Many years ago, I was chatting with an old college friend and he confided that he always felt like one of the keys to a perfect life was eluding him.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“Well, there are four pillars, so to speak, what you need in order to be happy or feel complete. There’s work, home, friends and family, and a romantic relationship.”


“So I might be in a great relationship, have plenty of friends, and a great apt, but my job sucks.”

I started laughing.

“Sometimes you get two out of four, or you get close and have three out of four, but I’ve never had four out of four.”

Last year was a one out of four.

To be fair, sometimes getting three of out of four is fine. In fact, it might be what you need. For example, maybe you don’t need a romantic relationship, or friends and family are a distraction right now as you are going through a deep change, or you’re working hard on a project. So I understand what he was saying, and I realize your four might be different than his four.


One of the big changes I’m experiencing is teaching older students. [Rayong, Thailand, 2019]
Being content, feeling fulfilled, and appreciated at the job is HUGE. I’ve had so many jobs that one of the books I hope to write one day will be about work. And the more I’ve moved around and seen of this joint (pulls up imaginary belt buckle), the more I understand how much work is a relationship. Each place has its own culture too, its own set of rules spoken and unspoken.

And when you’re the constant newbie, the outsider, you peek in from a different perspective. You also get to see what people consider “normal” behavior and practices because “this is the way we’ve always done things.” Every workplace is also dysfunctional! Or if it’s not dysfunctional, you’re like, okay, what’s wrong with this place? When’s it going to happen?

It’s too soon to tell how much my work environment is going to improve, but so far, it looks promising.


Would you like to take a cool dip in the pool? [Rayong, Thailand, 2019]
When we moved to Chiang Rai a friend had found a place for us to crash. I wasn’t entirely happy with the place, but I was grateful. Then when we decided we were going to leave town, we stopped looking for a better apartment.

When we came out to Rayong on a scouting trip, I was optimistic we would find an apartment due to the sheer amount of choices I saw online. But I became discouraged after a very hot day of walking around. Then it happened. We got into the same apt our friend was at! We put down a small deposit and they held it for a couple of months.

I can’t tell you the stress it takes off when you are moving to a new town. We were ecstatic. It was pretty much what we envisioned as well – swimming pool, gym, close to work and shopping, clean and safe.

Rayong is not nearly as green or small as CR. It’s a business hub outside of Bangkok so people come from different parts of the country. In other words, folks are here to work. I rather like that even if it’s a concrete jungle. And Rayong has certainly made up for it with the number of shopping centers. As they say about Asia, shopping here is a full-contact sport.

To be clear, I’m not saying it’s perfect, and I realize my new life here is at the beginning. Yet something that I’ve come to recognize is what’s a good fit for me may not be for you, and vice versa. Some folks were trying to make me second-guess my decision to move here. But I laughed it off, you can too.


We’re by the sea, so there’s a lot of fish here! [Rayong, Thailand, 2019]
I haven’t had a proper social life since I left Chiang Mai back in 2013. After the first few years of being an expat wore off, once I was in a long term relationship, and after I decided to focus on writing, being social wasn’t a priority.

This isn’t to say I never go out because I do. It’s just I’m more a homebody than anything else. I’ve never been a big partier. But I’m good about keeping in touch. I’m also the kind of gal who likes to have a close friend or two, and we do stuff that isn’t centered on drinking or going to the clubs.

Part of the problem is I’m quite comfortable doing my own thing. I don’t mind being alone. I like reading in bed. I attribute this to spending a good chunk of my preteen years living in a desolate town with nobody to play with and nothing to do. And I’ve definitely experienced dry spells of singlehood in which I’ve learned (the hard way) to be an independent woman while wondering when Mr. Darcy would show up. (He never did, instead, I got Mr. Bean. Sometimes you think you know what you want, but…)


Cooking! Trying new recipes and loving having a kitchen again.

If I could add another key element to happiness, it would be your health. I feel incredibly blessed that I’ve never had any major health problems. (knock on wood!) I have a cyst on the back of my neck that appeared during my first year away at college, but it’s nothing. In my twenties, I had a breast cancer scare, so I know what it’s like to have a mammogram and go through that. UGH. The doctor found a lump in my left breast, but I tried to tell him, “No, that is my breast.” And sure, I’ve had my broken bones, stitches, and wisdom teeth removed, but all in all, I’ve been lucky.

When we lived in CR, my only form of exercise was walking which was better than nothing, but not good enough. Now, we swim, go to the gym, walk, and just as importantly I can cook healthy meals for us in our kitchen. Health is a huge priority. I wish I had made it so ever earlier in life because like most people my health nut phases have been spotty.

Priorities for this year are (in no particular order):

  • The blog – Last year, I was getting my memoir finished, so everything else was put on the back burner. But this year, I’m putting the memoir away because I’m sick of it and I need to restructure a few things. The blog, however, is really for me, and as I venture more into the world of writing, I’m realizing how important it is to have a place for me to connect and create without the gatekeepers.
  • Short fiction stories – current writing obsession. I’m enjoying playing with my own ideas, but also getting inspiration from writing prompts and contests. I feel like there’s a massive learning curve for me, but at the same time, the feedback so far is I have the basic bones down, just need to continue to work on the flavor of the stew.
  • Getting back in shape. Some of my dresses are tight around the sleeves. Seriously. I have wings. Nothing like a handful of arm fat to get you back in the gym!
  • Having a more relaxed attitude towards everything. For some reason, I was chill during our move and our transition. I found myself saying “Everything’s going to be okay” more often. I’d like to keep this up.

Happy Chinese New Year! What are your priorities for 2019?

25 replies on “✍🏼 Looking back to move forward: What changes will you make this year?

  1. I like the four pillar energy your friend told you about. Sounds like for many of us it is hard to hit all four pillars at once. So agree with you what’s a good fit for you may not be a good fit for me. For instance, I don’t think I could live a life moving as much as you do. I probably could, though, but I probably wouldn’t like it since I like familiarity (that Taurus trait).
    ‘wondering when Mr. Darcy would show up. (He never did, instead, I got Mr. Bean)’ LOL. This is a good analogy for life. You want something, often you get something else. A lot of the time you just don’t see things coming.
    Health is such an important thing. I do hope to take better care of my health, maybe should start taking those vitamins I’ve been prescribed, getting up and exercising more since some of my shorts don’t fit very well now 😛 Maybe your dress sleeves shrunk in the wash.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the washing machine is to blame for my age and eating habits. Hahahahahaha.

      Hey, don’t forget I’m a Taurus too! I’d love to not move as often as I do, but life has thrown me a few curve balls and I have to go with the flow. According to Chinese astrology, I’m a water bull, so I guess, I’m the most fluid of the bulls 😉

      But I truly believe that being flexible is probably one of the most important traits to have in this day and age. No guarantees and learning to adapt and adjust is not an option anymore.


      1. Of course I remember you as a Taurus, Lani. My Taurus twinnie 😛 Maybe you really are a fluid one and learned how to roll with the punches. Being flexible wears me down lol 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I want to see and read more about your apartment in Rayong (btw never heard of the place before this blog — well done on creating more awareness on Thailand!).

    I am also a homebody and completely get being in a long term relationship and focusing on writing/solo-hobbies. I made a reminder to socialize at least twice a month bc even as an introvert I believe meeting friends f2f feeds the soul.

    Blogging is also one of my priorities this year. I want to create better content and develop meaningful connection with the readers. I also have yoga, adventures and horror movies on my list.

    All the best to our priorities/goals/NY resolutions!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kal! Yes, I plan on writing more about being in Rayong/Central Thailand because all my experience has been up North, and I think the regional differences are interesting so far.

      I should prioritize being social. I really really should. It’s too comfortable to do my own thing though!

      Hope you have a yoga horror adventure fueled year 😛


  3. I’ve heard so many variations of this I think it’s really just whatever one you want to pick. There’s the level 10 life – ten areas and ten levels of satisfaction – that I use because I’m a planning and self improvement junkie and like having that many options…but it’s whatever works.

    Whichever option, I do think it’s really important to get clear on where you’re at in each one and make goals for them. It helps keep you rounded, as opposed to those folks who only focus on work goals or relationship goals and skip all the other stuff.

    Also, I’m really excited to hear you’re doing short stories! *steeples fingers* Do share!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I did a quick search on ‘pillars of happiness’ and immediately got out. There are so many variations to this, but what my friend shared stuck with me because it’s so simple.

      You’re a lot like me or I’m a lot like you (which we knew!) but specifically in the self-help junkie department. There were times when I wondered if I was simply recycling the same ‘ol messages and does this crap really work? But I feel more optimistic in general, and like I have tools in my toolkit that I didn’t have before.

      I also think it lowers your BS threshold, so you get out of toxic situations quicker. To others it will look like you don’t know what you are doing, but you do –

      I’m not sure what to do with the short stories yet except try to find a home for them – and that takes so much time and effort. I’m discovering I’m more of a YA writer because I don’t like to go too dark and negative…I don’t know!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the 4 pillars idea. So love to have all 4 – but work sucks. Yes, I know money isn’t everything. But it pays for me and Mrs T to come to Thailand twice a year, to buy some land in our favourite little thai resort and not to worry about bills. One day (hopefully soon) – I can retire, spend 50% of my time in Thailand and 50% in the UK. And until that time i guess i’ll just have to dream about the next holiday

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, they say if you have something to look forward to it helps you to be happier.

      Yeah, I should think about retirement. My life though has been too much over there and over here to establish any plan. I have ideas, possibilities, but I feel like my retirement plan has to involve flexibility because of the world I live in.

      Sorry about work. I know how that is. Maybe taking something to look forward to on a daily basis and doing something small for another to make them happy can help you navigate the days…Good luck!


  5. I love the analogy about having a few out of four which makes life bearable. Too often people want to pretend that they have 4 out of 4 or kill themselves striving for 4 out of 4 that they forget to enjoy the journey towards that goal!. This year I have 3 out of 4 for now with work being the only blip on my horizon but I am grateful for perfection in the other areas while I figure out how to fix my work situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a great attitude you have. I think we all suffer from ‘I want it now’ and forget that our stories are not finished yet, and that we are a work in progress. We also seem to have a hard time looking down the road and knowing that we can change our circumstances and our worst perceived outcomes.

      You’re not alone when it comes to work! It feels incredibly challenging (WHY???) to find a good work environment. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Happy Chinese New Year, Lani! This year I would like to learn some new skills (from coding to making my own bread) but let’s be realistic, I don’t think I will be able to do much with the baby xD At least I started socializing more… I’m going to weekly mum meetings and this is a huge thing, considering I’ve been here for 7 years and I basically don’t know anyone!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. Yes, having kids forces you to be more social with people coming up to the child to mommy meet ups. Happy to hear it. xxoo


  7. It sounds like you’ve had a good attitude during your move. A swimming pool, fresh fish … not part of the big four, but nice to have. I hope you’ll come to enjoy your older students.

    I find that as I get older, I’m more content with what I have, whether I have all four pillars or just 2 or 3.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s about working with what you have and being grateful. I think the tricky part for some is deciding when to reach for more and when to be happy with what they have.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I agree. There’s a time for everything, and one’s age makes a lot of difference.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Sounds like things are on the upswing! The new place also sounds great–having a pool must be important for you, especially since it’s your new sport.

    I like your very simple goals, especially the one about relaxing. It’s easy to get anxious about every little thing–sometimes we just need to kick back and not give an F.

    And amen to more writing. I’ll work on this goal with you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent. Yeah, I really liked swimming when we were in Siem Reap. And now, there are no excuses when you look out at the pool everyday. Hahahahaha.


  9. Hi Lani. Hey, can I ask you a question? You mention your short fiction and getting inspiration from prompts and contests. Could you tell me a little more about that? Where do those prompts and contests come from? And the feedback? What’s the deal with that?

    BTW, are we going to get a chance to read any of your short fiction? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ll send you a detailed message! I supposed when I get published in one of these fancy publications, I’ll share them. But I do need feedback that isn’t from the BF. 555+


  10. I haven’t thought about what I want this year for the next 11 months.
    I just hope for good health, a job and my loved ones alive.
    Glad to hear you like your home apt. Sounds like a place to chill out often.

    Liked by 1 person

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