life

New Decade, New Life

Vrijthof Square in the winter

Vrijthof Square in the winter

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written, and I miss the therapeutic, creative aspect of putting thoughts down on (digital) paper. A lot has happened in the past year—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Life as we know it.

Besides entering a new decade in life, there have been a few momentous changes in life like moving to the Netherlands (where people still assume I’m 21 for better or for worse). Born into a traditional, conservative Chinese family while maturing in a progressive and increasingly hipster, Californian culture was always a huge tug-of-war identity struggle. And ever since studying abroad in Spain and semi-falling in love with European culture, I always knew I wanted to come back.

To be honest, the thirst was quenched while focusing on my career but revitalized during my sabbatical around the world, where I was inspired by young, yet surprisingly mature 18-year old Europeans on their gap years. However, getting to Europe was not so easy. From a failed opportunity in London to an uncertain and hesitant one in Helsinki, finding the right opportunity was harder than expected. But if I truly wanted to go to Europe—I would find a way into Europe. In the mean time, I accepted a job at AnswerLab, a growing user experience research company that helped companies like Apple and Amazon conduct digital product research. Besides the unique experience of having convinced myself of my small yet influential role on influencing the lives of billions around the world, I also enjoyed the progressive culture as well as the remote, work-from-home flexibility of the job—purpose and flexibility have become a few of my non-negotiables in addition to…adventure. And adventure brought up Europe once again…

London didn’t work out, but it brought about another opportunity that I never thought about—graduate school. The hiring manager, also originally from California, had completed a Masters degree at Maastricht University. And so I went about researching Masters programs with English-language programs, which amounted to two viable options (given the late, spontaneous decision to apply)—the UK and the Netherlands. The UK wasn’t as appealing given the high cost of tuition, so I focused mainly on the Netherlands. Maastricht University seemed appealing with its international student population, renowned reputation for being a top-ranked “young” university, and its small-town charm. With the help of YouTube and Google, I quickly got to work on my application and motivation letter…and within 2 months and a happy acceptance letter…I decided to embark on the next journey of life…the Netherlands =)

The Perfect Morning

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The gentle breeze of the ocean air fused with the gentle calm of the waves signals it's time to wake up. There is no alarm clock—it just feels natural to wake up to chase the light of day. Excitement starts to brew to another day of adventure—another day of living. 

And as I go deeper into a meditative state of the mind, I'm just so appreciative of this "perfect day" that is to come. A conflated mind layered with traffic jams of ideas begins to converge into a narrow road...leading to pure silence. It's time to wake up, smell the coffee, and go out for my morning run. 

Daylight is creeping up with the ocean to my left and the mountains to my right. No music is necessary as the orchestra is playing in the background surrounding me—children laughing and peddling their bicycles towards school, the ocean waves beating against the battered rocks in unison, and the angelic sound of nature.

ZzzzzZzz! A cold shower! It's been a tradition, and it's my perfect way to start the day off. And even after years of cold showers, you can never get old of that instant rush of chilling frost over your warm body. Goosebumps. That feeling when you know you're alive and human. Goosebumps turn into smiles, and you realize your day has started. It's time to live. 

On eating healthy...

Feeeeeeed Meeeeee

Feeeeeeed Meeeeee

Trying to eat healthy...oh I'd rather try Mt. Everest.

Speaking of New Year resolutions and breakthroughs, I am still waiting for that one pill where we can swallow to be able to snack on endless In-N-Out animal fries while still maintaining that 8-pack. I guess science hasn't caught up with technology yet.

But looking back to the times when I ate healthily, slept dreamily, and exercised vigorously...I' felt like Superman.

Current state:

Exercising vigorously? Check

Sleeping dreamily? Half-check

Eating healthily? 1/3rds-check

2018 is off to a fantastic start!

My 2018 Reading List

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Here it is...52 books in 52 weeks (wish me luck):

  1. The Sympathizer
  2. A Walk in the Woods
  3. Autobiography of Malcolm X
  4. Sapiens
  5. The Everything Store
  6. Tao Te Ching
  7. Brain Rules
  8. Art of Learning
  9. Atlas Shrugged
  10. On Writing Well
  11. Checklist Manifesto
  12. How to Talk to Anyone
  13. Total Recall
  14. The Compound Effect
  15. Personal MBA
  16. Turning Pro
  17. The Wisdom of Crowds
  18. Principles
  19. The Dip
  20. How to Fail at Almost Everything
  21. The Road Less Traveled
  22. The Culture Code
  23. A River in Darkness
  24. The Kindness in Strangers
  25. The Journey in Between
  26. On the Road
  27. Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man
  28. In a Sunburned Country
  29. The Power of Myth
  30. Radical Acceptance
  31. Tiny Beautiful Things

(to be continued)