I feel (and have often felt) like I should write more like I am storytelling, relaying the details of my life.  From the feelings to the specifics of names of places, these are all things that I tend to leave out.  I usually write what I did, plain and simple, in my daily journal.  I've been making an effort to include more of what I think and feel for a couple years now.  It's getting a lot better, but there's still a lot more to be done.  Then on the blogging side, I tend to only write about what I think, but not really related to a certain event.  Granted, an event may have triggered my idea, but it's usually something that I've been thinking about for awhile or have at least considered before.

Part of the problem is the trade-off between the time spent in using so much detail and the time I could be spending out, living a life to write about!  This is a very familiar tug-of-war for me, after thirteen years of keeping a personal journal.  I'm afraid that I am slowly drifting away from maintaining it, just because the quality that I want to have takes far too much time to fit into my life.  Yet, I still can't quite put it down.  After all, I've been faithful for a good twelve years and some with little faltering!

This struck me as I was replying to an e-mail from one of my pledge brothers, asking for advice from anyone who had traveled to Europe before.  I can still recall all the places I went and most of things I saw, but what was that website I used to book my hostels?  What airline were those cheap flights taken on?  These are all details that have started to escape me.  Thankfully, a quick search and refresher took me back to the information I wanted, but can things always work out so well?  I'd much rather have solid entries I can refer to from that time, with all those details in there for me.

I don't have a very good memory and those are one of the most precious things to me, so it's sad to realize what I have forgotten.  It's the very reason why I stubbornly continue to document my life, despite the time that it takes.  Between all the things that I have recorded, I think I have a good database of my life.  I want to be able to look back on my life and actually know what happened.  I don't just have trouble throwing away physical things - memories and knowledge are the same for me!  I hate that my French and Chinese language skills have deteriorated so much over the years and that I probably can't remember the way to get from my house to the local library back in Topeka.

So, I love to have all this information.  Plus, it will all be very useful for writing my autobiography!  :-P  I'm going to have to get the nearly 50 volumes of handwritten journals to be transcribed.  The benefit of electronic copies is the searchability and accessibility they offer.  Though most of my entries aren't very exciting, there are definitely some jewels hidden in there that could be really great material.  I'd also need my thousands of pictures and videos to be consolidated and put into some sort of a timeline corresponding to my written entries and life events and experiences.  How cool would that be?  Then I could virtually relive my life (to some extent)!

For now though, I will take to my friend Ninja's philosophy: live a life worth writing about!  (Or, in his case, worth making a movie about.)

 
 

I have struggled time and time again with a proper theme for this blog.  It started off as documenting my life after graduating, began to lean towards professional observations, lingered on personal life details, and now is floating around somewhere in between all things I wanted it to be.  I guess that's what happens when I write about whatever is on my mind!

All along it has included my perspective on the topics I chose to write about.  Though there is no good way to summarize all the things I have and will write about, I have finally come to terms with this (again).  I am not confused about who I am or what this blog is about.  In fact, it's quite clearly about my thoughts, opinions, observations, and experiences.  The only reason it may seem all over the place is because, well, quite frankly, my interests span a wide range of topics.  There are so many random thoughts that creep up on me in my daily life that I can't just throw them into a basket and call it a day.

I don't think this mental battle is over - in my desperate attempt to make sense of how to describe this to a stranger, I have realized that nothing in my life has ever been so easily summed up.  Yet, why should I force it?  It can be a conversation starter, after all.  So, though I know I will come back to this issue periodically, to revisit it and ensure that I am still on the right track (or recalibrate so I will be), for now I have found my peace with it again.  But true to my belief that things change, I always like to adapt to make sure my writing is in line with my thinking.  Just in case I go astray.

 
 

I've found that the best source of creative ideas is personal experience.  It is in my day-to-day life that I think to myself randomly, "Oh now there's something good to explore and write about!"  Immediately I jot it down on my "little fat notebook" amidst the growing list of topics to discuss.  Just living life (and being curious) can be the greatest muse!

So many times there are great lessons that can be learned best only by experiencing them.  Oftentimes the message doesn't "hit you" until you're there, doing it, feeling it, seeing it, living it.  Plus, you can't really speak full with authority on an issue unless you've been in the midst of it.  Otherwise, you're just reporting and relaying the message.

Stories from the heart also hold the deepest meaning and reach out to the audience like nothing else can.  What is more poignant than someone talking passionately about the greatest love of their life or the lessons they have learned through personal strife?  What do you believe more than a first-person account of how certain experiences feel?  It really touches my heart to hear personal stories, from the good to the bad.

I was reminded of this when I was listening to Taylor Swift's songs - many were written about specific people and experiences in her life.  The same thing goes for a lot of artists out there and it made me wonder what they would write about if they didn't have some drama or other eventful occurrences in their lives.  Although it's easier to think about what to write when you've been through so much, it's also much harder because of the personal involvement.  A little bit of abstraction could blur the lines between fact and fiction for the artist to make it easier to express, or they may choose to just bare their souls.

So the next time you're in a creative rut, just go live your life!  Have fun with your family and friends, go for a stroll around your town, or even meet a stranger and strike up a conversation.  You never know what you may come across that will trigger that 'ding, ding ding!' in your head.  It certainly helps me always have a dozen things to write about.

 
 

If you're familiar with blogging,  you have probably heard of (and seen) vlogging, the video version of it.  For many, it is too intimidating to try.  Concerns of how you look, how you speak, what you sound like, your body language, and other self-conscious issues arise.  When you're on film, there's a lot you can't hide.

Blogging is like the safe version of sharing yourself - nobody needs to know exactly what you look like, how you dress, if you have an accent or speech impediment, or other such physical details.  In fact, bloggers can get away with a very mysterious identity.  But once you sit yourself in front of that camera and record, so much information is divulged.  This even includes things that may be seen or heard in the background of your video, like the setup and items in your room or office, any pets or family members who may wander around, etc.

Even with editing, people give off "microexpressions" that cannot be hidden in filming.  Certain subconscious gestures can unveil your hidden emotions, giving your audience a much better idea about you as a person.  This uncontrollable body language even extends to speech patterns, whether it's the slang you use, the volume at which you speak, or the speed of your speech.  I've been watching Lie to Me online and it's really interesting the little things that can give your real emotions away (even though it is a dramatization, the show makes some good points).  Perhaps this is why many people are uncomfortable with showing themselves on tape.

Additionally, most people don't usually see themselves from an outsider's point of view, so it feels weird to watch themselves.  You may start to notice things about yourself that you never really paid attention to and wonder if this is what others see in you too.  Then there's also the concern that this is a permanent record of you as a person and you can never pretend that someone else was expressing your opinions for you or you were misrepresented.  Some people just prefer their privacy, rather than having their life documented and shared.  It's easier for them to remain faceless behind typed words.

However, there are those who run blogs with a followership that is interested in them as a person.  What they look like, how they sound, etc.  The very things that people tend to be self-conscious about!  It's a brave thing to do, putting yourself out like that, even if your readership is encouraging you the whole way.  Doubts about how they will judge you based on how they imagined you and how they will now see you can surface.  When it comes down to it though, if you are proud of who you are, there is no reason to hide that from people who care.  I like the thought because if feels so much more real and honest.  Unless you're an extremely good actor, you're showing people the real you.  And that is something courageous to do.

The other day, Katana put up a rather well-done vlog.  I've also been following HappySlip and KevJumba, all of which has made me consider doing some video magic myself.  However, I currently don't have much to say and I'd like my vlogs to be interesting and captivating.  Also, it would take some time to edit it the way I'd like and I certainly do not have the creative genius to add music.  There was only one time I edited a video (which I was quite proud of), but that was with the help of my group members.

Ah well, maybe I will chronicle my journey to Singapore and that will inspire me... though I will be terribly busy once I start working, so it might have to wait.  We'll see, but it's definitely something I want to try eventually!

 
 

I've spent a lot of time in the past week fiddling around with sites of mine that allow personalization (including this one).  It's a tedious thing to do for a self-taught beginner like me, since I have almost no foundation knowledge in CSS and only know basic HTML.  Yet, I still pounded away at it obsessively, working on getting just the right colors, font, layout, etc.  It's rewarding when things finally look a little more the way you would prefer!

I've finally settled on something that I am satisfied enough with.  My main gripe with the layouts offered for this site was that they are all so narrow!  It seems a lot of blogs are that way, taking up just barely over half the width of my screen.  Perhaps this is because I have a wide screen, but I just didn't like it.  What's the point in having all that extraneous space?  Certainly no computer screen is that skinny!  I was also thrilled to be able to upload my own image for the background in the banner up top.  Most themes have a very generic image uploaded or just a solid color background, so it's nice to personalize with one of my own photos.  However, finding a decent image and cropping it to fit took me ages to get right.

So I am pleased enough with what I have now, which may not exactly reflect the title or content of my blog, but it is an extension of my Bruin pride.  I'm hoping to eventually get my own domain name and get a professional to help me with a design.  I just don't have the artistic knack for creating something that fits a theme or color scheme.  Look at how cool my best friend's blog looks (and how well it fits the theme).  She got a free makeover for her blog recently and it really does add to the feel of the site.  You immediately get a sense for what she talks about in her entries (nobody would expect posts on makeup or shoe shopping, for instance).  Additionally, it sets a tone - this is no boring site lacking any sort of flavor, but it's also not a Valley Girl's personal diary, complete with pink bubblegum images.

When you have a blog title like mine, which doesn't exactly explain what kind of topics I'll be writing about, a visual clue from the theme may help.  A clean-cut look to the page, bright and easy on the eyes, with soothing colors and perhaps a photograph of college students or businesspeople.  Now that would set things off on the right footing.  Or, if you can create enough intrigue to draw readers in, perhaps they will read just to find out why you chose the title you did.  I have this image of a black and white photo of someone (maybe even me) sitting at a little cafe, with a cup of tea and said "little fat notebook," with pen poised over paper and pursed lips.  A pensive shot.  After all, most of the ideas I come up with for entries are recorded in that notebook and crossed off as I get to them.

For now, this is what I've got and it shall suffice.  Learning these "web languages" is like learning any other language; you can only be proficient if you learn the general grammar or syntax, basic vocabulary terms, and keep practicing.  Have you ever tried to teach yourself a foreign language?  I did in middle school and that was a disaster.  I think I came out knowing a few colors and numbers.  So, if you truly want to learn how to use markup languages, pick up a manual and build a strong foundation.  Currently I am only proficient enough to fiddle around with what other people have already created.  I envy those who are so fluent in these languages that they can whip up a website in no time!  They will be the ones earning my money in the years to come... unless I find the time to reteach myself, starting from the top.

To check out my other customization, go to laelene.tumblr.com!

 
 

In developing this blog, I have spent a lot of time researching online and reading up on other people's blogs.  One thing I found was that what I was most interested in was reading their bios and trying to find a picture of them.  For some reason I was fascinated by learning about these people.

Now most people go to blogs to read the posts and discuss the ideas held therein.  I love to do that too, but I am also immensely interested in these writers as a face and a personality.  Personal anecdotes make what they're writing about so much more real to me.

When I first started blogging, I held nothing back - it was my personal journal for all to see.  Then I decided to privatize my posts so that only friends could read it.  With that veil, I could continue to write about the people in my life without concealing their identities, since they mostly knew each other anyway.

However, as I was getting back into the blogging scene in the early days of 2009, I wanted a public blog that anyone could stumble upon.  I thought long and hard and decided I should create aliases for the people I would be talking about (and even kept myself behind a pen name) for privacy purposes.

With social networking, blogs, photo and video sharing sites becoming evermore popular, transparency has emerged as a concern for us all to consider.  It is much easier to find the true identities of people via these sites now, so it makes me wonder how transparent I should be on my blog.  Should I use people's real first names?  Should I post pictures or videos of them up?

To some extent I am worried about the safety of this - am I endangering those around me by overexposing them on the internet?  Or, should I just go with the flow of it (which, apparently, is towards complete transparency)?  Though I believe in being honest and open, should I be so open?  It doesn't change the quality of my writing if I refer to someone by their real name or their pet name.

A blog I was reading recently dealt with the decision to be more transparent and it made me think about my own choice to use pseudonyms.  Only recently did I even decide to reveal my own name in the "About" section.  It's a first step towards my personal transparency.  However, for now, I still don't feel right about revealing more about the people in my lives.

It's a hard balance between sharing enough and sharing too much!

 
 

Those of you active on facebook have probably been tagged in the "25 random things about me" note by this point.  In case you haven't it's this note that someone started by writing 25 tidbits about him/herself (I'm just going to pretend this was a girl and use the appropriate pronouns) and tagging 25 people who she wanted to learn more about.  You are supposed to include whoever tagged you as well, so they can read what you wrote.  I think it's the most passed-on note of all facebook history.  After I'd been tagged a few times, I decided it was my turn to continue the trend and I found myself reflecting on college:

"After I graduated, I thought I'd miss college a lot. Surprisingly, I'm ok. Possibly because I am still there all the time (at least once a week), but I think also because this is the only time I can get away with weeks of not having something/somewhere I had to go, certain times I have to get up, and no deadlines to meet. I spent a lot of time watching TV shows, which I haven't done since middle school - Gilmore Girls, House, Pushing Daisies, and now Lie to Me. Now that I'm all but caught up on the last episodes of House and Lie to Me, I've been filling my time with a lot of reading. To some extent I'm learning a lot more than I ever did in school. From career advice to relationship advice, Asian American perspectives to Gen Y opinions, I'm covering a lot of ground. The great thing is everything I'm learning is useful!

Looking back and reading others' thoughts on college is making me think of it more as a place to blossom and learn about yourself than to really learn anything concrete for your future. To some extent, yes, there are facts and figures to be remembered. But for the most part, it's about figuring out what you want to do, how you interact with people, where you fit in the world, the type of people you should surround yourself with, etc. Except for highly specified fields, the degree you walk away almost never tells anything about your future. (I just realized this is starting to sound like something that should be a blog post. Sorry. I'll go write up an entry on this instead.)"


Here I am, making good on that promise.

I've read articles on why this guy regretted getting straight A's in college, tips on what college students should do to prepare themselves for their professional future, and a personal account of lessons learned outside the college classroom.  It all made me realize that there's a bigger picture here, beyond the quest for perfect grades.

We enter college thinking that this is our ticket to that job we wanted.  And in many ways, it is.  Just not the way you'd expect.  People spend so much time agonizing over what major to study, what classes to take, and what school to go to in the first place.  Yet what matters more are the people you'll meet, the skills (and not so much the facts) you'll learn, and the experience you can look back on.

What should you be capitalizing on?  Networking, self-discovery, and lessons in life.  The spectrum of people you meet in college will trounce any high school experience you've had (unless you're going to some small private university meant for a very specific demographic).  It is important to notice the types of people you get along with, the types who rub you the wrong way, and your interactions with them.  Life is largely composed of relationships and looking at your interactions with people can tell you a lot about your personality and preferences.

When I look back on my time at UCLA and studying abroad at the University of York, I hardly cherish the facts drilled into me as much as how my friends, organizations, and even living situations have shaped me.  From them, I have learned that I enjoy company and never want to live alone.  They have shown me how much I love to travel and meet new people in foreign cultures.  They have shown me how loyal I can be and what motivates me to get things done.  They have even taught me a bit about relaxation and what soothes me in stressful times.

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to know yourself.  What are your passions?  What are your fears?  It is only when you begin to understand the "why" behind the "what" that you can apply that knowledge towards personal fulfillment.  Find what drives you and use that to motivate you towards your goals.  And while it's important to be aiming for something, it's also important to know how you can get there while enjoying yourself.

The idea is to not take things at face value, but look for the deeper lessons to be learned.  Lessons about you as a person and how you fit into the world.  College is a great place for you to meet the best and brightest to learn with.


Side note:
One of the great things about blogging (or keeping a private journal/diary) is your ability to look back and see how much you've changed.  I kept a blog for about two years in the early stages of my college career and when I went back to read what I had written so long ago, I was surprised to notice how things have progressed.  Even if you don't have access to that type of insight, I don't know anyone who looks back on college and thinks, "Oh yeah, just another four years of my life."  No, college is life-altering.  Take advantage of it.

 
 

[originally posted February 6, 2009]

I lay around all night, thinking about what kind of perspective my blog can offer the world.  Through hours of research in the past couple of days, I am slowly beginning to come up with an identity for myself.  At first, I thought about writing career related stuff, especially for college students and fresh college grads.  Then, I also wanted to incorporate a feminist point of view (and for me, that just means exploring how I view things being a female).  After that I started thinking about my interest in marketing and entrepreneurism and perhaps providing tips in those areas, as I learn them.  From there, I explored how my perspective is different as an Asian American and that is what I'm currently reading about.  So, in an effort to merge all these interests, I could create a "female Asian American's thoughts and experiences in the professional world" type blog.

Of course, I also have a myriad of interests outside of those areas, so I really am struggling to try to keep a certain focus.  I adore traveling and immersing myself into other worlds, but I haven't done that in a year, though I am about to leave for Singapore.  I love cats (and pretty much all animals), but my last one just died on Christmas.  I have an obsession for the military, especially the Marine Corps, but I don't really get to interact with them anymore.  I am also fascinated with relationships and reading about all aspects of that kind of advice.  I find arts and crafts to be really cool, though I haven't really had time to create anything lately (the last thing was my cross stitch).  I am a huge fan of food and I even take pictures of any and every meal that is vaguely interesting or tasty-looking.  Speaking of, I also take LOADS of pictures to document my life and those around me.

I think in the end I am just hoping that because everything I write about will be from my thoughts, there will be a theme or two that emerge from the way I write and what I choose to write about.  Am I just trying too hard to find it right now?

 
 

[originally posted February 6, 2009]

For the past couple of hours, I have been entrenched in the world of blogs and Twitter, which seem to be at the forefront of social media.  I continued the slow trudge through the rest of the entries that Jess Goodman wrote on her blog after writing my previous entry and started to get curious about social media.  Link after link of related material led me to various blogs of famous writers, career coaches, entrepreneurs, and anyone else who has embraced this new trend.  I still have over twenty tabs open in my browser of blogs to visit and ideas to research.  It's crazy!

What hit me recently (sometime between the last post and this) was the emerging phenomenon of Twitter.  Alarmingly, I haven't a clue what it is or how to utilize it, but after reading up on it, it seems it is the new direction of the online community.  I am sad to realize that as much as I pride myself on adapting quickly and being rather tech-savvy, I have been left behind on this front.  Thankfully, it's not too late to get in on it, but to some extent I don't want to.  I never really thought of myself as a traditionalist at heart, but I'm starting to see that part of me emerge.  I don't want to learn about this "tweeting" and all the new lingo associated with it.  I don't want to give up my Yahoo account for a Gmail one.  I don't want internet access on my cell phone.  I don't want to learn how to use a Mac.  I don't want the pace of life to pick up even more!  But, it is the age of connectivity and sooner or later, that is how things will be.

Back when Facebook first began in 2004, I was graduating high school and resistant to this new concept.  It wasn't until a friend whose judgment I respected greatly invited me to join that I decided to set up a profile.  Since then, I've never looked back and I absolutely adore what the site has done for me.  As a child, I moved every three to four years, and as a result of that, lost touch with most of my friends from my youth.  What memories I did hold of these lost friends enabled me to find them years later, on Facebook!  It was a great way to reunite with all those people who I had to move away from and now it is an amazing way to share the extensive amount of pictures that I take.  Throughout the evolution of Facebook, I have kept an open mind and though I am generally not a fan of the applications and the newsfeed made me a little concerned, I have always known that after the initial uproar, people would learn to use those new features.  It amazes me that time and time again, people will resist change, but then slowly they will adapt to it and forget how life ever was without it.

Now with the Twitter revolution, I feel like I am back in the summer before college, trying to decide if this trend was just a fad or something to start getting involved in.  And though I may not be entirely comfortable with it starting out, I will give it a try.  After all, it seems like every avid blogger (including my best friend)  is obsessed with Twitter.  There's got to be a reason for that, right?

 
 

[originally posted February 5, 2009]

Today I realized how much of a stickler I am for grammar and spelling.  In fact, my obsession is borderline anal, yet I can't help it.  It all started when I was reading through a random blog I came across and just couldn't get past the mistakes the author kept making.  Now, I try to be open-minded and recognize that it's not easy to maintain a blog with regular entries and never make a mistake.  So, typically, I glaze over those minor errors as I'm perusing other people's writing.  However, this girl has taken it too far for my comfort.  When it gets to this point, I start to wonder if she put any thought into what she was typing.  She's got some good ideas to throw out there, but I couldn't prevent myself from getting distracted by the endless errors I encountered.  It was just too much for me.

Image has always been important to me.  Part of that is how you look (what you wear, how clean you are, how much makeup you put on, etc.), but part of it is also how you speak and write.  I immediately lose respect for writers who consistently make spelling and grammar errors or speakers who mispronounce words or use unconventional slang.  It makes them seem uneducated or careless, neither of which are traits I find help their credibility.  Despite that, I somehow couldn't tear myself away and had to keep reading through Goodman's blog, painful as it was suffering through typo after typo.  It's unfortunate because I actually am interested in reading what this girl has to say, but I can only take so much at a time before getting impatient with her blogging.

I guess this only came up as an issue because I came across an entry by Penelope Trunk lamenting the emphasis on perfect blogging soon after I read a blog whose author hates spelling mistakes.  It made me rethink my personal vendetta against typos and in the end, I didn't change my mind.  It's true that occasional mistakes can and should be overlooked.  However, constant mistakes and inconsistencies are annoying and detract from the message.  So here is my response to Trunk's points from "Writing without typos is totally outdated."

1.  Spellchecker isn't perfect.
I am an advocate of proofreading rather than merely spell-checking; it's true that Spellchecker misses a lot of errors, hence the need to reread!
2.  Spelling has nothing to do with intelligence.
Spelling may not necessarily reflect intelligence, but honestly, nothing can measure intelligence.  There are so many different ways you can be intelligent that trying to measure it is obsolete.  However, spelling is a good indicator of attention to detail and like it or not, some people will also take it as a reflection of intelligence.
3.  You don't have unlimited time, so spend it on ideas, not hyphens.
Though it does take time to be careful with your grammar and spelling, it shows a certain level of commitment to learn the basics early on.  Once you have mastered that, it is virtually effortless to construct coherent, error-free sentences.  It's much more worth it to spend a little more time crafting a good image than to have opportunities thrown away because you were misrepresented as a careless, unintelligent person.
4.  Perfectionism is a disease.
Perfectionism is too extreme, but noticing typos is not exactly the most arduous task to undertake.  As long as people don't dwell on periodic errors, it doesn't hurt to improve this facet of your life, seeing as how the written word is so important to human culture.
5.  Use the comments section for what matters: Intelligent discourse.
I do agree that the comments section should not be wasted on people talking about these types of errors.  It's up to the authors to be careful with what they write the first time around, making sure to proofread so nobody feels compelled to leave those messages.

P.S. - Did anyone else notice the spelling error in her entry?  Coincidence or just proving her point?