Reflections and Expectations: Now What?

What a way to close a mixed bag of a year. Let’s look back at the month that was in this final Reflections and Expectations for 2016.

December 2016

End of graduate school – Nearly three years and 10 courses later, I officially finished the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University. It all ended with the final week of MTM 215 — transportation systems planning and development — on Dec. 13. A week later, I learned that I received an A grade in the course, all but ensuring I will earn my Master’s Degree in two month’s time.

This program, administered by the Mineta Transportation Institute, has kept my career prospects alive while also helping me develop a well-rounded perspective of the transportation business, all to prepare me to become a part of the future generation of transportation managers. I still maintain an interest in going into a public affairs / community relations side of transportation while also looking into other areas such as contracts administration and transit operations. Wherever I end up, I know my future is in transportation and I will be forever grateful for this advanced degree program for paving the way to a brighter future.

Christmas – For the sixth time since 2010, I spent this holiday weekend with family in San Diego. It was a great way to close out on a high note what has been a challenging year. Due to scheduling conflicts on both sides throughout 2016, the last time I saw them was Christmas 2015 — which felt more like a lifetime ago. It truly was a weekend filled with joy, laughter and some tears. Without getting too much into the last part, it was an extraordinarily heartfelt and profound moment to strike someone like me who rarely gets this emotional about anything. I’ll leave it at that.

January 2017

  • Now what? – Much like the title of this blog, anything goes. There’s much to look forward to, more I want to do and territories yet to be explored. It could be a game-changing kind of year although I will need to clear some hurdles before I get there. In due time, I expect to get there.

By the Numbers

In December…

  • Number of times flying first-class on Virgin America over the last six yearsThree (likely my last time flying with them before the merger with Alaska Airlines).
  • Perfect grades achieved in my courses throughout graduate school – 9 / 10 (the odd one out being a B, lowest of them all. I could only dream about this level of achievement in schools past).
  • Number of times rewatching Elf year after year gets old Zero (…and it will always stay that way).

This edition will double as the year-end review, given how 2016 was a lousy year for most human beings everywhere. Here’s to hoping for a 2017 that is substantially better than this outgoing year.

Happy New Year, America!

Reflections and Expectations: Access Granted

A mixed bag, to describe it best. Join me in this look back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

November

Election – [sigh] This is still very disappointing and concerning. I relented and voted for Hillary Clinton on the day of the election — a decision I made the night before I casted my vote. Sure, I’ve had my shares of gripes about her but she isn’t all bad. I wish I had made that decision much earlier instead of openly flirting with the possibility of voting third-party or an independent. Electoral dysfunction, for sure.

Thanksgiving – With family in San Diego having other plans this time around, I stayed put in the Bay Area and spent the holiday with a friend and former colleague of mine in nearby South San Jose. It all went well as one should expect — getting my full turkey fix and being in good company on that day. No bones about that.

New job – This week, I officially joined MV Transportation as one of its reservationists as part of the company’s ACCESS paratransit contract with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). In this role, I am among the handful of individuals working out of the VTA headquarters in handling all the requests for paratransit services by the county’s senior citizen and disabled residents. I’m glad to be back to work somewhere after nearly four months of searching for the next big thing and four years since I last worked in a more transit-focused setting. Back on track, I go.

December

  • End of grad school – This is it. After nearly three years and 10 courses later, I’m expected to be all finished with my Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University. There will be a certain charm to it all that I will miss. More in my next edition.
  • Christmas – A week and a half after that last item, I’m looking forward to celebrating my recent accomplishments with family in San Diego. It could be a great way to end this generally rough year on a high note.

By the Numbers

In November…

  • Number of days spent looking for the next big thing: 112 (the counter stopped the day before Thanksgiving when I landed my latest role)
  • Consecutive number of hours being awake from Election Day to the next day: 21 (woke up at around 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 8 and stayed up watching the returns on TV until 4:30 a.m. Nov. 9)
  • Weight change between the morning of Thanksgiving Day and the next morning: -2.5 (…all this after finishing a full plate of turkey and all sorts of trimmings on that afternoon)

Happy holidays! How are things lately? What are you looking forward to most this holiday season? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

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.

Reflections and Expectations: Let’s Do the Numbers

A nod to Marketplace in the title this month.

Join me in this look back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

September

Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival in San Francisco, Sept. 10 – For the second year in a row, I got my chocolate fix at this annual event, which marks its 21st year for the organizers. Even though I’ve cut down on candy consumption since the last event, I still love Ghirardelli chocolates and couldn’t help myself but to make another visit this year. Chocolates, coffees, tea, ice cream, pastries among other items made for an expectedly overwhelming yet sweet Saturday afternoon in this City by the Bay.

Steel Wheels Conference in Sacramento, Sept. 24 – Hosted by RailPAC, I participated in this annual conference on the state of passenger rail in California and around the country. This was my second conference after my first one in the same city back in 2014. I enjoyed it as much as the last one I attended and got a lot out of it.

October

  • Beginning of the end of grad school – My tenth and final course of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University starts later this month. The transportation systems planning and development course will run through December, closing out my nearly three years in the program.

By the Numbers

A new feature within this series, breaking down some random facts each month in numerical terms.

In September…

  • Total miles spent driving any car: 96 (up from zero in August)
  • Number of days spent looking for the next big thing: 58 (as of Sept. 30)
  • Amount of sniffles during a live, nationally-televised debate: Zero (…and I kept it that way!)

How was your September? What are you looking forward to in October? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

Reflections and Expectations: Take It Easy

Hiking at the Almaden Quicksilver Park and Jackson Browne in Downtown San Jose

On the hunt again, staying in shape in all sorts of ways and not quite running on empty with Jackson Browne.

Let’s look back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations. Join me, won’t you?

August

VSCE – Earlier this month, my stint with this Oakland consulting firm ended after a six-week run. I was grateful for the opportunity to slowly return to my community relations in transportation roots with the firm during my short time there. I’m still focused on finding out where I will be going next.

Getting active – To find some low- to no-cost ways of filling time while I continue to look for work, I embarked on three new activities in addition to my existing weekly yoga practice to get out of the house more and keep myself active — Krav Maga, hiking and going to the gym.

  • Krav Maga – On Aug. 6, I visited the Tactica Krav Maga Institute in Santa Clara for a trial course on this Israeli self-defense system. I decided to give it a try after a July incident in San Jose where I was nearly assaulted by a belligerent homeless man at a bus stop. That, combined with some already lingering interest in this form of martial arts, led me to take this up. In sum, it was as intense as one would expect for an activity like this but I absolutely enjoyed it. Even after only one session, I already have a better understanding of how to defend myself when the situation warrants it. I’m interested in continuing with these sessions in the future although such plans will be on hold for now.
  • Hiking – For the first two Sundays of the month, I went on a hike to the Almaden Quicksilver Park here in Santa Clara County. This was my first solo hiking venture, spending a couple of hours at each turn walking along some of the many trails within the park. Over time, I hope to make more visits to this park to cover as many of the trails as possible. I also hope to visit some of the other hiking trails throughout the county, the Bay Area and beyond.
  • Going to the gym – After being constantly prodded by their SiriusXM radio ads, I took up a membership at Retro Fitness in San Jose. In the middle part of the month, I began making near daily visits to get more cardiovascular exercises going. I hope this is something I can keep up on a regular basis for as long as possible. The low-cost monthly membership and the overall great atmosphere of the gym makes it all the more attractive.

Jackson Browne – On Aug. 16, I went to see this legendary singer-songwriter perform at the City National Civic in San Jose. I’ve been a fan of Jackson Browne since 2010 — my junior / senior years at Cal State Fullerton — along with his activism on environmental and social causes.

Bearing in mind how much of a fan I still am of Ellie Goulding, I expected as much that Jackson’s concert would be of a different atmosphere with its demographics and energy levels compared to Ellie’s concert at nearby SAP Center in April. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed listening to Jackson perform and, even through his music, he still advocates for a better country and a better world through the messages in his songs.

Seeing two of my absolutely favorite musicians performing this year in venues so close to home? I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

September

  • RailPAC Steel Wheels Conference in Sacramento – This will be my second one after the 2014 conference in the same city. RailPAC is a passenger rail advocacy organization in California and Arizona, for which I’ve been a member since 2014. It’s part of my efforts to gradually move away from PRSA in favor of more locally transportation-focused organizations.

How’s your summer coming along? What are you looking forward to as the fall season nears? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

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.