Tag Archives: Happiness

Robin Williams: A Comedic Genie-us

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aladdin

I’ve always loved a good laugh. Even when I was a little girl, I was never captivated by the pretty princesses in their evening gowns or the handsome princes whisking them off their feet (well, except for maybe Prince Eric). Some might suspect this was because I had an acute sense of feminism from the ripe age of five (or more realistically, one might point to the fact that I was a tomboy), but it would be far more accurate to conclude that what I enjoyed most in any movie was simply comedy and good friendship. 

Naturally, it follows that Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie of all time, because what other Disney movie is packed with such wit and camaraderie? The indisputable answer (that is to say, you can dispute it, but you’d be wrong) is none. Why, you ask? (I see you’re back to asking disruptive questions. That will be 7.5 pushups and one backwards recitation of the alphabet). Well, the movie has always had some kind of charm that other prince & princess movies do not. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Aladdin is more authentic (you know, after he gets past all that deception and decides to tell Jasmine who he really is), or because Jasmine is a bit more of a rebel than some of the other princesses (she did spit in Jafar’s face, after all. Can you imagine Cinderella doing that?). Or we could just chalk it up to a certain je ne sais quoi and leave it there. But the simple truth is that it’s because no other Disney movie has the Genie. Think about it.

I can mark the exact moment that I (and undoubtedly hundreds of others) fell in love with Aladdin. It sounds a bit like this: “10,000 years will give you such a crick in the neck!” Said in the voice of Robin Williams, it sounds exactly like that. From that moment onward, the Genie became the character that pumped hilarity (and, if we’re being honest, much of the meaningful morality) into the movie.

But the Genie would not be half the beloved character that he is if it weren’t for the humor and personality of Robin Williams. The very way he vocalized each line breathed life into the blue shapeshifter, making him into something much more real than just the goofy spirit of the lamp. From an effusive magic carpet flight attendant, to an overblown game show host, to a picky tailor, to everything in-between, the audience can’t help but remain captivated. But despite his grand displays of humor, it becomes evident that the Genie feels trapped by his role; he is a “phenomenal cosmic power…(in an) itty bitty living space” and all he wants is to be free. Robin was able to capture this depth perfectly, perhaps because he wasn’t altogether a stranger to the feeling.

So, to me, Robin Williams will always be that deep, comedic Genie. He was versatile, transforming into any role with a snap of his fingers, whether that be an empathetic therapist or a blundering female nanny. He could capture any accent and master any impression. He could be the perfect companion or he could steal the show. And above all, he never failed to make us laugh, granting our wish for a life filled with many moments of happiness. So, thank you, Robin. You will be missed.

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Fear

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When people hear that I’m studying abroad in New Zealand, they tend to ask a lot of questions. The first usually being “Why?” (Except from Lord of the Rings fans, who unswervingly offer their approval of my venture). For the sake of those who do not know what it’s like to binge watch 12 plus hours of hobbits marching through majestic mountain scenery or have Frodo’s face tattooed to their arm, I will tell you why I chose New Zealand.

It all began when I was five, when I dreamed of traveling to Australia. As some of you may know, Steve Irwin was one of my childhood heroes, and I never quite outgrew the desire to go to there and wrestle crocodiles, or at least meet people who did. I wanted to be out in the wild, and spend my time snuggling with koalas and kicking it with kangaroos. But as I began to look into Australia as a study abroad destination, I started to discover that less Australians wrestle crocodiles than one might expect, and that the country housed a plethora of large cities and poisonous animals (something Irwin should have prepared me for), both of which would limit my access to the outdoors. By the time my study abroad adviser told me that I was really looking for New Zealand and had laid out the study abroad pamphlet in front of me, I was sold (it didn’t hurt that I had also found out that koalas have an extremely high rate of chlamydia). With it’s unparalleled beauty and it’s unrivaled access to the outdoors, New Zealand quickly jumped over my previous study abroad considerations like Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.

It’s also not entirely uncommon when you mention New Zealand to hear stories about past vacations and business trips, and uncle’s friend’s sister-in-law’s flightless bird’s visit to Wellington. I’ve heard stories of dangerous roads with the most beautiful views, and tales of miracle men magically parachuting from the sky to save stranded drivers, and once, I was taken to a kind woman’s house to be shown a magnificent painting of a young Maori man. Most of the time, I love and appreciate the stories that people share with me. They make me feel like I’m not going to fall off the globe without a trace if I take a 20 hour flight across the world, and they confirm that I’ve chosen a good place on the map to live for five months.

But as I begin my trip, I think that what holds the most relevance for me is something that came up during a conversation with my neighbor just before I left. We were standing in my backyard, surrounded by the organized chaos of my younger brother’s high school graduation party, when she asked “Are you scared?” For a brief moment, I felt shocked, and then I felt an overwhelming sense of appreciation for her question. I’d spent countless hours talking with what felt like hundreds of people about my trip, and I’d been asked what felt like hundreds of times if I was excited to go, but no one had ever asked me if I was scared. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what I felt. In that moment, I felt shell shocked, caught somewhere between consciously knowing I was leaving and utterly incapable of accessing the emotions that go along with that realization.

I supposed that maybe once I stepped foot on the plane that would take me from San Francisco to New Zealand, leaving my parents behind to enjoy another day in the city, I might be utterly terrified. Maybe I wouldn’t be scared until I arrived at the airport on the other side of the world, or once I made it to my flat, or once orientation began. Although I wasn’t certain when that moment (most likely, moments) of fright would hit me square on, I knew that it would happen. And I appreciated that my neighbor understood that being frightened of an experience and valuing it were not mutually exclusive: “I was nervous to go to Spain when I studied abroad, but I think it’s good to be scared. If you’re not scared, then you’re not out of your comfort zone, and then you’re not really gaining anything from the experience.”

It’s these words that I will carry with me as I set off for New Zealand. Instead of being ashamed of whatever fear I may recognize in myself as I move forward towards this adventure, I will embrace it. It is only when we embrace our fear that we turn it into a tool capable of helping us grow. If we are ashamed of our fear, we either push it down or let it push us down, and either way we are limited and consumed by it. When we embrace our fear, exciting doors we never knew existed are opened, and the colors appear brighter and more beautiful than they ever did when we were merely comfortable and secure.

As I prepare to hop on the plane tonight, and any denial that protected me from my nervousness has started to melt away, I realize that I am starting to feel afraid. When I realize this, all I can think is, “Well, I must be doing something right.”

 


 

 

Exactly three weeks ago, I published this post on my travel blog, The Wonderful World of the Wanderer. 21 days in Dunedin has proven my theory: I really must have done something right.

Hello, WordPress. Remember Me?

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It's that girl! You know...the one who...who did that thing...

It’s that girl! You know…the one who…who did that thing…

No, it’s not Liam from One Direction finally coming to ask you to marry him, and it’s certainly not the stuffed teddy bear named Jerry that you dropped out of the car window when you were three and hadn’t yet come to terms with the laws of physics. But it is that girl who used to write this blog, coming back (again) to explain her lapse in writing (again).

It’s been nearly four months since I last posted about the newest makeover to my blog and made it seem like I was coming back for good. And now, I’m about to make a slightly similar post, although hopefully with a different outcome. Over the past two years, KDL has gone through some serious ups and downs. It’s gone from a bucket list blog, to a happiness blog, to nothing, to a revised happiness blog and then back to nothing again. I kept making changes to my blog’s subtitle, hoping that it would get me closer to the type of blog that I’ve always wanted to have. But nothing I changed made it feel right.

I tried to publish posts once my blog transitioned to “A Journey of Choosing Happiness”; believe me, I did. I tried writing about the science of happiness, about tricks and tips for getting happier and staying happy. Yet, even once I’d finished a post I couldn’t bring myself to publish it because it didn’t have my voice, it didn’t have a story, and it didn’t feel like me. I certainly didn’t gain happiness from reading it or writing it, so how could I expect others to? In the months of not posting, I realized something that I couldn’t have realized before trying that type of happiness blog and failing. And that is this: I don’t want a “happiness blog,” I just want a blog that makes others happy.

It doesn’t need a list of things to be crossed off of a bucket list or the hottest collection of hard-core science straight from the positive psychology books, and it doesn’t need a theme. It just needs writing by someone who is happy writing it. So recently, I made a subtle change to the subtitle. It now says The Knee Deep Life: A Journey. That’s it. It’s just one grinning girl living her life, writing because it gives her joy, and attempting to spread some good KDL cheer to anyone who needs it.

 

What Does Happiness Mean To You?

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"The purpose of our lives is to be happy" -- Dalai Lama

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy” — Dalai Lama

Recently–or not so recently, depending on your definition of nearly three months–the subtitle of The Knee Deep Life underwent a makeover to become “A Journey of Choosing Happiness”. I could say that all the time that has lapsed since this change was caused by my busy schedule, and I wouldn’t be lying. But, I wouldn’t be telling the full truth either.

There’s an underlying worry that’s nagged me since I chose to make the move…How does one write about happiness? Happiness has always been an important focus in my life, and there is nothing I enjoy more than making others happy too. But happiness is an intimidating subject.

It’s something that’s so simple yet so difficult to pin down or define. The things that we think will make us instantly happy often don’t, and the things that do make us happy are sometimes unexpected. And perhaps most difficult of all, the advice or conclusions that we draw from our own lives could come across as sanctimonious or even downright inconsiderate of others’ situations. My thoughts on happiness on a bad hair day will inevitably be different than my thoughts on happiness after losing a beloved pet. Happiness isn’t always an immediate answer, nor should it be. Grieving is often an important element of any journey towards happiness.

So here is the inevitable disclaimer: This blog is meant for the average Joe or Joette who may need a happiness boost in their daily life, and while I sincerely hope it helps some of you along your journeys, it is not meant to be a roadmap for every situation nor will everything I write be applicable to your unique circumstances. The most I can do is write based on my own experiences and opinions, hoping that you may find some tidbits that resonate with you or can be applied in your life. And if all I can do is help you feel better when you’re having a bad hair day, then I guess I’ll take it! With that, I hope that while I travel my own journey of choosing happiness you will choose to travel yours along with me!

Inspiration for Your Day

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“The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.

Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish or ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.

Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.

Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.

Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you have anyway.”

-Kent M. Keith

The unique ceiling in La Pedrera, one of Gaudí's buildings in Barcelona.

The unique ceiling in La Pedrera, one of Gaudí’s buildings in Barcelona.

The Knee Deep Life: A Makeover

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The miscreant pie responsible for keeping me away from you

The miscreant pie responsible for keeping me away from you

I know it’s been a slow start back into my blogging career, but there are some things that you just have to ease into, like yoga or a pair of jeans after your fifth slice of pie. While pie certainly has contributed to distracting me from my blogging goals, I’ve been M.I.A. mainly because I realized I have been falling out of love. Falling out of love with the idea of a Bucket List, that is.

Don’t get me wrong; there are many unforgettable reasons why I fell in love with the Bucket List to begin with. I love that it has pushed me to have new experiences and to try crazy things. I love that it has dared me to escape from my comfort zone and to fight my fears. I love how it made life feel exciting and rich with adventure. But there are are some things that I don’t love about it.

Despite the great strengths of a Bucket List, it has definite drawbacks, the first being that it tends to revolve around the idea of “checking things off”. Sometimes a Bucket List causes you to do something with the underlying temptation of being able to check it off the list–such as standing for eight hours in the world’s most uncomfortable shoes to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower despite your claustrophobia and fear of heights–instead of focusing on the good that comes out of the event itself. Worse yet, the opposite happens, and the Bucket List gives the impression that an activity was completed in order to receive the satisfaction of checking it off. I don’t want to do something nice for someone in order to check it off my list; I want to do something nice for the sake of doing something nice.

And what about the serendipitous things in life? What about the adventures that were unplanned and unexpected? Flying in a helicopter, climbing in a volcano, cutting my own hair, holding an alligator, going sledding on dining trays; these things and many, many more that I have blogged about were in fact completed long before I even wrote a Bucket List or even had the intention of writing one. So if many of the things I have blogged about weren’t even originally on the list, what about the things that are important that never even make it to the list? What about the everyday moments that fill us with the happiness, light, and laughter that we most value in life?

The truth is, at least in my eyes, the Bucket List falls short on all of those fronts. While there are things that I want to do in order to live a good life, none of them come down to a checkbox on a list. While a Bucket List can help motivate me to live big, ultimately it’s not the basis for my life, nor is it what I want as the basis of my blog. But can I be turning my back on a Bucket List lifestyle completely? The answer is no. There are too many things I value about the Bucket List for that to be the case. And while the Bucket List fails to capture the full picture of happiness, it’s still a part of that picture. So this year, I’m simply taking a wider stance.

What can you expect from The Knee Deep Life in 2014? Still some good old Bucket List achievements, but ultimately you can expect a fuller image of adventure, happiness, and life.

May your 2014 be all that you hope for, and may you be Knee Deep in the wonder of it all!

KDL’s year in review as told by pictures:

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