Thursday, October 30, 2014

You Can't Always Get What You Want, But You Can Always Get Back in the Game

I haven't been writing because of one very important, all-consuming project. We celebrated a few CEOs who have transformed their companies. Now that project is over, and I can sit back and strategize my next move.

Funny-- I thought I knew what my next move was.
Until a few weeks ago, it was absolute. is no longer an option.

When I realized that, I was so disappointed that I was angry. Embarrassingly, it took me two weeks to get through the "if I can't do this, I don't want to do anything" slump.

The only way I got through the slump, was by reframing this let down as an opportunity. That might seem like a comfort mechanism, but that's not what it is--and that's not why I did it.

I did it, I intentionally reframed the situation, because I know that it is a good way out of slumps. I know that people who do that are more successful and happier than people who don't. I know that people who intentionally reframe challenges tend to be more grateful and more resilient. And I want to be both of those in increasing measure as I age.

So I reframed. I said, "The best thing about not getting what I wanted was..."

Was that it forced me to want something else. It forced me to ask myself what my non-negotiables are, and to let go of brand names, titles, locations and salaries in order to find a good fit for my passions and talents.

The best thing about not getting what I wanted, is that I found out what I care about, what I'm willing to fight for, and even what I'm worth. Sometimes when you slip easily from one stage of life into the next, you don't have to ask those hard questions. Slipping into something is a whole different exercise than climbing into something, but I won't bother tracing that metaphor out right here.

So it was a good thing, not getting what I wanted.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Not Happy? Relaaaxxx. Or Don't...It Hardly Matters

In an ongoing dialogue with my laptop, the General Social Survey and RStudio, I have uncovered another simple measurement: hours spent relaxing on a typical work day and reported levels of happiness.

If you look at the first column in the table below, you will find the number of reported hours spent relaxing per typical work day for a survey respondent. Then, the following three columns are the respondent's reported levels of happiness, with "1" corresponding to "Very Happy", "2" corresponding to "Pretty Happy," and "3" corresponding to "Not Too Happy."

The people who are relaxing 0 hours a day, myself included, are by and large reporting themselves as being "Pretty Happy."

The happiest people? Around 40% of the "Very" happiest people report having three to four hours of relaxation per typical work day. But then again, look at the "Very Unhappy" people in column 4: they majority of them relax two to five hours a day, too!!

So happy people and unhappy people alike seem to relax. It doesn't have much of a relationship to happiness, whatever the yoga studios are telling us.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The More Asian Friends You Have, the Less TV You Watch (And Other Statistical Curiosities)

I have a small addiction to Korean soap operas. They are so good. My favorites are "My Love From Another Star," and "When a Man Loves."

And, independently, I have a lot of Asian American friends, whom I adore.

Recently, two things have come to my attention. The first: since I've graduated from college, the number of friends of mine who are Asian or Asian-American has gone way up. The second: I watch no TV at all. Except for my bonanza runs of Korean dramas every so often, I have no time for it.

According to statistics, I do actually fall outside American TV watching tendencies. In fact, I just analyzed the relationship, using  the the General Social Survey,  I looked at two variables: number of TV hours watched per week, on average, and the number of Asian acquaintances.

What I found was that the less hours that a respondent said they watched per week, the more Asian acquaintances they also happened to have, on average.

For example, among those who listed "0 hours" of TV watched usually per week, the average number of Asian acquaintances respondents had was 2.95. Look at the table below for yourself, and you'll see that as the number of TV hours watched per week increases, the number of Asian friends a person has decreases. And vice versa.

If that seems like an inconclusive relationship, okay. Since we're having fun here, how about we look at the number of years of education respondents had on average, analyzed according to the number of Asian acquaintances they said they had...

If you look at the number of Asian "pals" a person said they had in the middle column, you will see that the more Asian friends a person has, the higher their education level, on average. So an education of "12" means that they have finished the senior year in high school. An education level of "14" means that they have finished another two years of community college or vocational training. And an education level of "16" would indicate that the respondent has finished four years of college after high school. 

Last week, I did some studies on women and harassment in the workplace, which I may post if I have time later.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Why Having More Information Isn't Making Your Decision Easier

"At the end of the day, the goal is NOT to analyze everything. It is to analyze as LITTLE as is necessary to solve the primary issue."

Victor Cheng, Case Breaking Guru

I like this way of thinking. It's becoming more obvious to me as I go along. A corollary is likely that knowledge takes you from blindness to sight, but perhaps an insensible sight. Wisdom transforms what you are seeing into meaningful relationships and patterns.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Levers to Adjust Risk and Reward - And The Truth Behind Our Biggest Moments

Falling into the best things in life, and falling off into the worst, are both unforeseeable.

The majority of risks we take when we wake up are because of conscious decisions we make to satisfy some desire or need. For example, although driving a car or riding public transportation is risky, we did it because of something else we needed to do or wanted to do. Unless you are homeless, in which case you ride public transportation just to ride it. No, even then, you ride it to get out of the weather.

You can decrease risks like that by simply not driving or riding public transport.

Then you increase the risk of homelessness, however, as you might find it hard to keep a job without going into the office ever.

You can decrease the risk of homelessness by showing up to work every day and doing whatever your boss asks you, even if he asks you to stay late.

But then you increase the risk of poor health and decreased life expectancy (and perhaps, divorce).
You can decrease your health risks by sleeping more and not staying at work past dinner time, but then you increase the risk of being passed over during promotion time.

So, there are all sorts of risks. You have levers for every one of the adjustable risks.

But you have to optimize how much risk you are willing to bear in each category: the risk of being passed over, the risk of poor health, the risk of homelessness, the risk of a failed marriage, the risk of a broken family, the risk of piling debt, the risk of decreased creativity.

How do you optimize?
Easy, silly. Excel Solver.

Once you've done your analytics, of course, you have to act like a manager over your life and implement the decisions. This much sleep, and no less. This much broccoli, and no less. This much bourbon, but no more. This much MTA transit at rush hour, but no more. This much phone calls to mom, and no less.

And then, even then, yes--you will realize that really crappy things happen to your health, and you will be shocked to find that sleeping a lot didn't reduce your cancer risk enough, and that loving your family didn't prevent an untimely death, and that being great at what you do didn't prevent the 2008 economic crisis or your subsequent job loss.

And then, even then, yes--you will discover that wonderful things that you could never have imagined will happen to your friends, family, and even you. People you originally weren't drawn to will draw you into their circles and bless your evenings with knowing looks and warm hugs. Bosses who give no favors will toss you opportunities that all the rules say you shouldn't get, and you will take them and transform into a leader. Even when you budget and refuse to ride taxis, you'll find yourself sharing a taxi with someone that could have been you ten years ago, and find yourself telling her to have the courage you never had, to see the way through, to push open the doors and make a place for herself at the table.

Those are risks and rewards that you have no levers to control. Isn't that what all of these books are written about anyway? Preparing yourself, clearing your slate, living expectantly---so that when moments like those come along, you are ready. For calamity and death, for exaltation and birth. As if it is possible to be prepared for things you think are impossible.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bill Clinton Article

My friend posted this Atlantic article on Bill Clinton that I found interesting.

This quote stood out as a problem that many millenials have in pursuit of their own careers/aspirations:

“I’ve got all these ideas,” he said. “What I’m really interested in is what my kind of public service is going to be, here in America and around the world … I’ve got to think that through.”

At the time—indeed, for the next couple of years—even people close to Bill Clinton wondered whether he would ever bring that period of cogitation to a definitive conclusion. They wondered whether he could discipline his curiosity and impulses sufficiently to focus on just a handful of causes, as Jimmy Carter had so effectively done, or whether, as The Atlantic put it in 2003, his post-presidency would turn out to be “limbo in overdrive.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tip of the Day: 4 Easy Steps to Doing Anything Better

Today, my tip is about improving your work life (and eventually, your personal life, too). It's 4 easy steps involving planning, communicating, doing the plan and reviewing the plan for improvement. It could also be build, reveal, share and improve.

4 Easy (EASY!) Steps:
  1. Plan
  2. Communicate
  3. Do
  4. Refine
Each of the four stages has its own components.

For Planning, you need to make sure that:

  • The plan fits your overall goals for the project / organization
  • The plan fits within your values (i.e. timeliness, excellence, providing more than was asked for)
  • The plan has clearly defined what will be done, who will do each part, when each part will be done, and what resources/information is necessary to start / finish the project
For Communicate, you have to make sure that you communicate your plan to

  • The people above you,
  • The people affected by your decisions or waiting on your project,
  • The people working with you who need to do some part of the plan, and
  • The people outside of the organization that might need to know.

Figuring out who will be affected by your plan, and who is waiting on it is a good process.

For Doing the Plan, you have to have a good to do list that is clear and in logical order. Nobody can do everything at once. Do you shampoo your hair, dry your hair and then put conditioner in it? No! There is a sequence that makes everything more efficient!
  1. First, do this.
  2. At the same time, start this.
  3. Then, once #1 has been completed, do this.

Some things can be done simultaneously (at the same time), but other things happen sequentially (one followed by another). You should draw "Flow Charts" to figure out where the bottle necks will be in your plan, and make sure that you address potential obstacles early on.

For Refining the Plan, you want to think about the process you used, the people and situations you took into account as you communicated and performed each task.


  • Where did you lose time?
  • Who did you have to wait for before getting started?
  • What made the plan hardest to accomplish?
  • What do you know now that can help you next time you do something?

The planing process can help you in personal and professional matters. From the way you make your breakfast (do you start the stove fire first or get your ingredients out of the refrigerator first), to the way you schedule your free time (do you set personal goals for the 1-year, 5-year, 10-year?), to the way you respond to emails from colleagues and employers.

The more often you take your "PROCESS" outside of your head and put it on paper to analyze, the more improvement you will see over time.

Monday, September 15, 2014

On Sinking Ships, by Kathy Phillips

I work in a center at a business school, which allows me behind the curtain of a truly great enterprise. This morning, we had a meeting for all the centers and institutes, at which our vice dean spoke about the transitions we are going to make as a group.

I liked this one thing that she said very much:

"I can't swim. So I cannot be on the boat that is going down."

That was funny.

Good motivation, too.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

On Despising Humanity

A good man is pleased, rather than amused, to find patterns in human behavior.

Instead of, "oh God, how sad we are," he says, "wow, we do that, it's true!"

Friday, September 12, 2014

Hot Potato Visionary Types

Sometimes, working with visionaries can be a real endurance race.

Visionaries seem to stand in place and receive a steady stream of hot potatoes from heaven that they pass off to whoever is standing nearby. And you're thinking to yourself:

I am not responsible for executing all of this, right?

Carrying Mattresses and Improving Processes

The people who ought to know the most about process baffle me with their disinterest in having one.

Process be not intuition. Or the other way around. Or both.

Intuition is unsafe, imho. Like institutional memory, it's hard to improve intuition. It's a gut feeling that comes from the same place that brings you bias, prejudice and a yearning for Snuggies.

Processes can be refined.
Intuition fails, and does so with an unshakable sense of righteousness.

I'm all for good, improvable processes. I work in the right place for it, too. At a center for quality, efficiency and competitiveness.

Meanwhile, in the second week back on campus at Columbia, we had a protest outside Low Library today. People carrying mattresses to support the student who was raped, and who has decided to make visible what would have otherwise been an invisible burden.

She is making it artistic. Making something felt into something seen. Would that we all had the craft for that. Or the will. Or both.

I talked with my favorite coworker, who used to be in publishing, about why I love NYC. I said, and I quote myself here, "I want to live and to be and explore. To feel what there is to feel in life. Just like every other twelve year old girl."

No, but really. I've found myself here, even if I wasn't lost before I got here. My colors have become deeper, my feelings stronger (or at least more obvious and interesting to me).

No, it's more than even that. I'm taking sides here. For some things and against others. I'm choosing things and rejecting things (people, too). I'm more well-defined than I've ever been and I fell less changeable.

Those may be the words that I look back on in twenty years with grief and self-pity. But somehow, I doubt it. I doubt that I'll look back on this time with anything but admiration and gratitude.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day

"Leisure alone, as great as it is, will not restore your soul."

-Rev David Bisgrove

It's Labor Day today.
I've eaten Mexican food and gelato, read up on representative democracy and texted friends. I have a date in a few hours, with an Italian man. It's all very leisurely.

But I feel anxious today. This feeling surprised me because I haven't felt this way all summer. I think it's not about the actual work I'll do this semester. It's about all the missed opportunities and mistakes I made in undergrad. This feeling is about all the happily married finance workers that mill about the city on Saturdays. Really--it has very little to do with me. But I feel it, nevertheless.

Instead of thinking too much on it, I'm choosing to focus on the day ahead and all the possibilities it holds. Museums, if I'm interested. The parks. Friends. Laughter. Exaggerated sentimentality.

And rest.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Bazaar Around the Corner

Last night, despite paralyzing jet lag, I grabbed dinner with a friend at a Moroccan restaurant on the UWS: Shalel Lounge. 

Rose petals lined an iron stairwell down into the lounge, which was really a cross between a bomb-shelter and a middle eastern bazaar. We sat side-by-side on velvet cushions, facing three, French-kissing couples. I sipped Tempranillo and grazed on tuna bric, leaning back onto my elbows from time to time, relaxed by the dimly lit laughter.

Intimate, strange, savory. 
A New York Tuesday kind of place.

Friday, August 22, 2014


“You shall leave everything you love most: this is the arrow that the bow of exile shoots first."

-- Dante, “Paradiso”

Great feature on NYTimes Opinionator on Exile.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Love by Urdu

Urdu poem...

"I have loved you my whole life
And while I have waited for you,
Oh how many people I have loved."

-Told by professor Singh

Singapore Visit, Feeling Lushy

I'm in sunny Singapore, learning a lot about services operations management. My notes are littered with one-liners from the prof.

Fuschia orchids are drooping from every corner of this place.
Green palm branches stretch up into the blue sky, against a background of other green, full, tall trees. No matter where I go here, I feel like I'm standing in the middle of a lush forest.

All My Stories Are Told

"And ten years later, would I have been compelled to write a memoir about that time in my life? Or would I have felt that I’d already told the story by posting it as my status update?"

From "A Memoir is Not a Status Update" by Dani Shapiro, The New Yorker

That's a good question. 
When Facebook and Instagram give us immediate relief / comfort / encouragement / excitement,  what's left to write about in 50 years. 

Our stories have all been told.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Nevermind the Leg Room

You can't predict the future.
I read a great story today, written by a woman in her 60s. She was vivacious and full of fun. 

I'm in the Emirates Airlines lounge, headed to Singapore via Dubai. My boss and I are an incredible duo. We can solve anything, just give us a few seconds and a few iced cortados.

I'm thinking of him, a lot, as I prepare to embark. We talked about this trip. Can't help wondering what he's doing this weekend. It's hard to leave someone you care about in an instant.

It's easy to say goodbye, though. You just decide (cock the gun), begin to speak (aim), and deliver the words (shoot).

But the weeks after can be strange. The heart is full of mischief. Burdened with longing and irresponsible loyalties. I only get nostalgic at dusk and when I eat sushi or think about email.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Creative People as Friends

I hate relying on creative people for deep friendship. Because they're simply not going to be there when I want them to be.

But then again, when I need's like they are waiting for me, right where we left off.

Funny as ever.
Bringing out the best in me at the worst of times.

Le sigh.

Diary of a NYer : Rainy Days and Wednesdays

Things you learn on subways:

When you get on the train, if there is enough space to not sit next to someone, you cannot--I repeat--you cannot sit next to someone.

Current Issues in Contemporary Manhattan Life:
Heat rash in the crook of my right elbow.
Singapore trip in 3 days.
Uncooked cauliflower sitting on the bottom shelf of my fridge.
Rain that smells like garbage.
Handsome guy at Starbucks pouring half & half into my cup for me.
Bad hair on a good hair day.
New mascara that looks like a Bebe advert.
The end of things - the beginning of things.
Water water water.
To do listings.
A deep and insatiable desire to explore the internet.
Google +

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Last Thoughts on the Permanence of the Temporary

 Francois Mauriac said:
No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Remembering Existentialism, With Some Regret, Ministered By An Observant Me

Step outside
Gonna step outside,
I'm gonna step out
Heart's on fire, leaving all behind you
Dark as night, let the lightning guide you
-Jose Gonzales, Step Outside

I turned Jose on, reclining back on too many beige and white pillows.  "I have never ventured beyond..."the words in the novel said. What have I never ventured beyond? Harlem, for sure. Beige, at least in this room.  

Laying back, staring at both myself and the wall opposite me, my coral colored shirt begins to float away from me, and swirls into the walls and carpet. Finally, I see that this room is missing the color coral, and decide to cover the windows and the closet with coral cotton and paint. 

I can't ever forget the Tibetan village I stayed in at Xiahe; Oh!, the striped bedspreads and tablecloths--- so garishly red, green and then heaven-white in surprising places. .

I lay my phone on my chest with the speaker pointed at my chin.

Dark as night, let the lightning guide you...

I lay the weighty pages of my latest summer reading down on my forehead, and the gushing notes of the music fill the little triangular space between the speakers, the book and my self, until I squeeze my face up into a ball of emotion. 

Then I relax, as I see the girl who has let the emotion swell into her and knock her off course. By seeing her, I have anchored her. 

Then, finally, I resent that I ever became an existentialist. And wish that I had skipped from youthful naturalism straight to Christianity. How much less would I watch myself, I wonder?

Weekends on the UWS

I stuffed coconut shrimp and dolmas and guacamole-coated chips into my mouth.

It's been one of those celebratory weekends, I guess. 

Hamas, Israel, 3D printing, Amazon, Happy Hour, Self-discipline, CS Lewis, Jean Paul Sartre.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Guess Who

Another contradiction:

We put parts of our full selfs into closets, along with our ill-fitting, trendy dresses and decades-old business pants. There is something embarrassing and too loose about our accents, the way we eat when no one's in the room, the way we overreact when our siblings tease us...

It's not the self we're offering to the others we want to bring close.

But when relationships get tense and there is too little freedom in our shared mental space, how easy it is to put on our old strange self, that one we hid from sight all this time.

Oneness in "The Left Bank"

It's true, you know, neither of us can be explained without the other.

--Kate Muir

Friday, August 8, 2014

You Can't Always Get What You Want (A Process Primer)

Most of the people in the middle class want the same things, value the same things.

And yet we talk as if the key to finding meaningful relationships and good business partners is aligning with people who want the same things.

Real crises in partnerships don't come from what you want, but from how you go about getting what you want.

What you sacrifice.
Or who.
When you wake up.
When you sleep.
How you treat your body.
How you treat your soul.

How you deal when you can't get what you want...and when you can.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cepvaci and Other Morning Delights

Bosnian Hurmasice

A very special coworker brought in some Bosnian desserts today. Nutella cookies, hurmasice, hairy cake...mmmmm.

One of them, the hurmasice, seemed like what you would get if baklava and an old-fashioned donut had a baby. Gooier than baklava, crispier than donuts.

I'll be wearing a moo-moo, saying mooo mooooo, soon.

But in the meantime, I'm in sugar heaven.
You know the place I'm talking about. It's like Hotel California: you can check out any time you like, but you can't ever leave. Sugar knows where you live and drunk dials you from a block away.

Monday, August 4, 2014

I'm Not Exactly Who I Appear To Be (Who Is?)

We can choose to surround ourselves with people who couldn't possibly understand where we've come from, and in doing so, we can create a barrier between ourselves from the past and ourselves in the present.

This strategy breaks down if we then feel a great loneliness because we are not somehow "fully" accepted. 

Monday Morning Coffee

There's a middle-aged Chinese man sitting on the bench outside Joe Coffee. He has the tiniest shoulders, which are neatly tucked inside his blue-grey polo shirt. His right leg is flopped over his left, and his right foot, tied too-tightly into a worn, black leather boxing shoe, flexes up and down. 

A middle-aged husky woman, turns into the shop. Her hair is piled on top of her head, with different tones of gold and brown knotted messily on both sides of a stretchy, black head band. The edges of her bulky calves glitter--a Lululemon logo, reflective silver against the black. 

An older man in an old, red running shirt checks his phone while a demitasse of espresso waits half-sipped to his left. His running shoes are electric blue, with that reflective detailing. His ankle socks are black, with orange. The back of his head is clean-cut and still wet with sweat. His upper arms are matted with soft, dark hair. He jerks up, slides Bose headphones up from his collar, over his ears. He turns, walks out the door, looks left, looks right. He waits for it. Then leaves.

After he's gone, the espresso and its plate and spoon remain for less than a minute before a young, fleshy boy in a salmon-pink tee takes them away.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

This Friend's Taken, Move Along

Heading into new friendship territory. Anyone else feel like the mid-30s are a repeat of adolescence? The ease of the early 20s are long behind me and people have settled, more or less, into distinct groupings (which we used to call cliques).

I'm new to town. Hi.

In the beginning of adulthood, every person was a new adventure. And every new adventure showed me something thrilling about the world. I grew into a thousand different versions of myself and explored the type of person I wanted to become.
15 years ago.  

At 35, in New York City, I'm finally settling down. But...with whom?

I was recently talking over the problem of finding friendships in my 30s with a potential new friend from LA. We met in Union Square at one of those artsy coffee joints that has the wood interior of 1980s skate park. She's very similar to me: good-natured, respectable and hard-working.

She is just like a Nashville friend. Like Betsega or Jen M. But I already have a Betsega. I already have Jen M. I asked her about that. About feeling like all of my 'best friend' spots are full. Let's be real, my friendship real estate is like a vacation property; the owners visit irregularly. But it hasn't bothered me that the spots aren't getting used.

Why hasn't it bothered me?
Probably because I'm so busy.
Maybe because it's less demanding of me.
Could be more convenient.

Alex Williams expressed the same thing in his popular New York Times article on the challenges of making friends in adulthood:
As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.
No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.
What if I have more best friends out there, waiting for me to stop hanging on the edge of the pool?

Williams added that the three things sociologists say are necessary to making friends:

  1. Proximity;
  2. Repeated, unplanned interactions; and 
  3. A setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other
New York definitely can nurture these things, if I let it. I met my best NYC friend at a diner across the street from my house, and we see each other all the time. Church is another place that would facilitate this, of course.

I guess I've got some friending to do.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

PlayWorld in "The Left Bank"

Currently reading Kate Muir's "Left Bank," a book which begins with a sardonic couple's trip to "PlayWorld," a Disneyland-esque theme park. Regarding the place, Muir writes:

"[It] is so good at being good that it manifests an evil: so uniformly efficient and courteous, so dependably clean and conscientious, so unfailingly entertaining that it's unreal, and therefore is an agent of pure wickedness."

Much could be said about pretense, masquerading as the real thing, and how after eating it, one might wake up with a mouth full of cankers and a tongue that's lost its taste.

Speaking of taste: I followed up cafe reading with a quick quinoa sorrento salad, topped with shrimp, avocado and tomatillo salsa. Saturdays are so...dependably good, that they're bad.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Urine My Bad Book Now, Whoever You Are

I'm not one to complain about big city life.

That being said, to whomever peed on the bus seat before I sat down: you're a real louse.


How Relationships Begin (End)

Romantic relationships are half prudence and half foolishness.

Which comes first is everything.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Work is Play

My boss got VIP tickets for the Liverpool / Manchester match last night at Yankee Stadium.  If I lived inside my own video game, last night's hot dog and beer might symbolize admittance into the next level of American citizenship.
Our View of the Turf at Yankee Stadium
Tucker, from Boston, told me that he would revoke his friendship if I become a Yankee fan. I say: you can't choose who you love.

Editor's Update with Subsequent Conversation:

Steph: i agree with tucker. you cannot become a yankees fan ;)

Allie: too late

Steph: what???? oh come on. at least pick the mets or something.

Allie: No, they are nearly repulsive to me because they are so meaningless. That's like buying a Kia

The Inevitable Fall of Small Expectations

Maybe the reason we're continually disappointed, is not because we're asking for too much, but because we're asking for too little.

If a dream is specific enough to be grasped in one hand, it's fragile enough to be crushed in the hand when we lose our footing and tighten our grip.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I slept badly and woke up feeling weird.
Feeling two steps behind.

Where am I, I kept asking myself.

I listened to an encouraging podcast (it failed to encourage me).

I did morning prayer time, but was repeatedly interrupted.

I bought Dunkin Donuts coffee with cream and sugar--a sure fire way to improve my mood.
But the coffee was sour in my mouth.

Where am I?

I went to the Eucharist service at St. John's.
There was a woman with a little toddler boy, playing on the altar while we prayed in the small chapel. He had a little Buddhist hair cut. I was confused. Why are you playing with him at the altar?

Is there no relief from this weirdness, I asked myself.

No; not at the moment. No relief.

Which is why every attempt to sneak into relief is only making me more miserable. 

It's a terrible feeling to eat and feel unsatisfied afterwards. Likewise, it's a terrible feeling to seek relief but not find it where you expected it.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hope That Doesn't Disappoint

Even when we have nothing to be optimistic about,
We have hope.

Hope is different from optimism.
Optimism is thinking about the future in light of our resources, our investments and good luck. Optimism says "I worked so hard, I bet I'll get that promotion."

Hope is not optimism.

Hope is having the taste of fruit in your mouth when you have no tree and no money.

Hope is sensing that something good is tied up in all this. That this thing in your hand, which on paper does not fit, will be wonderful. Hope tells you that you can have wonderful experiences that don't have anything to do with who you are and what you've earned.

No wonder hope does not disappoint.

NYC, Most Unhappy? Not in This 10' X 12'

The Big Apple is a perfect moniker for the city: 'The apple is the cause of the fall of human happiness' ...'It's the symbol of that desire for something more. Even though paradise was paradise, they were still restless.'
-Jennifer Senior, "Some Dark Thoughts on Happiness," New York Magazine

The big news this week is that New York won the "Unhappiest City in America" title, coming in last in satisfaction measures from the National Bureau of Economic Research. To think, I had once considered working for those schmucks. They said:

One interpretation of these facts is that individuals do not aim to maximize self-reported well-being, or happiness, as measured in surveys, and they willingly endure less happiness in exchange for higher incomes or lower housing costs. 

No, but seriously... self-reported satisfaction ratings are only as good as the people reporting them. They have something to do with how we frame our questions about happiness. If we ask, are you happy with how small and dirty your apartment is versus, are you happy with how many of your goals you have been able to pursue here in New York, we'll get different responses.

I, for one, am learning and growing more here in NYC than ever before. I'm transforming into a more mature, dedicated, reasonable, loving and interesting person than I've ever been. But the cost of transformation is living space is itty-bitty, my shoes are wearing out, my budget is a joke and the competition that built this city is the type of swim meet that might drown a person, even a person as bright and ambitious as me.

I'll do what the natives do, retell this new study's findings with a gleam in my eye. Can you believe it? NYC is an unhappy place!? Secretly patting myself on the back for finding a fulfilling life here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ai Wei Wei At the Brooklyn Museum


They felt it the first time they realized they weren't alone.

But also the first time they realized they were individuals,
saying something important about something important.

Ai Wei Wei
China Log 2005

Things That Delight (Summer Edition)

In no particular order, the things that delight this NYC newbie:

The Leftovers
Leftovers from Veniero's Pasticceria in the East Village
iMessage cat face, heart eyed emoticons
Hugs from friends
Cold Sichuan noodles
Saturday Brooklyn museum Ai Wei Wei plans
Birchbox eyeliner samples
Italian cheesecake
Beach trips to Far Rockaways
"Pretty in Pink" soundtrack
iPhone charger
IKEA stuffed animals
A/C window units
Trader Joe's canvas bags repurposed for the beach

Friday, July 25, 2014

Things Change

Everything we post on the web is anonymous, right?

I'd like to get back to that era when I was talking and some people were listening, but nobody was tracking me. Now, everyone everywhere is tracked, and nobody's listening.

I'm in New York now. Five years ago, when I started this blog, I had barely begun a new life and my dad's life had just been snuffed out. I was reading the Economist and thinking about settling in Europe.

Fast forward a few years and I'm working part time for professors, traveling back and forth to Asia every year, speaking at embassies and, most unbelievable of all, eating meat.

It's happening so fast. The world outside me is so loud. I wonder what I'm thinking sometimes.