Summer Diaries 2: Moving, Long Talks, and Reading for Fun

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We are already halfway through 2017! I have finished the first batch of summer classes, and although final projects and exams were quite overwhelming, I have been trying to remind myself that tests and school are not the only things in life. The weather has been pretty nice these days, but I can’t decide which is better: a super sunny day that makes me sweat like a waterfall or rainy weather that literally feels like a waterfall.

I spent the first several weeks of class living with my younger sister Lisa. Not only was she a tremendous help when I was in the process of moving out of my apartment that I had lived in for over two years, she really supported me emotionally through all the changes and the tough times I was having recently. Being just two years apart, I feel like she has been kind of like my best friend. Yes, we fight nonstop, especially when we are physically together. But we spend way more time laughing at stupid things and having each other’s back. That’s just how siblings work, right?

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Lisa and me in our kindergarten years, cheesing with Grandma at a resort back in Korea. I remember those dresses were custom-made to match.

 

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Summer Diaries 1: Graduation Week!

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I’ve always strived to be good – to ace that test, run the race, to find the answer. But I had never really thought about my life as a whole. Who am I, and where am I going?

In May 2017, I was officially finished with my undergraduate education! I was especially excited to have my family here to celebrate this joyous occasion with me. But having my parents and my sister stay in my measly midtown apartment wasn’t so easy. ‘This week was supposed to be about me’, I thought. I had successfully completed four painstakingly arduous years of college education away from home, and now it was time to honor that. But as the week went by, I was starting become tired down by the constant need to satisfy my parents’ jetlagged, awkwardly-timed hunger, both for food and visiting attractions in New York City. On top of that, I was in the process of moving out of my apartment, so I couldn’t even find where anything was amongst the storm that was the disarray of suitcases and clothes. Disoriented and stressed out from having to play the tour guide… There I was, kindling a love-hate relationship with my family all inside my own head.

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The night before my all-university commencement day, I suddenly realized that this week wasn’t about celebrating my achievements. In fact, this was all thanks to my mom and dad. They had poured their support and resources into my education and to helping me study what I wanted to pursue in life. I had been so preoccupied with getting the attention that I did not even deserve that I’d totally been ignorant of how thankful I should be for my parents. Truthfully, sometimes it’s the people who are the closest and most precious to you that you find the hardest to be grateful for.

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February Catch-Up

Hello! It’s been about a month since I last blogged. Every time I go on a mini hiatus like this one, it means that I’ve just been crazy busy either too caught up in work/school. But I always make sure to try and document daily moments as best as I can. Here are some highlights from February that I want to share with you:

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This month, I went to a retreat with my church family. I also happen to be on the planning team, so the whole process of coming up with the schedule and the recreational events was quite a challenge. But with the grace of God, we were able to pull off a great afternoon filled with fun and meaningful activities! We stayed at a Christian Academy, with all the girls in cozy little bunk beds (although I probably got around six hours of sleep over these two days). But most importantly, the seminars were quite eye-opening, and they really made me think about what kind of Christian I want to be.

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With February also came Valentine’s Day. My boyfriend and I spent the day with a nice dinner and a movie – all with flowers and a fluffy teddy bear 🙂 I gifted him a box of handmade chocolates.

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One night, we were just having dinner in Koreatown – and as I was walking out of the restaurant, I saw Claire Marshall, one of my favorite Youtube beauty bloggers! She had flown from LA for New York Fashion Week, and it just felt so surreal to see her in real life. I felt really nervous about approaching her because it wasn’t a meet & greet or anything, just me literally walking up to her. But she was incredibly nice and cool about taking a picture by stepping outside of the restaurant as well.

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(Still can’t believe this happened.)

I told myself that I would continue to try new things and challenge myself in 2017, and I think this next item definitely falls in that category. I signed up for a week’s worth of aerial yoga classes this month, and I really liked it! I was actually really scared that I would fall off the silk and embarrass myself, but like any other yoga class, everyone was very considerate and the instructors were very encouraging. The one thing I like about yoga classes is that you can always take the class at your own pace and do what makes your body happy. After just a week, I can already tell that these classes really strengthen my muscles – I am strongly considering going back! Plus, who doesn’t like swinging on a floating hammock?

I’m still walking to and back from school, but with preparing for the CPA exams and all, I feel like I haven’t been living on the healthiest diet & exercise schedule. I’m really hoping to get in shape before spring break. I should probably start drinking more water (since I drink A LOT of coffee as well) and really work on developing those toned muscles.

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That wraps up my February catch-up, and I leave you with the unbelievable fact that we only have two days til March. Time really flies…

Goodbye 2016, It’s Been Real.

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It’s 2017, and the time has come to reflect on the past year and make new goals for the new year. A lot happened last year. I tried a lot of new things, and I grew a lot over those twelve months. I have to say that my 2016 was a pretty good year, and a really LONG one! Honestly, I was scrolling through old pictures from earlier in 2016 and didn’t even realize that all of those things had happened in the same year.

While reminiscing, I stumbled upon the new year’s resolution post I made back in the beginning of 2016 and decided to see if I lived up to any of those…

1. MORE QUIET TIME.

Using a busy schedule or homework as an excuse is just a way of pushing my faith out of my priorities, so I’m going to try to read the Bible at least twice a week.

I think I kept the goal of reading the Bible at least twice a week pretty consistently. It was hard at times because schoolwork or other commitments seemed like they should be my priorities, but I made it through by always reminding myself that this was just as important, if not more.

2016 was a time of both growth and challenges for my faith. The small groups at my church were reorganized, so I had to start leading a whole new group of people. But thanks to the grace of God, all of my group members were amazingly willing to listen and share what they felt about the sermon, their faith, and how the words of God apply to their own daily lives. We also had one week where we designated one person to each day of the week, so we could write compliments and praises for that person in our group chat – I was so surprised that every single member remembered to post, and they really put a lot of effort into writing those words of love for each other. I have to say it was quite a heartwarming week. My large group was awesome as well. my aunt has been battling cancer for a while now, and her condition had just been getting worse and worse; she had been transported to a hospital in Seoul for emergency treatment, and I didn’t even hear the new until I had come back from my trip during spring break! It killed me that I was in Europe enjoying a nice break while she was in pain at the hospital. I shared this struggle with my large group, and they always remembered to pray for her and ask me how she was doing every Sunday. At one gathering, they actually wrote a card for my aunt (who doesn’t go to church) along with a book, so that they could send it to my aunt’s address in Korea. I honestly was not expecting anything like that, and I felt so touched and overwhelmed by all of their kind hearts. I could not be more thankful for my church family.

(I soon got a message from my aunt – who is currently at a hospice in Cheonan – that she had received the gifts and will not give up her battle against cancer.)

I am so thankful that I am spiritually growing year after year, and I am so glad to have friends around me that I can share these thoughts with. Truthfully, I had moments where I tried to suppress myself from doing what I wanted or taking on new challenges because I thought my religion would condemn it for some reason. But I realized that maybe I was relying more on what others would think of me that what God would think of me. 2016 was a time of redefining and relearning these values to get a fresh perspective of what God would want me to do with my life. I want to live a colorful life rich with meaningful experiences and goodness, all the while walking with God. Nothing that I have achieved so far could have happened without His help, and I hope to be in constant communication with God in my everyday decisions. Yes, I know I’m going to feel lost sometimes, but if I have my heart and eyes set on God, I know that wherever I go, I will eventually be led back to the right path.

2. BE HEALTHIER

Take those vitamins. Go to the gym at least once a week. I tend to become really lazy with healthy eating during the semester, so eating clean is another one of the to-do list.

I was in a fitness rut after I had finished that 10K in November of 2015 – I admit that I was pretty bad with going to the gym during the school week, but I think I tried to go at least once every week in the spring and summer. In May, my friend told me about a Groupon deal for a month of unlimited hot yoga classes, so I tried hot yoga for the first time! I sweated in places that I didn’t know could sweat, and at time it felt like real torture… but after every class, walking out to the breezy street felt wonderful, and I think those classes really detoxify and renew your body!

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During the fall semester, I was really bad with going to the gym (I ended up canceling my membership after a whopping two years of attendance). I was bad. But while I could use my full load of classes and a tutoring job as an excuse, I did successfully make a lifestyle change that helped me a lot: I walked to class. Prior to the fall semester, I had been taking the subway to school. But this time, I decided to save some cash on unlimited subway passes and take a long walk to school. It’s about a 45-minute walk from my apartment to NYU, which was totally doable during the warmer months, but it did become somewhat challenging once the weather started to get colder. However, I managed to survive the whole semester having commuted by subway only two times! I think this really helped me build a healthier lifestyle, and I also lost close to ten pounds, which I credit to this habit (power-walking when you’re late to class is actually a pretty good workout!)

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Around mid-November, I also started taking vitamins every morning. In terms of healthy eating, I think I did watch my portions, but I’m still really bad with watching the kinds of foods I eat… I still give in to the occasional guilty dessert or the sweet potato fries. But I think as long as I move around a lot and stay active, a splurge here and there won’t be too bad, will it?

3. BE MORE PRODUCTIVE

Definitely blog more, photograph more, and channel my creativity into tangible results. Some ideas I’ve been toying around are writing a journal, playing more violin, and getting into crafts/painting. No more scrolling endlessly through Facebook.

In 2016, I played in the community orchestra during the spring semester. Also, I really tried to channel my creativity into photography and blogging. In fact, I opened a YouTube channel where I document my travels, and I realized that creating videos is so much fun! From then on, I try to carry my DSLR around to document and cherish the small things I experience, so we’ll see how 2017 goes with my vlogging.

A lot of the photography I do of my daily life can be accessed on my Instagram, where I love to post photos (all taken and edited by me). This year, I had the pleasure of having my photos and jewelry featured in various Instagram accounts as well as articles online!
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I found other ways to be productive as well. After my summer internship, I found a tutoring job for the fall semester, and also got to design logos for the water bottles and T-shirts needed by a school club that I’m involved in. After arriving in Seoul, I picked up some pens and sketchbook, and I’ve already been making some drawings. Things like these – creating and experimenting – are what really relaxes me and makes me happy.

4. FEAR LESS, LIVE MORE.

I consider myself an ambivert – I enjoy socializing and meeting new people, but I need my alone time to process everything and recharge. Because of this, I sometimes tend to hide away and shut out everything else. In 2016, I want to be less afraid to feel more. I want to be there for other people. I want to show more kindness.What fun is it to stay in boring perfection when you can experience so much more by stepping outside of your comfort zone?

In 2016, I definitely stepped outside of my comfort zone. Besides opening myself up to make friends with a lot more people, I tried so many new things and was lucky enough to learn from many of those experiences.

These experiences include:

  • Traveling to Europe
  • Starring in a promotional video
  • Getting a full-time job offer
  • Going skiing
  • Celebrate an anniversary
  • Going to a hookah bar in NYC
  • Getting Lasik surgery (contacts and glasses, goodbye forever!!!)
  • Going to model auditions for a fashion show
  • Turning 21
  • Seeing Justin Bieber at a Duane Reade
  • Celebrating Thanksgiving in suburbia
  • Getting self-cut bangs
  • Leading a small group
  • Shooting a handgun

(And oh, there are so many more.)

I cannot believe that I was blessed enough to experience all of these things for the first time in 2016.

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I was blessed enough to experience all of these things for the first time in 2016. Of course, not everything was sunshine and rainbows. Mistakes and misfortunes happened, but I think I’ve learned to troubleshoot and deal with problems instead of wallowing in them. I hope 2017 will be another year full of happiness, love, and good news. This year, I don’t want to make grand plans to become a new person. I just want to keep growing, but as me. I want to become someone who gives more love, shows more kindness, possesses more courage and confidence, tries new things without fear, and someone who stays busy striving to make each moment meaningful.

And of course, I’ll share those moments along the way 🙂

Happy 2017!

 

2015 in Review – and New Year’s Resolutions!

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After a crazy semester, I have arrived yet again in Seoul. My parents have left Shanghai for good, moved into a new apartment not far from my grandparents’, and now I’m settling in with a cup of hazelnut coffee and my laptop with a fresh coat of nail polish on my fingers. It’s the morning of New Year’s Eve, and before the next few hectic days of Korean families, celebrating, and feasting, I want to take a moment to look back at 2015 and forward to 2016.

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Winter in Korea Part 3: What Am I Thankful For?

At the beginning of my stay in Korea, my mind was so occupied with the pressure that I had to get my driver’s license on one try; when that was done, however, I was free to basically hibernate and feast + repeat. Sleeping in was becoming such a serious habit; I wonder if I will be able to wake up in time for class once the semester starts! Anyway, with plenty of time and liberty to enjoy the rest of my winter break, I realized that I had so many thoughts and emotions I was having for the first time. During my last days in Seoul, I had much to experience, and much to be thankful for.

1. A newfound appreciation for murals.

I would occasionally go on solitary walks to enjoy some time by myself. Silently musing on poems, thoughts, and colorful images splashed on blank space gave me such pleasure. They add meaning to things that we often take for granted. If I were a good artist, I would totally paint a mural on my future house. It would definitely add a boost of creativity to my day.

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Goodbai, Shanghai

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I remember three Augusts ago when I stepped foot upon the sweltering heat of this city. The unbearable humidity was frustrating, and the language barrier even more so. Even as someone who used to live in Korea, China was such a foreign place to me. I’m not one to get really personal, but moving from the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia to a bustling oriental city in the middle of high school, I took a while to find my place between friends, school, and family (and multiple existential crises that still tend to happen occasionally). But as much as I struggled in the beginning, I’ve had some pretty cool adventures, learned priceless lessons, and made some of the best friends. Now the time has come to say goodbye to this amazing city, but I’m proud to say that Shanghai will always be like home to me.

Wow. Getting kind of too emotional thinking about leaving. Hopefully I’ll come back someday!

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