#30PostsBefore30 Day 5: Trust Your Gut.

Teabag wisdom always delights me.
Teabag wisdom always delights me.

When I was a kid, I didn’t understand what movies, books, and adults meant by the whole phrase, “Trust your gut.” I guess most children take things more literally than figuratively. Within the past 7-8 years though, I have learned what that phrase meant through my own life experiences. Here are a couple highlights demonstrating this phrase:

Never Trust Vague Job Postings

One of my first jobs in San Francisco was working in marketing; however, the job posting had been rather cryptic as to what kind of “marketing” we would be doing. I showed up at the office for my interview and I was surprised how quickly they hired me considering my lack of experience at that point (just fresh out of undergrad).

I arrived the following day dressed up and ready to start my work “in the field”. I had no idea what they meant by this, but I liked the mentor I had since she was so enthusiastic about the job. Once we hopped into cars and left the office, though, I quickly discovered what they meant: door-to-door sales. We were selling cable to residences in San Mateo, which wasn’t too bad at first, but we ended up scouting a few sketchy neighborhoods. I felt this gnawing feeling in the bottom of my stomach as we approached each door, wondering if we were going to be safe in our work. Luckily that day ended ok and I went home, still with that gnawing feeling in my stomach but feeling happy that I completed my first day of the new job.

The next day, though, was different: I shadowed another mentor and this time, we stayed within San Francisco and were selling office supplies to all the different businesses downtown. This second mentor was more sarcastic and unamused with her work, and I felt more pain in my stomach as we approached each new office and got rejected or threatened by the administrative assistants. By the end of the day, my stomach hurt so much and I wasn’t sure if I could go out another day doing this kind of work.

So, I emailed them and quit.

Give the Benefit of the Doubt until Your Gut Tells You Otherwise

In my history of crushes, I have been lied to, manipulated, etc. But every time a new crush came along, I kept reminding myself, “Stop projecting the past crushes onto this current crush. He is NOT like them!”

I reminded myself this thought many times when I first started dating my ex: sometimes he wouldn’t answer my texts right away, or he would get defensive about me “texting too much” (even though he texted me a lot at other times anyway). Sometimes a strange text would come through where I wondered, “Was that meant for another woman?” At those times, I felt that pain in my stomach again, but I cried myself out of that pain, telling myself, “TRUST HIM! HE IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER ONES!”

Needless to say, I should have listened to my gut all along, because he was seeing other women besides me; even though he told me many times that I was his only one, he had articles of female clothing at his place that did not belong to me. More strange texts came through during the time we dated, and finally, when I moved out of San Francisco abruptly for personal health reasons, I had to face the truth that he was, indeed, a liar and a cheater. He even had the audacity to tell one of my cousins that he was single (when I was under the impression that we were still in a relationship).


In hindsight, I shake my head at my past self for not seeing all the warning signs and following my gut, but I also understand that I had to go through that experience (and the door-to-door sales experience) to learn and grow from. I would be a very different person today if I hadn’t gone through these two experiences and really learned the meaning of “Trust Your Gut”.


#30PostsBefore30 Day 4: 3 Months of Yoga

On my 30 Things Before 30 list, I wrote that I wanted to commit to three months of yoga; after the three months, I would then decide whether I’d stay with the routine or move on to another activity.

Image credit to arztsamui at
Image credit to arztsamui at

In late 2013, I needed something to stay consistent in my life since many other aspects of my life were in flux. I decided to register for a membership at Kindness Yoga, a great local studio here in Denver. My friend Cassie had already been a member for several months and invited me to try out a class with her. Then, I tried out several types of classes over the course of a week since I had a free trial.

I liked what I saw from the classes, so I signed up for a recurring monthly membership. I made out my schedule to include five sessions of yoga classes each week. I gravitated towards several instructors who had great overall instruction, combining both the physical and the spiritual aspects of yoga in our classes.

When I began my classes, I admit I was quite self-conscious due to my body shape and the fact that I hadn’t been so physically active prior to joining the studio. At Kindness Yoga, though, I noticed that the instructors practiced what they preached: they were accepting of all body types and the instructors were patient to teach variations of different poses for those who needed easier/more difficult poses to practice. By the end of about a week of classes, I found myself letting go of that self-conscious feeling as I became more comfortable with the environment, the atmosphere, and the attitude of my fellow classmates.

I found myself more at peace and much more flexible after practicing yoga for three months straight. It became the highlight of my day, especially when daily stresses got to me. I always left class feeling relaxed and in a better mindset.

I currently have not practiced yoga in over a year now, mainly due to focusing on getting back into running shape and other priorities popping up. However, I do hope to get back into a yoga studio again soon since yoga does do me some good in my spiritual, emotional, and physical self.



#30PostsBefore30 Day 3: Resilience is My Biggest Strength

Group photo near the beginning of today's walk.
Group photo near the beginning of today’s walk.

I wanted to start off 2015 with a Walk2Connect long walk since I hadn’t been on a long-distance walk in awhile and also because I hadn’t seen my friend Jonathon (owner of Walk2Connect) in quite a long time. When I had originally signed up for the walk, I brushed off the disclaimer that the weather might be wintry. I also didn’t let the fact that the trip was twelve miles bother me since Ryan and I had done many long walks together last year.

Frozen Standley Lake in Westminster, Colorado. Shot taken by Ryan.
Frozen Standley Lake in Westminster, Colorado. Shot taken by Ryan.

The weather in Denver has been snowy and cold for the past week, so we walked mostly on packed snow/icy patches today. We also did not anticipate there being any snow forecast for the day, but snow fell hard toward the end of our walk. The whole time during our walk, Jonathon checked to make sure I was ok, since I had attempted a nine mile walk a couple years ago with Walk2Connect and had to quit early due to back injuries.

However, today I powered through the walk and was fine up until the last stretch: let me tell you, walking over twelve miles in the snow is quite a feat for most people, but it was a bigger feat for me even more so due to my history of long-distance walks and that even though it looked like I was going to give up any moment, I never did (not even at the end–I was forced to stop my walk early because Jonathon was afraid of me catching frostbite and hurting myself). Later, Ryan told me that Jonathon and the other walkers were impressed with how I did not give up at all, that I was determined to finish the course.

Trooping along the 12-mile walk. Photo by Ryan.
Trooping along the 12-mile walk. Photo by Ryan.

Hours have passed since the walk today, and I’m reminded of one thing that others have always noticed and respected in me (and that I only realize for myself right now): one of my biggest strengths is resilience. There have been many setbacks in my life these past five years, and not once did any of these cause for me to throw in the towel and give up–not even the time I nearly died on my birthday.

After reflecting upon today’s walk, I also remembered another time from 2011: I was participating in the University of Denver’s MBA retreat and during the last day of our weekend, we had to complete a mission as a team, which included a lot of hiking and rock-climbing. I was repelling down one part of the obstacle course, and I made the mistake of looking down and seeing how high up I was (I have a fear of heights, despite enjoying activities such as roller coasters, sky-diving, and even hot air balloon rides). I immediately freaked out and started crying, afraid that I was going to fall to my death or seriously injure myself. My classmates watched my meltdown as the instructor tried to calm me down and tell he was not going to let go of the rope.

Something inside of me stirred and suddenly, I snapped out of my meltdown and calmly repelled myself down the rock as if nothing had happened. Right afterwards, one of my classmates walked up to me and said, “Helene, that was amazing to watch: the transformation that just happened before our eyes! You are a strong person.”

What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, and I am glad I have resilience on my side.


#30PostsBefore30 Day 2: A Hot Air Balloon Ride

Sprinkled throughout this #30PostsBefore30 series will be recaps of some items I had completed from my 30 Before 30 List. I don’t remember when I started my list, but it evolved over the last several years. I didn’t complete all 30 items, so that’s why I will only write about the items that I did complete.

One of the many photos I took before I hopped into the hot air balloon.
One of the many photos I took before I hopped into the hot air balloon.

When I put on my list “Go on a hot air balloon ride,” I was not sure how I was going to accomplish this goal. Who was I going to go with and how much would it cost?

Luckily for me, in 2013 the Yelp! Denver staff arranged for a lucky few Yelp! Elite members to have the chance to take complimentary hot air balloon rides. I invited along my friend Davina and we headed up to Boulder early one morning.

Breakfast was served before we hopped into our balloon: there were only about 4 other people who were in our balloon. It was a clear morning and we had a great view all around us. There were two other hot air balloons (through different companies), but we were the first one to set sail.

Beautiful clear skies and clear waters.
Beautiful clear skies and clear waters.

I felt still and peaceful as we floated above the land to our destination stop. After we landed, we took a shuttle back to the starting site and enjoyed mimosas for a safe ride.

I’d love to be able to go on a hot air balloon ride again, and it’s good to know that I can reserve a ride easily up in Boulder.


#30PostsBefore30 Introduction & Post One: There Are Many Paths in Life.

Starting off 2015 with this wonderful quote by Robin Williams.
Starting off 2015 with this wonderful quote by Robin Williams.

I meant to do a year in review post yesterday, NYE 2014, but the day got away from me. I figure though, with this month being my birthday month (January 31st is my 30th birthday), I’ll be doing quite a bit of reflection anyway. So, here we go.

I came up with this idea last month before the holiday frenzy and was also inspired by Erika Napoletano’s Hard Truths series during December since her birthday was last month (she turned 42). Although some of my post themes may be similar to what she has written, we clearly both have different life experiences to share about.

With that being said, here’s post 1:

There Are Many Paths in Life

Throughout the past 29+ years of my life, I have learned that there is no hard-set path for anyone in life: growing up, I remember thinking that my life would essentially boil down to this path:

  • Finish high school
  • Go to college for four years
  • Find a job
  • Meet my husband
  • Get married
  • Have kids
  • Happily ever after

I have always been a planner, planning out my life the way I wanted it to be; I thought I had everything figured out in terms of post-secondary education during my junior year. I was very passionate about playing trumpet and was devoted to attending college for music education.

Then, things changed: my oldest sister was to be married the summer of 2002, and I was excited for the wedding. I had also applied to be a part of the Japanese Language Academy (JLA) (part of the Virginia Governor’s School summer program for rising juniors/seniors), and was accepted into the program. The catch: I could not attend my oldest sister’s wedding if I were to choose JLA and vice versa. I had to stay at JLA for the whole three weeks or forfeit my spot.

I was saddened by this news and remember crying to my sister about this. Her answer? “Go to JLA; you will NEVER have that chance again.” “But…I’ll never have the chance again to attend your wedding!” I was stunned that my sister would respond this way; after all, wasn’t it more important to attend her wedding than to go to something like JLA, where I knew nobody?

Well, I went to JLA and indeed, that experience changed the trajectory of my life: I fell in love with the Japanese language and culture and met one of my best friends, Bradley, there. The experience opened up my world to life outside of my hometown, Radford. This experience led me to study more Japanese in college and even to study abroad for a semester in Tokyo, Japan, in 2006.

In hindsight, I understand what my sister meant by her reasoning: although I will never be able to attend her wedding, I have been able to enjoy many memories with her, her husband of 10+ years and her two sons. I even spent a whole summer with my sister in 2004 taking care of her oldest son as a ways of “making up” for the absence from the wedding.

There have been many other moments like this in my life since then, but none have been as powerful as that summer of 2002. If I hadn’t attended JLA, I don’t know where I would be right now with my life.