2018: The Year of Heart

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We humans are funny beings, ascribing arbitrary meaning to dates and seasonal periods. For whatever reason, we chose to celebrate the coming of a year at this time of the winter (I know there’s some convoluted history behind that but let’s not get into it now).

We get all excited about this transition that happens in an instant. Boom, it’s a new year. Out with the old, in with new.

I don’t quite understand the timing of it and its significance has waned for me over the years, but I can appreciate the value in closing a chapter on your life, reviewing what happened in the past revolution around the sun, and anticipating the next one.

2017 was a pretty monumental year for me. I’d say the one word I could apply to everything that happened was transformational. I explored what life in NorCal could be like, went on an incredible trip to Israel, got a chance to befriend my new bestie and travel work husband, experienced Taiwan, China, and Japan with classmates, had a fun summer interning at Cisco, lost my way when I didn’t get a return offer, began to question my identity and dreams for the future, struggled to get back into recruiting, began therapy, threw myself into building a tribe of friends, lost connection with Panda, got involved with an incredible startup and found some purpose, had an amazing getaway to Mexico, and came home to VA after a year to turn 32.

The first half of the year was so much fun and wonderful. I was making so much of the MBA experience and having a great time. The second half of the year was full of challenges that I’m still working through. A series of events triggered an identity crisis for me and I found myself drifting aimlessly, listlessly. I was still functioning at the surface level, attending to my duties as a student, eating normally, and enjoying everything I could about the social part of my program. But deep inside, I was often overwhelmed and uncertain. I clung to whatever I could that made me happy or kept me distracted. I spoke to some friends about it and eventually started therapy, but it’s a process I’m still working through.

In light of all of that, I’m looking to 2018 being the year I lead with my heart. I spent too much time caring about what other people would think, how they perceived me, and what the world expects from me. I’m trying to get out of my own head and let me heart guide the way. I want to do what feels right and good. I want to express myself authentically and vulnerably so I attract the right people to my side. I want to figure out what I need to love myself.

I’m really looking forward to two classes I’m signed up to take that I hope will help me on this journey: Fostering Creativity and Leading with Mindfulness and Compassion. It’s been a tough path for me to disassociate myself from others and learn who I am, what I am on my own. I always think in terms of how I relate to others, how they react to me, and what they think of me. So who am I stripped of that? What do I think of myself? Who do I want to be? I’m hoping that a dive into my heart will help me find these answers. It feels incredibly selfish and self-centered, but I guess that’s exactly what I need right now.

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!

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…

Starting at Cisco

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Today I began my summer internship at Cisco in HR!!

All badged up.

Breakfast at the all hands, Cisco Beat.

Awesome mugs they were giving out!

CEO Chuck Robbins kicks off Cisco Beat.

Got lunch at the local cafeteria.

Delicious Indian food!! ?

The cool swag they welcomed me with. ?

One of the execs brought her dog to work.

I got to put this sticker on my laptop. ?

Family

laelene Posted in relationships,Tags: , , , , , ,
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I’m such a bleeding heart.

If I ever got measured for sentimentality, I’d probably be off the charts. I have a soft, squishy part of my soul that is reserved just for 6 very important people: my parents and my grandparents. Whenever I see them, I leave feeling a little nostalgic and pensive. It gets more pronounced as we get older and I think of all the love I have for them. How strange that I can feel so loved that it makes me tear up every time.

Growing up, I always thought of my parents as 35. In my mind’s eye, they didn’t age and my impression of them was frozen in time. Then at some point in my 20s, I realized they were hitting 50. Ever since then, they’ve been stuck at that age for me and they probably will for many years to come. Something about that changing doesn’t sit well with me, so I like to keep them in a little time capsule in my mind. Luckily, when I see them in person, they still look 50 to me so it’s easy to keep up the illusion.

Throughout this time, I’ve started to appreciate everything they’ve done for me more and more. We’re not an affectionate type of family, but I’ve taken to hugging my dad and kissing my mom on the cheek whenever I greet them. Just typing that makes the tears well up. What is it that makes me so sappy??

I’ve pretty much always been like that. I’ve written about how I love tenderness before and I shared some stories about my laoye, my nainaimy mom, and my dad and yeye. I guess I should add in a story about my laolao to make it complete. Thinking about each of them tugs on my heartstrings in ways that I don’t understand. Each of them has given so much to get me to where I am today and I feel close to them, yet I hardly ever see them.

I see my mom the most, at about every other month when I go home for a day. I see my dad 2-3 times a year, whenever he is visiting from China. Two of my grandparents died many years ago. I see my living grandma and step-grandpa and other grandpa on average once every 3-4 years. The closeness I feel is certainly not reflected in the frequency of our interactions.

Perhaps this distance is why I enjoy expressing nuggets of love to my friends. Absent cousins or grandparents to snuggle with and share my thoughts, I cherish the friendships that give me that outlet. As an only child, I craved the intimacy of a sibling and I’ve spent my life on the lookout for friends who could fulfill that desire. Maybe that’s where my sentimentality comes from, as I try to derive meaning in every moment, every interaction. I love inside jokes and pet names and hugging and sharing food. All these things that casually indicate a deep level of comfort with each other. To me, that’s love and it’s what I seek. More on that another day.

Back to my family though – the most mundane interaction with them can easily make my heart swell. I don’t know what it is about them that is a huge trigger for me, but I feel it more strongly with each passing year. I mean, just this weekend I had brunch with my parents and I felt incredibly sad to part ways. Did anything notable happen? No. Is either of them in poor health? No. Is there any specific reason to be sad? No.

But I’m a softie with a giant trigger on my heart that is basically a big CRY NOW button. And hanging out with my beloved family activates that for me.

Riding motorcycles

laelene Posted in mba, stories,Tags: , , ,
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Five weeks ago, I was chatting with some friends when one of them (my “Partner”) randomly mentioned he had an extra helmet and could take me on a motorcycle ride sometime.

You should have seen the wide-eyed, excited look I gave him.

It was the weirdest thing because just days earlier, I had been thinking to myself who I knew with a motorcycle. I was driving back from a tour of Amazon’s facilities out in San Bernardino and kept seeing motorcycles passing by. One of my mentors had recently had his stolen, which also caught my attention (and strangely enough got me interested).

I had been mulling the idea over in my head for a few days when out of the blue, the offer was made and I cannot tell you how ecstatic yet baffled I was. Had he read my mind?! I hadn’t talked to anybody about it yet and our topic of conversation was nowhere near the subject. I wasn’t about to ask questions though, so I happily took him up on it. Ever since, we’ve been trying to find a time to go and things kept getting in the way.

So FINALLY, yesterday we got a chance to go for a ride. Partner picked me up in DTLA and we went through Echo Park towards Griffith Observatory. When we first got going, I was rather surprised to find nothing to hold on to except him. For some reason I hadn’t expected that. As we went along, I got to see a bit of what others had warned me of in terms of crazy drivers who either don’t see or don’t care you’re there. We tried out some winding roads and meandered around surface streets before stopping to grab some lunch. It was so interesting for me to look around as we went – I feel like I saw a lot more and noticed a lot more.

I found it quite odd that people seemed to ignore our presence as they drove in their cars texting irresponsibly. Being exposed like that made me feel a lot more connected with my surroundings and I kept shifting my gaze to try to see as much as possible. There were moments where I burst out into a goofy grin because it was so cool to be cruising along. I certainly didn’t get my fill this time, but there will be other chances!

selfie with blue motorcycle helmet on

While waiting to get gas, I couldn’t resist taking a selfie with my new helmet courtesy of Partner.

getting back on motorcycle after getting gas

After getting gas, it was time to sling the leg over and get back on the road.

bread and charcuterie platter at cafe stella

For lunch, we shared a charcuterie platter and some yummy bread.

arm of motorcycle driver and view of road

Sneaky action shot! I like the angle and the capture of the sign.

After we stopped, I wanted to get some selfies.

motorcycle riders with leather jackets and helmets

What an awesome friend, work husband, and Partner! Now please take me on a ride again, kthxbye. 😉

standing by motorcycle

Peace.

sitting on motorcycle front view

“Now sit on it.”

sitting on motorcycle side view

I want!!

My amazing work husbands

laelene Posted in mba, relationships,Tags: ,
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Over the past month, I’ve been on a mission to secure some new work husbands at school. You see, I inadvertently had created these special relationships with some of my fellow MBAs only to realize they are all second years poised to graduate in just 10 days! While I was in Israel for spring break, I began to get anxious about the second years moving on. So… ever since I’ve been back I’ve kept an eye out for some new work husband relationships.

In case you’re not familiar, a work spouse is typically someone you’re close to at work – a confidante and best friend. In my case, I’m in the grad school environment so these are my classmates who I connect with particularly deeply. Everyone goes about this a different way and even between the various ones I have, our dynamic is wildly different. Each one of these guys offers something special (and yes I need multiple because I don’t want to hog all their time!).

One is always there to talk about the goings on of b-school and join me for a swim. One is an old friend from a previous job who shares personal life lessons. One is fantastically patient with my oddities and his place as my cashmere pet. One is awkward yet charming and a strange combination of self-deprecating and cheerful. Funny enough, I also managed my first “work divorce” without ever claiming another one. Can we get divorced if he hated hearing about work husbands and refused to accept the term in the first place? Alas, I’m willing to accept it because we’re splitting custody of the chakra. I like the oddballs.

In light of losing these guys to full-time work in the coming weeks and coming back in the fall to an empty nest, I have since recruited some new gentlemen. One is an excellent partner who trains me and shares very thought-provoking ideas that I find fascinating. He’s also my go-to for introducing me to new things (ideas, places, experiences). One is the sweetest and most thoughtful person who checks up with and in on me. And I have a resistant 1/2 one who doesn’t like that work and husband both imply work! 😛 He’s so chill and fun to play fight with yet he’s a total teddy bear on the inside. For now he’s agreed to “fake side babe” as a moniker.

These are all first years who will be graduating with me in 2018, so I’m feeling pretty good. When we start school again, I can also see if some of the 2019ers want to join in the fun as well. Plus, there’s a trio of three guys who are often attached at the hip and I get along with them all quite well too, so perhaps I should recruit them to my squad. 😉

Does this all sound a bit weird to you? It’s all in good fun and all of these guys know about it and each other. You’re probably wondering what my real life husband thinks of all this (he’s cool with it and recognizes that while he’s on the other side of the country, I could use some companionship to keep me active and happy).

Growing up, I did not have a lot of close relationships because I moved so much, so I really cherish these kinds of bonds. I especially love inside jokes and pet names, so that’s what a lot of this comes down to. Do you have any quirky relationships like this?

Distractions

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: ,
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When you are confused about life, seek distractions. At least that seems to be my approach right now.

Distract me with music. Upbeat or melancholic, switch it up. Just make noise and fill the air.

Distract me with food. Eating bite by bite. Not exactly savoring, but trying to.

Distract me with driving. Doesn’t matter where. Find a place and go.

Distract me with Facebook/Instagram. I don’t think I’ve been this social media absorbed since college.

Distract me with new people. It’s fresh and new. Maybe they’re the one to pull me out of my funk.

Distract me with working out. If I’m busy working on my form and exerting my body, maybe my mind will calm.

Yet I can’t seem to find catharsis, much as I desperately want it. I’ve got some things to work through I guess. (At least it’s slowly getting better.)

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