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life

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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

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 anything 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 rocky 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

how to procrastinate less

We are all masters at procrastination, this resistant force that prevents us from finishing our most impending tasks.

It’s frustrating, oftentimes uncontrollable and evil, but it’s not an invincible force. This is your 101 guide to battling procrastination:

start your mornings right. (productive morning routine video)

A key to reducing procrastination during the day is by starting the day right. Small things, like waking up feeling refreshed (given that you have had enough sleep), drinking water, making your bed after getting up, and changing into comfy clothes will create the productive momentum that you need to propel yourself towards a productive and successful day.

Make sure that your first morning tasks aren’t too mentally exhausting, and are rather mere healthy habits that you have cultivated over time. You want to save that mental energy for the big, important tasks later in the day!

set monthly goals, and review them whenever you feel demotivated (april goals video)

I already have a list of goals that I want to accomplish for this year, but I review them every month depending on what tasks I want to focus on. I normally keep my goals on a Word document so I can modify them whenever I want to, and for April I decided to fancy things up and made a spread on my bullet journal (which you can see on my April goals video!). It’s very helpful to have this list, as whenever I’m making my daily to-do lists, I can remind myself of what I’m working towards, and not lose sight of the big picture.

amp up your work environment

It’s your space: change it or clean it however you want to. Your work environment is usually your desk or the place(s) where you spend most time working. I love keeping my space clean and aesthetically pleasing as it allows me to get straight to work, instead of fussing over a mess that I should’ve cleaned up before.

This is such an obvious fact, but when you have a clean desk and space, your mind will most likely be clear and set to work too.

or find aesthetic inspiration elsewhere

Who doesn’t love going to a beautiful library, bookstore or coffee shop? In my video, I feature El Ateneo Grand Splendid, which I got to visit on my recent trip to Argentina. It. Was. Amazing. Of course, there are probably no breathtaking places like such everywhere, but a cozy coffee shop or bookstore is always a nice place to step into and get your head in the game.

Personally, I love visiting bookstores and libraries because it allows me to go on an adventure in a place filled with knowledge. Whatever I get distracted with, it’ll be with books. No technology, no phones – just me and the books.

make a to-do list, and break it down into mini tasks

I always write down my to-do list every morning in my planner, and note my tasks down on the Reminders app of my phone. That way, I never lose sight of my important tasks of the day.

When it comes to complicated tasks that require more planning and dissecting, I break the steps down on my planner so I have an idea of what I’ll have to do later on. This also ensures that I don’t forget some sub-tasks or details. Keep in mind that you don’t need to have a fancy planner or fixed place to jot down your tasks, especially if you’re not a heavy planner. But it’s important that you plan somewhere to get your ideas and tasks down.

schedule (and limit) your playtime

Without a proper schedule to follow during the day, you’re more prone to getting distracted with your guilty pleasures. What I do to combat this is to schedule my playtime. For instance, I give myself 30-60 minutes of watching YouTube videos after I’ve accomplished my morning routine and tasks and eaten lunch. This motivates me to get on with my morning tasks, and it has become such a great part of my schedule that I rarely fall prey of YouTube videos or distracting stuff in the mornings.

The key of scheduling your playtime is so that you schedule enough of it during the day, and don’t try to squeeze in extra playtimes when you’re supposed to be working. And, gradually, your body will understand that playtime only happens at certain times of the day.

tell others about your impending task

There are many ways you can use your friends to help you get your work done. For instance, you can put yourself in the debt of a friend (by owing them a Starbucks coffee, or boba) until you finish your most important task of the day. It’s fun, and I bet your friend will be thrilled to help you. Or, you can simply ask a friend for a study session or help with a homework. Having someone else account for your progress is always helpful – as long as you don’t rely on them to do your work. Only you can be responsible for your work and yourself.

or make a public declaration

If you’re like me, and would rather not get your friends involved, I suggest going on Twitter or some other form of social media, and make a public declaration about what you’re supposed to do during the day. Personally, I pretty much use Twitter to promote my stuff and rant about whatever I’m feeling that day. I’m not a fan of Twitter and I rarely post ‘good stuff’ on there, so it’s the perfect platform for me to just post anything.

By making a public declaration on Twitter, I get a false sense that I’m being accounted for, which in turn makes me more prone to completing my task. You should give it a try 😉

remove distractions from your field of vision

Put. It. All. Away. I guess it’s safe to assume that our biggest source of distraction for many, if not most, of us is our phones. What I do is pretty simple: put it on Airplane mode, throw it on my bed with the screen facing down, and forget about it. I usually don’t need my phone to work, except for checking off my tasks.

If you find it hard to get away from your phone, put in on Airplane mode and hide it somewhere hard to reach. Just do it, and forget about it. Check it during your playtime, or the few minutes that you switch into your next task, but not when you’re working. The more you practice this, the easier it will become to remove yourself from your distraction.

do productive procrastination

Is all procrastination bad? Not really. I particularly remember watching a TED talk by Adam Grant, who talks about procrastination as a source of creativity. I agree. When we procrastinate, we physically put off a task, but we subconsciously work on it. And when we do eventually get down to work on the task, we are most likely gonna have more and better ideas and solutions that task.

But it’s crucial to not spend too much time procrastinating, as time is fleeting and precious. What I recommend doing (if you’re feeling like procrastinating) is to procrastinate on creative things: painting mandalas, organizing your desk, practicing calligraphy, or doing any hobby of your choice. Get creative, and get excited! By gradually getting yourself more productive, you’ll eventually find it easier to get ahead with your actual task.

forgive yourself if the day doesn’t go as planned

You’re human, and you make mistakes. The sooner you embrace this idea, the easier it will be to relieve yourself of any mistake  you make along the way. I think it’s important to reflect upon what you could have done better, but not to dwell on the actual decision.

Acknowledge, let go, and move on.

-Michelle

stop studying & start learning

Learning should be our main focus, and studying should be a complement of it.

I think a lot of us who are still in school or have just finished school naturally use these two words interchangeably. I know I do, for the most part. Our education system is shaped in a way that we, as students, are obliged to comply with the system in order to succeed academically. And that means that whatever we ‘learn’ in class – oftentimes irregardless of whether we enjoy or find deeper meaning in that course – we have to study it at home prior to exams.

I was a good student throughout most of my school journey. I usually enjoyed most of the classes I had and, as I grew older, I also learned to see the benefits of learning classes that didn’t appeal to me as much. For instance, taking Maths Higher Level in the International Baccalaureate program allowed me to think so freaking critically about mathematical and logical problems, the type of thinking that I would never apply anywhere else. Though I have forgotten most of the formulas and math applications that I learned back then, I learned something even more important: the ability to deal with abstract, logical and mathematical problems. A skill that, when re-polished, will allow me to think broader in whatever I invest my mind into.

That is what I call learning. And though my Maths HL journey oftentimes got me on the verge of tears, I realized that I couldn’t just study for the sake of the grand final exam. I had to endure 2 years of this class, and the only way that I could get myself to not give up was if I saw Maths class for more than what it was. And so that’s what I did. I became fascinated with how my mind worked through these excruciating math problems. The way I thought, delivered and executed through these problems fascinated me, because it challenged me in a way that no other class did.

If I had just gone through Maths class solely by studying ‘maths’… that would not have been learning. That would have been plain surface studying, and I would not have survived. We cannot just ‘study’ a course for the sake of studying and hope to get out of it as much as we truly can.

During my gap year, my thirst for knowledge allowed me to learn without looking at it as ‘studying’. I read beginner books in Italian and Chinese to improve my linguistic skills through a medium that I thoroughly enjoy. I purchased a few piano books to polish my understanding of music theory, and to get me going on the most popular and easy piano songs. I finally got my first camera, and learned how to use it by reading the manual and using trial & error interchangeably. I read books of all types and genres every day, because I know that there is always something that I can learn more each day. I use reading – my main channel of self-education – to continuously challenge myself in the art of education, which is another skill that I have come to treasure greatly.

I learned to learn without limiting myself to classroom learning. I took charge of my own education. I made connections between them and with my own life, which has made me realize that nothing we are ever taught at school is useless. It connects to a part of our lives, whether directly or indirectly, and opens us up to a deeper understanding of what this world is made of. Studying shouldn’t be our center of focus; learning should be. If we have that drive and clear understanding as to why we are learning that specific topic, then everything else will become more bearable.

-Michelle