800 year old Douglas Fir tree in Cathedral Grove. Still going strong.
I can say without a doubt that this past year has been the greatest milestone i’ve achieved in my life. And no…i did not put more letters behind my name, got married or landed a million-dollar job (i wish!), but because I’ve started to really embrace this gift we call life and have learned to become more content with simply being Jenny. It sounds simple but those who know me well, I used to be pretty hard on myself and very uptight (in general).
I would say one of the best decisions i made in my life was deciding to travel for 2.5 months and see the world for its true colours – to throw myself into the unknown and spontaneous life of a backpacker. It’s hard to believe one year ago today, i was all stressed out trying to stuff my backpack with summer and winter clothes and “the essentials” for my trip to Europe and Morocco, all the while pulling back tears from a break up that I had partially blamed myself for.
The trip taught me one of the commandments i set for myself at the beginning of the year: Lighten up and smile when in doubt. Somethings just don’t matter if you look at the grand scheme of things. “The essentials” that i packed were really not THAT essential compared to how Moroccans live their day to day life. For instance, at my host family’s house, i had to ask for toilet paper. It wasn’t something that was essential for them. Even the quality of the paper was sub-par…not one-ply by American standard. On top of that, I showered with a hose and flies flying everywhere. I could choose to be miserable about it for a month, or make light of it and be glad i have running water. I now laugh at myself for having stuffed the last empty space in my backpack with 20 granola bars….(just in case those moroccans didn’t feed me well!) LOL.
The next commandment was : No judging. Coming from a Chinese family, we judge a lot. Parents judged other families and their kids, aunties and uncles judged their friend’s daughter’s husband’s blue-collar job, neighbour next door judged what car you drive…so on and so forth. Traveling and meeting people from all walks of life meant i had to hear their story first without judging what kind of clothes they wore, what they smelled like, or what their skin colour was. I was amazed that when i stopped forming an opinion of someone without knowing them first, I met some of the most amazing people, including an Argentinian guy named Jose that bunked below me in Ibiza and offered to brew me tea that he brought all the way from his country and using his own teapot to cure my hangover.
Some of the other commandments were:
- Slow down and enjoy the process. *Check – to continue* ie. instead of rushing in the morning to get ready for work, i now set my alarm 10 mins early so i can enjoy my coffee and breakfast, and watch some news before i head to work. This sets off a good tone for the rest of my day and i feel more relaxed.
- Be truthful to self. To not be in denial. *Check – to continue* ie. Sure i liked his sail boat, or his fancy stereo, or how hot he looks in a wet suit…but if i’m not in it for the right reasons, let’s not waste each other’s time.
- Be generous: *Check – to continue* I wanted to be generous with my time. For those who know me well, I’m very much a ME-TIME person. I wanted to share more of my time with friends and people that matter most to me. Thanks to that, great company helps to boost happiness and i also made some wonderful friends along the way!
There are others but I’ll have to write the Happiness Project V. 2 if i carried on further. I do highly recommend that book. Some of the above is adapted from Gretchen’s best-selling book.
And with all that said, isn’t that something to celebrate for? I would not have been able to do this without my fabulous friends, and my supportive-and-at-times-critical sister. Each and everyone of you are a gift in my life. As i’ve seen recently, health can take a 180 degree turn overnight. So i’m so grateful to be able to do all the things i am able to do – going surfing, getting better at swimming, finally joining a sports team…all of these things i’m so happy to be a part of. And to my most loving mother who brought me to this world 27 years ago today, I miss you so so much. In the end, you taught me that only love and happiness really matters.