Our guest today is Jen, an Australian artist & writer, currently living in China. I found Jen through her guest post on Tiny Buddha and felt like I found a friend. She could be the boldest blogger I've ever know!
As the author of the blog My Smiling Heart, she shares her inspirations & adventures whilst on her journey to self-discovery, with the hopes of making hearts smile all over the world.
What motivated you to start My Smiling Heart?
I started My Smiling Heart in October 2010. My fiancé & I had been living in China for only 3 months, but in that time I’d had food poisoning more than once, suffered from anxiety attacks, I was unfairly fired from the teaching job I had moved across the world to do, our passports were illegally withheld by the school so that we couldn’t leave, & then I was bed ridden for a month with an unknown illness.
All of these sudden challenges left me in a state of shock. I was weak, miserable & felt like a failure.
But, being sick gave me a lot of time to think. It gave me time to process everything that had happened, & I came to a realisation. I still had another nine months in China, as my fiancé was still under contract with the school.
I had three options:
1. Go home to Australia
2. Stay in China & continue being miserable
3. Stay in China & make the most out of what life had given me
I decided not to go home, because I knew that I would always wonder what I could have achieved had I stayed. I didn’t want to waste any more time feeling sorry for myself, so option number two was out.
I decided to go with number three, & do whatever I could in order to be truly happy again. That included anything from singing along to my favourite music & smiling at myself in the mirror every morning, to studying philosophy online & learning how to speak Mandarin.
But, by far one of the best things I started doing in my quest for happiness was writing. I had no idea how healing it could be. And that’s when I decided to start a blog.
My Smiling Heart started as a way to document my journey as I built myself back up from ruin, but it has grown into so much more. I am always surprised to realise how passionate I am about My Smiling Heart.
I pour my heart into it, & I feel so blessed to know that it helps so many people all over the world.
What’s your advice for people who are stuck and unmotivated?
Try something new. Take that course you always wanted to, go on that adventure you’ve been dreaming of, or just go out & experience nature – go for a walk in a park or take up gardening.
Anything that mixes up your routine. If you’re feeling unmotivated, think of the things that you love to do & find ways to incorporate them into the tasks you are procrastinating about.
For example, I just wrote an essay on Aristotle for my Philosophy class, but it took me weeks to actually sit down & start it. I kept seeing it as a chore, so I kept putting it off.
I didn’t understand why I was so unmotivated – hadn’t I been so excited to learn about philosophy? I wanted to feel excited about it again, so I decided to change the way I thought about it.
Instead of seeing it as another task on my to-do-list, I saw it as another step on my journey to self-discovery. After all, I write about self-development all the time, so learning about Aristotle, one of the go-to guys for happiness, could only improve my life & my writing.
By incorporating something I love (learning about happiness) into something I didn’t want to do (write an essay), not only did I complete the assignment within just a few hours, I learnt so much about happiness – some of which I’ve already started putting into practice!
What’s the quality you like best about yourself?
Over the past few years, I’ve become very self-aware. It’s a quality that I often overlook in myself, but it is vital to living consciously.
True, meaningful growth & happiness requires maintenance. Being aware of how we are feeling, & what we are thinking to create those feelings, then making any necessary changes, are essential to maintaining happiness.
Having self-awareness means I am able to notice when I’m happy, gain a better understanding of myself, acknowledge how far I’ve come from the person I used to be, & fuel my desire to live my best life.
My life would be bolder if____________________.
I’ve thought about this question all day, listing all of the things I could do to live a bolder life.
But then I realised something; boldness isn’t something you do; it’s something you are.
I think if I had more trust in myself & my abilities, spent more time focussing on my inner voice instead of on all the outer voices, & had the courage to be more assertive when needed, then I would be a bolder person, I would make bolder choices, & lead a bolder life.
In order for my life to be bolder, I need to be bolder. That’s something I intend to improve on.
If I knew then what I know now______________.
I wouldn’t change a thing. As hard as it all was, everything happened exactly how it was supposed to, from getting fired to losing all hope. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
What’s your favorite motto, mantra, or quote?
Oh, how I love quotes! I have so many favourites, but one that sums up how I try to live my life is this one by Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Eat, Pray, Love:
"There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with.
I can select what I can read and eat and study. I can choose how I'm going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life – whether I will see them as curses or opportunities.
I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts."
Another quote I live by, especially when it comes to writing, is this:
“The least & most each of us can do is make sure we release something good into the Universe regularly.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
Favorite books on art and creativity?
I don’t really read books on art & creativity that much. But I do read books that inspire me, which then lead me to live a more artistic & creative life.
Books like Goldie Hawn’s A Lotus Grows In The Mud, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, & Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, have all inspired a lot of creativity & change for me.
The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone is another book that has really changed my life; by encouraging me to live more consciously & to be kinder to myself, animals, & the earth.
What is something that no one knows about you?
I love getting older. I love the wisdom & knowledge that comes with age.
I remember watching an episode of Oprah when I was about sixteen, & wishing that I was Oprah’s age, with all of her insight & ‘Aha! Moments’.
I wanted to know as much about myself as she knew about herself. I knew that the kind of wisdom I wanted required years of life experience & self-reflection.
These days, while it still excites me to think of all the amazing moments & achievements that lay ahead of me, I’m in no rush. Right now, I’m just happy living in the moment as much as possible, whilst making countless memories for myself to cherish one day.
What advice would you have for others who are a facing big change and fear?
Breathe, & just go with it. Life is full of times that will require us to overcome our fears, but we are never faced with anything that we can’t handle.
Whatever happens, be kind to yourself, & know that you have a choice. Fear can be a brick wall that keeps you trapped or a stepping stone towards a more fulfilling life.
Change can be a gift or a curse. It’s up to you.
Remember: change leads to growth, & facing fears leads to strength. Go with it.
A big decision I’m currently wrestling with is____?
Lately, it’s not so much a decision that I’ve been wrestling with… it’s more like I’ve been wrestling with myself.
I feel as though I’ve been in a period of transformation for a while now, & I’m starting to reach a point where there’s almost two of me; my old self, my old life; & this new self, that started emerging in my writing & is now entering all aspects of my life.
I know it’s time to let go of the old parts of myself that are no longer serving me, but it’s a process. With each day though, with each piece of writing, & with every ‘Aha! Moment’ of my own, those old parts of me have been falling away, leaving room for new, awesome opportunities & experiences to enter my life & shape who I am.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
In five years time, I would like to have travelled the world more, to have visited some of the places that I’ve always dreamed of visiting – like Rome or New York.
I want to have a career that I’m passionate about, such as writing, art, or something just as creative. I’m marrying my soulmate at the end of this year, so in five years time we will be celebrating our five year anniversary, & hopefully we will have started a little family of our own.
But, mostly I just want to be leading a happy, fulfilling & purposeful life.
If, in five years from now, I am still waking up with a smile on my face & love in my heart, spending time doing what I love, & somehow using my life to inspire others, then I will have succeeded.
Why would we all love to visit China?
There are many reasons to visit China; to witness a nation that is quickly on the rise; experience the culture; admire the architecture; to visit amazing landmarks such as the Great Wall; or to learn about this ancient county’s incredible history.
Being in China, even just for a little while, is a very eye-opening experience. It is a completely different world from what we are used to in the west, especially if you visit places that aren’t necessarily tourist attractions.
Of course, there are some things that take some getting used to, like undrinkable tap water, people spitting everywhere, & getting stared at all the time, but it’s all part of the experience of being in such a different country.
Do you sell your art? Where can we find it?
At the moment I mostly sell my artwork as prints, posters, gift cards, & t-shirts here. I also have some original pieces from my last exhibit available, & I am open to commission work. Feel free to email me at email@example.com for any inquiries.
Please share your thoughts with Jen below!