Not Another New Year’s Reflection (.. okay, just kidding, yes it is)

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FROM THE DESK OF: Nina

Dear 2016,

I’m sure you’ve heard this enough already, but you have been one hell of a year. I’m not going to list the reasons why you’ve made me want to pull my hair out more than once these past 360-something days – I’m sure we’ll see plenty of those as we get closer to December 31st – but let’s just say my “good riddance” to you come the new year will be one expressed with lots of gusto.

Now, that said… I do have to thank you for pushing me forward to the next phase of this strange journey I call adulthood. Not one to sugarcoat anything, you pushed me through the Quarter-Life Crisis without resolve and shoved me right into the terrifying preliminary stages of Saturn’s Return; I can’t remember another time when I’ve had to face my fears and confront what makes me so uncomfortable, and on such a regular, consistent basis.

You helped rekindle my love of writing again by encouraging me to start tinydeskwriters with Aiza and Deo, something I probably wouldn’t have done by myself. (And I am so glad I did!)

You gave me an excuse to take the ultimate anthropological excursion to the Motherland, having my Lola volun-tell me to be in the wedding of a cousin whom I’d never previously met (balut snacks, matchmaking lolas, maximum socializing, and python excursions included). I went in not knowing what to expect but returned with a plethora of colorful stories and new friendships.

You taught me some brutally honest lessons on humanity and broke down that illusion of invincibility that so often accumulates when not reminded otherwise. Your not-so-subtle style of dropping hints reminds me that my elders are, in fact, getting older, and that health isn’t something that stays constant throughout time.

You gave me the confidence to stand my ground in the fashion industry and finally say goodbye to it, leaving it to explore the world of food – something I’d been interested in for awhile. Then you decided to play a sick game of hide-and-seek with said confidence when I jumped into that new world, which has thrown me into a bit of a tizzy and existential crisis as of late. I am still presently looking for where you hid the confidence – you sure did pick a tricky hiding place for it – and am hoping I recover it sooner rather than later.

With just a few days left of being together and getting through this thing we call life (RIP Prince), I’ll be reflecting on what you threw my way this past year, looking back with respect (and a little bit of frustration) for what you taught me. You’ve been a year of confrontation, 2016, and I have a feeling those teachings you started with me won’t really be over when I meet 2017. Whereas you were the year to help me open up to the idea of vulnerability and understanding it, I think you’ve left the task of helping me act upon that openness to 2017. I think you’ve passed the torch to 2017 to help me reach the next step in my journey of personal development. At least, I hope you have.

So, on that note, thank you, 2016, for giving me the ass-kicking I probably needed at this point in my life. But I hope you will understand wholeheartedly when 2017 rolls around and I say to you…

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Respectfully Yours,

Nina

Leisure Reading and the Inquisitive Itch

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All three of these will be on my nightstand tonight. I may or may not read these simultaneously.

FROM THE DESK OF: Nina

There was a pretty extended period of my life, not too long ago, during which the joy of reading was completely forgotten. Probably when college hit and all of the required reading one had to do took away all of the fun of it. Curse you, Xeroxed Course Readers Stuffed With (Mostly) Super Boring Papers…

But now that I’ve been away from school for awhile, I’m beginning to get what I’d like to call the Inquisitive Itch: a yearning for learning (hah, that rhymes) and an overwhelming sense of curiosity for how the world works, what motivates its overall functioning, how humans interact, and what our purpose in life truly is.

Now, that might mean it may be time to head back to school – that’s a point of discussion for another time, I think – but in the interim, I’ve decided that picking up leisure reading again will probably be my best bet in satiating my desire to keep learning and growing my understanding of how to make the most of my life.

Here are some books I’ve picked up recently that I’m hoping will scratch that Inquisitive Itch.

You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero.

Now, I know I mentioned this one before in another post, and I admit: I still haven’t finished it yet. (Life and work gets in the way, and it never seems like there are enough hours in the day, amirite?) But every so often, when I’m not catching up on work or exhausted from the day, I’ll take a minute to read a chapter or two before bed. I’m about to start Chapter 21 of 27, and it is called “Millions of Mirrors”; looks like it’s about how the people you surround yourself with reflect your level of self-love. Whoa.

The Float Tank Cure, by Shane Stott.

Earlier this year, Deo, Aiza, and I all tried this thing called floating, which is a form of therapeutic sensory deprivation intended to enable the deepest form of relaxation. TL;DR: you step in a tank of salt water and float there in the darkness until your mind just… wanders. After my first visit, I remember feeling light, refreshed, and capable of handling whatever life threw my way. I definitely wanted to learn more about the process. So I recently picked up this book by Shane Stott, a guy who kick-started the DIY isolation tank to practice float therapy, hoping to get a better understanding of the process and its full benefits. Based on the table of contents, it looks like his book The Float Tank Cure explains a little bit more about how to utilize float therapy to reduce anxiety and depression. I’m in.

And last, but certainly not least…

The Book of Joy, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams.

When I came across a Facebook video that Time Magazine posted of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop of South Africa Desmond Tutu hanging out, I was like, wuuuuuuut I need to figure out what these two wise humans are talking about. Watching the video further, I found out they had written a book about their time spent together celebrating the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday and exchanging stories about their experiences discovering joy in the face of adversity. The Book of Joy recounts this incredible encounter, and I’m really excited to learn a bit more about how to shift my perspective when I’m feeling like life’s getting a little tough.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to dig my head in all three of these books at once. The reading ADHD is so real.

 

A Most Contemplative Visit to D.C.

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A stroll through the capital.

FROM THE DESK OF: Nina

Traveling does funny things to one’s state of mind. There’s something mystifying and oddly profound about stepping out of the daily grind and into a new place. More often than not, I feel as though each new place I visit adds a rich layer of perspective to my overall view of the world, and of life.

I had the good fortune of infusing a little bit of that disruption into my daily grind on a recent trip back east this weekend. After visiting Virginia for my cousin’s wedding, I took a mini detour to stop in Washington, D.C., before hopping on my flight back to California. And after just a few hours in the city, I quickly realized that what I’d be taking away from my brief time there would be much more than just a few glimpses of national monuments.

Continue reading “A Most Contemplative Visit to D.C.”

My Hot Mess-Concealing Survival Kit

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My nightstand is currently home to my hot mess-concealing survival kit. Clockwise, from top left: Osea Malibu Atmosphere Protection Cream, Rewined candle, my cat cup from Daiso (filled with Tazo Zen tea), a thank-you note from my roommate, You Are A Badass self-help book by Jen Sincero, Nohmad Snack Co’s Peppermint Crunch.

FROM THE DESK OF: Nina

If I’m being completely honest, this week has been a little on the busy side. With deadlines breathing down my neck at work, I feel as though I’m all over the place when it comes to my personal life. I’ve been putting off errands I should’ve taken care of a month ago, I haven’t been sleeping as well, and my dinner diet has consisted of stale tortilla chips, non-stale Japanese crackers, electrolyte water, and pretty much any little scrappy snack I can find lying around my apartment (e.g. that candy corn I found in my purse, popsicles I found in the freezer, microwave breakfast sandwiches, etc.). Not to mention the fact that the debate on Monday has got me rethinking about how this country got to this pickle of an election year. Read: I’m a hot mess.

But all is not lost! I’ve fortunately found a few things that have kept me afloat throughout this funk, and have helped me somewhat get back into the mood to feign a well put-together attitude at (mostly) all times.

(Fun fact: I just fell asleep after typing that sentence and dreamt that I already posted this. Whoops, sorry! Moving on…)

Here are some of the things I keep in what I like to call my HOT MESS-CONCEALING SURVIVAL KIT.

Osea Malibu Atmosphere Protection Cream. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a hard time finding a moisturizer that actually keeps my crazy dry skin hydrated. But along came this bad boy to save the day! This moisturizer is light but provides ample coverage to give my face a boost when stress and Santa Ana season kicks in during good ol’ L.A. autumns. A lifesaver for my epidermis.

Rewind Candles. I have been avoiding tidying up my space, which probably means I need to revisit Aiza’s post on Kondo. But in the meantime, I’ve been putting it off and making my space bearable by just lighting one of these candles and making the place smell good. It makes my apartment smell like a West Elm or some other fancy furniture store, which does the job for the time being. Horrible habit; effective stalling strategy.

Cat cup from Daiso. I got this cup for like a buck fifty at Daiso earlier this year, and it has now turned into my favorite cup for tea. It’s little so I can drink a smaller portion of tea at a time and have it while it’s still hot, and the cat face-shaped lid keeps my drink warm and away from any potential things flying in the air during this dusty time. Also, the graphics are super random and I don’t understand them, but boy, are they cute; that makes it more fun to drink from this thing.

Tazo zen Green Tea (in the cat cup from Daiso). I’ve talked about Tazo zen before, but it never gets old. It’s the one tea that’s pretty effective in curbing my anxiety, so I guzzle this up when I’m feeling like I need to calm down.

A thoughtful thank-you from my roommate. I helped organize my roommate’s birthday this year, and she wrote me a sweet thank-you. Her kind words help remind me I’m capable of doing things that make people happy, which is encouraging when I’m cranking through work.

You Are A Badass book by Jen Sincero. This bright yellow book looks happy on my nightstand, and is filled with funny, lighthearted reflections to help me reset and regroup when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Nohmad Snack Co’s Peppermint Crunch – 74% Cacao. I realize this may not be for everybody, but after making this impulse purchase at Whole Foods last week I have been savoring this bar until it is done. It’s raw, vegan, low sugar, and all of those “health” buzzwords… but it’s surprisingly yummy for my taste. Awesome snack and breakfast (What? Did I just say ‘breakfast’? I mean, uh, morning snack) when I don’t feel like walking to my fridge.

… Man, I really need to get my life together. But in the meantime, cheers to getting through the week / almost the weekend!

 

The R-Monster

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You can hide from it all you want, but sooner or later, the R-Monster will catch up to you. Taken at Guillermo del Toro’s “At Home With Monsters” at the LACMA.

FROM THE DESK OF: Nina

This past weekend, I had a chance to check out Guillermo del Toro’s “At Home with Monsters” exhibit at the LACMA. There were giant Frankenstein heads hanging on the wall, statues of fantastical fawn creatures greeting me at the entrance, old (looking) paintings of creepy old ladies staring at me from every angle, oddities left and right… overall, things were downright creepy in there. But amidst all of the weirdness, I couldn’t help but realize that what scared me the most about the entire thing was the fact that the scariest monster of them all wasn’t even in that room. No sirree, this monster isn’t visible to the naked eye; it’s one sort of creeps up on you over the years, and no matter how much you’re able to evade it when you’re younger, it eventually catches up to you until you find yourself staring at it point-blank in the face.

That monster is a little something I like to call Responsibility.

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Lessons from Lola

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What Lola says, goes. Here she is telling my mom and me that my mom wants grandbabies. (My mom doesn’t actually want me to have kids at this moment, but that matters zero percent to Lola.)

FROM THE DESK OF: Nina

Do you ever encounter people in your life who give you a glimpse of your future self (or, at least, what you hope your future self will be like)? The kind of people who say or do seemingly peculiar things, and yet you know exactly why they do said things, because those actions and thoughts stem from a certain kind of idiosyncratic thought process that you recognize in yourself?

In my experience, I’m blessed to have a couple of people in my life who provide me with a glimpse of the kind of person I could become in the future. My mom is one of them; however, for this post, I’m going to talk about one figure in my life who, in particular, consistently inspires me and shows me what a lifetime of achievement could look like if I embraced my weirdness to its full potential. That figure is my Lola.

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Lessons from my Future Self… for the Younger Me

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Bunche Hall at UCLA: where all turning points of my college career occurred.

FROM THE DESK OF: Nina

I received an email from my alma mater’s International Institute alumni network this morning. Included in this email was an invitation to reach out to them if my organization had an internship/job opening that I would like for them to promote to current students or fellow alumni. After checking out the website, I decided to create an alumnus profile.

The first page requested basic info. First name, last name, year of graduation, and so on. The next page was slightly more involved, asking for extracurriculars, activities, etc. But the third page.. the third page asked about my current role, my motivations for choosing my current path, my future goals, and my advice to current and future students at the International Institute. This is where things got interesting.

Continue reading “Lessons from my Future Self… for the Younger Me”