Reflections and Expectations: The System Works

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Bringing back old traditions, getting back into the swing of things and being more proactive in the business are just some of the ways to describe the month of August.

Let’s look back at the month that was and look ahead to the start of the fall season in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

August

Train House – On Aug. 1, I met up with my railfan friends in my old stomping grounds in Orange County for this annual get-together. This is the fourth year I attended Train House since 2011 as I was unable to attend last year. Each year, we gather to watch videos some of our friends put together of their rail-related excursions. It’s one of several annual occasions I always look forward to attending, even after relocating away from the area a few times over the years.

Grad school – Back into the swing of things with the MSTM program at San Jose State University Aug. 4. I’m currently taking a course that deals with transportation policy and regulation — one of many important areas transportation professionals should be well-versed in as future managers in the field. It’s worth noting this is my penultimate semester in the program with four courses (including the current one) left to go before I graduate next June. Yes, time really has flown by relatively fast.

Live-tweeting a ribbon-cutting ceremony – Profiling one of my work-related endeavors at Mark Thomas & Company (MTCo), I attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 7 for the completion of the I-280 / I-880 / Stevens Creek Boulevard interchange project near the Valley Fair shopping center along the San Jose / Santa Clara city line. MTCo teamed up with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and Caltrans — both clients of MTCo — for this $62-million project to provide congestion relief and enhance safety for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike.

For my part, my contact at VTA invited me to attend along with several members of our staff. As this was a public event with the local news media and elected officials present, I coordinated with my counterpart at VTA to live-tweet from our respective organizations’ Twitter accounts and share each other’s posts to maximize attention for the completion of this major public works project. It certainly worked for the both of us in respectable ways as individuals ranging from local community leaders to the Mayor of San Jose and a Santa Clara County Board Supervisor to the Caltrans executive director shared our tweets from their own accounts. (Tweets can be found under the #I280I680SCB and #I280I880SCB hashtags. We misidentified one of the freeways and didn’t catch the mistake until toward the end of the event. The latter is correct.)

I’ve certainly had many experiences live-tweeting in years past and it’s always fun, especially if it is one that involves a major infrastructure project or a public figure of great interest. I look forward to doing something like this again.

IMG_4408Chris Hardwick – The host of Comedy Central’s @midnight performed at the California Theatre in San Jose Aug. 15. This marked the third time I attended a stand-up comedy performance in the Bay Area after John Mulaney in January and Chris D’Elia in June.

Terrific performance, as expected. What’s more is that he hosted a Q&A session after he finished performing, which is atypical for most stand-up performances. Although I did not ask any questions myself, I appreciated the audience engagement and personable touch to Hardwick’s style of comedy.

September

  • Boston – Nearly two years to the day since my first trip to the city, I’m going back there this weekend. It also marks my first visit to the East Coast since I moved back to California from Philadelphia in November 2013. As for this upcoming holiday weekend getaway, I see it as a continuation of my original 2013 trip. Mike’s Pastry, anyone?
  • Yoga – I should mention I’ve successfully made yoga a weekly thing for a full month now as of this past Wednesday. I still plan on going back every Wednesday night with eventual plans to incorporate some home practice on other days of the week as time progresses. I really enjoy yoga for its benefits to the mind, body and soul.

How did your summer go? What are you looking forward to as the fall season is just around the corner? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

Reflections and Expectations: Not My First Rodeo

Keeping up appearances and taking up new interests summed up how this relatively peaceful July played out.

That said, let’s look back at the month that was and look ahead to the month of August.

July

Independence Day weekend – In keeping with the tradition of spending this holiday in a different city each year since 2012, I was in San Diego for the Fourth of July weekend this time around.

As usual, I spent that weekend with family — my favorite group of people to be around. On that Friday I flew in, we kicked off the weekend with a visit to the San Diego County Fair on its final weekend. For the night of the Fourth itself, we spent that time at my cousin-in-law’s friend’s house for a party and watching fireworks from a distance in El Cajon. My weekend culminated with a trip to the San Diego Zoo on Sunday afternoon before my flight back to San Jose later that night.

This marked the first time I saw my family since I landed my new job back in April. It was great to revisit them under much better circumstances on my end and have some face time with the people I value and love most. I’m already looking forward to seeing them again for Thanksgiving this November.

Yoga – On July 18, I attended my first yoga session at The Yoga Studio in Campbell. I’ve been interested in taking up yoga as a regular activity for some time, even more so recently thanks to Jessica Lawlor and her newfound passion for this exercise. With an improved personal financial standing and a summer off from graduate school, I decided this was the perfect time to register and take part in yoga sessions at least once each week.

I attended three sessions so far — the first being on a Saturday morning and the other two Wednesday nights. I found nighttime yoga to be better as it helps alleviate any feelings of stress, anxiety and even depression after a long day at work. My next challenge is not only to attend regularly but also practice elsewhere on other days of the week to stay in shape. One step at a time.

August

  • Grad school – Back into the swing of things for the fall semester Aug. 4 at SJSU, starting off with a course about transportation policy and regulation. Including this, four classes and less than a year left before graduating from the program with a Master of Science in Transportation Management degree. Almost there.
  • Chris Hardwick – He performs at San Jose’s California Theatre Aug. 15. This will mark the third stand-up comedy performance I have attended after John Mulaney in January and Chris D’Elia in June at San Francisco and San Jose, respectively. Love it when comedy’s finest make their way to the Bay Area. I wonder who’s next?

How’s your summer so far? What are you looking forward to this month ahead? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

Reflections and Expectations Special: Midyear Review

(Clockwise, from top left) Golden Gate Bridge, company-issued business card, Santa Cruz and San Jose State University

(Clockwise, from top left) Golden Gate Bridge, company-issued business card, Santa Cruz and San Jose State University

It’s amazing how fast this year is progressing as we are more than halfway through 2015. Then again, the same could be said about most years.

This year in particular is truly exceptional and phenomenal due to quick changes and turnarounds that occurred in my life so far. All of it warrants a special edition of Reflections and Expectations, looking back at how the first half of the year has played out so far.

Only six months ago, I was still suffering from the longest personal and professional slump of my life — The Great Slump, as I call it. The 3.5-year slump that began shortly after I graduated from Cal State Fullerton in January 2012 came to an official end this April. Thereafter, I am experiencing the kind of year and life not seen in several years.

What’s made 2015 an exceptional year as of now?

IMG_4339Getting my career back on track – The gamble I took of moving to the Bay Area from L.A. last October paid off after all, even if it required some patience and temporary sacrifices.

In April, I landed a full-time, permanent role in a civil engineering firm in San Jose that combines my background and interest in transportation and marketing / public relations. I enjoy the work I’m doing so far and I am still focused on developing and succeeding in my new job.

Since graduating with my bachelor’s degree in December 2011, I experienced immense difficulties looking for more stable and lasting opportunities beyond my then-public affairs internship at a transportation agency in Orange County. It took 12 interviews for related opportunities over that 3.5-year period before I found the job I have now although I maintained other employment in the intervening period. I am relieved to be no longer in a job-search mode. I paid a great price and have since learned many lessons. God forbid anything like this will happen ever again.

San Jose State University

San Jose State University

Graduate school – Even after securing my current job, I still remain enrolled in the Master of Science in Transportation Management (MSTM) program at San Jose State University. I am committed to staying on with the program for the two semesters I have left before my graduation in June 2016.

For much of 2014 and early 2015, I either had no job or was sparsely employed. This gave me the opportunity to use all of that free time to focus on my classes. As it stands now, I received an A in four of my classes including my most recent one and an A minus in two. Even though each class meets one night a week to accommodate students with full-time jobs, I hope to maintain good marks for the remaining four classes. The culminating capstone project will be the all-important assignment that I’m almost certain will take over every aspect of my life next spring semester. Stay tuned.

Unfinished business – With stable work in hand, I’m now back in more solid financial territory. It’s allowed me to make long-deferred medical appointments, paying off my graduate school tuition, buying much-needed things for home and myself, being able to save money again and travel within the state to visit family and friends semi-regularly back down in Southern California. Having that financial stability again plays a big role in helping to turn my life around this year.

Other items I hope to accomplish by the year’s end include learning how to ride a bike (fairly easy, I’m guessing), obtaining my driver’s license for whenever it is absolutely necessary to drive (still committed to transit even after), finalizing my topic for next spring’s capstone project in the MSTM program and further the development of professional and social circles in the Bay Area. I currently lack much of a social life in this region. I’m still working on changing that.

Little things – Often times, major developments can be defined in small bits. The little things here and there keep me going as long as I have the will to step out of my comfort zone (I still abide by those words, Jessica Lawlor) and give it a go.

Among those little things, I took up yoga lessons last weekend. It’s been five years since I first tried yoga. As much as I enjoyed it then, it wasn’t until recently when Jess documented her journey to become a certified yoga instructor that it rekindled my interest for this kind of exercise. I hope to attend yoga lessons on a more regular basis — I signed up and paid for 10 sessions over a two-month period at a yoga studio near where I live. I remain committed to attending them all.

Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco on Jan. 29. Taken prior to start of comedian John Mulaney's performance.

Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco on Jan. 29. Taken prior to start of comedian John Mulaney’s performance.

Other little things I have taken on since include a day trip to Santa Cruz for my first visit to the city, playing bingo at bingo halls, volunteering at a local homeless shelter on Sundays, attending stand-up comedy shows, expanding my entertainment options with the purchase of AppleTV among others. There’s probably more new things to come.


There you have it. Halfway through and I’m having a hell of a time so far. Here’s hoping the next six months will outdo the last six.

How is 2015 playing out for you so far? What accomplishments have you made? What are you expecting for the remainder of the year? Share your thoughts below. I would love to hear from you.