The Happiness of Sunny Days

California is the sunny state and visitors come wearing t-shirts and shorts, expecting all day sunshine and a day of warmth on the beaches. However, this past month, the sky has been cloudy and gray. And it’s been pouring every day. Yes, great for the great drought of California. But throughout this past month, I’ve definitely felt down, moody, and emotional, to a degree that I’ve never really felt before.

This could be linked also with the emotional duress of new relationships, ennui, boredom with my job, etc. However, studies have definitely linked a correlation between lack of sun and emotional stress.

Of course, the rest of the country no doubt sees worse weather in terms of rain and snow. However, as a spoiled Californian native, I feel the need to complain.

These last couple of days have provided bits and pieces of sun. And to be honest, I feel me pulling myself back together, and just feeling all around happier.

I can wander around, dance naked on the beaches, bike the Golden Gate bridge, and just jump for joy (both literally and figuratively).

All in all, I’ve missed the sun, am glad it’s back, and hope it’s here to stay for good.

Too bad, there’s rain forecasted for the weekend.

Here’s to hoping for sunny days in your futures.

Advertisements

The Catch 22 of Choosing Between Passion and Stability

As a child, we’re expected, even encouraged, to have dreams about our future. This can be anything from president or astronaut, to dreams that seem even more farfetched, like wizard or cat. However, these dreams are looked at fondly by society. So we continued to draw crayon pictures of ourselves as future superheroes, no matter how ridiculous it seemed.

However, as we went through high school and university, it seemed that society had lied to us. In fact the adults that said our dreams were cute, began to say that they were ridiculous. We needed to find real jobs that paid real salaries. And of course, we could never earn six figure salaries or buy homes as a wizard.

To make things even more confusing, we take career tests and read blogs that tell us to become who we really are meant to be.

  • Follow your passions.
  • Money will follow.
  • Where do your real talents and interests lie?
  • You can definitely live that life.
  • Is life all about money?
  • There’s definitely more to life than material goods and stability.
  • You only live one life.
  • Life life to the fullest.

So we become boring and mundane if we pursue a life based on providing us with a stable life. But if we pursue a life of passion, doing what we want to do, we become ridiculous, making unwise decisions and mocked by society (but only if those passions fall outside of what society deems acceptable, like medicine or coding.

So what exactly are we supposed to do?

If only I knew…

On Beginning First Relationships

IMG_2499.JPG

I read Textbook, by Amy Krouse, and really liked this page, resulting in this badly taken photo.

But I’m not falling in love…not really. More like falling in like I guess, or maybe that’s what I deeply hope for. Because falling in love is something more. It implies that if the time comes to escape it, it becomes that much more difficult without damaging or losing a part of yourself. At least, that’s what I imagine.

Way back before, back when I was my own person and not in any sort of relationship, I saw my friends and my parents suffer through their own relationships. Sure, there were happy times, but I also saw the bloody aftermath in almost all those relationships. As a result, being the pretentious cocky person I am, I expected that I would never make any of those mistakes. And more importantly, I expected that I would never debase myself enough in relationships to find myself in the same amount of anxiety, “crazy”, and pain that I see others in. I would never emotionally open myself enough to make me so vulnerable and capable of feeling the immense pain and hurt I had seen. I have seen what can happen, and as a result, I should know better.

Recently though, I did insert myself into a relationship. My first one, in fact. And I thought I was emotionally stable enough. However, just a week in and I found myself being crazy. I don’t know what’s wrong with me because I’m never like this. But lately, I find myself thinking, maybe this is who I truly am deep inside. To be honest, I just don’t know.

I think about him 24/7, when I wake up, when I fall asleep, even in the middle of the night when I get woken by my roommate’s snoring. I check my messages about 100x more frequently than I ever did. I feel anxiety when he’s not responding immediately. I want him next to me all the time. I want to talk to him all the time. I compare our relationship to others and think we have it the best. I compare our relationship to others and wonder why he won’t talk to me more like my friend’s boyfriend does. I write extremely cheesy messages that previous me would have definitely thrown up at. I anxiously second guess myself and constantly wonder if I’m being too annoying or not. I read endless articles describing similar symptoms and what I should do and what I shouldn’t do. I need to stop with all this insanity.

Basically, to sum it all up, I’m going crazy and I can feel it. This rapid deterioration of my inner self-haven.

Logically, I know why I’m doing these things and that I should stop. Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate out to the real world.

And I’m afraid. Afraid that if this ends, I will be in pain and sadness, and I don’t want that.

But also and more importantly, I’m equally afraid that the strong, independent, and stoic me that was me before this mess began is disappearing. Or worse, that she never even existed and it was all just a front.

On Boredom

img_3472

It’s been several months since coming back from my summer escapades traveling through Asia. It’s been a blast freely going where I want, reconnecting with friends in foreign countries, and best of all, not having to deal with the stresses of the real world.

I’m in a completely place now. Back home in my city of San Francisco, working at a top tier management consulting firm for about 3.5 months. And I’ve definitely felt myself fall into a rut.

During my time in Shanghai, working as a summer camp counselor, I definitely felt myself more fulfilled. Sure, I earned less money doing what society considers a “lower tier” job compared to my current position. However, I worked roughly from 9-4 instructing and spending time with children, something I found very fulfilling. After work, I’d usually go out to explore the city. On the rare occasion, I would be tired and I’d have those homebody nights where I stayed in the dorm watching endless hours of Netflix.

Nevertheless, I was never bored. I always found myself mentally engaged with life and there I say it, having fun. It was the ideal life.

However, in my current job, I find myself staring at the computer screen, doing Excel, Powerpoint, and endless Google searches from 8am to 12am on the worst days. On the best days, I’d end up watching endless TV again, doing nothing of productive use. At nights and weekends, I occasionally go out with friends but when it comes down to it, I am again on Netflix, Facebook, Buzzfeed, or other time suck sites. Basically, I am sitting here, bored out of my mind.

Some might argue that life is what I make of it and that I should be pursuing other hobbies or other fun activities outside of work to make my life more fulfilling. However, the effects of being stuck in an unfulfilling career that nevertheless pays the bills and provides me with a roof over my head are spilling over into my life outside of work. I feel no motivation to actively do anything about because at times, I often feel the existential crisis of “What’s the point? I’m stuck in this boring job wasting away my youth like this?”

Here’s to trying to rouse up some dregs of motivation for living a more fulfilling life…

Travels in Boracay: On being lonely and independent

IMG_1557.JPG

Imagine smelling nothing in the air but the almost sweet spray of the ocean waves. The mainstream club music sounds from a distance. Somehow, it is fitting to the moment. And all you have is water, sand, and moonlight all around you. This is Boracay.

It certainly is a very touristy island, with almost all of the natives here working in some industry or other that goes solely towards serving the natives. However, the clear waters and lack of real civilization (no pesky cityscapes to ruin those glorious ocean views) makes it a worthwhile island to venture out to at least once in a lifetime.

Boracay, for those who don’t know, is a small island, about 4 miles by 2 miles in its entirety. It’s a pretty underdeveloped tourist destination as there’s only 1 McDonalds on the island. As you travel around, you will also notice several plots of land roped off to construct fancy hotels. It’s definitely getting there though. It’s also an island that has been ranked in the top 10 go-to beaches around the world.

After a draining but definitely interesting month of running around after children and with my deep love for beaches, I did much research and decided to travel to Boracay. Three things inspired me to choose Boracay.

  1. Famous for beautiful beaches
  2. Considered a cheaper option since it was in the Philippines, an underdeveloped tourist destination, and was during off-season
  3. Touted as the Asian cheaper version of Cancun

My Boracay trip lasted for 4 days. For 3 of those days, I stayed in a very cheap hostel, Jeepney, which cost only about $18 for 3 nights. It was what you’d expect of a hostel with very friendly staff. However, my complaints would be that there’s poor ventilation/air conditioning, leading to pretty warm nights, and the existence of mosquitoes. Though honestly, these complaints are probably more related to Southeast Asia in general, and so something you should come to expect.

For my last day, I booked a night at a 5 star hotel. Not quite the Shangri-La, but at the Monaco Suites de Boracay. Because it was off-season, I only paid about $175 (I also got a discount through Orbitz). This is probably cheaper than the nightly price for a 3 star hotel in the States. I also received an Ocean View Suite, which consisted of a bedroom, two bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, living room, and a patio that overlooked the ocean. It was heavenly and the perfect end to my travels on the island. The service you receive from beginning to end is also great, from the glass of apple lemonade and the cool towel you receive upon check in to the golf cart ride from the entrance to the reception area to your suite and to the shuttle rides to the airport/D*Mall, makes you feel pampered. If you get the chance to stay here, be sure to also check out the infinity pool and jacuzzi.

The downsides to this hotel was that while Monaco Suites surpassed my every expectation in the way of what a 5 star hotel provides, the small details surprised me, and were of course, almost insignificant elements, but did create breaks in the illusion that you had arrived in paradise. For example, the room service menu had broken pages, the television didn’t have any working channels, etc. And while the breakfast buffet was pretty decent, the room service meal (I got a pesto sandwich) was dry and tasteless. That being said though, I have yet to get a room service meal that was actually tasty at any hotel.

That night at Monaco Suites, I took a swim out in the infinity pool. Upon walking there and seeing the lighted pool in the moonlight, My first thought was that this was the best thing ever. My second thought was, ‘Oh shoot…There’s exactly one honeymooning couple here…and they’re honeymooning away…You know what…whatever. This is a public pool.’ So I just strode in and took a dip in the pool. The couple waited a bit for me to leave, but upon seeing I wasn’t going to leave anytime soon, they left. And you know what? I don’t regret chasing away this one couple with my presence.

It made me contemplate not only this trip but also my previous trips as a solo female backpacker.

The independence you feel on landing in a completely foreign country, one where you may not even speak the language, completely by yourself is a rush that I can’t even begin to describe. Being able to walk around, seeing what you want to see, eating what you want to eat, and doing what you want to do, without a care in the world for other people, is thrilling. It provides you with a sense of freedom. No more holding yourself back just because you know your friend or your mother wouldn’t want to do that. A shady but cool looking alleyway over there? Just go. No one is there to yell at or chastise you.

And when people ask you, from shady men to families to couples, “Are you here alone,” and you respond yes, depending on the situation” the look of astonishment they get is the icing on the cake. It’s a look that mixes the two thoughts of “Wow!” and “You crazy bitch!” and it’s great. As I lay on my back in that infinity pool that night, I watched a thunder/lightning storm not quite far from me and really relished my independence.

However, this independence also lends its way to feelings of loneliness and it’s inevitable. Most of the time, it’s overcome by feelings of awe and glee at traveling alone and seeing/experiencing new things. However, this feeling of loneliness sometimes creeps up on you unknowingly. In Boracay for example, 75% of the people there were couples (This number is my own hyperbolic estimate of course) and walking around, doing the activities meant for couple by myself, from “commonplace” things like eating to the more exciting things like sailing, inevitably makes you feel alone. Hearing another honeymooning having a late night dinner to songs like John Legend’s “All of Me” in the restaurant patio above the pool  only accentuates the feeling.

It sort of feels like a pang in your heart and you start wishing for a boyfriend, a friend, anyone. You start looking at the male tourists and thinking that maybe we could have a thing in your twisted fantasy land. You feel envious of the couples.

You feel alone.

In the end though, I believe that you come to engulf the loneliness within you and become stronger for it.

Teaching the elite youth of Shanghai

I spent the last month working as a counselor at an English camp in Shanghai. This camp markets itself as one linked closely with the Ivy Leagues and charges an exorbitant amount of money to wealthy parents wanting to send their kids off somewhere that will be an investment for their future. To give an idea, the cost for just one two week session could pay for at least two months of rent for my room in San Francisco, or one third of yearly public university tuition.

As you can see, these kids come from money, and I mean ridiculous loads of money. As an example, one of these kids said, “My dad is in charge of all of space” (He means that his dad is in charge of the company that is one of the sole providers of airplanes to China). One child’s dad is an elite director for the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Another’s father invented a chemical that is in widespread use throughout China.

While that’s great and all, problems come with trying to lead a group of wealthy children.

Firstly, there’s already the problem of trying to manage a group of squirrelly children. My first day on the job, I was exhausted trying to play tag and Sharks and Minnows with my class. Children, as you know, seem to have unlimited energy and never seem tired of playing any sort of running/chasing game. However, when they coerce the adult to act as “It” for almost every game, it becomes tiring, especially for someone who hadn’t really run like that since being in high school. Furthermore, constantly telling children to “Sit Down” and “No, we can’t play on the playground now. It’s not playground time” becomes not only annoying but tired. By the end of the month, it became reflex. I didn’t even think about saying the words. They just came out.

Secondly, there’s the language barrier. While I had studied Mandarin Chinese for one year and knew enough to find the bathroom, I definitely didn’t have the capability to manage a group of Chinese children who had poor English ability. For example, a kid pushed over another peer and I told him, “Say sorry to her”. Rather than saying “I’m sorry”, he said “Sorry to her”. In another case, my older 13 year old kids constantly went around saying “Lao Si Ji” or Old Driver. Now being a non-Chinese speaker, I had no idea that this was a curse word implying someone who is more sexually experienced. So I just let them say it naively. This definitely leads to some hilarious antics but also much frustration as it’s hard to communicate or even build a close personal connection with the kids.

Thirdly, there’s the spoiled factor. Most Chinese children are highly valued in their home. As a result, many of them end up very sheltered. This is something that man of Chinese coworkers also attested to, something that surprised me. For example, it is normal in United States camps for children to fall over while running and get scrapes. Parents will usually just pick them up, dust them off, and let them continue running. However, Chinese parents called to complain not only about those similar bruises and cuts, but also paper cuts, and walking around in light sprinkling rain in the short 50m distance between the gym and the school building. As a result, the nurse will put a protective soft eyepatch when a kid gets a ball to his/her face, even though there’s no bruising. She will heavily gauze up a foot just because someone stepped on it. These are only a few examples of the ridiculousness that I observed from the American point of view.

Most of the children are also only children and have never been accustomed to knowing how to share. As a result, when I take a class of 9 to the gym to play basketball, rather than playing a game all together, each kid takes a ball and plays with it by him or herself. It’s not that these kids don’t know how to play, as each one says “I’m so good at basketball” and is excited to go play. If there are no more basketballs, kids will try to dribble a soccer ball, and when even that is gone, they will just sit out simply because they don’t understand the idea of sharing. You can only imagine the fighting that breaks out when there aren’t enough scissors or tape during arts & crafts. One problem child actually said that he didn’t like playing with other kids and would physically sit out of activities if it wasn’t an independent game/activity.

These children are also very competitive to the point that cheating is prevalent in every game. In the United States, and probably everywhere outside of China, we are all used to the idea of shaking hands with the opposing team and saying “Good Game” or something similar. Furthermore, we believe most of the times that games aren’t really fun if you have to cheat. It defeats the purpose of playing. However, whenever I introduce any sort of game, kids will do anything to win. It becomes their sole purpose. And non-competitive games don’t perk their interest. These kids will peek at other peoples’ work and steal answers for example. And at the end of the game, when someone wins, everyone else will instantaneously scream “HE/SHE CHEATED!” and this argument will not end even after I tell them to shut up several times. For example, we played Jeopardy and there was no way to cheat in this game since all the answers were in my head, and not anywhere that children could look or search up. However, one particularly bright kid was able to answer many of the questions and all the other kids yelled that he cheated, even though, again, there was definitely no way this was possible.

Other crazy things I noticed: I’m sure you’ve heard of the tiger moms. I found out that there are actually other crazy moms out there, that goes beyond the standard craziness. These moms are wealthy wives. Many of them come in with five inch heels, fake eyelashes, and ooze a gaudy sort of showiness. One of them was going with her child to a camp in the U.S. for two weeks and was given $6,000 by her husband for shopping, just shopping.

Another story: One girl played Blind man’s bluff and stubbed her toe against a table. The next day, her mom put her in a wheelchair, said her toe was broken, and demanded proper compensation. And what indeed was that compensation? Basically she and her family were meant to go to London after camp ended. However, because of this broken toe, she stated that the family couldn’t go. Therefore, she demanded the camp reimburse her for the entire London vacation. The arguments went on for awhile between her and the camp. The hilarious part was: During camp, the girl would physically get off her wheelchair and run around and play with the other kids. And only upon asking, “Hey, are you okay? Shouldn’t you be in the wheelchair?” would she return to the chair in a sheepish manner. And finally, her mother sent photos of X-rays to the camp as “evidence”, except that the X-rays clearly showed that there was nothing wrong.

And lastly on a final bitter note: China became a very gender equal society after the Cultural Revolution. However, there’s still a definite play of gender stereotypes that both females and males play into, almost on purpose, because that’s how they feel they are supposed to be. It’s a little bit like how the United States is supposed to be racially equal on the surface, but racial stereotypes are definitely very active still. For example, I taught a leadership class in the camp. And for one session, all the students happened to be girls ages 11-15. Upon asking them questions like “Who is your role model?” “What is your dream job” and “Do you want to become wealthy and powerful in the future?”, many of them answered, Taylor Swift (and not because she just wanted to be a popular singer), Cinderella, Snow White, etc for role models. For dream job, a couple of them answered princess. And for the wealthy/powerful question, many answered no because they believed it would be too much work/pressure. On posing the same questions to boys, they answer with more substantial answers, like CEO, Engineer, etc. Girls were also more likely to say “Oh, we cannot do that because we’re girls” or “Can we do the girl version of pushups because we can’t do real ones. It’s impossible”.

Of course, there’s also the distinct and obvious difference between the personalities of girls and boys. The girls were so quiet, almost to the point of saying nothing. They enjoyed drawing and other “quiet activities”. Boys on the other hand said a lot, said they enjoyed fighting, and actually fought a lot with each other to the point of extreme violence.

And lastly, please take into account that this is only a brief glimpse into the gender divide and the qualities of the social elite in China and based off of only my one sided observations of a few children.