Posts Tagged ‘experiences’

Oh, deer!

laelene Posted in video blog,Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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Last year, Panda and I took advantage of National Park Week’s fee free days to get into Shenandoah National Park for free. We spent the whole day driving along Skyline Drive from south to north and enjoyed various views as well as some wildlife. We got a chance to get super close to some deer while up there!

deer running to woods from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

deer eating on hill from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

deer eating by road from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

deer walking up hill from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

What are your fears?

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , ,
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I’m not a very fearful person.

I’m not scared of bugs, or rollercoasters, or flying, or snakes, or public speaking, or traveling alone, or so many of the other common fears people seem to have.

The creature-related fears come up a lot since I volunteer at the National Museum of Natural History and I handle caterpillars, grasshoppers, hissing cockroaches, various beetles, Australian stick insects, butterflies, moths, tarantulas, and vinageroons/whip scorpions. I’m constantly amazed at the folks who are grossed out or terrified of these guys. Obviously if we have them out at the museum, they’re not going to hurt you. Yet children still cringe and cry when a butterfly circles them with their erratic dance and adults still make a face and stay ten feet away when they see a live insect or arachnid on someone’s hand.

Or take my friend, who is afraid of traveling by herself. Granted, this is probably something a LOT of people have not done or may never do. But the limitations you put on yourself when you can’t bring yourself to strike out on your own can keep you from a certain independence and self-discovery. I love my time traveling on my own, especially in foreign countries. I find those the most rewarding experiences to look back on. Should fear of some stranger in the world hurting you stop you from trying this? Or should you plan carefully, be vigilant and smart, and go for it?

Things like these make me wonder why people are so fearful. Of course, I’m not without my own fears, which generally are related to dying and pain, like falling from really high up (so stable buildings are fine, but if I have to balance on something to cross a chasm…) or not having some stability in my life (financial, emotional, or otherwise). But my fears don’t come up very often and they don’t make me shake or scream or cry or run away. So how do people deal with these fears they have that probably come up pretty consistently?

You’re bound to find a spider or two in your home at some point. You’ll probably board a plane to travel. You may not have to do massive speaking events, but you’ll probably have to present in front of a group occasionally.

So if you’re afraid of these things, what do you do? Do you spend exorbitant amounts of time worrying, fretting, sweating? Do you try to avoid them at all costs? I’m curious.

For me, when my fears come up, it’s more about planning for the future. This usually means that I spend some of my time concerned about the idea, but that allows me to consider how to prevent unwanted situations. I imagine having to deal with death and maybe I cry at the thought, but then I think about how I would get through it. I think about what life would be like if I had no money or I was all alone and consider the hard choices I might make. These are the types of fears I tend to have, about things that haven’t happened. It makes it a lot easier to deal with since I have time to think through possible reactions and courses of action.

My fears are mostly things I may never have to go through. I find it fascinating all the fears of things people have do have to contend with. Why am I not afraid of them? Why are so many people? And what are your fears?

How many places have you lived?

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , ,
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Seems like an innocent question, no? And for most, it’s pretty simple to answer.

But for me, it requires some clarifying: what do you consider a place? A town, a region, an actual building/unit? And what do you mean by “lived?” A place you consider a home? A place you spent a certain amount of time at? A place where you had a bed?

See for me, each of those results in a different answer. This question is laden with possible answers, much like the similar “Where are you from?” Things aren’t so straightforward when there are moves abound in your life. In different contexts, I use different ways of identifying with a place I’ve been. For example, Penn State University at State College in Pennsylvania, where we lived on Apple street in two graduate apartments. I choose to use any of the five potential ways to identify with that part of my life depending on what I’m connecting with. Is it the memory of fishing with my dad in the first apartment? The cooking I remember my mom doing and the teaching I remember my grandma doing in the second apartment? Is it the fact that Pennsylvania was the first area we lived in (in America) and because of that we had Amish friends who invited us to their home Christmas? Is it that we’d enjoy delicious ice cream and I enjoyed perusing the cool gemstone exhibit at the university? The one I connect least with is State College, but it comes up when discussing connections to cities.

So the next time you ask someone about the places they’ve lived, pay attention to how they express themselves. Do they talk about the general area, perhaps by country/state/province? Do they instead focus on the actual city, or even the town? These are interesting clues to which part of their experiences and memories they connect with more strongly. And when you answer the questions, consider how you feel most comfortable discussing it. You might learn more about yourself than you had paid attention to before.

In case you’re curious, here’s my tally…

If a place is a town: Shenyang, Jieshou, State College, Topeka, Ballwin, Brewster, Valencia, Westwood, York, Singapore (Clementi?), El Segundo, Centreville, Chantilly. 13

If a place is a region: Northeastern China, Anhui Province, Pennsylvania, Topeka, St. Louis, New York/Connecticut, the Greater Los Angeles area, Northern UK, Singapore, Northern Virginia/DC Metro. 10

If a place is a building or unit: dozens! Laolao’s home, Nainai’s home, Apple St. grad housing, across the street housing, Topeka townhouse, Topeka house, Laolao’s new place, St. Louis apartment, St. Louis house, Connecticut hotel, New York house, Valencia apartment, Valencia house, first year dorm, second year dorm, UK dorm, summer apartment, fourth year dorm, summer dorm, final quarter apartment, Singaporean friend’s, Singaporean coworker’s, Panda’s apartment, Panda’s summer dorm, El Segundo apartment, Virginia apartment, and Virginia condo. 27

If lived means where I’ve considered home: Shenyang, Jieshou, Penn State, Topeka, St. Louis, New York, LA, and Virginia. 8

If lived means where I’ve spent more than 6 months: Shenyang, Jieshou, State College, Topeka, St. Louis, New York, Valencia, Westwood, York, El Segundo, Centreville, and Chantilly. 12

If lived means where I’ve had to be since I couldn’t crash elsewhere: I’d say that pretty much is exactly the same as the building interpretation of “place” as mentioned above. 27 again

Of course, different combinations of the “place” and “lived” concepts yield different results. I went with what I felt most comfortable with. What would your lists look like?

Blizzard 2016!

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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Well, we’re almost done with this major storm of the season and it’s been pretty crazy! I happened to start getting sick this week and by Thursday, I was coughing and sneezing constantly. I was glad that we didn’t go to work on Friday and began to hunker down for the storm. All day today I’ve been coughing and trying to stay warm, but I don’t think I’ve made much progress. I did go out a few times to peek at the snow building up. Here’s a look at some pics!

snow level on cars before blizzard 2016

It started around 1pm Friday for us in Loudoun/Fairfax Counties.

snow level on cars one hour into blizzard 2016

An hour into it, we were seeing accumulation.

snow level on cars four hours into blizzard 2016

Three hours later, everything was pretty white.

snow level on cars seventeen hours into blizzard 2016

I woke up at 6 today to find the cars disappearing.

snow level on cars twenty-seven hours into blizzard 2016

27 hours in and the cars can hardly be found.

snow level on cars thirty hours into blizzard 2016

They’re pretty encased, but the wind keeps moving snow around.

snowblower pieces on ground with cable previously caught in blade

The first time Panda used his new snowblower, he ran over the power cable and we spent a long time taking it apart to release the cable.

man pushing snowblower outside on driveway during blizzard 2016

It works quite well, but then the blizzard would blow the snow right back.

snow crusting on windows and screens during blizzard 2016

The wind pummeled snow onto the windows and it became hard to see outside.

snow gathering on porch during blizzard 2016

The porch even got a fair amount of snow.

snow in plastic buckets/tubs to clear porch during blizzard 2016

To remove the snow from the porch, we began to take buckets of it to the bathtub so our neighbor below wouldn’t get all the stuff we swept off.

snow piled in tub during blizzard 2016

Melting snow in the tub!

cat pawprints on cleaned porch during blizzard 2016

Smokey took the opportunity to enjoy the newly cleaned porch.

sidewalk shoveled and recovered by blizzard 2016

Our neighbors were very diligent in shoveling their sidewalk every few hours only to have the snow blown back.

man crawling on belly in deep snow during blizzard 2016

One neighbor found it easier to crawl out to the road.

snow drifts by front door from blizzard 2016

The wind blew a ton of snow to our front door area!

partially-shoveled snow accumulation of blizzard 2016

Panda began to shovel a path out to the driveway.

blizzard 2016 piling snow past windows

On the right is our neighbor’s front door area, which is completely snowed in.

surrounded by high piles of snow from blizzard 2016

So much snow! I was hoping for more than 3 feet, which it is around me, but out in the open areas it was about 27.3 inches.

My MBA application experience 

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: , , , , ,
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A little over two months ago, I finally decided to buckle down and apply for grad school. Deadlines for Round 2 applications were the first and second week of January. I wasn’t sure if the time I’d allotted myself was going to be tight, but it was time to take this next step. Here’s how it’s gone for me… (want to skip right to my tips at the end?)

Choosing the schools

I knew that I wanted to apply to 5-6 programs, so I began looking at the top 25 ranked in the US. I considered applying to international programs as well, but ultimately decided not to because I intend to work for businesses in the states. While I would love international opportunities, my home base will always come back to the US, so going to a school domestically made more sense.

From the initial list, I came out with the programs I was most interested in: #1 Stanford GSB, #2 Harvard Business School, #3 UPenn Wharton, #4 Chicago Booth, #6 Northwestern Kellogg, #7 Berkeley Haas, #10 UVA Darden, #15 UCLA Anderson, #24 Georgetown McDonough, and #25 USC Marshall. Whew, that’s a lot! So I started narrowing down based on program structure, competitiveness, and personal appeal. That still left 8 options. I managed to eliminate Wharton and Booth because they felt more technical/finance-focused. To me, Wharton, Booth, and Kellogg were at very similar levels, so I decided to choose one of the three.

It was really hard for me to bring it down to the 6 max that I wanted to adhere to, so I kept going back and forth for awhile until I realized that I was really including Darden and McDonough for their proximity to Panda. But if you think about it, MBAs are so time-consuming that being nearby might not mean I have much time to see him anyway. So off they went and there was my final list: Stanford, Harvard, Kellogg, Haas, Anderson, and Marshall. I wanted to maintain a good spread across the rankings to give myself a very good chance of making it into at least one of the programs. #fingerscrossed

Preparing to apply

I’m fortunate enough to know some current and former MBA students at programs that I was planning on applying to. I reached out to many of them and got a chance to connect with three. After spending some time chatting with each of them, I got an understanding that I should really share my personal story. They also recommended reaching out to students or alumni of the other programs and try to do campus visits if possible.

I did manage to do some student meetups and a campus tour, but for the most part, I scoured their websites for details. Based on the courses they offer, the extracurriculars, and how they message their ideas, it gave me a sense of each of their brands. There are parts of each that I really appreciate and would love to be a part of. I definitely think it’s important to find programs that I’ll enjoy and will attract people I can connect with and learn from. Each has their own prestige, so that’s helpful too.

Thinking about essays

The very first thing I did application-wise was compile all of the essay questions and think about them all day long. Whenever an idea struck me, I wrote it down and I kept expanding my notes as I drafted and edited my essays. These were the most labor-intensive, with a lot of reflection and self-analysis. It took me awhile to finally find what I felt was a cohesive story that explained my motivations for where I’m going and how where I’ve been influenced that path.

On the surface, my jobs have been somewhat progressive, but not along a clear career path. However, digging deeper, I noticed that so many of the projects I took on stemmed from the same source. It turns out that the common thread between my roles was always the idea of empowering through resources. I really enjoy helping people and being resourceful, so I consolidated resources and built databases and processes because I believe that giving people the right tools, skills and knowledge empowers them to strive for more. No matter what, that has always driven me in my work.

As part of my research for applications, I dove into a variety of business books, online articles, and even TV shows. Each tied back to my thoughts on my essays. When I watched The Voice, I thought about expressing my true self and being genuine. When I read Uncontainable, I noted my own values and the key ways I intend to change the corporate landscape. Everything tied back to my philosophies on life and how that applied to my approach to business.

Choosing recommenders

I had always had one person in mind as a recommender, because he had worked with me pretty much since I started at my current company. He had a good sense of the many projects that I’ve done and we collaborated on quite a few. What I waffled on at first was whether to ask my direct supervisor or someone else. What if knowing that I was slowly on my way out affected the opportunities I received at work? What if that changed their perception of me? I thought about choosing someone else, but then I decided that I’d rather my manager know now instead of having to explain to him months down the line what I’d been up to. Plus, my office is a supportive environment where reaching for a goal like this is applauded.

I asked both gentlemen as soon as I made up my mind on them and my schools. Both happily agreed, and I put together a document of bullet points to share with them. I split my notes into two categories: Leadership & Initiative and Teamwork. I felt these were the key components of my experience and encapsulated many things I had done. One of my MBA friends had shared a “recommender tips” document that he had used, which I repurposed and shared with my recommenders. It basically summarized to this: the most effective recommendations are ones with concrete examples that paint a picture so vivid that the reader can feel me jumping out of the page.

I registered for all the applications and set up my recommenders to give them ample time to fill them out. One thing I learned from this is to make it crystal clear that some schools have a very specific format and set of questions they want answered. A general letter will not do. The recommenders should be prepared for the amount of effort this will take on their part. In addition to the essays, there are evaluation grids to fill out. It’s no simple task and you shouldn’t be shy about following up. Stay on top of those recommenders!

Filling out the applications

I probably should have done a dry run through all the applications early on so I would know what to prepare. For Haas, they require copies of official transcripts, which I did not have on hand. When I tried to order them from my school, they were on winter break and would only return two days before the application deadline! So I had to rush the order and ask my mom to go get them from the school. At another point, I wasn’t sure if my Kellogg application would be accepted because my GMAT scores had not been sent to the school and they needed them by the deadline! Yikes! But it turns out that they are actually ok with the scores being available later as long as they can view them when they get to my application.

To avoid any last-minute efforts, definitely go through the applications to see what fields they have and what required documentation there is. I was so caught up in essays that I figured filling out the forms would be easy, but they actually took quite a long time. You have to manually type in your previous job and extracurricular experience, which can add up quickly when you’ve had a few. Plus, there are certain documents that you may not have prepared that you should be aware of.

There were parts that I didn’t really think would come up, like my parents’ education, my international experience, and even my hobbies. I expected things like work experience, awards and honors, as well as extracurricular activities. The rest was pretty random additional information that varied by school. Stanford even asked for your favorite word!

Check, check, check!

So once you’ve got all these pieces together, make sure you have at least one other person take a look at your applications. I had my trusty husband go through and point out weak areas for me. He also kept an eye out for minor errors/typos after I’d been staring at everything for too long. Give yourself enough time to input all the data and proofread at least two or three times. You want to be as professional as possible and any grammatical error or typo can work against you.

When you’re ready to submit (at least hours, if not a day or more before the deadline), make sure you get confirmation emails that your application was received and so was your payment. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity because of a glitch or because you forgot to pay the fee. Oh yeah, you’ll want to be ready to pay about $150-275 per application. That adds up fast!

For Kellogg, they had one more step after the application was submitted: the video essays. So if your program has something like that, make sure you spend time rehearsing. The program they use allows you to practice with the software until you’re comfortable, so I must have done it 20 times until my eye contact was steady and my answers could fit into the allotted 60 seconds. It’s amazing how shifty you can seem on your first try, so neeever jump right into it.

Once you’re all done, each application usually allows you to download a proof as a PDF, which I definitely recommend you do. Keep that for your records, so you can use it if there are any discrepancies. Plus, it helps you remember what you sent them!

 

So, these are the tips I have for the process up until those applications are submitted:

-When choosing which programs to apply to, go through each school’s websites to learn as much as you can. Try to keep your choices to 6 or you might be stretched too thin (and your recommenders won’t give up on filling out so many!).

-Sign up for their mailing lists ASAP so you know if there are local students you can meet or if/when an admission officer will be in your area. This is a great way to evaluate schools and learn things that can help with how you focus your application. Each program values different things and each school has a different culture.

-Take the GMAT/GRE before all the application madness if possible, so it’s one less thing to worry about.

-Read carefully through requirements. Do they need a GMAT score or do they accept GRE as well? Do they require scores to be sent or can you self-report for now? Do they need official transcripts sent or are unofficial transcripts acceptable initially? Prep these early as needed.

-Think about the narrative you’re going to tell. It’s hard to distill everything you’ve done and who you are into a neat package, but choose that one trait that best sums it up. Look at the work you’ve done, the activities you’ve been involved in, and even your personal background to connect the dots. A cohesive story makes the picture clearer and easier to digest.

-Based on your narrative, choose recommenders who can speak to the work you’ve done around what you’re focusing on. Put together some examples that the recommenders can choose to write about, which may differ greatly depending on your interactions with them. The more they can personalize it and relate it back to your theme (as well as tie it in to what matters to the school), the more impactful they will be.

-Follow up with your recommenders to make sure things are on track! If one of them needs to change, you want ample time to swap them out.

-Go through all the fields that each application requires. This will give you a sense of extra materials you’ll need to pull together, like your parents’ educational histories, your extracurriculars, any awards or recognition, or even international experience. The UCLA Anderson app had a paragraph to summarize hobbies and the Kellogg app asked for international experience as well as video essays. Know about these ahead of time so you’re prepared! Even the way they ask you to fill out work info varies greatly, so take a peek at how that’s structured.

-Start setting aside the amount of money you’ll need for the fees if you don’t have that readily available. Most seem to be $150-275. There are some cases where you can get the fee waived, so if you’re really strapped for cash, see if you qualify for any.

-I would allocate at least 10 days per app at the least, giving yourself time to have a breather when things were intense and you needed some time away from staring at these applications.

-Proofread your application a few times and have at least one other person go through the final version if you can.

-Submit your application well ahead of the deadline! I did them all the day before, so if anything went awry, I’d have the following day to figure it out.

-Be sure to get confirmation emails that your application was submitted AND payment was received. Otherwise you might not make it into the round you want!

 

Any other tips you’d share? Let me know! Now I’m just waiting to hear back on interviews…

Tick tock

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , ,
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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. 🙂

Three decades

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , ,
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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. 🙂

Finding myself

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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As I apply to MBA programs, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching. All this introspection makes me take time to really consider what it is that matters to me and what sort of person I want to become. It’s a great exercise that I feel like we should all do more often.

So as Stanford GSB asks, what matters to me and why? So many things come to mind: empowerment, collaboration, change, balance, diversity/uniqueness, fulfillment, compassion. Each of these because of how they enable us to improve our lives, to be better versions of ourselves. Ultimately, I think it boils down to empowerment. When people are empowered through education or resources or connections, they can take themselves to a better place bit by bit. And aren’t we all pursuing incremental improvements that will culminate into a life that we can look back on and be pleased with?

For years, I’ve yearned to find my calling. I’d watch shows, read articles, and hear interviews of successful people following their passion as if answering a calling. Many of them spoke about how they’ve always felt the deep desire to (fill in the blank). Meanwhile, I searched and searched for my calling. Was it animals? Nature? Photography? Travel? Blogging? Entrepreneurism? So many options seemed compelling, but no single one stood out to me above the others. I was trying so hard to get a little bit of everything I wanted.

Recently, in writing my essays for my MBA applications, I’ve finally figured it out. What is it that I can spend hours reading about, thinking about, talking about? Sure I love animals and I volunteer with insects, I take photos all the time and love getting that amazing shot, and I have been blogging for years… but I don’t engross myself in science articles or photo editing or blogging tips the way I do business articles and interviews.

When it comes to business – in particular, management principles, hiring practices, and above all – culture, I am obsessed. For me, culture drives everything. Culture determines the type of people you attract, the way they behave (and therefore the output they’ll create), the effectiveness of your brand, etc. etc. etc. I literally devour everything I find mentioning anything related to company culture, hiring, and training. I could sit (or stand, or walk) and talk about ideas around these concepts for days. I constantly have new thoughts that I add to my every-growing ideas document.

While I often get distracted by the many other things I am passionate for, I don’t spend nearly as much time and energy on any of those topics. This is how I know that the thing I would get up in the morning for above all else is the opportunity to cultivate an amazing and likely unconventional culture. To do that, I want my vehicle of change to be empowerment. By creating mechanisms through which people are empowered with the knowledge or resources or contacts they need, I can help them become better people. Better people thrive and feed into a culture that is supportive, collaborative, and empowering. And thus the cycle goes, building upon itself and sustaining itself even as it grows.

I’m still finding myself, but this time spent being self-reflective has given me a lot of insight into who I am and who I aspire to be. I’m starting to notice the patterns in my life that draw from an underlying current that I hadn’t observed before. All these seemingly disparate choices have come together to paint a clearer picture of what motivates me. I have gained confidence in what I should do with my life because I can now see the forces that have been there all along, creating the themes that define me. Now I just hope I can clearly articulate to the admissions committee!

When I dream, I don’t sleep well

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,
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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?

The creators, the inventors, the doers

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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I’ve always admired people who can make something. Maybe it’s gadgets or maybe it’s music. Maybe it’s art or maybe it’s crafts. It just amazes me when they can take their skills to produce an end result that we can use or enjoy again and again.

For years I wished I could be a creative. Come up with things, produce things that others would admire me for. In fact, recently I’ve been contemplating YouTube videos. Putting content out there that people could listen to and relate to, now that’s creation! I looked in admiration at all types of people who had found their passion as a child, couldn’t stop creating, and eventually followed a path to put out amazing things. “What about me?” I thought as I reflected on skills I wish I had, like making soap or cooking or singing or dancing.

Yet all this time, I never realized that I have been creating. This very blog, in fact.

For some reason, because it’s not something I can open up an Etsy shop for or record a video or audio file of, I never considered it creating. Why did I not see it earlier? This IS content, and truly one of the original forms. And I (*gasp*) am creating it! Whoa.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been writing for so much of my life that it became the norm. I don’t even notice all I’ve written. At 10 years old, I began keeping a daily journal. 13 years later, I stopped upon meeting Panda, but by then I had been blogging on the side. So then blogging started to take hold until it became the primary way I kept track of my life. I’d share thoughts and experiences and now it’s become a place for my memories. Whenever I want to share something with friends, I can easily do a search of the 2300+ entries on my blog to pull up a post. It’s very much a part of me and an extension of me.

This is what I’ve realized: I am creative. I write blog posts. I am inventive. I constantly think of new topics to share. I am a doer. I built and manage the website for it all.

#proud

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