writing

Coming Soon: How not to hide from your crush

I have a long, running list, currently at 53 items, of things I want to do. It’s similar to a 40×40 list, or a bucket list, except without a deadline or end number. This list was born after I read an entrepreneur’s post on Facebook about why she was successful: She tries it all, no matter how silly the idea seems. If something doesn’t work, she moves on. But at least she gave it a shot.

With my newfound permission to try and fail — and potentially succeed or discover new joys in life — I started writing down all the ideas I had of stuff I wanted to do. Dorky little things, fun ideas, big hairy goals (BHG), probably impossibles, and completely ambiguous ideas. It doesn’t matter what it is. If I have even a vague interest in something, I put it on the list to check out. Some items have been crossed off because I’ve done them, some because I’ve tried or started and found out that I very much did not want to continue.

On my list is “write real article for blog.” I’ve been wanting to write a new post on here for a while, and I have a few drafts going, but my goal right now is to write something more than just a dear diary entry. I’ve been stumped about the topic, though. The most obvious seemed like it should tie into another item on my list, “something with coffee,” but meh.

This morning, my “real article” item crashed into another item on the list in an epiphany. The other is a BHG, even labeled as such on my list. It’s major, at least for me. For others, it may be ridiculous, and I get made fun of for it (rightfully so), but it’s legit for me and I don’t care who knows it.

“Learn how to hold prolonged eye contact with men I don’t know.”

Clarifications are in order:

  • I mean flirtatious eye contact.
  • When I’m talking to someone, especially in a professional setting, I’m great at eye contact. It’s just the hot guy sitting a few tables away who oh no he just caught me looking at him abort abort abort
  • I need to stop aborting, smile like a normal human being, and move on without blushing like a teenager caught in the act. I’m 35, for pete’s sake.
  • I once literally hid from a crush when we made eye contact from across a large room. He likely thought I fell down.

When I realized that my incredible inability to flirt could be the topic of my “article,” I immediately got on Google. The results for “how to flirt for shy women” include articles that recommend flirting over text (unhelpful), asking for help (unhelpful), and showing “flirty body language.” Flirty body language is about eye contact while talking to him, smiling, and touching him, some of which is a little difficult from across a room. I’m not Stretch Armstrong with a bullhorn.

Then Christopher Hudspeth nails it. “The thing about shy flirters is that they want to make and not make eye contact at the same time.” Chris gets me. But he offers no suggestions for resisting the flight reaction, which means I’m understood, but in no way better off.

A search for “how to make eye contact for shy women” brings up such classics as “How to Make Eye Contact with a Girl (with Pictures)” by wikiHow.

It’s apparent that I’ve been flirting all wrong. The article doesn’t say to shout, “Ahoy, matey!” upon achieving eye contact, but I assume that’s part of it.

Reading on, I get to the section “Overcoming a Fear of Eye Contact.”

Hmm.

I need to do some research, talk to people who aren’t afraid of eyes, and put the recommendations into practice, which apparently makes my recent binge of the original Beverly Hills, 90210 practice. Hello, season-three Brandon.

I’ll report on my findings.

Dear 2015 Me

Dear January 3, 2015 Me,

You turn 33 this year. That’s weird to say, since I’m only 31 now, but I am talking to one-year-in-the-future me, after all.

This is weird. I don’t know if I should tell you what I hope life is like in a year, or if I should remind you what it’s like right now. Maybe I’ll do both.

I’m in the midst of a challenge Jeff Goins is putting on – 500 words, every day, for the entire month of January. It’s only January 3, and I’m wondering how I’m going to manage throwing together a grand total of, at the minimum, 15,500 words. I had to use Google to find a prompt today. I took, “When you look back at your blog on January 2, 2015, what would you like to see?” from The Daily Post on WordPress and morphed it into today’s topic.

Yeah. Before editing, as of right now I’m at 135 words. Here we go.

Friday, January 3, 2014: you’re fat. I’m fat. I weigh, at my last weigh-in, 234.4 pounds. I have a belly – I’ve never had a belly before. I feel it in my ankles, in my back, in my lungs. My face looks like the Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters – wide, fleshy, and white. My underarms are constantly eating my shirts and staining them because I sweat a lot.

I keep saying “you” instead of “I”. I’m correcting them for clarity’s sake. This letter is awkward to write. I hope I like it in a year.

My current celebrity crush is Zachary Levi – whom I saw last month in First Date on Broadway when I visited Caitlin. Maybe Alex O’Loughlin, too, but that could be because I’m watching Hawaii 5-0 right now. I watched a marathon of The Game a couple weeks ago and had a short-lived crush on Jay Ellis. Then I read that he preferred women in stilettos.

Nope. Moving on.

I’m sitting in my apartment, on my bed. I moved in here on October 11. That weekend was rough. Maybe you remember that, maybe not. Two weekends later Mad got married. October was a stressful month, to say the least. I’m still trying to dig my way out of the little bit of credit card debt I accrued, which sucks, because I had no credit card debt for a while. Life has calmed down a lot, finally, and right now it feels good to have less on my plate; I’m sure I’ll be bored again soon, though.

I was in a “relationship”. Oh, yeah – that one. Thankfully, I officially moved on in June of 2013. It was a beautiful epiphany: I was sitting at a red light after work, talking to a guy on the phone, and realized I was flirting. The pang of guilt I usually felt when entertaining thoughts of dating someone other than X never materialized. I was over him. I was free. I was relieved.

X never read this blog. You’ve stopped being bitter about the nevers, right? I know I need to let go of the frustration, but I’m having trouble. Please tell me I’m not harping on the nevers anymore. It’s so not worth it.

I’m hoping to start dating again soon. Thanks to my weight socking my self-confidence in the gut, I shouldn’t get involved just yet. BUT. Within a year, I hope my love life isn’t a joke. Please say it’s not. It’s kind of pathetic. Laughably bad.

Maybe I’ll finally be dating some hot CrossFitter. Hel-LO.

(You’d better be in CrossFit. You’d better not be this fat.)

I want to go to Taiwan to visit. And Hawaii to see Marianne. I have to stop thinking about travel because every time I start thinking of all the places I want to go, it makes me panic that I’ll never be able to. Has that feeling gone away yet? Am I traveling more? That hot CrossFitting boyfriend you have better love travel.

In a year, especially now that I have a really good idea of which direction I want my career to go, I’d better be making more money. I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck anymore.

Do I still live in Dallas? I’m torn right now. It’s great being so close to Mad and so many good friends, plus Mom and Dad (and Sawyer) right down the road. It sucks being surrounded by people you love, but not loving the city where you live. Are you in Colorado?

Holy cow, do you still get the, “Oh, you want to move to Colorado because they legalized pot!” question? I’m sick of it. I want to move to Colorado because mountains. Outside. Snow! Healthy lifestyle. Living in a vacation state. Nature! Cool weather!

Have you figured that out yet? The west coast or just west. Something. Maybe you met someone from Vancouver. A CrossFitter from Vancouver! If only God took requests like a DJ. I’d like living in Canada. All the jokes about how nice Canadians are make me want to live there.

I’m hoping for several big life changes in 2014. If you didn’t get them all done, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Get to it.

If I did have a very good 2014… what’s in store for 2015?

All done,
January 3, 2014 Me

(894)

Considering the Leap

It’s official.

My boss knows that I’m moving this summer. I surprised myself and teared up when I told her. I think it’s the stress from the reality that I’m really, actually, absolutely leaving Taiwan.

Whoa.

I arrived August 27, 2010. I’ll leave within a couple of weeks of that date – almost exactly two years later.

There’s an onslaught of questions I have to answer now. Where will I go? What do I want to do? How am I going to afford this? There are quite a few, and while I have some ambiguous answers, the questions are like a fog in my brain, keeping me from focusing on much else.

There are a few things I (basically or just pretend to) know:

One
I want to work somewhere I can feel good about what I do, and where I enjoy what I do. I’ve found most of the positions I want to apply to on idealist.org. Most positions I get excited about are writing related. That surprises no one.

Two
I don’t want to teach. I’m good at it and I love my students, but I don’t enjoy lesson planning. Quite frankly, I’m also sick of schools and politics that have lost sight of the students in this whole “education” game, but that’s another post for another time (never).

Three
I’m looking at New York, DC, California, Hawaii, Vancouver, South America or Europe. State, city, state, state, “foreign” city, continent, continent: I like to keep things simple.

Four
It’s terrifying moving into a weak economy with no job lined up. It’s puking terrifying.

Five
I’ve been a conference coordinator, recruiting coordinator, teacher, technical writer, executive assistant, timing chip assistant, office manager, sales clerk, cashier, and janitor. Surely I’ve picked up a decent skillset somewhere in all that work experience. If nothing else, I’m really good at doing laundry. And lawn mowing.

Six
I shyly speak Spanish and bumptiously abuse English. I would love to be fluent in Spanish again.

I’m ready. It’s scary, but I’m ready for the next adventure. First there’s a pre-adventure adventure in figuring out the next adventure, but that’s okay. Leap and the net will appear.

Dear 16-year-old me

(Inspired by TraciLee.)

Hey Mandy version 1998,

Congratulations – you made it through freshman year of high school, and you’re about to be a sophomore. This year’s a good one academically; in thirteen years, when you’re 29, you’re still going to remember stuff you learned in Mrs. Steinbach’s English class. For some reason, you’ll also remember reading Of Mice and Men in class and learning what “bastard” means.

I'm 11 in this picture. I had to look up the release date for Super Mario Brothers 2 to figure that out.

Sanders, Steinbach, Caudill, Davis: your four English teachers are the reason I write the way I do today. I know you don’t know what you want to do career-wise, and you won’t until way after college, but you’re really good at geography. That comes into play when you start traveling the world in a decade or so. Your writing skills come in handy, too.

When you become me, you’re going to look back on your high school years and realize you were more yourself with your teachers. You were kind, funny, and you didn’t worry about them liking or not liking you (except for Mr. Maclaskey) because you were yourself. That’s why, at your high school graduation, going through the receiving line of teachers after getting your diploma is going to take a long time. You’re going to hug and chat with many of your former teachers, and you’re actually going to need to rush to sit before the final students are called. Your high school teachers see you and your potential before you ever do.

The first of many hugs. High school graduation in May 2001

So yeah, hi. I’m you in thirteen more years. Right now you’re self-conscious and painfully naive. You won’t recognize your naivete for a very long time, and once you do, it’s going to completely blow your mind. Don’t worry about it, though. You’re surrounded by your friends, and you’re happy, and your naivete will become a source of humorous anecdotes in a decade or so.

Ah, marching band. We had a lot of fun.

Despite your nearly cultish beliefs thanks to band Bible study (not kissing until marriage?), you turn out pretty decently. You’re not a painfully underconfident, awkward teenager anymore.

Right now you look at RK as a competitor. No one really knows that you do, but as much as you enjoy being friends with her, all you want to do is beat her at something. Let me tell you – in high school, she wins. She’ll always have a higher class ranking than you do, she becomes drum major, the boy you like likes her, and she’s friends with all the cool people. This will be a major source of bitterness for a while.

You're still friends with Randall after all these years. And you're still a ham if there's a camera around. Junior year of high school (1999-2000)

Believe it or not, it ends up making you better. Your grades, your popularity, your crushes: all these ways you found yourself lacking landed you where I am today. If anything had been different, I would be different, and I don’t think I’d be okay with that. I had to be where you are to become me.

You’re going to hit a bout of depression your sophomore year of college. You’ll go through some rough stuff family-wise. Your weight is going to skyrocket, and you’ll look back at pictures and videos and wonder how you never saw just how chubby you were. Your makeup is a nightmare until halfway through college. It takes you way too long to muster the courage to pluck your eyebrows, and once you do, you go a wee bit overboard.

Thanksgiving 2003. Life was pretty difficult, but everyone survived. And you eventually stop looking like a beady-eyed marshmallow.

You’re going to start figuring things out. You’ll find out who you are. You’ll stop trying so hard to be everyone else, and you’ll just be you, and you’ll see that people like you. That’s a few years down the line, but you’ll get there.

Eventually you’ll trip into feelings you’ve never felt before. You won’t know it at the time, but it’s love. It’s going to come flying out of nowhere. You’re going to have friendships with incredible people, and those friendships are going to fill your life with joy. Your sister’s going to be your best friend – after so many hard years, she’s going to be better than okay, and she’s going to be a lot prettier than you.

The awkward girl in the Thanksgiving 2003 picture is a statuesque blonde in 2005 or so. Yup, that's your sister. She figures out fashion and makeup a long time before you do.

Mad is going to be the most important person on your planet, and that planet will alternately feel very, very big and very, very small.

By the way, you move to Taiwan in 12 years. No, it’s not by India. That’s Sri Lanka. I said you’re pretty good at geography – not a genius.

Keep chugging along. I don’t have it all figured out, but I like myself. You’ll get here, but you have to go through all the other stuff first.

-and yes, the acne starts going away in college. Drink more water and use facewash with benzoyl peroxide – that’s going to be your secret weapon.

Love,
Mandy version 2011

I'm wearing a Super Mario hoodie in my classroom in Taiwan. I couldn't have tied this whole post together any better if I'd planned it. (Winter 2010)

My day: Thursday

6:45am: First alarm goes off.

I barely remember taking this picture.

8:00am: Get out of bed late.

My face is a little fluffy in the morning.

Shuffle to the bathroom.

The shower is great, save for the moments of boiling water followed by the ice water.

Shower, brush teeth, do bathroomy things.

20-25 minutes later: Return to room.

My room, which Cameron claims looks like a crazy person's room. I like it. And the A/C unit makes it heavenly.

Check phone for texts,

I Love the 90's! This thing cost me $30, give or take.

get dressed, put on makeup, dry hair. Pluck eyebrows.

Face has returned to normal proportions.

Realize I’m running late.

8:47am: Head downstairs,

Three Taiwanese women, Cameron the Canadian, and I the American live here. It's big, so it's comfortable.

put in earbuds, put on mask, put on helmet, walk out to the front porch,

My scooter, which Cameron is borrowing until he buys one. I know what you're thinking - from an Xterra to this. It's a dream come true! It tops out at 80kph.

open car gate, climb on scooter,

The scooter Chocolate and I share. It's a bit smaller and girlier than mine.

back out, close car gate.

Our front porch and door. I live on the second floor in the back. The house is four stories with a great balcony on the fourth floor.

Leave.

Our house is immediately to the left, out of frame. At the end of this private little gated street is a big temple.

8:49am: Realize I’m still wearing my house shoes.

And to think I used to wear Crocs in public frequently.

8:57am: Check the pollution levels by scoping out how much of the mountains I can see at the long light at HsinAn Road and Highway 1.

8:58am: Pull into underground parking garage.

Cars on the right, scooters and motorcycles on the left. Pedestrians out of my way.

I hope there's good ventilation in here.

Walk to elevators. Go to the sixth floor.

9:02am: Clock in. Greet Vicky at the front desk, then Yvonne and Polly at our cubicles.

That large red spot on my forehead is from my scooter helmet. This will be a theme that runs throughout the day.

9:04am: Eat “danbean” for breakfast, an egg and bacon concoction. Drink milk tea. Fill water bottle.

A fairly nutritionally sound and fully delicious breakfast. Thanks to Polly, whose parents own the restaurant.

before 10am: Order lunch for DinBenDon!, the lunch delivery service.

All the menu items are in Chinese...

...Google Translate to the rescue. Korea Caichao surface sounds wonderful, but I order the beef fried rice.

until 12:00pm: Show the English language who’s boss. Repeatedly fight with Microsoft Word 2003 and Photoshop 6.0. Try to Google how to solve a problem, but get mocked by a screen that says that company policy forbids social networking sites at work.

Where the magic happens.

12:01pm: Pick up lunch in cafeteria. Realize I accidentally ordered noodles instead of rice.

Tastes good, especially the beef, but they give you enough noodles for four people. I never finish.

Kill Bill: Ladies who lunch edition

12:40pm: Take leftovers and trash to cafeteria.

Compost on the left, trash in the middle, recycling on the right.

12:41-1:00pm: Nap.

Naptime is serious business. They even turn some of the lights off.

1:01pm: Wake up with giant red spot on forehead.

Well, that's unfortunate.

Resume battles with English, Word and Photoshop. Get in a major disagreement with PowerPoint 2003.

2:10pm: Walk to the bank on the first floor and use the ATM to pay my registration fee (approximately $10) for a 10K I’m attempting next month. Then walk across the street to 7-Eleven to get a non-water drink.

There's a 7-Eleven tucked into that building. I go to it almost daily.

2:20pm: Return to the office.

Our office is on the sixth floor on the left side of the picture. On clear days we can see the mountains from our conference rooms.

Drink more milk tea. Drink more water.

I'm really kind of addicted to this stuff.

Get Yvonne and Polly’s feedback on my brochure.

Polly, Yvonne and me. We act like adolescents.

4:02pm: Clock out. Return to scooter parking garage.

The stairs to B1 where I've parked. B2 is for cars.

Put in earbuds, put on mask,

This keeps me sane while I scoot.

put on helmet. Zoom.

4:15pm: Go through school zone. No zone, really, because not one vehicle slows down. Stupid amounts of traffic, pedestrians and bicycle riders.

In the daytime, visor is down.

4:17pm: Check the time at an intersection clock. I’m on time.

Public clocks display the temperature and time, while a countdown timer lets you know how long until the light turns green. People start driving at 03.

4:25pm: Park in alley at a home that’s been converted to a private tutoring school.

I tutor on the second floor of the gray house.

The helmet strikes again.

4:27pm: Go inside. Put on red Mickey Mouse house shoes.

I have my own cubby for my house shoes. It's labeled Teacher Amanda.

Walk up one floor. Greet kids, corral today’s first class: Jessica, Ryan and Ting Ting.

4:29pm: Call to Ting Ting to hurry up.

4:30pm: Start class.

4:31pm: Tell Ryan to sit still.

4:40pm: Tell Ryan to put his chair back at the table and sit still.

4:44pm: Tell Ryan to put all four chair legs on the floor and sit still.

4:49pm: Threaten to tie Ryan to his chair with the stereo’s power cord if he doesn’t sit still.

4:56pm: Tell Ryan to get off the table. He knows he’s irritating me. Ting Ting and Jessica laugh. Ryan giggles nervously.

5:06pm: Laugh with the kids when Ryan trips and falls while jumping around.

Ryan is your typical 7-year-old boy, but he's a cool kid. We were all laughing about his fall.

5:07pm: Continue laughing. Ting Ting shares gummy candy. Goof off.

Ryan, me, Ting Ting, Jessica. They do learn. Sometimes.

5:15pm: First class over. Head to another classroom for second class.

5:20-6:05pm: Tutor Shayna and Ilitta.

I look crazed because I was trying to make them laugh. They kept making Chandler Bing faces when I took their pictures.

Try to teach them about the phases of the moon. Give up when they start dancing. Make them sit down and do book work.

6:06pm: Chat with Sunny. Laugh about the crazy kids.

6:10pm: Head back to the house. Make it through three green lights, then get stuck at busy intersection by the train station.

ZhongHua Road at the Hsinchu Train Station (on the left). Also known as a traffic beehive, because all the commotion makes very little sense, but it somehow works. And the scooters sound like really angry bees.

Visor up at night so I can see everything 100% clearly. Until something flies into my eyes, and then I'm screwed.

6:14pm: Take tiny underground scooter/bicycle tunnel to a back alley. Four-block shortcut cuts out 10 minutes of scooting time. Key to tiny tunnel: hold your breath and duck. There are 8 open sewer grates lining the ground, and it smells just how you’re imagining.

You mess up in this tunnel, you die. You probably kill several others in the process. It's thirty feet of doom, but it's over in five seconds. Fair trade.

6:20pm: Pull up to the house.

We're in the foothills, so the view at night is pretty, as you can clearly see in this picture.

6:22pm: Greet sweet-but-insane tiny dog who doesn’t stop moving. Ever.

I couldn't even get a good picture of her. Every time I moved, she scrambled around.

Forget letters, it's a Scarlet Blob. It's signifies someone who didn't buy the right size helmet.

6:30-bedtime: Catch up on emails. Check Facebook. Watch show online. Push tiny dog off my laptop. Push her off again. Push her off again. Push her off the bed. Change to go for a jog. Eat dumplings with roommate. Somehow lose track of time and go to bed at 2am. Never go for the jog.

(I jogged tonight.)

Time to invest in Google

Outlook tells me I have a new email. In the preview pane I can see that it’s written entirely in Chinese, so I open Google Translate and copy and paste the characters into the box.

“Colleagues: Will take away my gas torch (seat), please call us soon, thank you”

I have yet to meet Shrek.

The life of a foreigner working in an office setting abroad is an interesting one. My new job started on Monday; I’m a technical writer for a telecommunications firm in Hsinchu. I help them with writing and editing marketing materials, manuals, product packaging, and with their website, which hasn’t had a makeover since 2003.

For my ID, the photographer told me I couldn't smile and made me push my hair behind my ears. I couldn't NOT smile, so I smirked. This is the least-flattering ID photo I've ever taken, and that includes my orange face in my UT ID photo.

Look! Freebie calendars with my Wholly Unflattering Mugshot!

The first eight people to request one of these photos will get it in the mail. These are collector's items, folks.

Instead of standing in front of wild-eyed Taiwanese children, I sit in front of a monitor, deciphering emails like the one above and trying to make sense of technical jargon that flies over my head.

Polly on the left, Yvonne on the right, my shiny forehead in the foreground.

I sit at my desk in a large cubicle that I share with two young Taiwanese women, Polly and Yvonne, and stare at a Word document. How do I make sense of what I’m reading when I don’t understand half the terminology? Within minutes I have multiple tabs open in Internet Explorer, each explaining some aspect of what I’m trying to rewrite. I flip back to Word and reread the sentence. Ponder. Type a couple of words. Ponder. Shake my head and delete the entire sentence. Click back to Wikipedia or HowStuffWorks or whichever website best writes for the layman. Ponder. Change the song on my iPod. Jam out for a minute. Ponder.

I could type in Chinese. Like that's ever going to happen.

Usually after several minutes I’ll come up with the word I’ve been trying to recall or will figure out how I want to reword the section. Then my fingers will fly across the keyboard and I’ll make up for my pondering time. At times I’ll use Google to find a thesaurus online so I can figure out just the right word.

On Wednesday the word was “disassemble”. I was updating product packaging, my first assignment, and with every panel of the box I realized just how much the company needed me to save them from Chinglish. The sentence I was working on read:

“The product should not be affected with damp or opens the shell arbitrarily”

In true Mandy form, the first time I read that, I snorted.

I’ve already introduced my supervisor to my fairly obnoxious attention to detail. There needs to be a space after this bullet. This bullet is smaller than the bullet before it. The wrong dash is used here. A dash is missing here. These colors would hurt the Easter Bunny’s feelings. This font is ugly. That chart looks like something a kid with a crayon would make. This chart looks like the crayon box vomited. Who decided this design was a good idea?

Of course, I say everything much more positively and helpfully. “Comic Sans was out of date before it was even created,” becomes “If we use Arial it will be much easier to read.” Upon seeing the diagram that would be used on the product packaging, instead of saying, “Using stock photos from the 1990s makes this diagram worse than it already is,” I say, “Would you like me to update the diagram for you?”

Job security.

And that’s where I get myself into trouble yesterday, and I’m paying for it today. First, I’m not a graphic designer. Second, to make the diagram I have to use two programs, Visio and Photoshop, neither of which I know how to use. I struggle enough with Microsoft Paint.

Google, here I come.