Ignorant Savage

I learned a valuable lesson in college the year Man Lauren was my roommate.  I had just finished making dinner and we were getting seated to eat.  This was early in the year, where our schedules still aligned and we could have and cook dinner together.  He did something which I perceived as different.  Now, there are a lot of things that Lauren and I do that would be considered “different”, and to be honest, I don’t quite remember what it is that he did.  For the sake of example and story, let’s say he scooped curry into his bowl first and then scooped rice on top of it, to which I blurted out

“That’s weird.”

Without skipping a beat, he turned to me and stared straight into my eyes.  He began to sing:

“You think I’m an ignorant savage And you’ve been so many places I guess it must be so..”

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That’s right.  He started singing Colors of the Wind.

We proceeded to eat dinner with light hearted conversation about how things are “weird” when it’s not what we’re used to seeing or doing.  It extended to cultural differences or being raised in a different environment.  This all stuck out to me, as from then on, I tried not to think of people as “weird” anymore, rather as unique or different.  You’d think this concept would be more accepted and understood as you grow up, but ignorance is everywhere.

I mean, I’m guilty of it too.  That’s just how normalized it is; people call me weird all the time, so naturally I’ll point fingers too.  Not that I’m proud of myself, I’ll often have regretful thoughts as soon as I utter those two words: “you’re weird” or “that’s weird”.  Sure, it’s probably fine in good company and joking is acceptable, but it can easily slip out in passing.

What am I saying?  Let’s change how we look at things.  After all, aren’t we all a little weird?

Just a thought.

Sanity Day

Sanity day, a day to do all the nothing you want at your own leisure.  A day of this nature could be spent sleeping in, napping all day, and then heading to bed early.  It could be spent catching up on your emails and television shows.  It’s a day to spend indoors in comfy clothes.

Sanity days, we all need them, especially for introverts like myself.  It’s important to have one after a week or several days of sustained busyness.  Sometimes it’s not just school or work, but just a lot of stuff that takes up your “me-time”.  Dinner with the extended family one night, lunch with old high school buddies the next day, delivering a package for a friend out of the way home from work, tutoring your friend’s cousin’s brother… it all adds up.

This term was coined by an old coworker who would occasionally take a Monday or Friday off from work.  It sounds silly at first, but I remembered that his average commute was 1.5 hours one way.  I couldn’t blame him.

At this point in my life, sanity days are few.  Granted, I put myself in this position by choosing to be so involved in my church.  I know I joke about not working on the days that I work from home, but I still get stuff done as I do have deadlines to meet.  I guess it makes those pauses in workflow that much more enjoyable.  Too much nothingness can feel detrimental, but I won’t get into that.

My ideal sanity day?  Sleep in, but “sleeping in” for me is like 9:30.  Brunch, in the form of homemade ramen, of course.  Then watch TV or some leisurely computer time paired with a hot cup of tea.  Transition to a nap from there and some jogging to top off the day.

What does your sanity day look like?

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“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” – Calvin and Hobbes

That’s Okay

“That’s okay..”

A two-word sentence that my dad says a lot when conversing with my mom or my sister.  As such, it is a phrase I’ve adopted as well.

Things happen.  Drivers are idiots on the road.  You forgot to set your alarm after remembering to set it for 20 years of your life.  The boss is extra grumpy today.  It’s just not the right time of day for your friend’s snarkiness.  This math problem doesn’t make sense.  The program won’t compile.  You got waitlisted for the class you really needed.  You just can’t seem to win in the video game you’ve mastered.  Life isn’t going your way… You get the idea.

Sometimes, that’s all I can offer:  “That’s okay”

And sometimes, that might be enough.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of that phrase (whether from me or someone else), but it helps a lot.  Well, I guess depending on who it is and the gravity of the situation.  But still, sometimes, it’s more than listening, or problem solving, or analysis.

Try it

 

Relevant Day[9] video:

2nd Violin

Some people will always be 1st violinists.  These are your prodigies, musically gifted, perfect pitched or just well practiced.  And that’s totally fine.  Few people recognize it, but more often than not, 2nd violin music is harder.  For starters, 1st violins get to play the melody, which makes staying on beat and following the conductor quite easy.  On the other hand, 2nd violins play the off beat notes, syncopation, and weird harmonies to accompany the cellos.  Sure, 1st’s earn their position and their right to do so and that’s probably the best way to do it.  I’m just saying, it’s tough being a 2nd; they don’t always have the easier music.  If you disagree with me, it’s probably because you’ve been a 1st all your life.

Unbeknownst to most, I had humble beginnings as a violinist.  I was always in the shadow of my brother, my dad, my uncles and my cousins.  More so because of the last name I bear.

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It’s just what I was expected to be, a great string instrumentalist.

I had no idea how much a single audition would effect my seating in an orchestra.  I fluctuated a lot.  In Middle School, I was one of two 6th graders to make it into 1st violins.  Granted, it was before the great Brenda Ou and Eddie Huang joined, I was quite proud of myself.  7th grade and 8th grade came around and I had really bad auditions.  I guess I was having a bad day or something because they really were that bad.  I was put pretty much at the end of 3rd violins, a section invented to fit all the kids in an orchestra that didn’t cut anyone.  I’m pretty sure I had embraced it at the time.  I was certain I would be spending the rest of my years at the back of the orchestra.

High school came around and I found myself at the end again, getting into orchestra by the skin of my teeth.  That would all change later, where I was co-principal and principal of 2nd’s (by choice) for Sophomore and Junior year.  Yes, rather than sit at the back of 1st’s, I chose to sit at the front of 2nd’s for two years.  If I were in a real orchestra, it would mean I get paid more.  Junior year, I had a REALLY good audition, such that I was placed in 1st’s above many seniors and my cousins who are much better than me.  But some moms complained that their senior sons and daughters were in seconds, so Mr. U reshuffled the roster back to a seniority based model.  Not that I minded too much.  I of course let seniority happen and I took my rightful place in 1st violin by the end of high school.

What I’m trying to say is, I know very much what it’s like to be a second violinist.

I once told a friend that she would be great 2nd violin material.  I meant it as a compliment, but she was extremely irate at that statement.  All it takes is one person to play off beat and it’ll mess everybody up.  An orchestra needs its strong 2nd violinists, just like a championship basketball team needs its role players.  It takes humility to understand that.  It takes more to do it.

I know some people struggle with being second rate and under par.  It’s A-Okay.  I personally think you learn more from being less, rather than the best..

Closing thought:

“I know you to be a very successful man, but how will you handle failure when it arises later in life, especially with my daughter?” [not verbatim]
-Uncle Danny to Brandon, when he was asking for permission to marry Nikki

(I wish I got to hear his answer.. What would yours be?)

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A Coin Flip

From as early as elementary school, I’ve been deciding things based on the flip of a coin.  Of course, I was deciding who would go first in a match of Pokemon cards or if my Lickitung paralyzed my opponent’s Pokemon.

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Fun fact, I once flipped a jar full of coins to decide whether or not I should go to the Wonder Valley trip in middle school.  It was majority heads, so I ended up going.

In the Dark Knight, Two-Face makes a strong argument about coin flips.

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That they’re “Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair.”  So, there was a small period where I would make decisions based on a coin flip.  They would range from simple things like “do I want to sleepover at my friend’s place?” to “should I take this class during this quarter?”.  For the most part, it remedied my indecisiveness.

But as I grew up, I learned something interesting…

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And that vastly changed my perspective.  No longer did I blindly flip a coin to make a decision.  Since I know this fact now, some of the magic is lost.  Similar to knowing the plot twist to a book, movie or game before you started it.  The cool thing is if you truly do not care about the outcome, you can just let the coin fall to the ground and go with it.

Perhaps the most suspenseful coin flip I experienced with this knowledge happened while I was in college.  It was whether or not I should ask out a girl I was interested in.  Though I wasn’t as smooth as I thought I would be, I have no regrets to dwell on.

In my head I’ve composed a movie based around this idea of a coin flip.  Although, the more I develop it, the more it just ends up being a spin-off plot of Along Came Polly.  It would be a romantic comedy focused on a character who, since he could remember, made all his decisions with a flip of a coin.  The movie would have several instances or flashbacks where he makes decisions, some obviously bad and some coincidentally good.  Maybe it’ll include funny scenes like, deciding not to kiss his first middle school girlfriend, or sneaking in coin flips during a true-false quiz.  It’ll also include scenes where he wants to decide on something but can’t, because he misplaced his coin.  As he looks for it, he’ll see it being picked up by a homeless man, or a foraging squirrel.  There would be a low point where he learns about the quote above and he’ll suddenly have an identity crisis or something like that.  The climax of the movie will be when he’s trying to decide whether or not to pursue a girl.  She would probably be leaving somewhere or deciding on another guy over him (since he’s indecisive).  He’ll be standing on a sidewalk while it’s raining and he’ll pull out his coin (one last time).  He’ll proceed to flip the coin and it’ll have a slow motion sequence like this.

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As time slows down, there will be flashback scenes of all his interactions with her.  The camera would zoom into the coin as it descends onto the ground and bounces around a bit.  After it settles, there’ll be a weird moment where you notice he doesn’t pick it up.  Instead the focus would change to the feet you see running off into the distance.

Okay fine, maybe a Wong Fu short at best.  SOMEONE MAKE THIS HAPPEN!

The Blame Game

In the gaming world, it’s a pretty common practice to adopt an attitude of blaming oneself in order to be a better gamer.  Although it’s easier (and perhaps foolish) to blame luck, the factor of randomness or terrain or something like that, the better thing to do is to ask, “What could I have done better or differently in that scenario?”  Skill differential and RNG aside, what it really boils down to is what you did right then and there or perhaps even a few steps before that.  In team games especially, you won’t get anywhere pointing fingers.

Understanding that concept while still in school, I took it and tried to apply it to real life (you know, where things actually matter).  Except, instead of being a better gamer, it taught me to be a better person.  If you don’t do this already, I challenge you to do so (both as a gamer and as a person).  Take it to extremes, it really changes your perspectives on things.  And you can have fun with it too.

Step 1: Blame yourself.
Step 2: Ask yourself what you could have done differently
Step 3: Answer it / do it

Some of the conclusions I came to were (however silly) were helpful as I applied them:

Its’ my fault that my roommate is having a bad day because I took too long to cook dinner for us, and maybe it wasn’t tasty enough

Maybe my Thailand team teammates are frustrated with each other because I didn’t do enough that day

It’s my fault that so-and-so doesn’t want to talk to me because I accidentally wronged him 4 years ago

Maybe that person doesn’t want to go to EPIC meeting anymore because I never said “hi” to them

And so forth..

Sounds stupid.  But blame yourself, and you’ll find new avenues and meanings to multiple scenarios in life.  Think about it, even if it wasn’t your fault, what kind of world would we live in if everyone took responsibility over their actions, however small.
Try it!

Decision Making

I’ve had my fair share of moments where I sat on the fence too long due to indecision.  The funny thing about fences though, is that your mind or those involved will tug on each leg trying to get you on the side they want.  Ouch.. unless of course, you’re Dwight Schrute:

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“I know how to sit on a fence. Hell, I can even sleep on a fence. The trick is to do it face down with the post in your mouth.” – Dwight K. Schrute

All joking aside though, the indecision I’ve seen in some people always seemed to bother me.  Their lack or fear of commitment to a choice leaves their mind in a state of confusion and panic.  They find themselves in this constant loop of weighing the pros and cons against each other.  Then they begin to rationalize between the two paths before them, only to bring them back to square one, the fence.  Because, really what it boils down to is their fear of commitment to something and their inability to simply say “no”.  Right?

I have this philosophy that, regardless of whether or not you believe a decision over something is best for you at the moment, a decision is better than nothing.  Because whether it’s right or wrong or whatever, you’ll at least have been relieved of the burden of being on that dreaded fence.  And so from there, you can actually spend time and energy focusing on something else, rather than debating over it.  The second half of my philosophy is that, if it is the wrong choice, you’ll either learn from that mistake, or God will steer you onto the right track in His own fashion.  After all, I am who I am today because of everything I learned from the wrong decisions I’ve made.  When I was still in school, I adopted this practice of decision making by flipping a coin.  People would criticize me on this, since they thought I was just leaving it up to chance.  But the cool thing about a coin flip is that as soon as it leaves your finger, you already kind of know what side you hope for it to land on.  And if you didn’t, then you were okay with either decision anyway. Win-win.

I enjoy Nike’s slogan, just do it.  It implies so much.  Just go and get it done.  Just do it no questions asked and no complaining.  The best way to do something is to just go and do it.  I hate it when you ask someone if they want to help you with something, and they respond with “let me think about it and get back to you.”  And then they never get back to you, because they never made up their mind.  They rather just the problem fade away.  And that’s why “maybe” exists for Facebook events.

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Try this.  The next time you’re presented with a situation with choices, rather than think about it and let the opportunity disappear, just pick a side or make a call and just roll with it.  Don’t flake out either.  At the very least you’ll have a story of regret or poor decision making to tell some day.  Because otherwise, you’re just thinking of excuses to get out of it or finding ways around it, right?  Granted, some decision actually do take careful thought and prayerful consideration, this little blurb is geared towards the smaller things in life (events, parties, where to go for lunch with your group of friends, volunteering, whether or not you want to ask her out, serving or not serving in a ministry, etc.).

Example.  One year Auntie Jeanette asked my friends and me to help out her office during Christmas time for a holiday party.  It was just simple things like helping with decorations and serving food.  We had a pretty fun time and even got to take pictures with some beauty pageant princesses.

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We did so well, that Auntie Jeanette asked us to do it the following year.  Initially we all agreed, but slowly, one by one, everyone kind of backed out.. except me.  And I’m not the type of person to not do something just because my friends aren’t there.  So I stuck with my commitment and my word and helped out by myself.  Sure, it felt weird, but it was rewarding in the sense that I kept my integrity and that I didn’t flake out.  To be fair though, not having friends there was probably a valid excuse, considering her son wasn’t even there.  Also, there was no car at home at the time, so I actually biked to her office.. in the rain.  So that’s when I learned that I don’t have commitment issues, I just over commit to things.

Sorry if my overall thought process is a little cloudy.  I wrote this while in a state of strong food coma.

More Than a List

Is it just me, or do you find that sometimes when you’re lost in thought you start making a list of things you’re good at and what defines you?  You list your achievements, your skill set.. you essentially make a resume for your life thus far.  And then comes the comparison.  You start comparing yourself to your friends and cousins, finding ways that you are better than them.  But in doing so, you begin to realize the skills and achievements you wish you had from the friends you admire.  You compare them to the “list” that you’ve compiled of yourself.  Then comes the doubt.  Then comes the self-loathing.  Then comes the regret of not doing more things during a certain period of your life.  Is this just me?

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” — Steven Furtick

And what’s always the first things we compare?  Job.. Degree.. GPA.. Paycheck..

I had a pretty funny conversation with my co-workers last week.  We were initially talking about age and when we graduated college.  They thought I was a year younger, until I explained that it took me 5 years to graduate.  And so naturally they compared me to our other co-worker.  He was actually in a few of my classes while I was in school.  He was the guy that would be on his laptop the whole time during class working on his own side projects or homework for other classes.  But he would still correctly answer the professors’ questions all the time.  To put it simply, this guy is one of the finest programmers I’ve ever met.  One year apart, he graduated early and as Summa Cum Laude.  Our GPAs are one whole grade point apart.  He worked and/or interned while still in school.  Before I got too caught up in complimenting my fellow classmate, I was interrupted with

“Well, that’s okay.  I mean, you guys ended up in the same place anyway.”

And that put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.  Often times after I go deep into thought about that list of myself, I remember to take a step back and realize “wow, we tend to judge ourselves really hard..”  During the toughest quarter of my college career, there were a couple reminders that got me through it all.  The first was from Dai Lo.  During an annex visit, he shared Matthew 6:25-34.  It was so encouraging and calming I put up the passage on my wall to serve as a reminder.

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The second was from Pastor Dave.  It was during an EPIC general meeting.  It was around midterms season, so everyone in attendance was already a little exhausted or anxious for their class right after.  He said something that resounded across the room:

“You have nothing to prove.”

Can you imagine that?  In a room that was 99% filled with Asians, we were just told that we have nothing to prove to our peers, our parents or our professors.  That our significance is NOT defined by our grades or by our accomplishments.  That maybe the reason we try so hard and get nowhere is because we’re doing it with the wrong purpose.  Definitely perked some ears.  And if you’re an Asian mom reading this you might immediately disagree.  But take that into consideration.  Wow.  We have nothing to prove.  God has already accepted us forever by His grace.  Again, that encouraged me so much I taped it to the ceiling right above my desk because I normally looked up when homework was getting tough.

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Ultimately, it doesn’t matter the things we can or cannot do.  This doesn’t mean we can go about doing nothing and squander whatever skills God gave us.  Rather, we can use what we have to serve and help others.  Not for our glory, but for God’s glory.  For we are so much more than a GPA, or a list of skills.  We were meant to live for so much more.  We are His creation, His beloved.  God can and will use us as we are to further His kingdom.  And you don’t have to search very hard in the Bible to find examples of that.  I’d like to conclude with a video short I found a while ago.  It’s made by the same people that made the viral “Worthy” video.  They’re no WongFu Productions, but it’s still well put together.  I think it sums things up better than what I want to say.  Sorry, I’m a little scatter brained right now.

 

 

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“You have nothing to prove..”