Resilience in the Time of Chaos

This year, I realized how much I love and undervalue protagonists. I’m an avid consumer of books and movies where protagonists weather challenges and succeed. The more I consume such stories, the more I expect that the hero will continue fighting against all odds, be it a multi limbed monster or a trip to the underworld. Before you ask, yes, I did recently read Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, and five stars out of five would recommend. 

As the protagonist of my own story, I have weathered 2020. It has been A Year, zero stars out of five, would never recommend. Like too many this year, I lost loved ones, and felt isolated, disconnected, and at times, hopeless. I resigned myself to being locked down, to helplessly reading the news, and to ordering a heck of a lot of Taco Bell.

In stories, heroes always have something that drives them, that bolsters their emotional resiliency to keep doing the thing. Because that thing is worth it, even if, as we saw in Avengers: Endgame, worlds are changed and lives are lost.

So what was my Thing? What keeps me resilient? My 2020 journey led me to discover what I value and what keeps me going, and it came from asking myself a whole lot of why. 

Now, this might sound a little corporate – I know a number of companies and teams that use Sakichi Toyoda’s Five Whys exercise, and this is very similar. But pestering yourself with and reflecting on the question of “why” turns out to be a surprisingly thoughtful way to uncover your underlying motivations, your personal authenticity. In a show of vulnerability, here is how one of these “Why” reflections went for me:

It’s 2020: why do I get up in the morning?

Because I have a loving partner, an awesome dog, and a job to tackle. And somewhere in this world is the promise of coffee. 

Why do those matter?

Because even when the world is dark, it makes me happy to be a part of societal structures that involve those I care about. 

Why is that important?

Because by being a part of these structures, I can actively help improve them. 

Why improve these structures?

Because if I can improve them, or create new, better ones, I have a chance at enhancing experiences for others. 

It’s a personal exercise, and you’ll likely find yourself asking different “why” questions. The exercise is about digging deeper, about exploring your root causes. For me, in going through a number of these “why” reflections, a common theme surfaced: that I’m driven by helping others, and that I want to make everyone’s experience on this earth better. As the protagonist of my story, this is my authenticity, and what keeps me resilient, even in the face of 2020. 

Photo by Tbel Abuseridze on Unsplash

Travel Tips 2019

I love to travel. Whether it is for vacation or for work, the thrill of visiting a place I don’t call home excites me every single time. It is particularly energizing if I am visiting a new place, because I truly love exploring the unfamiliar. 

As I travel more and more, I increasingly keep an eye out for travel tips. There are a lot of tips out there. Having spent years researching and soliciting tips, and after a fair amount of personal experimentation, I wanted to share what has worked best for me when I travel.

  1. Stay hydrated during your flight. I love coffee and bourbon, but generally avoid drinking either before or during my flight. Instead, I opt for lots of water and electrolytes, and I feel noticeably better if I am thoroughly hydrated. I carry a 9 oz. Swell water bottle with me, which is the perfect size for slipping in a purse, and I often ask flight attendants to fill up my bottle during flights (some are more willing to do so than others). Related to this, don’t wear jumpsuits on planes, even if they are in fashion at this point in time.
  2. Noise cancelling headphones. Dane is particularly tech savvy, and with the amount I fly, he very kindly gifted me a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 II noise canceling headphones. And they changed my life. I never realized just how noisy a plane is until I used these on a 13.5 hour flight to Helsinki.
  3. Load up on all the entertainment. It is hard to remember this when you’re constantly on the move and have a Todoist list like no other, but I am always grateful to past Angela when she remembers to download podcasts, sync music, and get a range of books on the Kindle. I have a broad range of interests, so I have a really difficult time predicting what future, on-the-plane Angela is going to want to do. So, I download everything in advance: serious to frivolous podcasts. New music that I haven’t listened to yet and old favorites. Business and nonfiction to mythology (a standard favorite of mine) and fiction. As I regularly do this, I find that I always have content when I want it. 
  4. Pack light and avoid checking bags. If I can avoid waiting for luggage, it gets me out of the airport faster. I’m also more likely to take public transit if I am not carrying too much, which often gives me a better feel for the city I’m visiting. Dane and I went on our around the world, three week honeymoon (shout out to Kimberly for donating all those miles and to our wedding guests for funding our dream honeymoon!) without checking bags. Having done that, I feel like it would take a very special case to bother checking a bag. 
  5. Try to leave a little room in your luggage. And I say this as someone who generally isn’t interested in bringing tchotchkes, souvenirs, swag, etc. home. But when I do, having this little extra space gives me that option. I also don’t want to put as much care into packing for the return home. I don’t want to neatly fold dirty laundry, so it is going to take up more space. Prepping with a little extra space makes me feel less guilty about squishing my bag on the way home. 
  6. KonMari it. This is a recent discovery and I will never look back. Here’s a video that describes the concept, and what I particularly loved about this is that I could easily see everything I packed and it saved space. Absolutely brilliant, and I’ve taken to arranging my closet at home this way too. 
  7. Pack some staple medications. I always have Advil, NyQuil, DayQuil, Sudafed, Benadryl, and Pepto. These are broad blast pills that even if I rarely use them, when I do need them, I am thoroughly relieved that I have them. 
  8. Don’t get cheap/flimsy bottles for your liquids. Nothing is worse than a shampoo explosion, so investing in the right bottles does make a difference, and they last longer. I bought some at a Walgreens that leaked everywhere. Now I use some heavy duty ones from Sephora.
  9. Sign up for the travel programs. There are many free versions, and while they do add to your email inbox, it streamlines communication between you and the service, you often get some extra bonus items. 
  10. Keep healthy and listen to your body. I often hear statements like “I’m traveling so I can not exercise or indulge in xyz foods”. I’m not saying don’t do that, but if you travel frequently, the exception quickly becomes the rule. I want you to be healthy! Consume all the tasties in moderation, and find opportunities to squeeze in exercise. For instance, when I’m going through the airport for any flight, I walk around the terminal before my flight and take stairs instead of escalators. 

Photo credit, courtesy of https://unsplash.com unsplash-logoElement5 Digital