Lest I zoom headlong through my journey of life only to crash to a halt when I meet my Maker without having taken notice of life as it was happening

Never have I felt so at peace with my life. That's not to say that all things have fallen into place, but that's fine by me; at any rate, I think that all things falling into place marks the end of life--in other words, death.

But I digress.

I admit, I love living by myself and I love my apartment. It's old and grimy, but it's mine. Other ALTs around me were given furniture and furnishings for their apartments from previous ALTs, but I basically started from scratch. Nearly every item in my apartment was chosen and paid for by me. I'm enforcing a "no junk" rule in my apartment; I only fill it with things of use or things of beauty.

I never noticed how many by-myself hobbies I have and like to do in the peace of my own home. I like writing. I like reading. Playing a little music. Sewing (believe it or not). Watching House (guilty pleasure). Cooking. Yoga. --I love having my own space to do these things.

I like hosting friends. I've already lost track of how many dinners I've made for evening company; I have a guest bedroom and I enjoy making it comfy and homey for my guests. I like making tea in my tea pot and serving it with snacks on a tray. I like setting up chairs on my balcony on summer mornings and having long conversations with new friends, music from Hawaii playing from my phone.

When I get lonely, I simply call up some friends and make plans. A favorite activity of mine this past year has been hiking. Our hikes can last for as little as two hours or as many as twelve. I enjoy the company of friends who like a little bit of adventure, appreciate nature, enjoy a little bit of physical activity, and (most importantly) can keep up a conversation for hours on end about the funny, the emotional, the thought-provoking, and the little things in life.

I'm getting better at enjoying the moment. I still take pleasure in planning adventures for the future (in what country will I live next? what job will I have next? what other languages do I want to learn? what other adventure sports will I try? what hobby will I pick up next?), but I also purposefully slow myself down to notice the things around me.

How do I slow myself down, you ask? I read in a self-help blog post about how to live in the moment. These incremental, concrete steps are quite helpful for those who are constantly told to slow down (if not stop) and smell the roses, yet don't know how:

  • Notice your environment; exercise your senses. What do you smell? What does your skin feel--the warmth of the sun? the crispness of an autumn breeze? the moisture of an ocean spray? What do you hear--the hum of traffic? unidentified birds cawing in the background? children playing? the chirping of cicadas?
  • When eating--what ingredients do you taste? what colors are in the food? what textures do you feel with your tongue, your cheek, your throat? 
  • Physically ground yourself: feel the ground beneath your feet, your back against your chair, or any other contact that you're making to stabilize yourself. Notice whether or not you're in a comfortable position, or if you have been straining your body to maintain a certain position. Stretch, if necessary.
Another thing I do to help center myself and slow myself down is I imagine a jar half filled with sunflower seeds next to a small pile of sunflower seeds. I imagine myself moving one sunflower seed from the pile to the jar each day. Each seed is a reminder that daily progress is small, but endurance over time yields large payoffs.

With regards to teaching, I look back on my days as a high school student  and I notice that only sporadic "teachable moments" (intentional and perhaps unintentional) have stuck with me until today, serving as granular lessons that shape me to be the person I am now. Many of my high school teachers might have gone home each day thinking "wow, I really rocked that lesson" or "that lesson didn't go so well, I wonder how I can make my lesson better tomorrow?". Despite their self-reflections, neither they nor I would have no idea what nuggets of information or life lessons I'd take away from the lesson that day. For this reason, I as a teacher now have no other choice but to give it my best each day but not beat myself up on days that don't go well. Each day is but one sunflower seed in a jar of many seeds. 

At the same time, the small things that I learned each day as a high school student added up to my being able to read and write fluently today, calculate and convert prices and measurements, and get along with other people. All in all: don't put too much pressure on each individual lesson in the classroom, but know that in the long run, teaching children is a meaningful and impactful profession.

I think that compulsively planning and keeping things ordered is a part of perfectionism. One part of perfectionism (for me) is the false mindset that I am a performer and the world is my audience, or worse, judge. I'm supposed to teach perfect English, speak perfect Japanese, act with Japanese modesty, nurture perfect relationships, and so on. Such a mindset is mentally and emotionally draining and unproductive. The task of trying to balance on a tall, shiny pedestal is daunting and purposeless. The truth is: No One is Watching. Remember that every person you meet is fighting their own battles; they don't have time to critique your every word and every move. Generally speaking, people are more likely to want to like you, so they'll take notice of points in you that they find attractive or inspiring. In fact, I theorize that people mostly only notice the persistent aspects of your character or personal habits that you don't realize are there or can't control. For this reason, do things and act in a way that makes you feel at peace with yourself for yourself; don't live a certain lifestyle to impress others.

Going back to the theme of living in the moment: life is now. The dwelling that your currently reside is not a temporary space to store your belongings and your self in the evenings; this is your home. Your home is no longer the place where you were raised; neither is your  home a concept for the future, when you have a spouse, kids, and a family pet. Your home is here and now. Make it comfortable and keep it clean. Your job is not a temporary means of income to hold you over until you're spending your days doing things you "actually" want to be doing. Your job and how you spend your time is your life. Make it happy and fulfilling. Weekends and vacations are not getaways from life; they are life's joys. Make them adventurous and uplifting.

Choose to take notice and choose to be happy.



In contrast to all my meticulous planning and constant worrying, I'm not so careful with every decision I've ever made.

In fact, the most important decisions were made with almost no thinking at all:

1) choosing to go to Cal
2) quitting my first job
3) every relationship I've gone into and ended (which is every relationship I've been in...)
4) escaping mainland USA and eventually USA altogether

Maybe these decisions were made with my gut. Or my heart.

Or maybe none of these were my decision to make; the universe simply tugged and pulled me in the direction her Majesty wished.

Wondering what the next Big Step in life will be and if my mind will have any say in the matter...


Last night, I looked though my balcony sliding glass doors and saw a storm cloud rolling in from the West. I snapped a few photos of it.

'This must be the storm cloud that Noël was telling me about,' I thought. She lives about two hours away from me which, coincidentally, is about as much time as we spend talking to each other every phone session. I live by the beach whereas she lives nestled between the mountains.

I went into my kitchen and turned on the gas stove. I started boiling water for my dinner: ramen. Legit ramen. OK, so the noodles were store bought, but still--boiling water, miso paste, veggies, an egg, tofu, and ramen noodles. In Japan. That's about 99% legit, if you round up.

As I added ingredients to my soup, the kitchen lights flickered. Lightening flashed. Before I could react, my apartment rumbled with the rolling thunder. Strange, strange weather for a Cali girl like me. Did I mention that it's about 80 degrees Fahrenheit? At night?!

I turned off the lights to try to get a better glimpse of the bolts of lightening. The view of my town appeared hazy through the thick sheets of rain.

Flash. My neighbors' houses appeared as though bathed in a split second of daylight. Rumble.

Flash. Rumble. Again.

Flash! Rumble! And again.

The lightening must have been striking on the other side of my apartment because there were no bolts in view from my kitchen glass door. I was ready with my camera (I was curious about my modest point-and-shoot's capabilities), but unless I actually ventured out into the night, I wasn't going to catch any lightening for a picture this evening.

I had my piping hot bowl of soup alone in my dining room while I listened to the sound of pouring rain and rolling thunder. Later, I fell asleep to the lullaby of gentle rainfall.

This morning, I biked to school in bright, sunny weather. The air was cooler than usual and smelled fresh and clean.


Anxiety Blah Blah Blah

(Apologies for the lame and misleading title. I slept late last night and have slept late for the last few nights, but I've upped my caffeine intake, so my mind is in that state where connections are being made fast and in abundance, yet thoughts are foggy and nonsensical.)


Just wanted to share this piece I found about anxiety disorder: 


I cringe at the term "anxiety disorder", not for the first word in the phrase, but for the second: Disorder.

Does that word bug me because of it's loaded meaning, because of the stigma behind the word, and for a fear of being labeled, judged, and ostracized from humanity and civilization?

Or does it irk me because "disorder" is a synonym for chaos, uncertainty, and mayhem?

In this blog post, I would like to explore my nature as an anxious, nearly-grown woman.

I always fancied myself a happy and healthy human being, if not a bit neurotic and overemotional. And yes, as I bring up time and time again in my blog posts, I also am a bit of a stress ball.

Moving to a new place and meeting brand new people (I like putting "meeting new people" that way because it makes me believe that they didn't exist until I met them. It's like they come to me as fully programmed human beings with rich histories and a single, poignant purpose for crossing paths with me) is teaching me plenty not only about my new environment but also about myself.

For example, I've learned that even by disciplined, respectful, polite Japan standards, I'm a pretty straight and narrow, type A, type. I pretend that I relate to Britta in NBC's "Community", but I'm really more of an Annie Aderol. This may not be the impression that I initially give off at work in Japan, what with my piercings and refusal to wear overly professional and conservative clothes in this hot and humid weather, but underneath the bright colored clothing and the flower tattoo, I'm your run-of-the-mill control freak.

That link that I posted is a blog post about the sunny side to anxiety disorder, or "anxiety super powers" as I like to think of it. The writing is a bit confusing--like mine--and the writer loses me with some of her analogies ("as wax is to crayon"? ¿que?), but I whole heatedly agree with her arguments about anxious people winning at life. Not that life is a giant competition (yes it is), but if it were (and it is), I'd probably be pretty far up ahead with all the winners. Winning.

And now you've stopped reading because you're repulsed by my conceit. Sore loser.

Some things I've learned or am learning about anxiety:

Anxiety decreases when you have your own living space to control.
Having my own apartment means being able to fully escape from irrational annoyances like loud noises, incessant hums of soft noises, people who talk too much, people who are creepily quiet, hyper toddlers-both of the crying and the laughing type, bad music, boredom, strangers, loved ones, and small animals.

When I come home from work, I get to do whatever I want because it's MY place, MY rules, MY naked butt on MY sofa.

...if I wanted to sit naked on my sofa, anyway. Not that I... I mean, you know, sometime you just... Moving on.

I can clean incessantly without judgement. I can leave messes in categorized piles without trespassing or vandalizing communal territories. I can skip a night shower, go to bed stinky, and go to work the next freshly showered. I can sit in perfect silence or I can put "Lesson Learned" by Alicia Keys and John Mayer on repeat for 5 hours.

Control over her environment is every anxiety super-powered girl's dream. It's also the dreams rapists and serial killers. Unrelated. I think.

You-Can-Never-Be-Too-Preparedness is a gift, not an embarrassing character flaw.
...especially when living in a new environment with no friends from your previous life and when you don't speak the local language. In such foreign lands, maps aren't in English, bus maps looks like an old fashioned telephone operator board, money is confusing to manage, you don't have the things you need, and the things you need are often difficult to find and to attain.

Anxiety super powers has allowed me to Keep Alert and Carry On ("calm" is hardly in my vocabulary). Bring on your newness and foreigness, Japan. I got this.

I Never Skip a Beat.
Fact, all beats are present and accounted for. I keep lists categorized by the following: "Things to do Today","Things I did today", "Skils I want to get better at", "Things to do for fun", "Groceries", "Big things to buy for the apartment", "Small things to buy for the apartment", "Fun things I want", "Books I've read", "Books I want to read", "Goals for the year", "Languages I want to learn", "Goals for life", "Ideas for blog posts", "Ideas for dinner". I have many little notebooks tucked away in purses, backpacks, and bookshelves in my apartment containing these lists.

I produce.
I write, I play music, I teach, I run. I get shit done, son. Perhaps "inspiration" and muses are little more than adrenaline and caffeine rushes.

Self-Betterment can be a by-product (product?) of anxiety.
Anxiety oftentimes is nothing but the desire for order and efficiency; part of becoming an overall more productive, self-controlled, and cheerful adult means learning to control and dial down my anxiety as necessary so that my super power can be use for good, not evil. Anxiety can come in the form of concern for a loved one or smothering overbearingness. Anxiety can start as cute, diligent attention to detail only to unwittingly evolve to obsessive compulsive super power.

So, I'm learning to let things go. I'm in the perfect environment to practice this: few people depend on me to get things right the first time around, mistakes I make can be blamed on my "gaijin"-ness (foreigness... That is, the noun form of the nature of being foreign, not like foreign and princess put together), and as I am new to the place, I don't have a lot on my plate or much in my calendar; I can take life little by little and slowly build up and reshape my life as I please. No need to take on more than I can handle.

Anxiety. Adrenaline. Attention to detail. April Angeles. That's me!

*・゜゚・*:.。..。.:*・'(*゚▽゚*)'・*:.。. .。.:*・゜゚・*