Goodbyes

Other than my native New York, I have never lived  anywhere as long as I have lived in Hong Kong. I have traveled extensively and have spent weeks places, even months, but never the nearly four years I have been there.

Hong Kong is really far from New York. I know all about airplane travel and Skype and of course Twitter and Facebook, but I also know that my relationships at home have suffered the distance of these years abroad. However, I am going home and I will pick most of them up where I left off.  When you go home it always feels like you were there just yesterday.  When I decided to go to Hong Kong for a professional opportunity it was a quick and easy decision, but it was never my intention to stay there permanently. I always knew I would go home.

Leaving Hong Kong was a much bigger decision. It is a much bigger move. And saying goodbye was also saying goodbye to this period time in my life, looking back and saying “Thanks for the memories.”.

In the same breath I am happy and excited for something new but I am also acutely aware of the things I will miss. I was planning a sarcastic blog about the things I can’t stand about Hong Kong ( oh let me get in a few) like  the way people walk – no crash- into you on the street,  the way people assault that door close button in the elevator just as you are about to get in, and of course let’s not forget the worsening air pollution situation.

What I realized during my final days however, was that I didn’t want to focus on that. I started to think about the things I really would miss. Perhaps not so surprisingly they were mostly the little things. So little I almost took them for granted daily, but when I was leaving my eyes have opened a little wider to the world around me to really ‘see’.  I will miss the little Ginger cat that sits on a leash at the local restaurant by my flat.

My morning ritual was to pet this kitty on the corner...

I will miss the sweet baristas at Starbuck’s who all know what I order.  I don’t even have to ask. I will miss the very fact of being an expat.

Unforgettable...

And I will miss the buzz and excitement that is Asia. Most of all I will miss some very special people that have shaped my life over the past four years. I said to my friend tonight that I hate saying goodbye, and she said “so say see ya later.”  So “see ya later” Hong Kong and thanks for the memories.

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To Live & Die By Social Media

I like many people can be found on a myriad of social networks.  We all use these networks for different things: to give, receive, share.  I virtually live on Twitter. I remember when I started living on Facebook.  It was the place to “find me” if you needed me – (Mom).  Yes, when I moved to another country with a twelve hour time difference, I found it difficult to keep in touch with good friends and family via “email” – as if it were some ancient form of inconvenient communication or the phone.  Facebook was great.  One status to my 800 and something friends and BAM!, everyone knew everything.  (I am still a Facebook purist by the way – I actually know them all.)  I have friends who joined Facebook specifically to keep in touch with me.  I put my parents on it.  Convenient. All my contact details, my travel schedule, where to find me. Or so I thought.

Well, these days, I am on Twitter.  Facebook too, but if you need me and you need me now, Twitter is the way to go.  People that know me well know to DM (direct message) me if they want my attention.  I felt that way until I was in California on a business trip recently.  I had my Hong Kong phone off and only gave my US number to my parents and the people I needed to speak to in the US.  I woke up to someone knocking on my door at the crack of dawn, as it turns out not looking for me.  Frustrated I was woken I opened my laptop, loaded Tweetdeck and in the DM column among a bunch of Spam and Auto welcome DMs was:

“The Memorial Service for Steve is Sunday at 1”.

I’ll pause while you take that in.

What? Memorial Service? What do you mean “Memorial Service”???? This was the first I was hearing that my dear friend had even passed away.  I had to deduce it from those brief words.  No one knew how to get a hold of me, and the person who sent the tweet assumed I knew.  Through a Tweet. I found out my friend died through a Tweet. The more insane thing is to confirm he had in fact passed away I had to go to his Facebook page.  I had no one’s phone number to call to find out what had happened until a mutual friend messaged her phone number.  There were already messages of condolence posted on his page.  I sat there alone in my hotel room and cried at my computer screen.  No social network could possibly replace the voice or hug of a friend that I wish I had at that moment.

This experience isn’t going to make me change the way I communicate, but perhaps reflect how I want to be communicated with. It is just one of those situations that makes you take a step back and ask, “I know I’m approachable, but am I accessible to the people in my life that matter?”

Keeping it in Perspective….

There are many things in life that we encounter that seem overwhelming, difficult or important at the time.  Then you come across a situation that puts it all in perspective for you and watch how others handle that situation with awe inspiring grace and it makes all your worries seem petty and insignificant.

I had such an experience today.  Flying back to the states for the first time in a year in not the best of health on not the most of luxurious of airlines I was in a moaning mood at best.  I first noticed this family of four children at the gate while talking to a fellow American I had picked up as a travel buddy on the last leg of the flight.

The little girl, not yet even a year and a half I would later learn, was crying non-stop and was being coddled by what we discussed had to be her grandmother.  I couldn’t help look around for the mother. Our conversation about this family led us to discuss how it must be so difficult to travel with four little ones in tow.  I said hello to the crying girl and she was curious enough to stop crying for a minute to smile.  Then they disappeared onto the plane.

For the first couple of hours you could hear this little girl crying and crying.  When I got up to go to the bathroom I passed the grandmother holding her and I stopped to rub her back and say hello again.  I asked her if she was tired from traveling,  The grandmother told me that their mother had died suddenly last Saturday from a heart attack.  Just died.  Collapsed and died.  No warning.  No pre-existing condition.  A mother of four, a YOUNG mother of four, and a young wife, poof – just gone.  It floored me.

A little later when passing them again I was speaking with the husband, now a surviving father of four children. His parents and her parents had flown all the way to Shanghai to help him with the trip back to the States for his wife’s funeral.  He was amazed at all the support that was there for him and how much strength he and his older two girls had found.  Their composure was incredible.  I couldn’t help but talk to him and think about their future and about what they had just been through.  He said they felt an outpouring of support from both loved ones and strangers.  The eight and five year old understood their mom had died, while the three-year-old boy understood she wasn’t there and the one and a half year old just didn’t really understand at all.

I saw them from a distance one last time after I got my bags. The five year-old tugged at her father pointing at the carousel, “Isn’t that Mommy’s luggage Daddy?”. Holding the little one, he stroked her head, “Yes honey, that’s Mommy’s luggage.”



Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work & What to Do Instead

How many times have you ever made a New Year’s resolution? Every year since you were 15? Let me guess, it is usually to stop doing something or to start doing something that under usual circumstances you have a really difficult time doing.  Ah, and New Year’s rolls around, a fresh start, a perfect time to make that ginormous change in our lives right!  Wrong. Large drastic changes actually don’t work for most people.  They usually last for a week or two, a month maybe.  Gym membership sales soar post New Year’s with the resolutions to get into shape.  People quit, smoking, drinking, vow to eat better, the list goes on.

Do these look familiar?

Reasons Why Resolutions Don’t Work

1. Resolutions Are Usually Set in the Negative Voice – it isn’t always the case, but many of us set resolutions that involve “stopping” something or “giving something up”.  That is a recipe for failure right there.  While we may want to stop, we are not sending out the right energy.  We are sending out a regretful, “darn I need to stop this now” energy.  Solution: Think about your goals in a positive light. How can you phrase them in a way that resonates positively with the direction you are headed.  It should feel good when you say it out loud and make you want to smile.

2. Drastic Cold Turkey Changes Are Hard to Make Last – there is a brilliant quote by Robin Sharma – “Small daily changes over time lead to staggering results.”  Read that again.  “Small daily changes over TIME lead to staggering results.”  Ok, so what does that mean?  You don’t have to be Jane Fonda on January 1st. In fact if you try to be, you probably won’t succeed.  When most people fall off their resolution wagon they throw in the towel. Solution: Think about the year ahead.  Pick a few areas of life where you would like to see improvement.  This is a serious exercise, and takes work, but it is your life.  Then start really small.  What can you do today? Tomorrow? Next week? Don’t overwhelm yourself. Imagine yourself as the person you want to be a year from now.  Do the small things and stay the course.

3.  We Forget About New Years – most people just think about New Year’s resolutions once a year, but if you are really determined to make changes in your life you have to constantly check back to the blueprint you set out for yourself of what it is that you are working toward and where you are headed.  Are you still on course?  Solution: Write down those things that you decided to work on broadly and the ways in which you think you can throughout the year.  It is a good idea to revisit the list once a month and check in.  It is a nice thing to do with a friend, relative or partner so that you can support one another.  Monitor your progress.  Are you achieving your goals?  Do you need to change direction? Do you need additional support?

If you are not achieving your goals, ask yourself where your mindset is and how it could be stopping you.

“If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”  I love that quote.  Stay clear on your vision for the life you want and have a Happy New Year.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over…It became a butterfly”

with love

be the butterfly