A future unknown 04/23/2009
 

Today, Panda and I discussed our future living situation and it's a good thing that's far down the road!  Though everything else we differ in opinion on can be compromised more readily (like the cat I really want I can "adopt" by going to a local shelter to volunteer with the cats there), where to live is something that is much harder to agree on.  Though I think I would like to end up living in LA, I also can't imagine not finally getting around to living in a few of the places I've been thinking about: Houston, Denver, somewhere in England again...  I've never lived in any city for longer than 4 years and I can't stand thinking about being caged up to one city for the rest of my life.  I move a lot, I experience a lot, and I change a lot.  Ironically though, even though I'm used to change, I don't like the change of having no more change.  Change is what I'm used to and that is what I'm comfortable with.  I like a new kind of scenery, a purging of my life here and there, and plenty of chances to learn from a wide demographic!

On the other hand, Panda is born and bred Californian.  Not only has he never left the country, he's hardly left the state.  He knows LA and he loves LA.  It's hard for him to imagine living anywhere else, ever.  He grew up with the same people pretty much in the same school district his entire life.  He hasn't moved since he was just an infant (other than going to college).  Even the college he chose is close to home and right in the middle of LA.  He's comfortable in that city and doesn't want to leave.  Though he's willing to take trips to visit places around the world, he's just not interested in settling down anywhere else, for any length of time.  His life has been stable, consistent, and reliable.  So why would he want to take a chance and change all that?  It's far easier to keep on doing what he's doing and get a job in the area, raise a family there, and grow old there.  Very predictable.

I have known this about him and it has worried me a bit as I imagined our future together.  It's good that we still have time to change ourselves and perhaps change our minds, but what if we don't?  How do you reconcile two opposite demands?  Just vacationing is not good enough for me.  I want to immerse myself in a new place, which can only be done with lots of time.  So, I was thinking, maybe I could spend a few months of each year in another city and switch the city every few years.  However, I don't like being away from him and I certainly would not want to start a family like that.  Panda suggested that we can try to have two houses, one in the greater Los Angeles area, and one in whatever other city I'm interested in.  That's a good idea in theory, but when would he have the time to join me there?  Being an engineer, I'm sure his work days will be long and hard and the vacation time will be minimal.

Then I was thinking, maybe the company he works for would have offices in the places I'm interested in, so he can request a transfer for a year or two.  After a few of those, we could end up in LA again and settle down then.  Of course, that is banking a lot on the possibility of an office where I want to go and available space.  The type of work I'm doing now seems to (and hopefully is) propelling me towards a life of entrepreneurism and various ventures, which would make my schedule more flexible.  So perhaps I could just wait until he finds a good position and then we relocate.  Granted, this is assuming he'd be willing to go through all that trouble for a couple of years.

As a kid, I got sent on a lot of camps and trips, from annual summer visits to China to swim camps and boot camps (no, I was not a bad child, it was for my JROTC unit and I elected to go).  I like being exposed to different things all the time.  From my upbringing, I tend to get bored of things easily, unless it is always making me see and do things in a different way.  I am afraid that that is going to happen with LA.  I just need some time away, to get out all the dreams I've had before I can feel good about settling down in one place.  Unfortunately, that "time away" can take anywhere from 5-15 years.  Who really knows how things will turn out?  I'm trying not to worry about it right now, since it's still far away, as are deeper commitments with each other.  But, here I am, just about seven and a half weeks into my time in Singapore and I can't stand a day without him.  And much as I appreciate my experience here, I dream of the day that I get to hold his hand again.  How could I ever leave him in LA again and again for years?

For me, when it gets to the point where I know a city inside and out, it loses a lot of its appeal.  It is no longer mysterious, no longer exciting, but suddenly a solved puzzle.  But for him, Los Angeles is his home.  Literally and figuratively.  He's familiar with its areas, its weather, its people.  He knows just where to go to get the food he wants to eat or the things he needs to buy.  At the same time, Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis with so much to explore and see!  From the famous landmarks to visit to the beautiful places to see, it offers up a whole bunch of options.  I can totally see him staying there forever and never getting bored.  I admit, there is still plenty for me to go see and do, but I've hit up most of the important areas (multiple times) and I'm ready to try something new in a few years.  I still want to go back and establish something there first, but after that... who knows.

As for now, we'll both just have to see if we can break out of the barriers we grew up learning and find some sort of a compromise down the road.

 
 

On the way to work this morning, I had the unfortunate experience of standing next to a guy with his music blasting into his ears.  I don't know what it is about people out there, but they all seem to need their music played at exorbitant volumes.  It's completely unnecessary and rather harmful too, yet they either don't know or don't care and go on with their deafening habits.  It has long been proven that prolonged exposure to loud noises is damaging to our ears.  Is it just that people have not gotten the memo?  Besides the point that is it deafening, literally, it's also disruptive and inconsiderate to the people around, most who just want a peaceful start to their day.  For those who are trying to drown out ambient noise, get those noise-canceling headphones or learn how to focus on the sound right by your ears, rather than the ones slipping through!

Perhaps it is because of my background studying psychology, which in turn includes biology and physiology, that creates a bias in my knowledge about this subject.  But surely any lay man who goes from an extremely loud environment to a quiet one can tell that the ringing in their ears is not a good thing.  Note to the wise: ringing ears means auditory damage!  You are killing off nerves in those ears!  Now a bit of exposure here and there is hardly noticeable, but when you're subjecting yourself to that for hours each week, it will result in permanent damage that cannot be reversed.  So are these people just looking to incapacitate themselves this way?  This will always be a mystery to me.  Do people think they're somehow "cool" by doing this?  Maybe it's just me, but I find it an annoying and rude behavior.

Listening to music loudly is often used as a means to ignore the rest of the world.  After all, if your eyes are averted and your ears are plugged, how do we get your attention?  This is a phenomenon you'll find common on college campuses are students bustle around campus, rushing to get places.  The main thoroughfare through UCLA, Bruinwalk, is abound with students ignoring each other and the people frantically trying to give them fliers as they pass by.  It's notorious amongst all students that earphones in means everyone out.  Sure, sometimes you need to focus on yourself and where you're headed or what you need to do, but really, do you need to act like you're the only one left on the planet?  Playing music at a reasonable level allows you to filter through things that you don't want to hear, but also catch important ones like someone chasing after you, calling your name.  Since when did we become so antisocial?

I have always listened to my music at a level that is just enough to hear, but not enough to drown out what is going on around me.  I like to be aware of my surroundings and if I can't hear the sirens approaching that I should give way to or the people behind me who are excusing themselves while trying to dodge me to get off the train, I'm far more likely to be a nuisance and get in the way.  So what do you say?  How about turning down the volume a little and not shutting yourself off in your own world, oblivious to your surroundings.  We as humans are not meant to function that way.  That is why we are social and why we form societies.  So, next time you have the urge to blast your music at the max volume, turn it down halfway and allow yourself time to enjoy the world you're in.

 
 

I was watching a video with clips of an interview conducted overlooking the San Fernando Valley today and it brought up so many memories, particularly of Valentine's Day, when Panda and I had a similar view.  Seeing that, with the California sun and telltale smog, made me miss LA so much.  Not just the memories and experiences from there, but the greater Los Angeles area in general.  From the landscape to the opportunities to the people, there is so much to love.  Between two cities in LA County, I have spent the greater part of the last six years living in Southern California.  I have certainly grown to the love place, despite the hours I spent travelling up and down the 5 and 405, stuck in traffic.  Of course, there is also a slew of terrific memories of all the wonderful things I got to experience there.  Most recently, there was the drive up and down Mulholland Drive that brought about some great new views of familiar territory.  Then earliest on, I had been introduced to many of the main attractions in the area, from Santa Monica Pier to the Hollywood Bowl.

I remember when I first moved out to California, I hated the place.  I was heartbroken from being torn from my high school friends, teachers, classes, and organizations with such little notice (everything happened within a period of two weeks).  I never got a chance to tell people I was leaving, but for a handful of close friends who I saw briefly days before flying away.  Everyone else just started school that year to find me on the other side of the country.  Between having to adjust to a new social life and academic challenges, it was frustrating to also be annoyed on a daily basis by small nusances like the dry weather.  I had to start showering in the mornings and pin my hair up to prevent it from getting too staticy and itching my skin.  It was also irritating to have to slathe on lotion day in and day out, just so my skin wouldn't crack painfully, retricting my activity.  It took my body two full years to finally adjust to the arid SoCal weather.

Once I started college at UCLA, things began to look up as I started to discover myself more and more.  No longer worried about brittle hair or dry skin, I could go out and enjoy myself so much more.  It's amazing how basic physical comfort can contribute so much to quality of life.  College life also brought about so many opportunities, explorations, and new experiences.  Although I had always grown up independent, this offered a different level of freedom, where I could sleep in on days I didn't have class in the mornings or stay up all night hanging out with friends just because.  I also began to learn how to take care of myself, from doing laundry to making sure I ate and slept a decent amount.  Let's not forget that students are offered so many great deals, from the countless groups to get involved in to the plentiful discounts exclusively for them.  Through that, I got a taste of the wide variety of attractions that LA has to offer, from the beaches and mountains to the entertainment centers and museums.  Food from all over the world is more or less offered there as well, though to differing degrees of Americanization.  Overall, it was truly unparalleled exposure.

Even though I'm used to never staying put in one city for too long, I can see myself staying in this one for years to come.  I have always strongly believed that I can make a living in any city, as I have always done.  But, at the same time, there's something nice about claiming a city as my own.  As the one that I know in and out.  As the one I came of age in.  As the one where I found myself.  There's a certain romantic notion about devoting so much to a city and absorbing yourself in that culture.  And of all the cities I've been to, I can't think of another one better suited for my wants and needs.  The only thing I wish was different would be the quality of air.  Every time I see that layer of smog, I can't help but think of how many years of my life I could be taking off just by breathing that in.  In the long run, I can see this being a city I would want to settle in.  However, at the same time, I am still interested in living in other places while I can still move around.  I don't know how Panda feels about that one though.  Perhaps I will just have to take business trips and vacations to the other places I've wanted stay in.

I miss my home.  Not just the house we have, but the friends who are still there and the familiarity of the place.  I feel safe there, surrounded by everything I know and understand.  It has become my element, where I can effortlessly navigate life there.  Plus, I left my heart there.  I can't wait to go back, if only to be able to hug Panda again and return to a place that is mine.

 
 

As my departure date approaches, I am frantically taking advantage of the time I have left to visit my friends at and around UCLA.  The other night, I met up with a friend for tea and two and a half hours later, I left campus with a nostalgic feeling in my heart.  I miss the days of staying up late with my friends, discussing all sorts of ideas and lamenting the work we had to do.  One of the things I will miss most about college life is those late night chats in the hallway or lounge.

That is the reason that I stayed in on-campus housing for as long as I could; I loved the atmosphere there that cannot be replicated.  When else can you go knock on a random stranger's door and make a friend without seeming too forward?  Where else will you find so many doors kept open and people weaving in and out of the hallway?  College residential life is the best buffer for meeting new people who may have nothing in common with you.  In every other social situation, you are brought together by some shared interest, but in this one, your choice of living situation hardly dictates the type of people you will be living around.

It was the nicest thing to be back in that environment I adored so much, doing what I do best - livening up the quarters!  In fact, as we stood in the hallway chatting, the duty RA came by and told us how he had just been thinking how he hadn't heard the place so chatty since I was last around when he rounded the corner to find it was actually me there!  We caught up briefly and then he left to continue his round, jokingly warning us to keep it down or else he'd have to come write us up (he's a friend of mine, so it was only half serious).  I thought about it and you know what?  I'd much rather be the type of person up way too late interacting with my peers and possibly getting written up for it than the type of person always holed up in the my room, hardly ever socializing with fellow students.

College is a time of great growth, academically and socially, and everyone should take advantage of it in all aspects.  I will always fondly remember the feeling of sitting around with my friends, exchanging our thoughts throughout the night.  And I will miss that, as well as having such a huge concentration of friends in a small area.  Life is changing quickly.

 
 

I just overheard my mom on the phone, booking her plane ticket to Mongolia, due to leave just about 12 hours after mine to Singapore leaves LAX.  The past couple of days she has been lamenting what to do about our mail, since many statements cannot be sent to P.O. boxes and there is no one in our family here to take care of it for us.  We used to get it forwarded to a family friend's place, but that's such a hassle to do for just a month or two.

Now that I'm leaving the country, my mom is left to figure out what to do with the house (and her life) again.  When I was studying abroad in England, she rented it out and moved back to China with my dad.  Should she do that again or stick around to try to pursue a career in aerospace, as she's dreamed of doing?  Strangely enough, my life is what gives her some stability - whenever I'm around, she can stay at home and do various types of work happily.  Yet, once I leave, she needs to figure what her life is about, sans moi.

All of this made me think of the fragmented time I spent with my parents growing up and how multiple moves affected my sense of independence.  It's no wonder I did become so independent, what with one parent or the other often away and our family hardly ever staying in one place long enough to make lasting friends.  As I grew older, it became my time to be away from home and friends on my own - to swim camps, to boot camps, to a swim competition in Australia, and the frequent visits to my relatives in China.  Another factor contributing to my independence was early on: I didn't even meet my parents until I was three and a half (my dad left six months before I was born and my mom left six months after I was born, so I hardly remembered her).

In the early days, my parents were busy finishing up their graduate degrees at Penn State - a Master's for my mother and a Doctorate for my father.  To support us, they had to be research assistants and my dad worked as a teaching assistant as well.  From there, it was off to Kansas, where my dad worked for the government and my mom found a random job with Payless Shoes.  I would come home to an empty house and do homework or play by myself.  I think that's when my desire for a sibling or pet began to grow, as I spent many quiet afternoons alone in the house, waiting for my mom to get home from work.  I had one or two good friends, but mostly kept to myself.  I enjoyed playing around during recess, but I rarely mixed home life with school life.

Three years later I was sent back to China for a year to reacquaint myself with the culture and language.  It was a blissful time of no homework, no worries, since I was so far behind in all the subjects - except for English, where I was so far ahead - that I was kind of just a dead weight in class.  Nevertheless, the kids loved me because this little 3rd grader was stronger than the 6th graders, and faster than anyone in school.  I didn't really contact my parents much during that year and when I returned to the US, I had no viable way of staying in touch with my friends from that school.

When we moved to Missouri, my dad had been working there for awhile.  He had secured a position with a company that kept him traveling as he and my mom started their own company, so my mom went back to China for two or three years to work on that.  The internet had just gone public and I was immersed in the world of HTML, making a variety of websites that I have since forgotten about.  I was also an extreme bookworm, preferring to spend time poring over novels to that of physical company.  At school, I was a social butterfly, known by everyone but not close to many.

By the time we made the move to New York, I was in the smack middle of my middle school years.  Afraid that I would get gaps in my knowledge if I took the honors track for math and science, my counselor advised me to follow the normal track and then test out of it after 8th grade.  The classes, unfortunately, were far too easy and filled with immature peers who I did not connect with.  My close set of friends didn't have many classes with me, since they were all on the honors track.  After finishing middle school, I found that this test that my counselor talked about did not exist.  I was stuck.  Meanwhile, my mom busied herself with the stock market as my dad worked hard at his new Vice President position, often going on business trips.

During my freshman year of high school, I took a math class that was nearly a joke for me - algebra.  I aced nearly all of the tests and quizzes and got a disappointing 99 on my final.  Frustrated with the lack of challenge, my mom had me talk to my teacher to find out what I would need to know for the next level of math.  I spent that next summer learning geometry with my mother, meticulously practicing, learning, and writing out homework.  At the beginning of my sophomore year, we took all the paperwork to the principal and my new counselor to show them that I had mastered the material.  It was agreed that I should be allowed to learn trig at that point, however, I still had to attend geometry class.  (Apparently a New York State law that I needed to spend a certain number of hours in the classroom - utterly useless.)  So, I took two math classes simultaneously that year (along with either other classes, ensuring I never had a lunch period).  Though I finally caught up academically, socially it was a bit too late - the honors track students had already formed their cliques.  And I was not a part of them.

My dad had moved to Texas when his company moved headquarters and waited there for us to move there to join him sometime in the future.  Instead, a headhunter found him and convinced him to take a new position as VP over in a Californian company.  So, with just two weeks notice in the summer following my sophomore year, we packed up and moved across the nation.  Being that it was summer, not many people knew what had happened to me and why I left.  Once again I had been the social butterfly, knowing everyone in my grade, but hardly close to any of them.  Only my closest group of friends saw me off and the rest of the school I didn't know well enough to call up to inform.

I started life anew in California as a junior.  With just two years of high school left and a lot of focus on college prep work, I made friends only with people in my classes, on my swim team, and in my JROTC unit.  This was the most present my parents had ever been, but I was far too busy with schoolwork, SAT prep, ROTC training, swim practice, and meets to really spend time with them.  For the last blissful weeks of high school, I lived it up driving around with my friends and enjoying life after APs and before college.

Then came UCLA, where I was so busy with being a college student that I only went home when I needed to do laundry.  When I was about to start my second year, my dad moved back to China to work and has been there ever since.  My third year of college I went abroad and by the time I returned, my mom had joined my dad in China.  I spent my fourth year and extra quarter on my own in this country before my mom came back to join me until I found a job.  Now I'll be off to Singapore and by the time I get back, who knows how things will be.

So you see, much of my life was spent with my parents traveling around or busy at work.  I had a lot of time to myself in the afternoons when I came back from school and spent many years away from them.  Even when we are together, we all are busy with our own obligations, so I don't just hang out with them much.  In fact, the only true bonding we get is the periodic family outings we go on - road trips my dad concocts to all kinds of places.  It's been an interesting lifestyle and it just amuses me that in a week, our family will once again be split amongst three different countries.  I do love being independent and traveling a lot, but eventually I'd like to settle somewhere long-term to have as a home base.

 
 

I mentioned before that I was going to take the opportunity to go work in Singapore.  Well, I am on my final two weeks here and we just booked the ticket!  I'll be flying out March 1st on Singapore Air, which I'm excited for - I hear it's a posh airline.  It's not really sinking in that I'm leaving yet, but by the time I get back in six months, things will be drastically different.

The house will most likely be rented out again.  My mom will either return to China to continue working or find a small house or apartment a little closer to downtown LA and try to get into the aerospace industry.  My boyfriend will be entering his senior year of college.  My other friends at UCLA will mostly be moving out into the apartments (woe for no more swipes!).  Meanwhile, I will be homeless, trying to figure out how to make things work over here.

Though the prospects don't seem that great, I am excited to see what will come of this experience.  It's part of the beauty, not knowing how things will be.  It leaves the door to opportunity wide open.  There are a lot of things that could happen and I am excited to get started on this new leg of my journey.  At the same time, it's rather daunting, so I'm taking it one step at a time... first, pack, then, go.  After that... well, time will tell as I integrate into the company (Caelan & Sage) and learn, learn, learn!

I am extremely lucky to have this chance to work abroad, experience a new country, and shadow the CEO and managing director.  Most importantly, I will be given plenty of room to develop and even freedom to decide my path from there!  Do I want to start a branch of the company here?  Do I want to create a new division to go under their umbrella of services?  Whatever way I end up going, the company will be behind me, supporting me in so many different ways.  From finances to connections, manpower to ideas, I will have them to lean on.

Caelan & Sage's slogan is "Infinite Possibilities" and they certainly do live up to their name!  There is a plethora of choices I face and countless paths that I can eventually take.  What lies ahead of me is a wide expanse of land, waiting for me to forge my way.  How many people can say they have that opportunity?  And how many can say they have it with one of their closest friends?  I am truly blessed.

 
 

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.

 
 

It's early in the morning and I have yet to sleep all night.  This has been an ever-increasing problem with me in the past week.  I've always been a night owl, but now I'm up until brunch time and then I end up sleeping through until dinner.  If I have something to do during the day, I just take a nap before I have to go.  It's not enough sleep, but I get through the day and usually pass out in the evening.  However, that sleep is never very restful and I end up waking up later that night, which just leads to another all-nighter.

I'm starting to get a headache from this, but there are so many things to occupy my time!  Sometimes I get overwhelmed trying to do it all and next thing I know, the birds are chirping outside and the sun has come out to shine again (or, in today's case, just light things up through the clouds).  I have found so many blogs that may be worth following and now I just spent hours creating this website on Weebly.

My mom just got up to go to the local swap meet.  She loves to take a walk around there and try to haggle a few deals here and there if it's something she needs.  In just two hours I should be driving down to UCLA to meet up with Panda and a friend for brunch.  At least I haven't been sleepy or tired while driving!  That has only happened to me once in the past three or four years, as far as I can recall.  (I got off at the next exit and pulled onto a small street to take a nap.)

Should I take a two-hour nap?  Probably.  I'm at the point where my eyes start to feel heavy and I can sense the bags developing.  I also get ridiculously hungry at this time... grumble.

 
 

[originally posted January 27, 2009]

Today I received an e-mail confirming the conferral of my degree.  Though I have meticulously checked to ensure I had met all the requirements to earn my double Bachelor's of Art in Psychology and Economics, it's a relief to have the degree checkers from the registrar's office validate it.  It came in a nondescript e-mail from the UCLA Registrar's Office, with a subject line that I nearly deleted: "General Info"  Yet inside, its message was priceless to me - I will be picking up my degree in two months!  It's official.  Official!

And ever more pressing is the job search... I had a conference call last Tuesday with the CEO of Caelan & Sage, their Managing Director, and my friend Marylin to discuss the possibilities of our employment together.  I really want to pursue this opportunity, but I am using it as an excuse to not apply for jobs here.  :-/  I don't know why I'm so averse to the idea.  Maybe it's because getting jobs has always been rather easy for me.  Sigh.

 
Stranded 02/08/2009
 

[originally posted January 25, 2009]

Last night, I went to the Hammer Museum for College Night and dropped by the OCHC Semi-Formal.  The galleries at the Hammer were left open, with 15-minute tours given periodically.  Two bands were scheduled to perform, with a fashion show and dancing to entertain the crowd between the gigs.  They had drinks provided by GuS (Grown-up Soda), cookies, and catering by Wolfgang Puck (they own the cafe downstairs).  I don't eat hamburgers (I'm not vegetarian), but I had these and they were delicious.  I also managed to snag a piece of pizza on my way out.  I had stuck around for awhile, hoping to catch a server coming up with a full tray so I could bring a burger to Panda at the semi-formal, but none were to be seen.  Oh well.  From there I went to find Panda at the dance and we even went on the dance floor for a few minutes!  I snacked a bit more as he ran around taking care of things and waited for him to excuse himself for the rest of the night.  It's always nice to see him.

I was leaving UCLA just before 1 AM (Saturday) when I got stuck in traffic on the 405N for over two hours.  After passing the Getty exit, traffic was slowing rapidly (haha) and I knew I was in for trouble when an ambulance made its way up the shoulder.  Immediately I could tell that there had been an accident up ahead that had just gotten called in.  I wasn't sure if it blocked all the lanes, so I patiently waited for 10-15 minutes before deciding it was going to take awhile and turned the car off.  In the mean time, a firetruck and four police cars had made their way up the shoulder as well and I could see their flashing lights about 3/4 miles ahead.  I called my mom to let her know I'd be running late and then texted Panda to see if he could find out more for me.  He was able to confirm the accident and apparently Sigalert was saying it'd take 40 minutes to get 6 miles.  Except there was one problem: we couldn't move those 6 miles!  All lanes were completely sealed.  The accident was in the way.

I almost wanted some snow right about then so we could play in it (though I'm glad it wasn't that cold, I'd hate to have the cars running all that time).  I imagined if we'd be able to work out a system of people sharing heat in one car, then moving to another to conserve a bit.  After waiting for a good half hour, I decided to step outside, where some guys had started to gather.  I talked to a few and found out that some driver had been weaving in and out of traffic and hit a car.  The driver was killed and there was no news on the other car.  One of the guys is a truck driver, veteran to these types of things and he said it'd take 2 hours at least.  Great.  The other guys started to get impatient and decided to venture south along the shoulder.  The exit behind us was probably only half a mile away, so a few of them (with some maneuvering of other cars) turned around and headed down.  The first guy we sent off was stopped by what we thought was a cop car - game over.  Except it was the coroner, so that guy didn't get ticketed after all.  We told him to give us one long honk when he was driving back up Sepulveda (parallel to the highway) if he got by ok.  A minute or two later, we heard a long honk and soon the troops had been mobilized.  At one point it looked like an entire strip of highway was going to get cleared from the cars escaping via the shoulder and I was tempted to give it a go myself.  Alas, I don't have the guts to chance it and it's not like I had a pressing need to leave anyway, so I stay put.

Conveniently (hah), I also had to go to the restroom.  -___-  After venturing to the side of the shoulder and attempting to peek into the depths, I decided it was more worth it to hold it.  After all, it was pitch black and I had no idea what kind of drop off there was awaiting me.  Edward, the truck driver, did say he had a flashlight if I really needed to go.  I got a little excited when the coroner's car came driving by because he told me the CHP could take me to go to the restroom, but once we saw it was the coroner, well, I just didn't really want to go.  Edward kindly helped me think of various solutions to the problem, if I really couldn't hold it in any longer: a Hummer limo ahead of us could possibly have a bathroom in it; certain other vehicles, like charter buses also have them (he'd seen one nearby right before stopping, but it was nowhere to be seen; or I could hide under the shadowy depths of his truck to do my business.  To try to avoid all these awkward situations, I remained standing for as long as I could.  To stay distracted, I watched the traffic (that had been redirected) flow along Sepulveda and waved to those cars that had made it over from our area, honking at us to join them in their escape.

Three tow trucks went by and by 2:45, my feet hurt and I was getting cold, so I climbed into the backseat of my car to hug the bodypillow I had with me.  Panda was heading to bed at 3, so I called him to talk before he retired for the night.  Right around that time, it started to drizzle outside and I began to notice brakelights emerging ahead.  Everyone was turning on their cars again!  Excited to see movement, I rushed to the driver's seat to get ready to leave as soon as things started moving.  We snailed along and I broke free of traffic ten minutes after they'd finally closed up the investigation and cleared part of the roads.  As I drove by, I saw a baby blue car on a tow truck that looked like a baseball had been thrown at its windshield.  The smell of the flares seeped into the car as I wryly observed the rectangular dry patches on the road where cars had been parked moments earlier.  I took a look at the traffic jamming up on Sepulveda and wondered if the redirected traffic was going to be re-redirected back to the 405 now, or if there'd be some buffer time.  Edward had told me where the nearest bathroom would be once we started moving again and though I apprediated his effort, I just wanted to get home by 4.

It was interesting to be standing and walking on pavement that usually never gets cars parked upon it.  I also observed how some people came out of their cars and others you would think were abandoned.  A couple of people had the confidence to walk a good mile up to the scene to check it out.  I was paranoid that traffic would begin to flow and I couldn't rush back to my car in time.  There were a few cars holding up traffic when we did start to drive off.  I guess those drivers did what I didn't dare and let their guards down, either by leaving their vehicle or napping inside.  When the entire row of cars in front of me had cleared out, I kind of wished I had my waveboard or skateboard in the car, so I could play around a little.  Now that would have been fun.  All in all it was a very... unique situation and experience.  What a way to end the night.

[edit] I was searching and searching for a news article about last night's accident, expecting some generic headline about a crash, but this is what I found: http://cbs2.com/local/405.woman.killed.2.916740.html.  "Pedestrian Fatally Hit While Crossing 405 Freeway"  WHAT?!  I read and reread this headline during my search for an accident on the 405 on January 24th, 2009, but I didn't think to click it because it sounded nothing like what I thought the crash was!  But alas, it is the reason for my two-hour delay last night and the story is far more bizarre than I expected.