Answers to: “11 Questions Every Twentysomething Should Ask”

Inspired by this article that kept popping up on my news feed.

1. Do the people I’m surrounded by bring me life?


On a similar angle, I am reminded of the questions What careers do the people who you spend the most time with have? and On average, what do the five people you spend the most time with make?

My friends’ careers are: teacher, TA for an autistic school, counselor at RTF, nurse, IT, engineer sales, executive assistant, JD/MBA candidate, Navy JAG…the only possible pattern is helping people, with a side of law and technology.

As far as salary, that also covers a wide range. But, I will also say, there is not a strong love of money among my closest friends. We value life, love, people, joy, giving, breaking bread together, laughing till our sides hurt, and celebrating life’s milestones.

“Your life will resemble the lives of your closest friends—does that fact excite you or freak you out?”

Excites me. My friends are strong. Generous. Forgiving. Understanding. Fierce. All things I value and aspire to. And they all make enough to pay rent and mortgages, put food on the tables, and start families. Or, they find ways to make it work.

Creative. Persevering. Hopeful. Hard working.

2. Who inspires me the most?

I have never known how to answer this question. Is it bad that I’m not inspired?

It’s not that I’m not inspired. It’s that I can’t think of just one person who inspires me in every way. My parents are entrepreneurial. My mother is self-sacrificial, my father honest and hard-working.

I don’t know. Ghandi was peaceful. Mother Theresa was giving. Corrie ten Boom was courageous. All of those traits are equally inspiring.

3. What are my favorite stories?

The Ordinary Princess. Ella Enchanted (book, not movie). Cinderella (mostly the  Book of Virtues version).

“Is there a common thread that runs through each story?”

A young girl who has or appears to have a major weakness, but she is strong of character and fights for and pursues the life she wants, valuing what she will and not what people tell her is important. Well, Cinderella doesn’t really fight. And the Disney version annoys me the more I think about it. But when she is not being terribly wimpy, she is very selfless and patient.

4. Would I want to live with me?


5. Do I love from my insecurities or do I love from my strengths?

Both. Constantly trying and learning how to love more from my strengths. To give instead of ask.

6. Where am I ripe with talent and where do I quickly deflate?

“Then focus on the things you’re good at.”

Hmmm. I’m talented at:

Talking/public speaking – Getting really excited about ideas and encouraging people to pursue them – Baking – Trying new things – Saying ridiculous things without meaning to – Learning; I pick up things quickly – Waxing philosophical – Writing – Dancing

I’m not so talented at:

Photography – Singing – Running – Keeping in touch with people – Being on time – Getting out of parking tickets – Remembering things (so I write them down)

7. What are my favorite hobbies/things I do for fun, and are they something I can leverage into a career or product?

I love story telling; I always made up bedtime stories for my little siblings growing up, and maintained I would be a storyteller when I grew up.

I’m not great at telling stories in person. I’m bad a jokes too–I never keep the right amount of suspense for the punch line. In fact, I usually forget the punch line! But I’m OK at writing them. More importantly, I love writing them.

Baking. I am starting to make that a side income.

Dancing. You never know. One of my friends/employers has fashioned a career from dancing, so there’s always that. I would love that, actually. Dancing is storytelling, really.

8. What’s the main thing holding me back?

For writing? The last time I sat down to try to write a book was when I was roughly 11 years old. Something about castles and evil uncles and a female heroine being very self-sufficient and strong. I just wrote the first chapter. Her name was Elizabeth and she was being chased through the woods on a horse. It was probably raining. I can’t remember where she was going.

I have never tried to write anything since then. I think I’m afraid it won’t be ‘good enough.’ Chances are it won’t be. Even most good writers have decades of oblivion before writing something that makes money or gets any sort of attention.

For Baking, just the startup costs and things. But Pittsburgh is awesome and I’m going to just start in the Strip, or at farmer’s markets and things.

For Dancing, well, I definitely haven’t invested the time to even be close to make a career of any sort out of it!

9. What are my negotiables and non-negotiables?

Non-negotiables: I want to have a life outside of work. I like my family and my friends. I like seeing people outside of my computer screen and phone. Now, if my work is field-based or something where I am running around like crazy and people are everywhere, that I could do for 80 hours a week.

Negotiables: I like new places. I would move to one.

10. What breaks my heart?

Human trafficking. Women and girls who don’t know their worth. Women and girls who provide a negative role model for other women and girls, encouraging them to downgrade their worth.

11. At 29 years and 364 days, if I have accomplished just one thing, what do I want it to be?

Oh gosh. I’m so bad at these questions. My 20s have a lot in them already!

I’ve moved to two new cities: one of them completely on the other side of the world, and one of them without job prospects. I’ve taken some pretty big risks, and had moments of doubt. I’ve traveled solo, made best friends for a day, learned how to be comfortable with myself and accepting of others, and felt 100% at peace and happy. I’ve loved and lost and loved again. I’ve made bad decisions and learned from them. I’ve learned so much from my financial decisions–what the value of money is, and the difference between not needing money to be happy and needing money to pay rent. I examined and heavily questioned everything I grew up believing and made it my own. I even jumped out of a plane!

Those are all big things!

The first thing that came to mind? Making my parents grandparents. Sounds lame. Especially with all the feminist-centered reading I do. But that would be really, really great.

The second thing: complete a triathlon. Not sure on that, on account of hating running. We’ll see.

Professionally? Maybe I should start working on a book. I had some crazy dreams in Korea, and finally had the sense to write one of them down before they stopped. Definitely has potential.

I will say this: this is a great example of my main ‘problem.’ I don’t know what I want to do, so I am doing nothing. There is so much pressure on doing amazing things, and being that person everyone envies, and accomplishing so much everyone wants to shake your hand, that I am left feeling pathetic at doing only good things.

Good should be enough.

I will think less, and do more. I so dearly love to think and contemplate it gets in the way of accomplishing and taking action.

Back to the question. What is my ONE GOAL for my twenties?

Ahahah, I just had the urge to say, “I need more time to think about it.” Gah! It’s just so much pressure! And limiting!

OK….design a fashion line, write a book, have a farmer’s market bakery, be in a dance troupe/on a dance team, build a piece of furniture for my house, go on a live-aboard, have a kid (!!), get a pet, meet Stephen Colbert..

AH! That’s it! If I can accomplish one thing in my twenties, I want to hang out with Stephen Colbert.


On learning not to hate marriage

There’s really no reason I should react to marriage the way I do.

I love weddings—mostly because they’re fabulous parties—and love seeing my friends all happy and gushy-eyed.  I especially love watching the groom’s face as his bride walks towards him.

It’s not my parents’ fault, either.

Twenty-six years and counting (or is it 27 now?), they’re still mush for each other.  They go on dates, they crack jokes and laugh at each other, and I don’t think my father has ever gone on a business trip without bringing my mother along.  They hold hands when they go on walks, and cuddle on the couch without saying a word.  My mom is forever telling my dad how brilliant and amazing he is, and my dad can’t keep the pride out of his voice when he speaks of how clever and beautiful he finds his wife.  Several days during the year, flowers randomly appear on the kitchen counter.  They don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, because they’re positively nauseating the other 364 days in the year.

I haven’t the faintest clue, then, why the thought of using the word “husband” gives me a sudden desire to simultaneously climb a mountain and swim for miles in an effort to break free of feeling tied down.  My heart feels constrained at the thought of saying, “I do” and having to live up to some set of expectations.

Then I met Derick and Ashley.  Ashley’s cousin, Andrea, and her husband came to Korea a couple of years ago, and Derick & Ashley joined them back in August.  The four of them showed up at the gym towards the end of winter, and we’d chat back and forth.  Cool set of people.

Ashley had danced ballet earlier in life, and you could tell when you watched her glide across the footholds and curve lithely into the right angles to reach the next hold.  Derick is much taller, but also very skinny.  Gangly, I’d say.  Very welcoming and pleasant.

One Sunday, I headed over to the rock wall at Munhak Stadium, which is about a 20-minute walk from my place, to join pretty much the entire gym for a little climbing.

Derick decided he’d run up the beginner’s wall real quick just to get moving.  For some reason the gym owner’s wife belayed him.  That’s important.  She’s a bit gimpy from an ice-climbing injury.

As she lowered him back down, about 10 or 15 feet off the ground, she dropped the rope.  Derick landed in a position that looked like he was trying to sit down, thereby bringing the entire weight of his body and force of the impact directly onto both his heels.

Everyone froze for several seconds.  We weren’t sure if the height was large enough to hurt anything because Derick was quiet at first—trying to be strong I guess, or maybe in shock himself.  Then it all exploded.

The next several minutes seemed to drag on as we tried to keep him warm, called an ambulance, hoped no damage was done to his spine, and made sure he was stable.  He’d yell out if someone put pressure on his shins, and he furiously gritted his teeth as he sucked air in and out.

At first, Ashley stood off to the side as Andrea and I hugged her and tried to keep her warm.  The shock had her mumbling, “I can’t believe I let her belay him, I knew she was bad at belaying, I never should have let that happen, I knew we shouldn’t have come today, I had a bad feeling about climbing today…”

Derick let out a panicked yell as someone jostled his legs, and Ashley ripped away from us gasping, “That’s my husband!”  I’ve never seen the level of concern in someone’s face as I witnessed in hers.  I’ve never heard that level of love and devotion and passion applied to the word that has always signified bondage to me.  I was dumbfounded, trying to understand it.

The ambulance finally arrived.  As they lifted the gurney into the back, Ashley stood with her cousin and I, wondering out loud, “Am I supposed to go with them?  What am I supposed to do?”

I didn’t pause to think, I just shoved her towards the open doors as the paramedic readied to close them.  “Of course you’re going, get in.”

My mouth kept moving and I threw out a rushed, “I’ll pray for you guys.”

She pulled herself up and into the vehicle.  Her face turned towards me.  As her eyes locked on mine, she grasped my hand and resolutely stated, “Thank you.  I mean it.”

This 100-pound ballerina, with a voice usually so soft and delicate, in that moment, had enough passion and force to face a Great White.

She slid between her husband’s head and the back of the cab.  As the doors closed, she held his face with her hands and choked out her concern, worry, and guilt for the harm done to him.*

It wasn’t until later that day, after returning home and grabbing some dinner, that I realized how much the afternoon had affected me.

I let my own tears fall as I felt the barriers I’ve so strongly built up crack and crumble.

That’s a love I can understand, one I can stand behind.  It’s so beautifully selfless.  No one was forcing her into some subservient status, or telling her her “proper place.”

Nope.  She loved him.  That’s it.

That afternoon totally reformed my view of the word “husband.”  I’m grateful for that.

Now, “boyfriend” still makes me cringe and wish I could run for miles into the wind.  But it’s a totally unnecessary word, really.

I’ll just do it Korean-style and call him “lover.”

That’s kind of Biblical, anyways.

My lover spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.” ~ Song of Solomon 2:10



*His ankles had completely shattered, but luckily no other injuries presented.  He had to manage a wheelchair for a month or so, then moved on to those ski boots and crutches.  The last time I saw them they were both very happy, and as sweet and pleasant as ever.

“Teacher, go-go-ssing!”

This has nothing to do with someone finding my blog by searching for “grannysgettingiton.”

But I thought I’d throw that one out there.

It’s sunny today.  I’m happy(er).  May/June/July officially dumptruckloads better than December/January/February, mood- and energy-wise.   Even when I’m all alone in my apartment, and I should feel lonely and unsettled, I just don’t.

“Go-go-ssing” apparently means “hurry up,” “get moving,” “go go go.”  A cheeky little student said this to me one day as I left the office after the bell rang (which is normal, if you’ll remember from this post).  Um, ‘scuse me li’l miss–are you in class?  No?  Pot and kettle, lady, pot and kettle.

You may be thinking, “Oh, Rachel’s had lovely adventures in Korea.  But everyone has to settle down at some point, so in a few weeks it’ll be back to the ‘real world’.”

Psshhhh.  I will never never ever “settle down.”  Wait, is that a double negative?   Add another “never,” then.

Oooh, hot-off-the-presses: apparently there will be a fire drill today at 1?  But don’t most students leave at 12:30 because even though it’s summer vacation the principal has required they come for morning classes for two weeks on account of their low test scores?  Mehhhhhhh

I’ve started training for my triathlon.  You read that right.  “Triathlon.”  By training, I mean using Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred to countdown the days until I hop on a plane, which is officially less than 30 days.  So it’s really a 27 Day Shred, but I don’t think that would have sold as well.

Every time I see a plane I get adrenaline rushes to my heart and feel like jumping up and down.

Oh, right.  Triathlon.  I’ve wanted to do one since four years ago, and I’m finally moving forward with it!  You know me, takes me time to settle into an idea (different from “settling down,” which, again, I will never do).  Two years to get to Korea, two years for my college decision to stick, three years to move to Pittsburgh…yeah that’s how it goes!

I just need a bike.  And a pool.  That’ll be one adventure for the coming year.

Other adventures!

My first two weeks in the States will include six cities, a road trip with my sister, and two weddings.  Chicago, Charleston S.C., Charlottesville, Fairfax/NoVa, some beach in Deleware, and, of course, Pittsburgh.  I’ve never been to Chicago.  Or Deleware.  Yay new!  Wait, I have been to Chicago…I vaguely remember going to the American Girl store.  Or is that one of those created-memories?  Yo Mom, have I been to Chicago?

Sometime in either September or October, I’ll visit Cleveland because even though it’s the arch-nemesis of Pittsburgh in all things and habitually pops up on “worst cities to live in the U.S.” lists, it contains one of the loves of my life and my first-choice grad school.  *sigh*  Not much can be done about that.  My undergrad school didn’t have the hottest location either. Heh heh no pun intended.  I crack myself up.   (For you people I’ve met since then: the entire month of February of my freshman year was a steady 0°F, with a wind-chill that set it around -15°F to -20°F.)

Oh, right.  Cleveland.  Saving grace: Melt Bar & Grilled.  I’m close with the family of the owner’s brother–which unfortunately won’t help me avoid the long wait that there always is–and have dreamed of gourmet grilled cheeses and their amazing beer selection since, I don’t know, FOREVER.  As the aforementioned-love-of-my-life put it, “You gain weight just walking inside, but it’s DELICIOUS.”  Sold.

For the rest of September, I’ll be adventuring around the West Coast.  Have I mentioned I love road trips?  They’re glorious.  Wind-in-your-hair.  Another life-love took all of five minutes to convince me to join her.  I’ve always wanted to visit Portland and Seattle, and we will!  We’ll start in Vegas, and work our way up via Highway 1–which I love and have longed to go back to–redwood forests, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco.  I’m excited to see more of San Francisco than just their airport.

A friend of hers will also join us, and this is my favorite so far of what I’m sure will be many memorable moments: “His car’s kind of junky and unreliable which is why we’re not taking it the whole way, but i have AAA so we’ll be fine.”

See why we’re friends?  Same haphazard, oh-everything-will-work-out approach to life.

In October I’ll start looking for some sort of “normal” employment.  But since I’ve got friends and family out my ear in Pittsburgh, I’m not too worried.  Worst case scenario–sell my car.  Which I may do anyway.

Living in Korea has made me hate cars.  I wish the U.S. had more trains and fewer planes and automobiles.  Wait, does that contradict my love of roadtrips?  Whoops.

*sigh* I’m entirely inconsistent.

In Korea, I averaged about one “big” or out-of-the-ordinary adventure a month.  I don’t see why that has to change.  I may take October to rest…but then again, I probably won’t.

I know repatriation can be a struggle, but I have a plan: keep living life the way I have been.  Chatting with a friend the other day, I said I planned on approaching Pittsburgh the same way I did Korea.  It’s a new city (mostly), and a new place (in some ways), with new people (aside from everyone I know).  I want to get out, explore, go to events and places and just, you know, live.

So that’s my plan.  So far.

Anyone wanna train for a triathlon with me?

The best teacher I ever had who didn’t try to teach me what I learned

Through much of high school, I often fought with my teachers when they tried to bump me up to Honors classes.  I didn’t mesh with people in those classes.  I was perfectly fine, thank you, staying in the Advanced level with my friends.  Friendly people, Advanced students.

So I can’t really tell you how I ended up in Mrs. Burke’s Honors Algebra III.  I think I may have actually signed off on that one.  Shocker.

The first two days of class had me questioning the meaning of life.  Or at least learning math.

A of all, I’m not naturally gifted at math.  That’s one area I don’t take after my dad in–my dad who tells stories of how his high school teacher eventually gave up on correcting his work, because it was always flawless.

B of all, that syllabus had a lot of homework listed on it!  What in the world people!  I’ve got this thing called a job.  And a social life.  Please.

Then I heard the stories.  The Advanced Algebra III teacher gave extra credit on tests if you wore purple on those days.  The Algebra II/Trig guy exchanged class credit for McD’s and, erm, “brownies.”

And here I was, in a class where I would be forced to learn math.

I love making plans–I made specially sure to learn the Korean for “Good plan!’ (Jo-eun gyey-hwek!).  I’m also passive-aggressive in an aggressive way.  Because that makes sense.

So my plan was this: if I could just somehow suggest to Mrs. Burke that I wasn’t made of the right stuff to be in her class, she would see that, yes, I was a miserable, lazy math student and she would then suggest I move down a level before I wasted any more of her time.

Perfect!  Fool proof!  What could go wrong!

I hung around after class, waiting for everyone to empty out and working up the courage to talk with this no-nonsense woman.  Let me paint a picture real quick:

She was a heavy-set woman in her…I have no idea can’t do ages but she had a daughter in middle school…and she had a bob of tight curls (think Miss Frizzle, but lots shorter), thick glasses, and a sense of humor paired with a sharp temper.  Basically, she cut the crap.  You sit down, you shut up, you learn math.  Oh let me tell you this joke about fractions (or whatever you learn in Algebra III).

So it was with hesitation I interrupted her as she read over the papers scattered over her desk.

“Um, Mrs. Burke?”

“Yes?” She glanced up, pen still in hand. Make it quick, I’m busy, as you can see.

“Uh, I was just wondering…well, you see.  This class…(pen tapping, eyes un-blinking)…is a lot more work than I’m used to and, well, do you think…um…(pen tapping, eyes now blinking impatiently)…do you think the advanced class would…have less homework?”

OK, good!  She could see I was apparently incapable of even asking simple questions with obvious answers, let alone solving complex equations.  She could therefore deduce my ineptitude as a student and of learning an advanced level of math, and would surely realize the thing to do now was to agree with my assessment of myself and push me to drop her class.

See how clever I am?  Make it her decision, not mine!  Absolved of all blame and guilt!

“Yes, it would probably have less homework.”

No sign of a smile, eyebrows hinting at boredom, gaze slowly returning to her papers…

“Uh, great.  I was just wondering.  Thanks.”

I scurried out of there (yes, scurried; I think I’m short enough to scurry), wondering what in the world I was going to do.  I don’t do math!  This is too difficult!  I’m going to fail!  I’m just not a math person!

And that’s why I love Mrs. Burke.  She didn’t coddle me, she didn’t sympathize with me, she didn’t try to understand where I was coming from.  She just informed me that, yes, her class involved, Heaven forbid, work!

Work I was completely capable of if I wanted to be.  Work I could excel in if I decided I wanted to do well and put my energy into accomplishing just that.

Success is usually just a decision.  And that’s what my wonderful teacher taught me, without even saying it herself.

I love people who are straight-up, in-your-face, bluntly-honest-types.  I know if I’m in a tough situation, I’ll try to get out of it in the most annoyingly-passive-aggressive ways possible.  I know I’ll need people around me who will raise their eyebrows and mockingly say, “Really?  That’s your excuse?  Don’t be stupid.”

And then walk away.  No coddling.  No babying.

For crying out loud, don’t baby me.  Ironically, I lose respect for people who baby me, even though they may just be trying to help and often I may even ask for it.

Say your piece, then leave me be.

Tough love.  The best kind.

I actually went back to my high school (something I swore I’d never do), a year or two ago.

I found Mrs. Burke in a random corner office and told her, “Thank you.”

Although I doubt she actually remembered me, she said she did, and lying’s just part of being a good teacher.

Oh right, her class.

I got an A.  Duh.

*This post brought to you by me wishing I could talk more with my students and realizing I’ll miss the little buggers but it’s all for the best and maybehopefully I’ve made some sort of positive impact in my time here.

I hate goodbyes

For a random, nonsensical reason that I simply don’t feel like explaining right now, one of my co-teachers was replaced last week.  Seokjin is an adorable little 40ish-year-old woman who’s unmarried and still lives with her parents, wears awesome jewelry, and is the sweetest person I’ve ever met.

She said she wants to have dinner with me before I leave, and I fully intend to do so.

I told her once what I want my Masters in, and even though most native English speakers have no idea what I’m talking about let alone my coworkers, she still managed to remember at least the general subject area.


Via CoolMessenger:

dear, my Rachel,,,

every class with you will be the best memory…

i’ll remember you, your beautiful and healthy smile, voice…everything about you  forever,,,

you also are good teacher who i’ve met.

your new study(medical,,,i don’t remember the exact subject ^^;) will have the best result!

gooh luck and enjoy your the left time in korea


If you’re keeping track, my intended graduate program is Medical Anthropology.  It’s a subset of (obviously) the field of anthropology and fits in quite nicely with other areas of anthropological study.

For those of you who have no idea what anthropology is, it is, at its most basic definition, the study of people and civilizations and what affects them and why.  I love “why” questions.  Guess I never made it past two years old.

The medical part?  Well, that’s been a long-standing wish of mine.  Ever since I went through “that medical thing” back in the day–and in many ways still struggle with all the unanswered questions–I’ve wanted to be involved, somehow-someway, in the medical arena.

Recently, I’ve discovered more and more connections between the study of medical anthropology and improving areas of social injustice.  Ah-duh.  If you’ve known me two minutes, there’s a good chance you know I’m quite a passionate person.  So you see, it all makes sense.

How’s that for a very broad explanation!  Now to fashion that into a “statement of purpose” for these applications…

As a bonus, Indiana Jones is an archeological anthropologist.  Medical anthropology coincides quite nicely with archeological anthropology.  Since I love digging around in dirt almost more than the old movies (I’ve never seen Crystal Skull and I never will), this wasn’t a bad connection to make.

Speaking of medical, I currently feel like death-in-a-can.  I got a nifty little shot from the doctor, and took some mystery medicine from the school nurse.  Hopefully I feel up to throwing together a pot of soup when I get home. (Korea doesn’t have a substitute teacher system, so if I miss work my coworkers have to pick up the slack.)

Can’t wait ’til I have a roomie who I know will be willing to make me tea when I’m feeling yucky 😉

In two days, I’ll officially be at the two-month mark.  WOOHOO!

Aw, they’re passing out food yet again in my office!  Yesterday there was watermelon, which sincerely helped my mood.  Today there’s those red-bean-pastry-roll-things.  I don’t think I’ll ever have a job that feeds me as well as this one does!