Feels like I’m going to die soon.
Currently I’m desperately close to the arbitrary threshold of turning the age of 30 that these days it momentarily and opportunistically scares the crap out of me, like a horrible psychosomatic reaction. Am I running out of time? What’s this arbitrary wall I can’t seem to see over and beyond? Even though statistically I’ve still got enormous amounts of years ahead of me, just what makes that infamous age 30 threshold such an imposing force? As Joey Tribbiani said in Friends: “Why, god? Why?”
Perhaps it’s normal at all to feel this way. But damn, if it’s that horrific now, what happens when the clock strikes 40? Or 50? I may need a psychiatrist on retainer.
Time is the only commodity we have.
Money you can always make more, but once time is gone, it’s never ever coming back. At least not until they invent a time machine.
I’ve still got one solid year to go before the carriage turns into a pumpkin and I’m on the other side of the Great Wall of 30, but that panic has already arrived, at age 28, more than a year premature if you ask me. Is time up for me? It’s as if I’ve been struck down with a terminal disease and only then started doing a reflection on life and realize what so little I’ve done and what so much more yet I want to accomplish.
Silly looking back at it now, because of course I haven’t got a terminal illness, and it’s a disservice to those that actually has them.
In a twisted way, then, the turning of 30 barrier might be a blessing; you get all the emotions and positive peripheral side effects of an incurable disease, but you know, without all the dying at the end. Take the opportunity to reevaluate your life, and set a new path forward.
That’s precisely what I did.
Or rather, what I continued to do since the latter parts of 2015. The epiphany struck earlier than this year (alas I think about the future way too soon). In last year’s year-end blog post, I wrote about the self-critique and evaluation that’s already been done; 2016 was simply a matter of continuation, improvement, and concentration.
It’s making up for lost time.
All those countless hours (amounting to many, many days) binge-watching television shows, re-watching them, playing video games, reading pointless articles, umpteenth blog, the numerous YouTube channels, hundreds of baseball games, et cetera et cetera: what a complete waste of time that all were. Where’s the investment, where’s the enrichment? Them modern person needs entertainment from time to time, but when it dominates the entirely of your off-work life, then it’s a problem. May not be one for you, but it indeed is for me.
I gave it all up. Well, most of it.
I reflected on what I should have done these past few years in lieu of all the hours spent on mindless entertainment, and I arrived at three legs of a tripod holding up the aspiration of self-enrichment: learning, books, and travel.
I must caveat to say that (hopefully) this isn’t just me desperately clinging on to whatever vestige of youth. The fact that I’m Asian means I’ve already got that covered. The occasional carding for an R-rated movie at the theatres is always amusing.
So, learning, then.
One of the issues of post academia life (i.e. getting a job) is that for the most part unless you’re in the class of people working on technology and engineering products (or doctors, scientists, lawyers and the like), you kind of coast along in your job, doing repetitive work day after day. That’s certainly the case for me, where helping professors connect laptops to projection systems in classrooms never really change all that much, even with Apple continuing to cut out ports and forces us to buy more and more adapters every year.
It’s not exactly intellectually challenging; once you’ve retained knowledge of what the job demands, you can then coast along, day after day. That brain exercise I used to get from the days in academia is gone, and watching television and playing video games during non-work hours certainly doesn’t help the situation (though I still argue hand-eye coordination is a necessary skill that video games provide for youths of the world – and gamers well into their adulthoods like myself).
Much like the body that requires regular amounts of exercise, so does that brain of ours. The lack of stimulation leads to atrophy, and that my friends, is how you die. I believe a huge reason retirees struggle with post-work life and seemingly age exponentially after they’ve stopped working is specifically because their brains no longer receive the proper amount of exercise. As many a wise person have said, learn and you’ll live forever; or is it learning like you’ll live forever. It’s probably the latter, but I’ll cling to the former.
I had to pick something to study, to learn, and the selection was immediate: I’d (finally) tackle the Korean language. Being bilingual is cool (and every one should strive to be so), but trilingual is that much more awesome.
After countless years of enjoying the music from Korea and numerous variety shows and television dramas from the country, learning the Korean language was something I should’ve endeavored many moons ago. It’s logical: if I am to continue to enjoy the media products from Korea, it’d be that much more gratifying if I understood the dialect and weren’t beholden to English or Chinese subtitles.
So I bought a textbook and begin teaching it to myself.
Yes, no secret formula, no classes at a community college (the local one didn’t offer Korean, otherwise I probably would have), no private tutor. It’s just me, the textbook, copious amounts of college-ruled notebook pages, and finally, about four hours of time per day, every single day. In the finest example of Alexander Hamilton and Napoleon Bonaparte, being an autodidact is an immensely rewarding enterprise.
Being that Korean is my third attempt at acquiring a language, and one not super imposed upon me like it English was, the dynamic was completely different. I wasn’t beholden to a pace set by neither a teacher nor the need to acquire the language as quickly as possible. In hindsight, learning English was not fun at all because half the time I was frightened to tears, what with being in a brand new country, an entirely new culture, and having to attain proficiency as quickly as possible to be sociable and assist my parents (I was EIGHT). Absent comparable external forces and pressures, learning Korean was a vastly more amiable task, one in which I can go at my own pace, and not having to worry about mistakes relegating me to a poorer grade on the record card, or not being able to order fries at a McDonalds.
It was incredibly liberating, and I believe, the appropriate way to learn. Away from the pressures of academia and under your own volition is the utmost prime opportunity for deep and rewarding study (imagine that).
The sheer amount of time and energy involved in learning a language also made me realize just why my parents found it so difficult to learn English, and in the case of my mother, never did. Being a young and poor immigrant family meant both my parents had to worry more about putting food on the table than any earnest effort in learning English. Plus the fact we immigrated to San Francisco meant the sizable Chinese population allowed my parents to not have to use English in every day life. The lack of immersion and lack of hours available to devote to learning a language completely prevented my parents to speak the common tongue of this country, though I guess we’re all switching to Spanish in the near future, aren’t we.
The reason I never learned Japanese properly whilst taking classes during high school was strictly due to the lack of time dedicated. I had to juggle six other classes worth of course-load, thus that lone hour of the day spent in class and that hour of homework everyday (ha!) isn’t going to cut through any of the material and give it appropriate attention. The relative ease in which I’m ascertaining Korean led me to question why Japanese wasn’t as so, and it all concludes back down to time. To learn a language you’ve got to spend a good chunk of your day towards it, and there are no days off. One shouldn’t treat weekends as days off or vacations anyways.
That is, unless you truly are taking a vacation.
Thusly, in order to study Korean, I had to give up other activities of leisure. I practically stopped watching television shows sans a few (no way was I going to miss the Gilmore Girls revival), I no longer watch Giants baseball broadcasts, and the Playstation 4 has only been turned on during the year for the periodic firmware updates (why I bothered with even that, I’m not entirely sure). The few spare hours I’ve got after work on until I go to sleep was all dedicated to language study. Funny how when you’re so singularly focused on one thing and you have to discard other to make room, and yet afterwards you find that you don’t really miss the things you’ve relinquished. Stranger Things and Westworld? I’ve no desire to watch them, no matter how well reviewed they are.
Allocate 50 hours for a Japanese RPG? It can wait.
I reckon it’s a good metaphor for life: focus on a few things, and do those few things incredibly well. You may say variety is the spice of life, but who says you can’t make variety from within those few things you’ve chosen to do really well? I read an enormous variety of books, and after learning Korean I’ll surely move on to studying another, perhaps a fourth language, or music theory. There’s so much on offer, enough to induce selection paralysis.
An autodidact as I may aspire to be, I wouldn’t be able to learn Korean with only a book and a pen without the amazing assistance from the Internet; major kudos to the Naver app, Wiktionary.com, and the KBS World YouTube channel. It goes without saying, the web has opened up so many opportunity and resources for learning, and it’s mostly absolutely free. Practically anything you want to study, the Internet has it for you. In that respect, the world is quite figuratively your oyster.
The sense of accomplishment of that first instance when I watched a Korean television program without subtitles was complete magic. It made all those four-hour days instantly worth the price of admission.
During times I’m not frantically immersed in Korean studies, I spent it on books. It is said that the successful people of the world all read at least a book per month, if not more. Suffice it to say, I’m not successful at all, but in order to become so meant I must follow that adage and read plenty of books. Good thing I’ve already started on this towards the latter parts of 2015, and 2016 upped the ante tremendously.
Forget a book a month: I aimed for one a week.
Books allow you to borrow the minds and experiences of other people, to learn from them, especially the historical greats (I’m hugely anticipating getting into the biography of Winston Churchill, some 30 books down the queue – yes humble brag). No matter it be fiction or nonfiction, every book provides the occasion to open your mind to something new, different, life affirming, or life changing. And movies based on books are always better enjoyed after you’ve read the original text. If the movie is great, the experience is improved, and if the movie sucked, well you still got the books to cling to (like Twilight, probably).
It was ambitious for sure, but for the first few months of the year, I was hitting that book-a-week mark with ease. That’s owing to the fact I didn’t start studying Korean until April, and with that advent of that, the book reading almost grounded to a thorough halt. I was right back down to the “standard” one book per month until the autumn season, during which I was able to take the foot off the gas a smidgen on studying Korean, and divert more time allocation to books.
So for the whole of the year, it ended up being one book every two weeks. 70/30 split of non-fiction and fiction.
I buy actual, tangible books because who doesn’t like the smell of fresh books, and I annotate the heck out of them, pen and highlighter style. It isn’t the most efficient use of space, but I simply don’t find the same pleasure in touching a tablet to flip to the next page. Though it must be said, Kindle does make it easier to collate your annotations together; with physical books I’ve got to type out everything if I were to gather up notes.
Buy paper books, and support your local bookstores. They are places of extinction level numbers yet so magical that Amazon, the guys who literally killed the physical bookstore, now has a physical bookstore in Seattle. Mustn’t underestimate the allure and smell of book stacks and coffee beans.
Notable books I’ve read this year:
Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow: the book that inspired Lin-Manual Miranda to write the ever-popular musical for coastal-elites. I for one cannot wait to watch the musical when it comes to San Francisco next year (got tickets!). But like me, you should read the book first beforehand. The book is a fascinating expose of Hamilton, from his birth outside of States, to his infamous death at the hands of Aaron Burr in New York. The one thing that strikes me most about the founding father was that Hamilton was an autodidact, and a large part of his brilliance in the creation of the Treasury Department and writing the Federalist Papers was self-taught.
The Private Life of Chairman Mao, by Dr. Li Zhisui, and Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, by Ezra Vogel: being Chinese, I was rather interested in how modern China came to be the world juggernaut it is today, and there was no better place to start than the biographical accounts of these two major figureheads. Mao is widely celebrated as the founder of the People’s Republic, but in actuality he almost ran it into the ground. It’s scary to think modern China was so dangerously close to the realities of North Korea (Mao did had a male son, mind you), and the world is better for it didn’t.
The person to thank for that is Deng. His reformation and push for the advancement of the Chinese economy is the critical factor in elevating China into the world’s second foremost superpower. A prudent and logical man, he had none of Mao’s emotional tendencies, and was open to any ideas so long as it moved the country forward. While today it may be Mao’s picture that adorns the centerpiece in Tiananmen Square, I say for what Deng has done for China, it should be his likeness instead. Mao nearly ran the China into the ground, and Deng saved it.
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac: Kerouac’s magnum opus shows a romantic view of contemporary nomadic life, traveling throughout the country, finding your roots and plying a trade no matter the town Sal Paradise ended up in. It isn’t the most polished of books, and the story has a few congruency issues, but the crux of what I got out of On the Road is what I surmise what many others did as well: the love of the open road, travel, and endless exploration.
The Big Short, by Michael Lewis: nobody can linguistically weave and tell a story like Michael Lewis, and his retelling of the 2008 financial disaster is a must-read if you care the slightest about your money. While the big banks and other financial players were definitely at fault for the colossal amounts of bogus mortgages and their derivative trades that brought down the American economy, ordinary Americans who made those mortgage without any financial understanding should also bear some brunt of the blame (I’m quite Republican in many ways). Financial literacy really ought to be a required course in high school. I’d have so much money now than the pittance I’ve got if that were the case.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, by Mark Manson: ah yes, as we grow older, the amount of fucks we allocate to give out dwindles to but a tiny few. This book provides a guide to how to best allocate those fucks, so as to not waste time and energy (and time is a terrible thing to waste). What I got out of this book is that life can be streamlined to be a series of problems, problems for you to solve and fix. As you untangle the webs and finish each problem, you gain life’s satisfaction, and then you move on to the next challenge. Simplify, compartmentalize, and move forward.
Use death (and the fear of it) as the ultimate motivation to do and perform, and perhaps you’ll end up making something so remarkable that it will outlast your own atoms. That is the true marker of immortality, at least until scientists figure out how to truly perform such feat.
Tools of Titans, by Tim Ferriss: I refer this book as the self-help/improvement encyclopedia. Tim Ferriss have really done a number in amassing such a collection of wits, wisdom, and useful life-hacking tips. If you ever find yourself needing that extra bit of motivation, guidance, or general pick-me-up, this book is immensely beneficial. Of the many inspirations, Tools of Titans started me on taking magnesium as a supplement.
On the shortness of life, by Seneca: perhaps Seneca’s greatest piece of writing. For those of you thinking life is too short and you feel like you haven’t “lived”, this book is the golden ticket to unlocking the how and the why life really is quite sufficiently long (it’s after all the longest thing we’ll ever do), given you know the appropriate manner in how to live it. It boils down to giving up materialistic and trivial pursuits; learn from the pass whilst focusing on the present, and carpe diem the fuck out of every single day. This short yet succinct tome just may be the most important book I’ve read this year, and I keep referring back to it anytime I feel off the tracks, so speak.
With so much time dedicated to reading and learning another language, you’d think I’ve completely neglected my principle hobby of the last half-decade - photography - and you’d be right. I still very much enjoy taking the occasional pictures, but I simply don’t have time to slot in photographic excursions. That is pure excuse of course, because had I wanted to, I could have totally fit it in, but alas, hobbies and interest come and go, and photography looks be one of them.
These days it’s only during my travels that I break off the rust and partake in the joy of photography. Those self-made calendars I give out during Christmas got to have pictures, you know.
The Canon 7D and all its peripheries got sold to the highest bidder on eBay (man, eBay fees really eats into your bottom line). They say the best camera is the one you’ve got with you, and I just don’t have the mental willpower any longer to lug around a full-size photography kit. Portability and ease of carry is key – if you loathe to carry it, you’re less likely to use it. That’s why the trusty (and tiny) Sony NEX-5 camera is the main everyday go-to, and also, for the most part, the sensor on my iPhone serves brilliantly as well.
Smartphone camera technologies have certainly advanced leaps and bounds, and the results I get from my iPhone are now good enough for sizable prints. For the first time ever I can satisfactorily input so called “potato” shots into my yearly Calendar project, which is remarkable. You look at the very first shots made on instagram compared to those of today and the contrast is exponential. I firmly believe photographs are the best medium in transmitting/sharing memories and experiences, and smartphone have put a camera in everyone’s hands; it’s fantastic. I stay constantly amazed at the results I get from my iPhone 7, with nary a touchup or alteration required.
It’ll be another half-decade yet before the camera on a smartphone can replace all but the very specialized cameras. Until then, for the best of shots I still have to utilize a traditional DSRL, albeit one that hasn’t got a mirror mechanism and therefore incredibly small and light to carry around. The aforementioned NEX-5, after five years of service, bid an untimely farewell due to negligence with a rogue water bottle. The replacement I bought is its direct-line successor, the Sony A5100.
I got a new lens to go along with it as well. I’ve been pining for a Zeiss lens for ages, and the 12mm f/2.8 for the Sony e-mount finally got to within my price range (still cost more than the camera itself). There’s a saying that once you’ve experiences the esthetics of Zeiss glass, you can never go back to other brands, and those people are absolutely right. I’m completely enamored with the exceptional way the Zeiss lens renders a scene; leading to photographs I can’t get any way else.
I’ve been talking about learning and books legs of the tripod that holds up the self-improvement aspiration, so we’ve now arrived at the third leg: travel. The travel bug really bit me hard the last year, and from then on it’s grown into an affliction, of the good sort of course. I cannot bear to be without a travel itinerary for more than a few months, and thankfully I’ve got a job that allows me to travel fairly consistently throughout the year (vacation time wise; sadly there isn’t any work travel to speak of). 2016 saw me visiting Hong Kong, Taipei, Chicago, New York City, and Yosemite National Park.
It’s been 14years since I’ve last step foot back home in China, so heading to Hong Kong in January was a tremendously momentous occasion. My dad’s side of the family is in China, and so are most of the cousins whom are my age. I’m not entirely sure why I waited so long to visit, since I’ve certainly had the means to do so way earlier. It’s interesting how priorities work: after graduation and getting a job, my singular goal was to save money and buy a car, which negated any opportunity at using that money instead of go back home. Hindsight being what it is, I probably should not have done that, but we can’t change the past, as they say.
Needless to say, 14 years is a very long time, and the changes in my family in China are quite staggering. The “kids” are all grown up with jobs, and the adults are by and large enjoying blissful retirements. Yet even with such a dramatic time-shift, the dynamics of it hasn’t change at all. Us “kids” still feel like kids, even though we’re all employed and one even married. Again this isn’t me or us desperately hanging on to whatever vestige of youth; it’s genuinely how it felt. I wonder if our parents ever went through the same quagmire, in which they’re at the end of their 20’s but still feel like a kid to their parents. Will we always feel like a kid when we’re amongst our parents, even when we have kids of our own? I guess I’ll know the answer to that eventually.
Hong Kong is a wonderful and bustling metropolis, and one you should definitely go visit only during the wintertime because any other time it’s too bloody hot and humid to be without air conditioning. But winter, ah, it was sublime. I’m a city kid at heart and I welcome urban density more so that the spread out suburbs. Hong Kong might as well be paradise. The abundance and variety of things to do within so small a square area, and it’s all so accessible because their public transportation system absolutely destroys the one we’ve got here in San Francisco. The convenience of Hong Kong’s subway system completely shames the money-wasting BART behemoth that takes you only to parts of the city.
If you haven’t found out already, the food is unrivaled in Asia. Even just the blocks surrounding our hotel offered more quality Chinese food than most of what’s here in San Francisco. I can eat out three meals out of the day without getting bloated with various agents of sodium and ungodly amounts of fat.
You may think going home to where everybody practically looks like me and speaks the same language may be remarkable, but in practice it is most definitely not. When you’re used to the sort of diversity we have in San Francisco, being in a place that severely lacks it, even when it’s “your own people”, is very disconcerting. There’s a certain sense of foreignness and unease, even though for all intents and purposes I blend completely in. I was more at home at the parts of the city with lots of foreigners, funny enough, though to them I probably look like a local instead of “one of them”.
Diversity is so awesome that it even trumps the innate want for homogeneity. I want to be able to walk down a city block and hear like 10 different languages.
After a week spent in Hong Kong, I took a quick jump to the island nation (well, not nation, because remember, there’s only ONE CHINA!) of Taiwan, particularly Taipei. If anything, I think I may like it even more than Hong Kong. The Taiwanese people are incredibly polite, and the streets and facilities are so clean, and the public restrooms are immaculate. Taipei is a diverse city, perhaps not in its population, but it the variety of activities and sights it’s got to offer. It’s a huge city, too (takes one hour by bus just to go from the airport to the city center), and I had a blast exploring every corners of it. A week’s time most certainly isn’t enough, and much like Hong Kong; I desperately need to go back again.
As it was in Hong Kong, Taipei is best experienced during the winter months, as the summer might even be more dreadful due to the dangers of typhoon and earthquakes, to go along with the humidity and heat. The climate during January however can be described as San Francisco-like, which for me is just about perfect.
And yes, there’s the food. You’ve never had proper bubble/boba milk tea until you’ve had it in Taipei. Even the ones peddled by the random corner store are miles better than the best you can get here in the States. After sampling (frequently) the boba tea in Taipei, I cannot stand to have the ones here in San Francisco without groveling about how much I miss the ones in its origin country. As for solid foods, there’s no better foodie paradise than the numerous night markets to choose from in Taipei. Don’t make dinner plans, go straight to the night market and pig out for the next two hours or so; it’s better Taiwanese food than any restaurant over here can offer.
You’d want to go back just for the food, really.
On the domestic front, Chicago is an incredibly scenic and picturesque city. The downtown skyline as viewed from lake Michigan is enough to arrest you for hours on end. It’s really unfair that Chicago has got a river snaking through it’s downtown, which makes everything better. It’s cheating if you were to design a city from the ground up. Imagine how beautiful San Francisco would look if it were to have a river go through it. Bodies of water do so well to accentuate the beauty of a city (we’d know, we’re three sides surrounded by them), and Chicago does well to integrate that gleaming river into its overall scenic quality.
That said, it all felt a bit shallow and hollow. Underneath the beauty, as we all know, Chicago is gripped by violence. Outside of the white northern neighborhoods, I found Chicago to be a bit joyless and heartless. No one smiles; people move on through their day like drones, there isn’t much happy there. And why would there be, when over the course of a one weekend over 50 people can be shot dead, with hundreds wounded. The Left thinks they are the party that do right by the people, but the Democrat-controlled Chicago is a stark failure in that regard. And to think, this is Obama’s town.
Anyways, no trip to Chicago as a baseball fan is complete without a trip to hallowed Wrigley Field. It still amazes me every time I think about the fact I was actually there. I’ve of course seen it numerous times on television, but to actually be there: is this real life? Wrigley is a lovely stadium indeed, and because it was built before any of us were born, it’s definitely got an old-timey vibe to it. It’s less clinical and industrious than the modern ballpark cathedrals; I quite liken it to the sort of cozy niceness you get at Spring Training ballparks. You can immediately tell why it’s earned the nickname “The Friendly Confines”. You can’t help but to make a new friend or start a conversation with your seat neighbors there; the atmosphere is so unique, and yes, I still can’t believe we were actually there. What an experience.
A quick word on Chicago food: deep-dish pizza might as well be a giant quiche, and while it’s delicious, for proper pizza I much rather have thin-crust, as it should be. A hard pass on the Chicago Dog: too many ingredients, difficult to eat. I ended up using a fork, with is antithetical to how one should eat a hot dog.
We then moved on to New York City, and what a magnificent city is it. I felt a sense of familiarity as soon as I arrived in Manhattan, and there is a succinct San Francisco vibe that permeates throughout. While I felt somewhat foreign in Chicago, I was right at home in New York City. Blindfold me and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. It’s lovely indeed.
The cliché is true: the city truly never sleeps. The first night there we wandered about up into the wee hours of the night, and yet there’s still much to do, places still open if you so desire. The ability to get alcohol after 2AM! A subway system that runs 24-hours! Jaywalking is a beloved and encouraged! Due to all this, our day-night cycled got completely skewed. Waking hours weren’t until at least noon, and what was usually lunch is now breakfast. I reckon night owls would thrive in New York.
New Yorkers aren’t rude and in a constant hurry as the outside reputation would suggest: simply don’t get in the way of where they are going! If you see a gap, go; being too polite is hugely detrimental because you’re holding up the line behind you. Apprehensiveness will only make things worse. I wish San Franciscans would adopt some of that philosophy, especially in traffic situations. How many times have we’ve been stuck frustrated behind a car unwilling to merge out even when the gap is quarter of a mile wide. In New York, five cars would’ve gone already.
It was humbling and emotional to be at the World Trade Center memorial.
Going to New York City gave me the opportunity to finally test out which is the superior burger: Shake Shack of the east coast, or our west coast’s beloved In n Out. Heading in with all intentions of defending the west coast like I was in rap group in the 90s, the verdict came out to be that Shake Shack is indeed the better burger. In fact, it’s just about the best burger I’ve eaten given the category: fast food burger chain just a step up above McDonalds and Burger Kings of the world, but not quite the sit-down gourmet variety. Sorry, west coast friends, but Shake Shack burger is absolutely delicious (it’s the bread), so good that I made sure to have it a second time before I had to leave. They desperately need to expand up and out into our neck of the woods.
Yes, I’m going to be that smug asshole who will tell you smugly that you’ve haven’t had actual Halal Guys until you’ve patronize the original street side stand in New York, having to eat the stuff sat next to the sidewalk. It’s a completely different experience: the sights, smells, and sounds of a bustling Manhattan street adds immensely to the eating pleasure.
The last time I was in Yosemite National Park was back when I’ve just finished high school and a bunch of us went during the summer for a camping trip. 10 years later, I returned once more, only this time amongst wintry conditions at the beginning of December. I have to say; the renowned beauty of Yosemite is even more so during the winter. There was such a kaleidoscope of colors, from snow-covered ground, to shimmering peaks, the autumnal leaves, and pewter lakes. The photographic canvas was incredible; there are no bad shots, there’s beauty and majesty striking your senses from all angles.
No wonder John Muir was so infatuated with the place.
The post-snow air at Yosemite is some of the freshest I’ve ever breathed. I’d like an oxygen tank of that for my birthday, thank you.
Driving a tiny, rear-wheel driven convertible through snow and ice conditions, even on a sunny day, was in hindsight a huge mistake. Had a storm suddenly rolled through I would’ve been hideously trapped. I made it out alive! Though the Miata suffered a few patina scars for sure.
Travel plans for next year: Hong Kong (again!), Shanghai/Hangzhou, Seoul (finally!), and Iceland. Excited would be an understatement.
ODDS AND ENDS
My high school graduating class’ 10-year reunion was this year, which is to say what the fuck 10 years have passed already? I wonder just how “adult” does any of us feel, even though most have remarkable careers already, and plenty are married with kids. These reunions are interesting, aren’t they? Who are the ugly ducklings that turned into swans? Who were popular back when but now are total deadbeats? Who amongst you voted for Trump? Wasn’t it you that got that girl in Japan pregnant during your stay as an exchange student?
According to at least LinkedIn profiles, Lowell’s class of 2006 has done quite well for ourselves career-wise. The amount of lawyers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and doctors are astounding.
Sadly I was unable to attend the reunion due to geographic impossibilities, as the day of the reunion is the same day I was on a plane to Hong Kong. It’s a sign from the higher authorities in heaven that I probably wasn’t meant to go. Surely the 20-year anniversary would be more significant in terms of the change delta in each person.
Personally, 2016 has been a good year; society though, as you may all know, 2016 has been largely panned as absolute shit. The sheer amount of untimely deaths of significant persons notwithstanding, but we here in the United States elected an orange orangutan to be the next President. At least my investment portfolio will perform well.
Those of us here in California are lucky to be well insulated, like a sanctuary.
Given all the turmoil, tragedy, and uncertainties in the world around us, the only thing we can do is focus on ourselves: don’t worry about what you cannot control. Whatever incendiary thing Trump will inevitably speak next, or insane legislations the State congress of North Carolina will inevitably enact, just ignore it; you can’t change it anyways. Unless we are on the precipice of all-out nuclear war, focus on yourself and the people around you. Don’t worry about the extraneous; a little less social media and cable new channels, add a bit more books, or time spent with family and friends.
Focus on making yourself better.
For the latter half of the year, my work schedule changed to such that I went from having an afternoon-to-night shift and switched it to an early-morning-to-mid-afternoon shift. You know you’re getting old when you’re perfectly comfortable with getting to bed way before midnight and waking up when the clock reads a number six in front of the colon. The college-aged me wouldn’t have believed any of it.
But there is something intrinsically rewarding about waking up before practically everyone else and getting shit done whilst the proverbial world is still asleep. These days by the time breakfast hour rolls around, I would’ve been awaken for some hours already, and either have read through a significant chunk of a book, studied Korean, or washed the car (no lines at the car wash when it’s this early). It’s oddly satisfying, and an essential life hack in that you feel like you’ve got more hours in the day, even though it’s all same (unless you sleep less.)
Staying up past midnight takes a toll. Imagine that.
MUSIC TOP 10
1. TWICE - Cheer Up
2. Taeyeon - Rain
3. Park Kyung - 보통연애 (Ordinary Love) (Feat. Park Boram)
4. Red Velvet - Russian Roulette
5. Eric Nam x Wendy - 봄인가 봐 (Spring Love)
6. 여자친구 (GFRIEND) - 시간을 달려서 (Rough)
7. BTS - 피 땀 눈물 (Blood Sweat & Tears)
8. Apink - Only one (내가 설렐 수 있게)
9. BLACKPINK - WHISTLE (휘파람) (Acoustic Ver.)
10. I.O.I - Knock Knock Knock (똑똑똑)
CONCENTRATE AND CONQUER
The conclusions I draw from 2016 are this: simplify and focus. Emphasize on only the few important things, and do them extremely well. More importantly, concentrate on only the things I can control, and ignore the extra noise.
Learning Korean will go on well into 2017, if not beyond that, as I’ve still got one and a half textbooks (out of a three) to go. I’ve got books lined up to read well into 2018 if I keep up the current pace, so that’ll be a constant joy. Lastly, the once a quarter travel plans are set.
Other than spending time with friends and family, the tripod of learning, books, and travel is all I need and all I shall give attention to.
May you find your self-enriching niches as well. Happy 2017!