Category Archives: Life Lessons

Zen in a toothache

rss | t f | g+

 

Kenchō-ji Gardens | Jessica Dang | Minimal Student

What good can come from a mere toothache?

As I have recently experienced, there are a few life lessons to be learned from a small (yet extremely painful) toothache.

 

A few summers back, when I stayed in Plum Village, the monastary of the famous monk Thich Nhat Hanh, there was one day when he made us imagine that we had woken up in the middle of the night with a very painful toothache.
 

Since the dentist wouldn’t be open until the morning, most people would be counting down the hours until it could be treated, all the while hoping that the pain would go down, or go away.

 

We live most of our lives without physical pain like this. Even right now, unless you have a broken arm or leg, or any other major chronic aches or pains, you spend most of your life in relatively good physical health.

 

At the time, I listened carefully to the lesson, but never did I dream that this scenario would actually happen to me.

 

About two weeks ago, I woke up one night from a sharp pain in my head. It wasn’t a migrane, as I had thought, but instead the premolar on the left side of my top jaw was throbbing pretty hard. I tried to sleep it off, but the pain didn’t go away. I tried to ignore it, but the pain was so sharp, and constant, that it couldn’t stop thinking about it.

 

During the last few weeks, I walked, worked, and slept with a winced expression on my face as I tried to put up with this horrible and constant physical pain. I booked an appointment to see a dentist, but the nearest available appointment isn’t for a few weeks yet. In the meantime, I just have to take some painkillers and deal with it.

 

The good news is that there is a bright side to all of this. Well, at least I searched long and hard for one because I absolutely forbid myself to go through something like this without gaining anything good from it. One day, I remembered Thay’s lesson on learning from my pain.

 

An important lesson about pain

The experience of having a pain that is strong enough to take over your life, and distract you from doing anything else is not something that can be easily understood until you go through it yourself.

 

I learned this lesson the hard way, but since doing so, I could imagine that the hard way is one of the only ways to learn it.

 

I genuninely hope that most people do not experience a pain like that, but the bright side for those who do is that, in the end, you will know how to be so damn grateful for not having any pain.

 

Kenchō-ji Gardens | Jessica Dang | Minimal Student

 

Thich Nhat Hanh taught me that sometimes we need some pain in our lives to give us a basis to compare against, so that we may be grateful for what we have right now.

 

People who never go through any pain don’t know any different, and so may not appreciate what they have as much as somebody who lost their health. If you are lucky enough to gain it back, then you feel like you’re given a second chance to appreciate what you have.

 

When we are mindful of the good things we have in life, we are aware of how lucky we are, and we feel good about ourselves. In this case, happiness is born from pain. So pain isn’t always a bad thing.

 

Now, I’m not saying that a toothache really compares to some of the really bad things that can happen to your health. But now that I’ve experienced something as painful as this, I’m reminded that even if there are some difficult things going on in life, at least when I am not in pain, I can be grateful for that.

Balancing Work Life With A Minimalist Life

rss | t f | g+

 

One of the biggest life questions that I’ve been battling with lately is how to balance work life – and everything that it comes with – with a minimalist lifestyle.

Can you have it all?

Since I was a kid, I have been extremely ambitious. I daydreamed about having a successful career. I would climb the corporate ladder, and the only glass I would encounter wouldn’t be a metaphorical celiing, but the full length windows to my corner office overlooking the city.

I imagined myself making ridiculous amounts of cash, buying a big house and getting VIP access to the coolest places.

The ambitious person inside of me still wants that.

The minimalist in me sees how fruitless it all is in the end.

The world of work feeds our desires, always making us want more. More money, more stuff, more status.

Since starting my corporate career a few months ago, I’ve found myself falling into this trap. It’s contagious, and I’m only human. Now that I have my own apartment and more stuff than I need, am I really happy?

A big part of me misses the time when I used to travel the world with my trusty suitcase which held all of my life possessions. Every day was an adventure. Now, every day is the same as yesterday.

Over the last few months, I’ve been so damn close to packing it all in and getting back onto the road, forgetting all of the reasons why I got off it in the first place.

There were so many times on the road that I would go back to my old daydreams. I decided that it was time to put my aimless wanderings on hold and finally settle down with a challenging job that would pay for my own apartment. For the longest time, I wanted a place that I could call home.

Is there a way to balance our ambitions, to have a ‘successful’ career, without losing our contentment with what we already have and getting sucked into a materialist lifestyle?

Part of the answer is finding a job that you love, that you’re good at, and that pays well. Unfortunately, this is a bit too idealistic for most people.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who have well paying jobs that they love, and don’t squander their money on useless stuff. The main problem is that when work is such a drag, saving up to buy something nice is all that you have to look forward to. A treat for all your hard work…

…and we’re going in circles, back to square one.

I don’t have the answers to this one. Yet.

This is something I’m going to have to learn the hard way. Any suggestions?

Related Posts

Minimal Student subscribe via rss | twitter | facebook | g+ | email

The most important thing you need to know about completing your bucket list

rss | t f | g+

by Jessica Dang

Last year, I made a bucket list of some of the things I wanted to do in my life before I die. Usually, when I have an important goal to achieve, I would break down the goal – what do I have to accomplish by when? What do I have to do first in order to do second? Complex goals usually require complex planning.

However, I intentionally left my bucket list vague. Indeed, some of them are just one word long. Why? Because contrary to what it sounds like, the things on my bucket list are not goals. 

what a bucket list really is

My bucket list tells the story of an adventure – my adventure. A good story isn’t about the destination, but the journey there. No matter where you go or what you do, it’s what you learn, and how you grow on the way that matters.

Travel is about discovering yourself. The phrase ‘finding yourself’ usually conjures up the image of a mountaintop or some other glamorous destination. However, you won’t find out who you are by wading through the Amazon or meditating in a Zen temple. Everything you need to discover about yourself is already within you.

Knowing this is liberating. It means that you can find meaning in your own backyard. You don’t have to get on a plane – just going for a walk around the block, or taking a train to the next town, can be an adventure in itself. You can learn a lot just by being more mindful of the surroundings you’re in right now, and taking a moment to be grateful for what you already have.

However, if it’s possible for you, visiting other countries can also be worth your while. Going outside of your comfort zone, whether it’s in the same country, or within another culture, can open mind, and widen your perspective on the different ways of thinking by different people. It can challenge your beliefs – which is a good thing – and make you stronger as a person.

Wherever you choose to go, remember that there is a difference between travelling for the sake of travelling and going somewhere to enjoy the journey itself. In other words, are you just trying to get to ‘X’, or do you care about the road there? When people create bucket lists, are they really only thinking about reaching a destination? Or are they thinking about the journey too?

The real question is, which one are you thinking about?

real travel is about the journey, not the destination

by Jessica Dang

The Buddha’s story isn’t about reaching the goal of enlightenment itself, but about his pursuit of the rightful path

The concept is easier to understand when you look at the other things I have on my list. For example, ‘learn Japanese’ is so vague – how can one possibly know when they’ve ‘learned’ a language? The answer is that you can’t. I’m now living and working in Japan, and I could say that I’m fluent in Japanese, but I still haven’t crossed it off the list. I don’t think I’ll ever reach a place where I can say I’ve ‘completed’ this item, but that was never my intention. It was the process of learning that has given me so much. Because I’ve taken the time to learn a new language, a whole new world had opened up for me. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t made the effort.

In the same way, I didn’t run a marathon for the medal. After all, it’s just a piece of metal. A medal and a free T-shirt is merely a representation of my hard work. It was all of those hours I spent running that mattered. By training for it, my body became healthier, I learned to eat better, and I built my mental and physical endurance. The actual marathon itself didn’t matter nearly as much as the sweat and tears I had shed in all the runs I did before it. The strength I gained didn’t just happen to me suddenly when I crossed the finish line, I collected it slowly, step by step, along the journey that I had already made.

So yes, you and I may never complete our bucket lists, but that’s okay. This is not an excuse. It’s not supposed to merely be a list of stuff to be ticked off one by one – it can be so much more than that.

Your bucket list should tell your story. How it goes is up to you. 

 

Making Miracles

rss | t f | g+

cbfgfh

When life gives you lemons, make grape juice, and let the world marvel at how you did it.

What a great twist to an old saying. Sometimes, you don’t get everything that you want, or even everything that you need. If only you had a bit more time, more money, more resources.

Life can be full of challenges, mistakes and failures. It would be great if life worked out the way we wanted it to, but things aren’t always going to go according to plan. Sometimes, you’re going to be dealt a bad hand, and it’s up to you how you want to play it.

That’s the great thing about life. Even though it can be hard, it’s also full of opportunities and any number of wonderful things. As long as you learn from your past, keep your chin up, and face whatever life throws at you head on, you’ll be okay in the end.

Sometimes, life only gives you lemons. You may have wanted oranges, or apples, or anything else but lemons, but you didn’t get what you wanted. Well, now’s your chance. Go on, make some magic happen, and let them marvel.

The True Meaning of ‘Success’

rss | t | f | g+

beach_sunglasses

What do the most successful men and women in history all have in common?

Not all of them were smart, or good looking, or had either poor or wealthy backgrounds. They weren’t all gifted from birth, or went to college, or happened to be in the right time and place. They were from all walks of life, and were completely different except for one thing.

They changed the world.

Isn’t that the true meaning of ‘success’? To be remembered for doing something remarkable. It’s not about making money, being famous or inventing something. It’s about changing the world, even if just a little bit. Even if it’s just for a few people. And preferably for the better.

It all begins with a vision of the future, of a better place. And then with a little bit of persistence, fearlessness, and yes, even a dash vulnerability, they made it. Of course, it takes a lot of courage. It’s not an easy road to take, being a world-changer.

Children have an amazing ability to see things through rose-tinted glasses. This isn’t a bad thing. They think they can change the world, and they probably could have, except as they grow up, they slowly become sceptical about their chances. Most people call this ‘coming to terms with reality’ but the truth is, as adults we make lot of excuses for not even trying.

If only we could all leave the world a better place than before we entered it. If only we were all brave enough to keep on our rose-tinted glasses for just a little longer.

 

5 lessons learned from a year living in a foreign country

Today was my final day in Japan. By the time you read this, I would have probably already landed in Hong Kong, ready for my next adventure. It’s been almost a year of culture shock, ups and downs, exploring, learning, having fun and so much more. I’m grateful for how much I’ve discovered about myself, other people and about hard work, kindness and life itself. It’s hard to whittle down an entire life experience into a few lessons, but I’ll try my best. However, almost everything I learned doesn’t only apply to living in another country – but can also apply to anything you want to do.

1. Enjoy the honeymoon.

When you first arrive in a foreign country, everything is like a dream. You’re whisked here and there, taken to admire the cultural diversity, eat great food and talk to people who are always nice to you because they want to make a good impression. At the same time as being in a daze, your senses are on high alert and you notice every little thing that’s different from your country around you. It’s easy to get out of bed early in the morning even though you can hardly sleep all night from the anticipation of what the next day would bring.

But’s it’s not until you stay for at least a couple of weeks that you get a feel for what it’s really like. The transition from regular ‘tourist’ to ‘resident’ is like turning the heat of the bathwater up (yes, you can do this in Japanese baths) – you don’t notice it until it burns you. It’s not always necessarily bad, but eventually you start to accept that there are things that are different that are good, and then there are things that are different and not so good, but that’s okay, because that’s the way things are – like a best friend who have their own flaws but will always be there to comfort you in your time of need. Whenever you start something new, you’re likely to experience a these kinds of emotions. It’s easy to do things when you feel like doing them, but the real test of character comes when you challenge yourself to work on the marriage even when the honeymoon period is over.

2. Nothing compares to real life.

In the vain hope of reducing the chances of making cultural blunders, I read prolifically before I came to Japan – phrasebooks, history books, guidebooks, culture books, even cookbooks. Heck, I spent a year learning so much about Japan that I was basically eating, breathing and dreaming it. But when I got here, most of the things I’d learned either a) flew right out of my head (especially the language), b) were incorrect or c) never came up. I still haven’t had the chance to demonstrate that I memorised the names and locations of all 47 prefectures in Japan.

I’ve learned that you can read/watch/study all you want about something, but still not get a taste of how it really is until you get there. The same applies for anything from sushi-rolling to mountain-climbing to clearing out your closet. Sometimes it’s because people manage to make excuses to not do it, and sometimes it’s because people think they can substitute reading books and blog posts for the real thing, but nothing compares to really throwing yourself out there.

3. Jumping in the deep end is the quickest way to learn to swim.

On that note, I learned more Japanese and about Japanese people in a month than I did in an entire year of studying. There’s always going to be people who hide from actually doing amazing stuff because they’re too busy staying in their comfort zone. There’s really no method to learn quite like knowing that your life depends on it. After doing this year abroad, I’ve even realized that it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that you can gain daily-life fluency of almost any language (ie. making friends, working, ordering, going out etc) within a year or two of living in that country… which can add up to a whopping 2-3 languages in about a 5 year span! (Of course, one has to keep in mind the diminishing returns of trying to gain that last 5-10% of fluency). It all depends on how willing you are to swallow your pride, stick your neck out and make mistakes. I’ll be making my way to Hong Kong next. I haven’t decided how long I’ll stay there, but I’ll be interested to see how much Cantonese I can learn in that time…

4. You won’t get a good view just looking through the keyhole.

When I went to visit Tokyo, I felt kind of sorry for all the tourists that went there. Tokyo is a great city, and I had a fun time, but if it was all the exposure people got of Japan, and the only thing they could have based their impression on, I felt kind of bad for them. No offence if you’ve visited Tokyo, but Japan has so much more to offer than shopping and nightlife (living there is a different matter however!) In most other things, only doing it for a short while doesn’t mean you know what it’s like. You can’t just blitz through 5 countries in 10 days and expect to have gotten to know the people and culture. In the same way, only going for a run about once a month and deciding you hate it or having only read and analysed classical literature in school and deciding you don’t like reading in general is illogical. I’ve seen people start and quit things quicker than I can forget how to conjugate verbs, and it’s such a shame because people are definitely missing out on some amazing things that they might have been really good at too. Yes, you have to start somewhere, but you should also give it a fighting chance. Stick to it, persist, and you’ll never know, you might find someone, something or somewhere you’ll come to love.

5. Nobody lives in the same world as each other.

When you move to another country, your entire world changes. Things you thought ‘just are’ no longer apply. Not everybody thinks like you do, or does things the way you’ve always done it. Even rules or social practices you thought were blatantly obvious can be turned upside down. Yes, Japan isn’t a land of angels and rainbows, but I’ll miss living in a country where you don’t have to worry about leaving your bag on a park bench, or walking at home at night or even locking up your bike. I’ll miss living in a country that doesn’t tip because good service should be part of the experience and buses and trains actually run to the minute promised on the time table. I’ll even miss having to take my shoes off every time I enter the house, even if it’s annoying when I’ve forgotten my keys and I’m running late. Every thing that happens, good or bad, is part of the experience of living in a foreign country – that’s what makes it ‘foreign’. But as each of these little things occur you feel your mind begin to open up a little more and as you get used to it, you think of it less as as a foreign country, and more like a country… and eventually it becomes a home. rss twitter

5 life Lessons learned from the earthquake in Japan

Many of you have probably heard about the earthquake that hit northern Japan last Friday March 11th, and the tsunami it caused and the current nuclear ‘situation’. Fortunately, the region of Kansai where I live is mostly unaffected, but much of the damage and devastation it caused is still ongoing.

A random accumulation of circumstances has lead me to be where I am now. You could call me unlucky that I happen to be in Japan, or you could call be lucky to have survived unscathed, but either way, assigning things that simply happen as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is futile, what matters is what’s happening right now, not the labels that we’ve attached to it.

lessons from the quake

On foundations

When the very ground you stand on – something stable you think will always be there to hold you up – starts to shake and break  apart, you have no choice but to realize that nothing is permanent. If you can’t even rely on the ground you’ve always stood on to always be there, what can you rely on?

The fact that things are changing all the time is something to celebrate. Human beings have a superpower called adaptability. We can learn how to deal with changing situations, learn new things and have fun from new experiences. Our lives are short and the places we go and things we see and people we meet won’t be there forever, but that’s what makes life interesting.

On the media

If there’s one other thing I’ve discovered it’s the power of the media and what ramifications it can have if news reporters exaggerate and blow things out of proportion. I’ve suffered more stress from trying to reassure family members that I am quite alright than being worried about the earthquake or the radiation itself.

People are freaking and leaving areas of Japan where there is little or no danger of radiation because of how the news is being reported. Panic is being created which is making situations worse. Radiation is happening all the time, from our kitchen microwaves and food treatment, to our wireless routers and cell phones, to to medical scans and most ironically, airport security scans. Unfortunately, in the framework of a crisis things get completely blown out of proportion.

It’s impossible to police all news outlets, and even harder to ask people to look at evidence more objectively, which has lead to a worldwide misunderstanding of the issue. I’m not going to go into criticizing the media or human ignorance right now, but I just wanted to make clear that I have weighed up all of the facts and real evidence and have made an informed decision that it is completely unnecessary for me to quit university, abandon my travel plans and leave my host family just because of a few choice adjectives used for headlines.

On fear

I came to Japan fully aware that it is an earthquake prone country. If I was not okay with the fact that an earthquake can happen at any time, I would not have flown across the world to get here. Since I was largely unaffected by the earthquake in Sendai, my stance on this has not changed. In the world, huge earthquakes like this are relatively rare. In any case, an earthquake is always going to ‘might happen’ in Japan, but I shouldn’t let it control my life.

If I let this way of thinking take over, in that case, I would never go to the States in case I ‘got shot’ (thank you media) or to even leave my house in case I catch bird flu or mad cow disease or something. Everyday that we’re alive there’s a danger that something ‘might happen’ but we take that risk because not doing anything in fear that you could get hurt isn’t living, which is basically a slow death anyway.

On love

As much as people are panicking and making things worse, there’ s a lot to be said about the help people all over the world have given Japan in these hard times, whether it’s in the form of money or food/water/blankets or even their own time as volunteers.

There’s something about disasters such as this that makes people come together when they otherwise wouldn’t have. Even if they can’t give anything, they’re giving their thoughts, sympathies and well wishes, which is valuable too.

I’ve also been touched by readers who immediately contacted me to ask if I was okay as soon as they heard. I’m truly grateful to have such a caring bunch of readers like you guys, it means a lot to me.

On beauty

Over the past few months, this country has almost become my home. That’s why it’s quite upsetting to see the devastation that the tsunami has left behind. Not only is an entire part of Japan’s beautiful Tohoku area been wiped out, but so has potentially thousands of innocent people who didn’t stand a chance.

Japan is a country full of the kindest people I’ve ever known and some of the most beautiful places on Earth. I’m sure this country’s strength of unity will see it through this disaster.

I realize I talk about Japan a lot, so I’m just going to leave it here with a few postcards from my travels.

You can find more on my Japan blog.

Related Posts

 

How to create a good minimalist social life

It’s quite a common misconception that minimalists live unsocial lives. Sure, there are some that prefer to be on their own every now and again, but that doesn’t mean that they want to be alone. The aim of most minimalists is to cut out distractions from their lives so that they can achieve the things they’ve always wanted to do.

Being ‘social’ can mean a lot of different things to different people, but because I’ve been asked a few times about it, I will talk about the ‘going out to clubs/bars/parties at night’ kind of social. I know that for some people, ‘being social’ doesn’t involve alcohol!

Anyway, it requires a huge amount of self-awareness that a lot of people need to develop in order to see what they are doing – whether it is going out too much or too little, is the right amount for them. Here are some lessons I’ve learned over the past few years constantly trying to balance this area of my life with others.

1. ‘Minimalist’ doesn’t mean none or less, it means just enough. Rarely does minimalism ever mean having nothing of something. Nor does it mean having less of something than you need. If you get carried away with reducing everything down, you’ll have nothing left. The key is to reduce excess amounts of parties, late nights and drinking binges to an amount which you will have time to get the most important things in your life done first. Most people achieve this by refusing to go out until they’ve done all of their assignments, that way, whatever time they have left is free for them to do whatever they want with it.

2. It’s different for everyone. Everyone has their own social wants and preferences about how much they want to go out and how much they want to spend time with their friends or family. It depends on a ton of things whether or not you go out twice a month or twice a week – including your personality, schedule, circle of friends, town, financial situation etc etc. If a minimalist feels that going out too much, then they would just reduce it to the right amount for them. There’s no official standard of sociability that fits everyone.

3. Don’t give into pressure. Don’t let people force you into something you don’t want to do. Of course, inevitably, you may be a little influenced by the closest people around you, but if you hear a voice inside telling you that something isn’t right, or you really don’t want to do something, that’s your internal compass trying to guide you. It gets weaker every time you ignore it so listen to it every once in a while. For some people, they’ve squished it down enough times that they’ll just do whatever and ‘go with the flow’. What they don’t realize is that they have no control where ‘the flow’ is going.

4. Pressure yourself sometimes. However, sometimes, we don’t feel like going out, but when we get there, we think “Actually, this isn’t so bad, I’m glad I came now“. A lot of the time, I used to dread getting ready for a night out but once I was out there, I realized I was having way more fun than I would if I had taken the lazy option of staying at home. Sometimes, you should try to get out there even if you don’t feel like it, you never know who you’ll meet or what might happen. Adventure and surprise is the spice of life.

5. Remember to have fun. On that note, as much as you should aim to get all of the important stuff done in you life, if you have an awesome time with your friends, by all means spend lot’s of time with them. If it’s not your thing, then do something else that’s fun – whether that’s relaxing with a good book or going for a run on your own. You don’t have to follow other people’s prescriptions and ideas about what is ‘fun’. Find your own version, and do that. A good principle to follow is to just go wherever you will laugh, smile and create great memories.

Related Posts

PS. Please support Minimal Student by sharing it! Also, did you know you can subscribe to posts via twitter?!

5 lessons learned from repeated failure

Back I school, I was never a failure. In fact, I worked so hard, I don’t ever remember failing a single pop quiz, test or examination. For almost the first two decades of my life, I had never tasted failure.

You know the saying “the bigger they are the harder they fall“? It is so true.

my driving story

My winning streak collapsed around me when I started driving. I sailed through the theory test and began driving almost two years ago. At first it went really well, I learned quickly and although I had little intention to actually drive a car in the near future, I quite enjoyed it. But the summer was ending and university was approaching. My instructor and I decided that I should try to pass the practical driving test before I left for university.

As the day of my first test drew nearer, I started to get more and more nervous. On the day, I was a bag of nerves, and I inevitably failed. Not miserably, but still a fail. I was so disappointed when the examiner told me I hadn’t passed. It took me a few minutes to even process his words because nobody had ever said them to me before.

But I booked another test as soon as I could. Knowing that most people pass the second time, I felt a little more confident. But a for a few nights before my test, I found myself unable to sleep too well. During the test, my mind was flying everywhere, trying to remember all of the things I’d been taught. I was distracted by the littlest things and could barely focus on the road when I was trying to look out for a thousand other things – traffic, signs, pedestrians, speed, space, gear… In the end, I failed again.

Because of uni, I waited a whole year before I did it again. I changed to a more experienced instructor and thought this time everything would be different. I was driving a nicer car and had spent a lot more money on more hours of tuition. I booked my test. My mum was so encouraging, I felt confident I would pass this time. During the drive, I made one mistake, and the whole thing fell apart. The worst thing was having to tell my mum I hadn’t managed to pass…again.

For a few weeks, I gave up. I didn’t want to drive anyway. I was questioning myself over and over again. “Why can’t I just do it?“. What was worse, my younger sister passed first time. Yeah, ouch. My self confidence was in pieces.

forgiving myself

But in the end, I had enough self-awareness to realize that people make mistakes. I picked myself up and became more determined than ever. If I fell again, I knew that I would probably give it up for life, but at least if I passed, it would be out of the way for the next 60 years. It was all or nothing.

I worked hard in my lessons, ironing out every mistake. I was a bit harsh on myself, but I needed it. I wrote down all of the things I’d failed on in the previous tests and made sure I would never repeat them. I soaked up every single word my instructor gave me. I made sure I got plenty of sleep the night before. And when the morning came a few weeks ago, I made myself a shot of coffee, gave myself a pep talk and walked out the door hoping I’d come back with a pass.

And I did.

I felt so relieved that I gave my instructor a massive hug and I was squealing on the way home. I texted my friends and spent the day smiling. Not because I wanted to drive (believe me, I’m not touching a steering wheel for the next 5 years!) but because I had gotten over a giant hurdle that had been a burden on my back for two years. I had gotten over my fear or failure and was rewarded for it.

5 lessons learned from repeated failure

1. It’s all you. You can spend days revising for an exam with your course-mates, but when it comes down to the day, you’re on your own. I hadn’t told my parents that I was taking the last test because I didn’t want to be distracted by their false encouragement (the kind that parents always give their kids – “just try your best honey!“) or even worse, I didn’t want to be motivated by not wanting to let them down. On the day, it’s all down to you – how much you’ve prepared and how you will react to the things that come your way.

I learned that most of the time shifting the blame onto others is avoiding who the real issue is with.

2. Forgiveness is magical. Letting yourself be human is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. A lot of the time, as people, we are too harsh on ourselves and expect robotic performance. ‘If we can’t accomplish something important, we’ve failed at life’ – it’s not like that at all. Accepting that we are good at some things and bad at others takes us a big step closer to changing it.

I’ve learned that hating myself accomplishes nothing. I should forgive, forget and move forwards.

3. Focus is key. If your mind is distracted by the one hundred and one things, you are not focussing on the task at hand. Yes, there are times you have to think about more than one thing at once, but they should all be related to what you’re doing right now. In the previous tests, I would be thinking about what I would do that day after I passed, where I would go etc. I wasn’t concentrating as well as I could have, which was definitely a factor in my failures.

I learned that focus and confidence at the right time and place can distinguish a pass or a fail.

4. Mistakes are lessons in disguise. When we make a mistake, we can either beat ourselves up about it, or take it as an opportunity to learn from them. In my tests, I never committed the same mistake twice. I made absolutely sure that I would never do any of them again. In the end, those who make more mistakes learn more lessons than those who were just lucky.

I learned that the biggest mistake is to not learn from your mistakes.

5. Persistence makes a difference. Finally, I’ve learned to never give up. If you keep trying and trying, one day it will happen. Don’t miss out out on stuff because it didn’t work out the way you wanted the first time you tried it. Sure, there will be ups and downs, but you should just just enjoy the ride. It’s much better to be on the roller-coaster, than just watching it.

I learned that the only real failure is simply giving up.

Related Posts

PS. Please support Minimal Student by sharing it! Also, did you know you can subscribe to posts via twitter?!

5 Lessons learned from a year of vegetarianism

For the last year, I’ve been on a vegetarian diet. I didn’t eat any meat (except for fish very occasionally) and based my diet on vegetables, rice and many other kinds of plant based foods. I made the switch by gradually reducing my meat intake during summer last year so that by the time I moved to uni, I didn’t have any problems cutting it out. Since I cooked for myself, it was very easy to buy ingredients and make whatever I wanted to eat (or not to eat).

However, unfortunately, once I fly for my year abroad, I will have to give it up. The reason why I can’t continue to be a vegetarian (as much as I would love to) is because it would impose a lot of difficulty on my host family. I think it would be too hard for my them to prepare a separate meal for me every single day in a country that pretty much bases its food pyramid on rice, fish and beef. I will try my best to eat as little meat as I can, but I also don’t want to ‘miss out’ on some cultural experiences.

Just a quick note, I’m not trying to convert anyone and I’m not saying eating meat is evil or any of that stuff. I’m simply just reflecting on the few things that I learned during my year of being a veggie.

lessons from the humble veg

1. Everyone has their reasons. I didn’t really tell anyone I was a vegetarian unless it was necessary, such as when they were making me dinner, or we if were going out for one. This was because if there’s one thing I can guarantee it’s that as soon as I tell somebody, the first thing they’ll say is “why!?“, after which I have to give my much rehearsed spiel of “it’s a combination of mostly health for me, but I also care a lot about the animals and the environment…” and so on. I’ve said it so many times that I wish people would just say something like “okay, cool” as if I had said “I don’t like the color pink” and be done with it.

I’ve learned that although I should be grateful that people are interested, many people simply just like to question your reasons instead of accepting what is.

2. Not everybody will understand. I used to like to eat meat, but I didn’t love it so much that I would defend it to my death. In the beginning, I didn’t know what to expect when people found out, but now I know that there are some who find it very hard to just be respectful about it. Some people were fine, they would ask me if it was okay for them to eat meat in front of me (to which I replied ‘I don’t care about other people, just that I didn’t eat it’). But some acted like I was trying to convert them or something and would immediately go on the defensive about it. “But those animals wouldn’t even be alive if it wasn’t for us!“. “It’s not our fault we’re on the top of the food chain!“. “But don’t you need meat for protein!?“. At first I would argue that all of these reasons were pretty much invalid but in the end I just gave up having debates everyday before my dinner and just let it go.

I’ve learned that some people, rather than be understanding, respectful or even tolerable about it, would rather argue their own point to justify their meat eating.

3. It’s not just leaves. Now onto the good stuff. Since becoming vegetarian, I’ve learned to cook about four or five times as many different dishes than if I had stuck with meat. I learned to use different types of rice, all kinds of beans, nuts and lentils, mushrooms, vegetables I’d never tried before and lot’s of seasonal fruit. I would have probably missed out on easy and quick ways to put together salads, soups, pastas and entire courses if I’d just stuffed myself with a burger and chips. As a bit of a foodie, all of these lessons were absolutely enlightening. (Also, yes, I did lose a lot of weight ;))

I’ve learned a lot about my body, what constitutes a healthy diet and about preparing food in general.

4. Willpower can be amazingly strong. Personally, I have always found it difficult to resist really fattening things like chocolate, cakes and desserts. So I don’t buy them. But when they’re in the fridge for the rest of my family whilst I’m at home, it takes an absolutely enormous amount of willpower for me to resist it. When I first started to give up meat, it was a little difficult and I would almost forget sometimes. However, I’ve noticed that over time, it became easier and easier for me to resist until I got to a point where I just didn’t feel like I wanted to eat any at all. It’s very rare now that I want to eat meat, and I never have cravings for it.

I’ve learned that the way to treat cravings is to not feed them and eventually they will die. Now if only I could apply this to chocolate.

5. Fresh and simple food is the stuff of life. Finally, I’ve learned that food isn’t something we should feel bad or guilty about. It’s fuel for the body, and fuel for the soul. It should make us feel happy and healthy. It should give us energy, not drag us down. Preparing food should be a joy, not some stressful routine we have to endure. We should eat foods as close as we can to how they’re given to us by Mother Nature, not canned, baked, boiled and fried until it’s barely recognizable.

I’ve learned to be more grateful for my food and what it really means to be closer with nature.

Related Posts

PS. Please support Minimal Student by sharing it! Also, did you know you can subscribe to posts via twitter?!

Image: Chez Us