Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

My Last Last Hurrah

Cute Relaxation

Random Observation/Comment #220: There’s nothing more exciting than planning a trip.  It keeps me on my toes, and the constant research through travbuddy and flickr makes me anxious to explore even more destinations with my camera.  The drive to take pictures is even greater than ever with my new Canon Powershot S90.  I think it is the best purchase I ever made (other than the IBM x61 – don’t be jealous).  These are my friends on the road, and I have grown accustomed to their companionship.  We make sweet love often. Cheers and let the good times roll.

As Kwame put it, I am in the sweet spot between college and starting work.  I don’t have a worry in the world and I’m just going to enjoy it like I enjoyed that summer before college started (well actually, all of senior year in high school because once I knew I got into Cooper, I began using the phrase “whatever” in more frequency).  The only difference between this period and that summer is the fact that I’m much more creative now with how to spend my time. When I was 18, I was traveling Hong Kong, mostly playing video games, and eating interesting food.  I guess I had a better idea of how to relax back then, but now I take pictures and meet as many people as possible in all adventures.  I’m absorbed with different hobbies and I look for something to make life more interesting.

In all honesty, it seems like the last year of my life has been a last hurrah.  I’ve been traveling the world and conducting interesting research while looking through different perspectives I thought I had passed. After graduating Cooper, I thought I would never be able to live that dorm life style again, but I was gladly proven wrong with Hamburg.  As a nerd with my head stuck in books or girls all the time, I didn’t think I could let myself enjoy myself and see the world.  Now, more than ever, I feel like I’m just trying to avoid my mid-life crisis. Hopefully I will be able to read these entries and be less greedy and more content about the life I’ve lead.  I felt like I’ve done everything – I’ve explored my nerdy side, cultural side, touristy side, relationship-obsessed side, and overall creative side.  The world has really become my oyster and I have surely taken hold of it with my own free will.  Who needs these self help books anyway? Is it so difficult to find your own direction?

Well, in case you do want my opinion about it, all I did was simple: I made goals and then I geared my life to complete them.  I thought to myself, “What would be a cool thing to say you have done?”  After that, I just went out and did it.  No matter what happened, I always day-dreamed about doing something more, so I just put those dreams into reality by making the proper sacrifices to feel productive and efficient.  In doing this, I’m needed and included in my community.  I’m producing content instead of continuously absorbing it, and I’m making plans instead of just waiting for things to happen.

As you can tell from the previous entry, I have brain-washed myself into accepting the way of the world.  I will still be different in my own ways, but the real reason behind it was my fear of not being able to make every following year the best year of my life.  If I brought myself to the highest high too quickly, I think the only path left is to fall.  Over the past few months I’ve admired something more beautiful than robotics and artificial intelligence.  I envisioned the happiness of having life-long friends and bonds that could never be broken by any fight.  It felt like a sitcom.  What was that sitcom about a bunch of friends that share everyday-problems with their friends and it was hilarious, yet touching? Right – How I Met Your Mother.

Anyway, the more I traveled, the more I felt disconnected.  I met plenty of people that I call friends, but our limited time together did not build the same type of close-bond. We separated ourselves just the slightest bit because we knew we would be apart in the future.  In many ways, the travels alone made me feel … well… very lonely.  I had my journal as my closest friend to share some obscure ideas and confide my deepest secrets.  I kept looking for a home in all those cities, but I could never find one.

It is only in the past few months back from Europe when I realized that New York City is where I belong.  It helps make all my dreams come true and compliments every one of my hobbies.  Vacations in other cities can then truly be treated as vacations, and not research projects.  I have felt the waters, and I’m quite confident with my choice.  Thus, this “last hurrah” will truly be a vacation.  It sounds funny, but I needed to learn how to relax and let go.  Now that I’ve found what pushes my buttons, I can finally push the “Regenerate” one.  Thank you, Spain.

~See Lemons Back in Japan

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In Search for a Career

Professional

Random Observation/Comment #219: The waiting period after the interview for a response is the most nerve racking experience.  All I can do is think about how I answered each question and try my best to see how the interviewers could have interpreted my answers.  In many cases, I find my own faults and smack my head, but there is absolutely nothing I can do except wait for my results.  As the days pass, I know my chances for getting the position decline, yet there is a glimmer of hope that still flickers thinking that I could be an exception and I shouldn’t prematurely guess the result.  I guess the best thing to do is to go shopping and do some sight-seeing to ease my mind.  Thus, I bought a $500 camera and began being distracted ^^.

I wrote a lot about finding my own career in a personal journal instead of this public one because I feared that the companies reading my blog would find it unseemly.  However, now that I think about it, everything I mentioned during the interviews is actually the way I feel about my life moving forward.  I may have made my story convincing enough that I believe it myself o_O.

Based on my experiences in research throughout Cooper, Japan, and Germany, it sounds like I should be aiming for my PhD or becoming some Artificial Intelligence guru.  Instead, I’ve applied to careers involving finance and trading, and I will be working as a technical analyst at Credit Suisse for at least three years. Most people’s first reactions to my plan forward encompass: “WTF!?!”; “What a sell-out!”; “What a waste of talent”; “Wait… Why?”

There’s more than just money in this explanation.  Some of it involves money, of course, but a lot of it is the idea of conformity, acceptance, family, and manipulation of the system.  I think any job I do will allow me to focus on a variety of skills and become an expert in that field, but I feel being tech savvy is external to an everyday 9 to 5.  Staying up-to-date with the newest technology is just a hobby; the progression of the world around me is fascinating and it’s just much less depressing to read about the next up-and-coming robotics advancements than the wars around the world.

I remember when I first joined Credit Suisse as an intern. They had a workshop helping interns narrow down their career plans.  It asked people to rank the importance of different values in their life, most notably: work-life balance, time flexibility, money, location, perks, family time, travel, and job security.  There was a long list of reasonably important things, so I did what I always do: I imagined how life would be in 5 years.  I thought about my mid-life crisis and tried my best to avoid that mental breakdown.

In theory, the career should be enjoyable and include your most passionate interests.  However, in practice, the career usually suffocates all sense of happiness with an overload of bullshit from poor managing or stuck in boring projects.  After a while, you lose touch with the interesting stuff and just follow a set routine.  It leads to boredom and further reevaluation – who wants to do the same thing every day even if you make all the money in the world?  More importantly, who wants to make all the money in the world if you don’t have free time to enjoy it?

Yes, we all have bills to pay and stuff we want, but a lot of life’s pleasures are not that expensive: a warm hug, a refreshing Guinness with close friends, a clever joke, a full day eating cereal and staying in pajammy-jams.  Time seems to be the one thing that traps me – there’s just so much I want to do to get the most out of this short life.  This concept may cause me to be uptight in certain ways, but I’m surprisingly happy with those crossed-off tasks on my to-do list. The tasks on this to-do list revolve around my interests in my hobbies.  I like a lot of things and I try my best to narrow them down to a doable list while also expanding to learn new things, but it’s difficult to get the right balance.  Either way, I am happy that I can always find something to do in my free time.

The location aspect, to me, only seems important based on where my friends, family, and personal community exist.  A bar is just a bar, and a park is just a park.  Yes, New York City is amazing and I would be lying if I could see myself living anywhere else, but it’s really the people that make this my home.  I rather enjoy my time with the inside jokes and sense of being a part of something larger and more important.  I think anything I do should somehow improve upon this concept. Even though it may seem selfish to help myself, the amount of contribution after settling my own issues will balance in the bigger picture.  Although my thoughts have not evolved to include the entire world, at least I could improve the situation of those around me.

So, I guess the main things that drive me are my hobbies and the relationships I have with the people within my community. Luckily, I’ve had a lot of free time to build these before actually starting in finance.  I specifically chose finance because, no matter how much I want to abolish the idea of a monetary system, there will be (within my generation) a level of dependency on this form of economy.  I wish I was brave enough to stop and devote my life to a specific research field and travel the world, but there’s a part of me that wants to move forward and start stability.

The more I see how complicated the world is, the more I find that my goals have always reached too far.  Solving the world problems doesn’t happen with one person, but I can always help solve a few people’s problems with a few smiles and some personal insight.  It took some time to accept that I’m not a unique flower and The One.  The world will live without it and we’ll smile all the same.

“How can I feel abandoned, even when the world surrounds? How can I bite the hand that feeds the strangers all around me? How can I know so many, never really knowing anyone? If I seem super human I have been misunderstood.”

Even though I don’t think I can change the world, this doesn’t mean I won’t contribute to it – I think it just keeps me realistic.  We’re all a part of something bigger, and I’ve realized I can’t always see the bigger picture of it.  Hopefully, I will contribute my share and give myself, and those around me, a reason to live.

~See Lemons Selflessly Selfish

Setting Up New Goals

see lemons set light green goals

So many potential goals

Random Observation/Comment #218: Rejection is a terrible thing, but it’s definitely part of life.  Any excuses I give for my role in the situation will never be enough to ease my mind.  I’m not sure if it’s the disappointment in myself for not being able to think quicker or act sooner (or later), or if it’s just self-pity and self-loathing, but it definitely sucks.  At the end of the day, it’s what you can learn from these situations, so over time I will rise from the lull and rebound.  Rejection builds character.

I wrote about a year ago about goals, aspirations, dreams, and fantasies.  I think it was about time to update this entry with my achievements in the past year.

Since last December, I’ve: finished my Master’s thesis, started a company, went on a small roadtrip to Ohio with close friends, studied abroad in Germany for 6 months, traveled all over Europe (at least 15 major cities), sledged on the Swiss Alps, cooked almost every day in Germany, collected about a hundred more beer caps, started a collection of beer labels, tried every flavor of Rittersport, uploaded about 150 albums to facebook, listened to the full Harry Potter series audiobooks, climbed 3 mountains in Germany, fell in love again, wrote about 100 entries, (almost) wrote a book, got to second round interviews to all the companies I applied to, wrote my first chapter to a comic, wrote a study guide for learning languages (key vocabulary words that are used in everyday conversations for Mandarin, German, Japanese, and Spanish), basically reorganized my life, read a book for leisure, bought my first manual camera, and started at least 5 other side projects.  I’ve been keeping busy…

To quote my previous entry:

“Many of the goals are very short term and involve completing tasks at hand to make myself feel productive for the day.  Long term goals exist as well, but they are much more reasonable and can probably be achieved in the next few years.  The aspirations are for my long term career outlooks and accomplishments that occur in the next decade or so.  My dreams are what I deem as possible, but will require a lifetime of hardship or a whole lot of luck to come true.   My fantasies are things that will probably never happen, but their existence makes me happy and keeps me wishing.”

Goals:

  1. Stop procrastinating
  2. Narrow down primetime TV shows because they take up too much time in my life (House, The Office, Heroes, Dexter, Colbert Report, 24, Californiacation, 30 Rock).  Better yet: try not to add more to this list.
  3. Learn to write more in Chinese
  4. Learn to speak fluently in Japanese, Mandarin, German, and Spanish by 25.
  5. Get better at cooking
  6. Review more restaurants
  7. Try more wine
  8. Finish the comic book
  9. Finish the manga
  10. Finish writing book – maybe publish it or just share with close friends
  11. Go sky diving
  12. Write more poems
  13. Add more to my bottle cap and labels collection of beers
  14. Finish my side projects list (top secret for now)
  15. Take more photographs and improve with manual settings
  16. Travel to Japan and Hong Kong before I start working
  17. See Natasha again
  18. Continue to collect memorable quotes from amazing nights

Aspirations:

  1. Get married (hopefully after the love thing)
  2. Find a career with flexible hours, low stress, and high pay (maybe this should be a fantasy or at least a dream)
  3. Live in NYC
  4. Publish a book (autobiography, memoirs, novel, etc)
  5. See the Northern Lights
  6. Make money from photography
  7. Write about drinking expensive wines
  8. Get an MBA
  9. Save someone’s life – change it for the better forever
  10. Own a dog and play in the little dog park with them – yay!
  11. Conquer my fears
  12. Go restaurant reviewing with my brother – he drives the nice car and I pay for the meals

Dreams:

  1. Visit all 7 continents
  2. See all 7 wonders of the world (all of them listed on Wikipedia which makes them like 50 based on different organizations)
  3. Travel to at least 50 countries (currently at 15)
  4. Make my first million by the time I’m 27
  5. Eat at almost 80% of all restaurants in The City
  6. Early retirement
  7. Make a living traveling and writing
  8. Learn to fly a plane
  9. Own a house that I’ve designed (I would build it, but I’m afraid it would fall down while I sleep)
  10. Become as influential as a professor – possibly become a professor
  11. Change the world with something
  12. Get on the Colbert Report
  13. Travel to space – weightlessness would be cool too

Fantasies: (All new sorts of ridiculousness: see last year’s entry for other funny ones)

  1. Time travel
  2. Obtain Jedi powers – most notably mind tricks
  3. Be a part of a heist without any consequence.  I don’t mind getting caught as long as I can say “I want full immunity signed by the President.”
  4. Help build Skynet, but go back in time to try and protect a younger version of myself from the governator
  5. Chainsaw a zombie in half
  6. Sleep with the only hot girl that remains after the zombie apocalypse
  7. Carve a turkey with a light saber
  8. Extend claws and have regeneration. I would also have ridiculous chops.
  9. Swing from a chandelier while having an epic sword fight
  10. Curve a bullet around Angelina Jolie
  11. Play ping pong against Christopher Walking
  12. Lift an entire aircraft carrier from a door while saving a girl
  13. Fly around the world so fast that I turn back time
  14. Play an Australian guy pretending to be a black guy pretending to be a soldier in the Vietnam war
  15. Make a play about a secret relationship that foreshadows the movie
  16. Chant “We Are Spartans” after defeating thousands of Persians on the side of a mountain
  17. Have a split personality disorder that makes me invent Brad Pitt as my alter ego. Not Tyler Durden; just Brad Pitt
  18. Run across the US and back for no reason except “I just felt like running”
  19. Attend Hogwarts for 4 years while fighting the dark lord and then become an outcast for an entire movie to defeat death eaters (which will be so much better than the last one)
  20. When I get mad (or excited), I turn green and huge
  21. Search for a treasure in an ancient temple filled with awesome traps.  Unchartered meets Tomb Raider
  22. Go to Vegas and count cards to win lots of money
  23. Be able to speak like Mickey in Snatch.  WTF does he say? I hate Pikers.
  24. Continuously be chased by the government because I’m a trained assassin trying to figure out my past
  25. Sweet Key Lime.

As always, health and continual strives towards learning is what matters most.

~See Lemons Aim, Exhale slowly, and Squeeze

Reorganizing my life

 

see lemons stay organized

anal packing (stop thinking dirty)

Random Observation/Comment #217: Lately, I’ve been going through a weird phase.  It seems I did a full year (2008 Japan trip – Almost end of 2009 Europe Trip) as a frequent blogger and social network user (yes, I realize the addiction). I tried exposing myself to an invisible audience to try something new, and in the process, found one of my all-time favorite hobbies.  The RSI and Ulnar tunnel syndrome in my wrists are not the biggest fans of my constant typing, but I absolutely love writing down my ideas and organizing my thoughts. This is why I have been writing a book.  It needs a lot of work, but I had a lot of fun reflecting on the story.  I guess it was just a part of my to-do list that I needed to get out of the way.  I will finish polishing it during my last trip in November before I start work.

 

I must have missed a phase of self-identity in my youth.  When I looked in my childhood room, I didn’t see anything particularly reminiscing.  It was clean with some scattered memories, but the walls were unfurnished and my hobbies apparently only involved video games and Legos.  I think I tried to make it look like a futuristic child’s bedroom with a messy shelf and unkempt bed.

I lived in Manhattan for 4 years where my apartment became a personal lair with a limited amount of space to keep organized.  The time I spent in Japan and Germany also involved a nomadic space that I temporarily furnished – there was no reason to bedazzle it when I would eventually need to take it down, right?

When I returned to that childhood room, however, it suddenly struck me: This is my own personal spot now and I can make it mine with hopes that it will never change.  Shouldn’t I feel a rush of relief and happiness when I see my old room when I visit again a few years down the road?  I’ve always expected a momentary rush of memories like they do in those movies and video games.

To better represent my space, I hung up old posters on my walls filled with trophies and random collections.  Memories from my trips were strewn throughout countertops to remind me of good times.  For some reason I rehearsed what I would tell someone if they ever entered my room and asked about certain objects.  I was fascinated by how much I could remember just by touching their surfaces.  It was as if I had one of those super powers from Heroes.

After fixing the desk, I looked in my wardrobe and tore everything out.  I refolded my clothes and laid them cleanly on my brother’s bed as if it were my only little fashion store.  The clothes in season were all laid in plain sight and the shrine for my jeans was perfection.  The colors matched nicely and the outfit permutations just raced through my mind.  I was satisfied and at peace.

From there, I looked at my desktop PC and laptop.  Even virtually, there was a mess of unorganized folders and downloads scattered on my main screen.  It took some time, but I redeveloped my naming conventions and optimized the depth of the folder tree with the number of children each folder possessed (data structure lingo).  Basically, at any given time, I want to be able to reach my file without going through too many folders, but being able to narrow down the file at a quick glance.  This would involve categories (as Windows makes with Pictures, Music, Video, and Documents), but to another level (which is the basic purpose of cascading folders).

When I was satisfied with document organization, I cleaned every program I never used and optimized everything I could think of.  I even reorganized my bookmarks, which had grown absolutely abhorrent in the past year.  Cascading folders once again filled the bookmarks and I synced it with Google (since I was using Chrome, it just saves in your Google Docs account).

Next, I reviewed the main websites I visited every day.  I used the RSS feed option to fill my Google Reader and made lists on my twitter to narrow down my desired content.  Instead of going to each webpage to see if updates were there, the updates came to me in one nice package.  These subscriptions increased my efficiencies and I don’t even need to go through the bookmarks anymore.  Streaming videos would queue in my “things to watch” list and website articles would fill the reader.

As time passed, however, I found that it was impossible to read everything.  It was then that I trimmed the fat and removed redundancies.  Do I really need 5 social networking sites? Do I really need 10 different websites for tech updates? Can I really watch all of the Hulu shows?  No one has enough time to just surf without specifically learning any skill set.  I wasn’t exactly reading the news to see how it affected market trends, nor did I read up on specific programming languages or contribute to open source projects.  I basically just looked at things that I thought was cool so I could perhaps bring it up in normal conversation – so maybe I’d have something to post as a status update, shared link, or tweet.

It occurred to me that I had become a consumer of content instead of a producer.  I sat there in front of my laptop just absorbing random interesting facts about the world (while staying entertained), but never really giving back to any community.  I wrote when it followed my daily schedule, but it was the selfish autobiographical nonsense and a ploy to cross off another line in my to-do list.  Even my pictures seemed to have fallen short when I had returned, which made me a little depressed.  I felt like I had organized my life, yet it was all done in a selfish manner.  I can always increase my efficiencies, but what good is that if I don’t use my extra time for an honorable purpose?

I felt that same golden arrow of consumerism I see in our economy.  Instead of trading money for materialistic things, we’re just trading time for random knowledge.  I must admit that if the majority content consumer did not exist, then there would be no use for the knowledge contributors.  Another supply and demand principle, yet I can’t help but think that this content is a different monster – it has many more dimensions of creativity and I believe that everyone can contribute in their own way.

It’s not so much that I have been procrastinating my work (although it is definitely a result) – I think I’ve just been distracted by the overwhelming amount of interesting work that others are producing.  It is this realization, however, that I find myself reborn (so to speak). I am more feverishly motivated to lay down my ground works while I still have the free time.  If I ever want to complete my long list of goals, which I will revamp and list in my next entry, I need to plan accordingly.  Reevaluation of goals – I hope others can follow suite; maybe not to publish to the world, but just to keep their compass pointing in the right direction.

~See Lemons Reorganize and Contribute

Happy Halloween

CreepyRandom Observation/Comment #216: Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  The masks come on, but so many other masks come off.  People can stop living like they have a stick up their butts and just have some fun.  As a tribute to this Halloween, I will write a story.  It’s supposed to be scary.

It was just like any other Halloween.  All the girls were competing to be slutty, while all the guys just enjoyed picturing them with fewer clothes on than they already wore (which wasn’t that challenging).  The music was bumpin’ – Who doesn’t love music that degrades women, cleverly masked by an addictive beat?  An aroma of sex and sweat was palpable on the dance floor. It was a party filled with people I knew from class, but I could hardly tell with the makeup in the way.  If you unfocused your eyes a bit and let the cheesy, hazy lens effect kick in, you’d probably see some devil work and monkeys doing back-flips.  The theme of the party was irrelevant since everyone took it as “let’s drink a lot and try to hook up with as many people as possible without obviously looking like a harlot.”  The addition of costumes only contributed as an additional social lubricant to get the conversations started. “Who are you supposed to be? Superman dressing up as Chuck Norris.”

I followed the routine of becoming a horde of the undead, and roamed the cramped apartment hallways chanting for “beer” with the typical zombie “brains” tone and demeanor. The wine stains spilt on the shredded t-shirt with assorted blood works only added to the effect.  A drunken stumble and stubbed toe made the zombie hobble more believable.  The extra attention was a plus.  It was the only time I wouldn’t mind feeling like a celebrity.  They didn’t dig into my personal life – it was just some show of teeth with an assortment of poses.

As the night progressed, my vision tunneled and a dark shade of red outlined my world.  My eyes were two inches too high and I began to feel afraid of heights just by looking down towards my feet.  I stared at my hands, but I didn’t recognize them.  It wasn’t as if I couldn’t see past the blood stains and fake scars; my fingers didn’t feel right.  It was like looking into a mirror and trying to think in a reflection after drinking excessively (this may have been the case).  Nothing was in my control and I didn’t remember signing up for something like this.  In a world where everything was so factual and calculated, how could I let go?

There was a red hue, over-saturation in the image in front of me.  Noises at the extreme high and low frequencies were louder and more distinguishable to torture my subconscious comprehension skills.  Shrieks of laughter pierced my ears.  I swore it was bleeding, but it was probably part of the bottle o’ blood.  I wish my body moved as fast as my thoughts, but everything was so slow.

All of a sudden, a man in a tweed jacket approached me; his face furious and his wagging finger quite intimidating.  He mumbled about killing a cat in a box, but I couldn’t be sure.  All I remembered was the red marker and it’s scarring cuts and slashes into my dignity.  I fell to my knees as I dripped onto a floor covered in paper.  As I leaned in disillusionment, I saw others around me struck and fall, as well.  Some eyes were glazed trying to hold back tears, while others seemed to twitch in disbelief.  I couldn’t tell what was happening.  How did the tone change within a single paragraph?

One by one, the papers on the floor disappeared – the red marker already causing its pain.  One by one, the smiles faded.  One by one, the bottles of alcohol disappeared.  I was there alone with a much less cheerful narrative and far fewer clever observations.  I couldn’t breathe, but this was expected as a zombie.

Imagine with me, if you will, this nightmare haunting in the back of my mind at all times.  I will always be a Cooper student.  Didn’t you remember? The exam is tomorrow.

I would have sworn I heard a howl…

~See Lemons Boo!