what living with water scarcity feels like

Recently, several cities in the northern parts of Peru, the country where I live in, were hit by heavy rain that caused catastrophic floods for many people. Dozens have died, and tens of thousands of people have had to flee because their homes have been destroyed. This event has been denoted as “coastal El Niño”.

I live in the city, far from where these floods occurred. But water supplies in the whole country were cut unexpectedly more than a week ago. It came so suddenly that we all had to make do with what we had. My family and I have a cistern (water tank) in our home, so we were okay, but there are many other families with no such convenience in their homes. But the cut in water supply wasn’t what created the major angst within the country.

The angst revolved around the instability that had been created around a basic need. We were told by the largest water supply company (Sedapal), that water would be restored gradually. Day after day, we were told that advances were made, but the unpredictability of the weather and conditions prevented such advances to be put into effect immediately. We would wake up everyday without water, without knowing when it would come back. It was heartbreaking to see people asking about the water supply, sharing news about the disasters, and so on. For more than a week, my Facebook page was filled with saddening news about my country. Everywhere I went, everyone was talking about water. I couldn’t read or do anything without thinking about what was happening around me.

As of now, water supply has been restored in the city, and so has the panic (which I wrote about) surrounding it. But it breaks me to see that what I experienced in this one week is minimal compared to what thousands of other people in the northern sections experienced. So, here’s what I learned from this experience:

One cannot live if one cannot survive first.

I was a wreck during the week when water supply was cut. Not because I had to use as little water as possible, but because I knew that what I was going through was nothing compared to what others living in even the same city were going through. Most of the news I read online typically concern other countries far from me.

When you see natural disasters, shootings or any other heartbreaking news, it’s easy to show your empathy but hard to feel empathetic. And on the back of your mind, it’s hard not to feel relieved that the event didn’t happen close to you.

This is the first time that I have ever been really impacted by a natural disaster. It has made me reconsider the things that I do now, and for the future. It makes climate change so real, because you can actually feel it. I’m creative-oriented, and I live by the belief that teaching people how to live instead of just surviving is key to our progress.

But now, I wonder if the way we are living is harming the way we survive.

Water is precious.

Like other things that we have in abundance in this world, I treated water like whatever. I have always had more than enough water to drink, wash and use whenever I wanted to. I never understood what ‘water scarcity’ meant. But when you’re struck by an unexpected shortage, it’s hard not to realize how precious it is.

I have learned to take 5-minute cold showers without shrieking. I try to use no more than necessary when I’m cooking. I think about every drop I use, because there are people who can only dream of having clean water like I do. I don’t take water for granted no more.

There will always be someone with less than what you have.

In my world, I can easily feel like I have less than what my friends, acquaintances or social media people have. There’s always more that you can buy, travel, and be. And that can be socially and emotionally crippling, as we’ll never feel complete living that way. But when you look at things from the perspective that you have more than what you need, your world shifts. Instead of feeling like you’re not good enough or don’t have enough, your uneasy comes from knowing that you are privileged in some way or another.

I believe that it’s healthy to have a continuous feeling of dissatisfaction. As humans, without it we wouldn’t be able to make progress. But it matters a whole lot the way you look at it. If your fixation is on not having enough, you will strive endlessly to have more for yourself. If your focus is on what others don’t have enough, you will work towards making others’ ends meet. It stops been about you, and it starts being about others.

At the end, we are all in this together.

-Michelle

does your job matter? | daily thoughts

We’ll inevitably ask ourselves this question at various points in our lives.

What it means to have a job

I believe that… your our job matters, regardless of the scale of impact. Whether you’re a doctor, programmer, salesperson or cleaner, your job matters. You may see how your aid helps your customers directly, or you may only see the result vaguely. Whatever the outcome,I believe that your attitude towards your job oftentimes matters more than the job itself.

When you think about all the people risking their lives working in clearly-dangerous factories, children working in sweatshops, and countless millions of people working menial jobs because they don’t have many skills to pursue other careers, the world seems like a really cruel place.

And yet, it’s unbelievable how many of these people are able to work in these jobs for so many consecutive years. Back when I was in high school, I befriended two cleaners that had been working at my school for more than a decade. They stay at work for much longer than our school days, and oftentimes have to stay a bit more due to school events. But the thing is, they always greeted me cheerfully.

The few times that I talked to them, they asked me about my circumstances and plans for the future. I would tell them, and when I asked them the same, they always told me about their families and the children that they had brought up. I believe that’s the main motivator for them. Knowing that they have a very important role to fulfill, not for themselves, but for someone else. And regardless of how monotonous, dissatisfying or tiring it can be to do intensive cleaning every day, they are willing to do it because they know that it will be worth it.

You may not have children or a family to work for, but I think it’s so important to be aware of how your job affects other people. And yes, there are always going to be jobs that help people the wrong way. You could be trafficking illegal imports to take care of your newborn, or deceiving your customers by selling overpriced products just because you want that extra cash. The world will always be a twisted place, but your world, the world you choose to surround yourself in, doesn’t need to be.

“Does your job matter?”

I ask myself this question all the time, because I believe that my job encompasses more than my future career. I believe my job is to be as knowledgeable, creative and helpful as I can be. It is not to be dictated by the income that I receive or the status that I gain in my profession, but by my thirst to become a better person than I was yesterday. Sure, I’ll probably have a job that others will define me by. But I don’t need to let that limit myself.

I believe that the way you spend your time is what defines you. Your job is a (big) part of it, but so is what you do outside of it. What you do in your free time – spending time with your family, delving into creative outlets, continuing to educate yourself – will be what shapes you within your workplace and everywhere else.

-Michelle

what no one tells you about applying to college

It’s that time of the year again. The long-awaited moment of truth when you feel that your dreams are either heard or crushed. Mine were crushed last year when I got rejected by all the US colleges I applied to. But it opened another door to me when I grabbed my gap year by the horns and spent this extra year getting to know myself.

But the time has come again, and it feels like deja vu. Rejected. Waitlisted. Accepted. Which will it be this year? Normally, US and European colleges release their admission decisions by the end of March. It’s not a nice wait. But here’s a few things of what applying to college can be like:

1. It’s f*cking expensive.

The application fee for one college can cost up to $90. Mine were between $60 to $90. But that’s not it. T

here’s another fee to send test scores too! As an international student, I had to pay $19 for each TOEFL test sent to an institution; $12 for each ACT sent to an institution (if I sent more than one test score, I had to pay double or triple that cost), $12 for all SAT scores sent to an institution, and $17 for my IB grades to be sent to an institution.

The costs don’t stack up too high when you apply to a handful of universities; but if you’re a millennial, you know that applying to competitive colleges is no joke, and you’ll probably apply to several more just to increase your changes. I applied to several this year and, needless to say, the costs made my heart hurt.

2. Applying for financial aid is hard.

When I applied last year, I was still working on financial aid papers up to the end of February. I had to fill in the CSS Profile (or the FAFSA for US citizens) – which asks in great detail about every past, present and future income, profit and expenditure in your household; my parents spent a great deal getting the needed papers; and I had to check the financial aid requirements for each university to ensure I had completed everything. The worst thing that it was a long, tedious process not just for me, but also for my parents.

Note: My perspective is that of an international student. I believe that there are many opportunities to get aid, not just from the university, if you’re applying for college aid in your home country. This means that you can be eligible for aid and grants that are not necessarily as complicated as the main one.

3. Your dream school will not always be your dream school.

Last year, I had the mindset that I would become an Ivy League girl. Asian, top grades, several top-notch extracurriculars, I was convinced I would make the cut. I didn’t, and with a crushed ego, I re-evaluated everything I had worked hard for.

I re-applied to college this year with a renewed sense of what I was looking for in college. Even though I had the extra time to think about how I fit into college before it actually happened, I believe this can apply to anyone: your dream school shouldn’t be fixed. Things change, people change, and you will change. More importantly, whether a college is your ‘dream’ or not shouldn’t define what kind of education you receive, because you will define it.

4. Always be open-minded. 

Applying to competitive colleges is becoming more like a reality Hunger Games for many of us. The best thing that you should do is apply for a range of different colleges: reach, fit and safety colleges. And keep your eyes open for other ones that may not necessarily fit with that profile, e.g. a small college in another country. You never know what you may discover in the application research process.

Being open-minded is also key when admission decisions roll out. Whichever college you get into, it should be a celebration. And if all reject you and you find yourself in a gap year – embrace this year to invest in all the things that you set aside during school. There are no wrong or right choices, so there’s no reason why you should close yourself to a fixed path.

5. It’s a chance to get to know yourself.

Despite the amount of work required for college applications, something that has helped me get through this process is by looking at the opportunity of growth within the application. When it comes to writing essays for each of the colleges – spend all the time you need to work on it. Researching, brainstorming, thinking, drafting and writing. Repeat. I realized that writing these essays in itself have helped see who I am.

When I compare the essays I wrote the first time I applied, to the essays I wrote for this year, I have become such a different person. My writing style and interests have changed to suit the passions that make me glow the most. Additionally, researching about a university’s programs has helped me see what the colleges really have to offer, and what courses I would probably be interested in.

All in all, it’s easy to see the admission process as a stressful and tedious task. Sending your profile and writing essays for other people to judge on your ‘worth’ is not exactly a fun game. But you can turn it around and make it your time to learn more about yourself too.

-Michelle

when fear strikes near you | daily thoughts

Failure. Flying. Rejection. Heights. Public speaking.

We all have fears, some more than others, some worse than others. Currently, I fear the world that is changing before my eyes. It’s not as if it suddenly hit me, but under the current circumstances, these sudden feelings of unease and guilt have hit me particularly hard.

The abnormal climate changes have led to a massive flood in the northern sections of Peru, the country where I’m currently residing it, and it has affected the whole country on different levels. This phenomenon has been denoted as the “coastal el Niño” and the whole country is in a state of emergency. Personally, I’m only affected by the sudden water cut in my area, but my family and I can survive on the cistern (tank for storing water) at least for a few days, so we’re all ok.

However, this phenomenon has been going on for several days now, and it’s the first time that I’ve felt the disturbances so close to me. You read on the news, every once in a while, about some disaster that destroys a city or town completely, whether it be a flood or earthquake, and you try to help and/or donate as much as you can to the cause. But when the disaster hits so close to your own home, it’s such a different scenario.

You can actually feel the panic if you go outside, especially to the poorer districts. You read on the news online about the government doing everything it can to stabilize the situation, but no sense of stability comes to you. I am typing this post sitting on a comfortable chair at my desk, but I feel so unstable and guilt-ridden. I donated to the cause a few days ago, but was that enough? Should I be doing more? Or should I be making sure we have enough water to last us more days? What is going on?

I am scared, but the thing that I’m worried about is not what’s happening right now. I’m worried about whether the things that I do and the career(s) that I intend to pursue are aligned with the world’s current events. Should I change my lifestyle to become as environmentally-friendly as possible? Should I choose a career that concerns people, or should I focus on a career that concerns the very world we live in more?

I was at a friend’s birthday party yesterday, and on the way there, I could see people clustered around ‘supply points’ to collect water back to their homes. And there I was, heading to someone else’s house where my friends and I would binge on food and drinks. Should I have gone there to celebrate despite what was going on right outside the doors?

We can always do more, but what about situations like this? Am I a bad person for taking real notice of this when it just so happens to be so close to me? Things like this happen every year; the only difference was that this year’s events were more notorious and catastrophic. I am usually involved in other philanthropic activities, but they are usually unrelated to the environment. But suddenly now the tides have turned.

Am I a hypocrite for caring so much now, just when things are starting to hit near me?

-Michelle

tips for minimalist packing

Traveling can be the most eye-opening and captivating experience. Not the vacation-type of traveling, but the let’s-explore-this-place kind of traveling. The one where you don’t just lie on the beach mat to get a bronze tan, but the one in which you have to find your way through specific attractions and end up discovering others along the way.

Whenever I travel (usually with my parents) to some foreign country, it’s always very exciting. But because we plan our trips from top to bottom, a lot of research is done beforehand. What places are we going, and how should we buy the plane tickets to get the best price? What hotels or Airbnb should we stay at during that time? What transport system are we going to use, and how does it work? Where should we eat for each meal, what places are we planning to visit, and should we buy tickets to certain places beforehand?

So many questions, and oftentimes many of these are not answered until you get there. I learned a lot about my naive travelling skills when I last visited Tokyo. The subway system there got my mom and I going nuts, and let alone the frustration of not being able to communicate in Japanese (I could barely understand their English because of their heavy accent! Shame on me). As much research as I tried to do prior to going to Tokyo, I didn’t truly learn until I made the mistakes myself.

After all, we don’t learn from others’ mistakes; we learn by making the mistakes ourselves.

An important part that you can prepare for is the stage of packing. The following are 4 steps that I currently follow in order to pack lightly and wisely:

1. Research the weather, your accommodation, and specific places

You can’t pack without knowing what weather to expect in your travel destination. If you’re going to more than one place (e.g. different cities within the same country), the weather may vary drastically, so you’ll need to pack different kinds of clothing accordingly.

Looking up and knowing what your accommodation place offers – whether it’s a hotel, Airbnb or friend’s place – can help you decide what type of clothing and how much to take. If it’s a hotel, chances are that you’ll be able to wash your undies and hang up your clothing. If it’s a cheaper hostel, you’ll probably need to pack light as there won’t be so much space for your luggage/things. If you’re staying longer, it’ll be very important to know beforehand whether you’ll be able to do some laundry or not.

Noting down specific places and attractions before your trip is a given. For instance, if you plan to go hiking, you must pack appropriate clothing and shoes. If you’re anticipating a formal dinner, make sure you have at least one formal attire.

2. Make a packing list a week prior to the trip to see if you’re missing anything

My current packing list consists of:

  • Essentials (e.g. documents, phone, chargers)
  • Toiletries (from toothbrush to face cream to shampoo)
  • Accessories (bag, sunglasses, etc.)
  • Clothes (self-explanatory)

Your list may consist of more sub-lists, depending on what you need. There are lots of sample lists online that you can use as reference, too. A helpful thing to do is to keep your old packing lists saved in a Word file (or somewhere safe), as you can pull them out for your next trip and make the necessary adjustments. This will save you the burden of creating a full list all over again.

3. Pack bearing in mind that you could buy more clothes if wanted

As a girl, I tend to want to dress nicely when I’m traveling, as I’ll most likely take a lot of pictures to keep as memories. If you’re that kind of person, then packing may be a challenging task at first.

What I do is I plan an outfit for each day, combining outfits so I wear each piece of clothing more than once. I’ll usually take an extra pair of socks and underwear and a few extra essentials that don’t take much stpace, but I’ll try not to pack more outfits than necessary. Whenever I have the urge to do so, I remind myself that I’ll be able to buy more once I’m there (though I don’t think this has happened – yet).

4. Pack the KonMari way.

just picked up the KonMari book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up yesterday, and when I got to the chapter of folding clothes today, I tried it out on my closet and the results are amazing. Folding clothes and packing is such a seemingly monotonous and tedious task, but it doesn’t have to be. I would recommend reading or listening to the book, but I also recommend this article (or just google the KonMari method) to get you started.

The KonMari method will allow you to organize your clothes neatly (both at home and when traveling), as well as encourage you to use your space as efficiently as possible. I urge you to give the book and this method a go.


Good luck!

-Michelle

alone in a crowd | daily thoughts

We’ve all been there. When you’re invited to some reunion or party and think about it excitedly for days, only for the day to come and be disappointed by the outcome.

More often than not, I end up feeling left out when I’m hanging with a bunch of people. Naturally as a shy introvert, I feel much more comfortable interacting in one-on-one conversations or even small groups. But when there’s a crowd, I kind of just drift away into the background.

I try to start and join conversations, of course; but they often end up being meaningless chatter or gossip that I’m simply not interested in. That’s what I like to make myself believe. Oftentimes, however, I feel that my inability to interact comfortably with my friendly acquaintances is the actually inhibitor in these events.

For most of high school, I felt like I needed to be a part of these social ‘groups’ and be one of those people that manage school and social life evenly. But as much as I tried, it always felt off. I almost never enjoyed myself at the parties, and often felt like I could have spent a much better time doing my own things at home. It wasn’t until senior year that I realized where this ‘need’ came from: I wasn’t trying to fit in because I wanted to be a sociable person; I wanted to fit in because of FOMO. I didn’t want to be that girl who never shows up at events, who misses out on that awesome thing that happened last night, who doesn’t get invited to events. But I wasn’t that girl.

The group of people in front of her was jovial and paid her no attention. The group behind was much the same. She was alone without being alone.

I believe that our social lives are essential in our emotional and overall wellbeing. It’s important. But we all deal with it differently. In my case, I don’t need nor want to hang around so many people I’m not close with. As of right now, I have two people whom I can call my best friends. I don’t see neither very often (actually, I haven’t seen one of them since 2012 when she moved to another country), but I invest as much as I can into maintaining our friendship. They keep me happy and socially busy, and that’s more than enough.

As of my other friends (or friendly acquaintances), I see them every once in a while in these reunions/parties. We graduated from school a year ago, so the only times that I get to see them are in these events. And it’s great, because it gives us the needed time to catch up with each other. But I don’t try to hang out with them more than that because, to me, it’s pointless. I would go back to being the person I used to be: a girl struggling to fit in with a social crowd that she doesn’t highly enjoy being with.

Ultimately, the most important thing is that you know what you want; if you can do that, then the temptations of peer pressure will not be enough to lure you in. You will do as you believe is best for you, and nothing less than that. Obviously, it’s not as simple as it sounds, and I imagine I will continue struggling with this issue once I’m in college and/or other groups, but at least I have made a first step in recognizing my behavior within the school environment.

We’ve all been alone in a crowd. But we don’t have to be anymore.

-Michelle

things no one tells you about taking a gap year

It’s gonna be a hell of a ride.

A brief background on my gap year: I finished school at the end of 2015, and aimed at going to a US college in fall (September) of 2016. The unexpected happened, and I suddenly found myself college-less in March 2016. I was to reapply again for fall of 2017, but until then, I had nowhere to go. And so began my journey in my gap year. A journey of coming to terms with myself. It has now been a bit over a year that I have been off school, and I still have around 6 months before attending college.

Here’s what taking a gap year has taught me so far, and hopefully it’ll help you understand more about what actually happens in one:

You will need to design your own curriculum.

I am a creature of habit. I crave structure and organization. Stepping out of school, I was completely fazed by what I was supposed to do with all the time I had, and how I was supposed to manage it. It was then that I started drafting my Bridge Year Bucket List. Through continuous brainstorming and weekly revisions, I created a detailed list of what I wanted to achieve in my time before college.

I designed my own curriculum, because I no longer had school teachers dictating the course of my classes. I became my own teacher, because only I knew what was best for me.

You should learn to learn

School is generally and largely considered to be the place where most of our academic education takes place. But with changing curricula in an ever-changing society, not everyone always gets the best out of their education while at school. And certainly not everyone learns how to truly learn a subject they are deeply passionate about.

I learned to learn because I was no longer forced to study. The academic pressure that emerged in this year came from myself, and the only way that I could learn autonomously me was if I understood how I learned best. And that’s what I did. I poured my ideas on paper and continuously sought to improve my skills in those areas, experimenting and researching about different ways to become a more knowledgeable and creative person.

I was no longer bounded by a rigid syllabus and constant exams – I was free to learn.

You’re going to spend a lot of time alone.

Social skills are not my forte, and though I did not have a squad nor a close circle of friends, I had several friendly acquaintances at school and a few close friends, and that worked fine for me.

But when I left school, I no longer had my school community to lean on socially. Everybody else was either at school or at college; moving forwards at a solid and concrete pace, while I was left to question my actions every step of the way. It has been daunting – it is still daunting – and it brought out a lot of my insecurities, but it also helped me understand how to be alone without being lonely.

I realized that my loneliness was rooted in the fact that I hadn’t yet learned to be with myself. The FOMO in our digital age was in conflict with my introverted nature. What did I do? I turned to my work. I read, wrote, played music, exercised, explored, traveled, and gradually became friends with myself.

We all need friends in our lives; I treasure the few that I have tremendously, and I’m really happy about that, because I thrive more when I’m working, learning and creating on my own.

Befriending Discipline will be key.

My dad reminds me of this one. His constant strive to be fit and healthy is becoming increasingly challenging due to the nature of his aging body. I can see his struggle because I live with him. Everyone else sees the result only, but no one keeps him accounted for the progress. My dad’s motivation is very consistent and clear, and hence he is able to take care and train his body to the state that it is now.

But discipline isn’t something that always comes so easy nor naturally for most of us. At school, students are expected to follow through the rigorous academic system, but most of the time there isn’t any real issue of ‘discipline’ if our education is being handled from top to bottom every year.

Just like I learned to learn this year, I also came to understand self-discipline. I had to find my own source of self-motivation and use that to guide my aims and goals. I had to have a very clear mental understanding of why I was doing each task, so that I would consistently do them even if no one could care less. For some activities, my motivation was clear from the start: I want to read so that I can entertain and educate myself at the same time. But for other things, it took its own time: I didn’t start actively wanting to learn Chinese until I stayed with my family in Taiwan for 2 months recently, and the drive to improve my Chinese just came to me.

Time is not to be taken for granted, but we must also accept that some things can’t just be forced upon us. Letting things flow as they do naturally is sometimes the best option, and when that desire and drive does come to you, whether you hang on to it or not will be up to you.

Your insecurity is valid.

Just like feeling lonely, I felt insecure, lost, scared and hopeless a lot of the time. Where was the arrow that had always pointed me towards a right direction? Was there even a right direction? I didn’t even know. I felt like I was trapped in a void, surrounded by arrows pointing towards all directions. Every step, any step, I took would take me closer towards a goal, but further away from all the others. What would I choose?

The thing that gave me solace in these moments was my gradual understanding that whichever path I took, I would eventually end up where I was meant to be. Just like there is no absolute good nor evil in this world, there is no absolute right nor wrong. I am still an insecure and cowardly person at times, but that’s no longer a reason to not push myself out of my comfort zone in any imaginable ways possible.

Establishing a good relationship with your parents is a must.

A lot, if not most, of what one does in a gap year is about oneself. It is, after all, a time for self-growth and moment of self-reflection in which you can learn more about yourself as an individual – not as a student, but as a living person whose life goes beyond what school can teach you.

In this process, you should also learn to grow with your family. You’re no longer a student bombarded with school work, activities and a social life, with not much time left for your family. Your parents, and the rest of your family, are a part of this process as well. Time should be in their favor during this time.

A gap year is a ticket to another world.

You don’t need to spend 9 months volunteering in Africa and you don’t have to do solo traveling around Europe to make this time worth something. Chances are that you wouldn’t be able to do that because that would cost a hell lot of money anyway.

For a lot of time during my gap year, I saw this time as an opportunity to grow outwards. To hone as many skills as possible, take as many classes and go to as many places as possible. After all, if I was missing out on my first year of college, I should try to maximize my time outside college, right?

But the truth is, you don’t need to travel externally to learn. You can travel through the experiences of authors dead or alive, through your own self-reflection, and by observing the world around you clearly for the first time. If you can do that, if you can learn to expand yourself while staying at home, then you have learned more than what many are still trying to do.

It is not about how much you can do in a certain amount of time. It is not about how far nor how much you can travel, nor how many experiences and things you see. It is about appreciating what you already have, and doing the things that are within your reach with a bigger and better mindset.

It’s not really a gap year; it’s a bridge year.

Both terms are used interchangeable, with ‘gap year’ being more common. A gap year is defined as “a period, typically an academic year, taken by a student as a break between secondary school and higher education.” A gap year suggests that you took time away from education to invest in other activities, but I think it goes beyond that.

This year for me was about all the things I talked about above – about understanding what drives my passion, what makes me want to learn, about expanding my horizons with the abundance that I already have. A bridge year suggests that this year is being spent bridging our interests gradually from one stage to the other, instead of jumping from school to college simply because that’s what we’re expected to do. A bridge year is about seeing what lies beyond that of what an academic environment is able to teach us, to then (maybe) go back knowing better who we are and what we want.

This is what my bridge year is about.

-Michelle

a productive morning routine

Mornings are my sacred time. I love waking up early and spending a couple of hours nourishing my mind and body, giving me that kick-start to a great day. This is what currently occupies my mornings:

  1. Wake up. I usually get up around 7:30 (or at least try to). I stay in bed and roll for a while, and then put on the radio to get me out of my foggy state of mind. I drink some water to get rid of my horrible morning breath.
  2. Morning workout. I pull my hair up in a bun, and get ready for my short morning workout. I used to do the 7-minute workout, but I’ve found it really hard to keep it up during the summer when the days are unbearably hot, so I have switched to Blogilates’ morning workout. I don’t normally follow her videos, but I really like how she combines an easy and graceful workout + stretch in her video. It’s just the right amount of each.
  3. Get ready. I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Also, I always wash my face after the mini workout (instead of before) as I do sweat a little. I change my clothes into something really comfy and simple.
  4. Eat breakfast + read. I make myself some breakfast. I usually have chicken, two eggs, and avocado. It’s enough to last me for a few hours, but I’ll usually snack on fruits and/or nuts before lunch. I always eat breakfast with a book in my hand. I spend between 40-60 minutes reading.
  5. Five minute journal. I picked up this habit this year, and it’s a quick way to focus your mind on the things that you can be grateful for each day. I don’t actually have the five minute journal, I just write the prompts and answers on a little notebook.
  6. Plan + journal. I’m currently using a Hobonichi Cousin as my planner, and I love the system! I also do some real journaling (‘word vomiting’) to let my thoughts flow on paper, and try to doodle around my writing.
  7. Meditate. This is the last thing I do to conclude my morning routine. I sit down on the floor in my bed, put on some meditative piano music, and meditate for 10 minutes. As it’s still morning, I don’t meditate for longer than that lest I fall asleep (I love sleeping).

This is pretty much the end of my morning routine, but it’s still morning by the time I finish, so I’ll just get on with things that I want to work on:

  1. Emails. I check my personal, blog and work email. It sounds like a lot, but I really only get email occasionally. I’m subscribed to a few morning news and a Highbrow course, so I’ll most likely check them now.
  2. Music intervals. I have a background in music, and this is one of the areas that I’m currently working on to improve. The key is to spend a little every day practicing, so I do this for about half an hour.
  3. English idioms. I like to think that my English is pretty fluent, but improving my linguistic flair is one of my continuous goals. Right now I’m just making flashcards on idioms I’m unfamiliar with to study them a little each day. I hate doing this so academically, which is why I don’t spend more than half an hour on this either.
  4. Blog! My little place on the internet. I’ll usually work on a blog post, practice my photography, or just work on small things here and there. The thing about my blog, mistyprose, is that even though no one really follows me here nor anywhere on social media, I’m still determined to keep on blogging. My anonymity, writing and work is what allows me to write freely, and I really enjoy that.

It should be lunch time by now (1:30pm), so that’s what I do next!

Thanks for reading about my morning routine 🙂 Also, just a side note – I’m currently in my gap year, so I have a pretty flexible schedule to handle.

-Michelle

health, work, play and love | designing your life

We can’t live without passion. Without it, we are merely existing. I also believe that we need to find our balance in passion in all areas of our life. A way to divide our life is by classifying them into the components of health, work, play and love. Health, play and love are all mainly part of our personal life, while work is usually considered more as part of our professional lives.

I believe that to discover your passions, and essentially yourself, is to strip you down of all the communities that keep you on a rut. If you didn’t have school, college, an office, an organization, or a specific place to be every day, what would you do then? How would you use your time?

I feel that only when you’re left as an independent and vulnerable self, without clinging on to the belonging of a community, when you learn to prioritize your life. When something like this happened to me a year ago, I completely restructured my life to adjust to my current circumstances.

I realized that I hadn’t truly taken care of myself during my last years in high school, so fitness, health and trying out different sports became a priority. I also realized that in being so focused on academics and school activities, I camouflaged my innate passions for reading, blogging, learning languages, photography and all things creative. I even used these hobbies to connect to my academic and work interests; these include reading books about psychology, my intended major, and learning ASL and other languages as I currently hold a job at an NGO in this field. Finally, I dealt with my emotions and social circle, trying to understand their influence on my life. I spent more time with both my immediate and extended family, and I chose to let go of many acquaintances why strengthening the ones that truly mattered to me. Luckily, the one thing I didn’t have to worry about was finance, as I still live with my parents.

But in essence, I feel that I have come to understand my health/work/play/love dashboard independently. I know my place in this life at this present moment, and was able to connect each of these seemingly diverging factors in my life into one cohesive whole. My dashboard will change – maybe even every year. But at least I know that I’ll find my way back, because my ‘way’ is not determined by college or work anymore, it’s determined solely by who I am.


I wrote this post in reference to the book Designing Your Life, which is a popular course (in university and in life) by two college professors. I am just starting it, but it’s a book that triggers ideas in the reader/student, and writing about it is a key component in further understanding myself using design thinking. I talk about passion and design thinking without defining either of these terms because I am not entirely sure of them myself. I know what they mean to me and the role they have in my life, but it’s up to you to designate them in yours.

-Michelle