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When in conversations I encounter the question: "So, Juan Fernando, what is something that really bothers you?" I always have a little mental debate and try to come up with a logical response that includes:
- Asymmetry.
- Suits.
- Politicians.
- Students aspiring to define themselves as politicians. (Well, I was to harsh on this one. Very few of them are cool...)
- The fact that I originally went to college with the idea of studying politics.
- El bendito rodeo que se organiza en Riobamba por las fiestas de Abril.
- Las fiestas de Riobamba en Abril.
- La cerveza caliente en un vaso de plástico.
- Gente caminando con botellas de cerveza por las calles de Riobamba en Abril.
- Yo tomando cerveza caliente en un vaso de plástico en Abril.
- People asking the most vague, boring, and common question they could ever ask: "So, how is your day going?"
- Me asking the most vague, boring, and common question I could ever ask: "So, how is your day going?"
- Wet towels, among others...

As it is challenging to elaborate an objective response that includes all the things that bother me, I often come up with something like this: "Ahmmm, I think what really bothers me is the warm weather; it makes you feel sticky and weird"–of course the weather, it is always about the weather. But this time, if someone was to ask me what was something that really bothered me, I would say: self-help books! 

I hate them! I hate the idea of someone telling me how I could make sense of this bizarre world we live in. Even worse, I hate the idea of someone believing that their magical recipe to live in this bizarre world would also work for me: get more hours of sleep, expand your social circle, make a new friend every day, go for a walk, discover and devote yourself to a hobby, come up with a to-do list, smile, take yoga classes, drink 2 liters of water a day...

Yes, In case you were wondering I DO hate self-help books. But here is the thing: the other day when I was walking around town enjoying my cold and delicious Chai Bubble Tea I happened to pass by a nice looking library, and right when I was about to cross the street in order to go pet a little and fluffy French Poodle that was being walked with a pink flowery leash, my left eye caught something that made me come back to the nice looking library. What was the important thing that was caught by my eye? So important that I even refused to pet a fluffy little mammal? 

It was a book!

It was the simple yet complex and appealing cover of a book that made me and my body finish my delicious drink with tapioca pearls so that I could enter the library and satisfy my curiosity about this set of pages with written and readable signs printed on them. The book was called: "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin and as soon as I read the tittle I knew it would be one of those be-happy-with-my-magical-recipe-for-life book, but just for curiosity I still decided to take a look at it and read the first pages of this nice looking printed work. For some reason, when I first opened the book, this is the first sentence that came to me: "I often learn more from one person's highly idiosyncratic experiences than I do from sources that detail universal principles or cite up-to-date studies" (Rubin, 1) Then, I felt the click with the book and I bought it.

The reasons why I dislike politics mostly have to do with the classes I have taken, the repetitive and biased conversations I have had  regarding hot topics like presidential elections but also the normal-casual chats about why this country or that one is doing better off,  or why this group of people sitting in a room get to make decisions about how much money I have to give away in order to keep this or that country running "effectively" , and of course the fact that democracy–the decision making process in which government actions are largely influenced and legitimized by an imaginary collective voice–does not simply work. The case studies and theories we are often exposed to in class are just so idealized, theoretical, and totally disconnected from this palpable reality that it is challenging for me to see how what we learn in class can be actually applied in a "real life scenario." In fact, I often ask myself for how long the concept of development has been going around, how many development professionals the academia has produced,  and if things have substantially changed in vulnerable communities where all those concepts are to be applied. 

Being that said, the reason why I decided to give this book a chance, is because the author acknowledges that what we all share in common are real, palpable, and true experiences that we go through, and not imaginary concepts that somehow try to strive for an objective meaning in this real world we live in–and to be honest, I am actually enjoying the book. I like the fact that the author shares her experience on a journey to achieve what I consider to be–our main concern as human beings: happiness. What I like even better is that somehow I feel connected to Gretchen; she has a blog, and so do I.

Here are some things that I highlighted from the chapter: Launch a Blog (page 74):

- My blog gave me a source of self-expression.
- I worried about the time and effort a blog would consume, when I already felt press for time and mental energy.
- It would expose me daily to public criticism. 
- The more I did, the more I wanted to do. I wanted to add images, I wanted to drop the word "typepad" out of my URL. I wanted to podcast. I wanted to add live links.
- As I struggled to master these tasks, I felt rushed and anxious when I couldn't figure something out right away.
- I often had to remind myself to "Be Gretchen"
- One of the biggest challenges posed by my blog was the doubt raised by my own inner critic.
   - Was it egocentric to write so much about my own experience?
   - I did not want to be like the novelist who spent so much time rewriting his first sentence the he never wrote his second.
- My blog gave me a new identity, new skills, a new set of colleagues, and a way to connect with people who shared my interest.

Juan Fernando.

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