Reflections and Expectations: Two years later

A quiet month but noteworthy in its own right. Join me in a look back at my month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

October

Grad school – The real beginning of the end of grad school is in full swing as I’m currently enrolled in my 10th and final course of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University.

The current course, dealing with transportation systems planning and development, began on Oct. 11 — coinciding with my two-year anniversary of living in the Bay Area. This course will take me all the way to a mid-December finish of this program, ending my nearly three-year involvement in this academic endeavor.

Is it December yet?

Aerial yoga, Oct. 2 – I finally tried out aerial yoga at my home yoga studio, The Yoga Studio in Campbell, earlier in the month. The owner of the studio recruited students like me to volunteer as subjects for a special session where she was training an instructor on aerial yoga.

Having practiced mainly the vinyasa yoga there almost every week for more than a year, I liked trying out a different realm within this practice. It felt nice to be floating and hanging during parts of the session. I’m definitely interested in practicing more aerial yoga in the future.

November

  • Election 2016 – Thank God it’s almost over. There’s been no shortage of depressing things in my life as of late. At least one of those things will go away but I’ll still have another lingering around for a while. [sigh]
  • Thanksgiving – Maybe some family time will serve as a brief respite from what has been a down year for me. If not, I’ll go find an open restaurant near home on that day to serve as an alternate.

By the Numbers

In October…

  • Number of days spent looking for the next big thing: 88 (as of Oct. 30)
  • Time spent on a session about Ram Dass, who he is and why he matters to people: Approximately 100 minutes (everyone could learn something from him)
  • Duration of Bay Area residence: 2 years, 19 days (as of Oct. 30). Past residences and jobs rarely lasted this long. Now, I hope to find work again that will last just as long as my current residence.

How are you lately? Let’s talk. Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

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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.

On This Sunday: Flip-adelphia

No, not that drinking game from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I’m referring to this — an iconic fixture at the city’s 30th Street Station, its main passenger rail terminal.

Yes, the flipping display board that’s known as the Solari board, named after its Italian manufacturer. Once common in airports and train stations all around the world, only a few of these remain as digital display boards become the norm. By the year’s end, Philly will make its upgrade as well.

It was this past week back in 2012 when I moved to Philadelphia from SoCal for a one-year service with AmeriCorps. I ultimately moved back to California after a little more than a year living on the East Coast.

Even though my time in the City of Brotherly Love was short, the sight and sounds of the clicking and clacking from 30th Street Station’s Solari board is one I still remember vividly and fondly. I share the same level of appreciation for this board as the natives of the Delaware Valley. Being a devoted fan of trains before I even moved to Philly, this board always became a welcome part of my numerous Amtrak train travels to cities like New York City, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and Boston. Even when I was simply passing through to make local transit connections, I would sometimes stop to watch and listen to the board as it became a personal source of amusement at each turn.

The 30th Street Station Solari board: Much like Philly itself, I hardly knew ye. You will be greatly missed.

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12:52 a.m. ET on Nov. 12, 2012. Taken on my way back home from Atlanta!

On This Sunday: Fun with Maps

On Friday night, I stumbled upon mapchart.net to create maps of California counties and U.S. states I have lived in and visited. Why? Because I still have quite a ways to go before I ever find myself dating anyone for the first time in my life.

Legend

For the California counties map, bear in mind that there are 58 counties in the Golden State and I have so far lived in three of them — the current being Santa Clara County in the Bay Area. Having grown up in SoCal, I spent about half of the cumulative years of my life in Los Angeles County — the most populous county in the state and the nation — as well as the tail-end of my teenage years and early adult years in Orange County.

Marked in yellow are passthrough counties, where I have passed through such jurisdictions by some form of ground transportation but did not exit the vehicles to physically set foot anywhere within their geographical limits. Most of the yellow counties are rural and sparsely populated although some of the notable exceptions include San Luis Obispo, Contra Costa and Butte (home to the City of Chico).

Over time, I expect to visit more counties — both the never-traveled in grey as well as formally visiting the ones in yellow. After I gain any major ground, I will provide an update on this space. For now, the tally of all counties visited, lived and passed through are 33.

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Onto the states. The current tally of all visited, lived and passed through states are 27 plus the District of Columbia. I have only resided in two states so far with California being where I’ve called home for all but a few cumulative years of my life (I was born in and spent parts of my early life in South Korea, for which I will not cover in this post.)

Five states currently hold the passthrough distinction, which is the same idea with the counties earlier. This is down from seven at the start of 2016. This year, I managed to change the statuses of Arizona and Texas — formerly airport layover passthroughs in 2013 — by formally taking trips to Phoenix and Dallas in January and July, respectively. Visiting any of the remaining yellow states is a low priority although I hope to formally visit those states at various points in the future.

In the years to come, I hope to cover as many of the never-traveled states as possible through various means. Salt Lake City, Kansas City / St. Louis and New Orleans in the states of Utah, Missouri and Louisiana, respectively, are high on my list of new cities I want to visit next. Memphis, Minneapolis and the state of Hawaii are my so-called second-tier destinations under consideration as well. The rest of the country could be covered through future Amtrak long-distance train travels although Wyoming and South Dakota are the only two in the contiguous United States currently without passenger rail service. Regardless of the purpose or the mode of transportation, I hope to cover all 50 states in due time.

Enough with my wonky, geographical exhibitions. I should probably find some more things to do in life, preferably with other people involved somehow.

Reflections and Expectations: Lone Star State

Fourth of July, summer in Texas, a full year of yoga and getting my garlic on in Gilroy. Let’s look back at my month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

July

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Independence Day – This year, I marked my first Fourth of July holiday in the Bay Area by attending the Rotary Fireworks show in Downtown San Jose. This continues an annual tradition of watching fireworks shows for this holiday in a different city each year — 2012 in Portland, Oregon; 2013 in Philadelphia (where I lived at the time), 2014 in Los Angeles (my first show in the city even though I grew up there) and 2015 near San Diego. Nothing too special about this year’s festivities in San Jose but still a delight to attend, nonetheless.

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On the left: Downtown Dallas from the GeoDeck, same skyline from Perot Museum. On the right: Fort Worth Stockyards, National Videogame Museum in Frisco, Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, July 14 to July 17 – I finally was able to get a summer trip in this year after nearly conceding no trips were likely to happen.

I arrived in Dallas a week after the deadly attacks on the Dallas PD and DART police officers. When planning for the trip in June, I originally considered flying in on July 7 — the same night as the attacks — for which I was later glad to have decided on the following week instead. The hotel I stayed at for my first two nights is located only a few blocks north of where it all happened. Even when I arrived, the mood in the city was still somber and tense. Trucks in the region had bumper stickers expressing their solidarity with the police along with some businesses posting signs on their windows displaying similar sentiments. I looked forward to my trip there while keeping a thoughtful mind of the tragic events involving some of the most heroic and bravest individuals around.

I managed to cover a good cross section of the region — parts throughout Dallas proper, Fort Worth, Frisco and Grapevine. Among the notable destinations visited include the Fort Worth Stockyards, GeoDeck atop the Reunion Tower, The Sixth Floor Museum (where Lee Harvey Oswald did his worst), Perot Museum of Nature and Science, National Videogame Museum and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. I also had the chance to enjoy some of the quintessential Texas cuisine at the restaurants in the region such as Tex Mex, barbecue and Whataburger — all of which were fantastic. For all four days of my trip, I met up with my wonderful friend Nelli Tokleh, who took me around some of the best points of interests and restaurants in the Metroplex.

I should come back here sometime. I like going places where I have friends and the Metroplex is definitely one of them.

One year of yoga! – July 18 marked my first full year or practicing yoga and at The Yoga Studio in Campbell. My first visit since that milestone was on July 20, part of my usual Wednesday night vinyasa class. I never imagined I would keep it up for as long as I have. I love how much yoga has changed my life and I look forward to seeing how it will continue to benefit me in the long run. Namaste.

Gilroy Garlic Festival, July 30 – I attended this garlic-centric festival Saturday for the first time. Tons of great food with garlic infused in some way including garlic ice cream as well as sampling some ribs as part of a BBQ contest there. I liked the festival although I ran out of things to do there about two hours before leaving to take the scheduled Caltrain back to San Jose. Too early to decide whether I’ll go again next year.

August

  • Jackson Browne – He’s performing Aug. 16 in Downtown San Jose. Unlike the Ellie Goulding concert back in April, the energy level will be quite different but his music is still something to be appreciated.

How’s your summer coming along? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

Reflections and Expectations Special: 2016 Midyear Review

On the left: SJSU convocation ceremony, one year of yoga. On the right: Phoenix, Ellie Goulding, Dallas.

Remember when I laid out this set of expectations for 2016 at the turn of the new year? I’m guessing not but we’ll revisit them anyway for this midyear review.

Within the first six months of the year, I wound up meeting some of these expectations already while others are still ongoing. Join me in this Reflections and Expectations special, looking back at the year that was…so far.

Professional development – Since the beginning of the year, a setback occurred once again in my career. Fortunately, it was a short-lived one.

In March, I was dismissed from my marketing coordinator post after less than a year at the San Jose civil engineering firm Mark Thomas & Company. I departed the company on good terms although I felt better off being let go. While the role helped me reenter the transportation business, I always realized the kind of bigger, better opportunities I wanted did not and will not exist at this company.

Three months later in late June, I joined VSCE — a small civil engineering firm in Downtown Oakland — as an outreach project analyst. This role marked a return to my roots in community relations in transportation, working with transportation agencies as clients of the firm. I’m currently working for the company on a part-time, temporary basis with a determination to be made in the fall regarding my future in this organization. Either way, I’m glad to be back to where I really want to be in this business and I remain committed to making sure I stay on track for a more successful career.

Family relationships – There are no major developments on this front. Such relationships remain stable although I still remain emotionally neutral as it relates to my biological mother in South Korea.

To fulfill a moral obligation, I invited my mother to the convocation ceremony at San Jose State University in June (more on that milestone below) as my only guest. While I initially objected to having her attend (pressure from some of my relatives led to this move), she proved me wrong by becoming a welcoming presence. In hindsight, I wish I could have done more on my part in making her feel like a truly visible part of my life in front of others in attendance that weekend. However, there were understandable limitations such as language barriers that hindered such efforts. Still, I believe we both benefitted from each other’s presence last month. As for what this means for the two of us going forward? It’s still anyone’s guess.

Healthy living – I found in recent months that I have become more proactive than expected on this front.

After recovering from a migrane headache in early March, I somehow started cutting back on sugar consumption. I found myself snacking less on candies and cookies in favor of fruits like blueberries, in particular. I still enjoy a cookie or an ice cream now and then but it is chocolate candies (think Snickers, Twix and the like) I have continued to move away from ever since.


I still practice yoga every Wednesday night at The Yoga Studio in Campbell. In fact, I celebrated my first full year of practicing yoga and at this particular studio this past week. I love how much yoga has benefitted my life in a variety of ways and I look forward to keeping at it to see where it takes me.

I’m also looking into other forms of activities throughout the year — hiking, bike riding, Krav Maga among others. This is probably the most physically active state I’ve ever been in my entire life. For as long as time and money permits, I hope to stay fit in a variety of ways that suit me.

Driving – I finally obtained a driver’s license for the first time on April 15. Even with that in hand, I’m still sticking with transit and Uber / Lyft as I have little need or desire to drive. Since then, I have driven on a few occasions using the company car or Zipcars for various purposes. Driving does have its own perks although transit and other means, while imperfect, are more economical and earth-friendly. I grew up with transit so I’m not letting that go…ever.


End of grad school – The pomp and circumstance that is the convocation ceremony is behind us. Now, I simply have to return in October to finish out my 10th and final course for the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at SJSU. Is it December yet?

Phoenix and Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex

Trips – I wound up taking trips to two new destinations this year — Phoenix in January and Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in July. What’s great about these two cities were that I had friends in both cities I could visit, ensuring those weren’t just another set of trips where I’d be exploring the regions alone. I enjoyed both dearly.

Among others

  • I was a guest on a SiriusXM radio show in March!
  • Ellie Goulding concert in April: One of the greatest highlights of my life this year.
  • After five years of supporting my friend’s family by way of monetary donations, I finally joined the Canedy family at the Saddleback College in Mission Viejo in early June for the Relay for Life weekend. Being surrounded by some of my closest friends and their family makes me miss SoCal.

That’s where things stand in my life as of now. How about yours? What’s 2016 been like for you? What are your expectations for the rest of the year? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.