Archive for the ‘family’ Tag

Dear Dad: How to Retire

Open the window to new possibilities

Random Observation/Comment #254:   “Oh, how time seems to sneak by… Babies you once held in your arms can now teach you how to use facebook. “  –Clemens Wan 1/12/11

Dad, I sometimes forget that you and Mom are not super heroes with the power of knowing everything.  I sometimes forget that your current phase of life is the first time you’ve encountered it.  Just because you can tell me so much about the path growing up, doesn’t mean you know what should happen next when you’ve raised kids and look for the next steps.  In fact, it must be very weird looking at your past accomplishments and trying to evaluate your life.  I know it’s not so easy when most of the memories are chopped up into holidays and free Sunday afternoons to get some of your own time where you read some news or took a day-time nap.

But regardless, there are enough mediocre memories throughout your life to make the good memories extra “good.”  There is enough of a routine to really highlight those incredible moments of pride and happiness.  I hope you hadn’t followed the routine too closely to have time pass by too quickly.  Work has always been something you selfishly slaved away with to keep the family afloat.  And the truth is that the family thinks you need a vacation.  You’ve spent all this time in America saving money, but for what reason? Yes, you can say that you did it for your kids, but we’re all grown up now. Didn’t you invest in 401k to take it out later?  I think now is a good later.  And if you think some of the money will help us buy our first house, don’t you know you’ve already given us the best gift?  It was the gift of a great childhood and awesome supportive parents.

You’ve always taught me and Angus to work hard and be responsible so that we wouldn’t have to worry about working so hard later on.  As the black sheep, of course, I’ve always chosen the fun path and never worried about that whole financial stability part, but I know that the only reason I could do this was because you spent the past 35 years supporting the family and really being the best father.  You taught your kids to be clever, not just smart. You taught us to think from all angles to tackle all problems.  You taught us to learn from our own mistakes and especially mistakes that you’ve made in the past.  And we’ve grown. We’ve experienced. We’ve lived gratefully with the gift that you and Mom gave us.  It is now the time to check off this accomplishment and go to the next.

Whenever I think about getting old, I always think about the Bucket List.  It inspires me to keep goals in check, and make sure every year moving forward is a productive one.  The advice I can give for retirement is to sit down and write down these goals.  Whether it’s being able to travel Europe or fix the house, now is the best time to plan it.  Share the list with me and Angus and we’ll make it happen.

Whatever you do, though, don’t put “the company” thought on the list because it’s a waste of youth.  Spend the money on a nice vacation instead.  Pick up a hobby and reach the less work-focused goals.  This is kind of like a mid-life crisis, but you’re actually encouraged to feel young.

If you ever run out of ideas, here are a few of mine that are relevant to you. I have taken into account health concerns and areas of interest.

  • Travel more into the city with Mom
  • Travel around Europe with Mom
  • Take more cruises and taste different types of food
  • Collect postcards and send them to me and Angus during your trips
  • Get better at ping pong so we can buy a table
  • Drive more cars by renting them by hourly rate. (Alt: Buy GTA5 with a steering wheel set-up and play some video games on the weekend)
  • Start playing mah jong again
  • Go fishing with Terry in the summer
  • Hold shabu shabu parties more often
  • Go to cooking school and cook Mom a meal
  • Learn Mandarin better
  • Get in touch with old friends and visit them

As always, health and happiness.

~See Lemons See Parents Happier

Living Vicariously

I wish I could be.. British?

Random Observation/Comment #238: I congregate with such an odd lot of friends. My crew would probably be on the cover of some diversity poster at NYU.  Maybe I just like the phrases we make up. Wordlife.

It was the day after St. Patty’s Day. One of my best friends and I were sitting at McSorely’s drinking a pair of Darks, when all of a sudden, a pretty girl sits next to us and starts a random conversation.  Of course, we all chat and give the 2-minute well-practiced glimpse into our little complex lives, but then she finally speaks of her underlying motive.  What she wanted to know was how these two (handsome) men on the opposite spectrum can sit together and enjoy a beer together.

On one side, she saw an artistic adventurist; glistening with a new tattoo slightly covered by his tight white t-shirt.  The skinny jeans, huge steel-tipped boots, and freshly shaven head told a different story from when he expressed his perspectives on Applied Psychology.  Somehow he spoke about his subjects with such passion and interest that the whole room seemed to listen intently.

On the other side, there was a quiet thinker; wearing a sweater-vest and rimless glasses with his carefully chosen words and tendencies to drift off into semi-intelligent tangents.  He told stories about traveling, but he had spoken of these times as if they were from a different life – not much could be done as this new phase has taken over his purpose (or lack-thereof).  He seemed interesting in his own way, but only because he would probably do your math homework if you asked him to (and definitely get you an A).

At the time, we deflected the question with the answer: “We go after different women and different women come after us, so there’s really no conflict of interest.”  This is very true – in a random line-up of diverse and pretty women, our tastes would never overlap.  I tend to go after the intellectuals with quirky personalities, while my friends would prefer typical blonde-haired blue eyes or skinny artistic girls.  It’s convenient, but just because we like different women, doesn’t mean we’re best friends – it’s not like we’re always chasing after tails – What? I said always.

It could be our similarities.  I like beer.  They like beer.  We drink beer.  Fair enough – we have a good pastime, but then again, we can’t always be drinking beers.  Maybe it’s our sense of humors?  Sometimes there’s no other knee slapper like someone else’s misfortunes.  It sounds mean (and it definitely is) but I can’t help but laugh if a guy gets hit in the groin or if a clown falls down the stairs and makes squeaky sounds on the way down.  That’s just funny.  Plus, I hate clowns.

It must have started when I was younger. I hung out with kids who weren’t exactly bad – I mean, how bad can a kid be in elementary school? – But they weren’t exactly straight-A students, or considered “good influences.”  He was (and still is) one of my best friends, but our differences in childhood and circumstances has always fascinated me.  In many ways, he was the adventure side of my childhood.  I listened to my parents and studied, but also went against their rules and played in the dirt with friends that may or may not upturn all of their hard work.  Now that I’ve grown up a little, I can see how dangerous this influence could have been to me.  If I had followed a similar path to his, I would have wound up in a different life.  There would have been some jail-time here and there, and probably a few children lying around (not that it happened).

In another light, although he was indeed a bad influence on me; I was actually a good influence on him.  I can’t imagine how much more trouble he would have gotten into without my conscience stopping us – well, I still thought digging a hole for a swimming pool was a great idea too.  It’s not like I’m doing some charity work or letting them use me; we’re all friends – and damn good friends.  If I ever needed them, I could call and depend on them to be there for me.  As I tell them stories about my past adventures, current endeavors, and plans ahead, I expect them to be brutally honest and tell me their true perspective without sugar-coating it too much.  They know when to pick me up with a few comforting words, and they know when to push me with some tough love.  I guess the best way for me to explain it is that we’re just best friends.  We do the same thing that good parents do for each other, but we’re the same age and our advice is not considered “out-of-date.”

My friends and I always say, “With our powers combined, we could get any girl out there.”  In a more general sense, we all provide a crucial piece to the puzzle.  Honestly, I’m not going to fool myself in believing that I could do everything (actually there are many situations that I would definitely avoid), but at least I can be friends with people that have walked that path – I can live that story of life without going through all of it.  It’s all a complicated adventure where we influence each other’s decisions and branch off into our own developed-story.  Although we’re an odd lot, it works for us and I wouldn’t trade this community for anything.

~See Lemons Thankful for Friends

Learning from the Bucket List

finishing a bucket list

Random Observation/Comment #223: This vacation is completely different from the ones I’ve had before. Instead of looking for purpose, I feel I’ve already found it.  I feel like I’m doing everything the same, but my mentality is just completely different.  I’m not trying to find a home; I’m just treating it as if it’s already my home.  This doesn’t mean I’ve lost those curious traveling-eyes where everything looks like it’s from another universe, but I think my overall observation about the world (whether at home or overseas) seems to be heightened.  Life has those bright and brilliant colors, and I can’t help but smile.

“The Bucket List” is a movie about two well-aged men (Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson) who meet as bedmates in a hospital when recovering from cancer. They grow as friends despite being radically different and – after hearing the bad news – decide to form a bucket list of things to do before “kicking the bucket.” Jack’s character, being the owner of the hospital and just ridiculously rich, decides to help make all of these dreams come true and have fun in their final adventure.  Like most people, “travel the world” is basically at the top of the list.  So they left on that private jet and chatted about every aspect of life while touring the major attractions and seeing the majestic beauties every culture has to offer.

Warning: The following is a spoiler for the movie.  I’m mentioning the movie in this blog because I think it makes an important point about leading life.  The underlying message made me review my life and plan for a different type of happiness.

Morgan Freeman’s character is a brilliant man (you know – the type that can answer all of the Jeopardy questions) who selflessly sacrificed his entire life to financially support his family.  After finding out he only has a few months to live, he finds it appropriate to be a little selfish.  With Jack Nicholson’s character as his piggy bank and travel buddy, he goes everywhere and sees everything he’s been unable to see due to time and money restrictions.

Jack’s character is a filthy rich man with four failed marriages and an almost non-existent close family.  He indulges with Morgan’s dreams and sees the “last hurrah” as another adventure – just a simple fun way to see everything he loved about life again with a newly found friend.

Although the list itself seems like it was made to benefit Morgan’s character through the mooching off of Jack’s endless supply of money, it’s interesting to find Jack enjoying himself with a true friend.  He learned much more about community, family, and love while traveling with someone than he had ever done before.  You can say that Jack had everything he ever wanted that could be obtained with money, but he had not found a rightful place with those that should matter most.  Does that initial mask covered with material possessions actually matter at all?  Reputation is definitely important in many respects, but how much reputation do you need when you actually know someone as close as you know your best friends and immediate family?

I can probably write a full 5-page essay about this book, but I’ll save everyone the torture.  The point that struck me most (and I don’t think you need to stretch your brain too far to see it) is that the connection with those around you – the story you leave behind and the bonds you make that are unbreakable– is more important than money.  There will always be that struggle to fight for the higher paying job and own a bigger house, but I don’t think that’s worth it if there’s no one to share it with.

Although some people may argue that the girlfriends will come as money and security builds a sound foundation, I argue that girls can be incredible actresses and unbelievably greedy.  Isn’t that one of those golden rules: Never give a woman your credit card?  I’m not being pessimistic about all women, but I would rather meet someone who’s “real.”  By that, I mean, someone who is okay with being themselves and okay with that causing someone to dislike them (even if it’s me).  Sometimes we should bend and accept certain faults, but other times (which can sometimes be very difficult to gauge), we just need to back away and agree that the relationship is not compatible.

Anyway, even before watching this movie, I had some similar type of revelation. It happened sometime in September when I came back.  After traveling for so long, I still felt at home.  My friends were still my friends, but with more stories, and the scrips were still the scrips, but with new buildings.  It was simple and relieving.  I stared at the unknown ahead and planned as much as possible while making my list of goals, aspirations, and dreams.  As I thought about this community-loving nugget of knowledge, I saw something much more interesting.  I saw a web of connecting interests and a slew of dreams that overlapped.  Dreams were being made and broken every day, but there were the dreams around me that I could actually make come true.  There are lives around me that (while they don’t necessarily depend on me) would strengthen our relationship based on my plans ahead.  With that in mind, I found the bucket list to change into something much more selfless.  I still have the dreams that will help me move forward before helping others, but that choice moving into work experience was mostly for those around me.

I am selling out to help my parents: they deserve to retire and enjoy themselves as I have.  I am selling out to grow closer to my friends: we’re going to run the scrips.  I am selling out to continue making this year better than the one before: What’s better than traveling the world?  Having a place to call home (Or making enough money so you could travel the world with your friends and family.  That would just be ridiculous).

~See Lemons Believe in Community

A drunken entry on the plane about life

Looks like the guy was drunk when he did this

Random Observation/Comment #221: 13-hour anything-rides are a pain in the ass – like literally, your ass may fall asleep and it may be painful.  Before the plane ride, I thought I had the best plan: Drink alcohol, get drunk, and fall asleep.  What I didn’t take into account was how quickly I get trashed while 15,000 ft in the air.  Gin and tonic was my toxin of choice, and after 5 glasses, I was very entertaining and a delight to be around (at least that’s how I felt).  After snoring and dozing off for 4 or 5 hours, however, I woke up with a sick feeling. It could have been the yogurt at dinner, or the alcohol itself, but the next 5 hours were the worst. The lady sitting next to me gave me dirty looks for making her get up to use the bathroom so much.  Never again – well, maybe on the ride back.

Note: This ridiculously long flight (where I was trashed half the time and sick the other half) still gave me time to write. I had written this in a drunken state, but I think it was interesting.  I, honestly, don’t even remember writing this.

Life doesn’t exist in phases: I think we just separate them that way when we’re younger to make things easier to understand. More important than the phases are the values that are learned while growing up.  Life seems to be mostly about how you think about life.  Pessimistic people will find bad things and optimistic people will expect and look for good things. Why not just see things for how they are and go with the flow?  Make sure your current situation is the best that it can be, and then plan ahead to make the situation even better.  Make sure you’re indulging in your joy and then spread that joy to those around you.

I found that “make yourself happy” is a fairly simple line of thought.  Of course, “I” does matter a lot, since I don’t think “I” is stupid enough to do harmful things to him, but continuously thinking about “I” would never advance a civilization.  It’s always been the bonds you form and the community you join that makes the world a better a place. I think I knew this when I first started traveling, but I didn’t really enforce it because I kept traveling and distancing myself from a community around me.  This blog was the only attempt I made to stay connected to a community I created for my own pleasure.

In many ways, my happiness was selfish: girls treated, not entirely as relationships, but as objects towards my own goals; degrees obtained to make money instead of help an advancing scientific world; hobbies existing as little side projects that pretty much only made me smile; tasting extravagant foods and wines/beers/spirits just so I could build my own opinion about them.  I wasn’t consciously making these decisions to obtain my own selfish goals, but I think I do owe many apologies for my previous actions that were sub-consciously made selfishly.  It is, however, this adjustment of character that should help me approach the world with more respect.

However, now that I know that this is the path I will take after I mature, I am wondering how quickly I should mature.  There are so many people out there who haven’t even begun to think about this, and I wonder if I should take advantage of the years I have to stay immature.  Of course, I will still have my values, but shouldn’t I be taking risks and exploring?  The only thing that floats in the back of my mind is the fact that those around me will benefit from my actions. If I didn’t grow up, my parents couldn’t retire and have fun. If I didn’t grow up, my friends wouldn’t be able to have the baller life-style in the city.

I suspect many people would tell me to worry about my own life before planning to meet the goals of others, but I think it’s fair to have other’s goal in mind if I love my friends and family.  Without them, my goals wouldn’t be worth having anyway.

~See Lemons Drunk and Mumbling


Random Observation/Comment #104: I never imagined it would have taken so much time to catch up with my Japan entries.  I thought I would have finished these summaries and reflections a maximum of two weeks after returning.  Now that I had gotten so used to writing about every passing day, how will I catch up with all of the things that happened after Japan?  Well, I won’t, because most of it was spend in the lab writing my thesis anyway.  I’m not worried though, there’s always something to write about.  What chaos doesn’t exist will be created to make things more interesting.


I could tell it was awkward giving everyone hugs because I made all of them blush – guys and girls alike.  I had formed bonds with these students and they have all influenced my opinion of Japan.  So many cultural lines were crossed through a gesture that I find normally fitting for farewell. 

It doesn’t even matter if I’ll see you later tonight, a hug feels good.  I can’t begin to describe how many things a hug means to me.  Let’s just say that depending on the type of hug, it can be more intimate than a kiss.  A hug says, “Welcome into my personal space – we can share.”  The body contact is maximized to spread warmth, and we physically transmit feelings of gratitude, sadness, or best wishes.  It could say “I’ll miss you” or “I love you” or “I’ll never forget you” within that short-lived tight squeeze.  I think my days are brighter when it starts with a hug.  This will be tested with another social experiment (I can already hear the hippie names you come up for me now).

This was a sad day for Japan, but I doubt they skipped a beat.  I had missed my home and it was my presence needed to be spread more evenly.  I needed to leave even if I didn’t want to.  There were lonely nights when I wondered how everyone was passing each day.  I predicted what they would say when I returned.  I imagined what they were wondering what I would be doing to pass the day.  My odd sense of thinking in recursion sometimes hurt my head because I’d fill in the whole three panel comic with pictures of pictures (that made more sense in my head). 

This entire trip was a real life example of that heart aching question: “Will I be missed?” 

When I had a girlfriend, my eyes welted whenever I thought of her cold hand without mine holding it.  I felt powerless with her, yet I could conquer the world at the same time.  There was nothing about her that I could control, but I felt safe letting my heart go.  It was a connection that I was certain, but could never satisfyingly prove.  If I were still with her, I think she would miss me.  I think I would miss her.

I’ve given parenting much thought just because I try to plan everything in my life.  I’m sure I could fill a book with my observations and conclusions, but an analogy comes to mind that reminds me of my current position as a son.  Let’s say I’m obsessed with cars and call them my girlfriends, mistresses, and wives.  Hypothetically, I set a project to build my own car and make it into my hunny-wagon.  Let’s say it takes me 4 years to complete and I document it every step of the way with photo albums and over-sized hats.  One day while I’m taking the hunny-wagon out for a spin, I get into an accident and it’s completely totaled.  I step out of the wreckage without a scratch, but I watch my 4 years of hard work towed away by a dump truck.  Imagine the heartbreak seeing the time and pure manly love that went into this gorgeous vessel that just disappeared in a flash.

21 years where something could have gone wrong with my engine, my brake lining, oil changes, suspension or whatever, but there was always these mechanics worrying about it and trying to fix it.  I had started off priceless, yet I will always accumulate in value.  My time with them should bring us closer, not drift us away.  I am a “good kid” because I always think about this analogy.  First and foremost, I want to succeed in whatever definition I place for “success”.  And second, I want to make my parents proud and give them the reward for putting up with me for so long.  How much frustration have I caused them?  How much do I owe them?  They will say I owe them nothing, but I think I will pay it back by teaching my children and showing them I figured out one of the most important puzzles.  (I’ll probably buy my dad a car and my mom some diamonds too.)

I am a life-long project.  My parents and brother have raised me and watched me discover myself into some sense of maturity or understanding of the vast world before me.  They’ve carefully planned everything one step ahead of me.  Whenever I thought about lying to them, they knew and they already had the next level of the tree filled.  It was so calculated, but I’m sure they would just say they made it up as they went along.  In my eyes, these were not responses or reactions to my decisions, but rather choices of actions based on a solvable game.  How could they know?  Why were they always right?  Every step of the way, they have been there with advice that would never corrupt me or see to my doom.  Although I may not see all of the angles they do, in the end, it never steered me in the wrong direction.  “You’ll understand when you get older” actually means something now – damn.  I am old enough to make my own decisions, but there will be no point in my life where I don’t consider their precautions – after all, they love me, and I love them.

~See Lemons Love Family and Friends