Category

Uncategorized

Category

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

a week in my life

This isn’t so much about what I did this week but more about my thoughts as I did these things. These don’t include the ‘social activities’ which I’ll be starting again next week, but this is pretty much what I do if I could organize my week around the things that I personally want to do and enjoy doing.

what I’m working on…

My bucket list. How to challenge myself in the months leading up to college. Keeping busy lest my anxiety over college admissions takes over my actions. My days consist of reading (a lot), blogging, learning languages and researching about my future travel(s), doing all kinds of exercises and workouts, playing the cello, practicing my skills on photography and calligraphy, and work-related things.

I try to stick to a weekly schedule so I spend more time doing than thinking about what to do, but I always try to revolve my activities around creativity so it never gets dull.

what I’m reading…

Finished 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. It’s one of those books that is so twisted, mysterious and luring that makes you  want to sacrifice everything else to read it. I finished it in 6 days, and this is possibly the longest novel I’ve read (new record?).

I usually read several books at once. Currently, I’m enjoying Books for Living by Will Schwalbe; in each chapter the author relates a personal experience and a specific book that has opened his eyes further. It is due to this book that I picked up Gift from the Sea by  Anne Morrow Lindbergh, which I’m absolutely loving.

For languages, I’m reading Italian Short Stories For Beginners and Chineasy Everyday. I’m trying to learn basic Italian and improve my Chinese through extensive (instead of intensive) reading and, so far, I’m quite happy with my progress.

what I’m listening to…

Music-wise, I listen to most of my music on Spotify, to the playlists that are recommended to me, like “Discover Weekly”. So far, my March playlist includes The Cloud Song  by Meiko, Classic by MKTO, and Yesterdays by Ricky Smith.

From time to time, I love listening to this Studio Ghibli Cello Collection. It has several pieces from some of the most popular anime films, cello version.

I hope to get back on Audible, as I have a few paid books unread, as well as other motivation podcasts. I usually listen to these while I’m doing things that allow me to multitask, e.g. working out, simple things like making a collage or practicing my writing, etc.

what I’m watching…

Switched at Birth, an American TV series, just aired Season 5 a few weeks ago, and so I’ve been watching it since then. I love the show because it deals with all kinds of social issues, struggles and disabilities. It prompts us to question our moral code by challenging our current beliefs. I don’t agree with its portrayal completely, and it’s a bit too dramatic for my taste, but I feel that it generally evokes a pretty good effect on the audience.

Films:

  • Last night I watched Manchester by the Sea, and it’s probably the most depressing film I have ever watched. If you haven’t watched it yet, here’s a tip: don’t watch it when you’re moody/sad/depressed/not well. It’s a somber film.
  • I saw Pawn Sacrifice earlier this week and… it was dense. A biographical drama film, I was astounded by the strong personality of Bobby Fischer (protagonist and chess grandmaster).
  • I also watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and I felt a bit let down. I knew that this would happen, as my loyalty for a Harry Potter-related film are unsurpassable. It was good, though. Good.

what I’m thinking…

Will I go to college this year? Trying really hard not to think about it, but after going through this ordeal last year, it’s hard not to let that experience influence my current mood.

-Michelle

a quiet life | gift from the sea

I mean to lead a simple life, to choose a simple shell I can carry easily – like a hermit crab. But I do not. I find that my frame of life does not foster simplicity.

We owe it to ourselves to have a moment of quiet in our day-to-day lives. Amidst a world in which we are busier than ever, yet can’t seem to find time for ourselves . We should find somewhere we can retreat to in times of need, a place within us. In a world where we envision cutting edge technology making our lives easier, but often fail to see how it has isolated us.

We have willingly imprisoned ourselves in the modern Orwellian era, in which we anxiously clutch to our devices like precious treasures 24/7; in which we can’t live without being virtually connected, yet seem to forget about the physical one; in which we find it a need to know everything that is going on with those around us and beyond.

For it is not physical solitude that actually separates one from other men, not physical isolation, but spiritual isolation.

I think we owe it to ourselves to lead a quiet life at least every once in a while. One without computers and cellphones, TV’s and tablets, wifi and social media, and everything else that robs us of being in the present moment. We owe it to our family, friends and acquaintances to look at them in the eye when we’re talking to them and not our devices that excite us with every new ‘news’ that pops up.

It is when we put all of these distractions away that we can really live a life full of presence. Yes, our lives exists physically, virtually, spiritually, and god knows in what other form – but it is the physical one in which we feel the deepest of our human emotions, in which we learn to behave as a human, and not as slaves to our creations.

The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of the whole web of human relationships.

It’s impossible to be alone in today’s world. Maybe the elderly or those who haven’t given in to all the access that we have to technology are able to lead a calm, quiet life. But chances are that you can’t. But you can make space for yourself.

You can give yourself one moment every day. Whether it’s in your morning meditation sessions, afternoon jogs, or dinners, you choose when they are. Prioritize this time before you lose it to distractions that will make it harder for you to get away from. It’s not easy, it’s highly tempting, and you might not always care.

But as long as you’re conscious of what’s happening around you, consciously aware, the door is always there for you to make a turn for the better.


The quotes I used for this post are from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea“. It’s a book written in 1955, and directed mainly towards women and motherly struggles, but it has become a timeless book that anyone of either gender can find solace in when life becomes too chaotic. Though I haven’t yet finished the book, I have found plenty of lessons that resonate with me within the first few chapters already. I encourage you to read it, too.

-Michelle

take a walk

I choose between three options: bike, jog, or roller skate.

Biking is the easiest one, so I always try to bike longer distances. Jogging is the most physically exhausting one, so I only jog about 4 km on average. Roller skating is neither easy nor physically exhausting for me; it’s just… scary, for a novice like me. I trip and fall over small bumps, and I can’t even go down slops on my own at all. So I skate for 4-5 km as well (usually with my dad jogging alongside me).

There’s a huge park/sports area of 15 minutes walking distance from my house. I go there every time I want to do some outdoor exercising. The park is basically a huge 4 km loop, which surrounds a huge territory of grassland and the Minister of Defense in the middle. An increasing amount of people go there every day at all times, which is nice to see. Fitness is finally getting contagious.

But I have never walked the whole loop. I see many people walking whenever I’m biking, jogging, or skating. I see them because I’m always going at a faster speed than them. I don’t walk because it doesn’t make me sweat as much. No, that’s an excuse; it’s mainly because I can’t stand the slow pace of walking.

Which is strange because I consider walking to be the most calming and therapeutic thing to do. It’s the one thing that reminds us to fully enjoy the journey, to be fully aware and present each step of the way. I started taking walks in different places and at different paces. On my way to the sports park; in another (smaller) park with fewer people; on my way to somewhere. I don’t listen to music, unlike when I’m exercising. I don’t walk with anyone; I’m my own company. I like to tune in to my senses: what do I see in the space that surrounds me? How do I feel, right now, in this moment? What (pleasant) smells do I sense that are out of the ordinary? I don’t actually say any of these things to myself (that would be plain weird). But I do make these observations and, gradually, I tune in to the environment that surrounds me.

All day every day, we are being saturated by all kinds of things. We are always checking our phones, laptops, and other screens; whether it’s for work or for leisure, it’s an inevitability in the modern age. We listen to all kinds of things – music, news, cars honking, people talking; we rarely get a chance to be alone unless we choose to be alone. But when everyone around us is doing the same thing, it’s hard to not be part of that crowd.

And before we know it, we’re in the black hole.

But when I walk… it’s as if these things, all these distractions and burdens, blur into the background. Everything that goes on around me is completely unrelated to me. People are minding their own business. I may cross paths with them, some even may glance my way if I happen to rush through with my bike, but they’re all too focused on themselves to care. They’re all too busy with their lives to notice this tiny person walking quietly by herself.

And so I open myself to what surrounds me as a whole. I acknowledge the horrible traffic that overwhelms the streets at rush hour. I observe the people that walk quickly, calmly, or slowly. I see the houses that are on my field of vision and wonder what kind of lives live within them. I listen to the music the nature sings to me. Sometimes, I pause for a mere few seconds, and am so glad that there are so many parks near me, even if some are amidst the busy streets.

What is life, if we can’t even take a moment to walk around at a steady pace? Must we always rush our lives at a speed faster than is good for us?

-Michelle

what it means to be beautiful

Like many people, my fashion sense has been an important part of my identity ever since I was young. I enjoyed mixing and matching my outfits, even if it took me more time than necessary figuring out what I was going to wear. As I grew older, I craved more: I wanted to wear makeup. With countless celebrities and YouTubers who promote such usage, I was drawn into a lifestyle sparkled by makeup, beauty tutorials, and things that I wished could help me hide my insecurities.

Frustration kicked in when I wasn’t allowed to do so, at least not until much, much later. But by 18, I had already gone through 8 years of acne, a period which attacked my self-esteem constantly. Besides being the first to have acne in my grade, I was also one of the few that had it bad all throughout middle and high school. My acne is partly genetic and partly hormonal, and at that young age I couldn’t really do much besides trying out a few different (and expensive) face products.

By the time I bought my first few makeup items at 17, however, I no longer felt the need to hide my face. From then till now (at 19), I’ve only worn it during more formal events, such as parties, reunions and my music performances. Gradually, as my acne cleared and I came to the realization that – to some extent – makeup was just makeup, my focus shifted. I like how a layer of foundation, blush and eye makeup can make my face look sparkler. But washing my face off after a day of makeup, and letting my skin breathe has made me appreciate my natural face much more.

Don’t get me wrong – I still like makeup, and can’t help but eye the beauty section curiously at times, but I no longer deem them as necessary to make me look beautiful. I can feel beautiful when I sleep, eat and exercise well. I can look beautiful when I take care of my skin with a good skin care routine. I can dress nicely and style my hair in ways that can change my appearance without changing who I physically am.

But makeup? That’s the last thing on my list. I’m tired of constantly looking at people, whether on ads, TV or real life, that make us believe our skin could be better, shinier, and more ‘beautiful’ with that product. This feeling of inadequacy and dissatisfaction is an unnecessary burden, and there’s no reason why any of us have to fall into the trap if we’re happy with my our own body and self.

However, I can also see how many people delve into the makeup world because they truly enjoy it – our face is a canvas, and makeup is the tool with which we paint on it. We can make our face differently each time, an ephemeral form of art that washes out at the end of the day. It’s an aesthetic mask that you’re choosing to wear. Whether it reflects the true you or not, that’s something that only you know, after all. But as much as you mask who you are, you can never hide from yourself.

After all, true beauty comes from the inside and shines on the outside. By taking care of your body and skin, your glowing image will radiate to those around you. The way you nurture and take care of yourself shape how you feel, which in turn shapes your personality respectively. Anything and everything else is a layer that you can choose to wear, but don’t need in your life.

-Michelle

create your ideal study space

If you don’t want to read the whole post, you can watch the video below!!

I’m lucky to have my own study space in my room where I can do all my creative work, writing and some studying. The thing that is great (or not so great) about my study space is that the WiFi of my house doesn’t reach this part of my room, so I mostly stick to non-Internet work, which is a great way to prevent myself from being distracted from my phone/laptop.

This also allows me to be creative with my desk area, which will – hopefully – inspire my work as well. Even though my desk does seem too cluttered/colorful/whatever, I’m so used to it being like this that it doesn’t really affect me at all. The good overall atmosphere of my desk area is good enough for my taste.

So, below I have compiled several tips on creating your ideal study space, as well as the most suitable study environment, so that you can create the ideal desk area for you:

On your study space…

Choose a place. Ideally, it should be somewhere where you can study and work uninterrupted for periods at a time.

Allow natural light to come in. My desk is directly below a source of natural light, which makes it perfect to work from the morning till mid-afternoon.

Invest in good lighting. This is so crucial for so many reasons. The main one is, obviously, so you can work effectively at night. The second one is that if you work under poor lightning, it will strain your eyes faster. As someone who is (very) nearsighted, I highly advocate investing in good lighting.

Have a trash bin near. This is very important if you really want to keep your desk area clean. I keep mine right below my desk, so it’s always there when I want to throw/recycle paper, random trash, and even dust. Anything that resembles that of a trash can will work.

Keep your desk as clean as possible. Mine is usually 85% clear, except for a few stationery storage pots and cases. If you can, store everything in your drawers and/or on your shelves.

Use your drawers and storage tools wisely. I love these Muji acrylic storage tools and displaying all my favorite stationery and notebooks. I got these recently when I visited my family in Taiwan, and, as you can see… I went a little crazy. Anyhow, I love how these can help you use your space more efficiently as well as give a clean feel to your desk.

I have the rest of my stationery and other materials in the table drawers. These include my journals and other materials that I want to have within my reach, but not displayed on my desk at all times.

Inspire yourself. Look for inspiration around you and online by observing how others organize their study spaces and why. Then surround yourself with inspiration: whether it’s organizing the bookshelf near your study space so it looks more study-friendly, hanging or pasting inspiring photos up on your wall, etc.

Your study space doesn’t need to be fixed. You may have ‘the one’ study space at home, but remember that it’s always a good idea to switch up your environment every once in a while. Personally, I find that studying at libraries and coffee shops – places where you visibly surround yourself with people who are working – forces me to get down to my work more. This is because I’m a very self-conscious person, but I know that this slight discomfort will wear away gradually. And hey – it works.

On your study environment…

Choose soothing, instrumental music. I’ve grown used to working with any kind of (pleasing) music, but the best ones will always be the classical and/or instrumental ones, as they provide a less distracting background noise. If you must listen to lyrical music, however, then choose ones in a language that you don’t understand that well (so you don’t subconsciously follow the music more than what you’re working on).

Have a glass of water on your desk. It is easy for me to fall so deep into my work that I forget to eat, and the best way to remind myself that I’m human is by putting my necessities in front of me. A glass or bottle of water is the #1 essential on my desk.

Put healthy snacks around you! Chances are, if you’re very busy, your mind will be more focused on your work than on what you’re eating. So just like having water on your desk, make sure you have some snacks available near you. Some ideas include: nuts, fruits (already washed and cut), dried fruit, dark chocolate, etc. Make sure to store all unhealthy snacks away, to prevent yourself from grabbing them from impulse.

Lastly, the important thing is that you organize your desk in a way that accommodates your needs and likes the best way. What works for me may not work for you. Having a “study space” is such a simple thing, as it changes all the time, but it’s a fun and easy way to get creative.

-Michelle

how to read more

I find it offensive when someone says something along the lines of “I don’t like to read”,  or “Reading’s boring.”

Bullsh*t. By generalizing your dislike of books based on the previous books that you read and didn’t like is not only erroneous, but offensive to them books! I consider books as my mentors, and sources of entertainment and solace. They are like films, but with much more space for your imagination to run wild.

You only need to find that one book that gets you hooked, and you are on.

establishing your why

Why do you want to read? What purpose do you have? What motivates you?

We can easily classify our motivation to read in 2 ways: extrinsic and intrinsic.

If you want to read because your teacher, parent or someone else asked you to do so, that’s an extrinsic motivation. Your rewards may vary from good grades to praise to awards. And this is a great motivator to start with. But it’s not enough.

The other form of motivation – and usually the harder one to gain – is intrinsic motivation. This means that your desire to read comes because you genuinely find it rewarding for yourself. Reading fiction to improve your imagination. Self-growth books to improve your emotional intelligence. Novels with complex characters to make you more empathetic. If you truly recognize these benefits from your reading, all the other external factors and rewards will not affect your choice to do so, because your purpose to read already goes beyond what’s superficial.

When you reach such conclusion, congrats! You have found your true inner purpose. In my case, I started reading to learn English. That was back when I was in 3rd grade, and poor 8 year-old-me suffered in English classes. So I made myself read a book. Every. Single. Day. And this forceful action that took place for months gradually became a passion that I haven’t let go of, and it’s been 10 years since that event.

how to read in a daily basis

Morning, afternoon, and night. That’s pretty much the three standard parts in our day-to-day basis. The key to reading a little everyday is to ingrain it as part of your routine in at least one part of your day.

The first thing I do every morning (after I get up, brush my teeth, and make my bed) is read while I’m having breakfast. Breakfast = reading time. I have made this such an integral part of my routine that I do it automatically every morning. I know that you, the person reading this, probably don’t have the time to read during weekday mornings, as you probably have to rush off to school or work, but there are always other options!

The “don’t have time” excuse is no longer valid for today. Get yourself a subscription to Audible and find the book you’re most excited to read, and buy it. I know it’s more expensive, but if you value time and knowledge over money, it’ll be worth it. The thing about audiobooks is that you can multitask at the same time. If you’re on the bus or driving – listen to Audible. If you’re walking to work or exercising – listen to Audible. If you’re painting mindlessly or making collages – listen to Audible. As long as your mind can focus on the story, you can listen to the book.

Get comfortable reading everywhere during the day. It’s great to have a reading spot at home, where you can curl up comfortably with natural lightning right above you, but you’re not always going to be home, so you gotta learn to read in uncomfortable situations too. These, for me, are public places where the chair I’m sitting on (if there’s a chair) is not as comfortable, and there’s a lot of noise around me. Something that you can do to train your resistance to audio distractions is by listening to music while you read. This will help you train your mind to focus more on your reading, and make the music become just background noise. (This is completely based on my experience, so I can’ assure you that it will definitely work. But it’s worth a try!)

And lastly, I (try) to read every night before bed. Most times I’m just too tired to concentrate on a book, which is why I highly suggest reading FICTION before bed. If you read non-fiction (e.g. self-help), it will most likely cause your thoughts to wander too much, and hence disrupt your sleep. By reading some light fiction, you’ll forget about all the worries you have and lose yourself in the story. Of course, this may depend on your personality and preferences, but there’s a reason kids like bedtime stories 😉

tips to get your inner bookworm kickin’

Throughout my reading journey, I have found what I call my ‘reading personality’. I don’t just force myself to read, and that’s it. No, no, no. I take a series of steps to ensure that I’m always reading, no matter what. I guess you can call these reading hacks:

  • I take my bible- I mean, Kindle– everywhere. It has a very pretty case (which you can see in all the images above), so it makes the perfect accessory for me to carry.
  • Expand your book genres as well as book types. Have books about fiction, comics, business, mystery, and even coloring books if they make you happy (they sure make me happy), make sure you have at least a few in print, electronic and audio. That way, books will surround you (muahahah).
  • I always have 3+ current reads. And they’re usually of different genres, so there’s always something I can read depending on my mood.
  • I go to bookstores at every given opportunity. Once there, I can browse books that I find interesting and note them down on Goodreads. I might buy a book or two, but normally I’ll then go home and start reading them all on my Kindle. This is so that I don’t have to deal with the burden of book weight, and because Kindle books are always cheaper.
  • Buy books in print if they have a lot of visual content/diagrams. Or just buy them all in print, if you like the touch and smell of books. Oh, I also like to showcase them pretty books on my shelves, obviously.
  • You will be able to call yourself a bibliophile. It’s something that everyone can do, but not everyone does. And every bibliophile knows what a non-bibliophile is missing. Join the club.

I know that this was a (long) post about reading, which is not everyone’s cup of tea. But I do believe that it’s a great way to become an autodidact, and to take control of how and what you learn, as well as your actions and motivations. Like many activities, reading is something that, while may be initially challenging, can become such an integral and rewarding part of your life.

So, good luck!

-Michelle