Identity crisis

laelene Posted in general blog
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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?

4th floor, special birds

laelene Posted in general blog
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I have a tendency to prescribe meaning to just about everything. The smallest coincidence or pattern can become something I pay attention to, record in my journal, and ponder over.

This week, it’s been the fact that I’m living much of my life on the 4th floor: room 405 at the Hilton Garden Inn I was at this week, my office space at Cisco is on the 4th floor of the building, and today I got room 426 at the Courtyard Marriott I’m staying at. Every time I get in an elevator, I’m pressing 4.

The other pattern has been cool bird sightings. It was a hummingbird on my first day, a hawk or falcon my second day, a stork or heron yesterday, and some gulls today. I love spotting birds that I don’t often see, though they’re probably a lot more prevalent around here so this may actually be common. It still takes my breath away though and the magic never ceases every time I glimpse some of my favorite birds: hawks, falcons, owls, cranes, storks, hummingbirds, swallows, peacocks, swans… 

I started to attribute seeing a bird as a good omen for the day and when I saw it, I felt a sense of peace. The day didn’t feel complete until I had my spotting. It really serves no purpose since I’d forget about it soon after, but in that moment I cherished life just that much more. I could use some of that now as I struggle to find a place to live, work through emotional challenges, and try to stay focused on doing well in my internship. Perhaps I should use a talisman. I sort of want a tattoo to become that for me – a thing I can attach meaning to and be reminded of my good intentions whenever I see it.

Asia travels

laelene Posted in general blog
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I’ve been traveling through Asia with some of my classmates for school and now for fun, so I haven’t had the time to really sit down for a post. It’s been such an amazing time and in trying to explain work husbands to my cousin in Japan who joined me for part of the trip, I talked about creating my own little extended family unit. I think that’s a fitting way to describe the closeness I feel with these incredible people. I’m with two of them now, as well as some who could very well be siblings or cousins of sorts (I’ve taken to calling one of them “lao ba” – an affectionate “old dad” nickname). More on my non-blood family another time… for now, here are some pics.

We stayed right across from Taipei 101.

Climbing Elephant Mountain was difficult but totally worth it.

I’m all about climbing and nature and views.

Pretty sure I lost this dress at the hotel, boo.

This bus was like a time capsule!

Taipei airport music-themed rest area. Off to Shanghai!

Visiting Baosteel to watch steel being made was cool.

It’s super hot when it rolls by and glows all over you.

City God Temple has tons of shopping.

Professor Lin and have the same taste and voted for the same logo design.

Hangzhou visit to Alibaba took us to this beautiful city.

Cats!!

At the highest place in Shanghai enjoying the view.

A funky place for live music in the basement of The Peninsula.

We found an amazing rooftop bar to contrast the club below. What a way to end our time in Shanghai.

The last breakfast buffet! I loved the salted duck eggs and congee.

I finally had time to try the fresh noodles before heading off.

Website down

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: ,
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Yesterday I went to check on my site here to find it was disabled. Cue minor freak out.

I logged in to JustHost, my provider, and found that the issue is I have too many files. Apparently there’s a 200,000 limit for my type of account. About 150,000 of them were sitting in my various email accounts. I figured it’d be simple enough to delete all those messages since I have them forwarded to another email client anyway.

Well, I should have known that things wouldn’t be so straightforward. It took me forever to get around to figuring out that I wasn’t logging in to the correct email account. Yet even when I managed to delete all those messages, my file count did not change. Seems like there’s quite a lag in when that number gets updated.

My site got restored just minutes ago, so if you tried to visit before and got an error, you know why. I need to keep track of this situation for the future so I don’t have downtime again! Because of this debacle, I haven’t been able to get in to edit posts, but hopefully I’ll have a spring break update soon. 🙂

Israel preview

laelene Posted in general blog
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Spring break has been incredible. We’re exploring Israel and have done things ranging from the Dead Sea to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem) to an Israeli Air Force base.

Today we hiked Masada, rode camels, visited SodaStream, and have settled into a quaint resort. Here’s a quick look at my fav photos that a friend took. More to come later!!

I look like I’m saying something important right? 😉
Photo cred: “My Front Half”

Oh you know, just floating in the Dead Sea and admiring my muddy hands.
Photo cred: “My Front Half”

Revisiting work

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This week and last, I went back to my old work place to say hi to come of my colleagues and grab dinner or drinks. It was so strange showing up and not being able to get in without someone letting me in, then hopping around from conversation to conversation while I was there, with no desk or seat that was mine.

It was great to see everyone I ran into and get caught up on some of the changes that had occurred. I was at once surprised at how little had changed yet how much had. It was so strange – the past six months I’ve been in an insane bubble away from much of the world and since I’d undergone intense changes, I sort of thought more would have happened at the company too. At the same time, some of the things that did transpire during that period were changes that could have meant major changes for what my role was.

How often and how frequently do you go back to visit your previous workplaces? I’ve found that I initially return every 6 months or so and it seems to taper off after 2 years, since by then many of the people I knew best move on and there becomes a weaker tie back to the company. I do have some good friendships that came of each place and I maintain loose ties with those friends as our paths find ways to crisscross in the future. In fact, one of my old colleagues who had left will now be moving to NorCal, not far from where I’ll be interning over the summer!

Funny how life works sometimes.

I hope that over the course of my career, I can maintain strong relationships with the people I worked with and maybe we can even work together again in another capacity. It’s always so nice to see them again and be able to get the group back together for some conversation. I don’t know when I can visit again, but I do hope it’s a few more times before life moves on and we disperse to more places.

Shock and awe

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24 hours ago, I went to bed stunned. I really did believe that America would vote Hillary Clinton into office. Perhaps I was too naive.

It’s been a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions in the ensuing hours. I’m pretty sure I went through all the stages of grief and then started all over again today. For a period, I also blocked out the memory and managed to forget. I’m still grappling with how exactly I feel and what I think. It’s pretty insane.

I know it’s not the end of the world, or even the country. But I do truly feel that we could be headed down a dark path. Based on what happened in the campaign, there’s a lot to worry about. Luckily the government has power spread out and things don’t generally move very fast. I’m hoping the more extreme ideas never come to fruition and I know we’ll be looking out for ways we can help ensure that’s the case.

At this point, I think it’s important to remain hopeful and to be strong with those who value humanity without labels that separate. There has been so much division and disagreement in the discourse. I can empathize that certain Americans have been unhappy. I do not pretend to understand their plight, but I would certainly be upset if I felt marginalized and ignored.

However, I wish that this election wasn’t the way for the disenfranchised to lash out. Will they really get what they want out of it? I’m doubtful… only time will tell. I personally could not ignore the consistent bullying and belittling. That is not the temperament and character of a president. I cannot respect a man like that.

I’ve seen a lot of people shocked, disappointed, upset, appalled, disgusted, and in disbelief. I am many of those things too, but at the same time, I have hope that the next couple of years will pan out in a more positive way than we expect in our fearful state. I know many will be working to secure a better future than we might foresee right now. I believe that’s what we’ll need.

For now, I’m taking a moment to mourn. There will be some tough roads ahead.

Good news and good fortune

laelene Posted in general blog
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This was an awesome week. First and foremost, I got an internship offer!! This was a major win for me and I’m thrilled. I’ll share more details on recruiting and internships once everything settles in the coming weeks. I’ve now rewarded myself with a night meeting new friends, sleep, grocery shopping, lots of boba, a massage, Ethiopian food, and a long-awaited iPhone order (expected to arrive in a month). This is the good life.

cart with last set of honest tea for sale at costco

Score of the day.

Compounding that awesomeness are other wins:

  • I was selected for a workshop to develop my strengths, Gallup style. I’m told over 175 people applied! I’m curious how many were selected – 50 maybe?
  • I randomly came across Honest Tea at Costco and when I tried to find more, was told I was lucky because they sold like hotcakes and they had no idea how I even found any left. I claimed the very last one, which wasn’t even in their system anymore, lol.
  • Last-minute, I called up Massage Envy to book an appointment and got the next slot, with their most popular therapist nonetheless. He was amazed at how much pressure I could take (comfortably) and how flexible and loose I am in the shoulders and hips. Apparently only dancers and gymnasts are like that, yet I’m neither. He said I was one in a million and even thanked me after the massage because he had so much fun.
  • And I even got a fortune cookie that said “Your opportunities are many.” Indeed!

Now before I get too carried away, I do have homework and studying for a quiz that I’ve been putting off… So I guess I should buckle down and stop acting like I forgot all about school. I’m going on a hike tomorrow that I thought was 3.5 hours roundtrip but upon further research, that might only be the way up. I guess I can spare half a day for fun and to finally hike the Hollywood sign!!

Busy time

laelene Posted in general blog
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Has it really been a week since my last posting?! I don’t think I’ve gone that long without writing something since I started blogging more seriously. Yikes.

This might be a preview of what’s to come with business school. Things have been busy with all the preparation and I can hardly believe all the traveling, packing, unpacking, and repacking I’ve done in the past three months. I’ve been on 20 planes, 11 trains, 2 long distance bus rides, and countless car rides. From Admit Weekend to a wedding to a full month in China and a Europe vacation to boot, I’ve covered a good part of the globe.

Since coming back late the night of the 20th, I’ve been working out the details of my move and trying to get back to PST. Luckily, it only took two days for me to get out of the jetlag funk and now I’m on a pretty normal schedule. I have now moved in as of yesterday and am settling in and trying to get my homework done before the start of the pre-term prep course.

There are also a bunch of administrative things I needed to do, like get my student ID, get books, pay for my parking permit… it’s all so overwhelming that I have trouble even picking which one to do first. I’m slowly chipping away at my to do list before it completely balloons into insanity sometime next week.

I have no idea how the workload will be once classes kick into gear, so postings may become rather sporadic. I’ll certainly try to continue with minimal interruptions!

For the record

laelene Posted in general blog
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I get my sentimentally from my paternal grandfather. This has become clear to me in recent visits, as he gets older and it presents itself more.

A visit to his room and you’ll see pictures of his children and grandchildren plastered all over the walls and dressers. I hadn’t noted it much before, but it’s his way of preserving memories of his burgeoning family. It’s a nice way to see what family members were like, like a little collection of time capsules. I might just be the same when I’m old and proud of my progeny.

When he was in his mid-eighties (86, perhaps), he wrote a log of our family history. My aunt carefully helped me read through it and I learned of his origins, my dad’s and ultimately mine. I had not known that my dad had another brother in his youth – a child who drowned when he was just 12. Apparently a few more of my distant relatives had also perished this way. (And there I was an avid swimmer in middle and high school… irony? Fate? An anomaly?)

For someone fascinated with family trees, this was a gold mine. He gave me a copy to keep and I cherished the gift of knowledge. I’ve been interested in my ancestry but looking at online sites wouldn’t be very useful since Chinese records aren’t as readily available. I don’t think I even have a birth certificate.

Last time I was there, in early 2014 (which may have been that same trip – I can’t recall), he gave me two photo books of pictures when I was small. There were some I hadn’t seen before and others that were a reminder of my childhood. It felt like he was passing them on to me, a sort of memory inheritance. This time, I received another one, with pictures ranging from when I first arrived in the US to when I was around 9, growing up in Kansas.

This visit, I was also told that there’s a new, updated version of our family history. My family members chuckled and sort of brushed it off as the silliness of an old man, but I appreciate his efforts. He even took a formal portrait and had copies given to each branch of the family. My sentimentality smiles at these gestures and I see myself in him. Now I know where this behavior comes from. How did I miss it all these years?

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