We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand



There is a happiness paradox nowadays. Life has gotten much better for people in terms of convenience, technology, and general standard of living, but people aren’t any happier than people from 50 years ago. This is quite a conundrum. Wouldn’t it be natural that people should be getting happier if their lives are getting better on a scale?

On average, people are living longer, healthier, with having more luxuries. Fifty years ago it was rare for a family to have two cars, but now it is a given. The average age of living is now around 80 years old, while around 50 years ago it was 60. With the internet everything is so much more convenient; 50 years ago nobody would have imagined that you could pay your bills or even order groceries online.

So if we are living longer, healthier, and more conveniently, why aren’t we living happier lives? The answer lies somewhere in human nature as well as society. As humans, it is difficult to ever be truly satisfied which may be rooted in our primal sense of “survival of the fittest.” However at the same time, society promotes the “dog eat dog” mentality which makes us to always want more and never be satisfied with what we have. If we have a car, we will want to have two. If we have two, we might want to add a third. If we have three, we might want to have a motorcycle on the side.

In Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture” that he gave when he was dying of a terminal illness, he stressed the idea of working with what we have and in his most memorable quotes said: “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” This quote has many meanings, one of them being that we should be satisfied with what we have, and make the best out of it.

Now I’m not saying to achieve anything in life and to lose all sorts of inspiration, but just not to become frustrated when your neighbor drives a BMW and you drive a Toyota. Materialistic goods never bring happiness or satisfaction. The feeling we get when we buy something new or expensive is a fleeting one. It is gone here for a second and gone the next.

I remember when I was 9 years old, my biggest dream in the world was to have this RC car which could drive itself even when flipped over. Flashy commercials with the RC car doing flips off stairs, driving in the dirt and water, and doing spins tempted me so badly. I wanted more than anything to get this car, and I decided that once I got it that I would be satisfied for the rest of my life. Therefore for my 10th birthday, I begged and pleaded with my mom and told her that this was the last toy that she would ever have to buy me. She shook her head and tried to talk some sense into me, but I refused to listen.

On the fateful day that I finally got the car, I was the most excited kid in the whole wide world. It was an exhilarating feeling tearing open the box and taking out my new toy. However after a few hours of playing with it, the appeal quickly wore off and I remember being shocked of how quickly I got bored by it. I then had a small epiphany as a child how material things couldn’t truly bring lasting happiness.

As elementary as this example is, I feel that it is an effective one. Even though we may look at children and say that they are foolish for wanting to have such useless toys, we could easily look at adults who buy even more expensive “toys” such as designer purses or expensive cars. Sometimes when people feel depressed they try to cure themselves with “retail therapy” by buying expensive things to make themselves feel better. However it never brings satisfaction, but rather wanting newer, better, and more trendy things.

Therefore we must learn how to stay away from material things, and be truly satisfied with the small and personal things that we have in our lives that we might often take for granted such as friendships. At times we forget how precious friends are that we often push away friends in lieu of work or even studying. Sure that extra hour at work or studying may earn us a few more bucks or even help us a little on our test the next day, but think about how much more precious that extra hour would be with our friends.

So to truly be happy in life, really count the blessings that you already have in your life. We are often distracted by what we don’t have which blinds us from what we already have in front of our eyes. The only way we truly realize how valuable something is until we lose it. For example, I always took my health for granted until I damaged my knee during a basketball game which put me in crutches for almost two months. During those two months just getting from point A to point B was a chore, and I remember looking with envy at people who had perfectly good legs who just took them for granted.

Being happy in life is not a goal or destination; it is a process. People often tell themselves that once they have that Mercedes or that 3-bedroom house with the white picket fence that they will be happy in life. And guess what? Once they get that fancy car or that big house they still feel empty which makes them constantly chase for bigger, better, and more expensive things. There is no reason why we can’t strive to be happy RIGHT NOW than later. Why make ourselves miserable in our everyday lives just to say that we will strive to be happy once we finish school or get that top-paying job?

I have many friends who often put schoolwork over their own personal happiness. They always tell me that by secluding themselves from their friends and from social events, that they will succeed and go to a top-school, where they will get a high-paying job from when they can start having “real fun.” But the sad fact is people with this type of mentality never end up being happy, because they will always have the mindset of putting work above everything else. One day they might get that high-paying job, but when they get that they will find another distraction. Working even harder to get that raise or that higher position.

I am not advocating just having fun and putting away all of life’s responsibilities. I am just stressing the fact that we must balance our lives and value our own personal happiness and well-being at the same level of school, work, and our responsibilities.

So really try to live in the present and value the things that we already have rather than we don’t have. Sure other people might be richer, taller, or better looking than us, but that shouldn’t distract us from all the other blessings we might have like our talents, passions, friends and family.  And really try to put happiness as one of the NECESSITIES in our lives, not something that are frivolous and unnecessary. And once we can learn how to focus on what we have we have than what we don’t have, we can truly be happy.

Unplugging

Something that we should all strive to do is to be online less and outside more. Although the television used to be the biggest source of distractions, it has been much overshadowed by the internet. Although the internet is a great source of information and can be used in very good ways, many people often just waste their time on it. We are constantly distracted by email, Facebook, Myspace, twitter, and instant messaging that we spend much more time indoors than outdoors.

It may seem that the internet has connected us with other people and the world, but in fact it has disconnected us. Instead of going out and actually meeting friends, we write on their facebook walls. Instead of going out and seeing new places, we stay home and surf the web. Instead of going out and playing sports, we stay glued onto sports websites and research statistics.

The feeling of unplugging once in a while is very strange at first, but very refreshing. There are times that we are forced to unplug, such as when the internet quits working at our homes. When this happens, we often feel very awkward and don’t know what to do. However after the initial shock wears off… we start doing things which are more fulfilling whether it be reading books or going out. And once the internet starts working again, we are once glued to our screens.

But by unplugging more, we can LIVE more. Think about all the sweet moments from your life. Did they happen when you were on your computer or surfing the web? Or were they when you spent quality time with friends and family or experienced something new outside? By unplugging more, we can have more chances to build these sweet memories.

Now I’m not saying to throw away your computers and blackberries and live in a cave or something. We still are dependent on technology for basic things like paying our bills or work-related things, but there is a certain point when any extra time spent with technology is time wasted.

So take that hour or two that you usually spend on the computer and unplug. Go for a walk, meet a friend, or read a book. It may be the best one or two hours of your day.

Stepping out of your comfort zone

As a street photographer, I always have to step out of my comfort zone to either take photos of strangers or explore new places to take photos of. At times we can become extremeley comfortable in our little bubbles that we never go out and explore the world. We become so used to our routines that anything new or foreign makes us afraid.

But stepping out of your own comfort zone and doing something you are not used to doing can be one of the most exhilerating things. For example, when walking in the sidewalk and you see that one alleyway that can be a potential shortcut… do you take it? Or does something hold you back that prevents you from going down that path? Is it fear? And if so, what are you afraid of? Sure if you’re a girl and its the middle fo the night maybe its not a good idea, but in broad daylight you should be good.

Humans naturally love routine and expecting things, and we may find solace in it. But when it prevents us from being spontatneous and doing things we want to, that is when it holds us back.

Did you ever suddenly become really inspired and wanted to do something that you thought was crazy? You might have told your friends about it, and they might have thought you were crazy too and dissuaded you from doing it. But push them aside and don’t let them prevent you from doing something truly “crazy.”

So do something crazy and unexpected today. Even the smallest change in routine can be the most refreshing thing. Switch that bagel you eat for breakfast with a muffin, or take a different road home. You might stumble upon something truly unexpected and amazing that you wouldn’t have experienced had you taken the regular path.

Simplicity

I feel that often times people make life much more complicated than it needs to be. People often think that having a busy and complicated life is the best, but a simple life is the best life. The small little things that we have in life are what really make life enjoyable. For example the kisses or hugs we receive from loved ones, the quiet time that we have to ourselves in the morning, or the feeling of being accomplished after a good study or workout session.

People try to cram so many things into one day which often leads to stress, disappointment, and unproductivity. I am a firm believer that it is best to do a few things very well instead of doing many things not as well.

By simplifying our lives, we can live much happier and fuller lives. By feeling less rushed and overburdened by too many responsibilities, we can truly devote quality and quantity time to things that we feel that are truly important. Although things such as work and studying may be important, it shouldn’t be the focus of our lives. Rather, we should dedicate our time to our intra-personal  connections and people.

So simplify your day a little. Productivity shouldn’t be measured by how much you get done, but rather how well yo udo it. Remember the wise words, “less is more.”

Korea Days 1-3

So today was the day that I finally was going to Korea. Packing last-minute was hectic, and driving up from LA to leave to Korea the next day was even worse. But it was great to come home and be greeted with amazing Korean BBQ that my mother had generously cooked for me and my sister beforehand. Actually, this amazing Korean BBQ that was prepared for us was supposed to be an surprise BBQ, which was scheduled at 2:00PM and we nearly missed by 5 hours. Anyways, I was able to finally get all my stuff packed into my bags, and went off to the airport. I packed my Apple monitor, hoping that I could bring it on the carry-on, as I need it dearly for photo editing (my laptop monitor is terrible for photo editing because it is so dim and the colors are off). But anyways, once we got to the place to check in our baggage, I realized that my bags were overweight. So I had to toss out extra shoes that I was planning to bring, some books, and even had to leave my Apple monitor as well. But I didn’t mind so much, as I had hoped that my epic trip in Korea/Europe for the summer would far surpass any disappointments I had along the way.

After I finally got my bags to the proper weight, I walked towards the gates and finally waved goodbye to my loving mother and sister. I remember the first time that I went to Korea I felt scared and timid at the gates, but now I truly felt like a grown-up man, just going through the motions. After the hassle of taking off my shoes, belt, and pockets through the metal detectors, I finally approached the departure gate I was supposed to leave. At the gate, I gave my ticket to one of the Singapore Airlines employees, who fumbled with my ticket and was furiously typing away at his computer. I sensed something wrong, but didn’t say anything and just let the man do his thing. To my surprise, he told me that the flight was overbooked, but he would do me a special favor. He gave me the hush-hush sign by putting his finger to his lips and told me that he upgraded me to business class for free. Overjoyed, I graciously took the ticket and headed inside the airplane.

When I boarded, the stewardess looked quite surprised to be greeting such a young guy like me into business class. Regardless, she gave me a warm smile and greeting and guided me to my seat. When I was lead to my seat, I was amazed by how luxurious it was. It was large enough for me to lay down and sleep, while being nicely equipped with a huge television, and all the extras. Just in my five minutes of sitting there, I was offered champagne, complimentary magazines, and snacks. I looked around and saw that everyone else truly looked like business people, decked out in their fancy suits and expensive watches. As I extended out my legs and readjusted my pillows, I knew that I was going to have the best flight of my life.

During my flight, I had the most exquisite foods. The lunch and dinners were world-class, with my first dish being smoked salmon with exquisitely grilled vegetables on the side. For dinner, I had the most tender lamb ever, with this special pea sauce on the side as well. For snacks I wasn’t offered peanuts, but rather a plethora of cheeses and fresh fruit, so I treated myself like a king and ate brie and cheddar cheese, while pairing it with walnuts, strawberries, and blueberries. To wash it all down, I had a nice glass of red wine from Italy.

I also watched a great deal of movies, which ranged from “Watchman,” “Bolt,” “Gran Torino,” and “Slumdog Millionaire.” “Watchman” was great to watch in terms of cinematography and the style of the story, but the story itself was a tad dull. But I enjoyed it nevertheless. I was shocked how good “Bolt” was as well, with great CGI animation and truly adorable characters and a fantastic storyline. “Gran Torino” was definitely one of my favorite movies I have watched so far. The acting by Clint Eastwood as a sour and bitter old man was excellent, and the film did a great job portraying his transformation in being more open and selfless. And “Slumdog Millionaire” hands-down has to be the best film of the year. The concept of the movie is truly original, and the execution equally as stunning.

When I got off the plane, I was surprised how easy it was for me to find my way to my aunt’s place. I just hopped on one of the buses and before I knew it, I found myself at my aunt’s place. Her place is pretty awesome, albeit a little small. But because I have internet working there, I don’t really mind. She is also busy all the time, which makes me fully independent at her place, so I just cook my own food and take the bus anywhere I need to go.

Today I met with some of the parents I am going to tutor and so far I have this planned. For about a month, I tutor a 3 teams of kids, for a combination of 3 hours a day, getting paid 30,000 won/hour (around 26 dollars an hour). Then a month later after that, I am going to start tutoring the same kids for a combination of 5 hours a day. And another thing that is up in the air is teaching at an English institute where I could work for 3 hours a day and get paid around a thousand bucks a month… which is not that much but better than nothing.

Sorry to bore you guys with all this stuff so far, but it is this detailed for anybody who is interested. I plan on writing in this blog daily, even maybe several times a day to jot down my thoughts. I really want to improve my writing skills over the summer, and hopefully this blog will help me accomplish that.

I’ll post photos soon too!