this past year has been a struggle between adjusting to domestic life and the churn at work. there are definitely highlights but the lowlights were pretty low.
some of the places i got to visit and the events i got to witness this year:
- Jan – Shawn and Karina’s engagement party in San Francisco
- Mar – San Diego with Fan, Sunni, Jenn (sister), Paul (her boyfriend)
- May – Montreal for Danny’s bachelor party
- Jul – Banff camping with Fan, Sunni, Jenn, Paul
- Aug – Mt Rainier camping with Jess, Jarod, Izzy
- Sep – London for work (bless up for business class)
- Oct – Sedona, AZ for Scotty’s bachelor party
- Nov – Charlotte, NC for Danny’s wedding (I was a groomsman)
- Nov – Bay Area, CA for work presentation, but brought Fan and Sunni
- Dec – Cartagena, Colombia for Shawn and Karina’s wedding (I was best man <3), Hoang and Diana’s engagement
- Dec – Costa Rica for family roadtrip with Fan and Sunni
Fan’s mom left at the end of February, and i used the last of my paternity leave to bridge the gap until Sunni started daycare in April. my life situation finally moved out of the transition period afforded by grandma, and it was painful. that first week, i literally developed high blood pressure from the sudden uptick in constant attention required to take care of an 11mo baby.
over the coming months, i felt like i was losing control of my life. there’s a strong correlation between happiness and the amount of freedom/autonomy you expect in your life. notice the verb i used – expect – as i’m sure previous generations will laugh at how easy i have it, and scoff at my minimal sacrifices. regardless, my reality is my reality and the adjustment was difficult for me.
becoming a parent was my choice and i have no regrets. my underdeveloped muscles of impulse control, familial obligation, and parenting were stress tested. it did get bad enough that i landed back in therapy, which thankfully saved my marriage and family. once again, please pay attention to your mental health and get help when you need it.
here are my learnings from the year. i hope they are useful in easing other people’s journeys.
- be kind to yourself. this phrase gets repeated and repackaged so often that i mostly dismissed it. there are so many angles to deliver this kindness – materially, financially, emotionally. since i usually treat myself to whatever i wanted to eat or do, i thought i was being kind to myself. it was only in the depths of my unhappiness speaking again to a therapist that i realized i was unkind to myself emotionally. there was so much judgment and people pleasing in how i was living my life. my validation seeking manifested in behaviors that i had come to accept as normal: party until my body felt bad because others expect me to be fun, give my time and energy generously otherwise someone won’t like me, be a high performer at work otherwise i won’t be respected. the stress of it all came crashing down when i developed shingles in the fall. that was my body signaling to me that it had had enough, that i needed to change how i was living my life.
- emotionally prepare for parenting. there’s the technical skills you need to develop – changing diapers, washing bottles, preparing food – but i personally think the emotional skills are harder to develop. can you provide the constant care and attention a toddler requires whilst regulating your energy and emotions? i recommend spending some time with parents and their children so you can observe what family life is life. start small by helping out at the playground or at a playdate, and then take on the kid solo for a few hours.
- aim for a passing grade each day. Fan likes to emotionally self-flagellate when it comes to her parenting. in response, i remind her that out of the 100 decisions each day presents, she simply needs to make enough correct choices to get a passing grade. did you serve breakfast on time? did you give comfort when your kid hurt themselves? did you serve lunch on time? did you stay engaged during playtime? did you serve dinner on time? were you off your phone during bathtime?
- get signoff from your partner on travel plans. this probably seems like relationship 101, but there is an expectations shift when a child joins the family. each weekend away from your family means your partner is solo with the kid. must you attend that bachelor party? that business trip? that camping trip? sometimes you can trade weekends like she can do 1 bachelorette party and you’ll do 1 bachelor party. communicate often and negotiate early.
- continue dating your partner. life gets more complicated and compressed when you start a family. it’s easy to deprioritize 1-on-1 time with your partner in the hectic day-to-day, and weeks turn into months, and “suddenly” you are emotionally/romantically distant. entropy means everything in the universe decays over time, and your relationship is no exception.
this list of advice is mostly in chronological order.
- do not make any major life decisions in first few months of baby – the potent mix of emotions that run through you (and hormones if you are the birthing mom) can increase impulsiveness to a dangerous degree. as an example, i drove from the hospital to the car dealership while my child was in the NICU to test drive an impractical sports car. why would my family need such a vehicle? get all your ducks in a row before the birth.
- use a charting app for the first year – i was recommended Huckleberry and am continuing it forward. just the free version is enough and delivers plenty of value. it really helps coordination between the caretakers and lets you track trends, especially important with your sleep-addled mind.
- take all the help you can get – my daughter is now 13 months old. the wife and i were lucky to have grandma contribute immensely during the first 11 months, so we’ve really been on our own just the last 2 months. baby recently started daycare so we’re back to getting help in a way. the structure and expectations of modern society kinda goes against the adage “it takes a village to raise a child.” the correlation of declining birth rates in more industrialized nations has a lot to be explored. in my experience, the geographic distance between extended families and the social distance between neighbors can create bad feelings of isolation, resentment, and burnout. if a parent is willing to come help, let them.
- buy help / outsource work – in economics, we learn about a concept named opportunity cost. the way i apply it: if i make sufficient money, i can outsource unfulfilling tasks. right now, that means:
- we have a maid service monthly because cleaning isn’t high on our to-do list.
- we subscribe to a local meal service for the weekdays because cooking isn’t appetizing at end of a work day.
- find parent friends – being at the vanguard of parenthood among my close group of friends, your life rhythm no longer matches your non-parent and single friends. going to a restaurant? make sure they have high chairs. go out on the weekend? you gotta find a babysitter. have multiple drinks? you’re not gonna be able to wake up to take care of your baby. there’s nothing wrong with people being on different life tracks – but humans are a social species and you’ll want company along whatever track you choose.
- be prepared for a consistent schedule – your schedule must accommodate baby. after 6 months when they develop a circadian rhythm, the daily schedule becomes fairly consistent. for a late owl chronotype like me, waking up early every morning has sucked. tips to survive this marathon: take naps with baby, avoid alcohol and substances, eat healthy.
- get 1 day’s supply of baby bottles/utensils – you will be washing a lot of bottles and dishes and whatnot. your hands will get dry. your energy will sap each time you’re forced to find a bottle in the sink and wash it for immediate use. use batching here to optimize: clean the sink once at the end of every night (handwash using gloves or throw everything in the dishwasher).
- don’t fight your baby – you’ll learn a lot about yourself emotionally as you deal with an undeveloped human. your standard rules of engagement won’t apply. you can’t reason with them because that part of their brain literally isn’t developed yet. if you feel like you’re about to break, do not push through. give your child a timeout and yourself a breather. the rule of thumb is 1 minute per year of age. so if they’re crying nonstop and you can’t handle it anymore, just put them into their crib and walk away.
- become okay with repetition and ennui – this might just apply to me, who gets bored easily. the daily grind of diaper changes, setup and cleanup for 3 meals, and nightly bathtime gets annoying. your discipline builds as a side effect… but i still find it annoying enough to wonder if i should hire a nanny or au pair for subsequent children.
- strive for good enough parenting – honestly, modern society creates all these unfair expectations of parents. anything short of perfect is child abuse. give me a break. kids are much more resilient than we give them credit for. keep them clothed and fed. engage with them every day. teach them new skills. socialize them. don’t put them in an overprotective bubble. don’t feel like you need to kill yourself trying to get them the best possible toys or daycare or education. “the kids will be alright.” grow with them and give yourself grace. take the small daily wins, like:
- you didn’t shake your baby when she continually cried and did flips on the changing table making the diaper change impossible.
- you didn’t throw a tantrum in response to your kid’s tantrum.
- they got zero new injuries.
- they took all their shits at daycare.
- maintain your habits and hobbies – you will have to sacrifice some habits and hobbies – but you should be able to schedule the rest around baby. exercise is crucial for health. you’ll want to stay as healthy as possible because if one person gets sick, who does the work fall onto? my wife does tennis every Monday and Wednesday night, i do bouldering every Tuesday and Thursday night, and we spend weekends together.
- bring your baby around – i suffered from the fallacy that going outside with baby is way too difficult, so i should just stay at home all the time. don’t be an idiot like i was. it will be difficult going out with baby initially but as with any skill, you’ll improve with practice. the benefits are manyfold: baby gets socialization, new experiences for all her 5 senses, and burns energy faster. go to the grocery store, to the mall, to the playground, wherever. even flying with baby isn’t as hard as i thought since most airlines will baggage check baby seats and gate check strollers for free.
i didn’t write a post for 2021 but no matter because it was all gearing up for 2022 anyways. i’ll split this update into 2 parts: timeline and learnings.
- Jan – started new job at Meta after a grueling interview season
- Feb – grandma arrives from China to help with baby
- Mar – my first child and daughter Sunniva was born
- Apr – injured my lower back yet again and got official diagnosis of degenerative disc disease (DDD), overnight bouldering trip for Minaqa’s birthday
- May – night nurse for baby
- June – picked up my Rivian R1T 8 months after preorder
- July – covid infection, Sunbreak-ish, George & Amy visit, Becca and Mike’s wedding, Above & Beyond Weekender w/ siblings and SOs
- Aug – mom and dad visit, first time offroading, overnight camping for Jess’s birthday, another round of couples therapy begins
- Sept – PT for my back brought me back to game-ready shape so i could continue playing ultimate, London and Dublin for work (business class for the first time 🤩)
- Oct – DFW datacenter visit for work, honeymoon period for new company ends, body is tired from all the travel and drinking
- Nov – grind at work to a near burnout, Thanksgiving in Hawaii gets canceled due to RSV infection
- Dec – marriage stabilized, Lizzie visits for Xmas, hanging around the house and focusing on family
the year unfolded mostly to plan and yielded the results i wanted.
deep down, i knew change needed to happen because my trajectory wasn’t great. perhaps my family and i presented fine to the outside world – but the cracks in the foundation were threatening to tear it all apart. i was hoping that the arrival of my first child would force a course correction, and the gamble paid off. i spent months wrestling with my immaturity and bad habits until i was able to convince myself to become a better man, husband, father. i don’t recommend this risky behavior but i am admitting it for what it was.
so what nuggets of wisdom do i have for us?
- improvement happens day by day. intensity matters for competition, but the way to get there is by practicing every day. i’ll give you the practical: spaced repetition + good sleep = results. i’ve used this formula to achieve success in many arenas. the most recent one is job interviewing. there are many more detailed posts on how to crack the coding interview, but the gist of it is that you do some coding problems daily and build that mental muscle. unless you are a genius, there is no shortcut that enables you to skate by just studying on the weekends. commit to the daily practice and the results will come.
- admit to your bad habits and evolve past them. seek professional help if necessary. the beauty of life is each organism strives towards a perfection that can never be achieved. each generation constructs its own ideal of perfection and thus, perfection is a moving target – but it is a target nonetheless. the deadline of life is an amazing forcing function that generates change and evolution.
- don’t use your family as an excuse. i suppose this is one instance of “don’t be a victim.” great persons have come and gone, and many of them have had children. they made their situation work. use the constraint to your advantage. feeling like you’re out of time? Parkinson’s Law applied beneficially is called timeboxing. feeling like you’re out of energy? understand your chronotype and schedule work appropriately. feeling like you’re out of motivation? saddle yourself with a bunch of debt. i mostly jest, but obligations can be a source of motivation. find a purpose that can drive you – family, fame, success, mastery, whatever.
- invest in yourself, continuously. i’m a fan of nonfiction audiobooks, especially autobiographies. the human experience gets better with each generation due to the compound interest paid by reuse of knowledge. leverage all that condensed human experience so you can adjust your trajectory. as a personal example, reading about abusive upbringings forces me to reckon with mine – and then work to expel the toxic behaviors from my personality and life.
- a job is a job is a job. don’t sacrifice your health for your company, especially if you have no ownership. try this mental exercise to understand the wealth that you possess and live in: how far are you from becoming homeless if you stopped working? include all the favors and relationships you can leverage. include all the governmental safety nets like unemployment. if you realize that most of your labor is simply generating all these layers of luxury and comfort, you can mindfully choose how fast you want to set the treadmill of work.
- do financial planning whenever your life circumstances change. i conflate financial planning with retirement planning because it’s about understanding how your finances support your expected lifespan. there are a lot of plenty of free resources out there; maybe start in /r/personalfinance if you know nothing. you might be interested in FIRE. start grappling with questions like: what is my ideal retirement age? what lifestyle do i want to have? are my children still dependent on me? what if my partner or i die early? the pandemic made me realize i want to work for a while and maintain a sense of purpose, so i’m personally aiming for retirement when all my children have left the nest… probably 2042.
- hope for the best, plan for the worst. Meta had its first layoffs ever this year. reading the online discourse via internal Workplace and external Blind, it was a bit pitiful to see the rose-colored glasses shatter across so many young employees. companies come and go, even unicorns. the gravy train will eventually stop so ride it while you can :)
i’ve been following a goal of 1 book a month for the past several years, and it’s improved my life tremendously. here are some of my favorite reads.
- Bob Martin – Clean Code – i was worried old wisdom wouldn’t apply to the speed of tech, but i was proven wrong – this book truly made me a better coder
- Martin Kleppmann – designing data-intensive applications – everyone recommends it, and rightly (especially if you’re interviewing for an SDE role)
- frederick brooks – the mythical man-month – amazing essays on software engineering
- Cal Newport – so good they can’t ignore you – a good reminder of what it means to be ‘talent’ and deliver market value
- Cal Newport – Deep Work – emphasis on reducing context switching, increasing focus/flow, a bit repetitive so free summary
- tim snyder – on tyranny – super short read, always useful to know the danger signs to look out for
- brene brown – dare to lead – how to show up in life and work more authentically
- Antonio Garcia Martinez – Chaos Monkeys – an entertaining retelling of a portion of the guy’s life, sheds some light on tech startup and early Facebook
- Chris Voss – never split the difference – excellent book on how to negotiate
- Angela Duckworth – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – great message but book too long
- kepner-tregoe – the rational manager – highly-effective theories and methods for decision-making
- Ray Dalio – Principles – generally good life and business advice (e.g. radical transparency, idea meritocracy)
- Michelle Alexander – the new Jim Crow – how and why America is racist
- Kendi X. Ibram – How to be antiracist – build empathy for the black body and culture, and how to be an ally
- Isabel Wilkerson – Caste – helps understand the roots behind caste/class/race systems
we should start by acknowledging this year was tougher than most due to the COVID-19 pandemic. at a macro level, millions died – unemployment spiked – many events were canceled – lockdowns rippled throughout the world. everyone was forced to react daily to an unwelcoming reality. we got new words like “doomscrolling” and “Zooming” and “TikTok dance.”
i feel very fortunate for…
- my cushy job… big tech was an industry that boomed rather than suffered due to the virus.
- access to health care… i managed to test multiple times this year which opened up opportunities for travel and socializing.
- none of my family or close friends caught the virus… people listened to the science and honored our social contracts.
here’s my abbreviated timeline:
- Jan – Throwback ultimate frisbee tournament with BU alumni
- Feb – housewarming party
- Mar – got 4 chickens; the always-on Zoom call begins
- Apr – ??? (lol, lost month due to lockdowns)
- May – Power Hour Zoom with BU; Simone’s going-away party; Shawn’s going-away party
- Jun – sister and her boyfriend joins my house quaranteam; BLM protests; KartRider crew starts up
- Jul – camping trip in Montana with Fan, Minaqa, Jarod
- Aug – hiked the Enchantments; traded MINI Cooper for Tesla Model Y; Kartik & Grumbles visited; evicted this scammer/squatter from my Bellevue apt; formed an investment LLC with the siblings
- Sep – lakehouse in Maine; got 4 parakeets
- Oct – Jarod, Shawn, Kyle visited for Halloween
- Nov – studied for and failed Google interview
- Dec – Boston to visit friends and family; got an iPhone
- Being judgmental and inflexible will generate unhappiness in your life. I realized how much my non-acceptance of situations and people led me to spiral into bitterness. It starts in the trivial things – like being annoyed that Fan didn’t clean up the kitchen – to consequential things like my coworkers not supporting my ideas. I watched this video on Taoism which really resonated: the faster/harder you try to move in water, the more effort you must exert; if you move slowly, you will still make change but with less effort. If we think about the “river of life,” the obvious suggestion is that you should go with the flow as much as possible. To force myself to be more adaptive and expand my perspective, I switched from Android to iPhone (after like a decade of Android). I learned to appreciate both platforms and can switch between the 2 easily now.
- You have so much more potential than you think. Even with my growth mindset, I had settled into my rhythm as a software engineer. I was reading books but I had stopped pushing my intellectual limits. When a Google recruiter came calling, my ambition received a shock and I started trying hard again. (For those not in the know, Google is more prestigious and pays more than Microsoft.) In prep for the interview, I studied computer science (data structures, algorithms, and system design) for a month. The dedication to a singular pursuit was both frustrating and refreshing. I didn’t get the job but I did better than I expected. The experience reminded me that many paths are open to us if we keep our eyes open and are willing to put in the work. Special thanks to Fan, Brendan, and Shuang who supported me during this attempt.
- In difficult times, you know who your true friends are. The people that reach out without an agenda. The people you spend hours on Zoom with. The people who patiently listen to your rants and explain why you shouldn’t act on whatever whim is on your mind at the moment. The people that are willing to take risks with you.
- Leadership is about who cares the most. The leader of a team or group doesn’t have to be the “strongest” or “smartest.” Usually, it’s the person who most wants the team to be successful. Creating the correct culture is paramount for team cohesion, which then fuels collaboration and innovation. A popular phrase is “servant leader” – and I believe in that ideal. It’s fairly obvious to spot shitty leadership but less so competent leadership. When a team is working well, look closer to find out why. Who’s putting forth the cultural ideals? Who is starting the tough conversations? Who is ensuring every team member feels respected, included, and valued?
finally, here are some books i really enjoyed this year:
- Vicki Robin – Your Money or Your Life
- Kendi X. Ibram – How to be antiracist
- Isabel Wilkerson – Caste
- Tim Snyder – On Tyranny
- Cal Newport – So Good They Can’t Ignore You
let’s start with the highlights chronologically, and then we’ll dive deeper into some topics.
- Jan – Lei Out tournament with BU alumni; began strict exercise and diet plan in prep for EDC
- Feb – assistant coach for UW Women’s B team; started couples therapy with Fan
- Mar – visited Vikram in Austin, TX; visited Tracy in San Francisco, CA; started new hobby of climbing
- Apr – visited my sister in New York City
- May – attended EDC with a massive crew; failed tryouts for club ultimate
- Jun – attended Laya & Saulo’s wedding in Charlotte; visited Boston; joined the “century club” of Harvard Stairs
- Jul – KG visited; played in Sunbreak ultimate tourney; Boston friends visited
- Aug – vacation in Vietnam & China; second wedding in Fan’s hometown of Guangzhuo
- Sep – got a difficult promotion at work to Senior Engineer; attended EZoo; attended 4th ANAL Conference
- Oct – Fan passed green card interview; Bon Iver concert in Boston
- Nov – GAIA ultimate frisbee tournament in Japan w/ Jet Lag Squad; undefeated regular league season with Mystery Machine
- Dec – started new role at Microsoft; purchased a house in Redmond
Every year, I make new year resolutions/goals like other people do. As a point of pride though, I manage to achieve most of my goals. Important goals for me were:
- Max 401k, IRAs, and HSA. Being financially stable and safe is important. I am very fortunate to be able to live a very good life while still saving for retirement.
- Read 1 book a month. With the help of Libby, I managed to listen to a bunch of audiobooks – 18 total for the year.
- Get promotion at work. For those familiar with Microsoft compensation levels, I am doing well with a promo every 2 years. I started at L59 and am now at L63. It’s going to be much harder from here on out though.
- Get ripped by EDC. I started the year at 170 pounds and managed to drop to 155 pounds for EDC. I learned a lot about exercise and diet, and developed more discipline.
- Don’t accept a shitty reality. When I was feeling fat, I did research – made a plan – and executed. When I no longer enjoyed my current job, I did research – made a plan – and executed. It is surprising to me when people complain about their situations and 6 months later, nothing has changed. You’re responsible for your own life and happiness.
- Failures can be blessings in disguise. For most of my life, I avoided failure and rejection. Not making an ultimate club team in Seattle 2 summers in a row got me down, but then I came to realize the free time that was given back to me. I started a new hobby of climbing and felt healthier than ever (it’s less impact on my back). Whenever you look back at failures, you’ll see that usually they are inflection points in your life before good change happens.
- Invest in emotional growth. Fan and I had a major fight early in the year – it was so bad that divorce was on the table. Luckily, I talked to the older colleagues at work and got a bunch of good advice. I found out that Microsoft offers free therapy sessions so we started couples therapy. We unraveled some of the deep fears and issues that manifested as bad behavior and habits. I am continuing therapy because the work is not done. I talk openly about therapy because I’d like to end the stigma. You go to a physical therapist when your body is injured. Why can’t you go to an emotional therapist when your mind is injured?
- Recognize your role in society. As a member of society on the cusp of starting a family, I realized the opportunity that lays before me: I can stop centuries of bad culture and history from perpetuating. My upbringing by traditional parents who suffered through war and economic instability produced a boy with a lot of emotional baggage. Some concrete examples:
- I don’t understand lightheartedness in a romantic context well. If a fight occurs, it is difficult for me to pause and inject some humor into a situation to defuse it. Learning to de-escalate is crucial in relationships.
- I do not treat my wife as an equal. My parents are always telling me to basically “control my woman” and maintain the patriarchy. I did this underhandedly by controlling her via economic means (I make more money so she has to listen to me), via legal means (I am her bridge to permanent residency in America), and via emotional means (I pressure her to join my social networks instead of making efforts to connect with hers). The harsh truth I had to accept was that even as I championed for equality across all genders and races, I struggled to implement it at home. But now that acceptance has happened, I can move forward to a better future.
- Enjoy the journey, not the destination. This is cliche as hell but it is so true. As a first-generation immigrant, you’re taught to grind nonstop until you reach the destination. Sure, it’s useful for achieving goals – but the only thing that awaits you at the end is more goals. When you achieve a goal, celebrate it! Bask in the glory for a second instead of immediately pondering what the next goal is. Think carefully when choosing between work and missing out on an event because work will always be there.
This post is getting long so I’ll stop here. Comment if you want me to elaborate on anything.
let me start by linking you to
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locus_of_control. you’re welcome to peruse that before you read my reflections on it.
i was introduced to this concept during orientation of college. as you can imagine, it’s had quite an effect on me since then. whenever someone’s shit is going sideways, i annoyingly ask them if they feel like they could have avoided some situation or prevent future recurrences. do you have a strong locus of control? i realized that there’s another way to phrase my advice: don’t be a victim.
it seems that in recent years, my relationships with people are starting to strain because i cannot tolerate the victim mentality. i’m not saying it’s easy to pull yourself out of the fucking gutter. i’m literally still going to therapy to undo the childhood trauma imposed by my parents. somewhere along the way, i realized that i was painting this victim narrative where my parents oppressed me so much and now i’m so broken – woe is me – and so forth. that realization shattered my self-imposed emotional walls. i decided i am more than my pain and past. my parents were victims of the Vietnam War and their scars were about to be permanently impressed on me. i choose actively to stop the cycle. i will create a better environment around me for those i call my friends and family. i will fight for a bright future for my children, and create a safe and loving family culture.
back to my friends going through tough times. at the risk of this blog post turning into an advice column, allow me to use real life examples (names changed for privacy):
- John got into an accident recently. Someone on the highway tried to change lanes and swiped his side. I empathized for a minute and then asked him: “do you think you could have avoided this situation? you’ve gotten into 5 accidents in the past 2 years. understandably, none of them were your fault – but your chance of accidents is higher than usual.” John got very upset at me and we got into an argument. He decided to start distancing himself from me – and we stopped speaking months ago. John, what is more likely: you are a sub-par driver that is susceptible to accidents or you are constantly getting terrorized by shitty drivers on the road?
- Michael fell in love with a friend. When she rejected his romantic interest and started dating another friend in the group, Michael broke. He decided to never see or speak to these 2 good friends ever again because he felt betrayed. He created a wedge in the group because friends can’t simply hang out together in one big bunch. He created friction because you’re not allowed to speak to him about any events that involve the newly-formed couple. Michael, how long will you hold onto your hurt and victimhood? In the game of life – and especially the game of love, you will inevitably lose many rounds. Is the relationship actively ruining your life in some way? What is more likely: all these potential lovers don’t see how great you are, or you are simply not good enough?
to close out, i hope that you, my dear reader, embraces that you have free will – or the illusion of free will (if you want to get real philosophical) – and that is good enough. forge your path through life intentionally. your decisions and thinking should yield happiness and meaning for you. no one else will do it for you. if you choose passivity, do not complain when you are left behind.
when i was a bright-eyed snot-filled kid fresh out of college in my first real job at a support cubicle farm in Microsoft, one of my senior engineers complained to me about future generations not generating enough content but merely consuming it. his words stuck with me for the next 6 years and added to my ever-persistent anxiety. am i creating enough content? is my cohort worthy of inheriting the world?
i finally have the answer today: we are worthy. each and every one of us is worthy. people advance through life at their own pace and rhythm. don’t be quick to judge someone’s value or legacy before they are on their deathbed.
in my twenties, i did not create content. i didn’t read a lot. i didn’t write a lot. i didn’t play or make music. i didn’t take enough photos or videos – and that’s okay. i was a mere child and my social duty was to absorb knowledge and culture. i felt like i didn’t know enough so i simply didn’t output anything.
that last statement is not entirely true. my output was not null. i held a job and contributed to society by keeping email working. i maintained friendships. my relationships created a feedback loop wherein i became a better person under their guidance and vice versa. i would argue that a person that does not create content, specifically media to be consumed via one of the human senses, can still be a productive member of society.
for me, the shame and guilt has finally lifted. even if i never write a bestselling novel or take a picture that lasts through decades, i have contributed to society and will continue doing so in my own ways.
millennials, gen-x’ers, and whatever generations are to come: i’ve already given you the answer in bold font in the second paragraph so go re-read it. and then read it again.
editor’s note: i wrote the below blog post mid-July and saved it as a draft until i stumbled upon it today. i decided i’d publish it anyways because i enjoy having little snippets of my life crystallized into a digital timeline for later review.
i have arguably one of the cushiest jobs in the world. i wake up sort of whenever i want. i get to work in whatever way i want – car, bike, electric longboard, rideshare. i can eat whatever i want. my work is challenging for the most part. i get rewarded handsomely by the market. but there’s a dullness to my life that i cannot escape.
in the past few weeks, i’ve attempted to grapple with this mysterious wave of existential terror. i did some light internet research and came across an interesting theory: what if life is simply too easy for you? you are just bored out of your goddamn mind.
recently, i’ve taken on rock climbing and hiking. i want to experience more difficulty so i am choosing harder and harder routes for both activities.
i have a lot of free time. there are nights where i blow hours surfing Reddit. did all that short-form media enhance my life in a meaningful way? does it matter if it did? i worry i am spending so much time trying to optimize my life that i end up not enjoying it. start a new hobby? better get good at it. trying to find a new role? better stress out during the studying and interviewing trying to accommodate a compressed schedule.
maybe the problem is that i can’t relax. there are times i am happy that i’m never satisfied with what i have. it’s that internal anxiety and drive that has allowed me to achieve so much in life. i’m very proud of what i’ve done as a first-generation immigrant. on the flip side, i’m never happy with where i am. logically, i know i should be. emotionally, i don’t feel content all the time.
this sounds like the whining of a spoiled millennial. i suppose it is. i’ll eat some avocado toast tomorrow morning while looking at my stock portfolio.
I’m a task-oriented person. I need to set goals so I always know what I’m working towards. I accomplished a lot of my resolutions for 2018. Here are some that I knocked out:
- Get coding-oriented job in Seattle.
- Wedding in Boston.
- Read a book a month.
- Max out 401k and ESPP.
- Switch to a credit union.
I will admit I did some extra work in the last month of December to achieve some of these but man, does it feel good to hit your goals. I’ll share some of my goals for 2019:
- Get hella fit before EDC Las Vegas in May. Current weight 168 pounds, target 155.
- Read a book a month.
- Bike or board to work everyday.
- Do the Princeton Algorithms II online course.
- Achieve Divine rating in DOTA 2.
Let’s reflect on lessons I’ve learned from books, people, and life in the past year:
- When purchasing a home that has a homeowners’ association (HOA), be sure to read their bylaws as it may include a “rental cap” provision which limits the max percentage of renting homes. My townhome was renting out just fine, generating passive income for me – and then my HOA says I need to stop otherwise they’ll fine me $25/day because I didn’t have their blessing. I emailed them back saying I’d be selling my property and leaving their neighborhood.
- When planning a wedding, don’t invite your ex’s. It’s just easier for everyone involved.
- If you’re going to make any big purchases like a car or a house or life insurance, do your research. Getting into the nitty gritty and reading fine print and whatnot can be boring – but think about it like this: you are potentially saving thousands over the years which is the same as you getting paid hundreds of dollars per hour of research.
- Don’t be afraid of change as it is the only constant in life. This adage applies to my emotional self. I was fearful of changing emotionally because I thought it may compromise my authenticity or my true personality. There’s a fine line to walk there but if you believe a change will make you a better person, you should probably fight through the discomfort and evolve. Living with my wife Fan has taught me so much in terms of being a respectful and caring person. There are so many bad habits I have to actively work out of my system, and instill new ones. For example, I am always starting my sentences with “you need to …” which conveys immediate judgment and requests compliance. Most people don’t like obeying orders nor will it help grow a non-professional relationship.
- Partying does get old. I knew this to be true but it’s surprising when it hits nonetheless. You turn 30 and your body is like, “fuck you and your goddamn binge drinking.” Combine an aging body with a stable marriage and quiet weekends seem like a great option. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy partying – but my frequency has gone down for sure.
- Taking in new information in long-form prose is essential. The world moves so fast. Memes are born and die every day on the internet. Groundbreaking science is published every week. Given such a deluge of data, it’s so important to your continued sanity and mental growth to be able to filter out the noise and spring for the proper nourishment. I’ve heard many describe it as watching what you consume media-wise like you watch your physical diet. That’s why I chose to do a book a month. The immediate benefit is honing your ability to focus. Then the other benefits like changing your viewpoints and habits, understanding how to argue a stance or ideology, expanding your vocabulary, etc will follow.
- Support your life partner by splitting work equally. This wisdom comes from Sheryl Sandberg; I highly recommend her “Lean In” book. Growing up in a “traditional” household, my mother did a lot of the housework. My dad was no slouch but my mom was on the hook for maintaining the house in addition to her full-time job. In retrospect, this is an unfair split. In recent years, my dad has taken up some work; he’ll clean up after my mom cooks. When parents split the housework and child care equally, there are numerous benefits such as increased marital satisfaction.
- It is okay to ask for advice when making big decisions. In general, it’s tough for me personally to ask for advice because you’re showing vulnerability. Contrary to popular belief, this act doesn’t make you seem weak. People will come to your aid when you request it. The most recent example is whether I sell my townhome using seller/owner financing or not. I was ready to sign the contract with a buyer when my parents advised me against it, and that I should consult with my siblings. I begrudgingly obliged, and that saved me so much headache because I didn’t realize what a big risk I would be undertaking. I ended up backing out of the contract. The short summary is that I don’t have enough equity in the townhouse so if my mortgage company exercised their due-on-sale clause, I would be financially destroyed.
That’s all the stuff I got today. There’s some more stuff I could talk about such as existential dread, impostor syndrome, financial anxiety, money chasing, and marital frustrations but we’ll save those topics for their own posts. Maybe leave a comment on what you want to hear about?