Value is arbitrary

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I’ve been having some fascinating conversations this week about what makes something valuable. I personally believe that value is a human construct – nothing inherently has value or not, but we assign meaning to each component of our lives. Of course, with people being as different as they are, this means that everything’s value can be interpreted vastly differently.

Granted, it’s not completely arbitrary and certain things are valued for their usefulness. However, we also have such different opinions on how important uses are that the prescribed value of anything could vacillate tremendously. I mean, just look at the stock market and VC funding.

This even extends to less tangible things like relationships and experiences. We each choose to put more or less value on the people in our lives and the activities we choose to do. Someone who sees a relationship as highly valuable will be more willing to invest energy into it. Someone who treasures certain experiences would be willing to spend more time and money on it.

This can be rather tenuous – the moment we change our minds about the worth of something, it shifts our world view. Just like that, we can stop caring and pay absolutely no heed to what was once a priority. We’re really just living in a world where people generally agree to certain standards. But at any point, that could all come crashing down on us if we stop believing in the worth of whatever it is that props it all up.

The world is what we make it to be…

Second year

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School is back in session and I have yet to get into the swing of things. I still need to get course readers and other materials for class! It’s so surreal to be returning as a second year now, with half of my MBA career behind me. Bright new faces are in the midst of tackling the toughest part of the program while I’m getting the opportunity to reconnect with my classmates after a summer apart.

I’m going to cherish this year and everything it brings, because no part of my life will ever be like it again. I want to take advantage of the opportunity to have so many friends nearby and on a similar schedule. We’ve talked about hanging out and going on trips and basically enjoying each others’ company. I want to get a group together for skydiving, a Yosemite trip, a visit to Iceland, and so much more.

I’ll also be looking to establish strong relationships with the first years and accomplish some things through the clubs I’m involved with. The classes I’m taking are interesting for both personal and professional development, so I’m looking forward to that. Plus, it’s so fun to have class with people you love to be around. I really hope these are friendships that are going to last me a lifetime. I know some of them certainly are incredible and I look forward to seeing where the future takes us all. For now, I’m just trying to remember what it means to be a student because all I want to do is be an MBA! 😉

Moving On

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I’ve been planning to move up to NorCal to work at Cisco after graduating ever since I got the internship offer back in October. After working there this summer, I got back this week and learned that they decided not to extend me a full-time offer. So now that I’m a free agent looking for a job upon graduation, I’ve got a lot of options to consider.

Where do I want to live? What type of companies do I want to apply for? Should I keep looking for a rotational program?

It’s strange, having the ground shift underneath your feet. I feel like I’ve been sent into a freefall and a new world is opening up below me. It’s a brand new universe that I get to create as I fall into it, and right now I’m not sure what I want it to look like. So here I am, considering what I want it to be.

While I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the offer, I’ve never shied away from a world of opportunity, so I’m leaning in to the exciting possibilities that re-recruiting will offer me. We’ll see where I land!

Whoa

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It's my 3-year wedding anniversary and my summer internship is nearly over. Soon I'll be back in LA to start my second year at Marshall and earn that MBA.

Swoosh.

It's a feeling of loss and confusion. I've dreamt of going to b-school since I was 13 and now here I am, staring at the precipice of my goals. Some may call me foolish. "An MBA is a means to an end, not the end itself," they'd say.

Maybe.

But to me, it was a dream, a goal, an end. And it certainly marks a very treasured stage of my life. I've always been about doing things for the experience and this one is half over. I'll never get it again.

Sure, I'll go do great things with my career. I'll find joy in other experiences. Yet there's a melancholy that haunts me. Have I had a dream longer than this one? I held it for 17 long years, never wavering.

What's my new north star? What will guide me for the next two decades?? A career goal? A personal goal?

I'm excited to get back to school and my classmates. I'll cherish this year, yet every day may hurt just a little as it brings us closer to the end of this era. I hope to make the most of it, so I have the best memories to keep.

Sometimes I wish I could rewind life. Do I have to keep marching on?

Dusk

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dusk over hills with cloudsAs the sun waves its last goodbye

And disappears over the hills

The brilliant colors fade to pastels

Dusk

 

 

The temperature cools

Fireflies come out

And there’s a certain beauty

A little bit of magic in the air

 

A hectic day gives way to a quiet evening

It’s the tranquility I seek

I feel so serene, so calm

As peace washes over my heart

 

In that moment, it’s all I need

Dusk.

That girl with purple hair

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As a treat to myself for a job well done presenting to a VP and to celebrate the holiday weekend, I finally tried purple hair a week ago. I’ve gotten highlights and streaks of color before, but never done my full head. I was inspired by a co-worker who has dark purple hair, which is quite subtle. Mine came out brighter than I wanted, but I’ve grown into it and quite like it. In fact, I often forget my hair looks like this now. What do you think?

Before…

After!

Kitty lovin’

Celebrating the 4th with very patriotic purple.

Glowing purple.

First day at work like this!

I then spent a day exploring Lands End in all my hues. 🙂

And finally, I managed to match the tables at an MBA mixer BBQ. >.<

Fast that food

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I’ve been up in NorCal for nearly six weeks and today was the first time it occurred to me that I could eat fast food. Ever since coming up here, I’ve been trying all sorts of local restaurants (mainly Asian cuisine) and pigging out on boba. Somehow along the way, chain restaurants fell off the radar.

As I was trying to figure out what to eat tonight, I wanted something that wouldn’t be much effort. Enter fast food. The realization that I didn’t have to decide between Chinese or Vietnamese was like a revelation. I’d completely forgotten to even consider other options. 

So I took the easy way out and got McDonald’s. But sadly enough, it didn’t fill me up!! I’m still craving boba. ? I’ve now broken my unintentional fast from fast food. I don’t plan on using that backup often but at least it’s in my back pocket again. ?

Celebrating a most excellent day

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What a wonderful day it turned out to be. I woke up a little anxious because I had a lot on my plate, including my first presentation to a VP at work. I took it one step at a time though, and make it through a crazy day with some great wins.

I started the morning working in a small team on survey questions for a group intern project before doing a run-through of the presentation with a colleague in Engineering HR. I then had to focus on other aspects of the group project (an interview guide) and then it was time to go volunteer at a Party on the Patio event. There happened to be an intern expo happening in the same area, so I swung by and was able to get a really nice leather notebook! That made me happy.

Then while volunteering, we biked to blend smoothies, handed out patriotic bead necklaces, and encouraged people to enter the raffles. I met some cool people and the time felt nice and long, giving me a mental break from everything else. I earned a free t-shirt and lunch for my time, which was nice.

I geared up for work again, returning to my building and meeting about some data around diversity. I met with my Eng HR buddy again to go through the presentation again and it was really coming together at that point. We took a break to listen to Bryan Cranston (some famous dude you may know) talk to Chuck Robbins (our CEO) for the closing keynote of CiscoLive! out in Vegas. Another colleague in Eng HR had put together a viewing party complete with cake, milk, popcorn, and other snacks! Nom.

I left that party early to get into gear for my meeting with the VP, which started a little late and with a slightly frazzled audience. She had just wrapped up another meeting that didn’t seem to leave her in the best of moods. Luckily, the presentation went off without a hitch and she really liked it, with just minor comments and a great dialogue around what the intention and purpose of our work was. I was happy to hear her say she ended up in a much better mood after our meeting. 🙂 My team was incredible in getting me prepared for such a successful meeting!

On a high, I went to chat with one of the advisors we have who has been through our internship and the rotation program. She and I had a great conversation before I returned to the intern area and began to prep for my evening interview. I had signed up to conduct the very first interview we’d use for the group intern project. I tested out the technology with some colleagues, worked out some kinks, and then got ready for the conversation. My interviewee was in China and such a fun, vibrant woman! I had a lot of fun talking with her and I think it was wonderful content.

I was pretty drained by the end of the day, having been at the office nearly 12 hours. I got home to rest and was about to go to bed when my host texted to chat. He and I ended up discussing the terms for the rest of my stay and I’ll be moving to a new location this weekend! I’m absolutely pooped now but I wanted to remember this day when I got in quite a few wins. The past two weeks have been intense and I’m looking forward to a slightly slower pace through next week as everyone peaces out for the holiday weekend.

And now I’d like to go pass out, thank you very much. I’ll reward myself by trying to sleep in a bit tomorrow.

Identity crisis

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I never expected my 30s to bring about a re-evaluation of my life. My last manager had said that was the decade where you settle in to your life and get comfortable with yourself. And so I thought it would be – go get my MBA, get into my new career in HR, and build that family.

PC: Tamir Elterman

Generally, it was going to plan like that… until I went to Israel for spring break. That trip gave me the opportunity to get back in touch my adventurous, quirky, unconventional spirit. Somewhere along the way, I put that away and didn’t think about it. But then as I got the opportunity to traipse around and take cool photos, dance on chairs, hug and love my classmates, and use my body for fun poses, a part of my past was unlocked.

I’ve always had an inclination towards more masculine things. I liked the idea of being different and unexpected. I also like feeling strong, so a lot of the activities I gravitate towards make me feel powerful (butterfly stroke, weight training, long and triple jump). I’m much better with a burst of energy than anything requiring endurance. I also moved around a lot and never quite fit in into any categories, but it became something I quite enjoyed. I leaned in to all the things that set me apart.

When I was younger, I was known as a tomboy. I’d play in the dirt and grass hunting insects. I’d play full contact basketball with the boys and occasionally get a little knocked out. I could run faster, climb higher, and scream louder than just about anyone on the playground. When I went back to China for the summers, I’d follow around my male cousins who could never escape their little shadow.

In middle school, I started to get into sports and began swimming. By high school, I had joined the varsity swim and track & field teams, as well as a YMCA swim team and JROTC. I stayed very physically active until college, when it started to dwindle. I did AFROTC my freshman year, but we only did PT once a week. Starting sophomore year, I no longer had organized physical activities but I did join a business fraternity. I’ve enjoyed the oddity of being a “bro” within that context.

My senior year, I finally got around to teaching myself to skateboard and that really set me apart. UCLA is very hilly, so there weren’t a lot of skateboarders and of the ones willing to brave the steep hills, I only saw one or two other females. I enjoyed being unique like that. I even went a strange(ish) route when I chose to double major in Psych and Econ, which have absolutely no overlap with each other. This combined with my year studying abroad eventually led me to take an extra quarter and finish my degree in December. Again, the one who doesn’t quite fit any mold.

My first job out of college was a 6-month stint out in Singapore. I traveled around Southeast Asia on my own before heading back stateside. For a period, I became the only woman at my next company’s office in a building with a dozen men. I guess it was somewhere along these lines that things started to settle? I wasn’t doing as much unusual stuff, though I did choose not to have a wedding when I got married (and not to change my name).

Once I moved out east, life settled into a rhythm and I stopped thinking about some of the more interesting things. I still loved to interact with all sorts of creatures and I even began volunteering as an Insect Ambassador at the Smithsonian. I would travel to places to experience new things, but I guess I forgot a lot of the things I wanted to try when I was younger. When I got to my MBA program, everyone was so serious and focused on business that I was too. Plus I had barely any time to get through the core curriculum, working on readings and group work and attending a slew of events.

So come spring break, when the course load became more manageable and I had space to breathe… I guess it was time for an awakening. But that was just the beginning. I got back in touch with how fun it was to be my goofy, oddball self. I started to be more active again. Even more important was something awakened in me by my new bestie – he has been obsessed with tattoo designs, which reignited my interest.

I’ve always had in the back of my mind that I’d like to get a tattoo, but I never knew where or what. Since talking to Bestie about it, I actually ended up waking up from a dream with the idea of a tightrope walker. And then I also wanted an owl and he found me an incredible design that I absolutely love. The third is the crown that Princess Bubblegum wears; it’s simple, symbolic, and small.

From there, I’ve started to get back in touch with things I had never really dared to explore. Motorcycles. Shaving my head. Skydiving. Getting scuba certified. All had been in the back of my mind as interests, but I didn’t give them much credence beyond that. Now I’m all about planning for these things. But the biggest thing of all to come from this is that I wavered on a future with kids. The sudden revival of interest in all these things I love leaves little room to think about the responsibility of little people.

In a way, I’m not sure who I am anymore, or what I want. I feel like I’m living these parallel lives – one going along the same track as before, slow and steady, while the other one veers off into all sorts of worlds that have yet to materialize. So far most of these changes have lived in my mind. I haven’t gotten a tattoo, motorcycle, or side shave, much as I want. It’s hard enough struggling to understand myself and what I truly want. Is this a phase? Am I being foolish, getting carried away in the tide? Or is this a new iteration of me?

Summer work life

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I’m starting to settle in to my role at Cisco and create a few habits. I generally get to work around 8 (ugh) and wrap up around 5, with lunch at 12 with some of my fellow HRLPers (Human Resources Leadership Program interns and full-timers). After work I go to the gym to work out and then relax in the steam room and sauna before showering and heading to dinner. Some evenings I have happy hours or other events to attend.

Later in the week, the interns in other Cisco departments tend to get together for dinner. They also try to coordinate lunch together, but I work in a building about a mile from them so it’s too much of a hassle and I like having some time to my own intern cohort and potential workmates.

I usually get home (to my AirBnB) around 8:30-9:30 and sometimes I chat with one of the other tenants. There’s a South American working for a wine company, a Chicagoan who works at the ER at Kaiser, a traveling consultant, a Chinese girl and her friend, plus one mystery guy who I have yet to meet. I then spend the rest of the night in my room grooving to music and doing a variety of things online before calling it a night.

It’s a rather peaceful yet somehow still busy life. I feel a certain amount of stress making sure I do a good job this summer at work and I also want to ensure I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to explore the area with a variety of friends. This past weekend we went to the redwoods and Santa Cruz, which was an amazing time. I held my very first banana slug!! I’m sure there will be more to come. I should also try to reconnect with old friends who are working up in the SF area, but it feels oh so far…

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