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.

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The Best Four Years

Yesterday, my sister graduated from high school. It was an exciting and special moment to share with her, and also a little bit nostalgic. Pretty soon she’ll be off to college and be making more memories that will last a lifetime.

Some people say that college is the best four years of your life, and to an extent, they were right. They were the best four years of my life… so far. However, I don’t want my best four years to be so early on in my life that everything goes downhill after that. I hope that I have even better moments as life goes on and that I could have even more “best years of my life.”

Where does that mentality about college come from anyway? Why do people speak of the “glory days” when referring to the past? Shouldn’t we be striving to make every day a little bit better than the last, rather than glorifying something we will never again experience?

As she moves onto college, learns more about herself, and works to become the best person she can be, I hope that she’ll enjoy every moment. I hope that she can look back at her four years of school and say that they were good, maybe even the best for the moment, but that she’ll see the bright future ahead of her and go forth with a positive outlook on it.

As for me, I am still a little bit sad that four years of school went by so quickly, but I am thankful for all that I experienced and for the people in my life that I met because of going to college where I did. I may never see some of them again, but I will forever cherish those memories and continue to live life making new ones.

All Seasons Come to an End

A few weeks ago, I went home for what schools typically call “spring break”.  Spring is when my campus is filled with blossoming trees, the smell of fresh mulch that makes me hold my breath, and the comforting warmth wrapping around my body, accompanied by a bright sunlight that I haven’t seen in months. Spring has always been a different experience in my hometown since I live in the north. You have to learn to enjoy every moment of it, because it is fleeting. We get a couple of days a year where the flowers on trees are blooming, but it is a beauty that does not last. This year, I spent my spring break indoors when I wasn’t shoveling the piles of snow that were up to my waist from the Stella blizzard.

It was March. We had a cold winter, but not a bad one in terms of weather. Usually my spirits start to get lifted in March because I know that spring is coming. However, it was already halfway through the month and we had just gotten a huge snowstorm that we spent the entire week shoveling ourselves out of. I knew that spring was still on its way, but I was a lot less optimistic about how quickly it would arrive. At this point, I couldn’t imagine it ever arriving.

Just like the weather goes through different seasons, we go through different seasons in our life. Sometimes we have a period of happiness, enthusiasm, hope. Other times, we find ourselves stressed out and overwhelmed, wondering when the next positive season will be coming. Recently I have been going through a lot with some personal issues that have come up, which is why I have not written a blog post in over a month. When I started this blog, I had planned to write a post every week, and I kept up with it even during my busiest times. However, I reached a point where I just couldn’t keep up. I was juggling too many things at once and it was not good for me.

Last week, the weather started getting better. The sun came out and I could finally walk around outside without wearing a winter jacket. To this very minute I still find it hard to believe that it is no longer winter. You will reach this point in your life. If you are going through a hard time, don’t be discouraged! Just as all good things come to an end, so do all bad things.

Studying abroad is a season, high school is a season, what struggles you are going through are just a season in your life. Make the most of the good seasons. Slow down and take everything in. Learn from the bad seasons and know that better things are on their way. You may not be able to see your spring quite yet, but it’s coming.

Don’t Miss the Moment

So many people are living yesterday or dreaming about tomorrow that they miss the now. They’re thinking about going abroad or when they went abroad. They’re both wonderful things but don’t miss the here and now because what was got you to this moment and what is now will get you to that future moment that you’re dreaming about, so embrace the here and now and live it to its fullest.

Whenever people ask me if I miss being abroad, I tell them that I do, but only a little bit. The joy I receive from spending time with my loved ones and being in a familiar place outweighs that negative feeling of missing the life I lived a year ago. I looked forward to being abroad in anticipation of what was going to be. Now that I’ve done it, I have fantastic memories. However I also have my life at this moment (friends, classes). The life that you live is going on. Remember that the life you’re living now is preparation for what will be. Enjoy the moment, including the painful ones because they are lessons. 

While I was away, I missed home very much. I missed my family, my friends, my school, and especially my significant other. Homesickness is real and I don’t like when people try to make those who feel homesick bad for feeling that way. Despite feeling homesick, I did not let that paralyze me to the point of not having fun and making Skype calls home every day for hours on end. I counted myself as fortunate to be able to travel around Europe and live the dream I had been wanting to live for years. I took advantage of my opportunity. It was worth it and I would never take that experience back. What I normally tell people when they ask me how I feel is, “I was happy in Europe and I am happy at home. I am happy wherever I am.” The last thing I want people to think is that I was unhappy going abroad.

Be happy wherever you are. Live the life you want to live with what you have around you. Count the blessings in your life. If times are tough, remember that they are just lessons for you to learn and without them, you would not be the person you are today. Without the good and bad moments in life, you would not have gotten to this point. Most importantly, do not spend your life wishing away the present moment for something you are excited for in the future. Embrace now. Live now.

Count Your Blessings

About a week ago, many Americans sat around the dinner table with their families and a giant meal, and shared what they were thankful for. Thanksgiving is a holiday that gets observed one day a year but who says that we need to follow the calendar? Whether you are American, Panamanian, French, Polish, or just human, you can and should take a little bit of time out of your day to be thankful for something.

Many have suggested that a good remedy for discouragement and unhappiness is meditating on what we are thankful for. How many times do we hear that advice and actually put it into practice? I have started doing this, making a mental list of the things I am grateful for. I start with what is the most important to me, things I should not take for granted such as:

  • the environment I grew up in
  • the fact I still have all my grandparents and that my parents are still together after 30 years
  • that I can see, hear, walk, run, and do many daily things without a problem

Then, I gradually ease into material things that are still nice, but should not dominate my life such as:

  • going to my dream school
  • being able to travel throughout Europe
  • having a significant other

When you really think about it, you would be surprised how quickly you can form your list and how long it can go. Everyone’s list will be a little bit different, but I encourage you, the readers, to start thinking of a list of things you are thankful for and see how you start to feel after forming a habit out of this.

 

Do What You Love

Last month, while sitting in church, I had told the congregation that I was going to be taking the GRE. I said that I was worried about the test, but even more importantly, about my future because I do not know exactly what I want to do after college. The man standing at the pulpit, who was somewhere in his 60s, responded, “I’m 60 and I still don’t know what I want to do either.”

Why is it so hard to decide what career path we are going to choose? There are two kinds of people: those who tell us to follow our heart and do what we love in order to get fulfillment and others who put pressure on us to get a job that we may not love but will keep us financially stable.

Being a senior in college, I have only had a very small taste of the real world. However, there is something I have realized in the past year when I went abroad. You can already start to do what you love without it being your career.

I love writing and I enjoy helping others. I started this blog as a means to keep friends and family updated on my travels while I studied in Europe. After having returned to the United States, I still keep up with this blog for the purpose of helping those who will be going abroad themselves. I write about content that I wish I knew before going abroad, being the worrier that I am. I also have a YouTube channel that goes by the same name as this blog. There, I documented all my trips using foreign languages, and now I dedicate it to helping others learn languages.

What you love does not have to be successful for you to enjoy it. In a world where anyone can create a blog or make YouTube videos, getting subscribers is difficult and very competitive. Currently, I have a small following on both my blog and my YouTube channel compared to those who have thousands of followers, but that has not stopped me from creating content for the purpose of helping others. My goal is to help someone. If my blog or channel goes viral one day because of that, then so be it. If not, I am still happy that I am helping the small group of people subscribed to me.

It is important to live a life you enjoy. Being a college student can be both monotonous and overwhelming. I hear that the real world is worse. If you do not give yourself time to do what you love, whether it is volunteering, playing a sport, or making crafts, you will get burnt out and bored with life.

Winston Churchill once said, “Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.” I am already doing what I want to do. I get fulfillment out of seeing how happy people get when they understand a difficult grammar concept in Spanish or French, or when they get excited rather than worry about traveling.

You too can start doing what you love.