Reflections and Expectations: Anything Could Happen

Downtown Phoenix, conquering the Camelback Mountain Climb and admiring the botanical beauty at the Desert Botanical Garden

Setting expectations for the new year, basking in the Valley of the Sun and taking my first crack at a driver’s license. All this and more if you’ll join me in looking back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

January 2016

Grad school – After taking a quarter off last semester, I’m back this month to finish out my last three courses in graduate school at San Jose State University. I’m still pursuing that Master of Science in Transportation Management degree.

This semester is reserved for the all-important capstone research project. I’m still trying to hammer out my topic for the paper although it will focus on social media and transportation — indicative of my past and present experience in this business. Spring semester doesn’t feel so busy at the moment but it won’t be long before all that changes. I know. I talked to others who graduated from this program in years past and can attest to such an experience.

If all goes well, I’ll be participating in the Mineta Transportation Institute’s convocation ceremony in June before finishing out my tenth and final course during the latter half of this fall semester.

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Phoenix – On the weekend of Jan. 22, I went on a quick weekend getaway to Phoenix, Arizona — my first out-of-state trip of 2016. This marks my first actual visit to the Grand Canyon State as past visits were merely an Amtrak pass-through or a couple of airport layovers.

I absolutely loved the city and the state. I stayed in Downtown Phoenix with a wonderful Airbnb host who formally lived in the same city in the Bay Area where I currently live. On my first night, I took the light rail — highly useful for a one-line system, might I add — to the Tempe Improv to watch the outstandingly funny comedian Jeff Ross perform.

a12024bf-3f39-42e1-a4e7-39ed55e8b369On Saturday, I met up with an old college friend of mine who now works and lives out there along with a colleague / friend of his for a hike up the Camelback Mountain. I found the downhill climb to be more treacherous than the uphill climb, resulting in me sliding and falling at one point with the jagged rocks cutting my hands. Nevertheless, it was a worthy experience. To close out my second and final night, I went to the AMC theatre in Downtown Phoenix to watch Bridge of Spies. I enjoyed that movie, having been familiar with the history behind spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers being captured by the Soviet Union in the height of the Cold War.

f7107e4f-fa2a-4b65-a5e1-79c9551eed5fI closed out my final day there Sunday with a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden. I checked out the magnificent botanical landscape local to the region, especially with the abundance of cacti. There also were exhibits displaying how the early native tribes once inhabited the area, giving people a glimpse of how they learned to survive in such a desert-like environment that still exists today.

I hope to revisit Phoenix again as there is a lot more to check out in my next go-around. I could theoretically see myself living there as well, providing almost everything any other major city offers but with a lower cost of living.

Driving – On Friday, I went to the DMV office in Los Gatos for my first driving test. I did not get it on my first try and I’m already staging a rematch in early March. I went into this not assuming any particular outcome although I was still disappointed by the results. Still, it gives me a chance to work out a few kinks before my next attempt.

February

  • Nothing major expected for this month. I’ll spend this leap year February focusing on my capstone project and my current job. As always, something may come up along the way.

How did the year start out for you? What are your expectations for the year ahead? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

Expectations for 2016

Happy New Year, America!

Each year, I set expectations instead of resolutions. I find resolutions too imposing while expectations allow me to focus on things I must achieve without hard deadlines or benchmarks. I feel expectations make me less inclined to abandon important goals.

Here are a few major things I expect for 2016…

Professional development – With my career back on track since last April, my focus has since shifted to further developing as a competent professional in the business of marketing and transportation. My expectation is to continue learning and soliciting feedback from my superiors about my performance as a marketing coordinator for a civil engineering firm. That way, I can always be in the know regarding how I can stay at the top of my game.

2016 also marks my final year of graduate school. My capstone semester has already begun — expected to be the most arduous time period of the Master of Science in Transportation Management program at San Jose State University. I will participate in the June convocation ceremony before returning in October to finish out my 10th and final course in this nearly three-year-long program. With this, I hope to further develop as a professional by becoming a part of a future generation of transportation managers — public affairs, community relations or even contracts administration all being top in mind. The possibilities are wide reaching.

Family relationships – Relationships with my relatives have remained stable but mildly troubling at times. Recent developments suggest I need more work in this area.

I’ve previously mentioned in this space about the complicated relationship with my biological mother, who I am still getting to know after a 15-year-long separation lasting much of my childhood. As much as I’m still unsure about whether a relationship can ever be reestablished, I’m still open to making it work to the extent possible.

My expectation this year is to at least ramp up the level of communication with my mother. Although I always maintained respect for my mother as a human being, I admit I fell short in this area in the last few years. Treating my mother with greater respect is an equally important objective I have for this year.

Healthy living – I gained about 15 to 20 pounds over the eight months I’ve been at my current job. When a weight gain is that substantial, it warrants attention.

As I regularly do, I plan to continue assessing my eating habits and identify areas where changes are needed. I expect to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into my diet while curtailing meat consumption in certain respects. I also expect to look into curtailing overall consumption of sweets. All of these are considered herculean tasks at best but I’m still committed to effecting these changes, little by little.

Although not the most rigorous in nature, it just happens that I get at least some workout nearly every day. I still attend vinyasa yoga classes at a local yoga studio every Wednesday nights since late July. I also extensively walk for part of my commute to and from work each day. My expectation on this front is to maintain these minimum levels of workout regimens with gradual plans to incorporate home yoga practices, complementing my Wednesday night classes.

For this new year, I’m looking forward to the following:

Driving – This could finally be that year when I earn a driver’s license. Even after that happens, I don’t plan on getting my own car anytime soon nor driving as much. Having grown up with transit, I make the system work for me. It certainly works here in Santa Clara County with gaps easily filled by Uber and Lyft.

End of grad school – Three courses left — two for this capstone semester and one in the latter half of fall semester. I won’t rule out pursuing another degree or certification down the line.

Trips – I’m headed to Phoenix later this month while I have revisits to Southern California confirmed for March and June. If I can make it happen, Dallas and Houston are top in mind while Kansas City – St. Louis is a runner-up for consideration.

Among others – The miscellaneous things still rule in their own ways. I’m looking forward to the Ellie Goulding concert at the SAP Center in San Jose this April — two days after my 27th birthday. Also, I have plans to attend the grand opening of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension this March and Relay for Life in Mission Viejo in June. I’m sure there’s more as I go along.

What are your expectations for 2015? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

2015: A Look Back at the Year That Was

2015 at a glance

What a year this has been.

After three years of climbing out of the roughest and longest slump of my life, 2015 became the year where I finally made it out. My life and career are both back on track, paving the way for what I hope will be more prosperous and stable times ahead.

As 2015 comes to a close, join me in a look back at some of the major developments in the year that was.

2015

Beginning of the end of the Slump – Even at the start of the year, I had no idea this was the year when my three-year-long slump would come to an official end.

The huge gamble I took of moving up to the Bay Area from L.A. in October 2014 was actually paying off. Granted, it required a great deal of patience and optimism before I realized I really do stand a chance in this region.

I took on some temp roles for web-based companies in the area during the early part of the year. Those opportunities kept me afloat to a certain extent while I continued to look for something more permanent and relevant to my background and interests. Then, I found out on April 6 — two days after my 26th birthday — that my…

…career is finally back on track! – Thanks to the people of Mark Thomas & Company, a civil engineering firm based in San Jose, I was hired on as their new marketing coordinator. In that role, I work with the engineers and planners to create proposals as part of the firm’s practice to pursue contracts for public works projects throughout the Bay Area. I’m still in this role and enjoy every moment with the company.

With this development, The Great Slump that lasted 39 months came to an official end. God forbid I have to see another slump of this duration ever again.

As for other notable things this year…

  • Taking up yoga – I’ve been practicing vinyasa yoga at a studio in Downtown Campbell for all but three Wednesday nights since late July. I enjoy this practice, especially alongside some of the most politest peers and a wonderful yoga instructor. I hope to keep this up for as long as humanly possible.
  • Graduate school – Still in it until the very end at San Jose State University, pursuing a Master of Science degree in Transportation Management. Although I expected to finish in June 2016, I’m now looking at December 2016 instead. Not that far away from now.
  • Boston – Visited the city over Labor Day weekend for what would be my only out-of-state trip of the year. Second trip to the city since my inaugural around that same time in 2013. If the pattern holds, I’m looking forward to going back in September 2017. God, I love Boston.
  • Photo shoot – Thanks to the wonderful work of photographer Michelle Tsang, I took part in this photo shoot Nov. 7 in San Francisco for a long-overdue refresh of my headshots — five years since my last set. I still can’t stop looking at my own pictures. They’re that damn good.

Those are the moments that stood out most to me in 2015. Here’s to a more prosperous and outstanding 2016 for all of us. Happy New Year, America! See you on the flip side.

How did 2015 play out for you? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

Reflections and Expectations: Wheels Up

It’s all about the holidays. As we close the book on another year, join me in looking back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

December 2015

Christmas – This month saw the return of all but one annual holiday traditions after missing out on everything in 2014 due to extenuating circumstances at the time.

This holiday season marked the first time since 2012 where I was able to participate in seasonal activities hosted by my employer. Among the activities at Mark Thomas & Company included a meetup at a Dave and Buster’s, volunteering at a local food bank and a drive to collect gifts for less-fortunate children and adults.

After missing out on the festivities last year, I came roaring back with my annual traditions in SoCal throughout the last two weeks. This included my return to the annual Christmas party hosted by my railfan buddies at Fullerton station the Saturday before Christmas — which I’ve attended since 2011 — and later spending the Christmas holiday itself with family in San Diego — since 2010. Thanks to improved financial circumstances, I was able to purchase higher-quality gifts for everyone in my family and some of my extended relatives. It’s good to see everything not only back to normal this year but better than years past.

January 2016

  • Grad School – Back into the swing of things after taking a quarter off. This is the capstone semester. If I make it through the next five months, I deserve a corgi.
  • Phoenix – Arizona is a state I twice stopped for airport layovers and once passed through Amtrak. This time, I get to visit the city proper and the state in my own right. Any recommendations?
  • Driving test – At the end of the month, I could very well see myself obtaining a driver’s license for the first time. There’s also the possibility I may not get it on the first try and retakes will be an inevitability. Still, it’s the farthest I’ve ever reached in this process.

A wrap-up post highlighting my major life developments will be published Tuesday. On New Year’s Day Friday, my expectations for 2016. Be sure to check those out when published.

How did this holiday season turn out for you? What are you looking forward to in the coming year? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you. Happy New Year, America!

On This Sunday: Apples to Apples

I teamed up with some of my colleagues at Mark Thomas & Company on Thursday night to volunteer at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties in San Jose.

I always love helping out food banks, a cause close to my heart for 10 years now. It’s especially more meaningful to donate my time — and money — during the holiday season when needs are the greatest.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, America!