Expectations for 2017

Happy New Year, America!

I believe I can safely speak for all of us when I say, “2016, I’ll see you in Hell!” A new year begins anew, one that is filled with understandable concerns but also optimism in our lives.

Each year, I set out a list of expectations instead of resolutions. I find resolutions to be easily breakable while expectations set out things I want to accomplish while not worrying about certain timelines or strict benchmarks.

That being said, join me as I go through my own set of expectations in 2017…

Career – After a turbulent 2016 defined by two straight job losses, my career is slowly back on track with my current administrative role for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA) ACCESS Paratransit division, operated under contract by Dallas-based transportation conglomerate MV Transportation.

This year will serve as the first real¬†test as to what the future of my career will look like following the¬†completion of a three-year long graduate degree program in transportation management. My ultimate goal remains¬†to return to the public sector (although I’m already partly there, just as a contractor), working for a transportation agency on public affairs, community relations, transit operations among other administrative areas in the business. I’m already off to a good start this year with MV and I hope to see where I can go from there — whether it involves a long-term future with that company or another organization.

Keep on learning – Last month, I¬†completed the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University. While graduate school is over for me, the passion for learning new things continues but in different ways. There are a variety of other ways that could still satisfy my desire to learn more about the world around me, long after finishing my latest academic endeavor. I hope to find time in reading more — borrowing books from a local library, buying or renting books on Amazon, subscribing to online newspapers or magazines, etc. I also hope to find ways to put my writing skills to good use outside of a professional capacity — through regular posts on this blog, contributing elsewhere, consulting others and so on.

Exploring new possibilities – There are still tons more places across the country I want to visit. Locally in the Bay Area, there are still parts of the region I have called home for more than two years where I have yet to fully explore including the North Bay. There are trails¬†yet to be hiked, landmarks to be visited, restaurants to be patronized, trains to be traveled. Whatever the activities are and wherever they take place, I’m always looking forward to the next new adventure.

Personal goals РI still have some unfinished business that I hope to resolve this year. Among them, I hope to finally master the art of riding a bike, learning how to swim, dating for the first time in my life, reviving my philanthropic streak to local and national causes; and rekindling certain relationships with family and friends.

Those are my expectations. What are some of yours? If resolutions instead, tell me! Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the year ahead by sharing your thoughts below.

[Before I go, I’ve made the decision¬†to transition my long-running Reflections and Expectations from a monthly series to a quarterly series. If you’ve been following along for the last 3.5+ years, thank you kindly. The next edition will be published in late March.]

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On This Sunday: It’s No Joke

Of all the horrible things the bigoted orange twine ball that is Donald Trump has said and done, his long-documented mistreatment of women has drawn the greatest deal of attention as of late.

We all know by now Trump’s¬†penchant for publicly talking about his supposed sexual conquests, demeaning women for being too old or too fat, how he wants to bang his own daughter Ivanka among a whole host of horrendous things he’s been known to say. Within the last week, several women have come forward to allege that Trump has sexually assaulted them in the past. I have no reason not to believe these women, as with most people who have experienced something as horrific as this by anyone else.

Sexual assault is a serious matter that sometimes takes having to know someone who has experienced such a thing to truly understand its impact. It’s also through different yet fundamentally similar life¬†events that help to tangentially apply¬†one’s understanding of sexual assaults in general.

Within the last few months, two female friends of mine directly told me they have been sexually assaulted¬†in their lives¬†— both instances marking the first time anyone has ever told me such a thing. One told me she was once date-raped while the other was not specific about what happened¬†but I was able to easily deduct it was something terribly bad. I suspect there are many more women in my life — friends, former colleagues and maybe even relatives¬†— that also have stories like this but I have either yet to know or will never know. Although difficult in nature, I hope to have more private conversations like this from people who are willing to share their own experiences so that I can better empathize with them, cope with them and heal with them. It truly makes a difference.

I never experienced sexual assault myself although growing up, I have been abused in other ways to¬†understand the trauma and horror that victims undergo. They all share common traits — a seemingly powerful person taking advantage of someone seemingly indefensible.

Such¬†was the case when I grew up as a child, living with a physically-abusive father. It was horrible at each turn —¬†the fear, the pain, the trauma, the feelings of defenselessness. I¬†finally escaped all that when¬†I entered foster care at age 13, although one of my subsequent foster parents engaged in psychological abuse with the same effects as what I went through with my father. It was under their care I once attempted to commit suicide. Bottom line, my father and that particular foster parents can rot in hell. I wish the same or for some kind of justice for those who engage in sexual assaults. There is no rhyme or reason for any of this type of behavior.

Oh, and screw Trump. Anyone but him on Nov. 8.

On This Sunday: 15 years ago

Everyone is often asked where they were and what they were doing at the moment when they heard about several hijacked commercial airliners crashing into the World Trade Center towers in New York, the Pentagon and a field in western Pennsylvania on this day in 2001. My story¬†is about as unremarkable as anyone else’s but it is worth sharing in this space or in any online platform for the first time.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was 12 years old and just started 7th grade at John Burroughs Middle School in Los Angeles. At the time, I was living with my biological father in the Koreatown neighborhood of the city. It was during the 6 a.m. PT hour when I was awoken to audio from our television set in another room. It was morning and tuning in to local news seemed like a customary thing to do. When I came over to see what was on the television, it was bad. It wasn’t like a live¬†aerial footage of a traffic accident on one of L.A.’s many freeways tying up traffic somewhere or a wildfire breaking out in the hills. By the time I saw what was on the television set, one or both of the hijacked airliners crashed into the Twin Towers. Being more than 2,000 miles away from where this and the attacks in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon happened, I saw no reason to feel scared about what was going on and neither did most around me in this West Coast city where I grew up.

I went to school shortly after. Coincidentally, the Los Angeles Unified School District scheduled in advance that very¬†day to be a half-day for students at JB — what students often referred to the school. There were certainly discussions among the students, faculty and staff about the events that occurred earlier that morning on the East Coast although nothing else seemed out of the ordinary about the day. No stepped up security or anything.¬†All the¬†students including myself were¬†still trying to process what was going on while being somewhat gleeful over the fact it was a half-day anyway.

Using my LACMTA student transit pass, I took some buses around the city to see how this second-largest city in the nation was responding to the morning’s terrorist attacks on the other side of the country. At least from my own recollection, the Starbucks near my school closed its doors for the rest of the day. The Metro Red Line subway service was shut down and stations shuttered (I specifically remember going to the Wilshire / Vermont station where the gates draped over the portal to the station).

Later that day, I came back home to watch more of the television news coverage. All the major broadcast stations were still on this story —¬†reporters and anchors from their network news divisions helming the nonstop coverage with occasional local news cut-ins to update viewers on local responses and reactions to the terrorist attacks. Even a local broadcast affiliate of the Home Shopping Network at the time (now a Spanish-language network affiliate), which normally didn’t air any news or local programming, was feeding in live rolling coverage from either CNN or ABC News. Then-President George W. Bush gave a televised address to the nation that night, vowing to hunt down and bring to justice the individuals responsible for the attacks.

For that day, that’s all I could recount. Again, nothing remarkable.

Nine years later on Oct. 18, 2010, I would find myself visiting the first of the two 9/11 memorial sites on the East Coast. While on a trip to Washington, D.C. for a PRSSA Conference, I took the Washington Metrorail with some friends to the Pentagon. While we didn’t go in the facility, we visited a public space outside of the Pentagon that included a memorial for the victims killed at that site.

Two years later on Sept. 29, 2012, I visited the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. I also captured a shot of the One World Trade Center tower, which was still under construction at the time.

On this day back in 2001,¬†after the nation realized what just happened and¬†began to process it all, I still didn’t know what to make of the morning’s events. I also never expected that years later, I would find myself visiting two of the three sites that collectively came to symbolize the worst moment¬†in our nation’s history. Having visited the memorials at the Pentagon and World Trade Center, it puts¬†a lot into perspective. Being at those sites¬†in person to observe what these places look like, what they feel like and picturing the sheer loss of life that had taken place years before, I felt that I finally understood the true impact 9/11 has had on the country as a whole. Even though I didn’t know anyone that died in these attacks, I can better empathize with the families and friends of the victims who did.

These visits in 2010 and 2012 aren’t anything remarkable either. It’s also just like any other story you might hear from anyone else. However, the main takeaway is that I finally can make something of all this — 15 years to the day since I began to process what just happened.

Winners and Losers: It’s Not a Normal Year

It’s been about two years since my last edition of Winners and Losers. Had to bring it back as so much has gone on in the world since my last edition. As always, I’ll be¬†highlighting¬†people who deserve our deepest respect as well as those who should be called out somehow.

Winners

Team U.S.A. РI did not watch the Rio Olympics, which continues my long-standing happenstance tradition of not watching the Olympics. However, the U.S. Olympics team often leads the world in the medal count including gold medals in these games. If those athletes were able to deal with competing in a country dealing with rampant political and socioeconomic turmoil as well as one of their own ruining some of the glory for the rest of our home team, I say they deserve all the credits and sponsorships they can possibly get. Except Ryan Lochte. The man is a douche.

Ellie Goulding – Only because I’ve become a big fan of her music for a full year now. I went to her concert in April at the SAP Center in San Jose and I still listen to her songs on Spotify. I just wanted to throw this in here to vainly make that point clear.

The mother and daughter at this Bernie Sanders rally I attended in Oakland on Memorial Day

Losers

Roger Ailes and Bill Cosby – These men both established themselves as monumental figures in news and entertainment, respectively. Their fame, wealth and power allowed them to allegedly mistreat women in such unspeakable ways that, at the end, we see them both in a much different light.

Before their misdeeds became public, I always thought Bill Cosby was generally an okay actor and comedian. Roger Ailes, on the other hand, launched Fox News — a platform that I would say is the worst if not for more rabid right-wing outlets Breitbart that have emerged since then. Nevertheless, I have no respect left for any of these men although I never had an opinion on Ailes anyway.

Bernie-crats – Yes, I was among the millions that supported and voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary here in California back in June.

I always admired Bernie for his genuinely populist streak that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump only pretend to have. I was disappointed but not surprised like everyone else that Sen. Sanders didn’t get far but I have no regrets as I truly believed in his message¬†and still do. I’m skeptical that Hillary Clinton will even care to pursue the same vision and policy proposals Sanders put forth during his campaign. Very, very skeptical.

The American electorate¬†– Oh, what the hell. In this instance, we’re all losers in this election cycle. Unless you are among the handful of people who are genuinely enthusiastic about Trump or Clinton, none of us will¬†get any real satisfaction no matter who gets elected. Even if you’re voting for Jill Stein, Gary Johnson or some other third-party or independent candidate, we all still lose. I’m voting for Stein¬†to break from my usual tradition of voting for a major party ticket. I’m not entirely thrilled about it but it is an option I am choosing to exercise this time around.

If only Pres. Obama could run for a third term in office. I always liked him and probably more now than ever before. His approval ratings in his final year in office is no joke.

What’s your take on these subjects? What’s your take on what I have to say? Chime in 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.

My Thoughts on Recent Tragedies and Personal Losses

The last seven days have proven to be some absolutely tragic times, both for this country and personally.

Last Thursday, 10 people including the gunman were killed in a campus shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon. This tragedy is the latest in what has become an epidemic in this country as mass shootings have become a near-weekly occurrence. I won’t go in depth about how I feel about the gun laws in the U.S. as I’m not in the mood to argue with anyone nor is this the appropriate forum for a discussion. All I’ll say is that this can be prevented and it sickens me to still see this happening.

On a personal level, I learned last Friday about a mother of an extended relative of mine in Orange County passing away. She died at age 50 after complications of a stroke. Although I met her only once during a family gathering in 2011, I remember her as a gracious and admirable woman well liked by everyone around her. 

That extended relative of mine who is grieving over the loss of her mother this week is in her 20s like I am. It reminded me of another person around the same age — a friend of mine in Nebraska — who lost her mother in a car accident back in May. Although I never met her mother, I can only imagine she embodies the same wonderful spirit as my friend and the other mother who passed on last week. 

None of these deaths impact me the same way those closer to them are impacted. The nature of these kinds of deaths, however, are still heartbreaking and tragic. On one end, the victims in Oregon did not deserve to die in such senseless violence. On the other, seeing two people that are my age this year alone grappling with the loss of their mothers at this stage of their lives puts things in a more personal perspective when it comes to losing a loved one. 

I never lost anyone I had any strong feelings for. The closest would be the passing of my paternal grandmother in December 2005. I chose not to attend her funeral back then as I lacked any emotions for the woman despite having grown up and partially raised by her. I have yet to know what it feels like to lose someone closer to me who I value a great deal and love. 

Seeing all these losses does serve as a reminder to all of us to cherish our loved ones — parents, siblings, cousins, friends — and not to take their presence for granted. It reminds us that life is too short and we never know how much we truly value someone until they are gone. They are the people that made us. They are the people that complement our lives. Let them know today how much you appreciate and love them. It’s the least we can do to maintain humanity for all of us, especially during times of tragedy.