Sunday, January 17, 2016

The new 30-year-old crisis.

 You’ve heard of the cliché quarter-life and mid-life crisis. But I give you the modern day 30-year-old crisis that I continue to endure as a wake-up call to the way I choose to live.

I want to preface this by saying I can only speak for myself, and for the community I’ve identified with. 
As a Los Angeles native, I was one of many young(ish) Korean-American, educated and ambitious career-driven women who wanted and thought… I could have it all.


The "all" part was having and maintaining the checklist:

1. Career. 
And not just any career, but a wildly successful one.
Successful = $$$

2. Education.
Today's Master's Degree is now so common (for a variety of reasons) that I saw no other choice than to get my Doctorate's. 
Which I am still in the process of acquiring. 
I won't get into how I feel about it.

3. Family.
Somehow... with two crazy sisters, a tiger mom and that stoic ajusshi dad, figuring out how to live harmoniously only took about 30 years.

4. Relationship.
Not that having a significant other defines you, but you cannot deny how great it feels to have a partner in life who supports you and is your ride or die, your best friend, and lover.

5. Squad.
Although companionship is nice, there's nothing like your strong circle of girlfriends who you can go to and cry/laugh/moan and hysterically vent to without fear of being judged. 
  
6. Health.
In Los Angeles, I should say it's not so much about being 'healthy' as it is about plainly... looking great. 
Let's be honest.
I've skipped a few meals or two in order to trim down but I have also binged on animal style fries at 1 AM.

7. Hobbies.
Fashion, reading, shopping, blogging, eating.
Keeping up and staying current.

8. Party time.
Staying social and enjoying the night life of LA + Koreatown.
That is a commitment in itself - am I right? 

9. Travel.
Okay. But like.. when? 

10. Mental & Emotional Stability with Self.
Here's the big one that I never realized I kept off my list throughout my 20's.
And who knew, it would end up being the most important. 


I'm not here to say I had an epic breakdown (although they do sound refreshing in theory - like when you have those great cries where you do that shuddering gaspy breath of air at the end). 
No, instead, I feel I had a few mini-ones along the way in my late-20's as I tried desperately to 'have it all' by trying to keep all those plates spinning simultaneously and maintaining all facets of my life... except my self

I can blame it on my parents, on my culture, on society and everyone else under the sun, but at the end of the day, I'm not looking to lay blame for the compilation of must-have's on that list up there.

Because the truth is, whatever led to me having that blind ambition to have everything, brought me to where I am today. And right now, post-crisis, I am simply grateful to be here and understanding that, rather than having all areas of my life kosher at all times, I simply need to focus (and no, it is not selfish) on me first

If I'm not right, how do I expect any of that up there to be authentically and organically in a place I can be of genuine service to? 
And as I age, some of those items have been crossed off entirely!
Nostalgia comes in waves and I do miss our rage nights and fitting into a certain size jeans.
But my crisis has brought a slow and steady halt to the anxiety-ridden fast-paced go-go-go lifestyle I've been working off fumes to maintain till now...

= = = 

A few things happened in a random order that were strange quick thoughts and experiences I couldn't shake and now realize was part of the greater picture for my new way of living:

1. "You are not defined by your productivity."
 I read that quote in passing somewhere and it struck me. 
Not in a "oh wow~" fuzzy moment way.
But in a wtf kind of way. 
What do you mean I'm not defined by my productivity?!
Do you know what I accomplish whilst hours pass by and I am churning out one thing after another?! It's gotta be worth something...... doesn't it? 

2. "Who are you if we strip away your job, your title, your money, your status?"
And do you like who you are when you take that all away?
Yikes.
That question made me very uncomfortable.
And I heard that question for the first time last year too.
Goes to show how deep/often self-evaluation and reflection took place, yeah?

3. "What do you like to do in your free time?"
Funny enough- back when I was having my fun with online dating, that had to be the most dreaded question I fielded from potential dates. 
Mainly because... I was forced to lie. Honestly, how interesting does it sound when I say I like to shop in my free time? I wish I had a better answer... like oh I love to write screenplays or I play beach volleyball or anything that would replace the truth that... I didn't really have 'free time.' I worked any chance I wasn't out, with friends/family, and/or shopping.  
Free time made me uncomfortable.
Free time made me feel lazy
What is this free time you keep asking me about! 

4. Be the person you needed as a child.
A friend of mine had a great therapist who reiterated this.
As adults, we're just a mish mash of the mistakes our parents and adults we trusted made along the way.
We now have our complexes, our weird psyches and we often just throw a label on it and never do the work of healing and understanding. 
Most people hide (in substances, in relationships, in anxiety and fear) and most people ignore (until a breakdown occurs which doesn't necessarily promise healing). 
When I first heard this, I had a flashback of the tomboy I once was who used to love climbing trees and staying up there with a good book without a care in the world. 
Where was that girl now? 
Who have I become?
How do I stay true to that girl without compromising parts of who I am that I do love?  

5. My flight to New York (Summer 2015)
How many of you have seen those uber hipster photos of a latte with a cat drawn in it next to a Kinfolk magazine? 
Yeah, me too. 
But I had to know... what was in this pastel colored magazine that everyone was so drawn to?
So I picked one up at a coffee shop in Larchmont and tucked it into my bag to read later (months later) when I had "free time" which equated to... a flight to go see my boyfriend where I had no wifi so I couldn't do any work or respond to emails. (sad!)
And it was necessary.
Because Kinfolk brought all of these pieces together in its introduction to me about the Art of Slow Living. 


There are so many articles, stories, testimonials, books, and magazines that have taken up with the Art of Slow Living and run with it.
I would like to think every person who reads about it, reflects and decides it's for them can tweak it any way they would like to fit their chosen lifestyle. 
For me, it wasn't an abrupt STOP sign telling me I've been living my life incorrectly.
I found my life fulfilling, I had my people, I loved them, I felt safe and loved in return, and I was/am running a business I am passionate about while in school learning more.

This isn't my testimony to stop and re-do life. 
This is my way of simply of sharing that it was time to slow down.
It's time to figure out who I am without the label of what I do, what I make, who I'm friends with, dating or related to.
It's time to get comfortable with quiet. 
And to enjoy doing nothing.
Because life isn't the hectic craze up there. 
It's the present. 

I don't know.. I wanted this to sound so beautiful and easy to understand.
But that too doesn't matter either.

I spent the majority of 2015 battling those I loved most as I tried my best to explain first- then when I realized it's hard to simply tell people with words you are completely re-prioritizing your life, it'd be easier then just to show them. 

It was honestly a lonely year as I struggled to find a balance between these thoughts and not wanting to dump everything I had going and had worked so hard for. 
But as I'm about one year into this slowed down version of life, I am more content than I've ever been without it equating to anything financially, egotistically or materialistically. 

This is not a happy ending because it really only feels like it's just begun.
But it's a promising journey and it's worth slowing down to just be.


Just wanted to share.
Xoxo
-Jess-


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Paris.

Ever since I could remember, the city of Paris drew me in.
It wasn't flashy or tropical, but it had a distinct history, culture and refinement I knew Los Angeles lacked.

Fast forward to the present, to have never traveled outside the boundaries of the U.S. in your 30's sounds absurd, yes?
I grew up living an understandably sheltered life by two immigrant hard-working parents who never considered international travel to be a "right" or "a must" but instead an absurd luxury. 



It took years to unbind myself from the same line of thought (I ignored many friends who insisted I travel in my 20's) and to convince myself that it's okay to be an entrepreneur and to take a vacation.
In fact, it's necessary to take a few steps back and get some distance, perspective, and some inspiration.

It took over three decades, months of mental preparation and a partner who understood it all but urged me to trust that the trip would be so very worth it for me to finally... make it to Paris. 

= = = 

*By the way, shameless thank you to my boyfriend DH who gifted me with this dreamy vacation as my Christmas present and took it to the next luxury level that was beyond my expectations and has now ruined me for every trip from here on out. I love you.* 

   
After nearly missing our flight (I insisted on getting a peppermint mocha) we safely made it to the City of Lights.

    
We decided to AirBnb it to get a more neighborhood feel of the city and we chose District 7 which was a bit tourist-y due to its proximity to the Eiffel Tower, but we were in a perfect flat that was so beautiful and comfortable.



Did I mention the view?

   

Our 'home.'

= = = 

Throughout the week we hit all the major spots:

  



































I always thought, when I actually see the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre for the first time, it'll be breathtaking and surreal... but even then, those words still don't do it justice. 
It was unreal and I was in love with every second of it.
Even when I was hangry and my feet hurt because I thought wearing boots all day would be fine.
(It wasn't fine. Nike Flyknits saved my life and our relationship as we know it.)

= = = 

After the touristy spots- that were blessedly empty and free from obnoxious groups of tourists (you know what I'm talking about) I had to... just had to indulge slowly in the decadence of luxe shopping and mind-blowing sweets:


Okay.
There is absolutely no shopping mall in the United States that comes close to the decor that was in Lafayette Galeries.



Every night, I treated myself to a beautiful (almost too pretty to eat) cake or pastry for dessert. 
What we in LA will drive miles for to savor for a special day or event, is at nearly every corner in Paris... and it is my version of heaven. 





















Although eating out was worth our while, we also found it very convenient to stock up on some snacks at the local market and eat at home too:



= = = 

One funny and slightly embarrassing thing I noticed about Paris... no one really eats at a cafe!

Coming from LA where brunching is indeed a sport, the easy practice is to find a cute cafe to park it in with your friends and order the usual waffles, eggs benedict and coffee/water/juice combo to seal your meal of the morning/afternoon. 

In Paris?
Not so much.
The tables are about 2 feet wide in diameter and your chairs do not face each other, they face outwards... towards the street.

Our AirBnb host, Julien, told me (in his thick French accent) "In Paris, we... maybe get up before noon? Drink wine. Smoke cigarettes. And sit on a terrace and talk shit about the people walking by~"



Regardless, I didn't care if I was in Paris or not- I need my brunch. LA-style stat.
I was not disappointed...



You see there was barely any room to fit all of our food - and we were 99.9% sure we were judged for it. 

= = = 

When we weren't hitting up the big sites or eating cheese and drinking espresso, we walked.
And walked.

We walked through empty streets, neighboring districts, and when we couldn't take it any longer, we thanked the technology gods for Uber:
1. Because we are Angelenos who are not used to that much walking.
2. Our shameful amount of French we 'learned' before this trip did not allow for us to communicate with French taxi drivers. It is a miracle we got back from Versailles. Lots of pointing. Lots of hand gestures. Lots of repetitive and panicky-hysterical bouts of us saying "Paris"?


"I don't even care how much it costs.
We're getting an Uber." - Jessica

The quieter moments we experienced in unknown parts tucked into the city remain just as prominent and special to this trip.
It is indeed what made this experience whole for me.



















As we excitedly plan our next trip together, I'm confident now more than ever that you all were so very right when you said how traveling is necessary in life. 
It is a luxury, yes, but it is one worth ensuring as we grow.  

I hope to revisit Paris again but for now I say au revoir. 






"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
-Ernest Hemingway



Till next time.
-Jess-