Sister Sister

On Saturday, my little sister left for a study abroad stint in Mumbai India. Even though we haven’t lived in the same city for years now, somehow her being across the globe makes me miss her way more, and in the wake of her painful absence, I thought I’d do a piece on why she means so much to me.

If you’ve ever talked to me for at least an hour, you know at least one thing about my little sister. She comes up in conversation inevitably for me because she’s literally my favorite person and I’m so freaking proud of everything she does.

Mushiness aside, my sister is three and a half years younger than me, and for years we had a typical sibling relationship where we would get along fine one minute and then we’d be at each other’s throats the next. However, I do admit that most of these fights were probably my fault, I was a rather unpleasant child…and some would argue a still unpleasant adult. BUT, somewhere along the line, right around when I started high school, something clicked and we became super close.

If you’ve met us both, you know that from the outside we almost couldn’t be more different. She has short hair, I prefer long. She likes color, I like black. She is as gay as they come, and I am straight as an arrow. She likes art, drawing, creating, and I prefer numbers, lists, and executing (plans, not people). She’s a socialist, and I’m a capitalist. This obviously boils us down to a bit of an extreme but for most people who aren’t close to us, they really can’t see how we could ever be related.

But when you scratch the surface just a little bit, you find that we have an uncommonly close relationship.

The fact of the matter is, when people are around us, they’ve said our interactions are like watching a tennis match. Kiki and are able to converse so fast, using references, shared experiences, and our intense familiarity with the other’s personality to have conversations and make jokes at such sharp speed it can be jarring for others who haven’t experienced it. There’s much less of that ‘how is life?’ small talk that I see from so many other families. We always jump into dissecting some ultra-specific topic, from big ideas to small, right away.

She is the only person who I can call when I am absolutely sobbing and end a 10-minute call with a smile on my face. She is the only one who will sing along with me to any and every Disney/DreamWorks song. She is the only one who’s opinion I crave but also don’t feel the pressure to take her advice. She’s the only person I tell pretty much everything to, and she’s the only person I’d bury a body for, or call to help me bury a body.

It’s tough to describe, but what I’m trying to say is that there is no level of formality between us. When I’ve watched other siblings interact, there is sometimes a wall there. They don’t talk about certain topics, or they find too many aspects of their sibling annoying, or whatever. But with me and Kiki, it is completely transparent. Of course, we rag on each other incessantly, but when it comes down to it, we are each other’s best friends and I know not everyone feels that way about their sibling.

I’m probably just super sad she’s left North America for the next couple weeks, and bitter she finally made it to a country I haven’t been to, but my relationship with my sister is something I’m super proud of. I love that we’re close, and I love talking about her, and I hope if you’re not close with your own siblings, there is a hell of a good reason because you are missing out.

 

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Kiki has always been more photogenic

 

 

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How to Create Your Own Workout Plan

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve recently started posting my workouts on Instagram Stories. I know, I know, I’m not a fitness blogger, what right do I have to post cringe-worthy workout videos on Instagram? Well TOO BAD. One of my friends requested that I post my workouts and once I did, a bunch of people have reached out to me to tell me to keep doing them, or that they’ve used my exercises as inspiration for their own gym routines.

However, one question I keep getting from people is “How do I create my own workout?”

I confess, I have never thought about this too hard because I spent most of my childhood involved in fitness and consequently I am comfortable training myself. But when I looked at it from the perspective of someone who hasn’t had these experiences, I realized putting together a workout plan can seem ridiculously overwhelming.

First of all, there are about a million activities you can do as a workout, and within each activity, there are a million different ways to do it. There are different sets in cycling, swimming, or running, and there are so many weight and bodyweight exercises you could do in the gym, so how do you choose which ones? How do you choose how hard to go in the gym? And how do you structure a workout plan?

Keep in mind, I am not an authority on these subjects and if you want professional input, send me a message and I can put you in touch with personal trainers I trust on the subject. However, what I CAN do is provide a place to start.

Step 1: Decide what your goals are. Do you want to get stronger? Do you want to have more energy? Do you want to be able to do an activity without feeling out of breath? It’s fine to have more than one goal, but just make sure you know what you’re working towards.

Step 2: Decide how many times a week you can commit. I recommend 4-6 times a week but for those just starting out, try to aim for at least 3 sessions.

Step 3: Decide where you want to train. If you prefer workout classes, then look up what is offered in your area. Almost all studios offer first timer promotions and have classes that suit all skill levels. If you want extra help, then ask the instructor for extra advice to improve your experience. However, if you prefer to workout alone, or in a gym, then keep reading.

Step 4: Structure your week. Once you know your goals and how many days you can commit, you can start to structure a week. If you want to be able to run five miles, spend more days running. If you want to be able to do a push-up, spend more time with the weights. Many people break up their workouts by muscle group and some people do a whole body workout each time. If you choose a different muscle group each day, you should be sure to not train the same muscle group two days in a row.  Personally, I split my weeks as follows: Sunday-rest, Monday-Cardio/Abs, Tuesday-Legs, Wednesday-Upper body, Thursday-Cardio/Abs, Friday-Full Body, Saturday-Yoga or other activity.

Step 5: Structure each workout. This is arguably the hardest part. You’ve decided to go to the gym, you’re gonna do a leg workout and you get there and have no idea what exercises to do. This is the part that will require the most work for you. Once you know how you want to train, you should look up different exercises you can do and pick a few that you like. It takes awhile to feel comfortable with all the different kinds of movements, but to start, make sure you know at least 6 exercises per muscle group/activity that you can fall back on. And remember, if you don’t have a gym, search for body weight exercises to do without weights. Some of them are even harder than weighted exercises.  In a typical workout, I recommend doing 4 sets of 8 exercises for 12 reps each, and then you can build from there.

This logic goes for cardio too. It can be boring (and ineffective) to just run at the same pace for an hour so look for different running (cycling, dancing, whatever!) sets that you can do in a certain time frame to mix it up!

Step 6: How hard do you push? You have your workout plan in front of you, but how much do you lift, how far or how fast should you run? This is ultimately up to you, but I feel that more often than not, people are usually guilty of not pushing themselves hard enough rather than pushing too hard. You don’t want to get injured, but just remember that it is normal to sweat, or shake, or be tired and sore. With weights, you’re probably going too hard if you can’t do 6 reps of an exercise *, and with cardio, you’re probably going too hard if you feel like you’re about to throw up**. Don’t be afraid to test your limits, that is how you IMPROVE!

Last but not least, if all else fails, there are lots of trainers and fitness personalities that sell workout guides. These will cost you a bit of money but can be AMAZINGLY helpful to get started. I’ve gone through two of them myself and loved them. They will show you how to do each exercise and structure a workout for you. Once you’re done with the program, you’ll probably be able to put your own fitness plan together no problem!

Ultimately, putting together a workout plan will require some initial research up front. Everyone is different and it is worth your while to figure out what is best for your body and goals. I know the gym can be intimidating, but if you walk in with a plan, it becomes a lot easier. Also remember that being uncomfortable is part of the process, and each time you feel that way is also when you’re doing the most good for yourself. What’s that quote again? “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” 

So DO MORE, and GET MORE.

Recommendations:

Personalities for Inspiration and/or workout guides: Kayla Itsines, Kelsey Wells, Cristina Capron, Katie Crewe, Sophie Gray, Michelle Lewin, Gilles Souteyrand

Resources: muscleandfitness.com, bodybuilding.com (don’t be intimidated by the name, they have great workouts for all levels).

*If you’re trying to gain a lot of muscle or strength than doing fewer reps makes sense, but for those who are just starting out, you need to be able to do at least 6-12 reps with that weight. When you can do 12 reps almost easily, then increase the difficulty with more weight or less stability.

**Feelings of nausea are common when doing high-intensity cardio, but sometimes it can be from having an empty stomach or a too full stomach rather than going too hard. Listen to your body and try something new if you’re feeling nauseous each time.

 

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I don’t have any real pictures of me working out because I look like a sweaty mess, so enjoy this perfectly staged pic by Clara Yu

 

Fake it Until You Make it

Confidence is defined as a feeling of self-assurance. However, the thing about confidence is that you don’t have to be the smartest, prettiest, strongest, or most experienced person to have that feeling. In fact, you could be filled with complete bullshit, but as long as you seem sure about your bullshit? Then you’re confident.

Although the shy and introverted definitely make a huge impact on the world, the confident and the extroverted, are the ones we hear about. The dynamic CEO’s, the articulate politicians, or even that asshat at work who everyone listens to because he talks the loudest. Even though confidence is mostly excellent bullshit skills, the great thing is that those skills can be learned.

The best way to pick up a little confidence super-fast? Force it. Throw yourself into an uncomfortable situation so that you HAVE to be decisive and confident to figure it out, or perish.

The best personal example I can give is when I travel alone. First off, when I travel alone, even to the supermarket, if anything goes wrong, I’m the one that has to stand up for myself to figure it out. If my card doesn’t work at the store, I figure out how to pay. If the taxi driver wants to argue over the fare, I’ve got to argue back. If the airline messes up my booking, I have to make sure I get what I paid for.

Secondly, when I travel alone, I am completely responsible for all the social interaction I have. When I traveled alone for weeks at a time, I had to make a commitment to myself to talk to people. It was HARD. I am naturally not the most social and I definitely have a tough time making friends with absolute strangers.

The beginning of the trip went something like this: The first day I spent entirely alone. I had a good time but by the end, I had no idea how I would make it seven weeks completely solitary. The second day, I got up early and began exploring. I went to the first attraction on my list and saw a group speaking English. I actually tried to stay in their vicinity (i.e. stalked them) as I worked up the courage to say something, but I never did. I moved on to the next attraction and saw another group. I was alone and didn’t know what to say so I literally asked them for directions. I was literally so nervous my voice cracked (real smooth, I know). Thankfully, they invited me to explore with them (maybe they took pity on me), but either way, I ended up having a great time meeting new people and spending the whole day with them. After that, I realized the worst thing that could happen is that I didn’t get along with the people I talk to and had to find new ones.

Every city I went, it got easier and easier to talk to people and make friends. But see what I mean? If I hadn’t gone alone, and forced myself to either talk to people or be miserable, I might have never developed that skill. Even now, whenever it is still difficult for me, I can just think back to that instance and draw confidence from it.

Pushing yourself doesn’t have to be done through something as drastic as traveling alone though, it can be done through far more mild instances. Force yourself to make eye contact with your teachers so you get called on and have to answer more frequently. Go to a store you normally wouldn’t go into and ask the sales people lots of questions.

The most important tip I have for developing confidence? Do things ALONE as much as possible. Although our friends can hype us up and support us, we can also use them as a crutch. If you travel with a friend, you don’t have to meet anyone new. If you go to a new store with a friend, you don’t have to talk to the salesperson. It will be so much easier to talk yourself out of being uncomfortable when you’ve got a friend right there to use as a scapegoat.

Additionally, and maybe this is just me, when I try new things with friends, I am far more self-conscious. Even if it’s a trusted family member or best friend, I always feel a weird pressure to do this new thing (whatever it might be) the ‘right’ way. This is hard to explain but what I’m trying to say is, it feels far less embarrassing for me to look like a fool in front of people I don’t know. As soon as I bring a friend into the picture I become so much more careful and aware of looking ridiculous and therefore push myself less.

At the end of the day, confidence won’t just appear one day. It is cultivated over time. Developing confidence is a constant effort to keep pushing yourself to resolve situations that make you uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s gonna suck, and sometimes you’ll get embarrassed, but each time, you’ll feel stronger and more confident in yourself. You will find out what really is the ‘worst that can happen’ and once you deal with it, you’ll forget why you were ever scared in the first place.

 

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Candid Photos by: Clara Yu

 

Moving to Canada: Take 2

Alright guys. At the beginning of last month, I detailed how the first few days of living in Canada had gone for me, and in case you forgot, I was not in a good place (see the first article here, if you need a refresher on my misery).

But because I know this move is going to be a period of tons of changes and phases, I figured I’d start a series on my blog chronicling how it goes. So here it is: my first full month in my new country.

October was a little strange because I really only spent 20 days out of 31 actually in Canada. For one week, I had a business trip to Seattle and for another week, I was visiting my family in Chicago. However, most weekends and other days were all spent in Calgary.

Even though I spent some time away, I will admit that I definitely enjoyed my time in Calgary a little bit more than I did in the first few days. I realized that Amazon and can still be useful and Canadian Netflix is actually BETTER than American Netflix. (Although my HBO doesn’t work here so I have to figure something out before the final season of GOT. YES I’M ALREADY WORRIED ABOUT THIS). I got into my normal routine of working from home, working out, and tried two boxing gyms. I also hung out a couple times with some of my boyfriend’s friends and family. Even though I know I need my own friends, it was obviously nice to talk to someone other than my boyfriend every once in a while.

Now that I’ve calmed down a bit, I can recognize that Calgary, for the most part, is like any other major city in the U.S. It has a vibrant downtown where everything is walking distance and it has bars, shops, and restaurants, as well as skyscrapers to form the skyline, so getting used to the city won’t take long. I’ve begun walking around by myself to run errands and familiarize myself with how to get around.

The hardest part of moving, and I suspect it will be the hardest part for awhile, will be developing a social life of my own. Working from home really works against me in this respect, since I have to find other ways to meet people. My first thought is to join a boxing gym or maybe a cycling class and go regularly to start to see the same people. But unlike making friends in college or at work, I would still only see these people for one or two hours a week, so building up a repartee with them will still take a while even once I commit to one.

My next thought was to join a couple groups online for people of similar interests, as well as an expat group, but so far I haven’t found any events that I have been able to attend. November might be a little bit better for this since I don’t have any travel planned but we’ll see. Luckily, I feel a bit more settled after this past month and I can mostly focus on trying to meet people and cultivate new hobbies for a new city. Wish me luck!

If you have any suggestions on how to make friends in a new city, please comment! I need all the help I can get!

 

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If nothing else, Canada is gorgeous.

 

 

 

Am I a REAL Adult?

I’ve been a legal adult for almost five years now, but I’ve only really felt like an adult for about two years. I define an adult as someone who can truly take care of themselves, and own the responsibility for themselves and their actions. It can be pretty hard to make the transition because it feels like one day you don’t have a job and your parents handle all the important stuff, and the next day you’re dealing with four different insurance companies, your rent, the dentist, and your retirement plans (yay).

My friend Rachal writes a great blog (link here!), that details more of the trials and tribulations of being an adult, but today all I want to cover are the less glamorous aspects of adulting and where to start on handling them.

  1. Getting a job. I’ve written a whole post on getting jobs here, but basically being financially stable is going to be the crux of your adult life for a while. Having some sort of steady income to work with will be the first step in striking out on your own. Money can’t buy happiness but it CAN make you feel secure when moving away from your parent’s jurisdiction.
  2. Shelter. Assuming you don’t want to live under your parent’s roof anymore, the second step is, of course, finding someplace of your own. Most young adults I know opt for some sort of apartment or shared living situation. There can be a lot of things to consider here. First is rent, then you might have to get renter’s insurance. Then there are also all your utilities which may or may not be included (think water, gas, electric, sewage & trash bills), and your internet bill because of course none of us operate without wifi anymore. Luckily, if you choose apartment living, the apartment recommends companies for all of these, and if you opt for shared living, you have someone to help you research!
  3. The insurances. Hopefully, your job offers you some sort of health insurance package (see if it includes dental, vision, and mental), otherwise, you can probably stay on your parent’s plan until you’re 26 so don’t worry too much about that now. On the other hand, if you’ve got a car, you’ve got a car insurance payment. One trick you could use, is to buy your car under your parent’s name and pay your portion of the insurance to keep costs low. But if you’re on your own, just know that your premium will be a lot higher.
  4. The little things. All those little things your parents do that you take for granted? Yeah, now you’re responsible for those. You’re the one that is gonna buy your groceries, cook your food, clean your place, book your travel, schedule doctor’s appointments, take your car for oil changes, and stay on hold with the internet people when they are clearly overcharging you. I don’t know about you guys, but most of those I took completely for granted before moving out and becoming financially independent, but hey, if you’ve got these down, then you are in PRIME adulting condition.
  5. Retirement. I know, I know, you just started, how can you possibly think about retiring? Well, you MUST. I don’t want to preach at you but if you start saving now, even as little as 1% of your income, you will be much better off in the long run. And while you’re at it, make sure you get a Roth IRA plan. I prefer this one to other 401k plans because you will be taxed on the income you allocate to it today, which means when you withdraw it for retirement, you won’t be taxed on it! Pay now, relax later. That’s the idea.
  6. Emergencies. Unfortunately, the saying is true, shit does happen. And it WILL happen to you. When you are on your own, you will have to handle it. Someone will rear end you, or you will break your arm, or your debit card will get stolen, or an airline will lose all your luggage, or you’ll get stuck in a storm. Something terrible and unplanned will happen and it is important that you learn how to manage a crisis. Obviously, there are different ways to approach each one of the situations I described but the best advice I can offer is to KEEP CALM. This one is SO tough for me too, but crying, yelling, or freaking out in any way, will not help you. Breathe and promise yourself you can vent later, but now you gotta get it together (ProTip: always make sure you have a file containing your passwords for your important accounts, and identity information. Just create one, keep it someplace easily accessible, and you’ll thank me later)

Even though I just talked about all the things that kind of suck about being an adult, I do want to mention that being an adult is WAY better than being a kid. There were obviously some perks to the whole ignorance is bliss thing, but something I’ve learned since moving out and being financially independent is the sense of accomplishment I get from completing the mundane tasks I described above and from being completely responsible for myself…despite all the stress and hard work it takes. Maybe someday this feeling will go away because I’ll be too used to it, but for now, being an adult is actually pretty freaking great.

 

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Photography by the inimitable Clara Yu