Creatively Yours

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Taiwanese people on the surface are interested in logical and most importantly high-profit, low-risk solutions to life’s problems. Safety and income are prioritised as more important than happiness and relaxation, especially for young people who are expected to work 60 hour weeks to show their vigilance in supporting their family.

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In my random sampling of friends and acquaintances I regularly make suggestions that I hope they will take time for themselves to relax and enjoy being young. Of course we all have different things that make us happy, but I have a diverse portfolio of interests that make me happy and I try to share some of these with them.

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I am a patron of the arts, a poor patron, but a patron just the same. I like music events, films, biking, running, hiking, photography, reading, writing, baking, cooking, traveling and more recently painting. It’s easy to find a mutual interest, but it is a little difficult to find a way we can both enjoy that interest in execution. They usually want to be orderly and well-planned in advanced, and I want to do things on the fly.

Last Sunday, one of my Taiwanese friends organized an art in the park event. The premise is pretty simple, he went to the museum and was inspired to have a group painting in the park…with feet. He went and bought canvas, paint trays and some kind of latex-based paints. When my Taiwanese friends start a new hobby the start  by going shopping to buy all the “necessary” equipment.

They don’t do things halfway with a litmus test to see if they like it or not. No, instead they will find some online list of “MUST HAVES” and then buy all the things. On the other hand I would probably improvise a cheaper option or wait to buy it later. For example my friend organizing the painting event, I thought he would buy paint and thicker paper and then we could run around on some long streamers.

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He chose to buy the canvas which it turns out was even better because damp feet would probably break through paper. But he was really stressing about having buckets for rinsing feet, and holding paint and I suggested we use some old shoe boxes. Improvisation, it isn’t always pretty or well-thought out or endorsed by websites.

Improvisation and creativity are not really encouraged or taught in Taiwan. My students at school are downright confused when I ask questions that aren’t in the book. But that doesn’t mean some Taiwanese don’t naturally gravitate towards the crazy foreigners that can show them a more laissez faire approach to enjoying art.

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The creativity is there, just under all the controlled actions and procedure driven behavior. Once and a while I am lucky enough to watch a friend or student really exhibit their creativity, without shame or worrying about the time. That’s the good stuff. Witnessing creativity at work is almost as good as participating in it first-hand. It isn’t planned, it’s a little crazy and there is a chance of failure and also the chance to make something entirely new and wonderful.

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The Beat Drops

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If ever in doubt of passion in the world, talk to a DJ about music. In Kaohsiung City, Taiwan the diversity of music available might be limited, but the personalities of the DJs  and club owners are widely varied in their music tastes and motivations.

Theo, a British DJ known as Chamber, has a theory about music acquisition, “The way people, scientifically, psychologically, get into music is you hear a different sound and it might not sound good, but the more you hear it the more you understand it, and it sounds better.”

Chamber hopes to motivate a shift in listening habits and introduce some new music to Taiwan in the process. He spins Underground Sounds, a weekly alternative music radio show on ICRT, the most popular English-speaking station in Taiwan. Also he participates in a friend’s monthly music and art exposition in the park that celebrates rap, graffiti, breakdancing and hip hop culture.

Listening to music is a social act. Someone singing on stage two feet away or in a recording studio 20,000 miles away is communicating a feeling. Music encourages people to feel new emotions, and even empathize with different cultures.

Paula, DJ P-LaLa is one of the few female DJs in southern Taiwan. Not to be confused with the Supermodel-style female DJs groomed for fame and followers, she is motivated to DJ for the music and has been spinning at Brickyard for the past four years. In that time she became an ambassador for Latin music. Her fluency in Spanish, and time spent abroad gives her an advantage mixing Latin and dance music. As a Kaohsiung local she is more approachable for questions about Latin music than other DJs that cannot speak Chinese.

“A lot of my friends did not like Latin music so much, a lot of them didn’t know what Latin music was,” Paula admitted.  “It took me about a year to get a lot of people to show up for Latin music. The  first time I heard people tell me ‘I love Reggeton!’ I was like, ‘Really?’ I got so happy because that’s a slower beat music about 95-100. A lot of Taiwanese people just like the boom boom boom so when it slows down they don’t know what to do.”

New music can be grounds to form new friendships and a sense of community, as Chamber communicated, “Music is very important, because you probably find this as well, you make a lot of friends through bonding over music. You meet people, and you like the same music, and you get talking.”

The business side of the music industry requires that the venues turn a profit. Profit is generated by people walking in the door, dancing and drinking. No profit, no DJ.

DinDin, also a local Kaohsiung DJ, won the Taiwan Red Bull Thre3Style DJ competition last year. He said his former club boss at LAMP told him he could only play popular Electronic Dance Music (EDM), and no Taiwanese music. DinDin and Chamber agreed the Kaohsiung dance clubs often have formulaic policies when it comes to playing music.

Graham Dart and Ryan Fernandez are co-owners of Brickyard, a  bar-club hybrid. In the last five years the music played and purpose of the venue has shifted to balance what Taiwanese and foreigners want to hear, according to Graham.

“We absolutely don’t tell DJs what to play.” Graham clarified that he would give feedback to the DJ later if people were walking out because of the music.

DJs are in the unique position of being familiar with a wide range of music, but only being able to share the part the audience is willing to hear. After all listening is optional, a conversation and not a lecture.

Audiences can be persuaded to like a new sound. Old popular songs played before something new can get people excited. These excited dancing people are more likely to enjoy the new song that follows. The “educational” beats can only be played if they are tolerated by club management. Even if the audience responds enthusiastically there is no guarantee a DJ will be asked to play again, there is an emphasis on giving people what they want to hear and only the most easily digested music.

Alex, DJ Apeshit to friends, is both Taiwanese and British. An electronic DJ specializing in hip hop, trap and drum and bass (DnB), he started DJing in Shanghai before moving to Kaohsiung five years ago. For him, playing music Taiwanese are familiar with is sometimes necessary.

“Taiwanese culture, once they like a song they’ll play it ten thousand times,” Alex said. “It has to be something that’s familiar to them otherwise they will be like, ‘How do we dance to this? This is awkward.’”

Alex compared DJing a new sound to “walking on ice, you can get past it if you don’t stand on the ice too long…because if you do it for too long they’ll be scared.”

He arrived at the height of the Lady Gaga and “Party Rock Anthem” pop music craze but the trend has shifted. According to Alex now there is a lot more electronic house, progressive house and some trap being played.

The Mansion, a new club in Kaohsiung, opened in January this year. The club spokesperson and promoter, Tanya Rose said the club will play electronic, house, techno and hip hop.

“The DJs are chosen based on different credentials. Mostly experience and type of music they play.  The Mansion focuses on electronic and hip hop. Commercial music is also important because it is familiar to most, and helps people feel comfortable. I believe when we feel comfortable, we can begin the process of relaxing, releasing, and reaching a state of happiness.”

One difficulty playing non commercial music is the language barrier. “I think it’s the language barrier that stops people from checking online for the new music,” said Paula. A few years ago she translated “dubstep” into Chinese for readers on Wikipedia, but she said few people read the page. Without Chinese translations acquiring new music knowledge can be difficult for Taiwanese that don’t already speak English.

DinDin described one music request he had while DJing, a person asked for hip hop and then protested when he played it. “This isn’t hip hop it goes (bzhhhhh.) That’s called trap! They didn’t know what it was called.”

Lack of diversity in dance music can affect the live music scene as well. With only three live music venues The Mercury up north, and ROCKS and Black Dog in the south it is unlikely people in Kaohsiung will try listening to new music if they don’t have a vocabulary to tell friends about it.

Paula thinks most Taiwanese people get new music from popular culture, celebrities and movies, and pick the music they go to see by its perceived popularity and not its sound. She recalled going to a Delinquent Habits concert with under twenty people attending.  Maybe it was a promotion issue, and maybe the lack of popularity for hip hop in Taiwan at the time.

“If you introduce people to music they have never heard before and they love it, it can change their lives. It’s a lot more than just making money at a bar. It’s worthwhile, but that’s missing from here,” said Chamber.

If audiences hear the same music, they will request the same music and expect the same music. Hong Kong has a healthy variety of music, Taipei has begun to appreciate more genres, and Kaohsiung can too. It starts with a request.

This Weiya is way better

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I have been working on a pet project for the past few weeks in a an uncharacteristic burst of writing energy. But in the meantime the Chinese New Year looms closer which means we have entered Weiya ( 尾牙season. A Wei ya is an end of the year party held by companies, much like a Christmas party in the west.

My experience is limited to the party I attended last year in which all the foreign teachers were placed in the table furthest away from the stage and the bulk of the ceremony was conducted in Chinese. It was a bit disheartening.

This year was different, the venue was less cavernous and the foreigners were invited to eat with the colleagues of the schools they work in. Much more logical right? I was also included/required to perform in a strange song and dance number with my coworkers. We were rewarded for our efforts with gifts of lucky money envelopes and gifts at the end.

Here are a few photos of the banquet, while I took photos of the dance performances for blackmail purposes I had already drunk too much wine to take any photos of the games we were encouraged strongly to play. There are a few photos people shared of me, so I included those as well.

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February 1, 2015 – The view of the Kaohsiung Central Park and the Wufu and Chonghua traffic circle from the eighth floor of the Talee building banquet hall.

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February 1, 2015 – My JOY cram school colleague Nick singing Hsiao Princess (蕭敬騰 王妃) with backup from his friend on the guitar.

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February 1, 2015 – Bianca one of the teachers at my school mimics the pop singer a MEI ( 張惠妹).

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February 1, 2015 – Maggie, my school manager, holds another teacher’s baby for a photo.

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February 1, 2015 – The ChungHwa school dances to an ABBA song.

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February 1, 2015 – One of the photo submissions for a game called Copy Cat where you imitate a photo.

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February 1, 2015 – The group photo to finish a three-hour banquet for three JOY school locations in Kaohsiung.

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February 1, 2015 – This guy just got half naked to imitate a photo of Wolverine from X-men, much to the satisfaction of all the women in the room.

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February 1, 2015 – Posing with some balloons and my friend Michelle.

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February 1, 2015 – My boss, Christina, sticks out her tongue as her husband hugs a retired teacher.

Seashells and Friend Collecting

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I am not very good at holding on to things or people for that matter. For this reason, I think if that person wants to know me or if I want to know them one of us will eventually make an effort.

Yes, I am willfully independent. Yet another reason I don’t just go jogging lustfully after old friends and lovers. But, I also think, “Hey, don’t force it.” If it works out, great and if it doesn’t also great there are bound to be some people around here that enjoy my company.

My waning correspondence with a handful of high school and college friends reminds me that maybe I am a bit cold. A bit quick to forget people, or vice versa easily forgotten. When in a prideful mood it bothers me that I can be so easily overlooked, but it has its perks.

I was reading an article about intimacy in the New York Times the other day. It gave a long list of questions two people can ask each other to encourage a feeling of love. One question in particular made me think about my friends, “What do you value most in a friendship?”

I met one of my good friends right after moving to Taiwan in August 2013 and he became one of my roommates. Eventually he became my party buddy, drinking buddy, dancing buddy and confidant. Basically he was a stand in for my own brother and sister who were both living 6,222 miles away from me.

This friend strives to better himself, he tries to understand everyone’s point of view and get along with them. He truly has one of the most diverse sampling of friends I have ever witnessed. He makes his hippie mom proud.

I am amazed because he gets along with and even enjoys so many people that can’t get along with each other. When anyone moves somewhere new of course they might hang out with a group in which they don’t like everyone. But after a while I thought everyone pruned down their friend groups to include only the people that added to the experience of life in a positive way. Not true for him.

As I expressed one day to a restaurateur friend, my friendship is not always a renewable resource I have limited amounts of patience and love to dole out over the course of a seven day week. Sometimes my tolerance is high and I am social, sometimes it is low and I am a loner. So when I make plans with people they know I want to see them. My free time means a lot to me. If those people don’t make me feel happy or enlightened I don’t give them my time again. Also if I get a strange feeling they are trying to pursue something romantic I run the other way.

For the small group of individuals I invite into my hulahoop of “anything” I have high respect and high expectations. The hulahoop means they can ask me for anything and if it is within my power I will do it for them as long if it is in their best interest.

My immediate family is always in the hulahoop, and I always have room for maybe two or three other selfless individuals who inspire my trust. This is where I am confused, my friend keeps old friends and continues to make new friends in every social encounter because hey, he’s an accepting guy. However you can only really be close to 150 individuals at once according to Robin Dunbar.

This is my problem, I ultimately want to have maybe ten people that I can have reciprocal friendships with. I send them an email, they send me an email. I don’t want to suffocate them with love or let them freeze dry from inattention like carrots in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. I want most of those people to be in my day to day life because sometimes I need a hug in person.

How can my good friend be a reciprocal friend with me when his entourage includes the whole neighborhood. There is no way he can have that much time and energy to give. This realization made me really sad. Like I said, he’s my brother from another mother and I felt somehow orphaned by my own logic.

This week we made plans to take a train to Taipei on Friday and then a bus on Saturday to the more isolated Yilan county. He canceled on me the next day, it seems he had already committed to a birthday party. “I don’t have an excuse,” he wrote me. Sigh, it’s always someone’s birthday on this island. If you don’t watch out you can get locked into birthdays for a whole month of weekends.

Its sad to be right, but I knew we wouldn’t be able to make plans without the proximity of being roommates. How lovely for me to be able to sort through people like seashells at the beach, each year becoming more forgiving of flaws, but also less likely to take any home. It would be tedious for me to be everyone’s friend. I have the utmost respect and wonder for those individuals that go to the beach repeatedly and still stuff their pockets to the brim, what optimism, what a capacity for love!

Productive New Year Buffet

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This is the season of resolution, false promises and gym memberships. Much to the chagrin of T.S. Eliot, I ended 2014 not with a whimper, but a bang! The morning of 2015 in a flurry of productivity I arranged to tutor during the four day weekend.

In the afternoon I met a group of Couch Surfing friends for a buffet. I don’t generally like buffets. I am smallish person, and I already eat enough without the temptation of overeating persistently nudging my elbow like a begging dog.

The gluttony of buffets somehow devalues the food and the quality isn’t there. Even if the quality was the same, the volume somehow makes it seem poorly prepared. Those familiar with TED talks will remember more options don’t make us happier.

Still, I had never been to a Taiwanese buffet and I was curious so I arrived…thirty minutes late, but who is counting? There is a strategy to Taiwan buffets that makes the experience cost efficient. 

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First, attack the shellfish preferably a mound of shrimp! After eating as much sushi as humanly possible, retire with a large bowl of icecream. Of course I observed, but as a contrarian browsed to fulfill my own needs and ignoring the “make the money count” method.

I’m not a big fan of shrimp so I went and got a salad to start and some pizza, that wasn’t bad. I sampled some fries and sushi and finished with some tiramisu, that wasn’t. It had something cakey on the bottom, not ladyfingers and more than one person choked on the thick layer of powdered cocoa on top.

The desserts confirmed that Taiwan doesn’t have much to offer in terms of calories equalizing the enjoyment for sweets. Still, I tried a piece of pineapple with caramelized sugar that was delicious.

In a very hippie tradition, one of the group moms had us write notes of good will for each other on heart shaped puzzles. I tried to come up with something new for everyone, but all the notes I wrote were along the lines: “I hope you have new experiences that bring you happiness this year.” Some of the wishes other participants wrote me were in Chinese, tiny Chinese that I can’t read, but I am pretty sure it isn’t a Taiwanese curse. Pretty sure.

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Lovelocked Twenties

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Most of my friends are in their twenties, some early and some late pushing into their thirties.

In Taiwan I have Taiwanese and western friends, but most of my friends have western sensibilities because of their interest in English speakers and their culture. Therefore I only meet the cross-section of Taiwanese society that is willing to endure my stinted Chinese or speak with me in English. Everyone has a limit to their reach into all venues of society, as a woman I will never be welcomed into the men’s bathhouse.

My Taiwanese associates are more frequently in serious relationships, or pursuing one earlier in their lives than their western counterparts. I think part of this has to do with the innate communalism of their culture, “I can never do anything alone” mentality. Also Taiwan parents encourage children to settle down by the end of their twenties, the partying and ‘finding yourself’ era prevalent in the west is unacceptable.

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Relationships, friendships and otherwise are a keystone to being twenty-somethings. Despite our ages and backgrounds the nesting instinct hits hard in the twenties and for those expats attempting to flee responsibilities it can create a conflict. I want to be part of something, but I also want to be free.

I have a short list of couples in which I respect both parties. One American couple in particular has become my standard for a functional traveler relationship. They coexist well as a unit and as individuals; they have shared interests and independent interests. One of them might be at one party, while the other is in another country. Solid.

With that exception acknowledged I have to admit most relationships I witness feel forced. They want it to work so badly, and they don’t want to be alone. Relationships can be formed out of necessity, a need for intimacy and comfort. Creature comfort is important to all of us. Compromises can be expected.

I classic case is my Taiwanese girl biking friend. I spent most of spring and summer going on night bike rides with her, seeing her at many social events. Boom – enter vague Australian boyfriend. I haven’t seen her on purpose in six months, maybe because she seems dumber and I can’t respect her anymore because so much of her self worth is tied up in her relationship.

Nothing remains in her for me to relate to, she doesn’t bike anymore, she no longer goes on solo adventures, and I have ceased to invite her to parties because I know she will bring him. I will say she is still one of the sweetest girls you can find, and she is making an effort despite my radio silence. Too little, too late I’m afraid because when I don’t communicate with people frequently I lose belief in their existence. Especially, in the cases that I feel disappointed and want to forget people. Why dwell on past disappointments?

My third example is a tragic non-couple, forgive me for waxing poetic in my ambiguities. These two individuals are veteran travelers, friends, but with one-sided romantic love in the case of the man.

He told me about going from loving her at home, and then reuniting and loving her abroad. “Sometimes she wants to give me all I want,” and so it continues, strung along over decades of friendship. The free spirit and loving friend, both are independent, but incapable of the collaborative effort required in relationships. He sees someone else, his placeholder girlfriend and she parties on in a different city with other men. Then they are drawn back together magnetically by their shared history and friendship.

This is the mess we navigate in our twenties, abroad or at home. My hope is not that everything is perfect, but that I can learn something and be left with a lasting impression. This works, and this doesn’t. Try on the next shoe.

Tropical Problems, Tropical Solutions

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My recent hiatus can be attributed to Dengue Fever and Hawaii, in that order.

The tropics of Taiwan boast a surprising number of colorful diseases, one of which is Dengue spread by mosquito bites. I had the luck to be bitten a week before I had scheduled my vacation time.

What happens to a Dengue victim? you may ask, and if you don’t want to know skip the next few paragraphs. First, you get a headache that won’t go away and aches in your joints, maybe a slight fever. Then if you go to the doctor they will check your blood for high white blood count and send you home with Tylenol for the pain. The treatment plan is practically nonexistent and no vaccine exists. For the next three days you might suffer fever and the clothes-drenching sweats that accompany it. I even had distorted vision while I stumbled around the apartment! The next few days after that you will probably be too weak to work and you will catch up on the sleep you didn’t get when you had the fever and headache. Then you get an itchy rash that looks all speckly and finally you are on the mend.

After this confusing tropical fever had passed I was still able to take my vacation and fly over to Honolulu to visit my family for American Thanksgiving.

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I highly recommend running away on a family vacation to Hawaii. It was wonderful basking in sunlight, going surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving. While I haven’t mastered any of these I celebrated my opportunities and the kindness of the local Hawaiian people.

Perhaps the best exhibition of Hawaiian culture was a Jake Shimabukuro concert we attended and heard him performing with all his local friends. He is something of a ukulele rock god native to Hawaii.

My sister and I discovered that scuba instructors can offer more intelligent commentary than surf instructors. Although all of them were equally kind sharing their island with us.

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Much to be grateful for

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I love clean sheets and clean clothes from the suitcase! Excellent point.

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gordon belly‘Tis the season to be grateful.  When asked, “What are you most grateful for?” people inevitably say “for family and friends.” Adults are reluctant to admit they are also grateful for certain possessions. It sounds so shallow. But there’s nothing wrong with expanding the scope of our gratitude to include an appreciation for the impersonal.

Winter will be here soon.  Outdoor conditions in this season rotate between dank and icy; sunlight fades a minute or two earlier each day. As temperatures have recently peaked in the mid-thirties, I’m grateful for a furnace that pumps out warmth day and night at my command, and for windows that catch the distant rays of the sun. I’m grateful for a comforter at night, a bathrobe in the morning, and a newspaper to read with my first cup of tea. Along with gratitude for the machinery, comes an appreciation for those that made it…

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Borrow and Lend, Give and Take

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Last week my tutoring students’ parents offered me vegetables. My first reaction was surprise because there isn’t a garden near their home.

So I said yes, out of curiosity and I genuine desire for organic vegetables. After the lesson and tea with the family I was ushered into the car and driven ten minutes over to the family plot of corn, lettuce and greens. I met the grandmother’s dogs in the kennel there, and saw where their uncle is building a new structure.IMG_5914.JPG

I have grown accustom to this kindness and shared experiences offered to me in Taiwan, and I hope I never take it for granted.

A new acquaintance told another story about her visit to Chiayi. She said she was sitting at a restaurant that only served meat with her friends and when the waitress found out she was vegetarian she walked her down the street to order her vegetarian food from a different restaurant.

In the past week I tallied the times I had been paid for going out with friends. On Friday I had a drink with a girlfriend, she paid for me. Saturday a friend who had borrowed my motorcycle paid for my Korean dinner. Sunday, my tutoring family fed me lunch and another friend took me to the movies for dinner. I feel so taken care of it might be time for another party. Even my Japanese classmate for Chinese class gave me chocolate from home this morning.

Truthfully, I am grateful to know such generous people. Although sometimes I feel a little stressed by the monetary payback system. Obviously, I plan to get these friends back, but I live in fear of not knowing when I should or shouldn’t fight people paying the bill. Am I being presumptive? I don’t know, because I don’t have adequate knowledge of cultural norms.

I talked with my boss about this topic today, as a Taiwanese woman who has lived in the United States she has a balanced and open-minded perspective in addition to being a superwoman mid-30s mom with a toddler. She said in her visit to her sisters home in the states she hid money under the pillow when she left.

“I knew she wouldn’t take it if I gave it to her,” she said. Although it is common practice to give money as a gift for Chinese New Year, birthdays or weddings. A practice once looked down upon by snooty Americans, but which is becoming more widely practiced in the USA as well. Sometimes people feel it lacks personal touch, but it is practical. Our economic reasoning as human beings is erratic no matter what the cultural norms are in your part of the world, just check out this NPR article.

We also chatted about store coupons and gift cards. There are few opportunities to buy gift cards in Taiwan, it just isn’t done. Going to the bank before a big holiday you will find many Taiwanese queuing up to pull out large quantities of cash. Both are practical, one with a little more security than the other and yet they haven’t caught on here the same way. It remains a largely cash-based consumer culture.

In an effort to make businesses reliably distribute receipts the government of Taiwan created a receipt lottery. Every two months numbers are picked and many people win hundreds to thousands of New Taiwan Dollars just for checking the numbers at the top of their receipts.

It is an interesting world of free receipt lottery and guanxi  (關係) or interpersonal connections based on reciprocation. It sounds altruistic and beautifully communal, but you never know when people are going to hold something over your head. The idea is reminiscent of nepotism. I make things happen for you, and you do the same for me. It can be innocent or a bit mobster, but either way it is difficult to extricate yourself from if you ever get on someone’s bad side. My plan? Never get on someone’s bad side, and always take the free vegetables.

Falling

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I love autumn. I love the sweet sadness less sunlight brings. The vulnerability of smelling the dry grass and crushed leaves turning to mulch on the sidewalk.

There is a promise of colder weather and hardship, juxtaposed with an abundance of harvested food and holidays. It makes me recognize that time has passed without any remarkable improvement on my part. So I start setting goals for a new year to come; a clean slate on the horizon of January.

I don’t think I am at my happiest in fall. Rather, it makes me more quiet and reflective compared to my social summer self. Which means it is great for writing, it inspires self doubt and self improvement. It is the season of poets scribbling cryptic notes on lined paper and feeling lonely, wearing black jackets and drinking hot drinks.

It has a coziness to it, the heavier clothing cocooning you and also isolating you from the outside world. Scarves, I love scarves whipping about in the wind.

For me fall also means family, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Being evaluated for your shortcomings and loved despite them. It means being around people who know my history without needing an explanation.

However, it also means people who have known me my whole life holding me to an old standard. No doubt something I once said out loud. But I have changed, just like they have. Hopefully for the better, but who can measure that anyway.

Most progress is measured in a feeling you are moving forward in some aspect of your life. Maybe just making a lot of mistakes and learning from them, you can always chose to put a positive spin on mistakes. It worked for Edison, and he’s a pretty cool role model.

My potential and perspective shifts each year. I hope my beloved relatives can take personal growth into account.

Materially speaking my progress report is short. I haven’t gotten married, bought a house or had a child. For which I am grateful to be so unsuccessful. Sometimes success is marked by celebrating the dozens of things that have gone right, and sometimes it is celebrating what hasn’t happened. A triumphant lack of tragedy and suffering.

I might have more scar tissue and freckled skin from this climate, but I also feel more mentally well adjusted. The people I have met this past year have shaped me, and I am thankful for that. The reminder that I can serve some purpose in the workforce, and also enjoy myself in a social setting outside those parameters. I can like all the people I want, in all the different groups.

The cold will have us declare loyalties and allocate resources, who is worthy of friendship and who isn’t? Just like Game of Thrones reminds the world, “Winter is coming.”