Spend money as a vote for the future you want, lean into your weirdness, and create with intention.

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Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash

Like many of you, I learned a lot about myself during COVID-19. Our relationship with the world changed. We grew more in one year than we had in the previous five.

Without the constant distractions of socializing, planning for future adventures, and being swept up in the daily grind, life forced me to confront my worst enemy — myself.

I freaked out back in March, wondering if we would end up in a horror movie-style global collapse. I felt angry that my plans suddenly vanished into ash. …

I turned 27 on Monday, here’s what I’ve learned so far.

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That’s me!

Let’s jump right into it.

1. You’ll never figure “life” out.

As a kid, I always dreamed that one day, I’d “get it”. When I was finally a legitimate adult, I’d understand life. Surely the answers existed somewhere!

Someone must know the objectively best way to live life.


Every day, I stray further from God. I tried learning about Ethics and Philosophy in university for 4 years to figure it out. I read hundreds of books over the last 27 years in vain.

No answers. Just more questions.

And that’s ok.

2. Gratitude is the key.

The easiest way to have a good day is to start off being thankful…

Making mistakes is an important part of the learning process.

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Illustration by Katherine Wong

As an English teacher, I have students from all over the world. Some students are about to start college or university in Canada. Others are in their 20s and 30s hoping to learn English to advance their careers and unlock new opportunities.

I’m lucky to help my students achieve their dreams.

Through my teaching career, I’ve seen students struggle with learning a new language. I’ve also seen other students level up quickly and enjoy the process.

I get it. I’ve always hated learning languages in school. I thought it was boring, and none of it was real or relevant to…

Jay Shetty’s #1 New York Times Bestseller, “Think Like a Monk” wasn’t what I expected.

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Image Source

I thought Jay’s book would change my life.

Jay is one of the most viral content creators on the planet — On Purpose is the world’s #1 Health Podcast, and he’s got 7 billion YouTube views. I thought his book would teach me secret monk-techniques to live successfully and mindfully in today’s chaotic society. While the book is full of golden snippets, my three takeaways were unexpected.

Wherever you are in your life, you can live with purpose, and you don’t need to become a monk to do it.

Monks Have the Same Problems We Do, Just Monk-ified

I grew up adoring Paolo Coelho’s books on self-actualization and adventure-spirituality…

No more idols — You’re ready.

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Photo by tabitha turner on Unsplash

I’m worried I’m a secret loser.

I look self-assured on the surface. I dance for no reason, and I speak publicly for a living. I masquerade as an independent thinker. Deep down, I’m terrified.

I always need to read one more article because I’m scared to contribute with my own writing.

You do it too, don’t you?

Being book-smart is easy. Follow the rules, keep track of what others say, and regurgitate them in new words. Isn’t that what we learned in school? Remix.

As the adage says,

“Stealing from one person is plagiarism. Stealing from many is research.”


How I used podcasts to learn conversational Spanish and Portuguese before travelling to Colombia and Brazil.

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Illustration: Katherine Wong

Shakira was my first crush.

I blushed every time I saw the “Whenever, Whenever” music video. I never imagined you could move like that.

Thanks to Shakira, visiting South America was my childhood dream.

Colombia seemed so far away. I lived in Asia for 18 years, wondering what sort of magical place South America might be.

The Call to Adventure

Fast forward to 2018 — I’m an English teacher in Toronto, with students from all around the world.

My classes were always a unique mix, but I’ve never had a class without a Colombian or Brazilian student.

From my attendance lists, I became familiar…

Working from home means more sitting, more hip tightness, and more hip pain, but it doesn’t have to be.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

My hips hate the Zoom life.

Before COVID19, I walked to work and stood all day.

As an English teacher, I would pace across the whiteboard, arrange students into groups, and launch impromptu Salsa dance breaks when my students fell asleep.

After COVID19, I’m always sitting.

You can see the butt imprints on my chair.

7 months of Zoom classes, and I’m practically a potato. I’ve aged decades. My hips crack when I lift my legs. My right side and lower back are in constant pain. I can’t roll my waist without hurting every time I hit 5 o'clock.


I used to lie awake in bed for hours. Last night I fell asleep in ten minutes.

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Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

I tossed and turned in bed for 6 hours this Sunday. I fell asleep at around 5:14 AM and had to wake up soon for work.

I knew exactly how to fall asleep, yet I made every mistake in the book.

  • I drank HK milk tea (caffeine) at 9 PM, even though I knew that caffeine has a half-life of up to 5 hours.
  • I watched Netflix and YouTube videos on my bed before I went to sleep, overstimulating my senses.
  • I couldn’t stop thinking about the upcoming week. My brain wouldn’t shut up.
  • I started worrying about not being…

It’s nothing like what I dreamed of.

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Photo by Daniel Novykov on Unsplash

I always thought adults had superpowers.

I could play computer games at all hours. I didn’t have have to go to school. I could buy any snack I wanted without asking mom. I could hang out with all my friends and nobody could tell me otherwise.

While working during university, I realized my mistake.

Being an adult sucks.

My free trial of life has expired.

Instead of mom magically whisking food out of thin air, I now have to go out, buy groceries, and prepare them myself.

I’m at the cashier, sweating profusely as I try to bag my groceries…

I’m scared every day, but my fear reminds me — I’m ready.

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Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Back in high school, I used to play Eminem’s Lose Yourself before every presentation. I would sit on a school toilet, lock the door, and blast the song repeatedly until I felt ready to face the audience.

My stomach was a washing machine. Public speaking terrified me.

I would walk back to class shaking like a leaf.

“Yo His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin’ What he wrote down, the whole…

JJ Wong

English teacher, language lover, and dancer. I write about learning languages, dance, and personal growth. http://jjwong.net I IG: thejjwong

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