What really matters? Ask yourself this before you make your New Year’s resolutions. Write down what you find valuable. Writing helps you understand yourself and empowers you to achieve what you want.
My friend Vi Mar said, “You must love yourself before you love others. If you don’t love yourself first, you cannot help others.” When you are miserable, you will not be able to contribute to others. It might sound selfish, but I take care of myself first, so I can serve my family, friends, and community longer and more efficiently.
What I’ve discovered is that some items on my list of simple joys cost little money. These things are easy to do, so why not do them more often? It’s nice to rediscover the things you love and learn about yourself every now and then.
1. My mom remembers
My mom has dementia. Every Saturday, I talk to her on the phone and remind her of some of the good things that have happened in her life, which she often doesn’t remember. When she is reminded, she’s happy. I am, too.
2. A pair of rose pliers
I used to be frustrated every time a necklace got tangled or pendant’s hook became bent. In the past, I had to take them to a jeweler to fix. Last year, my friend Elizabeth Younger, a jewelry designer, showed me the magic of what a small pair of pliers can do. Now, I fix my own jewelry in a few seconds.
3. Making use of old stuff
When my four-stranded pearl necklace broke, I was initially upset. But with Elizabeth’s help, I took some of my own ideas, and a few new sets of jewelry were designed. I then donated these new products to charities. I feel awesome, being creative and supporting important causes.
Yippie! I can dry clean my clothes myself! The other day, I decided to wash my own white coat, which had big black stains on the sleeves. My aunt once told me that liquid dish detergent is good for removing blemishes from delicate clothes. I cleaned the stains with soap first. Then I put my coat in the washing machine with a dash of detergent and switched on the cycle for delicates. All the dirt and grease disappeared. Then I put the coat into the dryer under the anti-wrinkle setting for 20 minutes and hung it up to dry afterward. Guess what? It looks great. I saved $2, plus the cost of gas driving to the dry cleaners. Though, it’s not so much about the money as it is about feeling a sense of accomplishment.
5. Watch kids excel
It doesn’t have to be my own kids. I enjoy watching my staff and friends’ kids grow from babies to toddlers, teenagers, and adults. I get a kick out of seeing innocent kids become sophisticated, well-mannered grown-ups.
“Remember me?” say some former scholarship recipients and our leadership alum when they see me occasionally in public. (The Asian Weekly Foundation gives out diversity scholarships annually and organizes a summer youth leadership program.) It’s rewarding to know we change lives — that these people have made good use of the scholarship funds.
6. Good food with good company
The husband of the late French cooking expert Julia Child once asked his wife what she wanted to do with her life?
“Eat,” she said.
So do I.
Whenever I need a little boost, I always think of some treats to cheer myself up with, including chocolate or stuff made of chocolate. A good meal with family and friends always makes my day memorable.
7. My travel box
I save all my travel photo, books, and brochures in a box. It does wonders when I look at them and remember all the fond memories of our adventures. It makes me laugh when I dig into the box every once a while.
8. Triumph with work and play
Last year, on Sept. 23, our Women of Color Empowered luncheon was packed with 300 people. The room was full of diversity and energy and had a wonderful vibe. After the luncheon, my husband and I jumped in the car and made it on time to board the Clipper to Victoria, British Columbia, for a mini-vacation. I felt a sense of triumph in being able to integrate work and play.
9. A beautiful verb
Next to love, help is the most beautiful verb. I don’t exactly count the number of people I help each year. These are people who need help, whether it be writing letters, brainstorming ideas, planning events, explaining American culture, resolving differences and conflicts, raising money, and serving meals to homeless women. Despite my busy schedule, I try my best to serve. One of the most satisfying moments occurred when the community, within 10 days, rallied behind the fundraising efforts for Japan’s tsunami relief dinner at the House of Hong, raising $76,000. What a joy to see the results of teamwork!
10. Serendipitous moments
Several juicy moments come to mind. One was when Ambassador Gary Locke decided that I could interview him instead of just visiting the Embassy in Beijing last November. Another was when Sen. Maria Cantwell invited me to visit her home, among all the former honorees of her Women of Valor award last week. Imagine being invited to the senator’s home for the first time.
Do you recall the moment you shocked people? I had one of those. Last May, when I was a recipient of the University of Washington Charles Odeegaard award, I presented a check for scholarship to Vice President Sheila Edwards Lange of the Office of Minority Affairs and then-Interim President Phyllis Wise. Both of their jaws dropped. Lange said, “We are honoring you. You don’t need to do that.” Their faces were priceless.
Now, it’s your turn to develop your own happiness list. Keep it for the time being, and bring it out at the end of the year to see what really matters. What you loved before might not be dear to your heart anymore. What excited you might not thrill you at all anymore. That’s OK. Your vision is constantly changing. Your environment is never the same. Enjoy your year! (end)