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⛰ Letter 112: Reflections on Climbing Mountains, Time Anxiety, and Balance

10 min

Taylor Swift NYU Commencement Speech, Sound of Music, Stairway to Heaven and a slew of shoutouts

This week I learned more about myself by reflecting on the month of May. If you are new here or missed last week's edition, you can catch up on the past letters here. If you are reading this for the first time, I’d love you to sign up below to join the other learn-it-alls:

Aloha fellow learn-it-all 👋

Greetings from O'ahu, Hawai'i 🌺

Taken this past Memorial Day Monday at the top of the Haiku stairs.

Heads up: This is a longer-than-usual letter.

Before we jump in, I want to get something off my chest.

I sometimes feel pitiful to admit my imperfections. I know we all have them. I can’t help but think what is the point? Why am I voluntarily disqualifying myself from the perfection game by sharing my faults?

In a way, when I write them out and share them, they lose their power.

The more I stare at them in the face, the less intimidating they become. When they are a secret, shame creeps in.

Now, let’s do a swan dive into letter 112 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

❓ Question to think about

How did the month of May go?

🤔 Reflecting

I synthesized my reflections into different categories below with ten loves, five lacks, six lessons, two killer questions, two asks for help, one surprise, and one new habit experiment.

What I loved

  1. Writing meetups with fellow learn-it-all Matt Yao.

  2. Being challenged to be silently still, living off the land, backpacking with 35lbs, meditating, and being without my journal. My five-day backpacking silent Zen meditation retreat rocked my routine like no other. It made me question who I am and my love for my thoughts. Who would I be without thinking?

  3. Being more outgoing. More so than I have since I lived in a hostel last summer. I dined at a Thai temple and inflamed my tongue with spice. I got in a dispute with a state senator about grass in cities. I’ve started dating again. I stood up for my self-worth and rejected a part-time job. I went to a new intimidating surf break full of short-boarders. I’ve been taking the reins at my new job and slaying the project management.

  4. One-on-ones with friends, family, and myself. Specifically, with my parents, my cousins, and some old and new friends I’ve made. Voice notes are swell. I’ve also started talking to myself quite often. That counts right?
    Quality time in particular with one friend has been a hoot. This has included sailing Cal20s, cooking salmon, movie nights, Costco runs, beach volleyball fails, and long car rides to the north shore.

  5. Walking meditation without my phone. I started out this month doing at least one minute of sitting meditation. With my job being sitting and sedentary most of the day, I adjusted the experiment to walking and liked it much more.

  6. Treating myself more often. Life is too short. I crave chocolate. I'm going to eat chocolate.

  7. Keeping up with my daily vlogs. I've recorded about 180 daily videos as check-ins with myself. I filmed the first one on Christmas here.

  8. Shipping my past four letters

    1. My review on the month of April

    2. How I keep promises to myself

    3. Temptation of thought 

    4. Why I'm learning so many things

  9. Looking back at past letters. Two years ago, in letter 9, I was in Michigan learning to road bike for the first time and took edibles (legally) with my whole family. One year ago, in letter 61, I walked to the lonely North pond in Chicago to process the provoking calls I had with my British therapist. 

  10. Getting responses from you all. It makes me smile so big. Four joyous days of this past month have been from your responses. These letters are just a hobby. I put out these words. I think they make sense. But I really don’t have a clue what I’m doing. I love creating. I love language. I love ideas. I know I’d regret it if I held all this in. So, here we are. Each week. My love for words, creating and ideas aren’t going anywhere so… see ya next week ;)

What I lacked

  1. Listening to podcasts. My dad sends me so many. I used to be obsessed with them. I’d start my day with them. Even my lunch break and evening strolls too. Much of this was because I used to produce and ghostwrote over 50 last year. Nowadays, I'm detached from my phone. I don't drive a car or commute. I have newfound loves for silence and the art of music. I enjoy walks and listening to birds. I used to have guilt about lacking this but it opens up space for other things. I will continue to lack podcasts. Sorry dad.
  2. Running and beach volleyball. I've decided to hike, practice yoga, surf, sail, and rest. I still struggle with having a Play-Life Balance. It’s a daily dilemma I have that induces guilt. Do I get eight hours of sleep or go physically exert myself past my limits by running up the volcano in my backyard??
  3. Openly sharing. Lately, I haven’t felt inspired. I feel guilty about feeling this way because I live in such a beautiful place. Expectations loom left and right from others that I should be living my best life. Think of a celebrity though. As externally beautiful life may look for Taylor Swift, there's still a whole entire internal world that we know nothing about.
  4. Methods to deal with time anxiety. Summer is about to begin, but it never feels like it ended. Life without seasons is throwing me through a loop. I feel like I'm in a scene out of Groundhog Day where time has never moved. I try so many new things to make days more distinct and memorable since the seasons don't change. It’s rewarding yet draining. This isn’t sustainable. I can’t stop time though. This problem can’t be solved but how do I cope?
  5. Enthusiasm to start planning. I currently get paid to manage projects but when it comes to managing my own project of travel plans this summer, I lull. I’m so excited to reconnect with friends and family on the mainland but also in denial due to the above time anxiety.

What I learned

  1. There are repercussions to seeking novelty. Uprooting the foundations of what I know makes me skeptical of everything I thought I knew. I’ve been feeling foggy about life since my Hele Malie 5- day silent meditation backpacking trip. I feel like I am digressing. I cannot unsee what I've seen though. Am I too attached to my thoughts? If I am not my thoughts, then how can I partner with them?
  2. I can't compare the output of my past self because there are so many more variables now. It's a disservice to try to do that. Sure I nearly fainted running two miles yesterday but I don’t run much anymore so what was I expecting?
  3. I like to learn from people who aren’t that far ahead of me. The skipper I sail with earnestly gets the lingo wrong without caring. My yoga teacher couldn’t touch his toes six years ago.
  4. No matter how independent I become, I will still be dependent. For the last two weeks, I haven't had a roommate. The solution? I overbooked my social calendar out of fear of loneliness. I felt like I turned into a complete "yes woman".
  5. There will always be problems. It's up to us to prioritize which ones are worth solving. In Grosse Pointe where I grew up, I was bored with not many novel options of what to do. Here in Hawaii, I feel overwhelmed by too many. The grass isn't always greener after all.
  6. Sugar-free three-ingredient banana brownies are a no-go.

A couple of killer questions

  1. How can I make use of the 24 hours in my day rather than being used by them? (Inspired by Michael Kieran my Zen teacher.)
  2. How can I free myself from being a prisoner of my mind? (Inspired by Kathy)

Two problems I’d like help with

Context: As I reflected above I'm not as independent as I'd like. Many of you may know more about certain things than I do and open the floor to you:

  1. All those vlogs I've mentioned have taken up all the memory on my phone. Airdropping and email are too slow. I want to compile them in iMovie but don't know how to get them onto my computer.
  2. For the first time in three years, I broke my practice of daily journaling. The world didn’t end. I still can understand life and my thoughts and my emotions without writing. I feel attached to the practice and I don’t know what to do.

One surprise

I had a Russian ballet teacher growing up. Tatiana passively poked the 5% of body fat on my thigh in the middle class when I bent down and ask me what that was. She made me insecure about my body for the majority of my life. Going to yoga where different forms are embraced with teachers that actually care about my health rather than my appearance is enriching. The critique first triggered me but I now enjoy the support. They are helping me improve in the body that I have rather than trying to change me. It has been an enriching experience to practice patience.

My new habit this month

Yoga. I have scoliosis and doing this has relieved more pain than chiropractics ever has.

🎬 Watching

I watched Taylor Swift give a commencement speech at NYU upon her own graduation. She’s already won eleven Grammys and now is also a lawyer. Talk about impressive and going after what you want.  Comparison is the thief of joy. Remember: we’re all on our own timeline.

I’ve been indifferent about Taylor. I’ve never been a diehard fan and I’ve never been someone who dreaded her. I found this speech totally inspirational and I am now leaning towards being a fangirl with her authenticity and love of words like me.

Here are six quotes and reflections:

  1. “We are all writers. And most of us write in a different voice for different situations. You write differently in your Instagram stories than you do your senior thesis. You send a different type of email to your boss than you do your best friend from home. We are all literary chameleons and I think it’s fascinating. It’s just a continuation of the idea that we are so many things, all the time.”
    Taylor started to write songs when she was 12. It was a compass. Everything she does is an extension of her life. Everything is connected to her love of the craft.
  2. Don't hide your enthusiasm for things. Eagerness is great. I don't need unbothered ambivalence. I would rather try than be chic. Never be ashamed of trying. Effortlessness is a myth.
  3. Mistakes lead to the best decisions in your life. It's a gift to laugh with people about it later. It gave me goosebumps to hear about loneliness her and getting bullied in middle school as I’ve felt. She saw these experiences as a ticket to other places.
  4. Lean into the thrill of ideas. Specifically for Taylor, hooks are a string of words that ensnare her and captivate her.
  5. Catch and release the different chapters of your life. Life can be heavy. You cannot carry everything. Decide what is worth keeping and what is letting go. Good things are usually lighter.
  6. Learn to live alongside cringe. Looking back and laughing is fun. Embrace the trends. No matter how hard you try, you will look back on your life and cringe retrospectively.

One thought to leave you with:

Taylor’s life turned upside down from having no privacy as a celebrity.

How can non-pseudonymous writers be vulnerable and personal without feeling like they are losing intimacy with themselves?

🎧 Listening

Climb Every Mountain is a song from the Sound of Music. This was my grandma’s favorite movie. She used to always smile and cry during it. I didn’t get why but now I do it. I still don’t get why.

The music video is here. I love the first line in it where the nun says, “These walls were not built to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live.”

The Sound of Music is a real story based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, which is a pretty incredible story. While there are many iconic songs that have come out of The Sound of Music, Climb Every Mountain is my favorite. Probably because it is based on a powerful declarative statement.

🌟 Quote to inspire

"Living well does not mean avoiding suffering; it means suffering for the right reasons. While pain is inevitable, suffering is always a choice. The most meaningful freedom in your life comes from your commitments, the things in life for which you have chosen to sacrifice." - Mark Manson, Everything Is F*cked

📷 Photo of the Week

Eight hours, 10.5 miles, and 5000 feet later, I can finally say that I hiked the legendary Moanalua Valley Trail. It’s also known as the Stairway to Heaven. The views were majestic. The ridge was narrow and quite steep. It was rainy so very muddy.

Once I got to the peak, the sun thankfully decided to peak out to join me for my PBJ lunch. This was definitely a top-three hike of the 20 or so I’ve completed on O’ahu.

🙏 Shoutouts

I appreciate you reading this!

If ideas resonated, I’d love you to leave a comment, reply to this email, or send me a message on Twitter @JenVermet. If you forgot who I am, I welcome you to my online home.

Never stop learning 😁

Mahalo 🌺


PS - if you want to read why I am learning so many things, check out last week’s letter here.

If you’re reading this because someone shared this newsletter with you, welcome! I’d love it if you subscribed:

👣 Footnotes

My body feels like Jello:

I have so much willpower:

On redefining what success means:

A green light in anyone I surround myself with:


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