So years ago I got involved with some self-help/self-improvement communities. I read all kinds of books and attended a series of workshops. My takeaway was the ability to let go of guilt and regret. Most of my anxiety disappeared (outside of a bout of severe clinical depression) and I learned to cut my losses (see the sunk cost fallacy).

But I think it’s been really hard for me to feel happy since the end of high school. My feelings were dependent on outside factors, with many ups and downs. I didn’t just feel content like I did when I was younger.

Towards the end of 2013 I spent a lot of time thinking about balance in my life, my goals, and how to become the kind of person I want to be. I pored over The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and spent weeks analyzing and rewriting my personal mission statement.

At that time, I was repeatedly overbooking myself for two unsatisfying jobs and I still wasn’t getting out of debt. I had no time for friends or even my own basic needs. I was dealing with various flavors of chronic pain and health problems. I didn’t feel like I had any control over my own life.

7 Habits introduced me to the idea of managing your personal resources. P/PC balance, where P is the resource and PC is renewing that resource. I understood this with time, money, calories, and other currencies, but it really applies to every aspect of your life.

My favorite simple example is laundry. Sure, I could always run to Uniqlo to pick up some clothes, but most of the time I need to do laundry on my days off so that I have something to wear to work. If I don’t do laundry, I’m going to wake up at 6am Saturday and try to get dressed in the dark without anything available to wear. (This is also why I plan my outfits now.)

Exercise, stretching, cooking, paying bills, playing violin. These are PC activities. They’re the basic maintenance required before I can even get close to feeling good (more or less).


Over the past few months I’ve been moving closer to feeling happy. And I recently got a kick in the head that’s challenged me to try harder.

Happiness isn’t something I have to work toward. It’s not something I have to think about. Barring severe lifestyle and/or medical problems (both of which I’ve experienced many times over), happiness is there, inside you. And it’s fucking hard to accept that when you feel like complete shit all the time. That’s why I needed to balance my P/PC activities before I could get anywhere near feeling like I do right now.

But yeah, for the past few days, I’ve felt pretty happy. I’m challenging myself this week to feel good all week long. And I can feel the happiness coming from inside me, in spite of outside annoyances or disappointments. Logically, I knew it was there, but an unbalanced lifestyle with no direction and no connection with others will cut off the flow of natural, good feelings.

I have a long way to go before I’ll master the 7 Habits or Dale Carnegie’s style of social interaction or the other skills of the greats, but for now I’m just letting myself feel good. I feel happy right now, and I can accept that.

One weird thing though: yesterday when I got to work, my coworker asked me if I was ok. And today my floormate asked if I’m alright. He said I looked “a little sensitive.” Maybe it’s cause I don’t have my bitchface on all the time anymore?


I don’t mind working. Sure, we all get lazy sometimes, but I’ve noticed now that I’m a little older, I actually do care about results.

Which is why I’m writing this.

I’d love a situation where I get rewarded for being more productive, for producing higher quality work. I’ve had enough of being on the clock without making a difference at the end of the day.

I hate that it takes me half the time allotted to complete the work I’m given, and I don’t get any reward for being twice as productive as anticipated.


I’ve never been good with the notion of “balance.” I’ve always overdone it with everything. All or nothing.

I don’t think it’s the same thing as “putting my all” into different areas of my life. I’ve never felt like I’ve “put my all” into anything. I put a lot of myself into something, and then I feel like I’m overdoing it so I back off.

I go through phases. I’ll exercise a lot and eat super healthy for a few months. I’ll go boy-crazy for a few months. I’ll throw myself into school or work for a few months. I’ll start going out with friends all the time for a few months. I’ll become a recluse and watch TV shows and eat ice cream for a few months (or years)

I can’t balance health with a social life, school/work, and alone time. I just don’t have enough energy for it all. I have to sacrifice everything else to get a handle on just one of those things.

And it’s always just when I’m starting to get to a good place with whichever area of my life it is that I stumble, then crash and burn.

I wanted to punch some old dudes. And cry.

I’ve been going jogging more. Within a few weeks I noticed my endurance getting better and being able to run slightly faster without dying. I can also easily run longer distances and more times each week. I must have doubled or tripled my mileage within two weeks.

Aaaaaand shin splints.

It’s like, the second one health problem disappears, another just waltzes in to take its place. Can’t I be fucking young and healthy and active like normal people are at 23? I just disappeared my lower back pain thanks to my magical massage place. This is bullshit.

I asked Doug, one of the regulars at work who does cycling races. He said apparently you’re not supposed to increase your mileage/speed/frequency/intensity more than 10% each week. So I guess I’m taking a break, which works out cause I should be practicing violin instead. (If you’re wondering how I can be writing this instead of practicing violin, I was going to spend the night watching House of Cards but it’s too negative for me right now. Writing is therapeutic.)

I’m pissed because it felt like I was finally starting to be active and athletic. I had bad exercise-induced asthma throughout middle school and high school. I ran at home on the treadmill but I could never run outside. Only in the last few years did I realize why: air pollution. Thanks, LA, for ruining my childhood.

And then all that treadmill running in high school gave me shin splints, from heel-striking too much trying to run faster. I went to a physical therapist and he recommended motion-control running shoes. Because when you have fallen arches, the best thing to do is put a bunch of support underneath. (If you don’t know basic arch engineering, gravity is what holds the stones in place. Putting a column underneath an arch will cause it to collapse.)

I tried running again when I was recovering from depression, and it really clicked when I started couch-to-5k my senior year at SB. That was the first time I could run a mile without stopping since I was 14. Moving back to LA broke my streak and I fell off the wagon.

Now I’m climbing back on for the third time since moving to Japan and it was starting to feel fun and easy.  I was looking forward to running, like I did back in SB. The weather is perfect, I’m in a nice area, I can run farther. But no, my shins are stabbing me. And you know the only way to cure shin splints? Not running.

So I could spend Y600 a workout and start swimming at the gym, or I can eat a bunch of ice cream to ease my pain and enjoy my diabetes and heart disease. Do you know how much ice cream I can get for Y600??



When I was in Kagurazaka the other day, I saw that the cafe where I got the drink in my picture has closed. A moment of silence.


Settling in, finally?

By the end of 2013 I nearly burnt out from working so much. I love both my jobs, but I’d get maybe one or two days off each month, if I don’t include my trip to Kyoto. My back pain, weight gain, sleep deprivation, and chronic bitchiness were telling me to change something. I promised myself I’d have more free time and more days off this year, starting February.

February kind of fell through, lost my days off. And before March even started I signed myself up for 20+ hours of violin practice this week. Yes, that is like having an extra part-time job on top of the two jobs I already have. Not complaining or anything, I did miss playing and I needed an excuse to play again. So my balanced lifestyle officially starts March 12th.

It doesn’t even feel like March though. Valentine’s Day snuck up on me and then breezed past without fanfare (thanks, Hanaka-san, for the no-couples restriction). I have 9 weeks until I move back. It’s only been 9 weeks since New Year’s! That’s like no time at all!

And this week I’m just finally starting to feel like I have friends. Like I don’t have to search and beg and plead for people to invite me places. Is that how long it’s supposed to take?

I’ve had a few wins this week actually. Keisuke visited me at work randomly and I got a free beer. I may have been abruptly offered a job at a certain fancy Italian restaurant. Schmoozing with beer vendors got me four free bottles. Am I just getting good at schmoozing? And I have four purely fun social meeting event things planned in the next few weeks, and I’m thinking of visiting a few bars and cafes when I get a chance over the next few weeks.

Plus next month I’ll have two Saturday mornings off so I’ll be able to drink and party a tiny bit on a few Fridays after I finish my shift at midnight. But then Golden Week, it’s gonna kill me. I have until the 20th to decide my schedule.

And May 6th is my last day of work. Two months. That’s it.

I want a career

I’m tired of feeling constantly behind. I see my friends maybe once a week if I’m lucky. I don’t buy expensive things (ok except my phone). I have a roommate. I’m reimbursed for transportation expenses. When will I be out of debt? When will I be free?

The more I think about it (and I’ve thought about it every day since winter quarter 2012), the more I realize that I don’t know anything. I have nothing to contribute to the world.

I like teaching. I like my students. I’m good at it. But I feel completely replaceable. Should I stay in a field with such high turnaround and make myself irreplaceable somehow? I’m sure if I market myself well then people will notice that I’m actually good at what I do. Do I want to work my ass off in a declining industry with a shrinking market? No. I want to become relevant. I want to become needed.

I’m quick. I’ve always analyzed things faster than my peers. If I knew the information, I completed tests first. This is about 90% of the time from 10th grade through college. By the end of my freshman year of college I could pump out essays like it was nothing. In French.

By Japanese 2 I was re-explaining the grammar to my classmates because I could phrase it more clearly than the instructor could. And we had a great instructor.

There are a lot of people out there like me. We were told that we’re “gifted,” that we’re “smart.” I was lucky enough to be surrounded by rich kids with doctor/lawyer/investor/banker/teacher/engineer parents so the peer pressure was to do well in school. I’m lucky that I was raised in a safe, loving household with a family network that could watch over me. I’m lucky that I’ve made the friends I’ve made and that I’ve had the opportunities that I’ve had.

I don’t blame anything or anyone for feeling lost now. Well, except the irresponsible greedy bankers and politicians who fucked the economy. I had very little direction going into college, but I also didn’t ask for help or advice. I’m sure I could have gotten lots of help if I had asked around starting 8th grade, but to this day my stubborn streak continuously screws me over. I hate asking for input, and it’s going to be my downfall (is there a less dramatic term for “downfall”)?


When I read /r/personalfinance and /r/frugal and they talk about the opportunity cost of buying certain things and when I input all of my transactions into You Need A Budget for two months before it deletes all my information on accident and I analyze my income and my spending and how much I can save in six months I think, where is this going?

Sure, I splurge a lot more than I should on food and clothes. Mostly because I have no idea how to dress professionally when it’s 80° out with 100% humidity. And it’s hard to plan meals when you finish work at midnight and wake up at 7:00am the next day and then work until midnight again.

I don’t even want that many things. I don’t need the extravagant “middle class” suburban bullshit our parents went into debt to finance. I don’t need a house or a car or a front yard or an hour-long commute each way in traffic. What I expect, what I want ideally from my young adult life is the following:

- one-bedroom apartment or studio to myself
- solid, fast laptop computer
- custom-built desktop computer (ok this is optional)
- desk and chair
- very high-end smart phone
- high quality headphones
- fiber internet
- saving half of my paychecks
- one or two vacations a year
- clothes and shoes that fit me well and don’t fall apart
- a bike
- gym membership
- some higher-quality bags/luggage
- decently nice bed
- a kitchen with an oven and a table and chairs
- a good grocery store or farmer’s market nearby

This is my ideal living situation. Literally my dream home.

I don’t want to get married and have a big stupid wedding. I’ll throw a party for fun when my net worth is over $100k.

I want a job where I have to wrack my brain every day. Where people depend on me and I depend on people and I have deadlines and projects and clients to serve. I love serving people and making their lives better. I love using my skills to solve people’s problems. I want to do that in the most useful way possible.

On a whim: some Henry Ford quotes

Don’t find fault, find a remedy.

This one is huge for attitude adjustments.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.

I’ve been taking this one to heart lately. I felt like such a failure this time last year and I’m not willing to let my 20s be a waste. I’m young and the world is filled with opportunity, let’s do this shit.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.

We live in the information age. If you think you can’t do something–like, oh I don’t know, improvise on violin–it’s worth googling to see if there are any learning resources out there. More often than not, it’s possible to learn. And usually for free too.

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young.

So I’m like totally scared of alzheimer’s and dementia and losing my dignity as I age. I’ve always loved learning and I’m probably going to go back to school a bunch of times, or at least take advantage of free learning resources. Lifelong learning is the fountain of youth.

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.

You can talk the talk but can you walk the walk?

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.

See also How to Win Friends and Influence People.

There is no man living who isn’t capable of doing more than he thinks he can do.

Now, I’ve made the mistake of biting off more than I can chew a few times. I need to be careful about balance in my life, and taking care of my own needs. But I also know I have a lot of potential and I should definitely keep pushing myself.

You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.

 This one really hits me hard. I’m beyond guilty of only considering titles when it comes to power and influence. People can absolutely be leaders without having a fancy title. It all depends on how you carry yourself and the kind of example you set.

Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.

 I’ve also heard it like this: “Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.” Very powerful.