summer days in college

It’s a strange feeling, starting college in the summer. When everyone’s leaving school, and you’re just starting. But this is also what makes it all the more special. Waking up everyday to the sun shining and going to bed not too long after the sun sets. This made the days seem longer than they were, and it helped me seize the day after classes.

Students were from all over the place. Most of them were incoming freshmen or transfer students, but a lot were from other places too. Some were international students – they were just here for the summer. Others were from community college, and there were even high school students taking the same classes as we were. The thing I loved most about this was the diversity that was naturally created. The diversity in class, personal background and experience, even if many of the students came from similar ethnic and racial backgrounds. But it was a bummer, meeting great people only to learn later that they were just there for the summer.

After a few weeks of moving in, I grew comfortable with my being in this new setting. I woke up and went to bed at regular times, ate my (healthy) meals everyday, and exercised by trying out all the martial arts clubs and taking all kinds of group exercise classes offered at my university’s gym. As for academics, I gradually became more comfortable as I learned to handle the workload based on the difficulty of the class. Fortunately, none of the courses I took were excruciatingly difficult, unlike other (STEM) classes I heard about. I spent the first few weeks of school studying and working in the comforts of my dorm room. My (lovely) roommate was an extrovert who spent most of her time in the floor lounge, so I often had the room to myself. I could work on my desk or on my bed with comfy clothes on, nap whenever I needed (or wanted) to, eat food I took (*stole*) from the dining hall, and stare longingly out my window.

But then I started hunting for other study spots. I am in a triple room for the academic year, so holing myself up in my room is not always a viable option. I have found some great libraries on campus and outdoor spots to work peacefully, but I don’t know how that’s gonna work out once the influx of freshmen come in.

Though I decided to start college in the summer to get a head start with my courses right away (after a long gap year), my days in summer were not defined by my classes; rather, it was working out my new life and seeing how my classes fit into them.

As summer was nearing its end, however, my ‘disciplined’ life was completely thwarted. I stopped sleeping 8-9 hours a day, but I often found myself more awake than I had been when I did hit those hours. I stopped exercising regularly, and instead tried to make the adventures that we did into some form of exhilarating activity. I stopped eating with a healthy conscience, and instead enjoyed each meal that we tried together. As a pretty uptight girl, I would have been pretty concerned with this sudden change of self.

But it all happened from one day to the next, and it happened all so naturally. Though I will continue to see most of the people that I’ve met in the summer, I will rarely (if ever) see some of them again. So I tried to make the most of it with them, and it made this summer an incredible one. Some of our days were filled with sunrise yoga, feeding squirrels all over campus, and a (long and tedious) hike to see the night sky, while others consisted of taking (adventurous) walks, watching films and having late night (sleepy) talks. It was exciting and heartwarming exploring my new home with people I had just met, yet become so close with. They taught me that it wasn’t really about what or how much we did in the time we had, but rather about how we did them, together.

As summer has ended, I look back at it with a pang of nostalgia that I’ve become familiar with. But this time, though I’ll continue to live here for the rest of my college years, nothing will be the same as it was this past summer. The faces I used to see everyday – even if I rarely interacted with them – will now be faces I see amidst a crowd, rarely. The people I used to have class with, some I might not even see at all. Those I used to dine and play ping pong with, will no longer be there. As much as I wanted to deny it, I had become more attached than I had intended.

But that’s ok. It’s the fleetingness in our life that allows us to treasure our times together and make the most of it.

Love, Michelle

summer college classes

As summer is coming to an end, I thought I would talk about my experience taking summer college classes.

Personally, I decided to start college in the summer instead of in the fall because I have already taken a gap year ‘break’ from school. I wouldn’t have taken summer classes if I were coming to college straight after school; I like to spend my summers doing something different, or enhancing my skills in a non-academic context.

However, I love the experience that I gained from this academic summer session, and if you are considering doing it too, here’s a list of pros and cons for you to consider: (Note that this is solely based on my experience!)

benefits of taking summer college classes

You can move ahead in your major or explore other courses that may be too filled up during the year.

This is particularly so if you’re in a large school and have to ‘fight’ for courses during the academic year. The population at my university is huge, so enrollment for classes is always very stressful. For summer, however, I was able to enroll in the classes that I wanted without worrying about not getting in.

If you’re an out-of-state student attending a public school, summer classes tuition will be ‘cheaper’ for you, as you’ll pay the same as someone who is in-state.

I am an out-of-country student, so tuition is definitely more expensive for me during the academic year. But my summer fees are the same as that of an in-state student, so it’s a ‘win’ for me.

There are not as many distractions.

During the summer, most extracurricular activities are on a pause, so you’ll be able to focus better on your academics. You’ll be able to start exploring campus before all the chaos of the academic year kicks in – and that’s a pretty cool and different way to transition into college.

disadvantages of taking summer college classes

Summers should be spent doing something different.

Even if you’re not doing something to build up your resume, e.g. volunteering or interning, you can still use this time to work on yourself.  Time is valuable, but so are you.

I feel that the hardest aspect of college is not studying – everyone can buckle down and study (or cram) if they are under pressure. The difficult thing is in understanding why you take the classes that you do, what you can do with your education, and what your priorities are. You can only do this if you actually take time off the system and think about it.

So, go out, explore, and discover.

It’s harder to get an internship and/or work on other side projects.

If you are hoping to get an internship at the career that you’re intending to follow, or hoping to work on any other projects, summer classes might ruin this for you. At least half of your time will be spent attending classes and studying/working for them – which is not too much, but you will be left with less energy to work on other things.

Classes are very fast-paced.

There’s only 2 months (or less) to learn all the material that you would normally learn in a semester or quarter system. This means that you have to be ready to condense a lot of knowledge and information in half the time. This should be doable as you’ll be taking no more than half the classes that you would during an academic year, e.g. a normal semester workload is 4 classes; for the summer, it’s 2 classes.

You won’t be able to move around or travel too much.

If you’re hoping to travel or go on adventures, your possibilities will be limited if you’re physically taking classes at some college. However, this won’t be that big of a deal if you’re not from the area, or if you prioritize your academics over travel.

alternatives to taking summer college classes

Spend the summer abroad.

If you do this through your college, it can allow you to do two things at once: intern/take classes and explore the new country. It’s a perfect combination, and it’s a great and enriching way to spend your summer.

Take online classes.

Though online classes are not as much fun, it will give you more flexibility to manage your routine and accomplish other things, including traveling and working/living somewhere else. I would recommend this for a class that you are not looking forward to, as you’ll be able to get it out of the way quickly in the summer.

If you attend a 4-year college, you can take 1-2 classes at a nearby community college. 

If there are classes that you need to satisfy, you don’t necessarily need to do so at your (expensive) college – you could check out which community colleges can satisfy these requirements for you. The perks of this are cheaper tuition and cheaper classes. However, you will also need to find housing near the college, which may be a nuisance if you don’t know the area really well.


Personally, I am really happy with my decision to start college in the summer. Because orientation doesn’t start until fall, I had to explore my college campus by myself (or with friends), which helped me become more college-independent. As an international student, I also love having used this time to get used to the new environment, explore the area, and plan for my upcoming semester with the campus at my reach.

-Michelle

things i did in my gap year

One of the hardest things about my gap year was keeping track of my progress by myself. With no teachers grading me and no classes to attend to, with what means do I even measure my progress?

For me, it was a matter of trial and error before I found out what worked best for me. I started my gap year with a list of things I believed I wanted to accomplish, and every month I would review and tweak parts of it. You can see how my goals changed from 2016 to 2017 on this page. Below, I will comment on each of the 5 categories that I worked on in the past year. I hope you enjoy!

work

This involves college applications, classes I took online, and anything academics-related.

2016: A lot of my focus inevitably went towards my college applications – retaking a few standardized tests, researching for colleges, drafting dozens of essays, and all that stuff. The only part that I truly cherish from this arduous process are the essays. I could see how much my thoughts, mentality and writing style had changed since the previous year. As someone who writes, blogs and journals frequently, it was really uplifting to tangibly see my progress.

Additionally, I took some classes that I was interested in academically. This included psychology (one of my intended majors), coding, and a little of web design. I took these courses on Coursera and Codecademy, and though I didn’t love taking classes, they gave me the general insight I needed to become familiar with these fields.

2017: This year was very different. I focused a lot of my education in other ways (that you’ll see later in this post), and mainly brainstormed and planned long-term goals for college. I realized that I am very much interested in psychology and cognitive science in college, looked into other possible minors, researched the clubs and organizations available at my college (once I knew where I would be attending), looked into the ‘different’ types of classes and opportunities available, and mapped out a general 4-year plan for college. So, very college-focused, but also very concentrated on my interests.

health

This includes activities directly related to my emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.

2016: I tried out so many activities and classes this year: meditation, yoga, Pilates, Systema (a Russian self-defense martial arts), ballet, and strength-trained jogged, biked and roller skated on my own. I did not stick with all of these, but they allowed me to understand and take care of my body much better.

2017: I continued taking classes on ballet and Systema – both which I absolutely loved. I learned about beauty and poise in ballet, and the myriad of bio-mechanic skills that Systema taught me opened my understanding about the human body. I also started jogging more, and experienced runner’s high in my first 10k (6.2 miles) race for the first time! I continued to meditate when I needed to (though not as religiously as before), and strength-trained when I deemed it fit. This year was a continuation and consolidation of the activities that I believe helped me most.

personal

All about things that I deeply love and cherish: books, mistyprose (blogging), writing and creativity-related activities

2016 and ’17: I read 100+ books and started a new challenge of reading the world. I got more into photography and learned more about my ‘aesthetic’. I joined the bullet journal community, explored different styles of journaling – morning pages, 5-minute morning journal, gratitude journal, among others. I loved all these activities.

But my proudest personal achievement was creating mistyprose. It started out as The Sapphire, a blog about books, but as my passions started to shift during my gap year, so did the focus of my blog. Earlier this year, I ‘re-branded’ my blog as mistyprose, and realized that my content was varied, but also with a touch of my own style. I promote my blog through Instagram and Tumblr, platforms where I could share my photography too. A few months ago, after getting my (first) camera, I decided to try making videos. As more of a blogger person, this became a new but exciting field to me that I’ve yet to explore further.

wanderlust

This is about traveling, learning new languages, socializing, and volunteering.

2016: Fresh out of high school, I was so eager to travel during my gap year. I thought that backpacking around the world would make me into an independent adult, and I couldn’t wait to get started. However, my (tiger) mom thankfully prevented me from making such rash decisions, as I am a young and naive girl, fresh out of high school. So I started learning languages. I got into German, but couldn’t find my connection with it so I dropped it. I took up American Sign Language (ASL), having learnt Peruvian Sign Language already. I then also started learning Italian, and I loved it.  I also became the translation coordinator for this huge and admirable NGO, something that makes me proud to say.

2017: This year, I realized that I don’t need to physically travel to satisfy my wanderlust soul. I travel when I read books. I travel when I walk to the park and see the sky and the trees with a renewed sense of wonder. I can travel whenever and however. Traveling can be fun, and it’s always an amazing experience to have. But the fallacy in only wanting to travel is not seeing the value of the things that are surrounding you already.

Additionally, I continued learning Italian and ASL, by taking online lessons and/or reading about them. The most important step, however, was my decision to start learning Chinese again. Mandarin Chinese is my first language, but I barely know how to read or write in it. It was after visiting my family in Taiwan in early 2017 that I realized that I needed to learn to communicate properly in Chinese.

music

Instruments and music-related endeavors.

2016 and ’17: Music has been an integral part of my life ever since I was young. I still remember seeing a cello for the first time back in 3rd grade, and watching my cello teacher play the instrument with such expertise and ease. Thus, I learned the cello for several years at school, and then got into the national music conservatory. A year later I joined the national youth symphony orchestra, and then went back to taking private lessons again.

Though I am far from being able to call myself a true cellist, my journey with my cello has been a wholesome one. I learned what ‘passion’ means from other musicians; I saw the hardworking class of the music industry in Peru; and I learned a valuable skill that I will try to cherish for the rest of my life. My gap year allowed me to understand why music is important to me. I went out of my comfort zone and taught violin at a public school; violin’s not my specialty, but I know the theory well enough to teach beginner students.

Something new that I started doing in 2017 was teach myself the piano. My brother used to play the piano a lot, so we have a keyboard at home. I purchased a few beginner books and easy pieces on the Kindle, and that got me started. I love the sound of the piano, but whether I will continue this during college is another matter that I’ll have to decide later on.


So. I read, learned and discovered many things in my gap year, but I did not do so without endless nights of pondering about my personal interests and periods of self-doubt and distress. However, as I look back into this year with sweet reminiscence, I cannot help but be grateful for all that I’ve gained since then. My ‘hardships’ cannot compare to what many have to endure in their lives, but it has allowed me to see past my insecurities with greater faith. As Viktor Frankl once said,

If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.

-Michelle

FOMO in college

Now that i’m in college, it’s easier to think back and reminisce about the things I liked the most about school: the consistent routine, the predictability of my school environment, and going back to my precious home at the end of the day.

As an introvert, I rejoiced in the alone time I had at home. Away from the buzz of school activities, I could work without major external distractions. Over the weekends, I gradually learned to say ‘no’ to outings with friends/acquaintances when I didn’t feel like going, in favor of more time to work on my passion projects.

During my gap year, while everyone else was progressively moving on with their lives at college, I learned to be okay with doing my own things. Long periods of self-reflection and pondering about my future allowed me to bring more meaning into my life. But getting comfortable with being alone by myself has always been a challenging phase at every step of my life.

College has not been an exception. The first 2 weeks of living on campus have made me realize that I can rarely be alone without feeling like I’m missing out on something. The nights that I spend working in my room, I can hear laughter erupting every few minutes in the lounge room a few walls away from my seat. Weekend (party) nights start on Thursday here, which means that these nights I go to sleep with loud music soothing me to sleep.

On top of being an introvert, I can also be shy and awkward in unfamiliar situations. My introversion makes me want to be alone most of the time. My awkwardness makes me recoil whenever I act or say something awkwardly. My shyness prevents me from approaching a group of people in the middle of whatever it is that they’re doing or talking about. The struggle is real.

Of course, there are moments in which I put myself out there. Moments in which I just shove my introversion aside, or go forth despite my awkwardness and shyness. But, oftentimes, I can no longer retrieve into my room without feeling guilty for not being or doing more of something. Should I be hanging out more with my floor mates? Should I be making more ‘social’ plans over the weekend? Am I doing enough?

FOMO and such feelings are not new to me, and I’m sure that all of you have experienced this at some point in your lives. Even as an shy and awkward introvert, having a well-balanced social life is crucial for my happiness and emotional wellbeing. It can influence my self-esteem, ability to focus on my work, and emotional stability. But FOMO in college is a new scene for me, and the novelty of everything makes this task extra-daunting.

But it’s now 3 weeks since I moved into campus, and these lingering feelings of FOMO and self-doubt are slowly being overcast by understanding what my priorities are. Though I can be vulnerable and tempted to my social surroundings, keeping grounded to who I am and what I want have been helpful in allowing me to make peace with the things that I miss out on. At the end of the day, I’m happier having control of my own actions, rather than just responding to my external stimuli.

-Michelle

the place where I now call home

on life…

It’s been 10 days since I’ve moved here. By ‘here’ I mean a college dorm at a city in California, my new home for the next 4 years. The change of moving from Peru to the US and living independent of my parents has not been as drastic as I thought it would be. My new surrounding is quite accommodating – despite the relatively unsafe neighborhoods surrounding my dorm and college – so overall I settled down well and fairly quickly. My parents came with me to the US and helped me move in; a few days later, they left. And life continued.

The past week and a half have been hectic though, to say the least. Moving to a new country, attending my brother’s college graduation prior to moving in to my dorm, attending welcoming events and such, attending classes, exploring the new environment, meeting people, ensuring that I have all I need in my new home, and so on. It’s been crazy, but most of this has gone by smoother than I thought.

on college…

I am starting college this summer (weird time to start college), as I have already had my long gap year break. I’ll be taking 2 courses during this time; my first class started last week, and my other class starts 2 weeks later (so, the following week). Though this means that workload will be a little more fast-paced beginning from next week, I’m glad that I have these 2 weeks to just settle in.

In many ways, starting college in the summer has been good for me. I am able to settle in to the college workload earlier, giving me a slight head start to those who will be moving in after the summer. I can start taking classes that go towards my major and/or fields of interest now, as my gap year has allowed me to truly know what it is that fascinates me. Most importantly, I can use this time to really settle into my new home, set new goals, habits and routines that will prepare me for my first year of college.

If you’re a prospective college freshman, I wouldn’t recommend starting college right after finishing school. I’m only taking summer classes because I’ve had my loong break already, and I highly value the time spent away from school and the academic system. It’s important to pull ourselves away from any system for some time, so that we can figure out what we want to do for ourselves when there’s no one telling us to do so. Your summers should be spent exploring, adventuring, learning and being you. There is no need to rush college; it will come when the time comes.

on mistyprose…

This blog, and everything I else I did around ‘mistyprose’ has been my proudest personal achievement in the past year, as I can really see how my mentality and ways of expression have developed since I started this blog. It has allowed me to pursue the things that intrigue and excite me the most, with no fear of judgment from those around me. Even though I hide my real identity here, doing so has allowed me to direct the focus of my blog on the work that I produce, and not on myself.

I wish I knew where mistyprose is heading, but the future seems so uncertain at the moment. Hopefully I’ll figure it out soon.

-Michelle

current faves | june 2017

Hello! This is a post detailing some of the things that I’m loving, doing and enjoying as of now. Some of these are things that I’ve recently picked up; others are things that I’ve been enjoying for a while. In order to prevent this post from going on endlessly, I will name only 5 things per category. Please, enjoy!

youtubers

As a lifestyle blogger, I read and watch a lot of online content creators too. Below are some of the ones I watch most consistently (though it was hard to choose just 5):

  • krist & yu: Krist creates lifestyle & travel videos, and her personality is very bubbly and relatable in all of them. This is actually her second channel (her main is called krist soup); both are different in their content, but personally I enjoy the more personal and motivational content of this one.
  • Anna Akana: Anna’s this badass comedian who also creates (very pro) advice & lifestyle videos. I love how each one of her videos leaves me with an open-ended question, usually based on things that we may encounter in our day-to-day lives. Her videos are scripted, filmed and edited with the help of other people, but unlike some channels, I feel that her content stays true to her personality.
  • Conan Gray: Conan creates artsy, creative and lifestyle videos, and his aesthetic is very retro and cute af. I love how his content can appeal to an audience of any gender,
  • Jordan Clark: Jordan’s my fave new youtuber so far. Her DIY’s, lifestyle and travel videos are just so soothing and aesthetically pleasing to watch. Her DIY’s are really good, creative and not too hard to recreate, which makes them all the more appealing.
  • Thomas Frank: Thomas’ videos are very study and motivation-related, and his content is always very helpful and enjoyable to watch. His videos are also backed up by a detailed blog post, with steps on how to follow his advice.

things

These are some of the things that I’ve been using this year. I’ve had all of these items for at least a few months now, so I’ve had plenty of time to ‘get to know’ these items in detail:

  • Hobonichi Cousin Planner: I love how this planner has monthly, weekly AND daily planning. The layout is very visual, which allows me to plan neatly ahead of time. I also use it daily as a journal, and for anything I fancy, as it has enough space to allow me to explore my journalistic desires.
  • Kindle Voyage (& marble cover): this is my bible. I use it everyday, and I treasure it very much. It’s the size of my hand, and it’s very lightweight and convenient to carry around!!
  • Game of Thrones Leather-Cloth Boxed Set: yes, I only bought this set because it’s beautiful. I’ve read the first 2 books on my kindle, because the words here are TINY. I propped this set up on my bookshelf as soon as I got it, and I look at it everyday. It’s beautiful.
  • Olympus PEN E-PL7: this is the (only) camera that I have to film and take pictures. I use a pastel-ish filter for all my photos as well as most of my videos. It’s not the best camera out there, but it’s small, very pretty, easy to handle, and it does the job for me. It’s also pretty much a fashion accessory itself.
  • Fuzzy slippers that mop the floor: these slippers allow me to be lazy and clean at the same time. I wear these when it’s cold (so, during winter), and allows me to (kind of) clean my floor when I walk from place to place.

ios apps

I don’t have many apps on my phone due to limited storage (though I’m getting a new phone soon), but this has allowed me to use my apps efficiently. These are the ones that I mainly use to maintain my productivity, and the great thing is that all of them are free:

  • Reminders: This helps me keep track of my daily tasks and events. I create different lists, including “morning”, “afternoon”, “night” and “bored?” to remind myself what to do or what I could  be doing during the designated time. I personally think that it’s a great way to take advantage of this free app.
  • Notes: This is for anything I want to remember and keep on my phone, ranging from book quotes, things I aspire to be, blog post ideas, and packing lists. It’s the Microsoft Word of my phone.
  • Goodreads: THIS. Is where I keep my very own virtual bookshelf. I can track books I’m currently reading, want to read, and have read. I can also create bookshelves to separate books by genres and types, and basically keep an orderly record of all my books.
  • Quizlet: I hate studying vocab, but Quizlet makes it much more fun and bearable. Besides being able to create online flashcards, you can also play games and take tests to review your memory.
  • Clue: this is a life SAVIOR for all you girls and women out there. You can keep track of your period AND other details such as emotions, discomforts, feelings, etc. The more detail you give to this app, the more information it will give to you regarding your body. I think it’s amazing to get all this for free.

books & quotes

Books are the best tool for self-education that you’ll ever have. During my gap year, books were my source of comfort, solace, entertainment, and learning. I read fiction when I felt the need to escape to a different world; I read self-help when I was losing touch with whom I was; I read psychology to deepen my intrinsic interest for this field; I read any other book to deepen my understanding in such field. The following are 5 books that I’ve just read or am currently reading, and a quote to give you some insight into each book:

“You care too much about what other people think. But you know what? Because you are so desperate to win the approval of others, you’ll never get rid of their criticisms, no matter how hard you try.”

“knowing we have access to wonderful things undermines our happiness by reducing our tendency to appreciate life’s small joys.”

“Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work, wheareas economics represents how it actually does work.”

“You can be male and domestic. You can have a career and be domestic. You can enjoy keeping house. No one is too superior or intelligent to care for hearth and home.”

“One of the main benefits of reading stories is that you gain exposure to large amounts of natural Italian. This kind of reading for pleasure is commonly known as extensive reading. This is very different from how you might read Italian in a textbook. Your textbook contains short dialogues, which you read in detail with the aim of understanding every word. This is known as intensive reading.”

songs

My favorite songs change so fast that by the time I publish this post, the top 5 songs that I’m listening to would have already changed. That’s why I make monthly playlists on Spotify to keep track of my favorite songs per month. The following are songs that I was listening to nonstop at some point in the near past, and I hope you like them too!


What are some of your current faves?

-Michelle

moving away for the first time

It feels weird, when I say it, “I’m moving 7,200+ miles away from home“. I always knew this was going to happen when I went away for college, and even though I’ve had an extra year out of school to prepare for this moment, it still feels weird.

The people that I’m leaving behind are my parents and a few close friends. These goodbyes will be hard, because they’re the people that I’ve grown used to spending most of my time with; to depart from them and only be able to talk to them virtually is something that will be hard to get used to. I’m also saying goodbye to several amazing teachers from school and elsewhere. Though I’m already used to seeing them less frequently – some more than others – they have each left an impression on me that I’ll carry with me wherever I go, whatever I do.

And then, there’s home.

I’m saying goodbye to the country that raised me. To the roads that I’ve roamed countless of times, the places and parks that I’ve visited for years, the vibe that I’ve gotten used to. I haven’t always been very fond of my country, but I have grown very comfortable and used to this lifestyle. Leaving this place and the comforts of my cozy home, and starting the next stage of my life somewhere anew will be nothing short of daunting. Even having spent most of my gap year on my own and working on myself, I’m hit with a pang of nostalgia whenever I think about all that I’m leaving behind. I don’t even know how I’ll say goodbye to my room, knowing that I’ll probably never sleep on my bed for more than a few weeks a year from now on

Missing home and fearing the future; longing for the past and holding back the future. I have always been like this. A sentimental girl, always finding things to long and feel sad about. A cautious girl, never really crossing the line in fear of what the other side may hold in store.

But coupled with this fear also comes the knowledge that I am indeed ready for this change. I know now that I can and will adapt to any situation that I’m presented with. The change may be everything but comfortable initially, but I trust that my choices and decisions will take me down the path that I’m destined for.  I will welcome any change with open arms, and accept whatever form of discomfort or struggle that I will most certainly meet. No matter how rough the journey, it will all work out at the end.

Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?

(Quote by Elif Shafak, from ‘The Forty Rules of Love‘)

-Michelle

I ran 10k for the first time and I liked it

I am not a runner, and have never run 10 kilometers consecutively before signing up for this 10k race. My body had always given in after 5, 6 or at most around 8 kilometers. But then something interesting happened on the day of this event.

If you’ve ever run a few kilometers/miles long, you would know that the first part of the run can oftentimes be the hardest. Your body is just warming up, your feet are getting used to the speed, and your heart is still adjusting to the new pace. For me, those first few hundred steps are always unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

On the day of the race, I was not feeling my best self. My legs were a little sore from the previous day’s workout, and my stomach was jittery with nerves. Unsurprisingly, the first half of the race was gruesome; I was counting the kilometers as I passed each marker and thinking to myself, “I won’t be able to make it” over and over again. Having my dad run alongside me – motivating me each step of the way – was very helpful as always, but it couldn’t ease the discomfort that had already taken over my body.

My iPod decided to go dead nearly halfway through the race – something that has never happened before. I gave up trying to revive it after a while, and this surprisingly made my run more… bearable. I had prepared a pumping music playlist specially for this day, but I realized that I was actually better off without it.

Running is usually such a lonesome activity, and I usually rely on music as my companion. But having thousands of people running behind, beside and in front of me was the best companion of that day. Yes, I could hear people’s steps akin to the sound of fat raindrops – incessant, notorious and all around me. Occasionally, we would pass by someone gasping heavily for air, and at several points we were in par with a guy whose keys jingled exasperatingly in his pocket.

But that didn’t matter. We were, after all, in this together. The people in front of me were the ones showing me the way; those beside me kept me company and urged me along; the ones behind showed me how far I had come, pushing me to keep on going. This was enough motivation to keep me going, regardless of how slow my pace was.

But something curious then happened after hitting the 5k mark: I started gaining momentum. It was as if my body had rejuvenated itself, and I found myself running more vigorously than before. My breathing came under control, my steps became wider, and I felt stronger. Like I said before – I am not a regular runner, so I don’t know what exactly happened at that moment. Basic research on the internet tells me that I might have experienced what is called a runner’s high – a rush of endorphin. It was a great feeling that spread all over my body physically and emotionally, enabling me to get a glimpse of why long-distance runners do what they do.

The feeling of power and control over your own body. The sense of accomplishment even before you finish the task. The genuine pleasure that comes from inside you while you’re still running, your mind free from any burden. You hardly get these feelings of triumph while doing other (healthy) activities.

I have never experienced this in any cardio exercise before, because I have never challenged myself to such extent. I am curious to see whether my runner’s high will continue to kick in the next time that I run the same distance, or how it will change as I (hopefully) run longer distances. As for other sports, it’ll be interesting to see if this ‘high’ happens too!

-Michelle

how to recover from a burnout

BURNOUT: physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.

We are all familiar with this. That moment when… anything and everything seems to be too much all at once. When you just want to shut the world down, and make everything stop. When you’re no longer stressed, but on the verge of falling apart. When you lose that drive and sense of motivation that you used to have.

I have experienced my definition of high stress, social anxiety, and demotivation for short periods at a time. I don’t think I’ve actually experienced burnout to the point of being unable to go back to work, unless it was due to some external reason. However, I do have a few methods, that I have used myself, to help you recover from any form of short-term burnout (if you experience a heavy, long-term burnout, please consult a professional):

1. Schedule time for yourself.

Turn off the notifications in your phone, stop checking social media, and let the emails go. One cannot truly relax if one is constantly being interrupted by things as distracting as Facebook, Instagram, and emails. You live in the now, in the present moment, not in the pictures that random people post on Facebook, nor the chaos in the news nowadays.

Acknowledge it, value it, live it.

2. Do something creative

Whenever I delve into something fun, like practicing brush lettering, taking pictures, or even just journaling, it feels therapeutic. I put on some soothing music, and it becomes me and my art. It allows me to recharge creatively and lose myself in the beauty of it for a while.

Simply choose something that you consider fun, creative, simple and relaxing. For me, it usually has to do with some form of pen and/or paper. I love journaling, planning, brush lettering, doodling and painting in a coloring book. It’s easy and soothing, and it gets me going.

3. Get out.

This one never fails me. Whenever I feel stuck, stressed, and even on the verge of a breakdown, I force myself to go out if I can muster the energy to do so. I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood surrounded by parks, and that’s where I go. Not somewhere crowded with people talking; just nature, people walking with their doors, and cars passing by.

Nature, besides it being there to allow us to live, is the best natural form of therapy. It will allow you to breathe in the fresh, fresh air. Let you slow down for a bit, and enjoy your view as it is. Get you up and walking, without going anywhere in particular.

4. Get active.

Following #3, once you’re outside – take it to the next step! You could start by walking or jogging, or skating, or biking, or taking your pet for an afternoon together. Make it an event. Get your body moving and your blood pumping. You will have to focus on your task at hand and, consequently, get your mind off your work. Your body will also automatically release endorphins, which will inevitably relieve you of the stress you were experiencing, and make you feel much, much better overall.

You can get active by going out for a simple activity like the ones named before – walking, jogging, biking, etc. or by signing up for a class that you’ll have to go a few times a week. I do both, so I get my dose of endorphins pretty much everyday – whether I feel like it or not – and always end the day feeling sore, but refreshed.

5. Get your zzz’s.

I know, I know. There is not enough time to sleep. But there is if you make it a priority. I prioritize sleep because:

  • It allows me to perform hours of productive and concentrated work everyday; if I don’t, I end up spending twice as much time in each task and accomplishing half as much.
  • I maintain my body’s health and weight by doing so; if I don’t, I end up eating more than necessary, oftentimes caffeinated products or just food my body doesn’t need. Your body should not be dependent or coffee or any other food at all if you get your sleep.
  • I love to wake up early. I’m not an early bird, but I can wake up relatively early if I sleep at a proper time, and a consistent schedule is what allows me to be the best version of myself every day.

This is also key to prevent oversleeping, which will most likely depress you even more, as you’ll feel like you’re sleeping your life away. In order to take care of your body, maintain your health and recover from a day of work, is to sleep no more than necessary. Lie in bed for a while after waking up, but don’t fall asleep again if you’ve slept enough, or you’ll wake up more restless than before.


Lastly, forgive yourself if things don’t go your way. I cannot reiterate this enough. More often than not, your day will not go as planned. When that happens, acknowledge your mistakes, forgive yourself, and move on. It will all be alright at the end.

-Michelle