• i'mwithher

    #imwithher: this isn’t defeat

    Something horrible happened today. (Or, if you’re on the opposite side of the world from where I currently am, maybe it happened last night.) As an American, I am utterly shocked at what we, as a collective group, did. We … Continue reading

  • self-satisfaction

    I stopped caring… a lesson in satisfaction…

    There’s so much shit going on these days. There’s so much I feel like I should be doing: work stuff, exercise stuff, personal project stuff, reading stuff. There’s. Just. So. Much. I’m a very goal-oriented person (or tend to see … Continue reading

  • commitment phobe

    I tried committing… but I wasn’t ready…

    Lately, my thoughts are all over the place. It’s been such a long time since I’ve written anything for myself. Part of this is unintentional; much of it is/was a product of my life circumstances. I ended up dating someone … Continue reading

  • a little bit brave… in Taiwan

    Reader, I’m so excited to share the next installment of my series, “A Little Bit Brave.” Each month, I’ll be posting an article by another blogger who took a leap and moved themselves away from everything that was familiar to find … Continue reading

  • be beyonce

    be your own “Beyoncé,” girl…

    Things are starting to stir as we approach that special time in the Americas when candidates start coming forward and declaring their intentions to begin the race for the next presidential election. (In fact, Hilary Clinton officially launched her campaign publicly … Continue reading

  • project tinder… a “real life” science experiment…

    Happy Tuesday, Reader! Let’s get down to business. Lately, I’ve been taking notice of what “search terms” randomly lead people to my blog and apparently, something along the lines of “Tinder in Korea” is a big one. I’m here to tell you … Continue reading

Where I’ve Been Hiding – Part 1

I’ve allowed myself to be very absent from my blog for a while. It wasn’t intentional… it just happened.

I’ve been putting off writing about it for a long time, too, because I didn’t want to put forth the energy it would take to sort out my feelings. While I know it’s perfectly okay to cry and be emotional, it’s also exhausting. I wasn’t ready to open the blinds and let the sunlight in yet.

But I’m finally ready.

Here’s where it started.

I left the U.S. in February 2013 to be an English teacher in South Korea. From the minute I started, I loved it. Living in Korea was the literal best decision I had ever made for myself.

For the first time in my adult life, I had a disposable income.

I was closer to other places around the world and traveled to see more of it.

I had job security in a position I loved and was truly good at. I was promoted and repeatedly asked to stay on and sign new contracts.

I found myself – my true self – living in Korea.

I made wonderful friends.

Things had never been better but after nearly 5 years, I was ready to move on to the next thing. I was burned out and tired of teaching the same content over and over again.

So, I left. I went to Dallas in July 2017 to live with my BFF from college just like we had always planned, but I didn’t have the stomach to promise more than a year there. I knew I didn’t want to live in the States for long (living abroad had completely changed my outlook and I wanted to be free to roam) and I didn’t want a lot of the things that are truly necessary for living in an American city – I didn’t want a car or a commute.

I had grandiose plans for starting up my own content business and I did a lot of things to get started. But I did a lot of unnecessary things because I was truly afraid of the “real work” and finding clients.

The realization hit me while I was in London, 2 weeks into a 6-week Europe trip with a dear friend of mine. I was (and had been since I went back to the States) bleeding money and had no source of steady income that would be enough to cover my monthly bills. I now had rent to pay, health insurance to worry about, plus my more than $1,000-monthly student loan and credit card debt payments. I had a minor, actual, panic attack.

I went back to the U.S. immediately, tail between my legs, and started to look for a “real” job.

The “Real” Job

Drogo puppy

In sharing with my friends that I was looking for work, my previous boss and friend, Anna, told me her previous boss was looking for someone to do what I did: Content and social media management. He needed someone right away.

It was the weirdest and most “laid back” interview process I’d ever had. I talked with him over the phone for no more than 10 to 20 minutes, we exchanged some text messages, and I got hired. The entire process took about 2 days. The interviews were on a Thursday. I started working the following Monday. It was that fast.

I told myself I would give it 6 months, maybe a year at most, to get myself re-established and then I would truly leave to start running my own business.

The only good parts about this job were that:

  • A. I had a job that was paying me actual money consistently.
  • B. It was completely remote so I was able to work from home, thus not needing a car or adding a commute to my life. I also spent an obscene amount of time with my bestie’s adorable dog (pictured above).
  • C. I was reimbursed for the desk I purchased to do my new job.

Fast forward to just a few weeks in… and I knew I hated it. He was a horrible boss – not only was everything incredibly disorganzed (which I can’t handle on a personal level) but things always seemed to be getting done last minute.

My responsibilities of handling written content and creating social media calendars and publishing social content were more than a single person can handle in a 40-hour work week. I was constantly stressed and couldn’t keep up well. Not to mention, I wasn’t happy.

He didn’t provide health insurance, so I was paying $300 every month for health care via Healthcare.gov. I had never been so thankful for the ACA before 2017.

He was rude and I never felt valued as a team member. I remember thinking over and over again, How do these coworkers of mine stand to put up with this shit? I would talk to them about projects we were working on for clients and mention something the boss would want, and they would simply say, “Yeah, that’s Alex…”

I genuinely couldn’t understand why these people stayed in this environment and how it could be, in any way, fulfilling. I started plotting my exit within a couple of months of starting the job. It was that awful.

And in turn, I did some of the most awful work I’ve ever done. I didn’t care like I had in past jobs because I felt no appreciation for what I did.

It’s not worth harping on about how bad it was… No one wants to read or hear about that. But what is important to note is that, while I was doing all this stuff for his clients and getting incredibly burned out by him and his business model, my own motivation to get my side hustle moving was waning and I had little to no interest or energy trying to do my own stuff.

I was losing my focus and I was depressed. I gained more weight. I wasn’t making enough money and I was still bleeding money because Dallas is expensive, even without a car.

I had to figure something out. And then, another window opened.

San Antonio

My close military friend that I met my first year in Korea was living with her family in San Antonio. She was being redirected by the Army to El Paso but she and her husband decided they didn’t want to move their kids again. Long story very short: They needed a nanny and couldn’t really afford one.

They offered me a free place to live, a free car and car insurance, and free meals to help take care of their kids. The husband’s mother-in-law was also living in their home to help, so it would be a joint responsibility between her and I the majority of the time.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay down debt and, hopefully, save a little money. I still had dreams of leaving the U.S. and living more “nomadic” life. I moved into their home in March 2018. Things started out okay – there were some bumps, of course – but it didn’t take long for it to feel like a train wreck.

Long story short, living with the mother-in-law and attempting to “co-parent” with her was a nightmare. To top that off, I was still dealing with my awful job and boss while trying to get some of my own content written for my own business by freelancers I had worked with in the past. I was treading water and getting nowhere, and still incredibly unhappy.

Korea Called… Again

april speech contest seoul

I escaped San Antonio for a few days and went to be with my BFF in Orlando, Florida for a week over the Independence Day holiday. While there, I received a message from a previous coworker in Korea asking if I would consider returning to my old job.

At first, I laughed. I showed my BFF and said, “Of course this happens! I can’t go back there!”

He said, “Why not? I’ve been leaving jobs and cities for the last 4 years and going back to them and getting a better deal when I return. Why can’t you?”

I started to think long and hard about it because the truth was, I had been pining for Korea for months. I missed my life here.

“Take steps forward, not back…”

I have always had this thought in my head that I can’t return to a place I’ve already lived or take a job I already had. In my mind, it was like “going backward” – a failure.

I felt like when I left Korea for what I thought was the last time (as a legal resident, at least), that going back there would mean that somehow, I failed. And the worst part was that I felt like I already had failed.

I hadn’t started the business I dreamed I would start. I wasn’t successful like I wanted to be.

I was fat and tired and depressed and stressed and dying to whip my passport back out.

I was miserable living in San Antonio and working for that guy and I had to admit, the universe was giving me “an out.” All I had to do was take it.

Within three days of that initial message from my coworker, I had re-accepted my previous job in Daegu, South Korea, with a small raise and promise of a better apartment. I went back to San Antonio the following week and immediately started the long and tedious process to renew my visa.

Once I had confirmation that my visa was approved about 3 weeks later, I gave two weeks notice to my insane boss who, in his response, made it abundantly clear that I was of little value to him as a person or employee. I felt so free, it was crazy.

I spent the next two weeks balancing the rest of my work responsibilities, packing up, giving things away, and moving out. I spent my last week in the Americas back in Dallas with my bestie and then, On August 31, I boarded a flight to Seoul. I spent the weekend in my new apartment and started work right away on Monday.

It seemed like I had just been gone on a long vacation and it felt so good.

 

 

Thanks for reading!

Some stories take a long time to tell and I’m just getting started describing my long absence from my blog. This week’s story is the foundational “background info” for what’s to come. Check back next week to get the rest of the story! Big things are in store for A Little Bit Brave in 2019 and beyond.

brave women

Daegu Story Slam | once a storyteller, always a storyteller…

Last weekend, I went out on a limb and stopped into a monthly Story Slam meet-up in Daegu. I vaguely recall seeing past events shared to various local Facebook groups I was in over the years, but I always turned up my nose and just assumed it was something I had no interest in.

Oh, how wrong I was.

I don’t remember if I took the time to research what an actual Story Slam is the last time my interest was piqued, but this time I made the effort. And I was immediately enraptured by what I saw.

I was born to be a storyteller…

In short (if you don’t want to do the research), a Story Slam is like an open mic for people to (obviously) share their stories. A theme is chosen for the night/event and your story should somehow relate to it. You’re given a certain time limit to tell your story and it does have to be a story – not a poem or something you’ve written or a performance: it’s a real-life story that happened to you. You don’t make notes, you don’t over-prepare, you just get up and tell your story to (most likely) a room full of strangers.

Now, I love telling stories… If you’ve read any part of this blog, my guess is that’s pretty apparent.

I’m constantly recounting epic tales to my friends about my ridiculous experiences, family interactions, and crazy Tinder-related sexual escapades over the years – I love hearing and telling a good story. I love flexing my funny muscle and hearing my pals laugh at the stupid situations I’ve found myself in.

To get a feel for what exactly a Story Slam is, I watched several YouTube videos of other storytellers doing their thing at various events across the US and I knew immediately I wanted to see it in action. Many speakers told funny stories and had the audience laughing, others told heart-wrenchingly honest stories that plucked at listeners’ heartstrings – on both sides of the spectrum, these were my people.

The problem was that these one-off videos didn’t really give me a completely clear idea of what a live event would be like, so I needed to see it for myself. I decided that I would attend the next Daegu Story Slam.

And here’s the kicker: I decided to be brave and went alone.

(I might also add that the event in Daegu is held every month in a bar… and I’m doing Whole30 this month so I’m not drinking… So I resolved to buy someone else a drink to earn my spot at a table.)

a lone storyteller…

I didn’t know anyone in town that would be willing and able to accompany me to the latest Story Slam, so I decided to go on my own and just sit and observe. As it turned out, I did know a few people who ended up being there throughout the night, but I sat on my own at a full table of strangers most of the night.

The theme of the evening was “Confessions” and the event hosts were collecting “anonymous confessions” from the audience. I dropped a couple of my own in – participation is key, right?!

As the night wore on, the hosts kept encouraging attendees to be a storyteller because just a few people had signed up, so there were several spots available.

I hadn’t planned on telling a story but there were openings, I was being given an opportunity to observe before jumping in to see how it “worked,” and my friend, William, encouraged me.

My conversation with William went a little like this:

“You should tell a story,” said he.

“Well, I’m just not sure what story I should tell… I have plenty of things I can confess to and few things I’m overly embarrassed about, so I guess I could,” I replied.

“You can totally do this. ‘A little bit brave’? How about ‘a lot brave.’ You can totally tell a great story,” he gently pressed.

“Yeah, okay. I’ve got a story,” I said.

So, I signed up and it was like I had been doing it forever…

I put my name in the hat and when I was called up, I told a fantastic tale about how I have always loved to laugh but it has caused me trouble in the past… because I used to have a terrible time trying to hold my bladder. (Translation: I used to pee in my pants from laughing too hard all. The. Time.)

I was invited to the mic and introduced and it was made clear to the audience that it was my first time. Everyone cheered their encouragement and I hit the ground running with my story.

 

daegu story slam

 

And you know what? I was nowhere near as nervous as I thought I would be. In fact, I was completely energized and just a tinge nervous – I was barely aware of my heart beating a little faster and my face wasn’t getting too overheated.

It was like I had been telling stories to an audience for years.

I’m no stranger to public speaking, but I’ve always been nervous about being in front of people. I just don’t know what happened that night…

I’m glad I took the leap…

What I haven’t admitted to you, Reader, is that I almost didn’t go… I had been out shopping for a few things and had some cumbersome bags; I didn’t have a buddy to join me in a bar and I wasn’t drinking alcohol. But I dragged myself to the gathering anyway and saw just a single face I recognized.

Since returning to Korea in September (surprise!), my friend pool has dwindled and changed. Folks have moved, had babies, or left the country altogether. That initial decision of bravery on Saturday night introduced me to something new that I know I’m going to love being part of and opened a new door for meeting people.

It was a fantastic decision.

 

I haven’t taken many brave steps over the last 12 months – something I’m a little ashamed to admit – but this one was a good one. I’m so glad I went, even with my shopping bags and no tag-along pal. Sometimes, being brave doesn’t mean stepping far outside of our comfort zones – even small steps matter.

Thanks, Daegu Story Slam community, for offering me a seat at the table and an opportunity to be part of the human connection in that room. It was a blast.

 

As we close out 2018, what brave steps have you taken this year? What do you want to do before the year is over? There’s still time! Share with me in the comments.

 

when is the “right” time to report sexual assault? the short answer: any time

Like nearly everyone else in America, I want to talk about what’s happening with the #MeToo movement.

Let’s get something straight to start: life for women is abundantly different than it is for men. We have developed habits that are truly engrained in us, so much so that we don’t even think about it when we do these things in hopes of protecting ourselves. These behaviors are practically nonexistent among men.

Every day holds potential threats for women. Every. Single. Day. And by denying that, you empower the men who think they’re above the law or above ethical and moral behavior.

While a movement has started – or for the sake of argument, resurged – in the last year or two, it does not diminish the fact that we still have a long way to go.

We must believe women when they speak up and we must respect them when they tell their stories “late.” Why? Because the threat of being shrugged off as a misunderstanding, a joke, or an inconvenient time for the perpetrator is no longer an excuse.

We cannot allow these excuses to be more important than listening to these stories. The reality is that there is no “right” time to report sexual assault.

I don’t consider myself to be a victim, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some uncomfortable stories.

I will be honest and say that, as a woman who has never been a victim of what I would consider sexual assault, there have been times in my life where I was uncomfortable.

When I was no older than 4 or 5, an older boy who was a friend of the family was reading a book to me on our sofa. When I said I wanted to go take a nap with my mom, he said I could just stay and lay on the couch with him and we could take a nap together. My father was in the next room, likely watching football and napping in his recliner.

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solo trips: the importance of being a hermit…

 

 

I’m crazy busy these days between my teaching contract ending; my part-time editing and content management gig with Anna Wickham, my amazing boss and friend; and I’ve been working on a startup project with a business partner I made in Bali in November. I don’t have time to mess around these days…

It was clear to me at the end of last year that I needed to do something to get myself on track and well-organized for the year ahead. I knew I’d be working a lot and wouldn’t make enough time to push myself to have some legit “me” time.

But I knew it was going to be important for me to exercise some of my hermit tendencies more than ever. So I decided to do my best to find ways to get my shit together and make it happen.

Making It Happen

I’ve gotten better at being by myself over the years. The first time I remember taking a “solo trip” – going somewhere “fun” all alone – was when I was 21. I had a season pass to a local theme park in Branson, Missouri called Silver Dollar City and that day, I was sad.

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each November, I remember… finding joy after loss…

For the first time in 20 years, I didn’t cry today.

On November 1st, 1996, my father died from cancer. It’s hard to believe I can say that. I don’t feel “old,” but saying I experienced the loss of a parent two decades ago makes me feel like I’ve aged.

Every year, I have dreaded November 1st. For what feels like forever, this day has been a major tracker of life events – much like a birthday or New Years celebration.

Another year I didn’t get to celebrate my achievements with my daddy. Another year wishing I knew more about him – that I knew him as his adult daughter.

Two years ago, I decided that I wasn’t going to let this day dictate my feelings so negatively. I wasn’t going to let it rob me of my joy. Instead, I’ve spent some time over the last week or so leading up to this day to think about how far I’ve come in 20 years.

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