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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Goodbye Caroline

“Caroline” and I were close friends in middle school. We hung out a lot, slept over at each other’s houses, checked out eyeshadow at the local Bath & Body Works, giggled about boys we had crushes on and worked as partners on a science project.

But after middle school, we headed to different high schools. We gradually drifted apart. At first, I tried to stay in touch. I called, emailed, and AIM-ed her. We tried to set something up several times, but she was usually busy with other things. Then she got a boyfriend and got even more preoccupied. I wasn’t mad (okay, maybe I was a tiny bit mad) – I understood that we were growing up and life gets busy and sometimes that means growing apart. We didn’t see each other in person again after middle school, even though we only lived 15 minutes apart.

I made an effort to stay in touch for a long time. But eventually I realized I was 19, still trying to resurrect a friendship that has faded away five years prior. So I let it go. For a long time I was a bit saddened that this wonderful friend of my childhood is now, for all intents and purposes, just another girl I’d pass by on the street.

A couple of years ago I saw her at a local CPK. Caroline didn’t notice me, and I didn’t go up to her and say hi. The whole reintroduction would’ve felt a little strained. Not because there are bad feelings between us, but because we are different people now, and even though we had been best friends at 13, we were almost strangers at 23.

I haven’t thought about Caroline for a long time. When I read Krystal’s post on a friend whom she is no longer close to, however, Caroline was the first name to leap to my mind. Last I heard, she is going to graduate school somewhere in California. I hope she is doing well.

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Random musings

– Finally got my deposit from previous apartment after much stress. $730 into the Freedom Fund.

– Working on a side project (I’ll call it PGP) that I am really hopeful will work out. If it goes well you’ll all hear about it. 🙂 Just don’t want to jinx it right now.

– Had a bunch of informational interviews this month as I try to explore and refine various career (and life) paths open to me. Was very pleasantly surprised at people’s willingness to help and generosity with their time.

– Still dancing up a storm in salsa. Thinking of paying $50 for professional dance shoes.

– Still loving my landlord and landlady (who feed me homemade meals). If you follow me on twitter you know this already. Because I cannot stop talking about it. Ooops!

– Planning a big blog overhaul. A friend who is a SEO genuis will be helping me with blog migration, on-page and off-page optimization issues. My friends are so smart.

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Writing about Future Me has gotten me thinking… what would she want me to know? This is where the perspective and advice of those who have come before me is invaluable.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I figured I have the next best thing: I can reach out to all of my readers who have survived their twenties and ask you: what are your answers to the title of this post?

Imagine that you can travel back in time and have a 2-hour conversation with your 25 (or 26, or 27, or 28)-year-old self – what do you want him/her to know about love, relationships, money, career, children, health, education, etc?

What mistakes do you want to caution him/her against? What adventures do you encourage him/her to undertake? Who was the one that got away? What kind of life is a well-examined life? Is the well-examined life the happiest?

Please leave a comment or send me an email with your thoughts. You can be as public or as anonymous as you’d like. It would be helpful if you can give your age or an age range (30-35, etc.) and a brief biographical sketch.

I hope to organize the answers into a follow-up post (or maybe even a free PDF to be downloaded – all contributions will be properly attributed).

Thank you to everyone who contributes! I know the twentysomethings who read this blog (and me!!) will appreciate this.

Edit: Thanks to everyone who’ve commented. Please keep the comments coming! All life advice will be appreciate, doesn’t have to be limited to personal finance. 🙂

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Recession reflections

Even in (or because of?) this recession, I find that among twentysomethings I know, most are less willing to trade adventure / soul-searching for security.

  • Example 1: 25-year-old who quits job with decent pay to travel the world in search of the Next Big Wave.
  • Example 2: 23-year-old who uses layoff from the Big 4 to figure out how to break into acting / entertainment business.
  • Example 3: 27-yeard old quits consulting gig to start a start-up. Went from $100K+ paycheck to ramen noodles – but, he’s living his dream.
  • Example 4: Several quarterlifers living the funemployment life.

In all of these cases, these are high-achieving people in college who went after the big jobs during recruiting. In most cases, having worked for a year or two or three, they have saved up enough to fund their traveling costs or start-up expenses. Self-discovery is a lifelong process, but these twentysomethings are getting a jump start on their roaring twenties.

Money can shackle you or liberate you. It’s gratifying to see them out there, pursuing their dreams and trying to figure out what makes them happy and what gives their lives meaning.

Life’s too short not to.

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A Lot Like Love

Tonight, I watched A Lot Like Love starring Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet.

(spoiler coming up)

Towards the end of the movie, Ashton’s character was talking to his brother about his sad status in life: he’s almost 30, unemployed, and living with his parents. His life looks nothing like how he envisioned it would be seven years ago. He has fallen in love with Amanda’s character, but he has promised himself that he wouldn’t pursue a relationship until “all his ducks are lined up”.

Then his brother said (or signed – he’s deaf) something very wise:

“This is your life. Right now. It doesn’t wait for you to get back on your feet.”

How many of us given up on being happy or fulfilled because something that we expect haven’t happened yet, or because our relationship or career or financial status isn’t where we wanted to be? I’ve been guilty of this – I’ve said, I’ll be happy when XYZ happens. But life doesn’t stop until you get all your ducks in a row. And even after you get your ducks in a row, you’re probably eager to get more ducks to add to your row until you achieve (the illusive state of) total duck domination.

…Anyhow, that line in the movie just made me think about what we put off, what we work for, and how we try to find happiness through achievement or acqusition. Like most PF bloggers, I think I take good care of my finances, but it’s equally important to take care of my personal well-being. Because life doesn’t stop while you’re trying to figure out your relationship or career, or pay down debt, or get into school, or save for a house.

On another note, I don’t know why I’ve been seeing so much wisdom in so pop-culture lately. In the past few posts, I’ve written on Britney Spears, Twilight, and now A Lot Like Love.

Now you can all judge me for my choice of music, book, and movies. But I’d appreciate it if you didn’t. 🙂 Besides, it’s just not as fun tying The Scarlet Letter or Mrs. Dalloway to Some Bigger Picture. It’d seem too much like school.

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I’ve never actually read the Twilight series. I skimmed a couple of the books at Barnes & Noble, but never quite dove in. Last night, however, I stayed up until 3AM watching Twilight the movie.

People enjoy Twilight for different reasons. For most, it’s the love story. After all, Bella and Edward make Romeo and Juliet look pedestrian – what’s some familial fighting compared to insatiable bloodlust? Romeo never wanted to desanguinate Juliet!

I think I’ve just discovered why Twilight speaks to me.

Not because of the vampire-human love story. But because of Bella’s certainty. She was certain that she wanted to be with Edward forever and she was certain she would become a vampire to be with him (I didn’t spoil anything, did I?). The best part of the fact that your boyfriend is a vampire? It’s only one decision. You will have to make one monumental decision (to become a vampire!) but afterward you’re done. You’ve decided your life. There is no room for second-guessing. Now all you have to do is to sit back, relax, and enjoy eternity with your undead beloved (and occasionally dabble in internecine vampire fighting).

Twentysomethings today, especially women, have been told from an young age that they can do anything. But the opportunity to do anything is, on the flip side, the pressure to do everything. There are no certainties about one’s path. No matter what decision you make, there will always be more. Like other young adults, I appreciate the freedom I have – I do. But sometimes the plethora of choices can prove exhausting.

This is the situation Barry Schwartz described in the Paradox of Choice (great video of Schwartz’s talk at the 2007 TED conference): choice is supposed to be the underpinning of individual automony and happiness, but having too many choices can cause 1. analysis paralysis and 2. dissatisfaction with the chioce you’ve made (it’s easy to imagine that you could’ve made a different choice that would be better). 

Life is a matter of choice on all fronts – consumer choices, career, family, relationships. This is what 20s are like. You’re trying to get ahead, to be prepared, to make the best choices to set yourself up for happiness and success at home and at work. There are so many decisions, and by extension, so much room for second-guessing.

Sometimes I feel energized by the possibilities that are laid out before me. Other times, I find myself wishing for a little bit more certainty. It’s a feeling I expect I’ll have to work through – for the rest of my twenties and beyond. After all, no vampire is coming for this girl.

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My perfect lady apartment

(Thanks to my friend “Jane”, I’ve decided to christen my new place The Perfect Lady Apartment).

This is the first time I’ve ever lived on my own, and, I love it! I had thought that I’d get lonely, and I’ve had my moments of wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if-my-friends-were-around, but mostly I appreciate the increased privacy and the additional space that come with living alone.

I’ve also come to realize how much I enjoy living in an atypical, smaller, apartment complex. I love that my landlord and his family live right next to me, and we actually interact! My landlord even spent an entire Saturday morning helping me move (again, Nicest Landlord Alive).

It also helps that all utilities and wireless internet are included in the rent. I am paying $950 a month (which includes parking – worked out a deal where I pay an extra $50 a month for designated, off-street parking). So all in all, I am paying around $150 more for this charming gem of a studio than for my share of a two-bedroom apartment.

That is a price I’m more than happy to pay. 🙂

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Recently, it seems as if a new word has entered the recession-inspired lexicon. First we had “staycation,” then came “frugalistas” and “recessionistas.” Now, there’s “funemployment”. Los Angeles Times and SF Weekly both published features on the trend (and I have several friends who are taking time off to do their own thing).

So while all the dismal jobs news makes me feel anxious about my career future, these reports help me feel like, well, the world wouldn’t end if one does not have a job for a little while.

Out of college, everyone (or so it seemed) wanted to “take over the world.” But this deep retrenchment may have given people – especially young, well-educated professionals in their 20s and 30s, a chance to reexamine their ambitions, priorities, and assumptions.

I wonder – if this dismal market has given people the chance to do something differently, chase their dreams instead of the next promotion. Having experienced or witnessed the massive disruptions to our identities as producers and consumers, how will we respond once the recession ends?

One 20something blogger I read is Molly of These Little Moments (who shares my penchant for shoes). She has been unemployed for 6 months after being laid off from her job in public relations. Today, she wrote a very honest post about her experience with unemployment, and how this stint outside the workforce has changed her view towards work and altered her career ambitions.

This recession has affected my thinking too – maybe not as drastically as it has Molly, but it definitely has on several fronts.

The recession has reminded many people – myself included – that family and friends are the most important things in life. My thinking has always been that true love and friendship are hard to find. So once you do you better hold on to them for dear life! I think for me, a rich and fulfilling life can be lived out in both the personal and professional spheres. This recession has reaffirmed in me the importance of financial independence, and my desire to have a career, not a job.

One alumna sticks out in my mind – she worked at several large companies domestically and internationally, graduated from a top business school, and now is in charge of marketing an entire brand in Europe. She’s maybe 35. She’s going to be a CMO or an EVP one day (maybe even a CEO), I can almost bet on it.

I’m impatient, and sometimes, on a bad day, it feels like I’m already falling behind. But I know I can get there.

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The apartment is mine!

Afterward, my future landlord and his wife showed me their tiny little herb garden and invited me to come and get cilantro, basil, thyme, or rosemary anytime I want.

It’s seriously time to learn to cook!

I can’t believe I lucked into an apartment with just about everything I wanted, and at such a great price. And with such nice landlords.

In other news, I am worried about being let go at my job. One of my friends just passed his sixth month on unemployment. But being out of a job may be the impetus for me to finally take action on my idea.

A lot of people around me (four, at last count, and all in their 20s) are pursuing their own businesses, even (or maybe because) of the dismal labor market and recession. Some have been laid off, but others are quitting decent-paying jobs to take a risk and make a go of it on their own.

Talking to them and hearing the excitement they bring to their work inspires me. The trick is to get enough inspiration and determination to get over the FEAR of flying out, on your own.

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After a few weeks of looking for love in all the wrong (and scary, and run-down, and too-expensive) places, I finally met an apartment that’s right for me. I hope it feels the same way, because I’m tired of looking and I’m ready to commit!

Why this studio is a gem of an apartment:

1. Rent. The rent is $900-$950 (landlord indicated willingness to drop $50 from list price of $950 for the “right tenant”) for a studio with a full-sized kitchen and bathroom. Best of all, the rent includes ALL utilities and laundry.

2. Natural light. Lots of natural light courtesy of huge windows in the main room and the kitchen. Out of the 4 walls in the main room, two have windows.

3. Six-month lease. YES! I have finally found the elusive 6-month lease apartment. And I didn’t have to plead and cajole for the landlord to even consider a 6-month, as was my experience with most other places I’ve seen.

4. Size. The studio is a nice ~400 sq. feet. The main room is a bit small, but it’s enough for just me. Ultimately I didn’t want to pay the premium for the extra space of a 1-bedroom.

5. Location. Close to work and close to shops, a movie theater, and an entire restaurant district. Also conveniently located close (but not too close) to the freeway.

6. Hardwood floors! Beautifully finished hardwood floors stained a glossy espresso with a just hint of red. I’ve read Apartment Therapy – all the stylish homes have hardwood floors!

A couple of things that are less-than-perfect but that I decided I can live with:

1. No designated parking. There’s enough street parking that I’m okay with the lack of a designated spot. The landlord did say that I can pull up into the driveway for the night if I can’t find parking on the street.

2. Not a secured access building. The studio is part of a 4-plex and is in a reasonably safe neighborhood that I feel comfortable not being behind a gate.

3. Small Tiny closet. Fortunately, there’s a linen closet that provides additional storage. ‘Tis okay – this will be a chance for me to edit my closet even more.

Also, I basically met the landlord’s entire family (wife, daughters, and dog) during my visit to the apartment. They were all extremely nice and warm. It was weird (I’m used to having a Faceless Random LLC as the landlord), but in a delightful way.

I’m going to fax in my application tomorrow. Please cross your fingers for me.

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