In Transition // Trains of Thought

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It’s only March and I’ve already broken one of my New Years resolutions – to sit down and write a blog post (or some sort of written piece) every two months. The last time I wrote anything substantial was in November.

Truthfully, I have been swamped with a bunch of career and life changes, and battling some health issues. I wrapped up my undergrad degree in December and have been on the job search since – transitioning from school to the “real world”. In the past weeks I’ve had some big decisions to make about which opportunities to pursue and which path I should go down, but I am very lucky to have a strong support system and people who are always willing to help (even without me asking!).

Finding the intersection between my long-term career objectives and my opportunities on the table has been an interesting journey – but I’m happy to say that I’ve made a choice and I’m not looking back or second guessing my decision.

In the Fall, I got very sick for a month and was put through four rounds of antibiotics before I recovered. I had never been so sick in my life and it really slowed me down from my usual fast-paced lifestyle.

This past month, one of my wisdom teeth got infected and had to be extracted. The accompanying medication came with a myriad of side effects, which I’m still very much struggling with. But all of this taught me a lot about patience, and the importance of good health. It’s something so critical to have – because without it, you can’t do anything else.

These days I have been looking back at what my life was a year ago – and it’s amazing to see how things change year over year. For example, in March 2014, I had just returned from my first-ever trip to Toronto during reading week, full of energy and motivation to make my dreams come to life as a 3rd year student. But living and working there was still just a far-fetched dream.

In March 2015, I was doing just that – working in Toronto, for not the first time but the second! Living on my own in a cozy apartment on Bay Street. Braving -30 degree weather and “real Canadian winter” for the first time. Having full independence, meeting new friends, and flying out of Pearson more times than I’d like to count.

And now in March 2016, I am back in Vancouver and have graduated, started my first full-time job out of school (in a completely new-to-me area), and recently bought my first car so I can drive to work – whaaat? I am experiencing another kind of independence – without the safety net of being a student, things like your finances become a heightened burden. Ensuring you keep nurturing friendships and relationships that are close to your heart (without the convenience of proximity) requires more effort. As does balancing work with other aspects of your life.

I am excited to see where this next chapter of my life takes me. What will life be like come March 2017?

Only time will tell.

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Airplanes and Other Musings

Somewhere over Lake Superior – August 15, 2015, 2:45pm EST

Photo 2015-08-09, 3 49 56 PM

Returning home after an incredible 8 months in Toronto. I can’t believe how fast it’s flown by, but I’m absolutely gutted that it’s come to an end.

Time after time, I keep finding myself returning to this amazing city. In 2014, I lived there for 4 months, and visited two separate times. This year, it’s been home base for the entire year thus far, and I’ve just been constantly flying in and out. I’m likely set to return in October briefly for a work project.

The places I’ve seen, people I’ve met, new experiences that I’ve had – I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else. I am endlessly grateful for every new friend and acquaintance that I’ve met, for my colleagues for making my work term a wonderful learning experience, for a new place I could call home.

Home.

After a year of living out East cumulatively, referring to Toronto as home doesn’t feel strange on my tongue anymore. Each time I move and leave, it’s always so challenging as I struggle to adjust and to build up a network all over again. But it’s worth it every time.

I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without the people that I’ve met. Thank you, truly, for embracing this west coaster into your lives and for making my time here so special. I promise that this isn’t goodbye – I’ll be back. 🙂

At the same time, I’m excited to go back to my hometown for at least 4 months. I’m excited to be somewhere that I know I will always belong, to be reunited with my beloved family and friends, to breathe in that amazing west coast fresh air and eat delicious sushi. I’m excited for a break from that busy, fast-paced work lifestyle and just take a moment to focus on myself.

The last 4 months before “real life” begins.

Lucky that I have a head start on how to properly adult – although seriously, does anyone ever really know what they’re doing?

I’m excited to see where this semester takes me.

– J

Bittersweet Goodbye

In a few days’ time, I will be hopping on a plane back out East for my new job. Which I guess by this point is not really news, or a surprise, given the nature of my blog posts from the past year.

I think it’s been evident that I’ve loved working and living there, and I am excited to continue my journey there for the next 7 months. Moving is always a struggle, a challenge, but the payoff and the lessons that you learn are just so rewarding.

What makes this time different from the last time I moved was that my summer gig was a very last-minute, rushed, whirlwind-type of affair. Between my offer date and my start date, I had 13 days to find a place to live, plow through stacks of paperwork, and physically move myself over. Less than 2 weeks’ notice to pack up and rebuild my life! It was insanity, but the kind that made me excited to get up in the morning.

This time, I received my offer 2 months in advance. There was plenty of time for me to absorb the information, find a place to live, and slowly start to tell friends, family, and people in my social circles about me leaving. And in the last month, I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of people in my life who have reached out to me. Who I have been able to spend time with, re-connect with, and remind me all over again about why I love this city so much and the people in it.

I’ve been so touched by the kind and encouraging words, messages, and Christmas cards. This has hands-down been the best winter break/holiday season ever, and I honestly cannot believe that I am leaving in 3 days- it just isn’t really sinking in. The past month has been kind to me, and I have been very happy.

It also just makes it that much more difficult to leave it all behind. The more time I spend with loved ones, the more I admire my beautiful hometown with that gorgeous backdrop of nature, the more reluctant I am to leave.

But the fact that it is so hard for me to leave this time is a huge blessing. Thank you for giving me so many reasons that make it difficult for me to leave, that make me miss Vancouver before I’ve even left. I’m truly lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life who I will dearly miss. And I am lucky to have a piece of my heart in each city.

All the best for the new year, my friends. May it be filled with realized dreams, accomplished goals, and a sense of joy and wonder. This isn’t goodbye- just a “see you later”.

(Literally, because I have to finish my degree this year. And who knows- I may be back to visit sooner than you think 😉 keep in touch!)

The Inevitable Demise Of All Bookstores?

This morning, I was enjoying my weekly Sunday routine of brunch, coffee, and errands, when I noticed on my way home that Oscar’s Art Books had a closing sign in the window.

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As a lover of anything surrounding books, bookstores, and reading, I was dismayed. I love spending afternoons browsing small, independent bookstores, coffee in hand, as well as large chains such as Chapters. I rarely browse or order books off of Amazon, and I do not particular enjoy using eBooks either. I decided to go inside and see for myself.

There were a few people milling about, and the sales associate was friendly and welcoming as usual. Oscar’s has been one of my favourite places to browse and purchase Moleskines- they have tons of different styles, and sometimes have 20% off sales, making them cheaper than what their giant neighbour Chapters sells them for. They also have a really neat selection of calendars, books for adults and children, and specialty large-format art books. I love the cozy environment and atmosphere, and browsing the quirky merchandise and new books.

They have been in business for 24 years, but they are definitely not the first or last independent bookstore in Vancouver to close. However, they are well-loved by the Vancouver community (especially the niche art community that they serve) and are one of the longest and last-standing bookstores.

Oscar’s official statement posted on its Facebook page reads:

“It’s been a great run, being on Broadway for 24 years, what a show! We’ve always moved with the times but unfortunately the Internet has taken over. Our sincerest thanks to all the great customers and the Vancouver art community who have supported Oscar’s as an independent bookstore throughout the years – thank you for your love and loyalty.”

Even though I am part of the millennial generation, I have a great love for books that time nor technology will ever take away. Bookstores are one of the few places that I feel at peace in, and can truly relax in. Growing up, the majority of my peers found it odd that I actually loved to read and write, and that I actually liked spending money on books rather than on more typical tween purchases.

I can spend hours just browsing new titles, reading (if permitted), looking at the cool merchandise, and I can seldom resist walking away without purchasing a book. I love the feeling of reading a physical book- unless I have to, I will always prefer to have a physical copy over an eBook version, even if it’s more expensive. I rarely, if ever, turn to Amazon to purchase my books.

I would gladly pay the extra costs to support these stores, but unfortunately, most people aren’t. Every time an independent bookstore closes, my heart aches. Most people are quick to blame large companies such as Chapters/Indigo for the shutdowns, but Oscar’s has cited the growing popularity of Amazon and usage of eBook readers as its reason. In fact, Chapters faces immense pressures from the same sources too- but it has larger amounts of capital and resources to sustain itself, unlike these small, independently-owned bookstores. But how long can it sustain itself for?

My biggest fear is that one day, not only will independent bookstores no longer exist, but even Chapters may go out of business. If that day ever comes, I will be really upset. In the meantime, I will continue to spend lovely Sunday afternoons browsing in my happy place, losing myself in a good book, and I will continue to support brick and mortar bookstores. I hope that enough people appreciate literature as much as I do, so that these companies are able to survive and thrive through all the technological changes in today’s society.

Food For Thought – Compassion Kills

Happy Sunday! I hope you are all having a lovely weekend.

For myself, it is Sunday morning and I am sitting in a coffee shop trying to tackle my business writing paper, but failing because I have so many thoughts swirling in my head.

Today, I have a TED talk featuring Nolan Watson to share with you guys.

Watson is a highly successful entrepreneur of several publicly traded companies, a humanitarian, and a fellow UBC Sauder graduate. I knew that he was the CEO of Sandstorm Gold prior to this, but not much else. In this installment of the famous TEDx series, he talks about how compassion kills: as we donate money and resources to merely help keep people alive, but not aiding them to become independent, we are in fact killing more people in the long run.

If such people were to stop being supported by charities, they would inevitably live in poverty, become malnourished and sick, and pass away. But by pouring resources into helping people become independent and self-sustained, we attain a long-term solution instead of a short-term fix. They are able to better take care of themselves, and even support their own children and families. It’s a hard concept to wrap one’s head around, but he explains it very well in the video.

When he wanted to drop out of school to become a humanitarian, his parents gave him advice to live by: “Nolan, if you want to be a humanitarian, your mother and I will support you…but you should become a business person first, that way you know how organizations run, how to raise money, and how to manage it properly…The goal shouldn’t be becoming a humanitarian,” they said. “The goal should be becoming a smart humanitarian.” And that’s the premise that he’s based his life goals around.

The end of the video nearly breaks my heart. But in a good way. Seeing a grown, highly successful man’s voice crack and struggling to not cry- I soon enough felt a lump in the back of my throat. To see such a smart, successful, alpha male type of guy almost lose his cool over love and compassion gives me hope for humanity and for the future.

He implores us to take a closer look at the charities we donate to, to make sure that they are putting money towards helping those in need become independent (ie: clean water projects, education, building schools, operating schools). And if that’s not the charity’s main premise, you can tie your donation to the condition that they use it for long-term solutions rather than temporary fixes.

I know people have mixed feelings about TED talks, but I always come away from them feeling inspired and wanting to better myself as a person. While I myself am not necessarily a humanitarian, I feel strongly about donating to charity, especially around the holidays- I’ve been blessed with so much in this life. Why not help out others in need? I can give up that fancy latte or that shiny new bag to help somebody get back up on their feet.

That’s it for now, folks. Have a blessed week!

PS: I think “Food For Thought” would be a great weekly or biweekly series for me to do- but I am hesitant to do so because I’m not sure I can commit to writing every week during these busy and hectic times. I usually just get bursts of inspiration and roll with it.

Zero Tolerance

The following is a weekly “journal entry” for my COMM 486U Business Communications class. I wrote this a week ago, and the task was to “write a very succinct and compelling story about an intercultural experience”, with the introduction following a certain format. I thought it’d make for an interesting story to share with others as well.

I am a 20 year old Chinese-Canadian female, and I would like to tell you about an embarrassing intercultural incident that happened to me in London over this past summer. I was visiting England for my annual August family vacation, and on that particular day, we went to go see the famous Natural History Museum.

While I was browsing an exhibit on the third floor, and my family and I had somewhat scattered about in the museum, I noticed a guy peering at the same display that I was looking at. He was Caucasian, had a tall build, and looked to be around my age. I glanced over at him in passing, and he smiled at me.

“Great exhibit, huh?” he said, with a heavy British accent.

“Yeah, it’s spectacular!” I replied.

“So where are you from?” he asked.

“Vancouver, Canada. And I assume you’re a local?” I countered.

“I live about an hour away in Romford, but yes, I’m definitely a local.”

And the banter continued on for quite some time. He seemed charming, funny, and genuine, and I enjoyed talking to him. Soon after, I glanced at my watch and realized that I needed to go meet my family in the museum’s cafeteria for lunch. So I said, “It’s been really nice talking to you, but I think I have to head off soon.”

“Aw, that’s a shame,” he said. “Well, before you go, I just wanted to tell you that you’re very pretty for an Asian.”

“Wait. What?” I was shocked. Did he really just say that?

He looked at me, puzzled. “Is something wrong? I just said you were pretty.”

“For an Asian?” I said. “Are you insinuating that Asians are uglier than other races?”

“No, I didn’t mean to offend you, it’s just that-“ he breaks off.

“It’s just what?”

“I usually don’t think Asians are attractive.” He doesn’t look me in the eye.

“Goodbye.” I had nothing more to say. I turned on my heel and walked away.