The Joy of Exploration

Do you get that exploration itch? That feeling that you want to just go, not knowing where or why. For many of us, traveling and finding those new experiences, venturing into unchartered territories to see what we can find is what we would do if money wasn’t necessary, our careers weren’t in the way, and we didn’t have responsibilities tying us to people and places. In our own ways, we all enjoy a good adventure, and there are many different ways to open that window of opportunity to explore not just the world around you, but yourself as well.
For those that don’t know me, I am a gamer that really enjoys open-world rpgs (role-playing-games). Growing up, World of Warcraft was one of those games that I couldn’t put down. My sisters and I have such fond memories of playing together on the same couch, bumming out during the summers, grinding through quests to see who could max out there level first and trying not to get creeped out in Duskwood while playing at 3am. There are those that played for the community. To me, the beauty lied in the amount of places to explore. The map grew with every expansion, and there were more quests and achievements to do that would take you all over the place. It was impossible to be bored.

Now, in my post-college life, with a 9-5 schedule and commutes totaling up to 2.5 hours in the car every day, unleashing that urge to explore and find new experiences becomes even harder, especially when sometimes all you want to do is enjoy the comforts of your bed and home. But I found the best ways to create your own adventure is to look at your home, your city or town in a different perspective, as it changes your experience and relationship to it.

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Meridian Hill Park in Columbia Heights

I am a lucky soul to work and live in the DMV area. It is hard to be bored in DC, for there are so many places and things to see and experience. For anyone who has done the monuments at night vs the ever crowded day tours can vouch that it creates an entirely different, a much more peaceful and pensive atmosphere, leaving you time and space to ponder bigger thoughts next to Lincoln that you might have had dodging tourists.

For me, wandering through the many residential areas of DC is my adventure. There are hidden gems to find everywhere, from styles of homes and beautifully curated gardens, to unlikely mom & pop restaurants and the many dogs out and about. The best part, though, is the quiet. The serene peacefulness that comes with being away from the main roads. Its during these walks that let me think more about what I’m searching for and being okay in not always following the plan. And, it’s totally acceptable to spend a lazy weekend at home playing Assassins Creed Origins, and not going out and participating in stuff with people. FOMO has no place here.

So, for those like me that look for that spark of adventure here and there, take a saturday morning, and just walk. Don’t look at a map, don’t plan out your path, just go and see what you’ll find. Or, if you still wish to stay in bed, perhaps a little open-world gaming is in order :).

 

 

To Ask Better Questions

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“It is wiser to find out than to suppose.” —Mark Twain

 

Throughout childhood into adulthood, we are all asked the same questions at the same times in our lives. It starts with “what’s your name” and “how old are you”, moving slowly to “what do you want to be when you grow up” and “are you going to college”. Past your college years, we become ever so familiar with “what’s next for you”, “are you dating” and “what do you do”.

We all have almost pre-programmed answers to these questions since we are asked them repeatedly at family dinners, happy hours, and awkward first dates. There are plenty of instances where we are just as guilty, leaning on them as a crutch for small talk, to pretend like we are truly getting to know someone. Most of us could care less about the degree, the job, or the mundane predictable parts of your life. How do we tap into what really makes you tick? What kind of questions truly expose the cogs and bits inside each of us, and make us work for the answer?

These are the kinds of inquiries I love to ask myself and others. Questions that make you think, ponder, consider your answer over and over again until you finally figure out what it is you believe to be true.

The purpose to this blog is to put some of these questions out in the open. These are my considerations of such questions. During school, I truly enjoyed short essays on topics of choice. They helped me build concise arguments, and provided an outlet for my curiosity to flow through. I have always considered myself a student of life, forever learning and observing new and exciting subjects. So! Here it goes, my continued studies into my daily ponderings. I hope these questions stir your cup of curiosity as they do mine.