Category

wanderlust

Category

blissful morning walks

I love when the sun rises early in the morning, and sets late at night, making the days seem longer and fuller. I enjoy walking out of my building and being greeted by the sunlight, even when it sometimes greets me too fiercely. I particularly relish my weekend morning walks around other parts of the neighborhood that I don’t normally pass by during the week. I love how the college dorms here are not inside campus, but rather in the areas surrounding it; it gives me the freedom to explore other parts of this town-like place, and it allows me to take these blissful morning walks. I am someone who believes in enjoying the small things in life, especially when nature is part of it. Taking a walk is the simplest way to wind down from the frenzy of life that surrounds us each day.

Taking a walk means challenging life’s demands. When I find that I’m overwhelmed by the demands of life, I make a conscious effort to walk in the places where nature is my surrounding company. It reminds me that I can choose to either rush my day to get as many things done as possible, or do a few things with thoughtful consideration without overstimulating myself. The world won’t end regardless of how much I squeeze into one day, so I might as well choose to spend it in the best way possible for me.

Taking a walk means doing something for yourself. By yourself. We easily spend so much time stimulating our senses artificially  that we deprive us of true alone time. We listen to music on our phones whilst we type away on our laptops, we watch videos or read articles online when we’re bored, we text people while we walk. Whenever we’re not interacting with others one-on-one, we fill our voids with the immediate stimulation that our devices can offer. But when we do this, we lose being in the company of ourselves. Taking a walk means listening to your footsteps, looking at the path in front of you, and noticing the details that surrounds you. Though I often feel like distracting myself with a good movie or burying my head in a book, it’s good to ground oneself back to reality at the end of the day.

Taking a walk means noticing our surroundings with a childlike curiosity. There are increasingly more places to see, cities to travel, and adventures to have. It’s always fascinating to go on a roadtrip adventure or visit an exotic place, as it’s literally an escape from our more mundane reality. It’s fun and important to travel somewhere where the culture and reality is different to that of your own, as it’s a valuable experience in itself. But it’s also important to remember that the things that surround us every day can be just as special. You don’t need to travel long distances to find novelty; you can find it exactly where you are right now, if you choose to do so.

I believe that it’s important to accept this before you decide to go out and explore more. It’s important to accept this because only then can you see everything that surrounds you with curiosity, not just the grand exotic places. It’s important to appreciate the richness in all the big and small things.

So, take a walk around your area, but take a different path this time. What story are behind the homes that you see? How do you feel, walking along a calm residential area as opposed to a busy city street? What sounds do you hear – are they human, animal or nature sounds? Welcome any thoughts that come into your mind as you walk along.

-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

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

moving away for the first time

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

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

And then, there’s home.

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

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

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

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

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

-Michelle

read the world | reading challenge

A few days ago, I listened to a TED talk about a woman who spent an entire year searching, seeking and reading 196 books from all 196 countries in the world. Her name is Ann Morgan, and she didn’t just read the world. She traveled across countries within her mind, got a glimpse of every culture and custom she came across with. She traveled the world through the eyes of people of different ages, nationalities, customs, and experiences. She did it with the help of many people who supported her along the way, but made the decision and took the steps herself. I want to take on this challenge as well.

I want to live inside the minds of those who have different values to me, who see the world in a completely different way than I do. As a bibliophile, I know how books have and can change a person. Though I’ve read books of different types and genres, but I have also enclosed myself within the Western-based literature. That will change now. As a wanderluster, my traveling experiences have always been intrinsically meaningful and unforgettable in their own unique ways.

By combining these two personal interests together, I shall travel the world.

How many books from how many countries have you read so far? How much do you really know about the world that you live in? Can you really call yourself a true bibliophile if you haven’t even books from most countries?

These were a few of the questions that I asked myself after listening to the TED talk. No matter how much I read and how many genres I touch, I’ll still be living in my happy little bubble if I don’t try to truly step out of my comfort zone. Read books of cultures that completely baffle me, written by authors I’ve never bothered to learn about before. It took Ann Morgan 1 year to complete the challenge, but it will take me at least a few years to choose, get hold of, and read all 196 books. And that’s alright, because the purpose is to achieve this challenge regardless of how long it takes me.

I have made a page to record my progress on this challenge – which I will start by May 2017.

-Michelle