Today I Said Fuck You to My Mom

I feel like I have to preface this story by saying, It’s terrible, I know. There’s no excuse for it. For those of you who think I should be struck by lightning for doing it, I can’t say I disagree with you. All I can say is, you know what happens, so read at your own risk.

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A Dog Gave Me Questions

There was a dog in my lobby today. A golden retriever. Basically the most classic dog you could imagine in your mind’s eye, if someone were to conjure a ‘dog.’

How ‘dog’ is your dog? How ‘fill in the blank’ are you, if you fill in the blank with whatever labels and categories and descriptors seem to apply?

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Remembering to be Inspired

Jackie came to visit this weekend, and whoever exists in the clouds controlling the weather decided to make it rain. Maybe it’s a lady with a Britney Spears microphone attached to her head barking orders to ‘make more clouds!’ ‘move the sun!’ or ‘make more rain fall on the east side!’ Or maybe it’s not that intentional, and our fates are decided by a flatulent old man who knocked over his water glass with one particularly violent fart. Regardless of how it happened, it rained cats and dogs this weekend. Well, water. Not actual cats and dogs.

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HELLO 2017!

Now, normally, I’m not one to place a bunch of pomp and circumstance on the new year. I mean, sure, I might write a couple half-assed goals on my mirror, like, ‘workout more,’ or something equally basic, because don’t lie, we all do – but it’s never a feeling that persists for more than two days at a time. That feeling of change, of metamorphosis, of urgency… But even as I write this, I know. This year? It’s a big year. Oh, it’s a big year, for sure.

At the end of 2016… Yes, I’m talking about ‘the end of 2016’ as if it were a momentous discrete event like The Big Bang that happened 13 billion years ago instead of something that just ended three days ago. Let’s go with it.

At the end of 2016… My very being was rejecting the life I had created for myself. Objectively, there was absolutely nothing wrong with that life. In fact, it was a pretty great life. Let me be real about that. I lived in a nice apartment building full of clean cut yuppies who would never steal any of your things even if you left your door unlocked, I had been promoted 3 levels in four years and made a silly good amount of money for my age at my job, I had good friends from all periods of life who loved me unconditionally just like I loved them, I had gotten over my aversion to dating apps and just embraced what it is to search for love in today’s day and time.

And yet, I was sad and listless and unmotivated, when normally I’m a ball of crazy positivity and dynamo energy. It hurt my soul to know I was this shell of who I know I am, and I knew I was alone in this. One, because ultimately, I believe everyone is responsible and accountable for the everyone’s own individual happiness. At least, until you find that one true love and your world changes but hey let’s not get ahead of ourselves. And two, to most people, my internal struggle was lost, because even a ghost of myself operating at 20% probably looks equivalent to the energy of a normal person. I did this cheesy exercise to come up with a tagline, which is supposed to be a pithy statement that highlights what makes you unique – both in a positive and potentially negative way. ‘I am a positive force of energy, but I must be harnessed towards a greater cause.’ And in that moment, I knew, the greater cause was lost on me. Days passed and activities distracted, but I loved nothing. I was unanchored.

It pains me to admit that I cried at least once a week from frustration… because I’m a problem solver and I just could not for the life of me crack the problem. I hated that this was happening, because I don’t like to be weak and I don’t believe in helplessness. I believe in action. I just wished I knew what that action was supposed to be.

Pause. I know this sounds all very dramatic. And some people may roll their eyes, thinking, this chick has it all, she’s got absolutely nothing to complain about. And I’ll accept that criticism. I just know… For my existence, for my happiness, I need more.

Churning and torturing myself within the confines of my situation was getting me nowhere. I had come to terms with past events but had no insight into the future. So, I changed my situation and I searched for more. I abandoned my family, my friends, and my job, and I up and left for an 11 day solo trip to Thailand! My own version of Eat, Pray, Love, if you will. Even though I’ve never read the book because honestly I fell asleep during the movie and just can’t bring myself to pick it up. So, instead, I’ll write my own self-proclaimed more interesting version of Eat, Pray, Love… here, in my blog. To come after this post. Thailand was the best decision of my life, and exactly what I needed.

As for what I’ve found so far, it’s an evolving list, recorded here for posterity.

  1. Meditate for 1/2 an hour a day. Give myself some peace
  2. Set aside 1 hour to write per day. Have always wanted to be a writer, for as long as I can remember. Perhaps even create that podcast
  3. Go to bartending school and bartend on the side. Have always been interested in opening a club, but need to learn more about the industry
  4. Prototype an illusion based art museum. Saw one in Thailand and have many ideas on how to improve
  5. Look into opportunities within my company, that have more influence and action, like a sales skill set. Have always known I have a likeable personality; would like to know how to leverage that better
  6. Move to New York or Chicago? Need a change of venue?
  7. Look into consulting, potentially boutique so as not to crush my soul unless I feel I need the flash of The Big 3 on resume. Option to continue investing in client-facing skillsets
  8. Take the GMAT. Option to go to b-school

Peace out. Thailand adventures coming soon!

MY SUPERHERO ORIGIN STORY PT1

Now, I realize that with a title like this, ‘My Superhero Origin Story,’ I’ve caused you to expect something completely out of the ordinary. Some big ‘aha’ moment. Some accidental encounter with a totally banned, non FDA-approved, black market radioactive substance. So let me start by saying, you’re reading the wrong blog. I have no such supernatural superpower – or, to put it another way since I’m still holding out hope, I have yet to discover my supernatural superpower! Rest assured you’ll be the first to know when I do.

OK… So what the heck AM I writing about!? Or why?

One. I was having dinner and a beer with a new friend when he asked me, So Margaret. Tell me your superhero origin story. I had never heard anyone describe getting to know someone in this way, and I was hooked. Of course, not five minutes before, he had shared one of the most interesting stories of how he came to be that I had ever heard. Along with respect and awe, I was feeling a major case of inferiority. Lucky for me, I control the password to this blog and he can’t come in to wow you right now – so you’re stuck with me!

Two. I started this blog on March 7, 2016 and have yet to fill out the About Me section. It’s been plaguing me for months. It’s not just that internet readers expect a pithy, interesting, 200 word summary of who you are, but also that I didn’t have a good answer to that question. I’d think about it and start getting all anxious that I didn’t know who I was. Though I feel quite secure in my day-to-day brand – yes I call it my brand – it’s the where I’m going, the so what, the why do I even exist!? that remains quite foggy. Plus I hate it when people introduce themselves or answer who they are by quoting their career. I mean, is that WHO YOU ARE? Is what defines you!? Is that your soul!?! – and I just had to have a better answer than that. Thus the performance anxiety of actually putting pen to paper.

Three. Last weekend was my five year college reunion. If you’re reading this, you must fall into one of three categories. Too young and feeling scared for my old age, too old and rolling your eyes at my saying ‘old age,’ or you’re 26 years old going on 27 and totally getting me right now. To be clear, I’ve dealt with my fear of getting old for the time being – I’m still in the sweet sweet ageless Asian years, before the poof! old woman! happens. (See comic illustration here if you’re the one person on planet earth with internet access who hasn’t seen it already. It’s pretty accurate. My mom’s hair looks just like that. Isn’t she adorable?)

Besides goofing off with friends and striking up conversation familiar strangers til the wee hours of the morning, I had quite a few surreal moments at my college reunion. I sat there for the 9am Civil and Environmental Engineering Class of 2011 breakfast, wondering what kind of sicko would schedule a breakfast on reunion weekend to start at this ungodly hour, watching a slideshow of super civil-y pics scroll by – concrete canoe, solar oven, water purification. A professor sat to my right, asking how he could improve the blah-bitty-blah curriculum. My friend, who is now a Professional Engineer with millions of lives in her hands as she rebuilds all the past-due decrepit bridges in the New England area, (I’m SO PROUD of her! I spent half the weekend blurting out to everyone we met that she scored PE status) was happily gabbing away. Myself, I was struggling to keep my eyes from glazing over. To be fair, this particular professor was no friend of mine and taught water things, which I avoided at all costs in my studies. I was a structures and dirt kinda gal. I thought, This was my life. This was my life! And… this is SO NOT MY LIFE anymore! With that I felt a mix of relief, yearning, and loss. My connection to civil engineering has been reduced to a heightened appreciation for construction sites and bridges – I can’t begin to articulate why I’m so obsessed but I just am, bridges get me, hence this post’s featured photo – a slightly above average ability to converse with those actually in the field, and a stone cold no-hesitation response of ‘civil engineers’ when people ask who the coolest engineers are. Which admittedly, happens never.

My life today looks quite different than it did five years ago, and again from five years before that. I’ve built these new layers of identity, and I don’t want to lose sight of that.

A break from my ramblings for a brief video of the sober moments from this weekend’s reunion,

 

Four. I was killing time on the interwebs and read a quote somewhere that said, It’s not just about the destination. It’s about the journey. The destination is death. The quote was meant to be a joke, and I have no desire to get into some big existential or religious debate about what comes after death, mostly because I haven’t yet been able to process death in this tiny pea-sized brain of mine, but I appreciate the shock value it delivers above the traditional phrase. It’s kind of like a question I ask myself to pump up at work – If I were to be fired next week, what is it that I would do here? My friend’s pointed out to me that most normal people would take off a few sick days and do nothing, but for some reason this prompt causes me to think WAY outside the box and feel energized to leave my mark even more. I think my rather roundabout point is, I’ll never have a perfect answer to who I am or who I want to be, and that’s how I need to approach my answer. As a journey, not a destination.

Now if by some miracle you’re still reading this, you’re probably marveling at the fact that I’ve written 1027 words and managed to completely avoid actually writing my superhero origin story. I’ve essentially shared nothing with you over the past ten minutes. But that’s the secret really – it’s the journey, not the destination, right?!

I know, I know. It seems like I tricked you, tried to be all deep, and left you with a cliff hanger. Please. It’s not like that. Really what happened is the clock struck 8:30 am and I have a meeting in half an hour. Plus my thirty minute bout of writing mojo has run out.

More to come, I promise. And so I sign off and amend the title to, ‘My Superhero Origin Story Pt1.’

To be continued…

 

 

FINDING MY INNER ESSENTIALIST

Source of Dingspiration: Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

So my boss’s boss’s boss is all about this book Essentialism. Like, allllll about it. He gave out hundreds of copies at our last department meeting. And of course, when your boss’s boss’s boss gives you a book, you read it. Or at least, you pretend to read it. Then you enthusiastically whiteboard the children’s drawing of circles and arrows from page 6 in the middle of as many meetings possible while dropping the e-bomb like nobody’s business. (E-bomb being ‘Essentialism’ if you weren’t up with the lingo.)

But… putting this stuff into action? Actually BEING an essentialist? Mastering the art of doing less? Like, IRL? That’s an entirely different story. Instead of telling you I solved world peace and am essentially (haha) the perfect employee, I’ll keep it real and share my experience with the small steps I have taken over the past month.

I like to think I get shit done. (At work, at least. I’ll leave my personal life separate as its own special whirlwind of chaos; we can get to that later.) I had been operating as a one-woman team for so long at work, I knew the crash and burn of stretching myself too thin and tackling too many things at once. I had a system. When I worked on any new strategy, I’d ask myself, If I could do just one more thing, what would it be?

In reality, a focused strategy is just one part of the equation. Here’s where I share the story for how I realized the way I get work done is just as crucial as my best intentions. 

It was one of those days. You know, where at the end, you’re slouching exhausted in your chair, eyes closed head pounding, head spinning wondering how the hell you got to this place. We had just had a particularly contentious meeting with multiple big personalities; emotions had run high, and somehow by the end, tears were shed.

My boss pulled me aside and said, Your team’s spending a LOT of time debating about things that don’t matter, when you should be spending your time on the most important things. In that moment I time traveled back to something my VP had said to me in passing – imagine sage voice – Your time is your most valuable asset. (They probably don’t know that I regularly quote them. It’s not my fault. They’re totally wise people.)

BOOM. You’re spending a ton of time on things that straight up don’t matter. AND time is your most valuable asset. Assuming you live a cushy life like me and are not worrying about Maslow’s basics like how to feed yourself or put a roof over your head. Check, check, check – major reality check.

We’ve done the fun little intro to build drama and suspense, so now I’ll introduce a more grounded problem statement.

We live in a digital world, we work across multiple locations, and people freaking loooove sending email. We get these little pop ups in the lower right corner of our computer screen, and it’s practically impossible to resist clicking on them to open whatever new emails have come in. It’s like a sick reflex – pop up appears, finger clicks – or like Sleeping Beauty being drawn to the poisonous needle and pricking her finger even while we were all like Nooo don’t do that Sleeping Beauty. Once you click on that email, it’s practically impossible to resist replying with lightning speed, check the box, and feel like you accomplished something in that moment. I’m sure I don’t need to describe this situation to you. In reality, we should be asking if that reply was (a) important compared to what we could be doing at that time and (b) truly the most effective way to resolve that email, versus talking in person or waiting. We reply to each other without bothering to make human contact, causing added swirl, reduced productivity, all the while feeling like we are doing the productive thing.

Some lovely e-bomb friends and I took this problem statement, and prototyped an email triage system we cleverly coined Mo’ Email Mo’ Problems. It’s pretty much how it sounds – a system to stem the uncontrollable, blood-spurting-from-fatal-wounds-onto-the-linoleum-floor, bleeding that is email at work.

We made some rules for email.

  • We set finite time increments throughout the day during which we check email
  • During that time we sort the email into buckets of urgency so we know if we need to take action sooner or later during our work time
  • We keep ourselves honest by keeping track of the cumulative time we spend checking email, with the goal being no more than one hour in any given day
  • During non-email times, we turn off all email notifications shut down our inbox
  • We tell anyone we deem important to IM us if they need us, cause I’m sorry I just won’t be reachable via email

It’s been a little over 4 weeks now that I’ve been living in the new world of less email. And it’s amazing. You know how they market miracle drugs and there’s a whole laundry list of gross sounding side effects? Well, new world of less email? Miracle drug with no side effects.

I found that my head has more room to THINK. And I love it. I can’t tell you that every thought my head has is golden, but hey. It’s getting used to this newfound freedom. It’s no longer bogged down and cluttered by all the distraction that is email and it’s running around like a little kid on Halloween candy. I’m more present in meetings, I communicate more effectively, I’m more focused overall.

If you’re a quant person, I now spend less than 10 minutes checking email each day, and on the flip side have sent only 3 emails in the past 3 days. You’re welcome, potential email recipients!

Furthermore, this email triage system has naturally led me to…

  • Question when I’m about to send an email – should I instead IM this person, call him, take a note and save it for then I talk to them next?
  • Try laptops down period. So I’m truly present during most of my meetings
  • Take handwritten notes in a notebook instead of typed ones on Microsoft OneNote. It forces me to process the situation and take down the most important thing, because I physically can’t write fast enough. Typing devolves into a plethera of extraneous information I never look back on
  • Establish ‘me’ time at the beginning of each day to outline goals for that day and main points I want to convey to people I will interact with
  • Reset my progress and focus once a week, for 2 hours in a different space
  • Build stronger relationships with my teammates. Which makes me happy because I’m an extrovert, and let’s say it makes me more effective too

Email is addictive. It feels like it’s good for you, but I’ll put it out there – it’s not. And this is just the beginning! I’ll keep you posted.

Food for thought before I peace out because I’ve written myself into a hunger monster and my fingers won’t go on, Why It’s So Easy to Ignore Your To-Do List App but Get Distracted by Twitter.

 

BEING YOUNG AND DUMB AND CREATIVE AS HELL

Source of Dingspiration: Letter to BFF, by 15 year old self

I had a FaceTime date with one of my oldest, bestest friends today. Between updating each other on our love lives, bitching about how much we spend on underthings, and trading embarrassing work stories, we came across the realization that we have been friends for 11 years. 11 years. That’s over a decade. I’ve gotten to an age where I can regularly reminisce about things that happened over a decade ago. 

I couldn’t believe it. My friend had to pull out written proof – letters written to each other by our 15 year old selves – to convince me. At risk of making everyone who is older than me want to kill me, I’ll move on from my mini midlife crisis and focus on the letter instead.

Here’s my thought process as my friend showed me the letter I had written via iPhone webcam. Oh how far we’ve come from strings of sleepless nights spent on AOL instant messenger. (LuvMEimChinese08, a/s/l?) I’ve included a photo of just one page below (out of six) for your entertainment. You’ll have to excuse my use of the word retarded. I’ve left this stuff raw and uncensored.

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  • “Some people say the real world is cold and unforgiving. But human nature is good, I say. And 99.9976% of the time, good deeds are reciprocated by something. It might just be a good thought, followed by a dastardly deed, but still… people are good. [Insert smiley with tongue sticking out.]” Um… what? Why. Just why.
  • Pause for brownie points on vocabulary, though. Note to self, I need to casually use the word ‘dastardly’ in conversation at work tomorrow.
  • Oh wait, this was around the time I had my first ‘boyfriend.’ If you could even call him that. Things are starting to make more sense.
  • “Don’t let the bad days get you down… ’cause the kickass ones are just around the corner…” Aww. Even 15 year old me was a chronic optimist, battling against the current of rushing teenage angst.
  • “I got bored and thought about my sad childhood…” Either 26 year old me has completely repressed some serious memories, or 15 year old me has no idea what I’m talking about. Sad childhood!? I’ll be first to admit I’ve led a pretty cushy life. As white and privileged as you can get without actually being white. I think it’s safe to dismiss all content from here on.

Once I realized there was absolutely no use in even attempting to empathize with my past self, I took a second to let it all sink in.

I came away with two things. (1) Man do I crack myself up. All times, all ages. (2) Boy was I a creative genius! Grown up me’s getting schooled in creative mindset right now.

I was completely unafraid to let my mind run wild, jumping from one random thought to the next. I was then completely unapologetic about recording these thoughts, and fully 150% expected that my friends would read them. …And read them they did!

I may have had the finite tools of pen and paper, but I satisfied every whim. Writing in every which direction instead of just horizontal, changing pen colors with no discernible pattern or system, gluing random colored paper to extend my writing space, showcasing sentences in curly typography with no explanation, doodling strange and sometimes creepy looking things, making up great words like ‘funkdiliyishous’ (another gem to use in conversation tomorrow)…

I was a geysir of creativity. And I didn’t think twice about it. 

Up until today, I thought I still retained that childlike joy and creativity, that mischievous glint in my eye. I considered myself a pretty creative adult in those few moments that I acknowledged I was an adult. Suddenly I realize, I haven’t been exercising my creative muscle nearly as much as I thought. I’ve let adulthood cut me down! I have atrophied in comparison to my hugely intimidating, Arnold Schwarzenegger-sized, 15 year old creative self.

So, new life goal after I use ‘dastardly’ and ‘funkdiliyishous’ together in a sentence at work tomorrow. Carry around journals and sketchbooks and colorful pens. Don’t be scared to be stupid, don’t be scared to be wrong. Channel my inner 15 year old genius and see what happens!