M.I.A in Life

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I realize I have been missing in action on this blog. Sadly, I have not only been missing from my writing, but from my life. Somewhere in England, I lost myself. Now, I’ve been going through a period of self-discovery. It started with a last minute job I got teaching English as a Foreign Language in Oxford. Who knew a summer job could change so much?

Moving away from friends and family is never easy…except this time it was! I think that by sometimes getting out of our comfort zone and being thrust into a challenging situations entirely on our own, we are forced to develop as a person. I certainly have.

I don’t think I have changed much, what I think has happened is that I have remembered who I am. I am a person who loves to live out of a suitcase. It keeps me on my toes, it gives me freedom of movement, and most importantly an excuse to shop for things I forget! Living out of my suitcase in Oxford has taught me that I am much less materialistic than I thought. I used to think I needed to shop, spend money. It used to be the only thing that would make me feel good in my miserable life. But now, shopping is an occasional past time, but not something I need to improve my mood.

I have remembered that I am a social person! I’ve gotten used to seeing the same people, doing the same things, and I grew bored. I stopped wanting to go out because it was never something new. I thought I had grown into an introvert during my 20’s. Not so. I was just bored of my surroundings. In a new place with zero friends, I have blossomed. I talk to strangers, invite acquaintances out, go drinking, try new foods. My life feels full again, and I’m back to my usual extroverted self.

I learned to let down my guard. 3 months ago, I hated working out in a gym, and would never willingly exercise with another person. I would never take a fitness class. I was too embarrassed by my perceived lack of athletic ability. Now, I both don’t give a shit and also know I am a lot more capable than I thought. I’ve also lost a good number of inches off my entire body. I have a gym buddy that I work out with almost everyday, and I don’t care if they see me struggle. I tried an abs class for the first time, and it nearly killed me. I don’t compare myself to others at the gym anymore. And I willingly join in sports games and physical activities. Because I would rather be the worst player on the field than the best watcher on the sidelines.

Most importantly, I have learned that I am independent. I used to need to talk to my mom or friends everyday or I would feel lonely. But, living in Oxford, I have discovered I am completely ok with being alone. I don’t need other people to fill my time because my own company is more than enough. At night, I’m perfectly content sitting in my room. I’m fine with eating a meal by myself.

I know this isn’t my usual, informative post. But, I do have some life advice to offer you. If you are ever feeling stuck in your professional or personal life, get out! I don’t mean quit your job or marriage. I mean, change your surroundings. Go volunteer for 3 months in South America. Take a college course over the summer in a different state. Go to France to learn French. Force yourself to leave your physical comfort zone, and soon you will find that everything else will change as well. I think that what controls us isn’t who or what we do, but where we are. A change in destination is all that is needed to change your life.

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How To Get The Chic French Fashion Look

20170509_203029As an ESL teacher, I work with all nationalities. I’ve recently begun to teach French students, both male and female. Everything the fashion magazines say about them is true, they are so stylish! Did I mention my students are 14?

They don’t wear a lot of accesories, or even wear a lot of labels. Honestly, they wear jeans and sweatshirts, or jeans and plain t-shirts. But somehow, they add little chic touches that turn an outfit that would look boring on me, into something that looks fashionable. For example, today one student was wearing mom jeans, and a very baggy t-shirt. Her hair was a mess, and her only accessory was a nose piercing. Yet somehow, it looked so cool!

Teaching these kids early in the morning, I can promise they put zero thought into their clothing. They do not think about their outfits, I don’t think the French style the conscious choice we non-French people assume. Rather, I think it is both bred, and SOLD into them. By this I mean, their parents dress in very simple, casual styles. So, they do too. And the stores in France sell more monochrome, structured, casual items. So, they buy them. I know this is true because I’ve shopped in French stores.

The whole nature vs nurture debate has established that who we are as people is molded by our parents and our environment. Applying that psychology to fashion, it means that the French teens wear the clothes sold in their shops and worn by their parents. Therefore, I purpose that French fashion is not a purposeful style. Rather, it is simply a look that is sold, and told to them.

This isn’t exclusive to France. In Washington, people wear a lot of North Face and polar fleece hoodies. Why? Because it is what the stores sell, and what parents tell you to wear to keep warm. In New York, stores sell edgy clothes, and parents tell their kids to dress in the latest NYC style. Breeding and location is what makes an intrinsic local style.

The French teens are chic casual because it is all they can know. So, I envy them a little less…but I also wish my stores sold me less bold prints and more perfect white tee’s.

What are your thoughts???

Why Hallmark Holidays are a Good Thing For Your Life

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As you all know, today is Father’s Day! A day to honor the men in our lives who have helped raise and shape us. Everyone is happy to celebrate Father’s Day and Mother’s Day every year.

But then, you get those people who don’t want to celebrate the other “made up holidays” (I would argue every holiday was made up at some point). The grinches who say they don’t want to celebrate April Fool’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day. The one that really annoys me is when boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, significant other’s, try and get out of Valentines Day.

Mother’s Day was created to honor the women who give birth to us and/or raise us. Father’s Day was created to honor the men who do the same, and only started 100 years ago. Valentine’s Day was made in modern times to celebrate the people we love in our lives. Yes, that can mean romantic love. But, when I was a kid my mother always got me Valentine’s Day chocolates. My siblings send me cards every year. Valentines Day is the same as Mother’s and Father’s Day. It is one day a year that we take out of the 365 to celebrate people we love.

I love any and ALL holiday’s. I wear green for St. Patty’s Day. Red, white and blue on the 4th of July, jokes on April 1st, turkey on Thanksgiving, gifts on Mother’s & Father’s Day, and cards on Valentines day.

So, anyone who likes to claim Valentines Day is a “Hallmark Holiday” or a “Fake Holiday”, well they can tell their mom and dad on their respective holidays that their day is Fake too. Otherwise, hush your mouth, and enjoy a day of love!

Crucial Advice If You Are Going to University

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I started university earlier than most, I had my first uni class at 14 in China. I officially started studying uni in America at 16, three and a half years later I had my first degree. Now, I have 2 degrees and have attended 4 different universities all over the world.  I’ve lived on and off campus, taken out student loans, paid tuition, and pulled all night study sessions. Suffice it to say, I am an expert at university life. 

In all my experience at universities, I’ve been given massive quantities of advice. Don’t drink on a Sunday, hand write your notes, focus on studies, maintain a side job. The suggestions never end. And NONE of it has helped me in the real world. No one warned me that university is the easy part of life, that studying is for an exam is relaxing compared to job hunting. No one said student loans would make me suicidal. No adult has ever given me worthwhile advice about university. 

So, I’m going to do every student the favor I was never given. There are only 3 things you need to know about university. Live by these rules, and life will be simplistic. 

  1. Unless you are going to Yale, Cambridge, Harvard or some other Ivy League, NO job will ever care where you got your degree from. They WILL NOT care if you went to your local college or a state university. (Honestly, a lot of jobs won’t care if you went to an Ivy League either). So, DON’T take out more $$ and debt to go to a fancy private school across the country. Go to the school that is the cheapest for your chosen major. 
  2. Your grades/marks DO NOT MATTER. At the end of the day, on your resume/cv you will put down that you graduated from X university with Y degree. I’ve had dozens of interviews and an employer has never asked me what GPA was, they don’t care if I got honors. An employer cares if you got the physical diploma and THAT IS IT. Therefore, don’t drive yourself crazy at university to get the perfect scores. Learn what matters for your chosen speciality, enjoy sports, party with friends and experience life outside the lecture hall. I promise that your marks/scores truly will not matter once you walk across the stage at graduation. Literally, NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT GRADES.
  3. The real world and job market all rely on one skill. The ability to sell. If you can creatively interpret your skills and summer jobs on your CV so it matches for each position you apply for, then finding employment will be easy. Every job should have a personalised resume that uniquely sells YOU to that specific employer. This is all a nice way of saying, on your resume/CV and in interviews, YOU JUST GOTTA BULLSHIT. I’ve been hired for dog walking and teaching English, and my degree is in political science. How did I get those jobs? I sold the hell out myself. I am my #1 product. 

There you have it. These 3 things are the most important pieces of advice you will ever get. By following my words of wisdom, university life will be less stressful, you will get interviews, and most importantly, you will survive in the real world. 

(Please excuse my colorful language in this post, my goal is to get the point across as clearly as possible)

 

How To Save Your Money Post-Holiday Season

20161204_102554The holidays are over!! For those of us who are always on a budget, it is the best and worst time of the year. The best because of free food and gifts, but the worst because we have to purchase things for our loved ones. I know that once Christmas was over, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I’ve gradually learned to start buying items earlier and earlier in the year. If you really want to save money on your 2018 Xmas, you need to start shopping now! All stores (in UK and USA) are discounting their holiday stock to get rid of it! There will be cheap lights, ornaments, and holiday themed decor galore in the shops. So, if you like to have a blinged out Christmas house but you are poor, then buy now, decorate later!
Not only are Christmas decorations on sale, but so are a lot of stocking stuffers and gifts. Children’s toys are marked down, winter clothing, knick knacks, basically anything that the stores put out in December is now on sale. Even though we are in the middle of the cold season, stores will soon begin selling spring and summer wardrobes. This means that long sleeve tops and thick winter coats are all on sale. TK Maxx is selling some of their coats for 50%. Winter boots are also a thing to keep your eye out for, because now is the only time a low budget can afford to buy them.
Take advantage of this!! If you need to buy a loved one some jewellery, now is the best time to do it. Most jewellers are doing 30-50% off in an effort to move the extra items they purchased. If your wife has a birthday in the year 2018, save yourself some money and hassle and buy it now.
The last thing to purchase now is all the left-over holiday food. I don’t mean old ham or turkeys, but the Christmas themed bags of candy, candy canes, hot chocolate, junk food. This isn’t so much a money saver in the UK, because they don’t have much holiday food (except mince pies) but in the US, Target, Walmart and your local grocery store will be filling shelves with these holiday treats. I used to wait till the day after Christmas and take the money I had been given to buy in bulk all the candy I couldn’t usually afford.
Take my advice and brave the malls and shops now!! You will (hopefully) have some holiday gift money that you can spend to buy gifts, food, and clothes you will need later in 2018. In the long term, this will save you loads of cash and stress!

 

Why You Shouldn’t Pay For a Fitness Subscriptions

2017-06-19_21.44.05[1]I recently tried an online subscription fitness service. Some popular ones are Bikini Bod, Fitness Blender, Fit Body Guide (FBG) and Beachbody. I tried Beachbody ( a more detailed review will come soon). When I began, I had the question of: Are they worth the $$$?
Online fitness services are basically like gym classes you can do in the privacy of your own living room. I’m a big fan because during the first year of my fitness journey I was too shy to workout in front of anyone! I felt embarrassed by my exercise wardrobe, my abilities or lack of, and my low levels of endurance. So, at home fitness was the only way for me to go.
The benefit of the services like FBG is you get a workout plan for several weeks or months. They usually also come with online support and diet plans. It encompasses everything, and is supposed to make becoming healthy more accessible to the everyday person.
The question that needed answering is it really better than what I can find for free online? I only tried Beachbody, therefore I can’t speak for all online fitness programs. But, I didn’t find it hugely different from what I could access on Youtube or via fitness tutorials on Pinterest. In fact, I found it slightly more restrictive. I like to try new workouts constantly and I try and train a different thing everyday. Monday might be abs, and Tuesday might be a HIIT workout. I like to mix it up, otherwise I’ll get bored and just quit exercising.
With many of the online programs you get workouts that work different body parts, but not necessarily in new and exciting ways. For instance, today I did a barre workout but last week I did cardio dance. If you pay for the online fitness, you are likely to get 1 workout program created by a trainer that sticks to a similar style of movement. A little too boring for me.
In addition there is the cost aspect. I can plan my own weekly workouts for free just using Youtube with only slightly more effort than it takes to log into the online programs. And Youtube is free. As for the diet aspect, there are plenty of diets online you can find for free. However, doctors have found one of the most effective is intuitive eating where you eat what your body wants in the proper portions. No eliminating foods.
My review is that if you live a #doitcheap lifestyle like me, then what you get from online fitness subscriptions is not worth the money. If you need more support to stay on track, ask a friend. If you find that your fitness flatlines using the free workouts on Youtube, then join a gym. Youtube will teach you how to use the stuff and you can still tailor it and be more effective than the online classes. Overall, save yo money and just do Youtube.

You MUST Add ‘Origin’ To Your 2018 Reading List

24171946_10214772928821363_888742527_nI believe the Robert Langdon series is so beloved because the character is a modern day Indiana Jones. An academic (which appeals to us cerebral types) who goes on thrilling, dangerous adventures seeking to solve a mystery and discover some groundbreaking truth. Who wouldn’t want to read that?
After ‘The Lost Symbol’ I thought that I had seen the last of Langdon and Dan Brown. But, through my social media stalking, roughly a year ago I realized that Brown was in fact writing a 4th book in his Langdon series, and I’ve been salivating in anticipation ever since. I was so excited that when I actually bought the book that I deliberately only allowed myself to read a chapter at a time. But eventually, my restraint ran out and I had to finish it!
There are three things that are fantastic about Dan Brown as a writer. First is his ability to fit 300 pages worth of plot into a time span of only a few days. In the case of ‘Origin’ the entire book occurs over a period of less than 24 hours. Langdon is invited to a secretive media presentation hosted by Kirsch (an old pupil) that was being held in Madrid’s premier modern art museum. During his virtual tour, Langdon is introduced to Winston, Kirsch futuristic artificial intelligence. Winston guides Langdon through the museum and finally into the presentation.
Inside a massive art installation, Langdon is taken on a sensory journey that explains religion, the origin of mankind, and concludes with two central questions. These questions are the scientific breakthrough Kirsch has invited Langdon to see. Alas, before revealing his achievement, Kirsch is murdered in cold blood by a fanatical religious Spanish naval officer. Langdon felt he owed a debt to his former student, thus, he resolved to release the breakthrough with the help of Winston. Tagging along for the ride was a beautiful Amal who helped construct the installation for Kirsch before his demise (Brown knows that every good hero needs a woman by his side, as Langdon always has a brilliant female assistant). The three set off on a path across the city and Spain in a bid to discover how to unlock the encypted presentation.
Here is the second brilliant thing about Brown as an author, he has a puzzling mind that can produce puzzles, hints, and clues in seemingly innocuous things that no one else could think of. Brown does this by weaving together art, nature, science, religion, and in ‘Origin’, technology. Amal and Langdon rely on a specially designed smart phone designed by Kirsch to lead them back to Kirsch apartment where they attempt to find the master password to Kirsch science presentation. Langdon uses his skills to recall text to basically delve through an entire library in the space of an hour. Meanwhile, the duo are being hunted by the police as Langdon has been accused of kidnapping by the Royal Palace of Spain.
Eventually, Langdon realizes that the password hint is hidden in a tome that Kirsch donated to a modern church within Barcelona. This is where the third amazing thing about Brown emerges. Throughout ‘Orgin’ and all of his novels, Brown is able to interpret religion in a way that makes it seem alive and interesting. With the help of a Catholic priest, Langdon and Amal discover the password and attempt to rush off to the stronghold of Winston. Unfortunately, the crazy Spanish navy killer catches them and attempts to kill Langdon (it wouldn’t be a true Brown novel if his protagonist didn’t face death at least once). Luckily, Langdon survives and escapes to the find the supercomputer Winston, which is hidden within another church.
After a night of trials and dangers, Amal and Langdon finally reach the physical computer version of Winston and release Kirsch breakthrough to the world. Kirsch had managed to make a supercomputer strong enough to simulate the origin of man. The computer proves that life on earth emerged not from God, but chemicals and energy. Kirsch goes on to explain that he also simulated where life on earth was going. Kirsch predicted that humans and tech would merge into a new species. In the end, Langdon achieved his goal of publicising his students work. Sadly, he still doesn’t get the beautiful girl Amal, who is quickly spirited away. Langdon goes on to make one further discovery, that I won’t reveal to you. Some things need to remain a surprise.
To conclude, I was taught that every good review needs to include at least one thing that could be improved on. It is probably the best advice I’ve ever been given because it forces me to be critical of things I love. In the case of ‘Origin’, I question if Brown was reaching too far outside his comfort zone. The beauty of Langdon is that his talents/knowledge lie in classical art, symbolism and religion. It almost felt uncomfortable to read about Langdon being involved in so much technology. Furthermore, some of the scientific leaps described in ‘Orgin’ seem a bit too far fetched. I believe they are possible, but not for decades. Lastly, can Langdon ever get the girl? He deserves some peace and happiness.
Nonetheless, I loved ‘Origin’. It was a thought provoking read that taught me new things about architecture, Spain, and technology. I forcefully recommend that you read not only ‘Origin’ but all of the Langdon series. You will never be bored, and I guarentee you will be educated in a variety of areas. Furthermore, I pray that this isn’t the last I hear of Robert Langdon. He is simple too good a character to retire.
I aspire to be an author like Dan Brown. He manages to make intriguing, complicated characters that maintain mass appeal. Brown also has a way of provoking thought by constantly weaving religion and symbolism into everything. It makes me wonder what Brown’s actual views on religion are. I could easily research this, but I choose to let it remain a unanswered question. Maybe he will tell me himself one day when I’m also a best selling author and we meet for coffee.