Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

The countdown

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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DSC04126It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for five months and even harder to believe I’m about to leave on Friday.  Thankfully, there’s lots to do so I don’t have much time to mull over it all.  On the one hand I’ve missed Panda for nearly 150 days and I can’t wait to see him, touch him again.  It’s been too long of pretending I could touch him and feel him hug me through the webcam.  On the other hand, the people here are amazing and have taken great care of me.  Plus, I’m just getting around to exploring Singapore!  It’s a pity it’s ending already, but I can’t help but look forward to who and what I have waiting for me back home.

As I’m down to my last three full days, I’m trying to squeeze everything in – a trip to Sentosa and a visit to the Flyer, one final event for C&S, and a last day in the office ending with a discussion with Starfish and a little dinner party.  I probably won’t get more than a nap Thursday night as I finish up packing and nervously await my early departure time.  I’ve still got to find time to go to the Night Safari (probably Wednesday after the event), since the rain today deterred me from going.  I was absolutely exhausted and zonked out on the bus ride home anyway, so it’s better I didn’t go.  Then there’s my final foot and back massage that I need to use up from my membership card.  Maybe I’ll squeeze that in before the Night Safari.

Most importantly, I’ve got to tie up loose ends and say bye to the parents who have generously taken me in these past few months.  I don’t really have time to take them out to dinner to show my appreciation, but what can I do?  I hope I get inspired when I’m out tomorrow.  I was pleased with the little gifts that I found for the people from the office – cuff links for Zen, Mizu, and Typea, and compact mirrors for Marylin and Starfish (plus a Love Spell spray for her, which is like a classic VS scent for the lady who loves that brand), who all have played a huge part in supporting me here.  For the others who have been there for me and made the atmosphere enjoyable, I had adorable little elephant keychains.  I had a lot of fun choosing the gifts, even if I was dead tired and my back was dying when I came across these treasures.

DSC07100Each one has its significance to me (and may not be the most practical, but I was going for more meaningful…): for Zen, a pair of silver dragons because that just seems fitting for an influential man; for Mizu, a pair of gold electric guitars because he truly is a rock star (in so many ways); for Typea, a pair of blue and sea green golf clubs in their bags (or whatever it’s called) for his enjoyment of the game and the lifestyle it represents; for Marylin, a pink cover with a pretty peacock for her growing involvement in the beauty industry; and for Starfish, a cool blue cover with an elegant flower for her cool head and classiness as well as the spray I mentioned above because she loves VS.  As for the elephants, I figured that Mac would want the purple one (actually why I bought that particular pack, though I liked it because I like purple too) and Lorry would appreciate the green one (a bit of an inside joke on that one, for all his Greenness).  Skim was the only wild card, who could go for the pretty light blue one or the more royal blue one, or maybe even the bright white one.

Now I’m hoping I’ll just as much meaning in some items that I can present to Typea and Marylin’s parents prior to my departure.  Both sets of parents were very generous in taking me in and really made it possible for me to stay here; I certainly couldn’t have afforded an apartment!  Other than that and the final activities I will be participating in, I just need to pack and make sure that I don’t go over my weight limit.  The moment I find I’m under, I’m going out to buy Mamee to stuff the rest of my bags with.  I love those snacks and as of yet I have not found them in the states.  And with that, I’ll be gone before I know it.  Gosh, it’s creeping up already.

Life stages

laelene Posted in general blog, relationships,Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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I was recently found on Facebook by an old middle school friend, which then prompted quite a discovery journey for me.  She and I only have two friends in common since she’s new to FB, so I went to check out those profiles too.  One of them was my best friend from those St. Louis days, who I haven’t heard from in years.  I stopped by her profile to find that she’s engaged!  I still remember the days when her parents were still so overprotective that they wouldn’t let her sleep over at a friend’s house until she was about 12 or 13 (my house was her first sleepover, and probably only because we were a Chinese family too).

She got engaged on Halloween - how cool! photo credit: her FB

She got engaged on Halloween – how cool! photo credit: her FB

From there, I was checking out a bunch of my other friends’ profiles and so many of them are engaged, married, or are starting families!  It’s really amazing to remember them the way I do as young teenagers and look to see what their lives are like now.  We’ve all grown up so much.  I guess it’s such a shocker for me because I never watched them grow up and my last memory of these people was in middle school, when we were still in our awkward phases.  It’s wonderful to be able to see where they are in their lives now, from planning a wedding to starting their careers.

I think the 20s are the most exciting years, what with many educational, personal, and professional milestones concentrated in that decade of our lives.  It made me think about how each of us is reaching a different stage in our lives – from those who are still finding their way to those who are settling down.  I think marriage and children are still more rare in my peers right now, but in another decade, that landscape will likely change drastically, with the opposite true.  It’s fascinating for me to see the type of people each of ends up with and the lifestyle that we fall into.

Ah, the rings... I much prefer silver to gold. photo credit: katargonza.com

Ah, the rings… I much prefer silver to gold. photo credit: katargonza.com

I know for sure that if I had not moved to California, my life would be immensely different.  One thing I’ve noticed was that my Asian friends from years past (which totals to a mere three) have all settled with Caucasian boyfriends/fiances.  I always thought I’d end up with one too, and more than likely would have if I hadn’t moved to SoCal, where the density of Asians is much, much higher.  Our surroundings play such a huge role in how our lives turn out, from the things we encounter to the people we’re exposed to.  I wonder if the environment in the Midwest and out East had anything to do with their decisions to get married at this age.  Maybe it’s just my sentiment, but I’d rather get my career underway first and that seems to be the vibe on the West Coast.

Nonetheless, I am intrigued to see who is married, who is engaged, who has a kid, who is still dating, and who is still single.  I don’t know why I find it so interesting, but I love going to people’s profiles to see their relationship status.  In fact, this prompted me to start going through all my friends to see what they have listed.  Other than the few who are married or engaged, I will likely forget the rest, but it’s still fun to explore.  It’s also a nice update, since some have changed their names and initially I was quite confused by their new surname.  I’ve never really thought about it, but when I did, I realized that I am far too attached to my name to just change it like that.  Panda’s ok with that (yay), so I can rest assured that I didn’t buy my domain for nothing.  😛  It’s still weird to think that the kids will have a different last name though.  I hate hypenated names though, so I’d rather they take his than try to do some awkward combo (unless we’re allowed to do some hybrid spelling?  o.O).

So, where are all your friends at?  Where you thought they’d be?

Transformers thoughts

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , ,
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*If you haven’t seen Transformers, there may be some spoilers.

TRANSFORMERS

photo credit: howstuffworks.com

We had a fun little outing with most of the company to eat dinner and watch Transformers tonight.  I’m not a big fan of robots and aliens and that type of action film, but I thought I’d come along to just hang out and see what all this hype about Megan Fox is all about.  All in all, it was kind of as I expected – a whole lot of metal with some hot girls thrown in, but nothing that really grabbed me.  Still, I tried to immerse myself in the story as best I could and felt a bit sad here and there when a character died.  However, I couldn’t help but think of all the things that didn’t make sense to me (like how these robots don’t just stomp out all the people when they’re fighting and how Optimus’s body was unharmed during that huge long battle).  It also didn’t help that I heard giggling at entirely inappropriate times, which makes a weak plot even less impactful.

I spent a good portion of the movie trying to understand the point of most of the characters – it seemed that they weren’t really needed.  Eventually I came to the conclusion that they were thrown in pretty much for just one purpose each: for the girl, to be the one trying so hard to bring him back; for his roommate, to lead him to the deli; for the deli guy, to lead them to the old plane guy; for the old plane guy, to sacrifice himself for the final battle… you get the point.  Really it was just about the special effects and I’m sure most people went for that (as well as some peeks of those two chicks’ bodies).  I did enjoy all the military gadgets that it showed though – I’ve always had a soft spot for a fighter jet flying overhead or anything else that rumbles so loud I feel it in my heart.  Plus I just adore the military in general, so it was nice to be reminded of some details from my military experiences.

The one thing that it did get me to think about was the whole “I love you” issue.  I’m still waiting for Panda to say that to me one day.  Though the word love has been thrown around here and there, I don’t think he’s ever said that phrase and I wonder when he’d be ready to.  Well, at least there’s no rush – it’s only been a year and there are still many years to go!  It’s interesting how reluctant people are to say that and it was a random theme that stretched throughout the course of the movie.  I don’t understand how Sam knew that the girlfriend said it first when he was unconscious and apparently talking to some old robot machines during that time.  But hey, it’s the movies for a reason, right?

People pleaser & misunderstandings

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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I’ve always been the type of person who will bend over backwards to try to anticipate what people want and do it.  At the expense of my personal enjoyment, I’ll let them have their way and enjoy something before I do.  I’m constantly proactively thinking about what I can do to not get in their way and to be more considerate to them in ways they may not notice, but would make a difference.  I’ve certainly not been completely successful and still step on people’s toes despite that foresight, but I still try, even if it means I’m always evaluating how other people might think.  It’s a tiring process and I’ve been jaded a few times, but I still tend to act that way.

More recently my strong-willed side has come out more and though I spend no less time thinking about how people would react to my actions, I care less.  After all, I can’t always live my life by everyone else’s rules and time and time again I’ve suppressed a lot to please someone else.  I’m worn out from years of giving, giving, giving.  Giving my time, my money, my energy, my resources.  I’ve got stepped on, walked over, and even trampled a few times that way when I allowed too much and didn’t stand up for myself.  So nowadays, I spend some time justifying my actions when they aren’t so people-pleasing.

Now this is how I'd like to work (and do at home) if I had to be at a desk.  photo credit: expresspros.com

Now this is how I'd like to work if I had to be at a desk. photo credit: expresspros.com

Take work for example.  My working style is erratic and varied, with plenty of distractions throughout the day.  I’m not the type of person to sit down and focus for hours on end, complete a task early, then call it a day.  Instead I meander through, sometimes chatting with others, sometimes checking e-mails or social networking sites, sometimes reading articles for personal enjoyment and enrichment.  All of this goes towards what I consider an important aspect of all our lives – personal improvement.

Often people get so caught up in their work that they don’t take the time to make themselves a better person, a better worker, a better friend.  I tend to focus on the gaining new knowledge aspect of it, but sometimes I’ll turn to my interpersonal skills as well.  This translates to a confusing picture for anyone looking over my shoulder, who will find that I have thirty tabs open at any given time and switch between them quite frequently.  To some, it may look like I’m slacking, but I’m too tired to try to make everyone understand.

So, I’ve been justifying it to myself: I still work quite efficiently overall and there are periods of intense focus (usually when nobody else is around).  The bosses know the product of my time and though we’ve talked about how I let my fear of failure hold me back, all feedback on the quality of my work has been positive.  My work is internal development, which is always ongoing and has no real deadline to meet.  Of course, I set incremental ones, but really I could be working until the cows come home and still have the bulk of work to do.  So, it’s not like I can just finish a project and be done for the day.  Put these together and that’s how I explain to myself why I don’t need to work like the others do.  It’s not my style.

photo credit: art.com

photo credit: art.com

I almost don’t care what the others may think of what they see.  I used to worry that people would think I napped too much, but that’s just another way that my body copes with work.  I’ve come to the point where if I need to rest, I will, and for as long as my body tells me to.  Whereas before I may have tried to hide that fact by sneaking to a corner or setting an alarm so I didn’t sleep for extended periods, now I am accepting my personal work style.  It’s extremely unconventional and I’m lucky that this environment is very flexible and forgiving.

I guess that’s why I’m so adamant about not getting a typical desk job.  I know I’d fall asleep in the middle of the day.  I know I’d get antsy and want to move around or just surf around a bit online.  For me, it’s still a part of my creative and learning processes, so it’s not exactly time wasted.  I don’t know how I could stand to show up to work at 9 every day, sit and focus, take a lunch break, then complete the day and leave.  It’s such a stale routine.

Though I try a bit less to please everyone now (which, of course, is impossible, since not everyone will know all the factors and will often misinterpret things), I am still often concerned with it.  However, I’ve learned to not always change my behavior to fit what I think others want.  In fact, it turns out that some of the things that I have been doing that I thought were considerate was being seen as strange behavior.  Suddenly being independent was being seen as being aloof and being conservative with resources was being strangely stingy.  I guess I’m screwed no matter what.

Asian on the outside, Asian-American through and through.

Asian on the outside, Asian-American through and through.

It only struck me here that I am so strongly Westernized and even though Singapore has huge Western influences, it is still very much an Asian society at heart.  The things that I do that I never had a problem with before are suddenly all problematic.  There are many layers to the misunderstandings that have occured, but much of it stems from the cultural divide.  Just like I am deceptively Asian with my standard Mandarin accent, Singaporeans are deceptively Western with their lifestyles, but deep down, it’s a completely different story.

I guess the hardest thing is that people expect me to know all the nuances of Asian culture because I look the part.  They hear past my American accent and only see my Chinese face and assume that I know what it’s like in an Asian culture.  But in fact, I left the country when I was only three and have since spent twenty years in the states.  It wasn’t even until I moved to California nearly seven years ago that I met so many other Asians.  The bulk of my childhood was spent among white people (the Midwest doesn’t offer much diversity).

I wonder about all the things that I must have done as a child visiting in China (that I didn’t even realize were different) that my relatives just wrote off as a trait of being “the American” one.

A bit of a loner

laelene Posted in general blog, relationships,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Growing up an only child, constantly on the move, and often home alone, I’d say I can be a hermit of sorts.  At home I’m used to holing up in my room, for the first half of my life reading books and for the second half spending time on the internet.  I’ll spend the entire day there, taking breaks only to go to the bathroom or go grab some more food from the pantry.  It’s a lifestyle that I think a lot of people don’t understand, either because there are too many people in their households or their parents didn’t offer them as much space and independence.  But for me, what is normal is to do my own thing.

My mom will call me for dinner when it’s ready and I’ll make my way downstairs when I’m ready, usually after my parents have finished eating their meal.  We’re not ones for small talk, so they’ll continue on with their lives, my dad sometimes flipping on the news and my mom burying herself back in her study material (she’s always teaching herself something new or playing with AutoCAD).  We have a very nontraditional family unit and I think outsiders would often see our relationship as cold and distanced.  I don’t know how to convince them otherwise (nor do I want or need to), but that’s just the way it is.

white hp laptop

Just me and my computer.

I get all the support I need both emotionally and financially.  When I need help or advice on something, I can go ask and though we’ll often disagree, there’s much to be learned from that.  As for money, I hardly spent any as a child, never really asking for toys or new clothes.  All I wanted was to be driven to the library on a weekly basis so I could drag a new stack of books home.  At one point, I wanted video games, but they refused and I didn’t pursue it very frequently so eventually the desire faded.  In my senior year of high school, I started to drive and since then my habits have changed quite drastically, where I am much more in charge of where I go, what I do, and what I buy.  I still try not to spend much, but I do splurge here and there and my parents are always there to help me pad my bank account if I need it.

Panda and I have talked about the type of family we would want and I think it will be much more cohesive.  I image going to the park on a weekend or wandering around some new part of LA.  It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with my family; it’s just that when everyone is busy with their own things, hanging out for no good reason seems a waste of time.  So yeah, I’d like to have a lot of time to do things together, but I hope that when it comes time for the kids to leave home and go to college, they won’t feel tied down.  I don’t want them to feel like they need to come back on weekends all the time.  I chose to go to a college near home not because of the proximity but because of the university itself.  I want that to be the case for my children too.  There comes a time when you need to leave the nest and start making a life for yourself and college is definitely a major transitional period where that starts to happen.

buffalo walks along side of road alone

A bit of a loner.

Lately I’ve found that my immense independence and solitude is not “normal” and I think it can be seen as being aloof.  To me, it’s leaving people alone and being left alone to do what we need to do.  Unless there’s actually something to talk about, trying to find things to discuss feels like a waste of time to me.  So I thought I was doing everyone a favor by staying out of the way.  Well, when I was told that that’s not what they wanted, I started to greet in a less timid manner, began coming up with follow-up comments or questions, and would occasionally make my way to the living room and watch some TV together (even though I have no interest in TV).  All the while, I wracked my brain for things to talk about.

At the same time, I was terrified.  I don’t know how to approach people who I perceive to be in a position of authority (teachers, bosses, parents) and even when they are extremely open and inviting, I proceed with caution.  I think much of this fear held me back and created a lot of self-doubt in what I was doing and what I could do.  I knew I needed to somehow be more talkative and interactive, but I couldn’t think of interesting topics.  Perhaps it was because I felt that everything had to be so meaningful and profound.  It seems that small talk isn’t like that though – so much of it is really just mundane stuff, isn’t it?  And everything is quite repetitive – what you ate, what you did, how the weather is – and really doesn’t change all that much.

I also stopped myself from trying to talk much when the TV was on or trying to enter a room if the door was closed.  Those are signals of “leave me be” in my world, so I respected that.  Yet, other than that time, there were not really other windows of opportunity.  It’s either nobody’s there, they’re in the room, or they’re watching TV.  Well, it seems that there has been discontent because of the lack of interaction, so I decided to give it a shot.  I sat there and tried to make conversation for 45 minutes, with many pauses and much of the time spent looking at the tennis match on TV.  A couple times, it was suggested that I go rest or that I must have other things to do, so I should go in the room and go on with it.  I didn’t know if those were just polite refusals as a gesture that it’s ok if I don’t stay or if they were a subtle dismissal and an attempt to get me to retreat to the room.

guy puts face into handSigh, everything is so complicated when it comes to relationships.  I’ve got no experience in this realm and it is kicking me in the butt.  Even when I ask what is going on and what thoughts and feelings there are, I get no answer.  It’s such an Asian thing to do and perhaps I am too Western in my behavior.  To me, it’s about sharing feelings and talking it through.  But I guess it’s not so easy.  There’s so much that is taboo in the Chinese culture.  I wonder if this is the case,where even asking will not help yield an answer.  It sure seems so because so far it hasn’t.  I know I have a lot to fix but I don’t know what exactly and, more importantly, I don’t know how.  I feel utterly powerless and useless.  Boy do I have a headache.

Amazing Race: final thoughts

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Ok, I can’t help it.  I don’t like to post two things in a row that are too similar, but I just finished watching Amazing Race and there are so many thoughts going through my head!  Like I remembered that yesterday I forgot to mention the language barriers that you deal with when you are in a foreign country.  Also, some of the later episodes in China made me look at my own Chinese language skills as compared to Tammy and Victor Jih’s.  And then of course, I’ve been imagining in my head who I could do it with and how we would approach it.  I can’t even sort out all the random thoughts I’ve had while watching this latest season!  I wonder what the other seasons are like and how many more they’re going to have…

Excuse me? What did you say?

Excuse me? What did you say?

To start off with, let me revisit my own experiences in traveling around Europe and the language barriers it presented.  At the very beginning, when I showed up at my new flat in England excited for a year studying abroad, I ran into some trouble.  NEVER did I think I wouldn’t be able to understand the British!  Yet, amazingly, I found myself seated with my flatmates around the kitchen table that night, bewildered at how I could hardly identify what they were speaking as English.  Only Llama had what you would consider a “proper” British accent (aka BBC newsworthy).  Everyone else’s accents ranged from the Yorkshire boys’ to the London girl’s.  Now that’s one thing you don’t really hear about – that they have huge differences in regional accents!  They’re nearly their own dialects.  Thankfully, a few hours of listening to them and I started to understand the patterns and process what they were saying.

But then came the true test during that 5-week spring break (or Easter vacation, as they consider it) when I went traipsing around the rest of Europe.  Though many countries spoke English to some degree, there was a lot of gesturing, pointing on maps, writing out names, and general confusion.  Luckily, I could usually get a map in each place, so at least I didn’t have to try to butcher the pronunciations of the places I was trying to get to.  It was also useful to have my basic knowledge of French, which helped a bit with Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian as well.  However, visuals and physical interaction are usually your best friends in this case.  I always thought it’s funny how people still talk out loud in their own language, even when the other party is not understanding a word of it.  It’s useful though – sometimes the intonation can clue you in or a word will pop out at you.  I find interacting with those who don’t understand you a most interesting challenge.

The complete opposite also happened to me on a train ride from Italy to Hungary, going through countries like Croatia and Slovenia.  I was in a room with three other people and they each spoke three, four, and five languages.  The only common one we had was English, so they tried to stick to that, but at points they’d slip into some Italian or German before remembering me and coming back to English.  Sigh.  I wish I was multilingual like that!  One of my neverending goals it to retain my Chinese, but also to regain my French skills that have been lost over the years in college.  I’d like to see the day when I can claim I’m trilingual at least.  Oh, and I want to learn Cantonese as well, which Panda can start teaching me.  I’m scared of the pronunciations though.  We’ll have to see when I make the time for these ambitions!

Hey, I've been there too!

Hey, I've been there too!

As for the language skills I do have, they’re patchy.  Though my Mandarin accent is near perfect and very standard (aka China newsworthy), my reading skills are quite lacking.  I don’t know if I would have been able to read all the characters in the calligraphy that they did, though the dish names would have been easy for me to pronounce, whether or not I was able to figure out what they translated to.  I think speech-wise, Tammy and Victor’s diction was a bit stiff and sounded foreign.  This happens a lot with people who learn the language by the book – they never really pick up on slang terms or colloquialisms.  Oh, and those translations for what they were saying… who did them?!  Sometimes it was completely off, though it didn’t really affect the main idea of what was going on.  However, their reading skills seemed a little better than mine (though I don’t know if they were told the words first or just read them themselves, since the calligraphers they were talking to seemed to have said what they were writing).  All in all I think I’d do similarly to the Jihs in our motherland.

Forget just seeing the Bird's Nest - how about being in it?

Forget just seeing the Bird's Nest - how about being in it?

Finally, I kept imagining myself with Panda and how we’d deal with it, but I don’t know how plausible that would actually be.  I’m considering applying just to see if we can get through, but I have a media angle on us that I want to wait on.  Plus, he’d need to get out of school first and have the flexibility to be able to go on the show.  I can’t imagine him taking a quarter off to do something like this and you certainly can’t take three/four weeks off in a quarter system and catch up in a class!  Let’s hope the show lasts quite a long time!  Yes, I’m actually seriously considering this.  No harm in trying, right?  And though I was worried about opportunities to enjoy the cities during the race, I figure if you can win it you can always go back!  I know I’m dreaming big here, but it’s something I can fantasize about and look forward to, whether or not we actually do try someday.  However, in thinking of this and how we would face challenges involving our fears or dislikes, I worry about our ability to overcome and try.  It looks a lot easier when someone else does it, but I guess being in the right mentality during the game kind of gets you to do whatever you need to fight to the finish.  Does Panda have that competitive spirit?  I’m not sure this is his sort of adventure.

Grr I am strong too!

Grr I am strong too!

So, then I started to think, who else could I do it with?  And you know what, I began to entertain the thought of trying out with my best friend, Katana.  She’s athletic, well-traveled, and super competitive.  Whereas I would definitely lead a lot with Panda, partly because I am more aggressive and partly because I am in more familiar territory than he, with Katana I’m not sure how things would play out.  Though I’m generally a peacekeeper, that would more of show in the way I’d interact with other teams.  However, in the way that I’d approach the game, Katana and I might have some serious headbutts to contend with when I chose to assert myself.  Otherwise, she’s the more aggressive and assertive out of the two of us, hands down.  We’d have an advantage because of our experiences abroad and our comfort in traveling.  Plus, if I do commit to trying out, I’d be sure to start preparing my body for it, getting back in the pool regularly and returning to my track and field days as well.  Gosh, I’m really starting to dream with this one.  So what say you, Katana?  Season 16?  (They’ve already held interviews and such for the upcoming 15th season.)  We’ve still got a shot at being the first female duo to take it away!

Amazing Race: some observations

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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photo credit: gearlive.com

photo credit: gearlive.com

When I went online today to try to find new episodes of the shows I started to follow recently, I found that apparently the seasons have ended.  I guess that makes sense in retrospect, seeing how dramatic the finale for House was, but I guess I didn’t quite see it for Lie to Me.  Well, once I found out, I tried to figure out when the next seasons start, but I guess they don’t tell you that.  Perhaps people who watch TV just know this, just like any schoolchild can tell you what month they start school.  Unfortunately, that is not knowledge I have had since sometime in middle school, so I’m quite out of the loop.  Thus, in an effort to do an activity that doesn’t require much out of me but is still relatively engaging, I thought I’d check out the latest season of the Amazing Race, which I have read about when Tammy and Victor won as the first Asian-American team.

What struck me was the relationships, the unpredictability, and the rush and intensity of it all.  First and most importantly, any sort of show like this that challenges people to work together under high stress situations tells you a lot about their personalities and relationship.  You watch as they get frustrated with what is going on and some people blame themselves, some people blame others, while some people will blame the situation itself.  And in terms of dealing with that stress, there are those who lash out at their partner, those who get upset with themselves, and those who are impatient or even rude to the locals.  It’s interesting to see the different coping mechanisms that come into play when these people are under stress.  Certainly anyone would start to crack and show their faults and again and again I would see power struggles within the teams, with one partner trying to be more dominant.  Usually this was because of their personal relationship as family or significant others.  It seemed to happen less so with the teams that were coworkers and friends.

photo credit: abovethelaw.com

photo credit: abovethelaw.com

Observing all of that made me evaluate myself and how I would behave under those circumstances.  I think I’d want to be the dominant one and would in turn be the one dishing out more criticism.  Of course, all of imagination towards how I could compete is in the scenario in which I would go with Panda.  So I’m thinking of the dynamics of our relationship, where I assert myself far more and tend to be more expressive when it comes to sharing my feelings and gripes.  So for me, the hardest thing would be to let go and not always control, but step back and let him do his thing.  The good thing with us is that whenever we get into a disagreement, at the bottom of it we both just want things to go well.  And though we’ll misunderstand each other, we’re both working hard to make things better, in our own ways.  As for how I’d treat the people along the way, I know I’d thank them a lot for their help, but I don’t know if I’d get exasperated when the communication barriers get in the way and delay things.  I can be impatient and demanding, and I may not always be able to be the gracious person I’d like to be.  I’m still working on that.  Don’t shows like this make you reevaluate yourself and your life too?

Secondly, there was the unpredictability of the situation.  Until the moment you step on that mat and hear you’ve been eliminated, there’s nearly always hope.  Time and again teams have yo-yoed from leading to lagging and back again and oftentimes they get back on an even playing field due to travel restrictions.  Plus, you never know exactly what’s going on with all the other teams, so even though you may have a good idea, something unexpected could have gotten in the way.  It’s a huge lesson in hope that I think people need to grasp better.  It’s too often that I see expressions of defeat and despair that end up in glee and joy when they discover that things weren’t as bad as they thought.  At the same time, there are great examples of people who don’t give up and fight to the last bit, no matter how badly off course they get.  That’s the beauty of it – this fighting courage that they get when it comes down to the wire.

Sometimes you just gotta go for it.

Sometimes you just gotta go for it.

Similarly, in life, so many people say negative things about what they think can’t happen only to be proven wrong.  I know I hold myself back a lot because I’m afraid of venturing out to be wrong.  However, everywhere you read, the most common thing that self-made successful people share is a certain level of bravery in taking risks and trying.  This is a topic addressed often in entrepreneurship.  If you want to do something and make something of yourself, you need to go out and attempt all kinds of crazy ideas.  Sure, lots of things will fall flat and you’ll probably get shot down more than you’d ever care for, but then you just have to pick yourselves up and keep going, taking what you’ve learned from each lesson to build on to your repertoire of knowledge.  I want to be like that since I want to be an entrepreneur and I hope shows like this are encouraging more people to act like that as well.

Finally, the intensity of the race and the pace that it goes at (which I’m sure is highly misrepresented in the show) is astonishing sometimes.  The one thing I don’t like about this premise is that people rush through these countries so quickly that they only get a glimpse of what things are like there.  It’s not true travel and tourism in the way that I value it.  So it makes me wonder how much down time they get and if they even have time to go check out some things they may have wanted to.  I think the worst thing would be to finally go to a place you’ve been dreaming of only to run around like maniacs trying to track down the right clues.  For their sake, I hope they get to do some of their own traveling, though it doesn’t really look like it.  I’m sure everyone is so focused on conserving their energy for the race and preparing themselves to take on challenges that they probably aren’t even in the right mindset to truly enjoy the cities they pass through.  It’s the one big downside I see to this great big game.

Me and my bags, dragged all around Europe.

Me and my bags, dragged all around Europe.

Though granted, I started to get nostalgic for my travels through Europe, like the 5 weeks I spent gallavanting around from Portugal to Hungary, Greece to Sweden, spanning 21 cities.  It was a similar mad rush, with me averaging 1.5 days per city, including travel time.  I had a basic plan that changed a few times depending on when I could catch trains, if I could book hostels, and where I felt like going next.  There’s a beauty and freedom in that kind of travel, where you only really know where you’re going to be in the next two days, but no more.  I had similar frustrations with missing trains, running with a rucksack on my back while dragging a suitcase behind me, and getting lost or stranded.  Additionally, I had to deal with extra fees when my luggage got too heavy for the small, cheap airlines that fly around locally.  The moment I arrived into a city, I’d get a map, go online, and find all the historical landmarks, museums, and other tourist attractions I was interested in visiting.  From there I’d map out my plan of action and go from there.  It was 5 full weeks of banking it from one place to another, trying out all kinds of cuisine I could find, and still managing to enjoy some hotspots and take a breather.  It was quite fun to travel like that and I miss it, though I do plan on going back to see things more in depth in the future and spend some time getting more immersed in the cultural feel.

So all in all, it was a very reflective experience that allowed me to think about my own life.  Which I think we should always be doing.  🙂

Lost in a sea

laelene Posted in general blog, relationships,Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
2

You know when you stick your head in the clouds and get lost there?  Then reality hits hard and you don’t know what to do.  Well, it’s not so dramatic for me, but today was very insightful and may lead to some drastic changes in how I thought things would be.  Ever since I decided to come to Singapore, with so much hope and optimism, I have set my mind on one goal: starting an enterprise with Marylin in LA.  In coming here to immerse myself, I was going to learn what I could and take that back with me to help me build something that would eventually bring her over as well.  Even though I knew it wouldn’t be that easy, we had high expectations and lofty goals.  And there we were, floating, with me taking a wonderful ride on Marylin’s typical train of daydreamy thoughts.  For awhile, we dreamt together, of what we could make of ourselves over there.

Feeling a little lost?

Feeling a little lost?

Then, with months of the real thing, we’ve found that it’s not so easy to work together, live together.  At one point we even joked about how it would be like we’re dating.  And truly, I feel that it would benefit us to treat it as such.  At least if I communicated with her the way that I communicate with Panda, things wouldn’t have gotten to this point.  Alas, when there’s no romantic affection it’s just not the same.  Part of it is that we were still in the honeymoon part of our friendship, where everything was flowery and beautiful.  Now that we’ve spent so much time in close quarters, it’s getting to the point where things have lost their glow and we must face up to the challenges that are bound to occur in any relationship.  But of course, me being the type of person I am, everything just gets bottled up and though I’ve mentioned it here and there, it’s never really been addressed.

And so, I slowly started to notice the rift that was growing between us.  There was not so much hostility as rigid civility.  Not being much of a talker in the morning when we’re going to or arriving at work, I didn’t really mind.  I’m not a morning person at all, so all the exertion in the morning would be bound to wear me out.  It was only more recently that I started to notice we didn’t have much to say to each other at all, ever.  Part of that was due to the sudden divergence in projects that we were working on, but much of it really came down to that divide that had developed.  Additionally, we’d go our separate ways at night, only seeing each other again many hours later, as we were winding down for the day and getting ready to crash for the night.

When I concentrate on something, I really like to give it my all, because it’s not often that I can get into the right groove at the right time.  I get distracted easily, from the music that is played to the comings and goings of other people.  So, when I’m in the middle of something and Marylin gets back, I like to keep that focus.  And by the time I’m ready to ask her how her night was, she’s already on her laptop or out chatting with her parents.  I tend to miss the boat a lot.  There was one precious night recently that she came home very pleased with dinner and we had a warm exchange about that.  But other than that, at night we just don’t talk, because there’s so much going on in the cyber world that it’s hard to keep up.  Then of course, I also spend a lot of my time talking to Panda because whenever I see him, my mood brightens (and who doesn’t want that?).

So there’s definitely been some strain on our interactions, where we chose to avoid each other.  Though there have been many a moment that I tried to convince myself to approach her to say, “Hey, we need to talk,” I always talk myself out of it.  I just keep internalizing everything I think and feel.  Well, today I was having a chat with Starfish and she brought up how people have noticed the change.  That opened up the doors for me to share some of what I’ve been feeling.  She had apparently already heard from Marylin on the issue, so we were brought together to discuss.  From that, I know I’ve got a lot to work on in my… “areas of improvement.”  I have certainly not been the person I am capable of being while here and I’m still trying to figure out why.  So we aired out some of our grievances and got a chance to hear how our respective behaviors have been affecting each other.  Mostly we need to communicate more (and more openly), but, BUT, we also need to figure out if we have a common goal anymore.

It looks like plans may be changing yet again, which is not wholly unexpected, but I got so focused on the goal, that dream that was just out of my grasp, that I didn’t stop to think too much.  Ironic, since I tend to think too much.  But this was something I was doggedly pursuing in my hopes.  Forget all practicalities.  It was something I embedded into my mind and framed everything I did here in the context of.  I evaluated every single task based on how I could do it in LA, how I could make it work in a city like that.  It’s reminiscent of my younger days, when I decided I was going to be a businesswoman and get an MBA.  “But what are you going to study in college?” people would ask.  Oh.  Right… I had inadvertently skipped a step in my lofty ideals, forgetting that detail.  That you can’t get a Master’s without a Bachelor’s.  So then I set out to plan my college career and I guess I thought that this would work the same: have a destination, then figure out the details.

However, setting up a business (or even an extension or a branch of it) is far less straightforward than choosing majors.  It’s even more complicated when it’s overseas, you’re alone, and there’s a huge time difference.  So what now?  I don’t know.  It’s time to look closely at my fantasy and let it fade away to some sort of a reality.  I’m confused, but I know this much – I’m staying here for the rest of the duration to continue learning (and work on getting more involved in everything).  I’m not a risk-taker when it comes to my professional life when I should be, or at least more of one.  After all, what great entrepreneurs didn’t take risks, didn’t stumble, didn’t fall?  Though I know all this in my heart, it’s still hard to convince my logical brain that it’s worth all the struggle.  And really, I just don’t want to have to live off my parents, so they can do what they want with their money and not worry about still supporting me.  Maybe I will need to for awhile, to find my footing and understand what it is that I want from this life.

Same-sex marriage

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , ,
1

New York has passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage and I hope that this will push California to do the same.  It was one of the most disappointing moments in my life when Prop 8 was passed and gay rights activists had to go back to the drawing board to strategize about how to change people’s minds.  I think a lot of the problem here is that people recognize marriage as both a social and religious institution, but not a political one, when in fact the legal implications are the most vital.  When it comes down to it, it’s unfair to strip certain people of rights because they don’t fit the religious concept of marriage.  If marriage was purely a religious implication, it wouldn’t be a problem because the law would not be involved and individuals would not be barred from legal benefits.  But the fact of the matter is that the main reason it is not being recognized legally is because of personal beliefs related to religion.

A symbolic gay marriage on the UCLA campus.  So beautiful.

A symbolic gay marriage on the UCLA campus. So beautiful.

If you look at marriage from a secular point of view, there’s nothing limiting what gender the two are.  I thought our law was supposed to be secular, no?  In that case, why is religious reasoning allowed into legal debate?  I just don’t get it.  Perhaps we need to separate marriage and legal unions.  Marriage can keep its religious references and celebrations that are only recognized by the church, the temple, the mosque, what have you.  Legal unions should be fair to everyone, recognized by the law with all the tax discounts, inheritance rights, and government, employment, medical, death, family, housing, and other legal rights.  (See how much gay couples are missing out on?)  How terrible is it to not allow a life partner to visit their loved one because they are not legally recognized as next-of-kin?  How can you stand by and not let a couple adopt a needy child just because they are not seen as “married”?  Or how would you like it if your loved one was touted away by immigration officials because you marriage is seen as null?  Honestly, have some heart here.

Same-sex marriages do nothing to harm you personally.  Maybe you don’t agree with the idea that two people of the same gender should be together, but is that really your decision to make?  I really don’t like it when people go around thinking they can impose their way of life on others.  All these people are doing is trying to live as mainstream a life as possible and not be shunned or even persecuted for their choices.  I thought religion was supposed to make you a better person.  Is that not why you put your faith into some being that can’t be proved?  In the hopes that you will be enlightened and achieve more?  Whatever happened to the ideals of tolerance and acceptance?  It’s like what if one day you’re told that you’re not allowed more than two children because that is considered acceptable in the context of what a “marriage” is?  When you have more children, you aren’t harming others, but some people may disagree with a large number of children since that means less time and fewer resources dedicated to each one.  So what if one day you wake up and people have decided that it’s irresponsible to have a large family?  That if you had a third child you would lose all legal rights as a couple?

Are people just that stubborn in their old, outdated ways?  If you can accept sex before marriage, divorce, and other deviations from the image of what a “real” marriage is like, then why not this?  Times are changing and they are changing drastically and fast.  The way I see it, same-sex marriage is inevitable.  We’re headed that way just like decades ago forward-thinking people knew we were headed towards desegregation and gender equality.  If you look at the issue closely, you’ll realize that those long-held opinions are antiquated.  It’s time for change and change is inevitable.  Putting it off is only going to exacerbate the problem and leave a community torn and bitter.  A few years down the line are we going to need affirmative action for LGBTs?  Are we going to have to go back to the cycle that tries to right a wrong and then just creates more chaos and debate?  Has a lesson not been taught and learned by what happened due to racism, ethnic divisions, and gender inequality?

How about preventing the issue of feeling like you need to make something up to this group by not doing anything you’ll need to make up to them later!  (In other words, before you get so entrenched in denying people based on sexuality, much like people were shunned based on race or discriminated against due to gender, why don’t you take a walk through the history books to see the mess that caused.)  Why not some prevention before this escalates?  It’s about more than that, but at a very basic level this is just setting things up for a repeat of historical patterns.  Will we never learn?  Nothing irks me more than racism, sexism, and… sexualitism?  Don’t discriminate on the basis of sexuality.  Everyone deserves their own happiness.

So please, people.  Open your eyes.  Open your mind.  Open your hearts.

A future unknown

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , ,
0

Today, Panda and I discussed our future living situation and it’s a good thing that’s far down the road!  Though everything else we differ in opinion on can be compromised more readily (like the cat I really want I can "adopt" by going to a local shelter to volunteer with the cats there), where to live is something that is much harder to agree on.  Though I think I would like to end up living in LA, I also can’t imagine not finally getting around to living in a few of the places I’ve been thinking about: Houston, Denver, somewhere in England again…  I’ve never lived in any city for longer than 4 years and I can’t stand thinking about being caged up to one city for the rest of my life.  I move a lot, I experience a lot, and I change a lot.  Ironically though, even though I’m used to change, I don’t like the change of having no more change.  Change is what I’m used to and that is what I’m comfortable with.  Ilike a new kind of scenery, a purging of my life here and there, and plenty of chances to learn from a wide demographic!

On the other hand, Panda is born and bred Californian.  Not only has he never left the country, he’s hardly left the state.  He knows LA and he loves LA.  It’s hard for him to imagine living anywhere else, ever.  He grew up with the same people pretty much in the same school district his entire life.  He hasn’t moved since he was just an infant (other than going to college).  Even the college he chose is close to home and right in the middle of LA.  He’s comfortable in that city and doesn’t want to leave.  Though he’s willing to take trips to visit places around the world, he’s just not interested in settling down anywhere else, for any length of time.  His life has been stable, consistent, and reliable.  So why would he want to take a chance and change all that?  It’s far easier to keep on doing what he’s doing and get a job in the area, raise a family there, and grow old there.  Very predictable.

I have known this about him and it has worried me a bit as I imagined our future together.  It’s good that we still have time to change ourselves and perhaps change our minds, but what if we don’t?  How do you reconcile two opposite demands?  Just vacationing is not good enough for me.  I want to immerse myself in a new place, which can only be done with lots of time.  So, I was thinking, maybe I could spend a few months of each year in another city and switch the city every few years.  However, I don’t like being away from him and I certainly would not want to start a family like that.  Panda suggested that we can try to have two houses, one in the greater Los Angeles area, and one in whatever other city I’m interested in.  That’s a good idea in theory, but when would he have the time to join me there?  Being an engineer, I’m sure his work days will be long and hard and the vacation time will be minimal.

Then I was thinking, maybe the company he works for would have offices in the places I’m interested in, so he can request a transfer for a year or two.  After a few of those, we could end up in LA again and settle down then.  Of course, that is banking a lot on the possibility of an office where I want to go and available space.  The type of work I’m doing now seems to (and hopefully is) propelling me towards a life of entrepreneurism and various ventures, which would make my schedule more flexible.  So perhaps I could just wait until he finds a good position and then we relocate.  Granted, this is assuming he’d be willing to go through all that trouble for a couple of years.

As a kid, I got sent on a lot of camps and trips, from annual summer visits to China to swim camps and boot camps (no, I was not a bad child, it was for my JROTC unit and I elected to go).  I like being exposed to different things all the time.  From my upbringing, I tend to get bored of things easily, unless it is always making me see and do things in a different way.  I am afraid that that is going to happen with LA.  I just need some time away, to get out all the dreams I’ve had before I can feel good about settling down in one place.  Unfortunately, that "time away" can take anywhere from 5-15 years.  Who really knows how things will turn out?  I’m trying not to worry about it right now, since it’s still far away, as are deeper commitments with each other.  But, here I am, just about seven and a half weeks into my time in Singapore and I can’t stand a day without him.  And much as I appreciate my experience here, I dream of the day that I get to hold his hand again.  How could I ever leave him in LA again and again for years?

For me, when it gets to the point where I know a city inside and out, it loses a lot of its appeal.  It is no longer mysterious, no longer exciting, but suddenly a solved puzzle.  But for him, Los Angeles is his home.  Literally and figuratively.  He’s familiar with its areas, its weather, its people.  He knows just where to go to get the food he wants to eat or the things he needs to buy.  At the same time, Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis with so much to explore and see!  From the famous landmarks to visit to the beautiful places to see, it offers up a whole bunch of options.  I can totally see him staying there forever and never getting bored.  I admit, there is still plenty for me to go see and do, but I’ve hit up most of the important areas (multiple times) and I’m ready to try something new in a few years.  I still want to go back and establish something there first, but after that… who knows.

As for now, we’ll both just have to see if we can break out of the barriers we grew up learning and find some sort of a compromise down the road.

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