My friends might laugh when they read this. I’m the ultimate “not cool girl.” I’m great at making awkward situations even more uncomfortable, and I take every decision I ever make way too seriously. Things like leaving the house on time (even though I’m always late) and not sleeping enough stress me out. In college I always bailed out of Saturday night shenanigans because I die if I drink two nights in a row, and I made myself a five-year plan at the very impressionable age of 16. You can only imagine how much of that has come true.

Among all my self-deprecation, I’d like to go ahead and point out that I’m a lot of good things too: funny when I don’t try to be, ambitious, and a fiercely loyal friend. At one point in my life I thought I had it all figured out. Actually, there have been many times when I thought, “This is it! This is what I want to do.” I went to college with a dream of majoring in liberal arts. I would be a painter, photographer or a graphic designer; the kind that makes money. Then I realized that kind is really hard to come by, so I changed routes.

I started to think I’d climb the corporate latter in the marketing world, scaling up and up until I met a guy I was fond enough to marry. Together we would be bringing in a six-figure salary. I’d go to business school and write a book about how to be successful. I lasted a full two years in sales and made less money than I’m making now because it just wasn’t for me.

The more I dream up these life concoctions for myself, the more I realize that they’re an immense waste of my time. This year I’ve made a promise to myself to let loose, pull the proverbial stick out of my ass, and just let life happen. I still have goals, that will never change, but these things have helped me start to appreciate all the things I have going for me right now.Oprah quote

Start meditating, even if you’re scared or indifferent about the idea

Let me start off by saying that I’m no expert. In fact, I’m not even sure if I’m doing it right… but it feels like I can shut my brain off in a way that I can’t seem to find through any other means when I meditate. I’ve been doing it for mere minutes at a time, and I feel myself already growing. Try googling “guided meditation” and you might come up with a result you like, such as this one, to help you along the way.

Sit at a café or anywhere that inspires you

I started doing this recently after the boyfriend came to visit for a few weeks in December. He was quite vocal about the fact that I have a ton of super cute coffee shops in my neighborhood, and I never take the time to appreciate them. Today, I sit and write this to you from Branch Café as I sip on a banana shake. It’s nice to people watch, but it’s extra nice to just have a place to work that’s creatively inspiring. In this moment, I am happy. I’m not dreaming of where else I could be. This is the ultimate satisfaction, and will definitely help be happy with your life right now.


Image credit: Death to the Stock Photo

Wake up early, or at least early-ish

I won’t lie; this one hasn’t been implemented as often as I’d like it to be. My wakeup call is already pretty early in the morning, but it’s getting easier as the sun starts to rise earlier with the end of winter approaching (or so I keep telling myself). On days that I do manage it, though, I’m so much more content in everything I do. This is, in part, due to vanity because I have way more time to beautify myself, despite having a very limited wardrobe during my year abroad.

Spend time alone and don’t feel bad about it

I am the first to suffer from FOMO (for those of you non-members of the un-cool kids club, that’s fear of missing out). I’ve been spending oodles of alone time recently because all my friends in Korea are off on vacation in tropical, beautiful places. Instead of being jealous (which I totally still kind of am), I’m taking advantage of the lack of distractions and doing things I like to do. It was lonely at first, but now I’ve discovered new restaurants in my area, and even started small talk with some of the locals who own business near me. With all this extra time on my hands, I’ve also gotten way more work done than I normally do. I plan on keeping it up at least a few times a week, even after my long-awaited companions come back to me.

How To Be Happy

Image credit: Death to the Stock Photo

Focus on your passions

Work is cool and all since, you know, you have to pay the bills. If it’s not fulfilling for you, though, start focusing more attention on some of the things that are. Maybe it’s something you set aside or forget to prioritize because it’s just a hobby, or seems to serve no purpose, like knitting or baking. Whatever you love to do, that’s what you should be making the most time fore, especially on those nights when you decide to forgo the FOMO ;). Who knows, it might turn into something bigger in the long run and you’ll feel silly for discrediting it compared to your boring old desk job. Unless you love your desk job, which is awesome because that means you might already be happy with your life, in which case pretend I didn’t write that last sentence.

Move to a new country, perhaps as an ESL teacher!

You didn’t think I’d leave this out of the list, did you? There’s a reason I’m here, and as much as I enjoy the days I get to teach and the possibility of making a difference in a young persons life, it’s not because I’m immensely passionate about teaching. Being in Korea has taught me more than I could have anticipated. I’m saving money, figuring out my next step, and getting to know tons of incredibly smart and talented individuals. Above all, I’ve immersed myself in a society that’s so different from my own, overcome hardships due to culture shock, and grown leaps and bounds in my appreciation for what’s important to me in life. Above all, I know now what those “important” things are.

Have you ever struggled with figuring out where you want to be, or where you want to go? Maybe you’ve experienced a crossroads or a fork in the road. Tell us about it. is there anything you’d add to the list?

Join the Conversation


  1. So glad for this post right here! With the beginning of the year and people’s goals all over the place, I’ve been feeling the pressure to bring fourth my own brilliant plans! I’m trying to remind myself that for now, I am where I should be and I am happy. Each time I sit alone in a coffee shop, or I finish a day of Winter Camp that went really well, I remind myself of the leaps I’ve made. I am not the same person that arrived in Korea almost a year ago and it’s flipping great.

    My tip? So you don’t know what the plan is for now but that’s perfectly ok. Take some time out and explore your interests, learn something new and speak to a variety of people. While you’re doing that things will slowly start to click for you. Thanks for this post.

  2. Lovely and refreshing. I completely agree with you on the “spend time alone” bit. I have been on vacation all this week, and I didn’t go to Vietnam, Bali, or other tropical paradises. I would of course love to, at some point. I have found it, however, vastly important for my mental health to take an ACTUAL break. Don’t see people, don’t travel, don’t stress. Take a rest. I don’t think we rest enough, truly rest. I am hoping that after this week of rest, I can charge into my last weeks in Korea with and added fervor that I would have otherwise lacked.

  3. Great post! So honest and totally relatable. Almost 2 years (holy crap I can’t believe it has been that long) I hit a major wall. I was MISERABLE! I had been teaching in the states for 4 years (and was kind of bored by it), and got hit with a particularly bad class at about the same time my boyfriend of 2 years broke up with me and my best friend of 8 years and I had a major falling out! Everything bad happened at once and it was terrible. But then I decided to not let these things stress me out or make me depressed and that I was going to do whatever I wanted to be happy. So I started doing things I loved: cooking & exercising and planning for travel and at the end of the school year I quit my job and prepared to travel indefinitely! A lot of great things happened from that decision and I am so happy with how things have worked out since then!

  4. I totally agree with you here. I had more money back home but my life wasn’t happy. I needed to do something. Luckily a friend of mine got in my ear and starting talking about how his life in Korea was so great. Your final point (moving to another country) was a big step on the road to being happier. I’ve been able to focus on my passion (writing) in the past year and am really loving all the amazing people that I’ve met along the way (yourself included).

  5. Love this article. I am 31 and currently in SE Asia with no clue what i am going to do. I left a career, flat and busy social life. Some times i freak out and think ‘What the hell am I doing?’ But meh who cares, i am just going to go with it. As for cool… I don’t think i am the slightest bit cool but some people i meet do… So maybe this not having a clue is the cool thing to do?

  6. awesome writing, Neysha. You’ve given me a nice dose of inspiration on this day where I’ve woken up at 2:30 with a hangover. So it was much needed!

    It sounds like we are on similar paths so this was very cool to read. But Ive absolutely got to start meditating. I always plan on it but manage to find amazing excuses most of the time.

  7. Well said Neysha. I spent some time all on my lonesome this weekend and it has re-invigorated me. I think being here, in Korea, having a bit of extra time to think and follow my passions (as it seems you are doing too) has helped me figure a lot out.

  8. Great list, Neysha! I’ve actually been struggling a bit, being home and starting a new (mind-numbing) job and all. It feels like I’ve slipped a bit from the place I was at before coming home, so that “Focus on Your Passions” bit really spoke to me. I think I’ll do that tomorrow evening, something for me!

    The other things are great as well, this is a very insightful and thought-provoking piece! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. I definitely agree with a lot of things on this list. And also that there’s no one thing that makes everyone happy, but that you have to find out what it is for you. I’ve gone back and forth a lot since moving to Korea. Sometimes I love it here and other times I feel so isolated. But I know that quitting my job to travel and write was exactly what I always needed to do so even if it’s hard sometimes I know I still made the right choice.

  10. Excellent post and a wonderful reminder to slow down and appreciate what is around us! Enjoyed reading this post! xox

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