Not Just Mine

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.

Advertisements

12 and Counting

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.

Intentional Living

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.

Emotions

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!

 

 

Inspire the Uninspired.

January 31, 2012 § 1 Comment

It’s no secret that one of my biggest fears in life is to be uninspired, to live uninspired-ly.  I’m not exactly sure what that means, or what that looks like in the big picture, but I can tell you what it feels like in the smallness and tangibleness of day to day life.   Feeling uninspired feels a whole lot like apathy, and really, there’s no better way to define it than by a lack of desire, a lack of striving, a lack of passion, and a general lacking of wanting to do anything.  

When I’m having a particularly inspiring day, I see it from all fragments and pieces of my life.  A good conversation with a friend can spark thoughts and emotions.  Watching a great film or reading a great book can excite me about the idea of writing and perhaps drumming up the next “Desendants” (best film I’ve seen recently).  Coming across a good article on the web can invoke a desire to blog and share thoughts with the world.  Having a good work out session makes me want to make all sorts of resolutions to never eat sweets or drink alcohol again.  Spending a worthwhile hour on Pinterest can make me craft my visions of my perfect home and add pages and pages into my mental recipe book.  When I’m having an uninspired day, I do all of the above, and it just ends there – there is no added wanting or striving to do anything more.  The reading ends at reading, the watching ends at watching, the time spent talking with friends leads me to wonder why I’m spending so much time talking with friends.

I think I’m beginning to understand why I fear living an uninspired life so much.  Who wouldn’t fear living a life that is lacking in the motivation that each of us draws on to make it through the day, the months, and ultimately, the years.   Truly, that is what inspiration is.  Inspiration is motivation.  Inspiration is the fire that lights our dreams that actually makes us want to accomplish things, do things, be things.  Maybe I’m finally starting to feel a little more inspired now.

Yes, I realize that uninspired days are not impossible.  I will still treasure certain days when spending an afternoon on the couch snacking on Nut Thin Crackers (my new favorite munchie) watching NFL Football (my new favorite sport) will be a heaven of an afternoon for me.  But when I’m not happy feeling so uninspired and lack of feeling and will, I think what I need is a healthy kick of forced inspiration.  What is that forced inspiration?  Well, right now, at my desk, the only thing I can do is peruse around the web and read things and see things – and do my best to take inspiration out of what I read and see.  It’s okay sometimes, to force yourself to dream a little. 

My pieces of inspiration around the web:

1.  A funny article about a woman who hated running, but ultimately embraced it.

2. A conversation with Courtney Clevenger over gchat. 

3. Reading reviews for Richard III.  Tickets still available I think!

4. These photos from Pinterest:

5. Knowing that tomorrow is a new day full of new things that could inspire.

 

 

Choosing Difficult

January 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

While I’ve only been a resident of fabulous New York City since May of 2011 when I moved here with after graduation from law school, it feels like I’ve been here much longer.  I think I’ve had the experience of most New Yorkers.  I’ve lived on the upper west side; I’ve lived in the lower east.  I’ve lived (albeit temporarily) in my own cute little studio apartment; I’ve lived in a rodent infested shack with five people, in space too small for even one.  I’ve worked for a major fashion magazine; I’ve worked as a nanny to one of the few wealthy Jewish couples in Harlem.  I’ve gone on dates with bankers, lawyers, and hell, even had lunches with men old enough to be my father.  I’ve been spit on, cussed at, and shoved while trying to go get around this damn town, but I’ve also built a loving relationship with the sweet Korean couple that do my laundry on 2nd and B.  This December they gave me an awesome lint roller as a Christmas present.  It was the only time I felt genuinely remorseful I hadn’t thought of someone on my holiday shopping list.

I love New York because of how diverse it is; because of the sense that anything can happen here.  Yet, the truth is, when I was at home in Austin, TX this past Christmas break, I didn’t love New York and it’s possibilities so much.  In fact, all I could think about was why I hadn’t move back to Austin yet.  Now, my relationship with Austin is complex and has evolved a lot over the past 14 years.  At first I begrudged Austin because it wasn’t Tulsa, Oklahoma where my parents had viciously uprooted me from in middle school.  (My moving experience was both that evil and that painful, that in my eyes, it distorted Tulsa to be a little bit like heaven).  Not only did my twelve-year-old self begrudge my new home, I loathed it and frequently made solemn vows late at night that I would run away whenever I could.  Running away soon equated to going to college, and in high school, I only applied to out of state universities.  Still, despite my solemn vow to “get the hell out” – I somehow wound up at the University of Texas, and it was there that my bitterness towards Austin as a town, as a home, changed dramatically.  The city worked on me slowly.  From its small town charm, to its collegiate air of self-importance, to its daring attitude towards music and art, Austin and it’s unique vibe changed my attitude.  I started liking it, loving it, and frankly, becoming at home there.

So of course being in Austin over the holidays made me question a lot as to why I’m still in New York.  Yes, I love New York City, but it’s clear to me that the reasons I love New York are different and somewhat incomparable to the reasons I love Austin.  You can’t really compare loving a place because it’s diverse to loving a place because it’s home.  Is it pride?  Is part of me afraid to call it quits so soon?  Am I just holding out for that five-year mark when it is more okay to move?  I have a good friend Julie who moved to D.C. soon after college graduation, and before a year was out, she was packing her things and heading back to good ‘ol ATX.  She wrote all of us girlfriends an email sharing with us her decision on moving back so quickly, and she simply said, “I realized the only thing holding me back was pride, and that is a stupid reason.”  Turning the tables around, if pride is my reason, then that is an equally stupid reason.

But tonight, as I climbed my five flights of stairs to my apartment that isn’t in the East Village, isn’t in Alphabet City, and not exactly in the Lower East Side – I realized that the reason I’m still in New York, the reason that I’m not moving back to Austin (or anywhere else for that matter) is because New York is difficult, and right now, I need some difficult in my life.  It’s clear that the comforts of home don’t shape you into the person you want to become, New York does.  New York forces you to make decisions, it forces you to figure out who you are, what you want, and what kind of person you are pushing yourself to be.  The abundance of opportunity, possibility, potentiality in New York is what makes it both exciting and difficult.  In this place, you either find yourself, or you lose yourself.  Every day, every moment, you are faced with a multitude of options.  Do you take off your ugly mono-chromatic sweat pants, brave the cold and meet up with some friends at a bar or do you sit at home and pin your night away on Pinterest?  (I often choose Pinterest if anyone is concerned.)  But seriously, it forces you to decide on what and who is populating your life.  Which friends do you make effort for?  What functions and meetings do you attend?  What do you spend your hard earned money on?  New York forces you to decide because it is a city where everything is possible, yet it only offers you limited amounts of time and means to conqueror it.  It’s not easy for me to be here, but it’s just so right because I know I will look back and see that I became more myself because I was here.

Not just me

August 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

I imagine that most people’s relationship with their parents follow a somewhat similar cycle.  You begin in a state of adoration where it seems like your parents are God, or something close to God.  Then as you grow up, and lose a bit of yourself through the challenges of adolescence, you lose a bit of that adoration as well.  But finally, likely through a combination of growth, maturity, and equal effort to meet in the proverbial middle, the relationship usually springs back into one of love, respect, and mutual understanding.

For my parents and I, that period of discord lasted from the latter years of elementary school through the early years of college.  While much of what we argued about (curfew, boys, and school work) seemed too typical – our misunderstandings towards each other were not only brought on by a generation gap, but by a cultural one as well.

During many of these heated exchanges, I was very fond of saying, “This is my life!”  These four simple words didn’t seem so special, nor did they seem particularly spiteful – we can all think of more colorful phrases in the English language.   In fact, these harmless words were probably uttered by many teens before me and will be uttered by many after me, but those four always angered my father greatly.  It wasn’t until my later years, when I became more observant towards the nuances of human emotion, that I would realize how it would also shatter him a little as well.  My father didn’t understand the separation of “my life” and “his life.”  To him, we were a family, and therefore, my life was his life, and his, mine.  To him, the four words weren’t harmless; rather, they signified a desire to see my life and their life as separate.

In fact, my father had lived his life for his family.  Whatever burdened my mom and me, burdened him.  Whatever we rejoiced in, he rejoiced in.  He had never lived his life for himself, but always thought of us as an inseparable whole.  When we had little to spend, he would skip lunch so our family could eat nicer dinners.  When I was going through the critical years of high school when what you wore defined where you stood on the social totem pole, he would buy clothes at a discount so I could buy something new off the rock.  And even now, as a 25-year-old woman, my family has decided to help me carry the heavy burden of my graduate school loans because to them, we will always be a team.

There is a lot about my parents that I do not understand, but if there were one thing I could hope to emulate from them, it would be to live with the mentality that my life is never just mine.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Life’s Observations category at flutterings of a changebird.