When You Should (or Shouldn’t) Spend your Time doing Something (feat. Fancy Chart!)

I write to you today because I think we get so bogged down by our external and internal expectations that we are ever more susceptible these days to run out of steam or end up worse off than before. We get excited about an idea (or several), attempt to execute on it (or them), and end up with disappointing results. Why is that?

Well, for one, I think we are all on the receiving end of an endless barrage of expectations of what is “right”, “useful”, “cool”, or “success-producing” to do. We take up ukulele lessons because we saw a guy play one at that party that one time and it was just so sick, so we want to be like that so we can randomly do that. We see our friends skydiving on Facebook and want to be that badass. I mean, who doesn’t want to be known as “that dude/lady who jumps out of frickin’ airplanes”?! We want to invent apps like the guys in Silicon Valley and make millions just like they do and spend our time on yachts having fancy parties, because that’s living the high life, right? Or is it?

You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m a big believer in the “power of why”. Maybe because my last post had that word in it. Thus, it should be of little surprise to you that I’ve made an extremely high-tech, cutting-edge diagram with the help of my bros at LucidChart to help guide you in deciding whether or not to do something. See below:

Flowchart of Life - New Page copy

As you can see, it’s pretty straightforward despite it obvious technological superiority to other flowcharts (note: if you haven’t caught on yet, sarcastic self-deprecation is the norm here). In fact, it’s probably a little too simple, and I’ll probably change it over and over again. I refer to the things we spend doing as “time/money investments” since I have trouble thinking of anything we do that doesn’t involve an exchange of one or both. Reading, for instance, is an investment of both – we buy books, we spend time reading them. Same with getting your private pilot’s license, buying a dog, or purchasing an investment property. Taking a walk may only be an investment of time, but pesky economists with argue that there’s an opportunity cost with taking that walk: you could be making money instead. Not that I disagree, but that’s  about as far as I go with economic theory after being scarred by my macroecononomics class back in my sophomore year. *shudders*

If you’re doing something for the wrong reasons, your work will suffer and your relationships, health, and other time/money investments might too. At the end of the day, your values are your own, but you should always strive to keep them in mind for every decision you make – even the minor ones. Because I value family/friends/my partner, my health, and personal creative fulfillment, I try and fill my life with activities that enhance my relationship with these things and eliminate the rest. It’s not easy, but I know it helps me get better. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with trying things – try away! But persistent dabbling with no direction and little regard for consequences is a recipe for staying at the drawing board.

Later tonight, I’m going to go to pole practice for a couple hours. After that, I’m probably going to come home, eat a gigantic dinner cooked by the best chef in Long Beach (my beloved partner, duh), and then rest. Since I try to practice what I preach, I promise not to stay up late on google searching about how to invest in stocks. Or join the Peace Corps. Or play the theremin. Promise.

– H

p.s. I should probably add that I’m not one who believes that every last decision in our life needs to be incredibly productive, despite what the chart may imply. Things like resting, playing video games, or just sitting around and thinking are incredibly necessary and beneficial for us and can help make us better people. Especially video games.

Spend Less by Asking “Why?”

I’m wont to overshare, be overly honest, and shoot myself in the foot, so I’ll give you the following information in advance: I just got out of massive credit card debt despite previously making more money than 91% of people my age (note: this is no longer the case but I’m 10,000x happier for reasons I will describe in another post). As outlined in a previous entry, a big portion of this was egregious overspending on restaurants. Yet another portion was my habit of making impromptu shopping trips to fast fashion stores which, while seeming cheap, are actually impulsive and often yield useless bulk in my already overstuffed closet. A third major portion was my “half-baked budget” travel style, in where I feel like I’m traveling for cheap but in reality I am nowhere near taking advantage of the true savings I can achieve. Staying in a $150 hotel is not being frugal, nor is it putting you out of your comfort zone (which is the point of travel, IMHO). Staying at a homestead, hostel, or AirBnB condo is not only cheaper, but more fun and more adventurous.

I could go on, but you had the idea with the first sentence of that paragraph. I was in debt, and in a good amount of it.

I got out, frankly, with the help of forgiving parents who had more of a “This had better be a lesson learned, Haley Christina” look rather than an “Oh, girls will be girls – don’t worry about it! We’re always here!” look. I also seriously downgraded my monthly subscriptions, keeping only my Netflix account for movies and a couple of inexpensive Patreon donations. And, of course, I drastically reduced my restaurant expenditures per month down to a once-a -week outing. All of these things help, but the fact that reducing expenses saves money is common knowledge to us all.

If you need to save money and get out a debt, you need to start by giving a hard look at where your money goes – not just where, but why. When I looked at how much I was spending on restaurants, I thought about why I did it and came up with these reasons:

1) I’m not making enough time to cook myself healthy meals.

2) I don’t know how to cook myself some of the meals I love to dine out on (i.e. pad thai, beer butt chicken, octopus sashimi) – because I haven’t made the time to learn.

As soon as I realized these problems were tackle-able, I tackled them. I save a lot of money and enjoy several delicious, home-cooked meals with my boyfriend, friends, and/or family almost every night. My pad thai still needs work, but hey, it’s an art.

The same thing could be applied to anything else you spend money on. For instance, if you go out drinking every weekend and spend $150 each time, maybe it’s because you a) don’t know how to make your favorite drinks at home and b) don’t know of any other interesting things to do in your city, so you go to a bar even though you know there might be a cover/a temptation to buy overpriced drinks. Why not invest in some bartending supplies, look up free or cheap events in your city, and pregame at home before Ubering out for a night on the town? Or maybe take a break and have a wine and game night at home? You can’t go wrong with a little Cards Against Humanity or, my personal favorite, Heads Up. Balk if you will at the celebrity endorsement (which I didn’t know it had before I searched for it), but the animal section is undeniably hysterical. I suppose the genesis here is that every expensive habit we have can be whittled down to a “why” and subsequently reduced from there, provided we are willing to put in a little time and effort in learning the more reasonable way to do things.

To take things further, we can further question our purchasing of unnecessary items (i.e. super-expensive designer clothing, makeup, home decorations) by asking ourselves this same “why”. For example, if I’m out buying a Arne Jacobson egg chair (which retails for, geeidunno, something like $7,000?), and I ask myself why I’m buying it, the harsh answer is that I’m probably doing it to appear cutting-edge and Batman-rich to my homies. Is that really a good reason? No. Looking well-off won’t make me happy – making my friends comfortable and spending time with them will. So, instead I’ll opt for a chair that is long-lasting, comfortable, and pleasant-fitting with my decor. It doesn’t even have to be the cheapest thing, but I doubt it’ll be anywhere near $7,000.

Hopefully that makes sense. If you’re buying something to look good in the eyes of others, it’s probably not worth it and it’s not going to make you any happier in the long run.

I’m of the firm opinion that we all have reasons for doing everything we do, whether subconscious or conscious. Think about why you’re spending what you spend, and be totally honest with yourself. You just might realize that that flashy new car (or phone, or pair of shoes, or pair of weights, or Lululemon pants, or “designer lunchbox” (wtf), or pair of earrings, or synth) you were gonna buy is actually totally lame.

– H

 

 

How to Recover from a Post-Japan Hangover

I covered this theme shortly after returning from Italy, albeit in a much different and hungrier way. But I think my techniques for coping with incredible trips have matured, so I’m back on this topic again.

It’s been about 3-and-a-half months since I’ve returned from the glorious, temple-strewn, too-good food-peddling, amazing-public-transit-having, culturally fascinating world I feel in love with back in March. With me being so quiet these days, you’d think I was fine.

EXCEPT I’M NOT. 🙁

After returning to the land of the free, home of the brave, etc., my crippling devastation was suppressed by my need to find a new job and recalibrate my life trajectory. That all sounds very intense, so I suppose I’ll reword it as “my need to start doing other things”. As a result of my efforts, I was finally able to find and start a new job at Cal State Long Beach about a month ago, which is ~*~super kewl~*~. I work a lot less than before while making a positive impact on my environment and those around me. I work on a beautiful campus that gives me a million and one places to read, write, and practice my iPhoneography (soon to be actual photography, god willing) during my breaks. The best part? I’m like, two miles from my home. TWO MILES. Obviously, I, the Goddess of Anti-Commuting, feel so incredibly satisfied about this.

And yet…

Even as my life started to fall together correctly, I can’t help but long for the place that I had wanted to visit for 15 years and finally got the chance to only recently. I can’t help but think of the days that I would (willingly, mind you) wake up at 6:00 am, thirsty for a delicious cup of hot tea and hungry for my next adventure. True, this is how I am on every adventure, but the Japan-specific things were hitting my memory hard. The cobblestone streets of Higashiyama. The deer I spent a solid 30 minutes laying with and reading next to in Nara. The overwhelming bustle of Harajuku on a Sunday afternoon. The taste of the Owakudani eggs. Walking into my hotel room on Naoshima and thinking, “I CAN AFFORD THIS?!” The fleeting interactions I had with locals who seemed fascinated that, of all places, I chose their “tiny town” to visit, even though said town had more to offer to someone like me than they realize.

Oh man. Even writing this stuff is bringing me back.

Oddly, hyper-focusing on these good memories, rather than refusing to indulge in them out of sadness that they’re not my current reality, helps out a lot. It reminds that the experience was not only real, but that I made all of these memories happen. I alone booked that plane ticket at that pool in Vegas last year (yes, really), and I’m the one who made every choice single-handedly on that trip thereafter.

Another thing I’ve done recently is seek out Japan-like things virtually everywhere I go. Cooking Japanese food and reading manga are two examples of these, but given my new job, I felt that one particular item was even more appropriate. I mean, there’s a freaking Japanese garden at Cal State Long Beach. Ergo, I needed to visit it, DUH! Even though I almost died in a parking lot while trying to get there, it was like I had reached heaven once I got to it. Pictures will do infinitely more justice than my silly words. See below.

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Admittedly, this was not from the garden. But it definitely reminded me of much of the art from the Lee Ufan Museum in Naoshima.

image7 image6 image4 image3 image2

As far as what else I can personally recommend for extending the joy of a fabulous trip, should I make a list? I feel like that would make this more readable. After all, you’d probably appreciate that. I could do it. Let me try.

  • As I already mentioned, think about your memories. Remember that you made something incredible happen for yourself. And if you didn’t plan it, then you have an amazing friend/family member/travel agent who helped you, so you’re quite blessed with either direct or indirect talent. Most importantly, remember that these memories are REAL.
  • Do and seek out Japan-like (or France-like, or Australia-like, or South Africa-like) things that remind you of the trip. Find everything from museum galleries to food festivals, because they’re definitely out there. Fortunately, most of the Western world has become a pretty awesome melting pot and there are plenty of people interested in cultures beyond their own.
  • Create some sort of photo collage or art piece that immortalizes the trip. Never forget it happened. Make this quick trip a nonetheless permanent part of your life.
  • Brush up on the history of the area that you (hopefully) learned while you were there. Impress people. Be cultural and all that good stuff. But not pretentious. You went to a few museums, not the University of Douchedom.
  • Drop a line to someone you met on the trip, if possible. Even as a sly introvert, I still managed to meet one young woman at Incheon Airport who I shared the adventure of finding a buffet with during my first layover. We exchanged Facebook addresses and like/comment on each other’s stuff here and there. Thanks to the magic of this technology, I have a connection with another awesome human who I can see when I return to Japan!
  • Finally, take every other travel blog’s advice and get to planning that next trip! My significant other and I have flip-flopped between Bhutan, New Zealand, and various European locales for our first major trip as a couple. Even though it won’t happen until next year, it’s never too early to start planning!

Completely unrelated, I’m starting to learn web design in a little more depth, both for my job and for my non-work-related pursuits. I should get back to that. You’ll be hearing from me again soon.

p.s. This entry is exactly 1000 words.

– H