Tick tock

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Wow, I’m tired! I’ve been obsessively going through applications, reading and rereading everything I input to make sure it’s all accurate. So far three deadlines have passed and I’ve submitted four of six applications. I’ll send in one more tomorrow night and then the final one over the weekend! Oh my, I can’t believe it’s that time. Now I can’t wait to hear back, fingers crossed. I really feel like I have a good chance with the essays I put together and I hope that the admissions committees agree.

Each night I’ve had Panda review my final work to help catch minor typos and also give feedback on how strong my message is. I’ve made some modifications based on his reactions to parts of my applications that weren’t as strong and I feel really good about it all! I’ve worked really hard, read A TON, and incorporated everything I was learning and thinking into how I approached my applications. In a few short days I can breathe a sigh of relief that this stage is complete and I can put some more energy back into work and exercise.

If I don’t start hearing about interviews in about a month, I’ll be getting worried. Surely I’ll get a few! For now, I need sleep so I can finalize two more awesome applications. 🙂

Braindead

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Happy 2016! It’s a new year and I feel so out of touch with the season, what with El Nino making this winter very mild thus far. I’m looking forward to the first snow of the year and I think many others might be too, despite my coworkers who claim to hate it.

I’ve been heads down reading books to learn about business ideas and applying that towards my essays and applications. I just went through and typed alllllll the tedious bits to the applications, which took a lot longer than I expected! I’ll put together a post of things I learned and tips for anyone else who might be applying to schools. I guess it’s been so long that I forgot about some of the nuances.

So with that, I will leave you pretty quickly today so I can rest for one more day. I’m not ready for work again, what with all my applications due in the next week! It’s so surreal that I’m at that point and will soon have no applications to work on. That means I’ll have more energy to read all the books I want though. 🙂

Three decades

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1985 – The year I was born. My dad had left China to go to grad school at Penn State. Not much else happened since it was quickly a new year!

1986 – The year my mom left to join my dad at Penn State.

1987 – The year I was raised by my grandparents and extended family. Of course I have little recollection of this, except for a vague memory of my grandma chasing me around the sandbox trying to feed me rice.

1988 – The year my future husband was born! Little did I know that there was this boy on the other side of the world.

1989 – The year I immigrated to reunite with my parents, who were basically strangers to me at that point.

1990 – The year I was studied by education grad students at Penn State as part of my child care. My mom even clipped an article about the research with a picture of me in it. I remember they had really awesome ice cream for a special event each year and I thought the minerals display was magical because the stones all seemed to glow in the dark.

1991 – The year we moved to Kansas and I started kindergarten. I learned that I was really good at memorizing the Peter Rabbit play. I believe this was also the year that my mom made me an awesome lion mane from yarn, so I could be a lion in a play.

1992 – The year we moved from a townhouse to a house house and I changed schools. This was just the beginning of being the new kid at many places!

1993 – The year I made my first best friend, who was a year younger than me. I loved going to her house to do something crafty like those baked art things. I believe this was also the year my dad got in a really bad car accident and I drew him a picture of us and our pet snapping turtle, which he had caught fishing at the lake.

1994 – The year my parents sent me back to China to stay with my other grandma for a year. I went to class with my cousin, who’s a year older than me, and was basically lost in most topics except for English (where I was far too advanced). I ended up never going to third grade in either China or the US. My language skills improved immensely according to my parents, though I feel I’ve always been pretty good! 😛

1995 – The year I returned to Kansas and went on to fourth grade as if I never left the school district. I had a special tutor who taught me cursive because that was really the one thing I missed in third grade. So I’m really good with cursive (if you can tell the difference between the Q and Z then you probably are too), yet who even uses it? I journaled in cursive for awhile just to keep practicing. Speaking of, this is the year I started my daily journal because I reeeeally wanted a diary that was being sold at the Scholastic Book Fair and my dad made me promise to write in it every day. Little did he know I’d keep doing that for 13 years, even when he and my mom would figuratively roll their eyes and question why I spent so much time doing it.

1996 – The year we moved to Missouri because my dad decided to leave his local government job and move to the private sector. I was doing well in school, so I was chosen to be a traffic monitor for the kindergarteners and I got to miss part of class each day to walk the kids to the buses. I think I still have the silver badge and orange belt I wore. I played a Native American in a school play about Lewis & Clark. Around this time I got my first cat Tom/Mimi in Kansas and then Jerriey in Missouri.

1997 – The year I had a pseudo boyfriend over the summer (this guy I had a major crush on who I told on the bus the last day of school – was started calling each other and I walked to his house to take walks with him and his bouncy ball). I started middle school that fall (and maybe this is TMI but I got my period after two years wondering when this whole puberty thing would hit). I think this is when we found a Chinese school for me to start attending on the weekends. Or maybe it was the following year?

1998 – The year I moved during winter break and the only time my education was split in the winter rather than the summer. My first half of seventh grade was in Missouri and my second half was in New York. This led to some incongruency in the classes I was taking and what I learned. At this point, I had chosen French for my foreign language after testing out Japanese, Spanish, and I think German. My school in Missouri had us learn all four language options in 6th grade so we could better choose one to continue with in 7th.

1999 – The year I settled in New York, found friends with a group of girls, and decided to join track & field. This was the stage when I decided that of my three career options, I most liked businesswoman. The other two options were doctor or engineer. I don’t know if my parents said this to me or I inferred that they’d want one of those. Well, this is when my dream to get an MBA was born! We got Jerriey a friend, my third cat Simon.

2000 – The year we all thought Y2K would shut down the world, so my parents and I went to Times Square for NYE to watch what would happen… and of course nothing did. Alas, it was still historic! I started high school and joined the founding swim team as well as NJROTC.

2001 – The year I took 11 classes – one on Monday nights, two alternated days, and the other either were during the remaining 8 class periods in the day. I did not have a lunch period (is that still legal?) so I’d grab something right before ROTC class. Usually a sandwich or Gatorade and Rice Krispies. Yeah, I’ve always had a penchant for junk food. One Tuesday morning, I was in math when the principal came in and said something to our teacher. I remember she was young and a strawberry blonde type. The shock on her face as she told us about the Twin Towers did not help me grasp the situation. I think she cried. We were all so stunned and in the next class, we just huddled and watched the TV looping awful footage. One of my classmates found out his aunt had died and many others weren’t sure of their impact. One of the planes must have flown right over our area just an hour earlier. I was grateful my mom was home and my dad was on business. We waited as the buses came to take us all home and then we sat glued to the TV, watching the same horrific scenes. I later learned that my mom felt she got lucky because she had nearly taken a job in one of the towers. Meanwhile, my dad had heard the plane flying way too low over his hotel on its way to the Pentagon. Closer calls than I ever expected, but thankfully still plenty out of the way for us all.

2002 – The year my parents and I moved from New York to California and I felt miserable. I did not like this new state at all and I was forced to choose between track and swimming. Swimming won out because my dad’s coworker had a daughter on the team. I also had to switch to AFJROTC because there was no Navy unit in the area. Luckily, I got to keep all my ribbons so I ended up having more than anyone else!

2003 – The year I learned that I was deterred by guys who showed interest in me. When my crush asked me to winter formal, I balked and never liked him again. I felt awful, but we reconciled and now he’s married to one of my best friend’s sister. I also had a foray into Christianity, but it turns out my “faith” was a feeling I couldn’t figure out and it was actually my feelings for said crush. Simon got lost while out playing and we never saw him again. 🙁

2004 – The year I graduated high school and started college at UCLA! I had the longest summer since we were the last school to start and I ended up joining Facebook to get a head start on making friends.

2005 – The year I interned on a movie, Wristcutters. I mean, it’s LA. I did enjoy it, but didn’t feel the need to make a career of it.

2006 – The year I pledged AKPsi and then interned at Smith Barney for the summer before moving to the UK to study abroad.

2007 – The year I absolutely loved being abroad, making international friends and living such a different lifestyle. I returned after a year and attended Monster DLP before interning at UCLA Live! and working as a product demonstrator (more about those jobs if you like).

2008 – The year I met Panda, became an Orientation Counselor, and graduated from UCLA. <3 Jerriey had been moved to Beijing with my parents and he died while we were on vacation in Cancun. </3

2009 – The year I moved to Singapore for a stint out there that was my first job out of college. When I returned in the fall, I interned for Opportunity Green and really got into sustainability.

2010 – The year I got my first “real” full-time, salaried job. I stayed with Panda in his apartment by UCLA most of the time and got to stay close to Bruin life.

2011 – The year I moved close to work and began to take yoga. Panda moved out to the greater DC area, though he was able to visit almost once a month. I got Missy and Molly!

2012 – The year I quit my job and decided to strike out on my own. I didn’t have much opportunity for growth at work, so they had kind of seen it coming. I was also struggling with not being able to see Panda as much anymore (he was traveling less) and I had long wanted to be an entrepreneur.

2013 – The year I transitioned from self-employment back to working at a company and officially moved out east. I learned that my entrepreneurial bug is something best satisfied with a co-founder. Solo work is so very lonely and not the type of environment I find invigorating. Panda got his Master’s degree and proposed to me on commencement day! We then found our dream condo and got the keys in December.

2014 – The year Panda and I got married with a simple ceremony at the courthouse with my parents, his parents, and his brother as witnesses. We’re not much for hoo ha. Early in the year, we moved into our first home and got Smokey from the shelter.

2015 – The year Panda and I had our 1-year anniversary “wedding” celebration with some extended family: my aunt and cousins and his uncle, aunt, and cousin. In January, I flew Missy from LA so she could live with us and Smokey would have a fur sister.

And that brings me to my 30th! This is the only time in my life when the dates match my age: on the 29th, I was 29 and on the 30th, I was 30. Fun, huh? Or am I just a numbers nerd? Whatever the case, I hear the 30’s are a time when you get into a rhythm of life and become more in tune with who you are. I certainly hope that I make good progress towards my goals and better understanding myself. I plan on making 2016 the year I went off to start my MBA. And there will be so much awesomeness to follow. 🙂

Language precision

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If you speak more than one language, how do you feel when you speak the languages that are not your primary one?

I’ve always been a proud Mandarin and English speaker, with native proficiency in both. I started off speaking Chinese as a child, then learned English when I immigrated before I turned 4. Around the age of 5, my grandmother came to visit and taught a Chinese class in our living room. When I was 8, my parents sent me to China for a year, where I attended school and was immersed in the culture and language. That helped my Mandarin a lot! I came back with stronger language skills and would return to China during summer breaks up until middle school. Meanwhile, I had been attending Chinese school since 4th grade or so.

In high school, all that dwindled as I focused on my classes, extracurriculars, and preparing for college. My junior year, I had moved from New York to California and could not find a suitable Chinese school in the area. My education in Mandarin was paused until I took a class in college. Since then, it’s been 10 years! Unbelievable. I only speak Chinese for a few hours a year now and I find myself more and more shy about it.

One of the things I was proudest of as a child was my near flawless accent. I sounded basically like a native Chinese person and did not have the accent that many of my peers had. But after years of dormancy, my language skills have been slipping. I’m perfectly fine to use Chinese when I’m in China, but in the states I often use English when Mandarin would have worked. A few days ago, I suddenly realized that this was totally silly. I’ve been trying to speak to myself in my head to practice. I didn’t want those speaking to me to judge any misuse of phrases or slight pronunciation variations I might have.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. They don’t care if I’m fresh from China or born here. In fact, I’ve always found that Chinese people get really excited when they see that I can converse with them in the language they are more comfortable with. It doesn’t matter if I stumble over reading Chinese or if I use slang that give away some of my background. I hear plenty of people speaking English with poor grammar and strong accents, but the only way to get better is to keep going. I’m going to take the same eagerness to practice Chinese that I have when speaking to my mom and extend that to any others who understand me. Screw speaking “perfect” Mandarin! Pretty soon, I might speak far too little if I chase too high a standard.

Crunch time

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Yikes, my first b-school applications are due in one week! I’ve spent a TON of time soul-searching, reflecting, reading, listening, and thinking. I hope I’ve been able to distill my essence into a potent little package that will come across well in my essays. I’m trying to wrap those up soon so I can also do a revamp of my resume before uploading that and completing the other aspects of each app. This is really nerve-wracking!! Luckily, I have a five-day weekend to focus and work through many of the details.

I’ll mostly be offline in the coming days, but I should have time to fit in a post or two. After that, I’m thinking of bringing back more of my journaling days. I miss being able to look back on any day in my life and knowing what happened. Panda and I were trying to rehash what we did over the Christmas weekend and things were already a little fuzzy. I don’t like that feeling, so perhaps I’ll incorporate more daily life stuff into my posts here. We’ll see! Right now I’m reserving most brain power for putting my best foot forward in my applications!!

A preference for not so social media

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Whoa, has it really been five days since my last post?! I almost never go this long without something. I guess I was a bit too busy with life, what with a holiday party, white elephant exchange, and potluck happening at work. Without even realizing it, these days have zoomed right past me and I can hardly believe it.

While I haven’t exactly been offline in any sense, I have been a bit of a lone wolf in my activities. Watching educational videos, reading articles, playing games on my tablet… none of these require anyone else to participate with me, and so I’ve lost a bit of touch with the world. When I have Panda and the cats at home, I hardly need much else. In fact, I haven’t even opened my laptop in days! Out of sight, out of mind.

This reminds me of when my journaling dwindled at the end of college. As hectic as college was, it wasn’t until I met Panda and was thoroughly engulfed in spending time with him that I stopped writing in my daily journal. After 13 years, I let my digital “journal” replacement (this blog) take over and I no longer write in a physical notebook. At times I miss those days, but it sure was time-consuming.

Life for me is a fine balance of enjoying the experiences and recording them. I’m far too sentimental to completely give up taking photos and noting what I’ve done or thought, but if I get too obsessed with that I’m not living enough. Are you like me too?

Or are you the type who goes out, does things, and relies on memories? I’ve never been great at remembering everything that happened, probably because so much happened in my life. When you move every 3 years or so, there’s a lot to remember. Just basic info like where I’ve lived, the schools I’ve attended, the people I’ve known – each of these adds up quickly when there are so many. I think it’s easier when you’ve lived the same place and known the same people for most of your life, because all that information overlaps. If I didn’t write these down, I’d likely have forgotten them all by now.

I was very excited when social media first exploded, because it allowed me to reconnect with many of my childhood friends, who I’d long lost touch with. But with hundreds of loose connections, I don’t feel a strong need to engage consistently (or at all) most of the time. In fact, I only check my social media accounts a few times a month. I’ll go through periods where I pick it up again, but then it’s back to old habits, not paying attention.

And so it happened again, with nothing drawing me to my computer, so I got lost in other media online and forgot how long it’d been since I blogged. I try to blog 3-4 times a week, but I’ve lapsed a few times. I can hardly remember the days where I blogged daily! Granted, much of that time was when I was self-employed, so I had more time to focus on writing with greater flexibility in my schedule. I’ll have to decide the frequency that I can sustain and work to keep that going. It’s just so easy to get distracted by consuming content: books, TED Talks, business articles, even TV (which I typically don’t watch). Creation can be a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

When I dream, I don’t sleep well

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Every now and then I’ll remember a dream. It’s a pretty rare occurrence that I do not try to encourage.

Whereas many people seem to enjoy remembering a dream, or at least find my wacky ones interesting, I always hope that I can wake up with no memory of my mind’s nighttime escapades. It’s not that I don’t like remembering the dreams (though sometimes they are a bit nightmarish) – it’s just that it always seems to happen when I’m not sleeping well. So whether I dreamt because I didn’t sleep well or I didn’t feel like I slept well because I dreamt, it’s just not a good combo.

It started in my first year of college, when I decided to start writing down my dreams. I rarely remembered them, so it was pretty cool when I could. Not surprising, the more I wrote about them, the more I remembered them. It went pretty much as I expected. What I did not expect was the sheer exhaustion and lack of energy I felt from those endeavors. I was completely drained when I woke up and it only got worse. I had never noticed it because of the infrequency, but once I started to consistently wake up remembering my dreams, I quickly noticed that it was not good for my sleep.

So I stopped.

Now I’ve gone back to remembering perhaps a dream or two a year, and I like to keep it that way. For all the fantastical things that are happening in my mind at night, none of that is worth waking up unable to stay awake and function throughout the day. I’ll keep my dreams in lala land, thank you very much.

Do you have this problem too? Or do you recall your dreams with no effect of your awake life?

Travel marathon

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It’s been quite a couple of days, especially for Panda. I got a chance to rest up for Thanksgiving weekend, but he went to Vegas with his family and then we met up to drive to NorCal so I could do a school visit at Stanford GSB. The drive took 8 hours, due to construction and traffic! We arrived at the hotel at 3:30 am and got in about 4 hours of sleep before getting up and ready for the day.

After my scheduled meetings from 10-1, we quickly went back to the hotel and hit the road. Luckily, the drive back was much smoother and only took the expected 5.5 hours. I never want to stray too far from the 5 freeway again. The smaller roads are so cumbersome to get through and I was exhausted even as Panda helped drive the second half up.

My legs are swollen and sore, which will only get exaggerated on the plane ride. Traveling can be quite the activity! Too much stationary sitting is no good. Maybe I’ll sleep with my legs up to try to counteract the effects. I think I might want to get some compression socks in the future. I’m getting more sensitive to the physical constraints of travel as I get older.

So that was my extended vacation. What did you do for the long weekend?

Uncontainable Conscious Capitalism

laelene Posted in general blog, reviews
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I just read the book Uncontainable by Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store, and found it to be a delightful read – or “yummy” as he would say. I had no idea that TCS was such a strong brand with an admirable corporate culture. After learning more, I wonder why I didn’t hear about their values sooner. With an employees-first view, they’ve made a successful business that thrives from the love they pour into their people. They don’t see business as a zero-sum game and believe that everyone can win. Yes, that means the business, its employees, its customers, and its stakeholders.

Most businesses do not operate that way, and it’s a pity. What TCS and other strong brands like Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines, and Panera Bread have done is what they termed Conscious Capitalism. They operate in a way that serves a higher purpose beyond profit and they do so by adhering to values that inspire better work (and thus leads to greater profitability). I like this idea, that making a profit is not a bad thing – money is not a bad thing. But that doesn’t mean we should be cutthroat and see everyone else’s wins as our losses. Quite the contrary: you can position yourself to be more successful by thinking of others and taking a more wholistic approach.

I absolutely believe this is a better way to do business, much like the triple bottom line idea of people, planet, and profit. These philosophies share the basic tenet that serving one’s interest can benefit others and doesn’t need to harm them. I really enjoyed reading about a success story that illustrates good business practices, particularly treating employees well. (Side note, I don’t like the term employee and team member seems too clunky. Any alternate suggestions?)

What I also enjoyed was how I felt like I could see Kip’s personality in his words. Some parts got repetitive when he shared the same idea again, but it felt like he had deep conviction and the tone was so accessible. I like his style and honesty. There are certainly some things I would do differently based on my own values, but they are nonetheless spades better than most any other company out there. I do hope his vision of a future where Conscious Capitalism is the normal way of business becomes a reality. I’ll certainly do my part.

Paris

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I didn’t want to continue blogging like nothing was happening in the world. The attacks in Paris are just too horrific to ignore and I still can’t believe it. That city has had to withstand so much this year and I feel for them.

Last night I was watching my college’s football game, feeling bummed out that we ultimately lost. But in comparison to what happened in France, my perspective changed. Instead I am grateful that I was able to watch the game without fear of an attack. That my friends and fellow Bruins could rally at the Rose Bowl and be safe. I’m glad that we are not on lockdown and that we have not had attacks.

I can’t imagine what it’s like in Paris now. Certainly nothing like the amazing city we were in just a month ago. I’m fortunate we got to travel through Europe safely and I hope the Parisiens get their city back to normal soon. I know it can be a long, hard path. Americans have felt similarly for 14 years, but resilience will win out.

In honor of the souls lost and the brave people who helped the survivors, I wanted to pay tribute. It’s a small piece but I wanted to send goodwill out into the world wide web, from my little corner of it. We will stand united and we will overcome. <3 Vive La France

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