Saturday, August 27, 2016

Do You Need A Lot to Be Happy?

If you couldn't tell already from my blog, I care a lot about clothes and fancy stationery and expensive pastries. While that is completely fine, I have to admit that I'm a pretty materialistic person. I care so much about the things that I have and often feel happier whenever I purchase something new. I'm not afraid to admit that new things make me happy, materialistic goods often make me happy. That's not to say that I'm never happy from moments instead of material goods, but they're just some of the things that contribute to my overall happiness. But do I really need a lot to be happy? I'm privileged, I have lived my entire life in a nice, middle class family in a first world country. I have a nice house, a bed to sleep in, running water, clean facilities, expensive clothes that I probably don't even need, and so much more. We see first world problems as jokes, but in reality, they can be a wake up call to remind us how lucky we are. 


When I was in China, I often complained about the toilets. I didn't like how the toilets were holes in the ground instead of clean toilets that I'm used to. But it's crazy to think that some people don't even have running water. Some people don't have food on their plate, constantly worrying about when their next meal might come. Some people don't have a home, they're not nearly privileged enough to have things like a Macbook or a television, yet for us, we complain about not having the newest iPhone or not having designer clothes. When I visited a primary school in the Hubei province of China, I wasn't really expecting the kids to be the way that they were. The school was dingy, there were concrete floors, scratched walls, old desks, and it was definitely not up to par. In America, I complain if the room is too cold or too hot or if the wifi is working too slow. Note that I also definitely do not have the best facilities at my small school, after all, we only have one boys bathroom, so it's clearly not the best building. However, this school doesn't nearly match up to the facilities that I have. What I want to emphasize is that they definitely did not have the best standard of living and did not have a lot besides the basics in their lives. Sure, they weren't starving and malnourished, but their conditions were easily less than ideal. 

However, one thing that stood out to me about them was that they were so happy. They were so happy to see us, to spend time with us, to get to know us, even though it was difficult to communicate. They smiled, constantly laughed, and were careless, as if they didn't have anything in the world to worry about. Maybe their school wasn't the best it could be and they didn't have the best clothes and technology, but they were so joyful. What they had was enough for them to be happy. They were friendly to each other, friendly to us, appreciative of the time that they had with us. They were kind and playful, like every child should be. However, in this day and age, children are spending their time playing games on iPads or watching cartoons instead of playing with others. These Chinese children may have not had iPads to play Pokemon Go or Subway Surfers, but they were still so cheerful to be with one another. 


So how can you live happier with less? I'm not saying that it's wrong to take joy in new things, like a phone or a laptop, but it's important to appreciate what you have. It's important to be wary of envy, to love the things that you have in your life and not be jealous of others with more. It means that just because you don't have the latest car model or the newest Macbook, doesn't mean that you can't be happy. It is absolutely possible to be happy, even when you don't have a lot. So why do we complain so much about these small things that we don't even need for happiness? I think that the main reason for this is that we begin to take things for granted. We get so used to having all these wonderful privileges in our lives that we forget what life is without them. We think that it's impossible to be happy without these material goods. 

At the end of the day, I have to say to myself that I need to complain less. I need to rely less on materialistic goods. I need to realize that I can be happy with less. If I miss out on the Lilly Pulitzer After Party sale, that's okay. I don't need to depend on bold printed shift dresses to make me happy. When someone else has something that I had been wanting for a long time, I shouldn't be envious, instead I should remember all the things that I do have. I know that most of the time we tend to leave appreciation and thankfulness as something just for Thanksgiving, for a special occasion, but why limit ourselves to just one day? 

I challenge you to write down one thing in your life every day that makes you happy. Maybe it's your family. Maybe it's your pet. Maybe it's being able to have food on your plate. Or maybe it is a materialistic good, like your favorite dress, that one that makes you feel insanely confident. The important thing is that you appreciate something that you already have, whether it's a tangible object or something else in your life. It's a way to count your blessings. 




Are you going to take on my challenge of a blessing every day? I dare you to. Share a few things that you appreciate in your life to kick off the challenge. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

If You Didn't Post in on Social Media, Did it Really Happen?

I've been thinking a lot about the concept of social media lately and what it has become. If you didn't already know, I recently traveled to China with a summer program. Due to the lack of wifi, I was rather inactive about my trip. There was nothing on my Snapchat story and only a few posts on Instagram and Twitter, especially for my personal Instagram account. The thing is that Snapchat has recently become a place where you update people on your daily life, especially those more exciting moments, like concerts, vacations, outings with friends, kind of to say that "Hi, I'm doing fun things with my life." I felt such a strong need to post things on my Snapchat story to let people know that I was having fun. But do you really need to post something to prove that you're having fun?


I found that some of my best moments happened when I put down my phone and didn't think about social media or what other people were doing. I didn't need to document it in order to have more fun, in fact, I had even more fun without documenting it. It was like I was careless, I would be able to focus all of my energy on whatever I was doing instead of worrying about other things. I didn't have to whip out my phone and get the best lighting angle for my Snapchats. I didn't have to think about what witty tweet I would create to capture the mood of the party. The best moments can happen when you're not even thinking about social media. Maybe the day after you won't have an amazing Instagram picture to share, but instead you have your own memories. They're memories so personal that you have to say to people, "you should have been there," because there was no other way to capture that moment. So why do we feel so compelled to share our moments with others on social media?

I think that the biggest influence is jealousy for other people. It's like the comparison trap or the fear of missing out. All the time on Snapchat and other social media, we see snippets of people having fun. Often, the times that we flip through people's Snapchat stories, they're the times that we're sitting at home, doing nothing interesting. We don't check social media when we're having fun, we check it when we have nothing else to do. At this moment, we're at a vulnerable point for the fear of missing out. The envy and jealous attacks us, causing us to feel sadness as we watch our friends and acquaintances enjoying parties and social events (that we weren't invited to) as we sit at home, not doing much with our own lives.
Because of this envy, we feel a need to show off whenever we do have the chance to attend a social event. It's essentially gloating or boasting about our social lives, after all, they don't call it social media for nothing. It's like saying to the world, "Hi! I have friends!" or "I'm having more fun than you!" It's a casual announcement to everyone else that you were invited to a big party or that you went to a concert, but it's much more socially acceptable than yelling it out loud in the middle of a crowded room. We often use social media in order to boast about our lives, so we only post the best moments.
However, these best moments create an illusion for other people. They get caught up in believing that your life is perfect. They imagine that your life is a series of your best moments, never being able to see your low points or what your life truly looks like. This causes a chain reaction of more and more people wanting to share their best moments on social media, because if they didn't, it's almost as if they never happened. To the rest of the world, if you don't post something, they don't know about it, like it never happened. But just because it's not on social media, doesn't mean that it didn't happen. Your memories can be worth more than an Instagram post or a Snapchat story.


Remember that these social media posts aren't accurate representations of someone else's life.

Social media posts make up the tiniest portion of our real lives, they capture a snapshot in time at a given moment, but they don't capture the feeling that the whole moment actually is. It's like if I was to watch a movie and pause it at a random moment. That doesn't necessarily capture the essence of the whole movie, only that one second. Let's put this into a spectrum of how tiny that moment is in comparison to your whole life. If the average movie is 120 minutes (2 hours), we can convert that into seconds, so the average movie is 7,200 seconds. One screenshot of a movie would be one second of a movie, making that screenshot take into account less than 0.01% of the entire movie. So if life was a movie, one Instagram or Snapchat post is less than 0.01% of our lives, probably even less than that, considering how much longer a lifetime is than a movie.

Take a social media cleanse.

Take a break from social media for a little while. Go out, live your life without having to worry about social media plaguing you. So what if Ashley went to Paris over the summer and Billy went clubbing last night? Are you truly missing out? No, you're living your own life. A social media cleanse can help you forget about what everyone else is doing and focus on your own life. Instead of being envious of others, you can grow as your own person. I challenge you to one week's worth of a social media cleanse. Maybe start off with just one form of social media, or start off with one day's worth of a cleanse, but I challenge you to back away from social media in order to refresh, as difficult as it is. During that week of no social media, do as much as you can with your life. Go out with your friends, go to a party, go on little adventures. 

In the end, there's nothing wrong with posting a picture on social media because it's aesthetic is on point or you look super cute with your besties at your favorite cafe. I do it all the time, that's what social media is for. However, I think that you should be able to differentiate social media from real life. By not posting your best moments on social media, it doesn't mean that they didn't happen. Your social media page is not a representation of your life. Your social media pages do not define you. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

China Travel Diary - Yellow Crane Tower

If you haven't been keeping up with me on social media or keeping up on the blog (both of which you should be doing), then you might not know that I recently went on a trip to China with a summer program. I did some social media updates while I was away, but I didn't really go in depth, especially because the wifi there was terrible and I had limited data usage while abroad. Luckily, it's time for a travel diary, where I go in-depth of my trip. 

Here's the game plan for travel diaries:

I'll be posting a new travel diary every Wednesday until I've gotten through all of the content. This means that it'll go on for about 4-5 weeks, but Saturday content will still be the normal content, like outfit posts and lifestyle posts. This will be kind of a mini-series continuing until I finish covering the whole trip.


For the first travel diary, we're talking the Yellow Crane Tower. The Yellow Crane Tower is located in Wuhan, Hubei province. The five floor tower was rebuilt many times in a few dynasties. The one that we see today was built in the Qing dynasty, so it reflects the architecture during that time period. The sides are like wings, reaching up into the sky. And I bet you're thinking, "If it's called the Yellow Crane Tower, then why is it not yellow?" There's actually an ancient legend about how the tower came to be, also explaining the name.
Storytime! According to the legend, the tower was built by a tavern owner named Xin. Before he built the tower, he just had his tavern. One day, a poorly dressed Taoist man came by his tavern and asked for some wine. Most people would have said no, since the man clearly could not pay for the wine. However, Xin was very kind and gave the man some wine, without asking for money in return. Xin continued giving the man wine whenever he returned to the tavern and never asked for any money as payment. The Taoist man wanted to repay Xin for his kindness and the wine. Since he had no money, he took an orange and used the peel to paint a crane on the wall of the tavern. The crane was yellow, since the peel of the orange gave off a light color. The crane on the wall turned into a real crane, which would dance at his request. Because of the dancing yellow crane, lots of people came to Xin's tavern to see it, bringing Xin lots of money. Xin became very rich and then the man left after his debt had been paid, taking the crane with him. In honor of the man, Xin used the money that he received from the many riches the man brought him to build a tower, the Yellow Crane Tower. (Read more here!)


On the day that we visited the Yellow Crane Tower, it was so rainy that the skies were practically white, as you can probably tell from the pictures. It was windy and pouring, but it was still so much fun. On each floor of the tower, the view was very similar, which you can guess from the layout of the tower, but inside the tower they had little themes. For example, there was a tile mural of a Yellow Crane Tower on the first and second floor, while there was also some scale models of the tower in each dynasty, so you could see how each dynasty changed it. 



The tower is also placed by the Yangtze River, which you can partially tell from the picture below. From the tower, you could see the bridge across the river, the city, and also the pavilions and yellow crane statues that surround the tower. While it was difficult to see the view through the rain, it was still a really nice view, not to mention how great the wind felt on the humid day. After all, Wuhan isn't known to be the "oven of China" for nothing, and the wind on top of the tower was just what I needed to cool off, which was something that I wasn't able to do too often.


If you ever get a chance to visit Wuhan, I would definitely recommend the Yellow Crane Tower for sightseeing, it's definitely a pretty iconic building in the area. Obviously, it's no Great Wall of China, but it's still a great tourist attraction in the province. 
Since I spent most of Wuhan doing activities with the summer program and mostly in classes, next Wednesday we'll be taking it to Beijing, China for the travel diary series. We'll be starting at the Temple of Heaven and then working our way through from there. Stay tuned next Wednesday for a continuation!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Best of the Internet

Following my return from China, I've been enjoying some great content that I missed out while I was away. Unfortunately, I won't have much free time for reading much longer, because I go back to school tomorrow. Yes, that's right. I'm neither emotionally or physically ready for that, but I guess that I better be soon. So what better way to spend my last day of summer than enjoying the great content that's out on the internet? I've pulled together my favorites of the ones I've recently discovered so that you can enjoy them too.

@itssunnyrebecca

One // Breakup with Makeup

I love makeup. I think it's fun, it's like making art on your face. And yes, you can absolutely love makeup, but isn't it important to be able to differentiate your identity with makeup? Sophie gets super personal about makeup and I love her points, especially the one about makeup being a double edged sword. Self confidence is one thing, but it's great to be able to be confident even without makeup, like Sophie mentioned, explaining her #BreakupwithMakeup movement.

Two // Confessions of an Anonymous Victoria's Secret Photoshopper

Over the years, we've developed our own idea of what photoshopping is and a negative connotation with it. But isn't it a little different when we hear it from an actual photoshopper? An anonymous Victoria's Secret photoshopper gets real about how and what she retouches, body fixing during the shoot, why we photoshop, and how to stop it. This article really makes you realize that the problems with photoshopping isn't on their end, but it's on our end, in what we expect and praise in society.

Three // Discovering What You Really Want to Do With Your Professional Life

Ahh, the frightening question, "What do you want to do with your life?" I hear this question all the time, and when I say that I don't know, they always tell me that I have plenty of time to think about that. Unfortunately, that's not true. Every day I feel like I'm running out of time with deciding what I want to do with my life. Luckily, this article has some great tips for helping you figure out what you want to do, based on your talents and interests. 

I've mentioned it time after time that I am the QUEEN of judging people. I totally don't mean it, but I can't help it. I'm always trying to kick that habit, especially with the new school year coming up. It's really not easy to make friends when I'm constantly over-analyzing things and judging their flaws. This post has some great mantras to try and help me (and maybe you) stop judging people. It talks how you can stop judging people after you've already started, how it can hurt your perception of people, and of course, the mantras.

Five // Less Than 30 Days

This post talks expectations and preparations for college, since Lola (Macarons in the Morning) has less than 30 days until school starts. Meanwhile, I have less than one. Lucky me. However, this post has some great points on having expectations for the perfect school year and fearing the unknown, the future. School starts soon, but it's no use worrying about it and having big expectations.

Six // The Importance of Women Learning Self Defense

Self defense is SO underrated. I just watched a Buzzfeed video recently on women trying self-defense and that was when I first started thinking about the importance of learning self-defense. Right after that, Cathleen's post on it popped up, basically reinforcing the idea. I try not to think about if something would happen to me, but there are a lot of very real dangers that surround us. While I may want to ignore all of the potential dangers, I need to be prepared in case one threatens me. Right now, I've been carrying around a personal alarm (Get the ROBOCOPP Sound Grenade for 10% with the code, "SUNNYREBECCA"), but I definitely want to get some self-defense skills under my belt sometime soon. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

8 Things You Didn't Realize You Needed for Back to School

Ahh, back to school season. Most of the time, we focus on the typical back to school supplies, like pens, binders, notebooks, etcetera. We think about all of the things that they advertise in the store flyers for back to school. However, we're so caught up in notebooks and graphing paper, while both are essential, that we forget about other things that might come in handy for school. Luckily, I have you covered with eight things that you probably didn't realize you would need or should have for the back to school season. 


No. 1 // File folders

Before, I had never really felt like there was much of a use for file folders. In my mind, they were basically the same as pocket folders, only the things were still susceptible to falling out. However, I'm beginning to see how they can be more useful. My desk is an absolute mess most of the time, with lots of papers covering it. Most of the time, the papers can be grouped together based on common topics, for example, I have a huge stack of chemistry papers on my desk at the moment. The file folders can help to organize my desk and group the similar papers. They're great for organization. I have another friend that uses file folders in class as well, so you can choose what you want to use the file folders for. In addition, they're pretty low priced, I got these super cute ones from the dollar section in Target. Bando and Kate Spade also have some nice ones that are a bit more pricey, but totally worth it. 

No. 2 // A great study candle

Did you know that scent can actually help you study? I would suggest not to use lavender scented candles while studying, it has been proven to increase drowsiness. Citrus scents lessen anxiety and stress, which would be perfect if you're cramming for a test or feeling overwhelmed with work. Rosemary increases alertness, so it would be perfect for pulling all-nighters. You can also use specific scents to help recall certain information. If you use the same candle every time for a certain subject, it may help you associate the scent with the information. Here's an article with more information on how scents can affect your mind.



No. 3 // Pencils that you don't care about

People ask all the time to borrow pencils and we all know that 99% of the time, you're never getting that pencil back. Recently, I've started carrying around some classic wooden pencils to lend out to people, since I don't care whether or not I get them back. In addition, I use these pencils as backup pencils, in case I ever run out of lead in my mechanical pencils or I forget a pencil. But for yourself, feel free to get some nice ones. I've picked some fancy pencils worth showing off that I just might be buying for myself. 

No. 4 // ROBOCOPP's Sound Grenade

Most of the time when we think about school, we sometimes forget to think about safety, especially for me, where I live in a pretty safe place. However, just because somewhere is generally safe, doesn't mean that you shouldn't take precautions. ROBOCOPP's Sound Grenade does just that. It's basically a personal alarm that is the size of a key chain. When you're in danger, all you have to do is pull it and it sends out a 120dB siren, which is as loud as an ambulance. As a young girl, I feel like it's easy to be a target. I have no way to defend myself, I should probably start learning some self-defense, but carrying a personal alarm makes me feel safer. Just knowing that in case of an emergency, I'll have a way to retaliate and protect myself is comforting enough. When I walk down the street at night or sit alone in my car, it gives me an extra sense of security, even if I never do have to pull the alarm.

  
*I received the Sound Grenade for free in order to collaborate on this post. All opinions and ideas regarding it are my own. 



No. 5 // A spare pair of headphones

I don't know about you, but I hate having to constantly carry around the same pair of headphones. I don't like having to put my headphones in my backpack every day and then forget to do so and not be able to use my headphones during the day. Instead, it's great to have a spare pair of headphones that you can leave in your backpack at all times so that you don't have to keep moving your headphones around. This way, whenever you need to grab them during school, they're right where you expected them to be. I've had my favorite headphones for years and I totally forgot where I got them from, but they're great for noise cancelling. 

No. 6 // A blanket

For me personally, my school gets really cold at times. Some rooms are freezing, even in the summer. That's why I keep a blanket in my locker at all times. I'm not sure how the temperature is at your school and how the school culture is, but keeping a blanket to grab whenever I need it has been a great idea. In my school, I wrap my blanket around me in the hallways and in class and most people either don't acknowledge it at all or tell me that they wish they had brought one too. I'm sure that not all schools would be okay with blankets in class, but if yours is, I highly recommend it for those chilly days. In fact, some of my teachers have even told me that it's a great idea. The one that I carry around with me during school is from Homegoods. Homegoods has a ton of great throw blankets all the time and I'm always tempted to pick up one (or more) whenever I'm there. 


No. 7 // A face mask

Most people love coming back to school after the summer with a great tan or a new wardrobe, but it's just as great to come back from the summer looking refreshed. I'm not super into skincare, but it's a great feeling after a face mask to feel refreshed. It's especially nice to not only maintain your skin but to look great for an event, including the first day of school. I just started using the BB seaweed fresh face mask from Lush cosmetics and it smells great and my skin feels amazing afterwards. I'm looking forward to trying some other masks as well, Lush has some great selections. In addition, the Origins charcoal mask is also great based on my personal experience with it and it doesn't require refrigeration like Lush masks do.

No. 8 // A travel coffee mug

You're definitely going to be a little (or very) tired at the beginning of the school year. Maybe you might be drinking some iced coffee at first, but after some late nights, you might need some caffeine to-go to get you out the door in the morning. I got the pictured travel coffee mug from Anthropologie as a gift from a friend and I love the look of it. Sometimes I'll grab tea on the way out the door if I have time and then drink it in class. If you're looking for something leak proof, the Contigo stainless steel travel mugs are fantastic, they have a lock button that helps to prevent spills. 




I hope that these all helped you somehow and you're more ready for school in a different way. Maybe you didn't realize that you needed these things for school, but guess what, now you do and you're ready for a better school year. I know that it often feels sad to start school again after a great summer, but it's best to stay positive about it. This means getting excited about back to school shopping, some fun agendas, whatever it is that will help you look on the positive side of a new school year. 

When do you start school and what are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How Dressed Up Should I Be?

Ahh, one of the age old questions. They say that you should dress to impress, so how do you know how far to go in terms of impressions? I always worry about looking too overdressed or too underdressed in new situations, especially because I don't want to stand out, but I also want to make a good first impression with my outfit. Clothing can say a lot about a person, but how do you know how dressed up you should look on the spectrum of "lazy day" to "meeting royalty?" A lot of the times, you just have to think it through and just guess, but wouldn't it be easier if you had a guide or a cheatsheet to help you figure out how dressed up you should be?

How Dressed Up Should I Be?

Interviews

Anything that screams "J. Crew" should probably do it! Depending on the job that you're applying for, it may differ, but the go to interview look is probably either a dress or a top and pencil skirt with a blazer thrown over it. You can range anywhere from business casual to business formal, depending on the type of job that you're applying for. The main goal is to look put together and appear professional. I would try to look at the company culture to guess the level of formality that you should carry in your outfit. For example, a job with a prestigious law firm might call for business formal, while a trendy start-up company might call for business casual.

Where to shop at: Try Loft, Limited, Banana Republic, or J. Crew. 
Examples: Dress pants or khakis with a nice top, a nice top and a pencil skirt, a dress with a blazer...

Dates

It depends on what prior relationship you have with your date as well as where you're going, but the safest look would be a dressy, casual chic look. Go for a casual dress, a skirt, or a nice top. Try to ask where you're going on the date before, like if you're going to a coffee shop, dress down. If you're going to a restaurant, go for the dressy look. I've created a basic cheatsheet for the kinds of things that you should wear based on the type of date.


House parties

Go for stylish yet casual. It's a look where dressy meets casual. Wear clothes that you feel good in, not only confident, but also comfortable. Don't be afraid to wear some comfy shoes, like sneakers, maybe Converse or Keds if you want to be comfortable and look stylish. The look for house parties is a balanced look, you're still looking cute, but you get the best of both worlds, because you're comfortable too. 

Black tie or white tie

You guessed it, it's that time that you can rock a gown and feel like a princess. Your dress should be full length and you can feel free to accessorize as much as you please. Honestly, I didn't know the difference between black tie and white tie, mostly because I haven't had any events that have ranged in that dress code, but there's only a small difference. For women, both would include formal full-length dresses. The main difference is that white tie is the highest level of formal attire. For men, the clothing differs more between white tie and black tie, black tie might call for a tuxedo with a bow tie, while white tie would call for white bow ties, dress shirts, coats with tails, and vests.

Where to shop at: Try Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Lord and Taylor, and similar shops. If you're looking to save money, rent a dress on Rent the Runway.

No dress code specified

Your best bet? Ask the host (if there is one) what he/she is wearing for you to get an idea of how nice you should dress. However, sometimes we don't always have the option of asking, there may not be a host (it may be some other kind of event), or are just too nervous to ask. If worse comes to worse, take some of these clues to try to piece together the kind of clothes that you should wear.


When in doubt, go for the casual chic look. It's somewhere in the middle so that you'll either be a little overdressed or a little underdressed, not standing out completely. Whatever you wear, make sure that you feel good in it. You feel confident in it and feel the most you that you can be. I believe that fashion can totally change your perspective and mood, make sure that you're wearing clothes that channel a great perspective. If clothing says a lot about a person, then what you wear should channel you and your personality. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Back to School Essentials

It's back to school time, as scary as it is. I was originally planning to do a blog post about my back to school essentials, but I figured, why not do a video? I was feeling super inspired with video content, so I went for it. In this video, I featured some back to school essentials, not the boring stuff like binders and dividers (because the stores will never let you forget about those), but the fun stuff!


Psst! Want 10% off a sound grenade like the one I showed in the video?
Use the coupon code: SUNNYREBECCA

What are your back to school essentials?