Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ten Best Things to Happen in My Life This Year

Hanok Village in Seoul

It's the time of year when people begin realizing their resolutions are probably not going to work out (or perhaps they are finding out they can do it!), but I want to focus more on what went right last year. I have made many improvements in my life over the last couple of years. And last year was a big step in becoming a better person. Hopefully, some of the things I write about can help you a little. At the very least, I can turn you on to some cool apps, tv shows, or music. Hello, 2014!


10. Eating Better and Exercise
Over the past few years, I have tried to slowly improve my diet. It has nothing to do with weight, I don't have much body fat ever, but I just want to be healthier and feel better. Jackie has helped show me different things I can do to eat more fresh, healthy food. I now am trying to eat way less processed food and prepare my meals in advance. It is actually cheaper in Korea and I really feel better. Instead of relying on Pepsi to keep going, I now drink a bunch of water and, halfway through the day, some green tea.

But being healthy doesn't stop at good eating! You need to exercise. With that in mind, I still needed something to keep me motivated. Enter Runkeeper. I've been using it for awhile to track my hikes and the occasional run, but I'm now using it to track my walks to and from work and everything else.

My playlist to help me escape those zombies.

However, I knew I needed more motivation to keep running on a consistent basis. I finally bit the bullet and bought the Zombies, Run! app. The story is compelling enough where I am excited to get up early, in the cold, and go running to hear the next episode. And since it uses my "Running from Zombies" playlist, I get the fun of knowing I need to speed up while listening to songs like "Walking on My Grave" by Dead Moon, "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor, "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen, and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper.

Where to Start
Read: Closet Cooking
Watch: Zombies, Run! app trailer
Follow Me on Runkeeper

9. Amazing television
Movies have been kind of a drag recently (I'm not big on sequels or superhero movies if they don't involve Spider-Man or Batman), but television has been amazing!

30 Rock ended on a really high note with an impressive season that wrapped up a lot of things and just felt good. New Girl started to get really good. I laugh so much during each episode (Winston and his cat! Yes!) Boardwalk Empire continued to tear at my heart with terrible things happening to some of my favorite characters. Girls is full of insanity and fun. Parks and Recreation features a cast that makes you feel like home, like you actually care about these pretend people. I love spending time with them each week. Flight of the Conchords was recommended to be by a coworker and it was hilarious! I loved all the songs!

On top of all of that, I found a Chrome extension that allows me to watch Hulu from Korea AND a website that allows me to watch live sports! I get to watch NMSU play basketball, all the Celtics games, and the night Raiders too. I even got to watch the Red Sox beat the Cardinals! That should actually be on here too.

Watching the NMSU vs. UNM game in Las Cruces while I'm in Seoul.

Where to Start
Watch: a scene from Flight of the Conchords
Watch: "If You're Into It" by Flight of the Conchords
Watch: New Girl Thanksgiving
Watch: Girls scenes
Watch: every death in season 3 of Boardwalk Empire [spoilers]
Follow Me on GetGlue

8. Teaching in general
When I first came to Korea I was nervous about teaching. And I suppose I had a right to be because my boss told me pretty bluntly how terrible I was after being observed a few times. Luckily, with suggestions from her, other teachers, Jackie, and the workshops we have to go to, I have improved a great deal with managing my students and putting together good lessons. Jackie even gave me ideas from her TEFL classes on how to get better. Being better at work has had a positive effect on my mindset going into each day.

7. Seeing the Killers
I haven't been to a big concert in a long time. I missed it. However, I went to see The Killers in Seoul and it was a great show. They have so much energy. And the crowd was super into it. I've never heard a crowd sing so well along with the music. Brandon Flowers would stop sometimes and the crowd had no problem carrying the song...and actually sounding good.

Amazing photo from Jackie

Where to Start
Read: Jackie's blog about the Seoul Killer's show
Watch: "All These Things That I've Done" by The Killers
Watch: "Runaways" by The Killers

6. Therapy
At a certain point, I decided that my mind was running away from me. While I wanted to feel better about life, it was always difficult to do no matter how great things were going. I lived like this for a very long time and it damaged my relationships, friendships, work, school, etc. Finally, I broke down and started going to therapy. Surprise! It helped a lot! It is still a process of working on things (eating well, sleeping well, and exercise help a ton as well), but I have started to feel more positive more often and handle the negative better on a regular basis.

5. Music
A big problem since I left the radio station, KRUX-FM, in college has been how to find new music to listen to. The internet helped, first Pandora, but then mostly Last.fm's recommended radio station. However, those don't work in Korea. So where would I find music? Well... blogs.

I stumbled on a really great one too: Did You Hear the New? It makes playlists every month of the best songs, usually 100 songs and "B-sides" of maybe another 50-100. Most of the songs I greatly enjoy, and the ones I don't, I just delete. It has really turned me onto a bunch of new bands.

Another place has been NPR. Jackie listens to NPR most mornings, so when I'm there, I end up hearing different podcasts and shows. Between Tiny Desk Concerts and All Songs Considered, I get a good mix of many styles to learn about.

And music this year has been really good. You wouldn't know it if you listened to the radio, but there is a ton of interesting music out there. My favorite band this year, in a very tough competition, has been Tame Impala. They ruled the summer as I got really into them and their neo-psychedelic music. I also fell in love with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass after I watched Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The National, Local Natives, and Fleet Foxes all made some sophisticated music that is catchy, emotional, and sophisticated.

Where to Start
Listen: "Apocalypse Dreams" by Tame Impala
Listen: "This Guy's in Love with You" by Herb Alpert
Listen: "Sea of Love" by The National
Listen: "You & I" by Local Natives
Listen: "Helplessness Blues" by Fleet Foxes
Read: My writing about "Wishes and Stars" by Harper Simon
Read: My writing about "High School Lover" by Cayucas

4. Christmas
I wrote a lot about what happened for Christmas already, but here is a short recap. I spent the night of Christmas Eve in a hotel room with a great room that was basically the size of a large apartment. It was so much fun. I love being able to relax.

Christmas Day

Where to Start
Read: My writing about all my Christmas fun.

3. Vietnam
Oh, yes. This was the best vacation we have been on yet. The beautiful architecture and kind people in Hanoi drew me in, and the relaxing, unique Phu Quoc made me want to go back again and again. I wrote a ton about the vacation because I loved it so much. I highly recommended spending some time out there.

The beach in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Where to Start
Read: My wrap up of our Vietnam adventure.

2. Getting Off Facebook
At a certain point, I realized Facebook was not adding anything to my life. In fact, it seemed to be messing me up. I felt like I was living my life to impress or outdo other people, many people I don't even really care about. It was silly. Sure, there are people I miss hearing from, their quirky jokes or interesting posts, but those were not nearly equal to the amount of stress Facebook caused to me. I am more than happy to not look back.

Where to Start
Read: Two-Faced Facebook; We Like It, But It Doesn't Make Us Happy [Time]
Read: 11 Reasons You Should Quit Facebook in 2014 [Huffington Post]
Read: 5 Reasons Millennials Are Quitting Facebook [Mashable]
Read: Number of Users Who Actually Enjoy Facebook Down to 4 [The Onion]

1. Breaking Bad
Of course, Breaking Bad has to be at the top of the list. Right before the last season began, I was looking for a new show to take up my time. A coworker raved about this show set in New Mexico. I had seen it on television, but I didn't understand what was going on and I changed the channel. Since I respected this guy's opinion, I downloaded the first season. Every day while getting ready for work, I watched an episode. It was not long before I had, thanks to weekend marathons, seen all the episodes and was itching for new ones.

I lived in New Mexico for a long time, I was born there after all, so I had a particular interest in the scenery. It made me nostalgic for living back there. But it was the incredible story and acting that hooked me so badly. Finally, the new season started (I guess it was technically the last half of the season), and I was giddy all day while waiting to get home and watch the latest one each Monday (thank you time zones).

The last episode basically did everything I could have ever wanted. I especially enjoy television; I have many fond memories of watching it. But Breaking Bad catapulted into one of my absolute favorites, one I can go back and rewatch repeatedly.

Where to Start
Watch: Breaking Bad season one trailer
Watch: Every Single Death in Breaking Bad (spoilers)

Honorable Mention
A. Julio's: I really miss refried beans and tortilla. Julio's in Hongdae gives that to me. It has great Mexican food.

B. Breaking Bad reminding me how awesome Badfinger is: One other great thing about Breaking Bad: the final episode featured "Baby Blue" by Badfinger. I haven't been able to stop listening to them since then. Too bad I left my vinyl records back in the U.S...

C. New credit cards: I applied for, and received, three new 0% interest and/or 0% on balance transfer promotion credit cards this year. Thankfully, my credit is getting better. These will only help me pay things off faster.

D. Dressing better: You're welcome, ladies.
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