The Secret to Happiness

Our bodies are intriguing. They are so complex that even the world’s smartest minds haven’t figured out all the intricacies that lie inside. Many people put an emphasis on parts that are being researched, such as the brain or the heart. Others will pay special attention to areas on our bodies that society deems important. What about parts like the nose? For some, it is their defining trait and we are quick to notice. However, I am willing to bet that most don’t pay attention to their own nose, unless they are in front of a mirror. Most of the time, we don’t even realize what is in front of us until we smell something bad or really good. A good possibility for why we don’t notice our nose is because our brain tends to edit it out. We don’t see it.

Happiness is like a nose. It is there all along, but our brain edits it out. We are quick to see the negative and overwhelming circumstances in life. Look in front of you. Start with the small things that make you happy, whether it is the beauty of wild flowers, or a puppy enjoying a walk. Try doing an activity that you enjoyed as a child! Reflect on what happened after a long day: Did someone treat you with kindness today? Did you do something to bring joy to someone else?

There are some phrases my dad used to say when I was a kid that I will never forget, such as the “put it back” jingle he would sing when I wanted to buy a toy that I was not going to go home with that day. One of his favorite phrases to use on my sister and I frequently was: “Pay attention.” Even as I type this, I can hear him say those two words in the specific tone he used. We need to slow down and pay attention to the countless blessings that surround us in this busy world, because happiness isn’t very far away at all.

The Danger of “Good Enough”

The language-learning community likes to talk about the downfalls of being a perfectionist. When learning a language, making mistakes is inevitable, whether you like it or not. Learners can choose to learn from those mistakes, and sometimes even get a good laugh from them, or they can shy away from meeting new people and never reach their goal of becoming conversational in the language that they are learning because they are afraid of making mistakes when speaking or writing in that language.

The same goes for life. We aim for perfection and are constantly looking to better ourselves through inspirational talks on YouTube, self-help books, and reassuring blog posts. We know that we are not perfect, and we never will be perfect; at least not in this life.

Some people have accepted that fact, which is okay. If we strive for perfection then we will fail.  However, we should not settle for who we are right now. There is always something about us that we can be working on, while striving to be the best version of ourselves. The moment we settle and say that we are “good enough”, we make the conscious decision to stop growing. It is important to see the need for constant growth in our lives, because if we aren’t growing, then we are dying.

What kind of person were you in high school? How did you treat others? Would you want to go back to being that person? Look at your life in the past year. Would you want to be the same person you were even a year ago, making the same mistakes?

No matter how great you may think you are, or how much improvement you feel like you have been making, you still have a long way to go, and so do I. Look at it as motivation to continue on the path that you started, or even change your direction completely. Either way, don’t strive for “perfect” and never settle for “good enough.” Aim for “even better than yesterday.”

Live Without Regrets

My dad has used the line: Live your life in such a way that you will have no regrets at the end. The reason he says that is because at the age of 10, he lost his father to a sudden heart attack, at age 11 he lost his home and every earthly possession to a major flood, and at the age of 12 his favorite baseball player was killed in a tragic airplane accident. He learned early on that things don’t last and that you never know what tomorrow will bring. He said that if you want to do something, do it; if you want to say something, say it. You don’t want to get to the end of your life and say, “I wish I would have…” or “I wish I wouldn’t have…”

I just finished my senior year of college. With that comes a flood of questions, but there is one that I have been dwelling on, even before I graduated: How do you feel? 

Just like any other life-changing situation I’ve gone through, I felt and am feeling a lot of things. However, not one of them is regret. I made sure to make the most of my time at Gettysburg during my four years there. I did almost everything and visited every restaurant that I wanted to, leaving me satisfied. Most of all, I made memories that I will never forget.

This past school year, my introverted side took over more than ever and I know that part of that was due to reverse culture shock. During the two semesters, I constantly battled with wanting to have alone time because of being drained from work, but also wanting to make sure that I was spending time with those who were special to me before potentially never seeing any of them again.

Despite having the mentality of wanting to spend time with others, there were times where saying “no” was necessary for the sake of being able to rest. There were also times where I needed to put my work aside for an hour, after working on it for many hours, to spend time with my friends. In the end, I wasn’t left wishing that I had spent more time with people. Life is all about balance and balance prevents regret.

So how do I feel after all is said and done? I am still swimming in a sea of feelings, but making the most of my time at school has helped me feel ready to move on overall. No matter what stage of life you are in, if you just finished high school, just finished college, or if you are finishing a completely different chapter of life, make the most of it because you never know what will come next.

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Balancing School and Travel

Every college student is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There’s the side that likes to binge-watch Netflix or funny videos on YouTube. They seem carefree and you almost wonder how they pass class, because you never see them doing their work. That’s when you see the other side: the student that stays up from anywhere between 2-4 in the morning, scrambling to finish their assignment, paper, etc. This is a stressful way to live, and pretty unhealthy if you aren’t getting enough sleep or eating the right things. With this lifestyle, it makes it a lot harder to travel.

This past weekend, I traveled to a city two hours away to give a talk at a conference. I had almost no time to do any work because I had been going to sessions almost every half hour. However, I knew that I wouldn’t want to do my work the day I got back from the trip, because I would be tired from traveling and hearing more talks. To spare myself lots of stress, I planned ahead and did what assignments I could during the previous week. This technique has always helped me when traveling.

When I was in Madrid, I traveled literally every weekend. I would leave on Thursday and get back Sunday. Sometimes I would just do a day trip, but I was still traveling. I would always get my homework done before leaving. Some of my classmates would bring their homework with them on trips, but I know that I would never be able to get it done on a trip, nor would I enjoy my trip if I spent it doing homework. If you are busy during the week, I would suggest doing the little, easier, quicker assignments first. Whenever you are already in homework mode, doing your other homework, get a little bit ahead by doing an assignment that is due when you come back from your trip. If you keep doing a little bit at a time, you may be surprised at how much you get done. If you decide to do all of your homework at once, that can be draining but then you won’t have to worry about any homework.

What kind of student are you? Do you ever work ahead? Share your homework tips below!

The Day of Love and Friendship

It has been said that “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” We see what others have on Facebook and we long for the same things. As we get caught up in thinking about what we don’t have, we never stop to think that maybe someone might be looking at our life that way. Have you ever thought that you could have something that everyone else wants? Instead of looking at other people’s lawns, we should work on watering our grass, taking care of what we have. Do you have a close relationship with your sibling? A grandparent? A parent? A pet? Do you have a group of friends that are there to support you, or even a best friend that you know you can trust with everything? Some people don’t have any of that. However, if there is one thing I know, there is always something to be thankful for, no matter how small.

Many people have strong feelings about today. It can be seen in the many ways that people refer to it: Singles Awareness Day, Valentine’s Day, GALentine’s Day, etc. Recently, I was trying to put together a lesson plan that included Valentine’s Day vocabulary in Spanish. When I was researching about the holiday, one interesting phrase that I kept seeing pop up was “El día del amor y la amistad” (Day of Love and Friendship). It made me really think. You can have a significant other and still not do anything for Valentine’s Day. You can be single and still celebrate the day.

When I was younger, my parents would take our family out to a restaurant every year. We celebrated a day of love, but a different kind of love. As I got older, I started celebrating the day with my friends. Currently I am in a relationship, but I have yet to spend the day with my significant other. Two years ago, we weren’t able to celebrate together, so my friends and I put together a delicious potluck dinner in our apartment at school, celebrating a day of friendship. Last year, I was abroad in France while my boyfriend remained in the United States. I couldn’t be with him, and we still talked on Skype, but I went to the movies with two of my good girl friends and then we went out to a restaurant. Both of those days were special days, even if they were not spent in the way that the holiday gets commercialized.

Your special someone does not have to be your significant other. You do not have to have romantic feelings for someone to make today special. If you have a significant other, then great! Celebrate the day with that person and remember to love them every day. If you don’t have a significant other, then spend the day with whoever your special someone is. Celebrate the other kinds of love that exist, and remember to love that person every day as well. Valentine’s Day is a lot like Thanksgiving. We tend to get caught up in life and forget to be thankful and love others daily. Don’t limit love to one day.

Loving Through Language

It started with a love of languages.

After winter break of my freshman year of college, I was at a dinner, talking about what I had done over the break. I sheepishly explained that I had spoken Spanish with my mother and spent much of my time studying French. The boy next to me said that he didn’t think that was nerdy at all and that he would have done the same if he had a relative to speak another language with. That’s when I casually gave the invitation to practice Spanish with me whenever he wanted. It was an invitation I gave out often but never got a response. I wanted a way of being able to keep up with my Spanish while I was away from home.

When I gave the invitation out this time, the results were different. A few nights later, the two of us walked home from watching a movie in a friend’s apartment and that’s when he started conversing in Spanish with me. This lead to a friendship based on speaking the Spanish language. We would share music with each other, talk about what was going on in our lives, and more! Spanish was something special that connected the two of us. There were many people who would wonder what we were saying and get frustrated that they didn’t understand. It was our little secret.

As time went on, we started studying together and became swing dance partners. We grew close and got to know each other well, becoming good friends. We really enjoyed each other’s company. Our sophomore year, we started to date.

Almost two and a half years later, we are still together. We’ve had to endure challenges such as being long distance for a length of time but have made it through. We still speak Spanish frequently, although not as frequently as before. Recently he has started learning Russian and I have started learning Korean. We share what we learn with each other and continue to love through language.

I have read many stories online about couples who have met through language exchange/penpal websites and was always amazed by the connection two people could make through a common interest in a language. I never thought that I would be one of those people, and that I would meet someone on my campus. Have you ever had an experience where you really connected with someone based on a love for languages? Tell your story in the comments below!

It’s Okay to Say “No”

Today my class was asked to name three things that we have learned in our past three years of college. Everyone is constantly learning and growing. It shouldn’t have been hard to think of what I have learned. Some of those things were inside the classroom, such as good note-taking, time management, and making wise decisions. Other experiences, such as learning that good friends don’t always make good roommates, happened outside of the classroom. I have learned many things in the past three years. However, I learned one of the most important life lessons last semester when I found myself being stressed out, tired, and cranky all the time. I learned the importance of rest.

When I look at many of my friends, I see them doing homework and going to class, but I also see them watching Netflix daily, playing video games, spending time with others, and going out. I am the type of person who likes to work hard and play later. I did what was required of me for classes and even tried to get ahead. I took on four jobs, tutoring for three classes and working on campus. But I didn’t stop there. Even outside of my paid hours, I would help others because it gave me fulfilment to see a difference in the lives of others. Eventually everything caught up to me and people started taking advantage of my “free time.” I thought I was getting somewhere, but in the end I felt like I was running on a treadmill, tiring myself out trying to go somewhere but actually getting nowhere.

By the end of the semester, I was not myself. I realized that taking breaks is better than trying to go and go until you make yourself sick over it. It is time to start saying no to things. At first, I couldn’t because I was afraid of letting others down, but when you aren’t able to function like normal you are letting others down, especially yourself. I don’t want to spend this semester, my final semester, the same way as I spent my last one. I want to remember my college experience as a good experience. Part of that means taking care of myself and saying no.

Do you find that you have a hard time saying no to things? Have you said no to the wrong things?