I began the month of November with the vow to write every day. Since then, WordPress has informed me that I’ve published 28 times, garnering just under 1000 views collectively. The goal was to write and I guess in some measurable way, I did.
Then I realize that the date is December 3 and my stomach sinks like it did in high school, when my grade would come just short of an A. My goal was to write every day for the month of November. It’s now December and I’m still only writing for November 30, Day 30: My Final Post. Also, I am somehow missing two days – Day 10 and Day 23 – so I didn’t actually write every day of the month.
In this not-so-grand finale, missteps and incompletion are revealed. My story is one of backtracking, writing about events that happened days before, yet still documenting in present-tense as if it was all unfolding in real-time. I’m a fraud and time warp if there ever was one. Writing everyday is pretty straightforward. Pitter patter into the blog-o-sphere, publish, boom. Like clockwork, day in day out…yet I couldn’t do it.
Fortunately, I don’t really care. I wish I cared more. If I did, I’d probably accomplish more of my goals and be a better person. I’d finally get more sleep and be less crabby . I’d stop eating cupcakes and be skinnier. I’d meet deadlines and be responsible. Which would be great and then I’d have nothing to write about.
My friend, a fellow writer, wrote me this the other day:
“Today, and lately, I’ve felt like I want to just retire. Like how at the end of Casablanca, Laszlo says “welcome back to the fight, this time I know our side will win.” I kinda wanna say fuck him and fuck the good fight and take Ilsa away and live happily ever after. I feel like I’ve lived my life a certain way. Trying to write about the Last Generation. The Novel. Trying to encourage all of us to be our best and trying to be a role model. But I’m tired now and lonesome and have nothing to show for it but anxiety and doubt. Lately part of me, a vocal part, just wants to say fuck it, grab the nearest Princess Jasmine and get out of Dodge while the getting is good (as in, Marry the Girl with the stupid proposal on the ice in front of Rockefeller center, the Big Law job, the Quiet Normal life.) Let the Last Generation fight on without me – it’s filled with 5th columnists away. Not only do I want to retire, I feel like I’ve earned it.“
I tire too. I tire of translating thoughts out of an overwrought mind, craving connection with an audience (imaginary and real), dreaming of making it, only to then have people misinterpret me and my words. Forget it. It’s December, Christmas music is playing, and I just want to mindlessly sip hot chocolate. Turn my computer off forever. Pretend I’m normal and forget being the role model, because being a role model at 20something is oxymoronic anyway.
At the ragged age of 23, I’m preemptively announcing my retirement. To those who have followed me on this November journey, thanks for your readership. Who knows what happens from here. Maybe I’ll find a boyfriend, maybe I’ll completely up and leave the digital sphere, or move out of New York. I’m tempted to say I will never jot thoughts into the universe again.
But knowing me, I’ll wake up tomorrow, retreat to my favorite coffee shop in the neighborhood, order an Almond Biscuit with black coffee, and…do it all over again. Because truthfully folks, the day I can no longer pour out the addled contents of my mind will be a sad one. And that day, I will retire.
I’ve created my own office in the flight attendant waiting area at JFK. I accompanied my friend who was flying out a couple hours before me, so I’m 4 hours early for my flight. I figured the down time and lack of Internet access would force me to focus, write, and plan. I went to the bathroom and Starbucks for 10 minutes and this is what I returned to:
Yes, that’s my computer tucked away in the back. …I was effectively crowded out. So much for focus.
I’m going to be away from the city for two weeks, which will do me good. I have a lot of thinking to do about my future. Whether that means settling into a full-time position which provides stability and structure (at the cost of less free time), or continuing the freelance lifestyle with more time for friends and passion projects (at the cost of a routine that keeps me somewhat sane), a cost-benefit analysis will probably be involved.
Holidays and retreats from the norm are reminders that our routine lives are often stuck in bubbles. Life in New York- as dynamic as it is- is not life, nor is life an act in suburbia with my parents. These are simply snapshots. Indeed, the compilation of everything – the fence posts and everything in between – is life. I’m coming to the realization (reluctantly) that my favorite song lyric from Conor Oberst’s Bowl of Oranges does not sing quite as true anymore:
But if the world could remain within a frame like a painting on a wall.
Then I think we would see the beauty.
Then we would stand staring in awe at our still lives posed like a bowl of oranges,
like a story told by the fault lines and the soil.
Life is not a painting on the wall left for admiration, nor is it still and immovable. It is dynamic, changing, fluid; a river, more than a tree. However, I don’t ever want to stop believing it is beautiful.
Some things never change.
My friend Kristin who has been out of the country for 18 months returned to the States this weekend. Before going home to Florida, she made a stop in New York City where she was greeted with big hugs, kisses, and a rousing homecoming from close-knit friends. We ate cupcakes, shopped, and hair-flipped our way through New York City like an obnoxious group of sorority sisters. It was almost like college again 🙂
Kristin and I traveled together last summer when we both taught English in Italy through a program called ACLE. We have always shared a strong connection through our mutual love for traveling and culture, but it was our OBSESSION with gelato that really solidified our bond. (One scoop? Try two or three…per day.) I left Europe after 3 months but Kristin stuck to the peripatetic life for another year and a half. Her travels took her from Italy to London to Paris to all throughout Asia (Taiwan, China, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia).
Over dim-sum on Sunday, Kristin shared stories about her travels, ranging from her run-in with Asian girls at karaoke ‘gangnam style’ to the incredible hospitality she experienced in Malaysia. Kristin has always been an adventurous spirit but she has now surpassed everyone within our circle of friends in sheer bad-ass status with the number of far-fetched tales she has.
She is that girl, the cultured one, the one who has friends everywhere because she’s actually been to those countries. She’ll begin a story with “This one time, my Dutch friend…” On a practical level, she can tell the difference between a good macaroon and a bad one, and has developed a strong inkling for when someone is ripping her off. She appreciates hole-in-the wall authenticity over flashy tourist traps. As a plus, she can probably educate you on all the details of the various visa application processes since she’s faced several interesting experiences with that herself. Read all of her helpful travel tips on her blog, Lost Abroad.
A year and a half seems like a long time. But as Kristin said herself, it’s really just a spec. What matters more than all of her worldly stories is that she can still snort a big laugh and engulf several slices of American pizza with a smile on her face. Some things never change…and they never should.
If you’re reading this from a cubicle, you probably won’t be in 2 years. If you’re reading from a laptop, you likely won’t be doing that either. Space and the tools we use in the space will be drastically transformed in the coming years. I’m not a psychic; this is strictly based on data, trends, and yes, a little bit of New York bias.
Living in New York is a bit like living in a time lapse. At the risk of sounding like an elitist urbanite, the rest of the country (San Francisco and Boston notwithstanding) trails in comparison. This is not meant to be condescending; it is simply a basic truth about metropolitan cities in general. With the sheer number of people (a large proportion being investors, technophiles, and creatives) progress is bound to unfold at a much more rapid pace.
One of the best places to witness the future is at co-working spaces. A co-working space is a shared work space for anyone who needs a place to plop down, get connected, and work outside of the basic constructs of a “normal” office space. Initially, co-working space was used by mostly freelancers as a way to escape the humdrum of working from home. Now, people from a variety of backgrounds flock to co-working spaces (developers, artists, independent consultants, even accountants and lawyers).
Last year when I was completely new to the tech scene, I visited New Work City, largely known as one of the first co-working spaces in New York. I personally believe it should be every New York newbie’s crash course into the tech world. I was immediately enlivened by the quiet energy buzzing inside. It was much better than a coffee shop, mostly because a.) no one was hogging the outlet, b.) no one near you was in an intense gossip sesh as you attempt to do work, and c.) coffee was FREE. Outlets, productivity, and free caffeine yield generally good vibes. Who wouldn’t want that? As a freelancer, I would often go to coffee shops, not because I needed another 3 cups of coffee, but simply because I wanted a positive workflow that was conducive to getting things done. Most of all, I wanted an environment that reminded me I was not the only one. Connection. Something not unlike the college library buzzing with activity at 3 am during final exam week because you’re all in the same over-caffeinated, underprepared, cramming (aka screwed) state. Imagine that everyday, just with more chic chairs and desks, and more “sophisticated” problems to stress about. That’s a co-working space.
The number of co-working spaces in New York has doubled each year since 2006. In that same period of time, New York City has exploded as a tech hub. Vivek Wadhwa recently said, “In 2006, I wouldn’t have put New York anywhere on the map of leading tech hubs. Now it is literally number 2.” According to Tony Bacigalupo, founder of New Work City, there is a direct correlation between the growth of co-working and the explosion of New York City’s startup ecosystem. The reason? Co-working spaces facilitate transitions between jobs. In today’s ever-changing economy, a co-working space becomes quite necessary when you’re transitioning from a full-time gig to work at a startup or as an independent. This trend will only grow as industries continue to be disrupted. This is generation flux after all, and that’s not just a catchy phrase. The flux is real. Chaotic disruption is rampant, not just with the Facebook, Twitter, and Googles, but across industries. You see the writing on the wall in New York, as more and more people quit their corporate jobs and become their own boss by creating pockets within pockets among niche industries.
The future is about self-reliance, and this is another reason why New York paves the way. New Yorkers are famous (or infamous?) for being self-reliant. Tonight at a joint Mashable -BMW iVentures event, Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures likened the age we’re living in now to the period of time when we shifted from an agrarian economy to the industrial age. The possibilities of where we could be post-digital are..who knows. Figuring out how to properly monetize workspace is one issue. Will it take on a sharing model similar to our homes (AirBNB) and cars (Zipcar)? What about the jobs crisis? The jobs of those whose industries are dismantled?
Looks like the future is already here.
*Many of the insights from this post originate from a talk given by Tony Bacigalupo, co-working evangelist, from a Brooklyn Venture Community meetup on November 14. You can download his presentation at nwc.co/bkv-preso. I also highly recommend his blog, Happy Monsters.
*Also, if you’re interested in finding a co-working space in New York, here is a super handy guide compiled by Charles Bonello, a member of the NY Tech community, that includes details on every co-working space in the city. He also shares some interesting stats: “There is currently about 600,000 square feet of co-working space available, which is equivalent to 400 Starbucks, the entire 11 story building that houses Lord & Taylor’s flagship store in NYC and the Port Authority/NYC’s lease at the World Trade Center.” Wow!
The number twelve symbolizes completion, forming a whole, perfect and harmonious unit. It’s been 12 days since I started writing, so I thought this would be a numerically opportune time to reflect on the journey thus far.
Standard reflective photo.
It’s been exhausting. This lexophilic marathon could not be more inconvenient. Shortly after vowing to write daily, I took on 2 more freelance projects, then 2 mini-trips. There have been several nights I haven’t been home until 10 or 11 pm, so it’s close to midnight by the time I begin writing. Often, my posts aren’t even published on the day I’m writing about. This publishing schedule is so reflective of the general state of my life: erratic and frantically late to everything. (I didn’t write about the day I was close to a half-hour late for my first day at a part-time job; I was probably too tired to spell out the details of the occasion. Funny enough, it ended up being my first and last day working there. I’ll save that story for another day.)
12 posts. However tired I’ve been, there’s an undeniable sense of accomplishment with each ‘Publish’. Thoughts elucidated, I am able to experience the intangible value of my day, leaving me depleted yet satisfied. It’s why I will continue to put myself through this glorious ordeal because deprived as I am, I am simultaneously filled. The audience, however small, pushes me to produce. Relegated to privacy, I would certainly never do it. All ‘ye consumers have the power. I write because I know someone will read and for whatever effect that has, I push through the yawns. To my loyal screen readers, thank you.
Also, I just realized that I missed a day of writing and so I’ve actually only written 11 times. For the love of incompletion. Tomorrow it shall be rectified.
My father recently won second place in an essay contest about the American Dream. The contest was sponsored by the Asian supermarket Hmart, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. It just so happens that my parents are also celebrating their 30 year anniversary of living in the United States. In 1982, they emigrated from Taiwan so my Dad could pursue graduate study. He eventually obtained his Ph.D. in engineering, gained employment, and rooted our family of 5 in Americana (suburban house, fence, lawn, and all). The rest is still a story waiting to be written.
The American Dream is an oft-used phrase by politicians these days. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have praised entrepreneurship, innovation, and immigrants’ crucial roles in those fields; yet life usually manifests differently from the shiny tint we often associate with the Dream.
My father said in his essay:
The American Dream is a phrase most immigrants are chasing all of their lives knowingly or unwittingly. It means different things to different people…I believe that a successful and memorable American Dream requires not just determination, perseverance, strong work ethic, continuous improvement and understanding of one’s role; it also includes special joy of savoring the food and cultural heritages of one’s mother country.
The American Dream in real living form can be hard. Sacrifice, struggle, and constant work are the stuff real first-generation dreams are made of. What about for the second-generation? Having adjusted to a country’s customs, do those dreams shift and reappear in the form of comfort, stability, and status?
Two years ago, as a junior in college, I wrote a blog post, titled “A Spectacular Failure”. 5 paragraphs in, read:
I look at myself and know that I’ve been able to lead a comfortable life precisely because my parents struggled for me. This is both a blessing and a curse. I’m tempted to settle for a safe success, and know this is easily attainable because my parents have already set all the stones in place for me. As long as I attend school, get good grades, go to college, graduate, secure a job, make money, marry, and raise a family, I’ll be happy. Ot so I think. But is that it? They’ve made the path easy for me to be comfortably numb. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to choose a path of stability & security…but, I can’t help but feel the itch of my parent’s youthful gamble resurrecting itself in me.
At the time, I used this as justification for the amount of time I was spending on CampusTweet.TV – a multimedia passion project of mine that was not yielding any tangible reward. I filmed restaurant reviews and offbeat stories around campus on my own time. At one point, I was working on it more than my actual school work, receiving no money or external validation. All logic was telling me to close shop, get some sleep, and invest more time in something with a more reliable yield (ie. school and graduating). But stubborn idealism gave me the resolve to build it into something bigger and I continued with the sleepless nights. If I failed, at least it would be a spectacular failure.
Well, I failed. The site is now dead, literally. We killed CampusTweet.TV halfway into my senior year when I started working for ABC. Idealism – 0, Reality – 1. But, this version of the Dream is still alive, and I think it’s even more relevant for all of us now, given the rapidly changing world we live in.
Almost 2.5 billion people use the Internet. We talk about immigrants moving to new countries. But we all live in a new space. We don’t just live in a physical world; heck, some of us spend more time wrapped in the digital and mobile worlds. That’s the new landscape. In the next 2-3 years, cheap Internet-connected tablets will enable hundreds of millions more to move into this arena. Same with the increased accessibility of mobile. Billions more will be able to share knowledge and speedily exchange communication as we, the privileged already do today. The new 3 billion on the Internet will build their own apps, solve their own problems. Vivek Wadwha says, “Over time, Internet access will be cheap or practically free–just like electricity is today.”
In this digital age, we are all immigrants. As new American citizens, my parents knew they had to work harder- not just to get ahead- but to simply be rooted in American society. The wacky world wide web, similarly, is a landscape bursting with new tools and networks. Get to know them. Success won’t be written by established traditions or inherited ties we can take for granted. They don’t exist. Instead, having an immigrant mentality – that of continuous improvement and understanding of one’s niche in the new technological space- will be crucial. Claim your stake. Our roots remain the same, but we’re branching into new territory. Dreams do evolve.
I’m in Boston visiting a friend, so this post will be brief. I’m always trying to find a balance between dedication to craft (usually performed best in isolation), and dedication to friends and community (a largely social activity). Today should be strictly about the latter. But since I’ve decided to be diligent about this daily writing, I’m taking time out to quickly draft this.
My friend Anne who I’ve known since high school took me to brunch at a delicious Spanish restaurant called Masa on the South End . Our high school friend Jay was able to join us and overall, it was just such a pleasant morning to be reunited with old friends who knew me pre-New York, pre-angsty adulthood.
Which leads to my next point about friendship. We sometimes suck at keeping in touch; when people say “keep in touch”, 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t happen. We each get busy, move to different cities, and go on our merry ways with new lives. It’s a natural course of life.
My mini-reunion this morning reminded me why it’s worth it to keep in touch when you can. Simply because, you have people to share a good meal with. It sounds silly and rather foodie of me, but seriously. Would I know to eat at a place like Masa as a visitor? Maybe if I did my research through Foursquare or Yelp, but not likely . Would I hear accompanying stories about the establishment or know what’s worth trying? No. Lastly, even if I did have all the information, would I want to eat at a place like Masa by myself? As much as I like good food, heck no. Facebook has a point when they say everything is going social.
I’ve said it before: food brings people together. With it comes great conversation, increased awareness, and general life edification. Tomorrow, I’ll root myself back in my singular writing ways. But for the rest of today, I’m going to enjoy this gorgeous autumn scenery in good company.