Reflections and Expectations: Pomp and Circumstance

Feel free to run this music as you read on.

All set? Let’s look back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

June

Relay for Life, June 4 & 5 – I joined the Canedy family — by association of my friends, Robin and Brett — and their friends for this weekend-long fundraising event at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. After donating money to their Green for Bean team over the last five years, I was finally able to join them by participating in the event. I mainly contributed by taking turns walking laps around the track in the campus’ football field. The team as a whole walked 262 laps that weekend and I was proud to have walked as many as I could for them.

The American Cancer Society hosts Relay for Life events in communities across the country each year, benefitting cancer patients and survivors as well as raising funds to support research for a cure to this disease. The Canedy family has been participating for 11 years after their grandfather passed away from cancer in 2003. Having known this family through Robin and Brett over the last six years, I am grateful I was able to catch up with them over that weekend and support this great group of individuals I am glad to call friends. It became somewhat emotional for me as well because I greatly value their relationships but do not get to see them as much. This was good for all of us in many ways.

California presidential primary election, June 7 – Yes, I voted in the much-ballyhooed Golden State presidential primary election. I voted for Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination, Kamala Harris for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) among a bunch of other Democrats in local, state and federal offices. I’m disappointed Bernie will not be the nominee although it was always a long shot. I’m voting Green for the first time ever in November as I have soured on Hillary Clinton over the course of this election cycle.

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MTI convocation ceremony at SJSU, June 18 – The Mineta Transportation Institute hosted this ceremony for graduates of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University. While my official end in the program won’t come until December after finishing out one more course, the ceremony was the time for recognition and celebration.


Despite a series of personal and professional setbacks over the last six months that threatened to damper the significance of this event for me, it all worked out in so many ways at the end. I met with fellow classmates, instructors, industry leaders and professionals and even some elected officials. My most notable encounter was with the living legend himself — former USDOT Sec. Norman Mineta, founder of his namesake research institution.

It was a gratifying and exciting moment as I rarely get in front of a large group of people, for which I’m one of the few people that doesn’t see that as scary. I learned a great deal from the program as it helps me develop into a more competent, well-rounded transportation professional who is prepared to take on management roles in this business down the line. I’m forever grateful for all the people, inside and outside of the program, who became some of my best supporters and mentors over the course of this effort.

Back to work, June 22 – Four days after that last item (and partly as a result of said event), I joined VSCE as an outreach project analyst. At this small civil engineering firm based in Downtown Oakland (close to BART and many fantastic restaurants!), I’m brought on in a part-time role to work on proposals and community outreach for local transportation clients in the Bay Area. A determination regarding a promotion to a full-time status will be determined this fall.

This new role marks a return to my roots in community relations in transportation, a kind of opportunity that’s been difficult to find since the end of my two-year internship at the Orange County Transportation Authority in August 2012. Regardless of how long my current role lasts, I’m glad to be back to where I really belong in my career. I’ve been long overdue for a comeback.

July

  • Fourth of July – It appears I will be staying in town this year for the Independence Day holiday. Each year since 2012, I either traveled to a different city or lived in a city where I previously have never attended fireworks shows. The Bay Area will become another new place for me to enjoy this holiday with plans to attend a show in San Francisco or San Jose.
  • Dallas – Later in the month, I’ll make my first visit to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to meet up with a long-time friend of mine living there as well as to check out the rest of the region itself. Glad to finally get a summer trip in somewhere.
  • One year of yoga! – July 18 marks my first full year of practicing yoga anywhere! I still practice vinyasa yoga almost every Wednesday night at The Yoga Studio in Downtown Campbell. I love how yoga has changed my life thus far and I am eager to see how it continues to help going forward.

Enough about my month. How was yours? I’d love to hear from you by sharing your thoughts below.

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On This Sunday: Pomp and Circumstance

On Saturday night at San Jose State University, I participated in the convocation ceremony for graduates of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program, administered by the Mineta Transportation Institute.

While my actual finish in the program will come in December, last night was the time for celebration. Here are the highlights.

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The 10 of us that make up the Class of 2016.

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All hooded up, post-ceremony.

Reflections and Expectations: Let It Bern

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Let’s Get Moving! Summit, cover page of my capstone research report and feeling the Bern in Downtown Oakland.

A peaceful yet somewhat busy month, leading into a potentially bigger one ahead. Let’s look back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

May

Let’s Get Moving! Summit, May 7 – I volunteered for this all-day event hosted by TransForm at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley office in Mountain View. I was a note-taker for the event’s breakout sessions, which dealt with topics on how to better address Bay Area’s constantly-growing and challenging transportation and housing needs. I enjoyed myself here — both as a volunteer and an active participant of the sessions. In one session, I lead the discussion in a break-out group about alternative transportation solutions during a potential closure for Caltrain’s electrification project.

Grad school research project – Finally finished with my capstone research project for the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University. The topic of my research project deals with social media and public engagement in transportation organizations. I decided to go with this topic as I possess past professional experience working in this area and after consulting with fellow transportation professionals who work in similar concentrations. I’m submitting the report to MTI by the end of this week, following some final rewrites and finishing touches.

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Bernie Sanders in Oakland – On Memorial Day, I went up to Downtown Oakland at the Frank Ogawa Plaza as the independent senator from Vermont hosted a rally for his presidential campaign. This was in advance of the crucial June 7 California primary election, for which I will be participating in my first presidential primary election since I moved to nearby Santa Clara County from L.A. in late 2014.

This is the first campaign rally I have ever attended and I’m glad it was a Bernie Sanders rally. Without droning on too long about my now-obvious political leanings, I find him to be a transformative figure unlike no other who connects well with and inspires millions of people across the country. His odds of winning the presidency are long but I’m fully committed to Bernie for as long as he is a candidate for President of THESE United States of America.

June

  • Relay for Life weekend – I’ll be in Mission Viejo this weekend, supporting a friend and his family as part of their annual participation in this event. I always donated money to their cause and now, I can finally join them this time.
  • MTI convocation ceremony – At least for me, it’ll be purely ceremonial since I have to return in October to finish out my 10th and final course in the program. This is the only time of the year when such an event takes place so why sit out?

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

Reflections and Expectations: …and Bingo was His Name-O

IMG_4361It feels surreal that my life and career has finally stabilized once again after a drawn-out lull.

Between January 2012 and this past April, I saw myself living through the longest personal and professional slump ever — largely centered around difficulties finding stable and relevant career opportunities. It was truly an agonizing period that took a tremendous toll in almost every aspect of my life.

With my career finally back on track, I feel a renewed sense of hope and optimism. It’ll still take some time before I fully recover from the last three years although things are already starting to look up.

Here are some of those ways as we look back at the month that was and look ahead to the start of summer.

May

New job – I’m already a month and a half in to my new job as a marketing coordinator at Mark Thomas & Company (MTCo), a civil engineering firm in San Jose.

In this role, I primarily work with engineers, planners and surveyors within our company to position ourselves for public works projects throughout the state of California. I do this by creating proposals when public agencies issue Request for Proposals (RFP) to consulting firms interested in being considered for contracts to work on projects. I also manage the company’s social media accounts with the rest of the marketing team, highlighting the company’s accomplishments and other noteworthy events.

I still enjoy my new job. It’s a terrific work environment, I maintain good relations with all of my colleagues and I feel I have a good grasp of the work at hand with an excellent support system to guide me through it all. I’m still grateful MTCo has given me the opportunity to return to the business of transportation and marketing / public relations. Now, my ongoing focus is to continue developing and succeeding in this new role.

The context behind this corgi-related photo to be explained in a post later this week

The context behind this corgi-related photo to be explained in a post later this week

Grad school – I’m finished with Spring Semester 2015 in the Master of Science in Transportation Management (MSTM) program at San Jose State University. I’m back into the swing of things in early August for Fall Semester 2015.

At this point, I completed six classes out of the 10 total in the MSTM program, administered by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI). I still have four more classes to go including the culminating capstone class, putting me on track for a June 2016 graduation date — a year from now.

As I enrolled in the program in January 2014, some have asked if I will remain in the program after landing my new job. I’m still in it until the very end. Most other students also maintain full-time jobs and attend classes one night a week. This is better for me as I feel more productive than ever before — taking on graduate-level courses and a full-time job.

Lighthouse Field State Beach, Santa Cruz

Lighthouse Field State Beach, Santa Cruz

Memorial Day weekend – In lieu of cancelled plans to spend the weekend in San Diego, I took a day trip with a coworker to Santa Cruz — a coastal city about 30 miles south of San Jose here in the Bay Area.

I have never visited Santa Cruz before although I have always wanted to visit. We lucked out as the weather was perfect that Saturday of the holiday weekend. We stopped for lunch at a Thai restaurant, grabbed some ice cream cookie sandwiches at the Pacific Cookie Company (I need to go there again!) and checked out some of the coastal hotspots including the Lighthouse Field State Beach.

I need to go back there sometime for a weekend stay — a stay-cation of sorts. When I do, I definitely need to get some more of those delightful cookies from Pacific Cookie Company!

Bingo – On Friday night, I visited a bingo hall in Santa Clara with a coworker who regularly plays there. This is the first time I played bingo at this kind of venue as I’ve often played this game online and only just for fun. Although I didn’t win anything, I still enjoyed playing and it gave me something productive to do on an otherwise dull Friday night.

June

  • MTI convocation ceremony – Hoping to finding out if I can attend the ceremony later this month. It’ll serve as a preview of what I can expect when it’s my turn to graduate next year. In the meantime, it’ll be an opportunity for me to cheer on my fellow classmates graduating this year.
  • Summer activities – With a little more free time outside of my regular work hours, I plan on embarking on some fun new activities — yoga and volunteering work are just some of them. Watch this space.

How did the month of May play out for you? What are your plans for the summer? Share your thoughts below. I would love to hear from you.

Reflections and Expectations: Phrasing!

How fitting...almost. (Photo: MarinaAquamarina via Reddit)

How fitting…for the most part. (Photo: MarinaAquamarina via Reddit)

Most months since early 2014 have been relatively dull; some even more so than others. This past month has been uneventful due to a lack of any special plans or major developments.

Still, I’ll keep to the usual format. It’s hard to expand upon something so short (hence the subtitle of this month’s post). Let’s look back at the month that was and look ahead to a hopefully more eventful April — at least marginally, it should be.

March

Graduate school at SJSU – One class ended and another began. I passed my last one with flying colors as usual. One year in and I still got it.

Archer – I binge-watched all five seasons on Netflix as well as all the episodes of the current season on FX. The above subtitle, “Phrasing!”, is an oft-repeated line in the series. Overall, great use of my time during the weeklong break I had between my two classes in mid-March. Phrasing?

RailPAC – I wrote a couple of articles for the organization’s website. I still like writing in personal and professional spheres including on this space. I still hope to land a job soon where I can write on a daily basis once again.

April

  • Birthday – I’m turning 26 this Saturday. As with recent years, I have no special plans for this weekend. I might treat myself to a whole pie or cheesecake. Either of those sound good right about now.

How was your month of March? What are you looking forward to as spring kicks into high gear? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

Reflections and Expectations: Now, you know how I feel

(clockwise from top left) San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, ARTIC in Anaheim, Davies Symphony Hall

(clockwise from top left) San Francisco skyline from Coit Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, ARTIC in Anaheim and Davies Symphony Hall

Happy New Year, America!

2015 is already getting off to a cautiously decent start for me. Slowly but surely, everything that weighed me down in 2014 is fading away and becoming less impactful to my life.

The year is still young so I wouldn’t be quick to celebrate anything. I’m still committed to taking actions throughout the year to ensure this truly is a better year and that I would finally recover from a prolonged personal and professional slump that has entered its third year this month.

To look at how 2015 is getting off to a seemingly good start, let’s look back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

January 2015

Graduate school – My third semester and fifth class for the Master of Science in Transportation Management program at San Jose State University (SJSU) began earlier this month.

This current class deals with transportation finance and funding, taught by a former CEO of the transportation agency I used to work at as an intern and someone I worked extensively with. It helps to have that kind of rapport already established, especially when it crosses over from a professional to an educational setting.

Only five more classes and 17 months to go until I earn that master’s degree. June 2016 is just around the corner.

Also worth noting is that I earned an A minus in the two Fall 2014 classes I took. Adding those with the A that I earned in the two classes in spring semester last year, I have virtually earned all A grades so far. Only rarely in grade school and college have I ever earned an A in any of the classes I have taken. I hope to keep up this streak with my remaining six classes including my current one.

Get-Gutsy-Week-graphic#GetGutsy essay contest – Earlier this month, I submitted an essay through a blog post in this space as part of my good friend Jessica Lawlor‘s second annual #GetGutsy essay contest. This was my first year as a participant.

The post simply details my relocation to the Bay Area back in October and how it played into the narrative of getting gutsy — one of Jessica’s signature taglines and philosophical principles emblazoned on her wonderful blog. Give it a read as well as that of others. I enjoyed sharing my story for others to read as well as reading a few stories others have shared.

IMG_4204Mother’s visit to the U.S. – My biological mother from South Korea made one of her rare visits to the United States this week.

Last weekend, I hosted her visit in the Bay Area. For someone who is quite the world traveler, she has never visited San Francisco before. We went up there on Saturday and Sunday to visit many of the tourist hotspots in the city including Chinatown, Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and Coit Tower. On that Friday afternoon, I gave her a brief tour of the San Jose area with a tour of the SJSU campus and dinner at a sushi restaurant I previously visited on my own a year ago.

This past Monday until Wednesday, I flew down to Orange County with my mother to visit my relatives in Huntington Beach as well as to spend some time with our respective friends in the area. I’m already planning on a second trip to Orange County late February, shortly before my mother flies back to South Korea.

IMG_4229Expectedly, the biggest challenge of hosting her visit was the language barrier that exists between us — she only speaks Korean while I can only speak English. Although we did our best to communicate through the Google Translate app on our smartphones, minor conflicts broke out between the two of us over not being able to fully understand each other. Cultural and personality differences also led to clashes between us, including her repeated insistence on photographing me with her. In general, I rarely like to be photographed and I am often selective about who I want to be photographed with.

Despite those issues, we made the best of our time last weekend and ensured as much positivity between us as possible.

After the show at Davies Symphony Hall

After the show at Davies Symphony Hall

John Mulaney – On Thursday night, I went to the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco to see a stand-up performance from comedian John Mulaney.

My good friend Jon Negroni invited me to go with him to the show although he ultimately wasn’t able to attend. Nevertheless, I enjoyed John Mulaney’s comedy as well as that of his warm-up act, Ron Funches. The venue seemed unusual for a stand-up comedy performance as it is a classical music hall but it was a magnificent place to be in, regardless.

February

  • I’m still focused on getting my career back on track. After more than a year of being out of work and experiencing continued difficulties in looking for the right jobs, the focus in the last few months shifted from finding any kind of work to finding opportunities relevant to my goals, interests and background. Not before long, I hope to finally get there. I know I will.

How’s your start to 2015? What are your expectations for the coming month and year? Share your thoughts below. I would love to hear from you.