Sports academy 04/11/2009

I attended yet another forum today, this time on the topic of whether Singapore is ready to be a sporty nation.  In other words, they don't have a very strong sports culture at the moment, but it is growing stronger and there are those who are interested in bringing it to the forefront.  They want to develop a following for uni level sports like in the states, where college teams are closely followed, or produce athletes like in Russia, which is a powerhouse for certain sports.  Well, those are just models to look at anyway.  Generally, they just want Singaporeans to embrace an active lifestyle, whether by playing sports themselves or supporting and rooting for those who do (especially if they represent the country in international meets).

First though, people need to realize that excellence in athletics and excellence in academics or other areas of life don't necessarily have to be a trade-off.  Of course, there will be those who choose to sacrifice all others in the pursuit of elite athleticism, but you don't need to be that hardcore to still make a living for yourself and be successful in your own right.  It seems that the main concern people have for sports is that it takes away from academics.  This need not be the case.  In fact, in my experience, the better someone is at their sport, the more they tend to excel in school as well.  It's a matter of the discipline, focus, and dedication they learn from their sport that carries over to other aspects of their lives.  There are a lot of other valuable life skills that can be developed from learning a sport too, whether it's teamwork, sportsmanship, or self-motivation.  All of these can be directly useful life skills that positively affect the athletes' lives.

Secondly, I feel that people need a more open mind to what the sports culture is all about.  It's not always about being the athlete.  Even if you choose to practice the sport yourself, you don't have to be the best (or even that close) to do well for yourself.  A lot of how well you do and how much money you can earn has to do with how you present yourself.  Personal branding is crucial for creating the right image and smart marketing of yourself to sponsors can earn you a lot.  For those who are world-class, but not quite on the radar for their performance, it then comes down to how you approach things.  At that level, you already have a lot of experience that people are dying to learn from.  You can become a public speaker, start your own club and teach your own classes, write a book, or a number of other things to impart your wisdom.  The top elite athletes are too busy to do that, so you can get into that before they start to slow down and look into those options.

Finally, success is measured differently for everyone and there are so many other paths you can pursue within each sport.  There are a great number of satellite opportunities in the fields of coaching, sports management, sports medicine, physical therapy, sports psychology, etc.  Why limit yourself to the hours upon hours of physical exertion and training?  You can love a sport and be involved in it without being the one setting records and straining your body.  For some, interests and strengths may lie more in promoting those who do perform like none other, protecting their bodies and minds, or in providing them with the tools and resources they need to reach the level they want.  I think that the only universal thing is that people want to be happy and not too financially strapped.  So, in doing something they love, but also finding a way to pay the bills through a steady job, plenty of people can contribute to the sports industry and help it grow.

Talking about the issues that come with this territory, such as changing people's mindsets so they can see this as a viable career option, reminded my of my own aspiration in this arena.  I even wrote it down when I first created this blog - see goal #2 here.  I came up with this as a concrete idea during one of my random enlightening sessions chatting with Philosopher, one of my closest friends in York.  Together we dreamed up a vocational school for athletes that would not only allow them to train and compete at national and international levels, but would also arm them with the necessary skills to be self-sufficient long after their bodies gave out on them.  The curriculum would involve physiological science, biology, diet and exercise, a history of their sport, sportsmanship, media relations, coaching, negotiation for deals and sponsorships, personal branding, and other such knowledge that would be useful for athletes to know in an academic sense.  Ultimately, graduates would be prepared for years of competitive involvement if they so chose, or they could bypass that and continue on straight to the peripheral jobs.  It's all about empowering people who are traditionally seen as less intelligent with the ability to take care of themselves.

This plan has been on the backburner for a long time now, since it would take immense resources, connections, and organization to get it all together.  In hearing about a new degree offered at a uni here, I started to think that maybe a way to get started is to start implementing sports management majors, alongside the growing options for degrees in other sports related disciplines.  From there, a set of professors and experts can be drawn to start a new organization that solely focuses on the student athletes.  Even that will take a long, long time though, so for now, I'm just going to sit on it.  Then maybe someday, I can finally make this dream come true.

Family life 04/10/2009

At times I wish I had more family living near me, or a greater extended family sprawled around the world.  I have always dreamt of having an older brother to rely on (or a gay best friend).  Since I tend to connect a lot better with guys, I have always wanted to have one who was very, very close to me in a platonic way.  Unfortunately, though such figures have come and gone, I can't really claim one guy who I can run to when I am hurt or scared or just have a great secret to share.  More than that though, I wish that my cousins and I were closer.  When I was young, I would always follow them around so closely that they nicknamed me their shadow.  It was true enough, since I only got to see them once a year for a few weeks and that was my only tie to my background.

I have lived my life very much alone, or in a tiny family unit consisting of me and my parents.  I always love to have people over to my house simply because nobody ever visits!  It's always just me, my mom, my dad, and for some years, my cats.  There are no random second cousins or great aunts, twice removed who can swing by to say hi.  In fact, there isn't a single other person in our family in the country, from either side of the family.  So, other than the summers that I got to go back to China in my childhood, I've hardly ever seen my relatives.  Lately, I have also spent a lot of my time on my own, first as I went off to college, then as my dad moved back to China, then as I studied abroad in England, then as my mom moved back to China as well, and finally as I moved out to Singapore to work.

Granted, I am not alone alone.  Yet, I have had nobody I can call family in the same country as me for the past two and a half years, but for the few months my mom came to visit, the couple of weeks my dad has spent back, and the lucky few days that some of my aunts and uncles got to come watch me graduate from UCLA.  Family, after all, are the only people who are linked to you from day 1.  And in my life, they are the only ones who have always been there, even if it was largely in the background and rather out of reach.  But year after year, they are there, growing in their own ways, and eventually we will catch up again.  For me, friendship has not worked out quite that way, since each move brought another group of people to leave behind.  I can never claim a best friend from my childhood who watched me grow up.  The only people who truly watched me grow up were my parents.

I have certainly been blessed with a lot of wonderful people in my life, but once again I find that they come and go.  I'm so used to people leaving my life and becoming a great memory that I didn't even notice I do that, until a close friend pointed it out.  Perhaps I got too conditioned to having to leave people behind with every move we made over the years.  I don't have the mindset that makes me think of someone, pick up the phone and call them, or drop them an e-mail to catch up.  Instead, I just wonder whatever happened to them and how they are doing.  I am always grateful when I do hear from a long-lost friend and get to see how they are doing in their lives.  I love that we are becoming a more globally connected world now and facebook was the first social media tool that allowed me to get in touch with friends from lives past.  I also love that you don't need to be maintaining a conversation with each other to keep tabs on and be able to find each other years down the line.

I like to dream about a handful of aunts and uncles and dozens of cousins bustling around during Chinese New Year, as the whole family makes time to be together.  Sadly, I've only been in China once during that time of year since I left (which was when I was too young to remember anything anyway) and I don't recall a thing about it.  My dad has told me that to truly experience Chinese festivities, I need to spend Chinese New Year back in his hometown, the little place that he grew up in.  Now that truly has small town flair in its celebrations, with all the stops pulled!  Maybe if I have time next year, I can make it come true, in the second Year of the Ox that I will experience since the one I was born in.  2010 will be an important year for me because I will have gone through two full Chinese zodiac cycles.  I'm sure that has some sort of significance.

Someday, I'd like to be able to gather with all my relatives (or at least one representative from each family unit).  But over the years, even our not-so-big family has had trouble reuniting as my cousins married off and started to create their own little families.  Between work, children, spouses, and friends, it's hard to find time to get together like we used to when everyone lived in the same town and the only ones missing were me and my parents.  Now I'm embarking on my own life as well, sacrificing time with loved ones in hopes of building a strong foundation for a successful future.  Work is hardly as flexible as tertiary education was, with more hours and less ease of changing schedules.  Plus, there's a lot less time off per annum.  On the other hand, I am very fortunate to be working for a company that would, like no other, work with me to try to make it happen, if I so chose.  One of the things I will miss most about education is the lovely summer months filled with enrichment learning, extracurricular fun, and personal fulfillment.

Despite all this daydreaming about a huge family, I still don't want more than two or three kids, if only because I don't know if I can handle any more.  Growing up so independent and with all the attention focused on me makes it difficult for me to conceive how it would be with a handful of children running amok.  The grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it?  And that is why I wish I had a companion to grow up with, whether sibling, cousin living nearby, or best friend from childhood.  But, because I know there is this tendency to think that the other way is so much better, I do recognize the benefits of only childhood.  Thus, I don't want to overcompensate by having so many kids I don't know what to do with myself.  Instead, to create that feel, I'd like to live in a neighborhood where everyone knows each other and the kids can play together.  This would also be a great way to expose them to how others live their lives, especially if it's a multicultural community!

Blogworthy? 02/08/2009

[originally posted February 4, 2009]

I have spent a lot of time these past two days reading people's blogs, mostly about the guy biking all over the Americas and Africa and the aforementioned Brazen Careerist founder's.  I also read through one about three guys longboarding their way through South America.  All this makes me want to have a strong theme to my writing as well, but I can't help but write about all aspects of my life.  I don't really have a focus for a target audience, though I feel like I should have one.  I'm also trying to come up with a good title for the blog that would encompass the right ideas and give the right impression I'm looking for.

As of yet, I'm having trouble with this - perhaps I am going to need to do what Katana is doing and have two blogs to achieve this goal: one for personal writing and anecdotes, the other for a more professional and focused front.  So, I think I am going to continue to write about all sorts of thoughts that cross my mind here until I am ready for a pro blog, which will ideally go on my own website (which I still need to have).  Thankfully, is not taken and a quick search of my name yields all but one result for me on the first page.  I am hoping that the other Mary Qins out there don't steal that domain name before I get to it.  I doesn't look likely, but who knows.

Typing woes 02/08/2009

[originally posted January 17, 2009]

Oh the joys of a broken keyboard.  For the past week and a half, I have been painstakingly pounding out everything I wanted to type via a crazy combination of typing on letters that don't work and clicking them out on the on-screen keyboard.  It is the most annoying thing I have encountered recently, especially since I pride myself in my efficient typing skills.  Communicating just isn't the same when you have to spend quadruple the amount of time getting something out.  Instant message conversations are supposed to be just that: INSTANT.  I hate it when I have to slooowly click out what I'm trying to say and hope that it still works in the moment when the real moment passed minutes ago.  Some of what I say is time sensitive!  GAH.

Well, thankfully I am being helped out by a friend who ordered a replacement keyboard for me and will help me put it in next week.  In the mean time, I managed to borrow an external keyboard from him and found that I had gotten so used to the unruliness of my fried keys that it took me a few minutes to get back up to proper typing speed.  It's such a relief to be able to express myself as I used to.  I don't know what I'd do if I had to wait this out too much longer.  I am not the most patient of people when it comes to basic things like this that I don't think I should ever have to deal with.  I am an extremely expressive person and I'd lose it if I couldn't use language to bring that out in me the way I enjoy.

Now hopefully with this disaster behind me, I will get back to posting more regularly.  Previously it was such a pain I couldn't handle it, with my mind running a mile a minute and my fingers going one word per minute.  -____-  What a great match-up.

Fresh outlook 02/08/2009

[originally posted January 1, 2009]

Well, with a new year, I thought I'd start something new.  Recently I've been inspired by my best friend "Katana" to do more blogging.  Since she moved out to Kansas I haven't gotten to see her much, so reading her blogs are a great way to stay in touch (and entertained!).  She's made a career out of life in the blogosphere and while my hopes are not exactly along those lines, I'd also like to write more like she does.  Granted, I still have my personal handwritten journal to take care of (and that I've neglected for a long time), but there's nothing quite like blogging to capture the small things in life.  I find it's a great place to explore my thoughts in a more immediate way.

Though I kept another LiveJournal a few years back, I think it's time to use a different domain for this new chapter in my life.  Maybe I can track my progress as a recent graduate, looking for a job and figuring out where to lead my life.  I know where I think my life is going to go is going to change a lot before it settles anywhere and I'm ready to explore what there is out there for me to do.  I can also follow the development of my relationship (the first!) and how my hopes and expectations evolve over time.

Ok, so... where am I in my life?  I just graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor's of Arts in Psychology and Economics.  I'm looking for jobs nearby (preferably in Westwood, otherwise in Los Angeles somewhere) in marketing or administrative work.  I want to work for two or three years before going to business school for my MBA.  After that I'd like to get into upper level management, get the experience to see what it takes to run a company before branching off and getting into entrepreneurial work.  The first thing I want to do at that point is start an environmental consulting firm focused on conservation and recycling.  I've also toyed with the idea of a vocational school for athletes and a craft/party store complete with classes.  But that will be on the back burner for many more years to come.

Well, at least that was my 10-20 year plan.  More recently I've been considering an opportunity to start up a branch of a Singaporean company (Caelan & Sage) here in California with my Singaporean "twin" - let's call her Marylin.  However, there's a lot of research, preparation, and information I need to look into before I go forth with this.  It would be lovely to get a head start on my dreams of entrepreneurial success though.  I have high hopes and dreams, though I'm trying to stay grounded and be practical about this.  However, I am fresh out of uni and ready to conquer the world!  Ultimately I just want to learn and grow, then take that to inspire and motivate people, as well as create happy work environments.

As for my personal life, it's the first time in my life that I am happily seeing someone.  I'll refer to him as Panda.  He is an amazing person and I'm really lucky to have met him.  I'm still grappling with this concept: someone likes me and is good to me?!  I've made some poor decisions in the past, leading to some unfortunate experiences, which makes me appreciate this all the more.  My other best friend, "Elle," bluntly showed her shock when she heard I'd found someone who treated me well.  She's happy for me, of course, but she's seen me go through some less than savory characters and never really get into a relationship.  I've also been known to run from any guy who shows interest in me, so she's glad that I still like this one!

The world has a lot to offer and I have my fair share to contribute.  Onward!