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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

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

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

16 Things I Learned in 2016

Dear 2016 me,

1. Taking care of yourself will always be your no. 1 priority. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They are all as important, and taking the time to just be with yourself will be so beneficial for your wellbeing in the long run.

2. Shit may happen in your life, but it’s you who decides what you do with it. If you ask me, the word ‘failure’ doesn’t exist. Just because the path you designed did not happen accordingly doesn’t mean that the alternatives are the wrong path. Later, you may realize that the latter was actually the better fit for you, and that you needed to ‘fail’ in order to see that.

3. You are stronger than you think. We all are. When something particularly harsh in life hits you hard, all you want to do is crawl back from where you came from, and pretend it never happened. But each experience makes you stronger. You don’t really see the silver lining until the dark cloud comes, and when it does – you are gonna be so ready.

4. Your family will always have your back. (They have to, lol) No matter how bad things get, they are always there for you, regardless of where they physically are.

5. School does not determine your life. It was particularly hard for you this year – socially – because you were doing something that none of your friends were doing. Everybody else was at school or at college, and they all seemed to be solidly moving along in their lives, while you felt stuck in the void in your gap year. But, guess what? You did learn stuff this year, and you did grow into a more nurtured and knowledgeable person in 2016. You may have gone off track, but your time did not go to waste. College will not change where you are ultimately meant to be.

6. You’re Asian, but you don’t need to be defined by it. It doesn’t determine how you feel on the inside, and it doesn’t determine what other people make of you. Embrace your race proudly, but also unleash your beautiful identity.

7. Learning takes place anywhere and everywhere.  Regardless of whether you’re at school, playing, working, or just laying around, you’re absorbing all kinds of new information that, over time, will accumulate to help you become even wiser. You used to believe that most of your education would take place at school, college and at work – but having this year away from your typical lifestyle has taught you better. The real learning cannot take place in a class with a teacher guiding you. The real learning happens when you fail and pick yourself up on your own account.

8. You need a few close friends. No matter how many friends you have, without your closest friends to rely your feelings, trust and silly conversations with, you would not be as happy as you are right now.

9. It’s okay to let go of some people. It doesn’t always mean that you stop caring about them. It just means that it didn’t work out for now. Don’t ponder too much about why they didn’t work out, and please don’t dwell on them.

10. Books are your greatest mentors. Reading is such a seemingly passive and relaxing activity, but when your delve into a good book, fireworks actually go off in your head. You become more creative, are able to think more critically, and learn so much – all of that happening inside your head. Books are also one of the cheapest and most efficient resources for self-learning that we oftentimes take for granted today.

11. Social media is really not that important. You love the virtual interaction that technology offers today, but you also know that it won’t really give you the satisfaction that you  genuinely desire. It’s okay if you  want to make your Instagram look aesthetically pleasing, but it’s pointless to obsess over it. It’s okay if you use Facebook, Tumblr, and other social sites regularly, but not if you keep comparing myself to people who post flawless self-portraits. Having a pretty life online is just another mask that you don’t truly need.

12. You are a social introvert. You love doing things on your own,  such as reading, writing, exercising, learning (pretty much everything, to be honest), but you also love traveling, learning from others and experiencing new cultures. You shine from the synergy of these two, and you should continue striving to have a healthy balance of both.

13. Money can distort reality. Buying materialistic things makes you be such person. Try not to buy more than what you need. But buying experiences, or things that create experiences, is totally worth it (like traveling).

14. Life without passion is existing without living. There’s no better motivator than getting up in the morning knowing that you have a passionate purpose to work and fight for. Passion is your biggest intrinsic motivation, and it’s what will get you through even when everything else seems dark. After all, with passion comes action, and with action comes change.

15. You’re actually a rebel ;). (Gurrl) Not in a bad way – you’re not that kind of rebellious. But you are actually starting to stand for what you believe in, instead of going along with what others believe is best for you.

16. You’re gonna die. Eventually. It’s the honest truth, and we can try to hide it as much as we can – exercising, using beauty products, becoming a monk, etc. But you’re gonna die, anyway. And who knows what will happen when it happens. So live your effing life.

Michelle

Traveling Home

After 9 years, I am back in Taiwan. A tiny island it may be, but it’s the home for my entire family and the land of all yummy food. 9 years, and I braced myself for the changes I was sure to see in my country. But it wasn’t my country that had changed; it was me. I am visiting and seeing everything with an oddly familiar scent; one that I can’t shake off. Everywhere I look at, I know that I have been there at some point. But I remember those places with the innocence of a child. I must have been no more than 10 years old since I was last here, but stepping back in Taiwan is the proof of how much I have changed, and how much I will keep changing.

It’s been a bit more than a week since I’ve been here, and my life ‘style’ just feels so drastically different to the one I had concocted back in Peru. I have visited the bay, an huge 5-floor bookstore, two museums, went mountain-climbing, gone shopping, and eaten delicious Taiwanese food in this amount of time. I love the memories that each of this experiences will bring to me, but I’m even more grateful for how this time has helped me realize what kind of person I am.

I consider myself a social introvert: I like being independent and doing things on my own, and many of my activities are solitary, e.g. blogging, reading, exercising, learning, etc. But I also see the value in surrounding myself with all kinds of people, which is why I try to make some of my activities more sociable, e.g. attending classes, joining communities online, etc. Back in Peru, I was mainly on my own, which gave me a lot of time to invest in my reading, blogging and personal development in general. Once I arrived in Taiwan, however, it was a hectic fast-paced life with too many things to do and too little time.

It was in these moments that I realized I needed my therapeutic morning routines. My own ‘space’ to read and write. My own form of hectic lifestyle dictated by myself. Because it is only then that I am in control of what I do, and that’s the kind of order I need in my life. This, what I’m doing now in Taiwan, is something that I will continue seeking in my future travels, but not at ‘home’. I wasn’t sure of this while I was back in Peru; I was too busy worrying about my life not being socially hectic enough. But now I know.

My ‘home‘ cannot be a physical place, ever, because I am always slightly a foreigner in my homes. In Peru, where my Asian face gives away my origins. In Taiwan, where my slight Mandarin accent suggests I was not raised there. In wherever I set my foot in, because my multiculturalism will shine through my personality. As long as I know my true identity, I can find home anywhere I am.

Michelle (aka Misty Prose)

To New Beginnings

Two weeks away from a new year, and it feels like everything is ending. Christmas decorations everywhere, the festive vibe that surrounds us, and the excitement about things coming to an end is already prepping me for 2017.  These are some things that are getting me excited ready for an amazing new year:

I revamped my blog design to the one you’re seeing right now. This is the first theme that I have ever purchased, and I finally settled on this one because of the multiple layout variations (6, to be exact) that this design offers. And knowing myself, I’m quite prone to changing my blog design every now and then. I’m still getting the hang of it, and I’ve realized that most of my images suck (it makes my blog look like a piece of sh*t, to be really honest). At the beginning I tried using the pictures I had taken on my iPhone, but I grew tired of spending so much time editing them that I guiltily switched to using pictures I found online. But because of this, I lack a ‘consistency’ in my aesthetics that I have yet to find, and I hope I can improve my photography skills for 2017.

I am almost done with college applications. This is my second attempt to get into college (long story), and I’m much more certain about my choices this year. I should be able to say good-bye to all college-related stuff in a few days and, man, won’t I be glad about that. Well, at least until the decisions come out in March-April.

I am going back to my homeland next week! It’s been 8 years since I have last been back in Taiwan, and I can’t wait to see my entire family. I have waited long enough. I’m so ready to eat all the food, visit all the amazing bookstores, relish the Taiwanese culture that has been missing from my life, and just enjoy the change of environment. There’s also a possibility that I’ll be traveling up North to Tokyo! Japan is one of the top countries I want to visit in my lifetime, and though I’d be going for just a few days, I want to see and learn as much as I can in that time. We’ll see how that goes.

2017 will be drastically different for me. Besides going back to my country, I’ll also be attending my brother’s graduation in California later in the year (another exciting event!). Mainly, though, 2017 will be the year I pull myself out of the comfort zone of my country. Up to this year, I have learned so much from school and on my own – but most of that learning has taken place in the country I grew up in, which is nice – but it’s time I stepped out of my shell.

I’m planning to go traveling (solo) on my own at any given opportunity (or opportunities). I originally intended to go backpacking, but because that won’t be financially feasible nor put my parents at ease (me? a girl traveling alone? ya crazy?), I am considering traveling via an NGO or organization that allows me to work or volunteer in exchange for living a food. I want to travel, but reduce the costs of doing so as much as possible.

Finally, 2017 will be the year I begin my college career. I have been out of school for a year now, and being unemployed nor enrolled in any school has brought out all the possible fears that I used to dread horribly. My worst case scenario (not getting into college) happened, and I have learned my lesson and so many other things by being out of an arranged system that I can’t say I genuinely feel bad for not following the traditional track. With this experience, I do feel more confident about my choices once I go into college. I’m worried about how I’ll adjust to the academic life again, but in terms of ‘life skills’, I think I can survive better than I did last year!

How will 2017 be different for you?

Misty Prose