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This year I joined the quarter-centenarian club with my fellow 1990 babies. I admit that I stumbled through the early years of adulthood rather haphazardly without a clue about who I was or what I wanted to pursue in life. As I reflect on the last few years I spent experimenting with, and often times failing at the art of “adult’ing”, I realized that my preconception about transforming into someone who has it all figured out is a lie. Although I still have much to learn, life has taught me a few lessons that I may never forget (in no particular order):

  • On negativity: At some point, someone will tell you that you are not good enough, you’re not a good fit, you’re not my type, you can’t, etc. DO think about feedback carefully, but DO NOT allow a trivial opinion discourage you from chasing your dreams. Revel in your personal wins, and disregard comments that simply aren’t true.
  • On friendship: On that note, surround yourself with good friends who are positive and supportive as this will affect the quality of your life and happiness. Tell your loved ones how much you love and care about them, and always make time for those who matter. Fight constructively and forgive often. Life is too short – you can always make more money, but people will not be around forever.
  • On communication: Say what you mean and mean what you say. Stand up for yourself and learn how to say no. Authenticity is just too rare these days.
  • On failure: Failure is nothing to be afraid of. As my pal likes to remind me, the sun will rise again tomorrow and you will have another chance to try again. Take risks, learn from your mistakes, lather, rinse, repeat.
  • On finances: Save, invest, and live below your means. Status symbols are worthless; build real wealth instead because compound interest is a real thing. This means pay off debt, cook meals at home, pay as little rent as possible, wait for sales, understand need vs. want, and don’t bother with the Joneses (to add to note on friendship – real friends don’t treat you differently because of what you have.)
  • On happiness: Practice gratitude every day. It’s human nature to continually strive for the next best thing, so it’s easy to become blinded by the have-nots. Appreciate the roof over your head, the food on the table, and the breath you just took because as you are reading this someone else just took their last.
  • On health: You get one body so take care of it. Life is difficult to enjoy or can get cut short when you are sick. Eat veggies, drink water, get enough sleep, and keep moving. This is not something you can throw money at and hope it goes away.
  • On perspective: Always have a sense of humor. Life is full of ups and downs, so just accept the facts and enjoy the journey! Trust me – in the grand scheme of things, your problems are probably not a big deal. Learn to laugh at yourself.
  • On introspection: Know who you are and what matters to you. Now make sure your actions align with your values. This is called acting with integrity. This is the key to happiness, confidence, and learning to love yourself.
  • On learning: Learning doesn’t stop after graduation. Life is not about figuring it all out. A life learner is relentless in the pursuit of self-improvement and finding the discipline to push through struggles in a valiant effort to become the best at anything. Keep challenging yourself. There is always room to grow.

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I was once under the impression that everything gets better with time. I thought that as an adult, I would figure out exactly what I wanted in life, overcome my fears, and actively pursue the things that matter the most to me. Apparently this is not the case because I still struggle with self-discovery, not to mention that I still have an irrational fear of clowns and dolls. As I look to other people for inspiration, I’ve noticed that many people are not sure of their passions or purpose in life either. That said, whenever I meet accomplished people, I’m shocked to find out that even the most admirable ones can have trivial insecurities. This comes to show that what you feel is often not what others perceive.

In a nutshell, insecurity is a state of mind that makes people feel like they are not good enough. It could be self-inflicted or stem from any external sources from childhood, bullies, negative people, or the media. My pal believes that we have two lives existing – the one we live and the one we dream of living. Whenever we push ourselves closer toward the life that we dream of living, we sometimes stumble along the way and doubt ourselves when we fall. The anxiety that comes with insecurity can be crippling and people sometimes just give up on their goals just because they’re afraid of admitting failure.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

I remember one rather frustrating summer in 1996 when I thought my grandpa was teaching me multi-digit multiplication, but I learned something even more valuable that evening. He said I would be allowed to watch TV if I finished all his practice problems, but as an Asian who still can’t do math, I didn’t grasp the concept in time to catch The Simpsons. As I kept getting each and every problem wrong while missing my show, I eventually dropped the pencil and gave up. That was the day Grampy sat me down and passed down his words to live by. He made me realize that life only gets harder, so giving up is not an option. Find what scares you the most, and do it over and over until it doesn’t feel scary anymore. Except heroin. That stuff is scary for a reason – stay far, far away.

Insecurities are just areas of opportunity to challenge ourselves and grow. It is important to remember that we all have to start somewhere, so you cannot compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 30. Fail over and over, but do not give up and most importantly, always remember to love yourself for who you are.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

February 14, 2014—I woke up feeling groggy and dizzy despite having gotten a full night’s sleep. It wasn’t until after I arrived at work that I realized I had a bad case of food poisoning from dinner the night before, and I felt so nauseous that I rushed back home to rest. I spent the entire day huddled up in bed with a high fever, hot chills, and stabbing pains all over my body. I didn’t wake up until dinnertime, during which I held down a little rice and I was still contemplating whether I should head over to J’s to celebrate Valentine’s Day with him. He said he would be home from the airport at around 9pm, so I decided to wait and see how I was feeling before heading over.

I drove over to his apartment wearing my old sweats from high school and I even brought a tub of applesauce with me. It really doesn’t get any sexier than this on Valentine’s Day eh? I was still a sloppy mess from being sick all day, and from the looks of his bloodshot eyes, he was still running on EST. Last night was hardly any different from any other day of the week—we sat on the couch, watched the Olympics, exchanged gifts, and just talked. I left after an hour so I could rest up some more at home.

I’m feeling a little better today even though I’m still huddled up in bed with my applesauce and a bottle of Gatorade. What I realized this morning was that I had the best Valentine’s Day of my life yesterday, and it’s all because I’m lucky enough to be with someone who makes me feel special and appreciated all the time. I didn’t need one special day out of the year to feel loved, because no extravagant gifts or dinners in the world could ever make me feel as happy as J does on a daily basis. Despite sitting in front of the TV with him for just an hour while trying not to vomit applesauce all over his walls, I was genuinely content and grateful.

These little moments reaffirm my belief that true happiness in life is apparent in our day-to-day monotony, and that happiness is not attainable through chasing endless highs. This joy is knowing that despite going through the same mundane, repetitive routines as everybody else, you are in the best place possible with the best people to live your life with. With the people who matter, it doesn’t matter if you’re together waiting in line, stuck in traffic, or sitting in front of the TV with a tub of applesauce. The true feeling of happiness is being alive and healthy with somebody you can share all your joys and sorrows with at any given point, and having a special bond that nobody else can take away from you.

Whoever said that it takes flowers and gifts to have a great Valentine’s Day is obviously a Hallmark employee. Peace out.

I’ve recently noticed that people are pushing their unsolicited opinions about my personal choices on me more often than not. I’m not sure if this was always the case or whether I just haven’t been paying attention until now, but I’m finally grasping the underlying concept of staying true to yourself. There is an endless combination of choices that people face on a daily basis and to me, it feels like regardless of which choice I make, someone will always disapprove of my decision because it’s different. I’m gradually learning that this is just another part of life that will never change, but then again, life is full of surprises.

Take for example, a woman who chose to have a child and a career. Someone will come along and tell her that it is crucial for her neglected child to have a mother and role model during the early stages of child development. If this woman quit her job to stay home with the child, someone else will come along and tell her that she just lost everything she worked so hard to build up. If the woman chose not to have any children, someone will tell her that women are supposed to bear children. Regardless of this person’s choice, someone will always say, “you’re doing it wrong.”

Whenever I go jogging, at least one person will tell me that I’m already skinny so I don’t need to work out so much. When I bring up moving out of my mom’s house, someone will tell me I should save money on rent. If I don’t move out, people ask me if I’ll ever grow up and cut the umbilical cord. When I considered vegetarianism, someone kindly informed me that people need protein and soy is bad for my health. If I choose pick up, delivery is more convenient. If I choose delivery, now I’m spending too much money on tip. If I choose a career in business, someone will call me a boring corporate drone that brings no value to the world. If I want to be a teacher, someone will tell me that I’m not cut out to be a teacher; I’m not “bubbly” enough to do it. If I want to stand up at work, I should sit to protect my lower back instead. If I want to walk, I should drive instead. If I want to breathe, I should just hold my breath and suffocate instead. And yes, these are all examples, almost verbatim… except for the last one.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the advice. I’m just getting tired of all these pointless, insignificant conversations that boil down to different = wrong. As the old cliché goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Well I prefer my cat unskinned. Why should I base my decisions on what other people like instead of what I like? I mean, if everyone chose to jump off a bridge blah blah blah, you get the point.

People should just be themselves, even if someone else doesn’t like it. What’s the point of impressing people who don’t even like you for who you are? Some people just aren’t worth the time and energy. Just stay true to yourself and be happy. What makes life so unpredictable and exciting is that there are infinite paths to personal fulfillment, and the best part is that we all get to write our own story.

I received the e-mail that I have dreaded for the past two months. I just had my first full-time job offer abroad temporarily rescinded because the legal paperwork I’ve been desperately trying to expedite took too long to process. After shaking off the initial wave of disappointment, I distracted myself by driving an hour down the freeway to rock climb with some friends. I borrowed strength from my pent-up frustration to top over the wall on a new route, but the ecstatic feeling of accomplishment didn’t take my mind off my future job prospects, nor did it change how upset I still felt. I slouched against the wall while sitting 3 stories off the ground wondering how I could be so high up and still feel so low.

I’ve learned to keep my expectations low, just because there are no guarantees in life. I dedicated my entire summer to learning a foreign language and made so much progress that I scored a full-time job offer in the heart of Taipei City with a starting salary higher than the average college graduate in Taiwan. I came back to the US to have my legal documentation processed, but as luck would have it, the new cadet who took my fingerprints me at the police station smeared it. A US government agency took over six weeks to mail me a letter asking for a re-submission instead of utilizing modern day technology, such as the *telephone* or even electronic mail, to tell me their machine couldn’t process my fingerprints. I guess even the “best” country in the world has its inefficiencies.

I also needed my college diploma to start working because most employers in Asia take university credentials very seriously and having just a transcript wouldn’t suffice. The advisor I e-mailed about having my university credits transferred simply forwarded my e-mail to the other campus handling my case, and was never heard from again. I directly e-mailed and called the other campus multiple times, but nobody ever picked up the phone or responded. I decided to contact my college counselor, and asked her to check up on my situation noting that I was about to lose my job if I couldn’t get my diploma in time. It turns out that despite all my correspondences with the university throughout the summer explaining I needed my diploma expedited, nobody even looked at my case until they knew I was about to lose my job. I’m not sure if people are just swamped with work and understaffed in the midst of a bad economy, or if people don’t take their jobs seriously.

What was originally a disheartening situation actually made me realize the importance of everything we do, especially when our actions have a direct impact on someone else’s life. I still don’t understand how some people who don’t have common sense still keep their job and continuously screw over other people, but now I know that if I’m ever in a position that impacts someone else, I’ll hold myself to a higher standard. While I’m still disappointed that things didn’t work out the way I had originally planned, I’m also glad that I have all this time to spend with my loved ones at home during the holidays. I still have a good head on my shoulders, a roof over that head, and the best people in my life.

I’ll admit that what finally triggered my decision to write a blog post documenting my first experience in Taiwan is a raging typhoon that shut down the entire city for a day. This is probably the first break I caught after a frantic month of repeated attempts to get organized, adapt to my new surroundings, and master a foreign language. With this being my first time stepping foot outside North America, I’m pleasantly surprised that I’m still in one piece. So far I’ve managed to survive poisonous mosquito bites, all of which initially swelled up to the size of tennis balls. I also got hit by a moped in a small alley, but on a brighter note I have yet to eat something dirty enough to send me to the hospital. The weather here is atrocious; one minute it’s unbearably hot and then next thing you know, my umbrella is flying away in a thunderstorm. I haven’t had too much trouble communicating with the locals, but I still struggle with automated machines that rapidly spew out fancy adult vocabulary.

Another common obstacle that most foreigners struggle with is ordering food at restaurants or street side stands that don’t offer English menus or display pictures. Usually when I find myself caught in this situation, I start off by scanning the menu for anything I can recognize, and then I mostly end up ordering the same thing everywhere I go. If I don’t recognize anything, I sometimes ask if the restaurant has any of my favorite dishes. Then there are those awkward moments when I’m unsure of how to order a “caramel machiatto” at Starbucks using Chinese, so now I’m gradually learning what everything is called through trial and error. This isn’t really a concern for me just because all I really want to eat in Taiwan are beef noodles, xiao long bao, papaya milk, and slushies, but I suppose if I’m already here I really ought to try something new.

I initially found this experience frustrating as I was unfamiliar with getting around in the city, I couldn’t decode most of what looks like hieroglyphics printed everywhere, heck, I spent at least ten minutes trying to figure out how to reload minutes onto my pre-paid phone (again, automated machines!!) However, what followed my initial frustration is the inevitable feeling of accomplishment when I realize I’m gradually reading more characters every single day. Sometimes I would randomly stop to read a sign in front of a store or on the subway, and I’ll get so excited and read it a few more times from the beginning. Then I’ll happily prance off from the metro station with a beaming smile on my face while the locals shoot me weird looks for reading a warning sign out loud three times. In defense of taking the time out of a busy university life or delaying my job hunt to travel, there really are some priceless experiences that are unattainable in a typical classroom setting.

While I was chatting with a friend about my first impression of Asia, he mentioned that the interesting thing about culture shock is, “millions of people do it that way.” What I am currently experiencing is the beauty of a globalized world in which I have access to a wide spectrum of cultural differences to observe, to learn from, and perhaps integrate into my daily life later on. Cultural immersion almost feels like I’m reborn as a child trying to figure out a new set of rules as I try to adapt and integrate myself into a different society. I guess the most important lesson I learned from traveling abroad in this past year is that regardless of differences, in any given part of the world, people are actually more similar than you think. Everyone struggles to provide for those they care about, everyone seeks love and acceptance, and on that note, everyone feels pain. While it’s always easier to criticize one other methods or differences, it’s important to remember that we are all human. As people, we all have the ability to make choices to positively impact on our environment wherever we go, and perhaps one day, there will be a day when people can finally coexist peacefully in this chaotic world.

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Bus stop near UBC campus:

OVT dining hall UCSD campus:

Mah fellow ‘Muricans, this is why you’re fat.

I found this little list on that other blogging platform, you know, the one for “illiterate” people who know only how to “reblog” random pictures… but I have to admit that this is actually very accurate.

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.

“You cannot escape us, and to change us would lead to your demise.”

I snapped a quick photo during my 5 mile run. Autumn in Vancouver is just so beautiful.

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