Of Pinkberry and Grins

It’s literally been half a year since I updated this. The post-college 8 to 5 work life gives you less free time than expected, especially when you account for going to the gym after work and cooking dinner.

Seriously, for those who have done this all their lives, kudos. Especially those with kids to juggle.

Anyway, I’m writing about a recent meet-up with a girl from a former church at Pinkberry. We ran into each other downtown and decided to catch up after not seeing each other for 4 years. I knew her somewhat well, back when we were in the same friend group and went to weekly church events.

The meeting started with her being 30 minutes late while I stood idly outside Pinkberry on a crowded street, trying to casually blend in while my phone was using up all my 4G data. Pinkberry has like zero seats available at any given time (seriously), so I spent half my time stalking the tables for an open seat.

Finally, the meet-up commenced after the girl (whom we’ll call N*) arrived panting and out of breath. Turns out she had biked three miles here and had been held up in traffic. I told her not to worry, and we proceeded to eat froyo (fancy term for frozen yogurt) and chat…

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Except we couldn’t chat. Because N and I did not click at all. Never in my life had I been in a more awkward conversation. This is how the flow of the first bits of conversation went:

 

N: So what are you up to now?

Me: I work as an analyst at … (insert response here about numbers and data crunching).

N: (worried look on face) Do you like it?

Me: It’s nice. The workplace has a good work-life balance; you rarely have to work overtime… (insert joking comparison to other jobs known for rigorous work-life balance)

N: . . .

Me: Uh, okay? What are you doing nowadays?

N: Oh, (insert long answer about teaching).

Me: That sounds great!

N: . . .

 

I honestly don’t know why the conversation didn’t flow easily. Believe me, I tried to be as personable as I could. And it’s not that I’m a complete social idiot; I’ve held conversations with strangers, coworkers I barely knew, and even my boyfriend’s ex. But somehow, N and I just couldn’t talk without long silences, and me trying to fill the silence.

Soon I basically gave up, saying I had to go and “it was nice seeing you, let’s hang out sometime.” Also known as never. As I left, I sadly pondered how it was possible that N and I had clicked much more in the past. N certainly didn’t seem different, apart from her awkwardness that never became apparent until that day. Perhaps it was I who had changed.

4 years ago, I was a scared freshman in college some 3,000 miles from home and knew exactly five people on campus. Aside from class, I spent most days in my room browsing the Internet and avoiding my extremely social roommate. I mean, I was always cordial to her, but we never became close friends. Acquaintances is the correct term, which happens often when you were quiet and socially anxious like I was.

This led to me having few friends and spending nights alone with my textbooks and laptop. I didn’t mind, of course. It was a blast, browsing Tumblr each night and listening to iTunes in my pajamas. Why did anyone want to go get drunk at a frat party when they could watch YouTube in bed?

But there were downsides that I didn’t see at the time, the consequences of which have become apparent only recently. For instance, I was not wise in making friends; I stuck with friends out of convenience, even ones who were clearly toxic to my wellbeing. (More on this topic later.)

 

N and I clicked much more then. I can’t pinpoint why. Perhaps I was less outspoken? Perhaps more meek, so that my countenance seemed friendlier?

I guess change is the only constant in life.

 

 

Rejected? How to Deal

It’s that time of year again. Ambiguity is in the air, marked by anticipation or simply by pure dread. For high school seniors, college acceptances and rejections are in the mail, and spirits are either high or low. (Some say it’s a cruel joke to send out acceptance letters on April Fool’s)

For college seniors and recent graduates, job offers are sealed and finalized. After countless interviews, some of you are finally getting that golden letter of acceptance. Time to party away the rest of senior year. (Oh wait, you mean you didn’t already do that for spring break?)

For those whose plans didn’t quite work out, it’s easy to get swept away by a tide of self-doubt in these times. But whether you were rejected from your first choice university, or from your dream job, keep in mind the following: rejections don’t define your self-worth.

Of course, general bread-and-butter advice often doesn’t heal the wound fast enough. So, weary reader, browse through the list and find the one that pertains most closely to your current situation. Then sit back, and hopefully you’ll feel somewhat better by the end.

  1. All of your friends got into the Ivy League/top-tier schools/schools with huge scholarships and you didn’t? Not only do you have to deal with your friends’ exuberant “I got into Harvard!” bursts, but they’ll inevitably ask you afterward, “So where did you get in?” Ignoring them only leads to more probing, and you know they’ll just post the same thing on Facebook/Twitter. You’ll either feel completely embarrassed that you didn’t get into as good a school, or you’ll feel angry and frustrated. Jack got a full ride? But he wasn’t even as good as me in AP Lit!

    The key is to not compare your abilities to those of your friends. Admissions look through the applicant pool to fill quotas, and by quotas I mean “to achieve a diverse incoming class.” If 50% of the incoming class are already mathematicians, they’re going to give more lenience to an aspiring art historian in the next round, all else equal. College acceptances truly have a degree of luck involved.

    Getting rejected doesn’t necessarily mean you’re less smart or less capable than your friends are. Everyone has different strengths, and comparing Jack’s math prowess to your literary prowess is an unfair comparison. Think about it: nobody ever says, Psh, Shakespeare was nowhere as mathematically gifted as Newton was. Shakespeare is clearly not a valuable person. Nor do people look down at those who attend non-elite universities. (And those who do are douchebags who are completely not worth your time in the first place)

  2. You just got your 5th (or more) job or internship rejection.

    The economy is grim out there. Well, it’s slowly started to pick back up again, but it’s still pretty difficult for job seekers.If you’ve truly given each interview all your best (that means you rigorously prepared, researched the company, and practiced), then don’t mourn. Most of the time, it just wasn’t a good fit. I had been rejected from a company that I could tell, right from the beginning of the interview, was not right for me. The employees were grim and the place resembled a prison chamber. A prison chamber with glass doors and bowls of fruit, but still.

    Other times, it’s just luck. Randomness. The interviewer might’ve not liked a tiny bit of what you’d said, and that was enough to tip the scales in someone else’s favor. Do not take things personally.

    Always keep an open mind and keep in touch with the HR at the companies you’ve interviewed for. I’ve had surprise emails drop in my inbox months after the rejection that told me of new opportunities I was qualified for. Burning bridges rarely helps anyone.

  3. I don’t know where I’m headed in the next month/6 months/year. You’ve suddenly realized you don’t know what you’re doing with your life. That’s pretty common, especially amongst mid-20-year-olds.

    Volunteer for a year. PeaceCorps if you want to travel overseas. AmeriCorps if you’d rather stay in the US. CityYear is a good option if you’re interested in teaching and working with kids. Or you can just take a year off and travel. See the world. There’s so much in the world worth living for, but first we must see those wonders. You’re only young once. (No, don’t say YOLO, please)

You will meet a lot of rejection and it is not always a straight path, there will be detours, so enjoy the view. –Michael York

How to Stop Being Shy: 101

First of all: Whoa, it’s already October of 2014? To think I started this blog 3 years ago. It’s crazy how time flies. Granted, I never updated as frequently as I would have liked; thank you for your patience, all ye who subscribed. I’ll try to do better, after all the midterms and college goodness have winded down.

Anyway, today I was going through some photos of me and some classmates. I came across one of me sitting beside a girl whom we’ll call K* at a college farewell event last April.

I first met K my freshman year. You know how the first thing you notice about someone is their overall confidence? Those who exude too much self-confidence would grasp your handshake with an iron fist and talk loudly. Those who are relatively normal would smile at you politely and chat cheerfully about the weather.

The first thing I noticed about K was her insecurity. She avoided eye contact. She’d ask a question, answer too quickly, then laugh at almost every response I had. Example:

K: How are your courses going?
Me: Well, they’re kind of hard —
K: Hahaha, really?
Me: . . . yeah.
K: Hahaha okay.

Things never progressed much for the next 3 years in our friendship. Even though I’d gotten to know K well, she never emerged from her shyness. K frequently came across as a pushover, laughing away everything and being awkwardly quiet in groups. It got to the point where I was getting frustrated on her behalf. She was clearly smart and capable. She was pre-med, with supportive parents and friends who cared about her. But she was painfully shy, even around people she’d known for years, and conversations were often one-sided and stilted. For a lot of people, her shyness got in the way of getting to know her. 

What really broke the last straw was at the farewell event. Each year, this campus fellowship I’m in hosts a farewell dinner for the graduating seniors in the fellowship. K was among those last year.

Now, this isn’t just a fancy dinner (well, as fancy as food pre-ordered from an Italian fast-food restaurant can get). The underclassmen spend weeks prepping for the senior toasts: one or two people would go onstage and give a 3-4 minute speech for a senior, similar to a best man’s speech at a wedding.

Usually toasts induce laughter, tears, or some sort of emotion. It’s a celebration, after all. Well, K was the first to be toasted. After the toasters began their speech, K just sank into her chair with the same expression she’d had since the beginning of the night, staring with a blank, forced half-smile at everyone. The spotlight was on her. . . and it couldn’t have gone worse.

Despite the fact that the toasts for K were heartwarming and were nothing short of complimenting K for all she’s done for us, K barely responded. It was like she had stage fright. She didn’t thank the toasters. She sat there like a stone while the toasters awkwardly hugged her. The applause died down, and we moved on to toast the next senior.


I was a shy person back in middle school and part of high school. I didn’t like to speak in large crowds, because I was worried that whatever I had to say would either 1) bore them, 2) annoy them, or 3) all of the above. I was self-conscious and didn’t like meeting new people.

I was lucky to eventually overcome this obstacle in my life. And I didn’t overcome it by reading those sentimental “Just be yourself” or “Always believe in yourself” sayings. Because come on; when you’re shy, thinking I will believe in myself! isn’t going to magically cure yourself.

What did made me change, however, was a post I’d read online. It was a post by someone who jabbed at the deep heart of shyness. The post essentially said:

Shy people are too self-centered to realize nobody is scrutinizing them. They’re always worried about what they appear to others, when each person has their own baggage to take care of in life.

Of course, my first reaction was indignation. What? How dare you accuse me of being selfish? Being insecure and being selfish are two completely different things . . . ! Then I stopped and thought about why exactly I was shy around people. And the post was right: I cared too much about what they thought of me. I was afraid of them judging my actions. In a way, I was indeed too self-centered.

If you’ve ever tried talking to a shy person, then you know firsthand how incredibly difficult it can be to maintain those stilted, one-sided conversations.  Whenever I spoke with K, a voice in the back of my mind reminds myself, Man, I was exactly like this back then.

K was a good person and a caring friend, and for her sake, I hope she overcomes her shyness. In the end, no one can really change shy people except themselves. For those dealing with shy people, have patience. Patience is definitely a virtue. For those who are shy, speak up. Be confident. That’s not to say you should go out there and become that overconfident showoff we all know (and yes, we all know one), but it does mean you should respond when people make genuine efforts to talk to you. Because in the end, we’re all in the same boat, aren’t we?

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Red Flags That A Promise Won’t Be Followed Through

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

These words are part of Robert Frost’s famous poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” The speaker is mesmerized by the dark woods, but he continues on his way because he has prior obligations. (Literary critics will also add that this poem speaks of a dichotomy between society and nature, but we can save the heated discussion of literary analysis and whether “deep” has ten hidden meanings for a later day.)

Promises are hard to keep. Think of the last time you promised to call a friend, then subsequently forgot because Criminal Minds was on TV.  Or the times you promised to write a letter to Aunt Judy about your school year, but suddenly it’s already final exams time and you haven’t sent a single envelope the entire semester.

Everyone’s life is invariably busy. Distractions get the best of us, and it’s easy to forget small promises. But when you’re on the receiving end of broken promises — or at least promises that were never followed up on — it’s hard not to take it personally.

(This is why lawyers make contracts for everything. Sealed with your DNA, social security number, and birthdate.)

The problem is people tend to overcommit themselves. No one wants to say no to anything. Here are 5 red flags that a promise is likely to be a dud:

1. “Dude, of course I’ll look over your essay later this week.” They say yes now, but unless they pinpoint a specific date and time, they’re not going to do it. “Later this week” is a euphemism for “Um, yeah, I’m not in the mood to follow through right now or anytime soon, so like, let’s wait 3-4 days, after which you and I will both have forgotten about the thing I promised to do.”

2. “Sure! Let me check my schedule and I’ll let you know.” Even worse is when they don’t mention a time period at all. They could technically “let you know” in 90 years and not be in the wrong.

3. “I agree, let’s hang out sometime.” Either they don’t like taking initiatives or they just like putting things off. Similar to the phrase “later this week,” the phrase “sometime” is another way of saying, “I’m not sure about the future, and I’m too lazy to plan ahead right now. I mean, if I really, really, REALLY wanted to hang out you, then I’d be jumping right in to arrange plans now and here. Don’t get offended; most people aren’t in that special 1% group. Nothing personal.”

4. I promise to keep in touch. Probably one of the biggest cliches in history since happily ever after, this phrase is used most often at graduation ceremonies, goodbye parties, and the end of summer friendships. Nobody ever seems to follow through after saying this popular phrase. Never mind the fact that in today’s society, we have email, text messaging, cell phones with video messaging options, instant-messaging, and a plethora of tools that makes the letter-writing Stone Age pale by comparison. Most people seem content with a brief “what’s up lol” online before fading completely into oblivion within 1 to 3 years.

So, my advice? Stop making empty promises. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than to over-promise and fall short.

Or, you could sneakily put the responsibility on the other person. “Promise me you’ll keep in touch, okay?”

(If someone says this to you next time, answer with, “I’ll try, but only if you send me three pounds of gourmet cheese in the mail.”)

The Myers-Briggs Personality Test

I know what you’re thinking. Personality tests? Aren’t those just a slightly less pretentious version of horoscopes?

But if there’s one test I live by, it’s the Myers-Briggs Personality Test (MBTI). Developed by psychologists, the test categorizes people into one of 16 personality types based on acclaimed Carl Jung’s psychological theories. Much like how every person has a preference for either right-handedness or left-handedness, each individual has specific way of perceiving the world and making decisions.

To figure out your type, you can either:

1) take  the certified MBTI assessment (usually provided by consultants, therapists, and even workplaces),

2) or take tests found on the Internet that aren’t “genuine” but work as well as the real one. These range from the long and extraordinarily detailed to the painless and quick. The results shouldn’t vary by that much, in all honesty.

Once you have your type, go here to read all about yours. (Or, you know, you can just Google it… there’s bound to be more than 800,000 results.)

I put up this post because the MBTI has made me think recently about a friend who moved away. The friend and I didn’t exactly complement each other at first. I found him too talkative and sometimes a little arrogant, and in comparison, he probably found me too quiet and self-deprecating. He was fine with giving a speech to an entire congregation at the drop of a hat, whereas I needed to spend at least a week fretting  preparing. He had a child’s sense of humor; I’m uptight and serious. Well, only sometimes. 

But I mean, we were still friends, so whatever. He stands out among my group of friends because he was so unlike me, much like how we can easily spot the atypical object in a category of like-minded objects. (Which word does not belong? ‘Carrot, potato, red.’)

In a way, this wasn’t bad. He’s the first person that pops into mind when new people ask me about my friends. I enjoy describing some of his crazier antics, as well as his sense of humor which I admittedly admire. And yeah, when he moved away, there was a definite void in our group. Funny how some people stand out both when they’re present and when they’re absent.

But it was only recently that I had the sudden brainstorm to look up the MBTI again and compare our personality types. Wouldn’t you know it: our personality types were, according to the chart, complete opposites. In Star Wars terminology (and no, I haven’t seen the movie yet; shame on me), he’s Darth Vader while I’m Luke Skywalker.

Go figure.

 

 

 

 

I’m a COOL teacher, right Regina?

In the notorious movie Mean Girls, one of the main characters’ mom tries desperately to be chic and trendy like her teenage daughter. The mom dresses in pink sweatsuits and serves the girls martinis. She then says,

I just want you to know: if you ever need anything, don’t be shy, okay? There are no rules in the house. I’m not like a regular mom, I’m a cool mom. Right, Regina?

(To which her daughter  Regina responds, “Please stop talking.”)

In high school, I had a teacher who was eerily similar to this mom–except nowhere as cheery and happy-go-lucky. But they both shared that longing wish of being “in” with the cool kids.

Let’s call her Ms. Q.

Ms. Q taught physics. From day 1, I could tell something was off. Ms. Q never smiled. She greeted everyone with her mouth in a flat line. She also liked to deadpan…except I’m pretty sure deadpans are supposed to be funny, and hers were not the definition of funny.

You’re thinking, Okay, so what? There are serious teachers everywhere. Doesn’t mean she’s incompetent. And how is she like Regina’s mom from Mean Girls?? Hold your horses.

As the semester crawled by, we noticed Ms. Q’s strange quirks. One, she had a strange sense of humor. Apparently raising your eyebrow at students while they’re talking makes you intimidating . . . and thereby gains you respect from other students. Ms. Q knew she was the authority of the classroom, and she kept that power astonishingly well by being blunt and forthright.  She wasn’t afraid to insult a student in front of everyone. She’d regularly pick on this one football player who wasn’t that good at physics, telling him to “shut up” and calling him “wow, what an idiot!” The scary part is, everyone else either thought it was funny or were too afraid to speak out. I guess it helped that the football player was humble and played along, but seriously?

Two, Ms. Q played favorites to her advantage. If you’re an outspoken, well-liked student, she’ll find ways to compliment you in front of the class multiple times a week. If you take the time to chat with her regularly, she’ll automatically see you as a friend, assigning you as her unofficial BFF. When the class is working on some problems, she’ll come by your desk and make a show of striking up conversation about the latest movies or hit songs, ignoring the students right next to you. She’ll also add you on Facebook, which I thought was one of those ‘grey areas’ in school policies . . .

Add everything together, and soon you have a class of students who are

1) intimidated by Ms. Q because they don’t ever want to be ostracized by her and treated like the football player was, and

2) eager to please Ms. Q and feeling flattered when she singles them out as someone she favors.

It’s common psychology. Say you have a ratings game and assign each of your acquaintances a number from 1 to 10 based on how cool you think they are. The ones with the highest numbers become flattered and endorse the system, whereas the ones with the lower numbers become less self-confident and are afraid to speak out.

Okay, okay, so how is she a bad TEACHER then? Aside from all the favoritism and intimidation, she still teaches the material well, right?

Um, no. By the time she’s established the boundaries of the class (i.e. which students are her favorites and which students are to be ostracized), she’ll keep those boundaries for the rest of the year. One morning, a friend of mine went into her classroom before school for some help with a physics problem. Ms. Q was there with several of her favorites. She glared at my friend with that same flat expression she’s had since the beginning of the year, and told him she was too busy at the moment and to come back later.

Was she busy? Ms. Q went right back to having a conversation about cats with her favorites, while sipping a cup of Starbucks mocha.

Another time, I tried to show her a design of a T-shirt I made for the class, and she rebuffed me in front of the entire class. The story goes like this:

It was tradition for AP classes to make class T-shirts, and so I came up with a design. My friends had all loved it and encouraged me to show Ms. Q in class. I walked up, asked her if she’d like to see my design, and held my paper out for her to see . . . to which she held her hands up, looked away, and said, “I’m not responsible for these.”

Note I was standing literally 7.5 inches from her, and the paper was right under her crooked nose. She could’ve glanced at the design and told me she didn’t like it. She could’ve just taken the paper, took one cursory look, and handed it back. Instead, she refused to look and told me to show it to *insert name of Favorite Student #2,* whom she told me was “the T-Shirt Design Coordinator.”

Later, I spoke to that student, who gave me a surprised look and said, “Wait, I’m the T-Shirt Design Coordinator? What’s that?” Turns out Ms. Q made up the title on the spot to avoid looking at my design.

Yeah, thanks a lot, Ms. Q. You’re truly a role model, that you are.

4 years later, I see that Ms. Q has added all my high school classmates on Facebook and is still bribing students for Starbucks gift cards. I think now’s the time to say, if I were to choose between Regina’s mom and Ms. Q, well, that’s a no-brainer.

There are plenty more fish in the lake…or sea

There are plenty more fish in the sea.

This is a common adage, usually used as a relationship advice for people who’ve just experienced a breakup.

Words are often easier said than done. And when we see the same people in our lives over and over again, it doesn’t take long to lose belief in the popular saying. New fish? Where? The lake is dried up!

In fourth grade, I had my first crush. I still remember his name: Ryan. Ryan had cute blond hair and blue eyes, and he was smart and nice.

Then my family moved a few years later, and I had to attend a new school. Before entering my new class, I was convinced I’d never meet another boy like Ryan again.

Of course, my sixth grade self was proven wrong.

Throughout middle school and high school, I went through a slew of different crushes as I changed schools a few times again. (My family moved around a bit before we finally got settled. On the bright side, I can say I’ve lived in more than 5 different states. Not many people can say that.)

Each time I changed schools, one of my gloomiest thoughts would be, Man, I would never meet another guy as funny/nice/awesome as (insert crush’s name here) again. NEVER! Then I’d be proven wrong less than 2 months later.

But those were my teen years. Now that I’m a full-grown adult (more or less),  it takes more than just good looks and innate ability to win me over. Infatuation is not the same as real love. But even so, the adage still applies to everyday situations outside of the romance box.  It’s not the end of the world if you have to move to the other side of the country and possibly never see that inspiring counselor from summer camp again. It’s okay if you have to leave behind a wonderful community soccer team. It’s all right if it didn’t work out between you and Susie, because there are plenty more fish in the lake. And if not, try the sea. Seriously, have you been to an aquarium before?

And exploring the wider sea is beneficial not only because it allows you to meet new people, but also because it gives you a wider perspective on the world.

Example: Every school year, I get cooped up in the bubble of academia and end up seeing the same faces in my acquaintance circle over and over. One specific guy comes to mind from last year: he’s kind of obnoxious, hogs conversations, and gives three-minute monologues on his viewpoints.

It gets worse.

You might think someone who’s the epitome of an argumentative attention hog wouldn’t be very popular. The scary part is, after 275 days of having to be in the same proximity all the time, he became the ‘king’ of our acquaintance circle. In our limited acquaintance circle, he was the most outgoing and gregarious. Plus he was a top engineer and the most athletic. So naturally, he was Mr. Popular among my acquaintances.

(Probably only among my acquaintances. This is what closed-off academia life does to your judgment.)

It wasn’t until I went to my summer internship that I realized: oh yeah, there are hundreds of people out there who can balance gregariousness and fitness… and also respectfulness! And in the workplace, all types of education shine, not just engineers.

Fish in the sea adage: +1

Psychology has shown that people we’re familiar with are more attractive to us. That’s probably why people tend to date people in their acquaintance circles, whether it’s from school, work, or book club. We’re just more comfortable with people we already know.

But you know, why only eat bass when you can try salmon?

 

 

 

A blog about both trivial and serious matters.