May 10, 2012 § Leave a comment
Last August, I decided to submit an essay to NPR’s This I believe. I loved their mission statement of wanting to engage all types of people from all walks of life about the core values that guide their daily living. A few weeks ago, I was just notified that my essay would be published so click here to read a little bit of what guides my daily living.
April 17, 2012 § 1 Comment
It’s a beautiful, warm, sunshine-y day and I was minding my own business walking down 2nd Street, eastbound towards Avenue B, when I happened to see a casually dressed, possibly homeless guy, reading a newspaper by the wall. I slowed down my already easy stroll so I could take in the situation a little better because it was quite unusual for several reasons. First, people typically don’t sit in unshaded areas reading unless they are attractive thin women, half naked and trying to tan. Second, people don’t typically sit by themselves on the streets unless it’s on a stoop, on a bench, or on a curb by some hot new restaurant as they are waiting to get in. Third, homeless people aren’t usually so attractive, nor are they usually quietly reading to themselves. I look a little harder and lo and behold – it was Jude Law.
Oh what a New York Moment. As the realization that I have spotted a celebrity really sunk into my somewhat celeb-loving brain, I knew I could do one of two things. I could keep walking. Or I could talk to him. I should probably keep walking, I thought to myself. I mean if it was any normal person – I wouldn’t give a lick to talk to them. Also, it was pretty clear (as the situational indicators told me) that Jude probably wanted to be left alone. Let’s face it, no one really ventures to the boonies of 2nd and B to be “seen.” Oh but I really wanted to talk to him too. I really wanted to ask him why the heck he was sitting outside by himself. I wanted to inquire as to why he wasn’t sitting under some shade and if he had any sun screen on. I wanted to perhaps strike up a conversation that would either lead to deep friendship or a recognition that I am actually a talented actress he wants to cast in his new movie. The potential was swirling in my head and I was so torn. So I did only what I knew to do. I turned the corner, walked a bit further, and frantically started calling my best friend, Amanda. Needless to say, we talked and I decided to discard my idea of trying to bother Jude. Isn’t what is so great about New York is that the people and the city will leave you alone?
Then I went into a store, bought myself a drink, and headed on my way.
But believe me, I stopped in my tracks, turned around and was humming the first few notes of “Hey Jude” before I realize he had left. Oh well.. I guess we’ll never know if we could have really been best friends.
[Also, when I got home, I did my fact checking to make sure the heat wasn’t playing tricks on my eyes and sure enough, according to some very credible news sources, Jude law has been spotted in New York over the past few days filming The Bitter Pill, supporting his friends, etc.]
March 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
Believe it or not, I have been without a phone for 12 days* now. I won’t tell you the sordid technicalities of how my beautiful iPhone got taken from me, but it definitely involved some violent Scorsese-like details. To some of you, being phone-less for this long is utterly unfathomable. I might have as well said something along the lines of, I have been without food for 12 days… or I have been without sleep for 12 days… or I have been without any form of human interaction for 12 days. And more or less, I agree.
Since my parents gave me my first cell phone, sometime towards the end of high school, I’ve never been without my technology accessory / necessity for more than a few days. This includes the time in college when the top half of my flip phone conveniently broke off and I was blindly dialing people in my phone book for three weeks. There was a tiny red dot on the bottom half of the phone that would flash when someone was calling and that was enough for me. So yes, being without a phone for this long has been very interesting, frustrating, and overall entirely eye opening experiences. Just like fasting for a few days will teach you a few things about yourself, being without a phone will as well.
1. It’s okay to be disconnected.
When I’m out at a restaurant and I happen to see a family with kids next to me, I usually feel terrible for the parents because 8 times out of 10 (my arbitrary statistic), the kids aren’t talking or engaging, but playing on their phones. But then again, who can blame them? Back in my day (technology changes so fast that I feel entirely appropriate using that adage), the only thing I could do with my phone was call and text. Texting was even a little time consuming because there was no fancy T9 predictive magic, you simply had to hit numbers, and then wait if you had to hit the same number again to get another letter. Sometime in college, I did upgrade to a phone that took fuzzy terrible pictures, but even then, I don’t think I could do anything with those pictures – the phones that sent fancy MMS messages were out of my budget. But now, everything is possible on the phone and the world is moving ever towards being entirely mobile. Whether it’s instantaneous texting, flipping through Facebook photos, playing Fruit Ninja, or listening to music, the phone has become a one object wonder of instantaneous gratification. I’m not sure boredom can exist in our modern era because you always have access to some kind of distraction or entertainment from your mobile.
At the same time, though, I wonder if this access to information, entertainment, and people has taken away from the simplicity of just enjoying the present situation. I honestly don’t remember the last time I went out with a group of friends and someone didn’t have their phone on the table. Whether it was answering a text message, ignoring a call, or simply checking the news – I’ve never been to a dinner where everyone present was fully engaged with everyone else. This “keep your phone on the table” has become so much of a social norm now that no one really minds, and sure, most dinner companions have the common courtesy to not be so involved with their phones when we’re dining, but I wonder why everyone has become so unable to disconnect from everything else but the present for even a few hours.
Being without a phone, you are forced to disconnect. No one is texting you, no one is reaching out to you – that tiny fact you want to verify on Wikipedia must nag on your mind for just a little bit longer. But it’s okay to practice the discipline of being disconnected. Being disconnected forces you to be present. It reminds you of what it’s like to just enjoy and engage with the people and the environment around you.
Why are we the kind of people who can only learn moderation through – being completely without?
2. Access to Technology: The haves and the have nots.
It’s never struck me more acutely that access to technology is the most tangibly dichotomizing thing in the world right now. Ten years ago, it might have been going to the right school, or being born on the right street, or learning to play the right sports, but these days it’s singularly about having access to technology and how that will allow you to learn about and engage with the changing world.
So I must confess that I actually lost my iPhone 4 a few months ago and have been using my friend Anya’s old iPhone 3. Though it was incredibly generous of her to lend me her phone (the one that was recently stolen), it was quite a shock getting reacquainted with the old dinosaur after I had been with the sexy younger model. Part of this meant I had to stop using a lot of the apps I used because the phone just couldn’t handle all the action. Every photo I wanted to upload onto Path and Instagram would shut my phone down to the home screen and Maps was so slow to upload that I just gave up after a while. The gradual death of my friend’s iPhone 3 led to my dwindling access to technology – and thus, becoming slowly less and less tech savvy. Pretty soon, all my friends were talking about some new app I couldn’t down load, people were connecting over shared moments Path-ed, and I was just missing out on all the action.
Not having access to sexy summer camps or fancy foreign vacations may limit the type of people you can impress or the crowd you can ultimately belong to, but not having access to technology will make it impossible to understand where the world is going or the language that drives conversation today. Now a days, the hottest trend in marketing is content marketing. All big companies and brands are looking to hire individuals who can build content around their strategies to engage their consumer communities better. With the advent of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., marketing a brand now means engaging with your consumers. No longer is it enough to sell a product, but now you must sell your persona. So individuals who understand how these technologies have changed the marketing industry will succeed and excel. Individuals who don’t, simply won’t.
Across all industry – technology will come and creatively destroy what was old and implement a whole new system. Those who can understand the lingo, those that can walk the walk and talk the talk will be those that will have access to the opportunities of the future.
My friend Allie Perry teaches kindergarden at Eanes School District, home of the affluent high school Westlake. This past year, the school district had loaned all their teachers their own personal iPads to use. The purpose of this program is to encourage teachers to research ways on how to use technology to engage their students. By second grade, children in the Eanes School District will be using their own iPads in the classroom to create “stories” and share them with their school mates. Fast forward a few years and what you ultimately have are people who will likely be far ahead of those that didn’t get to interact with technology in such a way.
So I’m not sure where this realization of the importance of technology leads me – but at least it gives me a compelling argument to spend a few hundred dollars and buy that new phone.
*This is not entirely true. There was a minor blip of connectivity I had in the middle of my 12 day alienation from the mobile world. My good friend Anton did lend his outdated but super sexy Motorola KRZR K1 to use until I realized I couldn’t charge it because I didn’t have an adapter. This sexy euro phone was too much for my American outlets.
February 24, 2012 § Leave a comment
Sometimes I feel so desperately stuck, caught somewhere that isn’t here, isn’t there, really isn’t anywhere.
What I feel is sometimes an intense bit of nostalgia, a longing for what was. This past weekend, I was in Austin throwing a bachelorette party for one of my best friend’s who is getting married in two weeks. Like any other gathering of old friends, much of the weekend was spent reminiscing over bits of our past that we shared together. No doubt, memories of college to most people are typically painted with a happy, warm, glow. It’s almost like the happiness that was felt was so intense that it poured into the surroundings of our memories, coloring them entirely beautiful. Even the bad memories don’t seem so bad. For example, one thing me and Natalie (the bride-to-be) always talk about is the only fight we ever had. Ironically enough, it was over her and her finance’s (Brent’s) relationship when they first started dating. At the beginning of Natalie and Brent, like every other real love story, they had their fair share of unknowns and ups and downs. Natalie was indecisive, trying to figure things out betweeen her and Brent, and Brent was my best guy friend who was pretty passive – and somewhere in the intersection of their wants and personalities, they would often teeter between the realm of friendship and that world that’s entirely more. One day, I got upset with her that she couldn’t make up her mind and we got into a fight over whether or not she would just decide to be with Brent in the firend world or the so-much-more one. Needless to say, they eventually did start dating each other, and the rest IS history. However, even this fight, which at the time must have been quite shocking because we yelled at one another for a good few minutes, is seemingly a good memory. It represents to me how much I cared about her, and how much I cared about them. Never mind that I never get into fights with friends and squabbles are a number 1 mood-ruiner for me, this fight simply signifies how much we knew each other and how close we were. It really represents that I knew Natalie so well and she knew me so well. I couldn’t imagine having the courage or the care to call someone out on something if I didn’t really know them.
So it leads me to think that what I feel, this longing that reminiscing brings out is more than mere nostalgia. It’s not just that I miss college, or I miss simpler times – I do, it’s that I miss connecting with people the way I did in college, the way I was able to back then. I miss having time to just sit with someone in a coffee shop and talk to them, ramble with them about life, love, politics, and what movie we would try and catch later. I miss having time to watch movies, and sit afterwards, and engage in thought provoking discussion about the merits of the message. I miss going on hour long walks and a good friend and then sitting at Whole Foods after. I miss how much we were able to engage with people on a level that I hardly engage on anymore. Now a days, most of the day is spent engaging on points like what to do, how to do something, what to eat, where to get an errand done, etc. I miss engaging with people on our passions, dreams, life ambitions.
I can’t remember the last time I shared a dream with someone. I may be grown up more, but I don’t think I’m done dreaming or hoping for the rest of my life yet.
One of my favorite things in my day is receiving emails from two girls I met while studying abroad in Hong Kong. (Both have incidentally turned into life long best friends.) Most of the time we will email each other about how much we miss Hong Kong and how much we long for drinking wine for hours and talking, but through our emails, we have maintained the ability to dream with one another. We share dislikes about our jobs, and what we wish we had, but even more than that we share dreams of running away together and starting a blog or a lawfirm focused on fashion. Hey, who said these dreams had to be entirely realistic. We allow each other to think the best is still ahead, and we seek to understand where our dreams stem from. I can say that I know these girls, and that knowledge fills me.
In the book I’m reading, “The Social Animal.” by David Brooks, Brooks talks about the importance of connections (social ones) to the happiness of an individual. He says connecting with someone on a regular weekly basis brings the same sense of happiness as getting your pay doubled at work. He also says being married brings the same happiness as getting a $100,000 raise. I think for me, that may be more like a million dollar raise, but that’s just me. His point, and I agree with it entirely, is that happiness is found in social connections. I will go further to say that my happiness is found in really getting to connect with people on a deep level. Getting to understand what makes a person tick, makes them dream, makes them strive is one of the biggest joys in my life, and getting understood in those same ways is really important to my sense of self fulfillment.
It’s hard to really achieve sometimes because unfortunately, the more we grow, the more responsibility we carry, the more practical goals we take on, the less time we have to invest in people and in relationships. When weeks are filled with 50+ hours at work being productive instead of 12+ hours at school somewhat joking off, there is automatically less time for the people around you. But maybe, it doesn’t have to be as bad as that. Perhaps admist the emails sent back and forth, the laborious research being performed, the shuffling from one intense activity to another, there can be time set aside for intentional relationship building. Between the to dos, the must dos, and the I probably need to be doing things that advance our career and keep our lives organized, there needs to be a necessary amount of time set aside to know people and get known in the process.
I will still think of people I know fondly, and I will still miss time shared with them dearly, but maybe I won’t feel like I can’t continue to find and build relationships like I once had.
February 14, 2012 § Leave a comment
Over the past weekend, I’ve officially rolled into the later parts of my mid-twenties. 26. Actually, according to my friend Maria, I’ve hit my late-twenties, but that is a truth I don’t know if I’m ready to accept yet. I think I’ll just peacefully enjoy my mid-twenties for another year or so.
One of the things I love most about birthdays is the random messages, calls, facebook posts you receive from people like your friends parents, your high school church counselor, your best friend as she sneaks away from work, your long lost relatives, etc. Some people may find the “Happy Birthday!”s somewhat empty and flippant, but I find them to be perfect tokens of thoughtfulness from people all around you. They serve as little reminders to both you, and the person wishing it to you, of the bond of friendship and connection you shared at some point in life. I firmly believe that life is not a series of accidents, so I am thankful for all the reminders of the people I’ve been lucky to come across.
So Thank You.
February 4, 2012 § 2 Comments
1. Life Resolution Time? Attempt excellence in all things.
I know we’re well into 2012 already – seeing as we are already 1/12 of the way through the year, but I’m still attempting to make some New Years resolutions for myself. Maybe I should just start calling them “Life Resolutions,” because really, it’s February.
So I have decided this Friday morning that one of my life resolutions is to really understand what it means to pursue excellence in all things, all endeavors, all the big and little bits of my life. A boring day at work? Do the boring work with excellence. I am a terrible flosser of my teeth? Floss with excellence. Not communicating as well with my parents as I hope to? Pursue excellence by calling them more frequently, even if I have nothing to say. It shows I care. That is excellent. I want to break down this phrase. I want to break down what this phrase means to me and what it looks like lived out. I’ll probably come back with more insight later.
3. I just discovered from my friend Jessica Lee that if you are on Facebook Chat AND you have Spotify, you can listen to music with other friends on Facebook Chat at the same time. Neat. We are currently both listening to my friend Whitney Rosenthal’s play list.
4. These chicken tacos will probably be made tonight for dinner.
I have a really hard time deciding what to make for dinner (when I do occasion to cook). My decisions are broadly limited by two things: (1) I’m not that comfortable cooking yet. I feel like I’m still pretty limited by my fear of the kitchen and certain kitchen accessories and cooking skills (I just learned what “browning” means); (2) I don’t like to cook insanely greasy things – though I will be more than happy to make insanely buttery rich things.
5. I am debating whether or not I want to switch perfumes.
This is HUGE for me. I think smell is incredibly important. And it’s not just because my new book, “The Social Animal” told me so. (David Brooks did tell me that “people who lose their sense of smell suffer greater emotional deterioration than people who lose their vision.”) I’ve always had this romantic notion that I want to be associated with a specific smell. You know in books / stories when they say along the lines of, ‘he smelled Lavender and remembered her and the sweet soft smell of her hair’? Well I’ve been going for ‘they smelled Chloe by Chloe and they thought of Rodan.” Kind of narcissistic, I know. But my roommate just started wearing Black Orchid by Tom Ford and the scent is absolutely intoxicating.
Thoughts? What perfume do you wear and why do you wear it?
February 3, 2012 § 1 Comment
Recently, during one of my “uninspired” days when I was trying force feed myself some inspiration, I took a jaunt down to Soho to spend a couple of hours perusing my new favorite bookstore in New York (only to be rivaled by my favorite book store in Hong Kong).
McNally Jackson Books is exactly what a book store should be. This small shop located on Mulberry and Prince is a haven amongst the business that is inherent in New York. Here, if you stop by, you’ll be delighted with soft warm light that fills the store and a buzz of people that are quietly perusing the aisles. Your nose will be swooned by the gentle smell of coffee and baked goodies at its sister cafe. Your eyes will light up at the vast array of selections before you. Coffee table books filled with gorgeous pictures that will teach you how to cook like a Top Chef? Check. Books about sex and various styles of tantric breathing? Downstairs please. Volumes of poetry, artsy magazines, and even funny-one-of-a-kind cards abound in this carefully curated land of magic and wonder.
On that particular Sunday, I didn’t get much further than the table of “Noteworthy Nonfiction” that greeted me when I first entered the store. My eyes immediately drew to two books. “Rich People Things,” is a satire filled book by Chris Lehmann cataloging “the the fortifications that shelter the opulent from the resentments of the hoi polloi ( I have no idea what that word meant, so upon a quick search, hoi polloi means the great unwashed, plebians, commoners, etc. Lovely term.). On the other hand, “The Social Animal,” written by David Brooks of the NYTimes (which Rich People Things shits all over) is a book about “the hidden sources of love, character, and achievement.” I’ll leave out the boring details of the mental battle that was waged to determine which book I would buy and simply say that I am now obsessed with David Brooks’ piece of work.
Brooks authors this book to validate the emotional side of decision making, the unconscious side of our brains that really affects and guides our day to day actions and decisions. “If the study of the conscious mind highlights the importance of reason and analysis, study of the unconscious mind highlights the imporance of passions and perception.” Of course I would love this book. My name is Rodan “I-am-emotionally-in-touch-with-myself” Luo
I think all people are known by some trait and often times, by many traits. I’ve got a girlfriend who is a painter, a movie lover, a-person-who-only-eats-half-of-anything. One guy is known amongst our circle for his passion for start up companies, his love of skiing, and how he-has-more-stylish-clothes-than-half-my-female-friends. I’m likely known for my obnoxious sweet tooth, my ability to only drink whiskey with pickle juice, and my highs-are-higher-than-your-highs-lows-are-lower-than-your-lows.
So maybe I love this book because it’s a call for the validation of emotions, but I do think emotions need a bit of recognition. Sometimes people perceive emotions or exhibiting emotions as such a negative thing, particularly when it’s associated with the feminine sex. Males can relate well to this I believe. Girlfriend upset over something seemingly small? She’s just being emotional. Girlfriend calling you to tell you how your actions are insensitive? She’s just too sensitive. Mom calling you to gripe about how she hasn’t heard your voice in three weeks? She’s worrying as always over nothing. However, despite this age old gender based devaluation of emotions, this book argues (and I agree), that there is a general cultural preference for the rational concious mind over the emotional unconsious one. It’s entirely true that individuals who exhibit a cool, level-headed, rational decision making ability are given much more credit by their peers for the way they manage their lives than those individuals who let their passions, emotions, and unconcious feelings rule their choices.
However, without understanding the push and pull of our unconcious mind and it’s effect over the decisions we make as we journey through life, we are only able to understand half of who we are. Brooks smartly analogizes the concious rational mind to a general, and the unconcious emotional one to that of his scouts. “If the conscious mind is like a general atop a platform, who sees the world from a distance adn analyzes things linearly and linguistically, the unconscious mind is like a million little scouts. The scouts careern across the landscape, sending back a constsant flow of signals and generating instant responses… These scouts coat things with emotional significance. They come across an old friend and send back a surge of affection. They descend into a dark cave adn send back a surge of fear… Each perception has its own flavor, texture, and force… [and while] these signals don’t control our lives, they shape our interpretation of the world and they guide us.”
I do caveat that my appreciation of this book, and what I hope to learn from it is not to exhalt pure feeling above thinking. A person who only feels and cannot rationally make decisions is just as inept as someone who lives as a walking emotion-less robot. Nonetheless, I do think that understanding one’s emotions, and this sometimes means understanding how to control one’s emotions, really leads us to understanding our internal motivations better. It helps us gain clarity as to the type of person we are, our character, our ideals, and ultimately why we do some of the things we do. So, I guess I’m pretty “excited” about this book, and maybe you could be too if you gave it a try!