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Since I moved to NYC at the end of July, I hadn’t really had the chance to leave the City (unless you count commuting to Jersey City everyday for work or the day trip to Edison to pick up the last of my university stuff). So I was super excited about my company’s annual fishing trip out around Sandy Hook Bay on a chartered boat, the Misty Morn!
I went on the same fishing trip last year and had a blast, but there were a few things that I was determined to do differently this year:
- Arrive at the designated pick-up spot on time. Last year, when I made my way from SoHo to Jersey City, I didn’t realize that the PATH train’s weekend schedule was one train every half hour. I just missed the train, and as a result spent an excruciating half hour in the World Trade Center station and caused the boat to set sail 45 minutes late. Nobody blamed me, but I swore on the powers that be that I would not repeat the experience.
- Catch a keeper. Even though I caught a few flukes (flounders) last year, none of them were the required 17″, so they were all thrown back in the water. But this year I had all the seasonings prepared, so I was counting on bringing a fish home!
- Dress appropriately. Last year, I naively wore a white shirt. Shortly after, I decided that it was just about time to get rid of said shirt.
When preparing to make the trek to Harrison to get picked up this year, I drew from the lessons I learned the year prior. First, I actually looked up the PATH schedule online (imagine that, I know), and second, I aimed for the train BEFORE the one that I actually had to take, so that I would have a fall-back just in case. All set.
The morning of, I woke up at 4:30, had a quick hearty breakfast, left the apartment at 5:10, and made it to the 33rd Street PATH station at 5:30, with 10 minutes to spare. All according to plan! Except the 5:40 train never showed up. And then the 6:00 train was delayed by 7 minutes, causing me to miss the 6:31 connection to Harrison (sure, THAT train runs on time). Instead, I had to take the 7:06, which subsequently was delayed for another 10 minutes while we waited for another train to pass. All told, I arrived at 7:25 instead of 6:40. And the boat set sail, again, 40 minutes late.
The EXACT situation that I had taken such great pains to avoid. I literally have nightmares of being late – in one vivid dream, I missed a Taekwondo tournament because I took two hours to change into my uniform pants, and in countless dreams, I’ve been delayed on my way to meet people and only get there when everything is over and the everyone is gone. This was a living nightmare, and waking up at 4:30 in the morning (unnecessarily, apparently) didn’t improve the situation.
In any case, we got there, and just like last year, the fishing itself was a blast! Even though I miserably failed my first goal, I did manage to catch three keepers! (and a few that definitely weren’t):
The mates of the boat that we chartered graciously filleted our fish for us (in addition to helping complete newbies like me unhook our catches and untangle ourselves from each other), but after witnessing a 18″ sea bass reduced to two 4.5″ flaps of meat, I decided to take my catches (two sea bass and one porgy) home whole to clean and treat them myself.
I had, however, definitely underestimated the difficulty and general unpleasantness of a two-hour ride on the subways with a sack of fresh fish. Even though I stole some ice from the coolers and then triple-bagged the goods, it didn’t take long for fish juice (maybe it could just be melted ice? Nope, unfortunately, very definitely fish juice) to start leaking. On the PATH train, a little puddle of it formed by the bag between my feet, and the juice flowed out in all directions as the train moved. People threw me alarmed and disgusted looks, but at that point, I was so tired that I had reached a state of transcendence and couldn’t be moved to care. Take THAT, PATH.
For the rest of the ride, though, I found the makeshift solution of taking off my sweater and wrapping it around the bag to soak up all the leakage. It was either that, or dribble fish juice all the way from Hoboken to Manhattan. So there I was, carrying a sack of fish and ice, all wrapped up in a wet sweater. And reeking of fish, to boot. I bet I was everyone’s favorite fellow passenger.
But at least I had this to show for my efforts!
Three fish, as fresh as can be (perhaps just slightly fresher without the two-hour train ride), and a cold. What with waking up early, enduring two hours of intense stress, and standing in the chilly wind on the boat, my body simply couldn’t keep up.
But what more could you ask for than an (infuriatingly) interesting story and a delicious meal? Still, I might sit the trip out next year…and the rest of the boat would probably thank me for it.
While researching for my new “Things I Must Do Before Leaving New York City” bucket list, I came across Escape the Room, listed as the #2 tourist attraction in all of NYC on trip advisor (#1, “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical,” seemed just a liiiittle out of my general field of interest). It beats out the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Highline, the Manhattan Skyline, and everything on Broadway (except, indeed, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical). With such a ridiculous standing, of course it shot to the top of the list!
It was quite an exercise just to book a reservation, since there are multiple rooms and scenarios, and each calls for an exact number of people. You can choose to be locked up in an office, a standard NYC apartment, a Victorian home, a theater, or a top secret agency. In all cases, you only have an hour to solve all of the clues and escape, and there is a monitor in the room that counts down your remaining time and occasionally prompts you with clues.
I chose the Victorian home, which called for 6 players and was reputed to be easier. I had to book a slot a month out in order to secure all 6 spots, because otherwise we would have been put in a group with strangers – not optimal for teamwork and strategizing.
Well, in the end we apparently didn’t have enough teamwork and strategy anyway…
We were actually SO CLOSE… We had the safe containing the key to the room in our hands, and we were just missing the hints to figure out the final combination. All we could do was watch as the clock ticked its way to 0:00. I think we tried to be content and focus on the fun instead of feeling disappointed, but let’s be honest, we were (at least I was. When we told the doorman that we didn’t make it when we left, he remarked, “Oh, that’s why you all look so sad!”, so I don’t think it was just me). For a good 15 minutes after we were let out, we were still pumped with adrenaline, intensely alert and hyper-aware of our surroundings.
Regardless of our failure and fictional death by confinement, it was a fantastic experience! I would say it lived up to the hype, and the brilliant people who designed the experience deserve mad props indeed.
Now that I’ve been through the experience once, these are some tips and pointers that I picked up (I’ll do my best not to get into specifics or let anything slip):
- In the search for clues, be careful of messing up the original state of the room or order of artifacts
- Not everything in the room is useful, some of it can be distracting
- Check things thoroughly, something that looks out of place may be there for a reason
- Don’t leave any potential leads unexplored; if it looks like it might do something, it just may
- If you have a tool, use it. And try many different, bizarre ways. Try pairing it with anything else you have
- Communication is essential so that you don’t waste time rediscovering clues, each time you come across something or have potential insight, share it with everyone else on the team
There, I don’t think I leaked anything top-secret. Off to book another room until I WIN…maybe and then some!
I’m a big fan of 2-ingredient recipes. My cooking is usually as follows:
Pick a protein:
Pick a vegetable:
- Green peppers
Chop into pieces, cook with oil/butter, add salt/soy sauce, and voila!
Very simple, and also very conservative. Some combinations go together better than others (eggs + tomatoes, beef + onions, lamb + carrots, chicken + celery), but you basically can’t go wrong. It won’t result in the tastiest meal on the planet, but it’s guaranteed to be a well-balanced meal that won’t raise alarm.
I’ve been following this system for years, buying the exact same groceries every week. But I came across a Blogilates recipe for banana + egg pancakes, and figured that I’d switch up the routine. Just two ingredients? Done, I had to try it.
I have to admit, I had misgivings. Even my roommate who, on the same night, experimented with adding broccoli to her mashed potatoes (which actually came out to be quite tasty! But I suspect that most of the credit goes to the butter), thought it was weird. I double-checked the recipe to see if I might be missing something – salt or sugar, perhaps? But nope, truly just two ingredients. Well, and butter for the pan.
Lo and behold, it was actually delicious! It tasted exactly like what you would imagine eggs and bananas would taste like: eggs and bananas. But they compliment each other in an unexpected way, and the beaten eggs combine with the mushy banana to create a foamy sort of texture that melts in your mouth. I can’t do it justice, it was great. You’ll just have to try it!
My pancake-flipping skills leave a lot to be desired – despite my best efforts, everything I cook turns into stir fry – so here’s a picture of the uncooked pancakes. The finished product looked like this with slightly more brown, I’ll just have to leave it to your imagination.
All in all, a successful trial! I’m inspired to broaden my lists. Who knows what might be next? Tofu + eggplant, chicken + nuts, peanut butter + carrots? I’m willing to try it, even if it sounds weird – as long as it’s just two ingredients.
The thirty (five) days are up, and the challenge results are in!
To be completely honest, I don’t know if the “vibrations of the ether” picked up on my attempts to call upon them, and if my subconscious took note of my self-administered subliminal messaging, I’m certainly not consciously aware of it.
There weren’t any sudden epiphanies or great breakthroughs (though one of the sentences that I repeated was “I am an authority on UX,” and a few weeks into the challenge, someone new joined our department as a freelancer, so I’m no longer the most junior person on the team! COINCIDENCE?), and I can’t deny that I was hoping for at least somewhat more exciting results. But that’s also my fault for not taking it as seriously as I should have, because I admit that I spent more time poking fun at the exaggerated ideas in Think and Grow Rich than actually trying to absorb my own messages.
I DID faithfully repeat the lines describing the person that I intend to become twice a day, once upon waking up and once before going to bed. But I guess the biggest lesson that I gleaned was that merely doing is not enough. In order for far off goals to be reached and for risks to be worth taking, you need a little something extra besides just going through all the right motions.
A little something called faith. What an aptly-named challenge! And I suppose this means that I failed…I do sometimes lack faith, whether it’s in new ideas proposed, in the greater good, or, most often, in myself.
But the benefit of this exercise is that it’s helped me to see how strong the power of faith truly is. Charles Duhigg touches on this in The Power of Habit as well. To truly change or develop a new habit, the belief that one can change is an essential element. When it came to whether alcoholics could successfully permanently change their habit of drinking, “belief was the ingredient that made a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior.” So for future challenges in life, work, or of my own design, I will strive to cultivate faith and embed it in the process.
In any case, even if the only noticeable change that resulted from the last month is that I now have positively reinforcing statements plastered on my wall, that’s still an improvement! I actually feel a bit funny now if I lie down for bed without saying my mini-mantras. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily a good thing…but hey, I’ll try having some faith.
My original intention for setting up 30 Day Challenges was to try something new and report on it as the process goes along…clearly, I haven’t been doing that great a job of it. But Day 26 is still before Day 30, better late than never!
As a little refresher, the challenge is to turn into the person that I intend to become by repeating the qualities of my ideal self to myself. With enough repetition, they will enter my subconscious and automatically manifest physically, as per the mantra:
“I realize that the dominating thoughts of my mind will eventually reproduce themselves in outward, physical action, and gradually transform themselves into physical reality, therefore, I will concentrate my thoughts
for thirty minutes [twice] daily, upon the task of thinking of the person I intend to become, thereby creating in my mind a clear mental picture of that person.” – Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich
Click here for more explanation: 30 Day Challenge: An exercise of faith (Day 1)
I’ve stuck with this challenge fairly well, repeating my “BURNING DESIRES” almost every morning and every night. Honestly, I don’t know if I have enough oomph or the right “FAITH” that Napoleon Hill describes (mostly because I’m still not quite sure what it is), since I kind of half-heartedly repeat the phrases to myself as I make my bed in the morning or brush my teeth at night. But the words were said!
I am a strong, attractive woman
I am an authority on UX
I am a capable leader
People listen to me
I also finally wrote them down and put them up on the wall, which apparently is an essential step for actually attracting “the vibrations of the ether”….Oops.
Somehow taking these phrases, which I feel are more magnets for judgement than the “vibrations of the ether,” and sticking them on the wall of my room (which barely anyone except me enters) makes me more self conscious than posting them online. Maybe there really is something magical about writing things down. Or maybe this is more of a commentary about detachment on the web and oversharing online…
Either way, I don’t think I’m taking the process as seriously as I should be to get the results that Napoleon Hill espoused. My faith in the book and the author started declining as I read further, because the book started getting preeeeetty weird. For example, a later chapter claims (emphasis not added),
“Sex energy is the creative energy of all genii. There has never been, and never will be a great leader, builder, or artist lacking in this driving force of sex.”
Not that I necessarily dispute that claim, but you see what I mean. Weird.
I have noticed, though, that I am now much more comfortable with these words, after so much repetition. They roll off the tongue much more smoothly than they did a few weeks ago. More comfortable with the words -> more comfortable with the thoughts -> eventual reality. Or so I hope!
A few days left, but maybe I am getting somewhere. Somewhat slowly, but hopefully surely!
Ever since I watched Divergent, I’ve been casually contemplating what would be in my Fear Landscape (a serum-induced simulation in which you confront your deepest fears). Considering that I can’t stand even the most basic horror movies, probably a lot. But one thing which I’m pretty certain would appear is a swarm of cockroaches.
So far, this nightmare has not even come close to being a reality, thank goodness. I do flush the occasional 1 cm-long cockroach down the kitchen sink, but they’re so small that they’re relatively unthreatening.
Last week, though, I had my first encounter with one of their 2 inch-long cousins. I saw it scurry across the living room floor and into the supply closet out of the corner of my eye, and, with begrudging courage, decided to track it down. I opened the closet and shook out the two rolled yoga mats that were on the floor – nothing. Perplexed but extremely relieved, I shook them out again for good measure. SUCH REGRET. The cockroach popped over the top of the roll, crawled over my hand, and made a beeline straight for the crack under my bedroom door.
I heard before that you should never crush cockroaches, because they have egg sacks on their backs, and crushing them releases little cockroach babies into the air. I also heard that cockroaches leave a trail of pheromones everywhere they go, and crushing them releases a huge pool of pheromones that will attract even more cockroaches to that exact spot. The first is most likely false, but the second just may be true… in any case, the thought of crushing cockroaches is exactly why I hate them so much in the first place, because I imagine the CRUNCH and the guts and the–
One of my roommates mentioned killing cockroaches with Windex before, which seemed like the best non-crushing option on short notice. So I grabbed a bottle of Windex and went to town. Below is the trail that the cockroach took and roughly the number of Windex sprays that I unleashed, represented in blue dots.
Turns out, I don’t think Windex actually works that well. The cockroach certainly wasn’t happy, but it just continued to scurry around while I chased it and emptied half the bottle. Eventually, I think it kind of just drowned in a pool of Windex. Anticlimactic (and pretty cruel, but honestly better than other scenarios I can imagine). I’m wondering if simple water would work just as well, because inhaling Windex fumes all night was probably not all that much better than smelling a bit of Raid.
But I did it, I CONQUERED MY FIRST COCKROACH!
…And the next morning, I saw another one that was just as big crawl up the wall behind the stove.
Unfortunately, it zipped out of sight before I could take any action.
Being in New York City, encountering a swarm of cockroaches might be closer to becoming a reality than I would like… but before the next battle comes, I’m going to savor my one, Windex-soaked victory.
Since I resolutely bring my own lunch in to work everyday, my coworkers recommended Blue Apron, a service which delivers recipes and fresh ingredients to your door every week. All you have to do is prepare the ingredients and cook them, and voilà, 6 meals for $60. My manager invited me to try a free box (props for an effective marketing strategy, Blue Apron), so I decided to try it.
Waiting for the box to come and finding it on your doorstep is like anticipating Christmas presents and finally holding them in your hands on Christmas morning.
Meal 1: Seared Salmon and Tomato Chutney
My usual meals consist of (1) a meat, (2) a vegetable, (3) butter, and (4) salt/soy sauce, so I was excited to work with more than four (and sometimes only three) ingredients! But one advantage of having very few ingredients is that they don’t take up too much space… the counter below comprises approximately 60% of the total counter space in my kitchen. The struggles of living in NYC…
I appreciate that everything is very clearly labeled. I probably could have deduced that cranberry beans were the cranberry-colored beans, but this greatly reduces the potential for customer error (though it’s never truly eliminated).
After a full hour of battling to cram things on every available surface and standing in a sweltering hot, un-air conditioned kitchen, that great opening-a-Christmas-present feeling admittedly faded a bit. But I’m quite pleased with the final result:
It doesn’t look quite like the picture on the recipe (presentation was never my forte, because I’m still just moving past the basic requirement of edibility), but you have to admit, mine is more colorful! And it was indeed a delicious meal. However, it was 10x more complex than my usual meals, and I don’t know if it was 10x more delicious…the jury’s still out on this one.
I got a Kindle to make my commute to and from work more bearable, and I just exited out of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (I discovered that fantasy is not really my thing, though I made it 71% of the way through the book, so I did at least attempt to catch up with popular culture) in favor of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. It’s high on the list of personal development books, and what’s not to like about the title?
As far as I can tell thus far, it advocates the power of having the BURNING DESIRE to achieve a goal and the FAITH that it can be accomplished, for this combination will form “A ‘MAGNETIC’ FORCE WHICH ATTRACTS, FROM THE VIBRATIONS OF THE ETHER,” the people, events, and chances that will help you achieve that goal. That’s a direct quote, emphasis not added (I’m using it a bit out of context, but I just couldn’t resist “the vibrations of the ether”). The book reads a like a spirited sermon delivered in shouts, with spittle flying in your face.
The fundamental idea is not unique though, as it appears in The Secret and The Alchemist, among many other works, I’m sure. Basically, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” (The Alchemist).
One of the steps toward bending the universe to your will is, according to Napoleon Hill’s SELFCONFIDENCE FORMULA,
“I realize that the dominating thoughts of my mind will eventually reproduce themselves in outward, physical action, and gradually transform themselves into physical reality, therefore, I will concentrate my thoughts for thirty minutes daily, upon the task of thinking of the person I intend to become, thereby creating in my mind a clear mental picture of that person.”
I don’t know about committing thirty minutes daily, but I do want to do my own little experiment! So for thirty days, I will remind myself, upon waking up and upon going to bed, of the person I intend to become:
I am a strong, attractive woman
I am an authority on UX
I am a capable leader
People listen to me
Now it’s out in the open and a target has been set. There’s nowhere to go but forward!
The Jersey City PATH station, which I travel to for work in the morning, is sunk deep underground. There is only one functional escalator going up and one going down (I don’t know what’s up with the third one, but it was under construction for the whole of my internship last summer, and no progress appears to have been made), and when trains arrive, crowds of people swarm at the foot of the escalator like ants on a stick of celery smeared with peanut butter (coincidentally called “ants on a log”…like “ants on an ants on a log,” parse through that one).
To avoid this madness, I started taking the stairs.
The trouble is, there are 8 flights of 16 steps, 128 stairs in total. I’m fairly fit, but by the fourth flight, my feet already feel heavy and I imagine ghastly scenarios of losing my footing and tumbling down. The last two flights are the hardest. When my foot finally lands on the top step, I’m out of breath, but I form a wide smile as I celebrate a mini-inner victory.
The original idea was that this would make me stronger day by day, but sadly, after four weeks, the climb doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. Nonetheless, it’s a valuable part of my morning. I walk into work with a smile and an accomplishment already under my belt (though being out of breath makes socializing with coworkers in the elevator a little harder). Despite the pain, it’s a great way to start the day!
Therefore, I pledge to make the climb every morning before work, unless I’m feverishly ill (in which case I should hope I won’t be going in to work), I have a broken leg, I bump into a coworker and it would be socially awkward to separate, or I’m just really, really late.
The one and only time that I didn’t take the stairs in the past four weeks, the latter two scenarios applied. As I stood in line for the escalator with my colleague, she turned and asked, “are you a walker or a rider?”
“Oh, I usually walk,” I said, and she replied with “me too” as she walked up the escalator.
If only she knew.
“On a sheet of paper, write for 5 minutes how your life would be different if you never worried and were never anxious.”
This was the prompt that I came across on Ryan Allis’ “Lessons from my 20s,” a 1,284-slide presentation from a young, successful entrepreneur filled with life advice (I actually stumbled upon it on my Facebook newsfeed. It’s probably my most — okay, more likely only — productive encounter that ever resulted from browsing Facebook). Since I had my first opportunity in a while to sit and reflect this morning, I figured why not:
If I never worried and were never anxious (I’m surprisingly good at it. I’d rank it as one of my top skills):
I would save a lot of time and energy.
I would approach people without hesitation to say hello and ask them how they’re doing, what their stories are, and whether they too think it surprising, funny, miraculous, or simply quaint that our lives intersect in whatever ways that they do. I would be able to meet hundreds, thousands of diverse people and build a connection with them, learning about how them and how they view the world.
I would have no misgivings about my knowledge or skills. I would not think I was quiet, or a beginner, or unqualified. I would share my opinions and be a valuable contributor to any meeting or conversation that I take part in. I would not be shy. Instead, I would ben known as an amiable connector, and I would build a sizable and effective network around me.
I would be in control of my life, my time, and my emotions. I would forge ahead into any situation without fear, and instead with wonder and a sense of humor.
The next slide had a second prompt:
“On a sheet of paper, write down for 5 minutes all the things that are holding you back that you can just give up and choose to put in the past.”
It takes a tremendous amount of energy for me to take an action, and I wear myself out long before. I’m overcome with anxious anticipation, I run through the full scenario in my head, and I have to fight to sooth and convince myself to act. By the time I am called upon to take the action, I’m already nervous and exhausted.
I need a sense of control, but I can’t control what others think or how they respond. I’m scared of that, and it causes me to worry.
I worry that my words will tumble out wrong, that I won’t be able to express myself the way I want to, and I’ll ultimately leave a bad impression. So it’s safer to take no action, to leave no impression at all. Or maybe it’s an even scarier thought – that, even if I try my best, I’ll still leave no impression at all.
I feel like I have nothing to say.
There it is.
This exercise exposes a great fear that I’ve had for who knows how long? Ever since my first parent-teacher conference, when my kindergarten teacher made a comment that I heard year after year: “Jessica is a great student, but she doesn’t participate much. She’s so quiet!” The fear that kept me from raising my hand, and which still makes me clam up during meetings, gives me cold sweat at networking and recruiting events, and prompts me to shy away from fantastic opportunities to meet and chat with renown leaders, speakers, and change-makers.
But I do have things to say. I’ve gone on great adventures, met interesting characters, created endearing things, hoarded some knowledge, been stuck in ridiculous debacles, and produced blood, sweat, and tears to achieve goals. I have funny, inspiring, and heart-warming stories to tell. I have experience, I have advice.
So damn it, I’m going to say them. Maybe not all at once, and maybe not right away. But this blog is a great place to start. The purpose of this blog is not to be to build great volumes of traffic or turn it into a source of income, but rather to collect the things that I have to say. And once I can prove to myself (and the world) that I have value to provide to an audience, I’ll finally have conquered my fear. And all the “I would…”s from the first prompt will turn into “I do”s.