The Top 13 of 2013

For reference: 2012

There’s 13 in this year, so I have 13 things. 🙂 Also, it’s more than 10 because it was a big year for me.

Warning, it also wasn’t a great year. So I apologize if parts of this post sound debby-downer. It’s mainly contained in (1) and (2).

1) Friendships. This is a tough one. I grew apart from many friends this year, and a large chunk of that was my fault. I struggled with this for many months; I still do. I didn’t have many close friends through grade school, so leaving high school wasn’t very hard. But in college, I grew close to several people and they helped me mature immensely as a person – and they joined me the most memorable moments of my life. Through those friendships I experienced new things and learned new values. And for the first time in my life, I had deep relationships with my peers. But these relationships were cut off so prematurely. So growing apart from these friends was very tough on me. That I would never be in such close proximity to so many willing-to-socialize peers again made the separation that much more difficult.

I’ve sought some advice on this whole friendship thing, and my female housemate, who has an abundance of close friends, gave me sage advice on making friends after school. Same with my coworkers, and same with my brain. A separate post on this is forthcoming.

2) Depression. From late June through early August I went through a period of serious depression. Friendships were falling apart, as alluded to above. I was antisocial, and my roommates at the time were always gone. I had nobody to talk to or turn to. One of these weeks, I spent almost every other night crying to sleep at very late hours. I spent my birthday dinner eating fast food alone.

Then of course there was work. I was messing up at work really badly. On top of that, I began to realize that plunging into this job meant potentially giving up my love – weather. This too I have struggled with for months, but to a lesser degree now. (It helps that I’m doing a better job now, more relevant work, and my boss smiles at me now.) But for the first few months of work it hurt badly to know I ditched my dreams. It does still pop up from time to time.

But actually, having work stressing me was better than the alternative, that is not having work. Which leads to #3….

3) Work. Getting the internship was a miracle. Getting the job was a miracle on top of a miracle. I will never forget the call where I was told I was being extended a job offer – it happened around the same hour as my senior portrait! Then of course an intern I had worked with the year before, whom I hadn’t seen since the internship, walks to me an says Hi right after my call finishes! Oh the irony!

Another thing, I had gone to church for the first time in awhile the Sunday before the phone call. Definitely God’s grace.

I am really thankful for my job. My boss is friendly and fair with me, and he’s a great example for a leader (which I am emulating, and that helps with my own career). I’m slowly getting to know my coworkers. I’ve even introduced a couple of them to Hawk Hill, and took them on a tour of the Golden Gate bridge!

But most importantly, if I was jobless, I would have gone back to SD. I would have been bothered by my parents about not having a job. And I have no friends in SD. Without contact with coworkers of any kind, and no friends, I would literally have no social life at home. Transitioning to adult life was tough here. It would have been much more tough at home. I don’t know how, or if, I would have been able to handle it.

4) Client Commitments at work. Hotfixes, Model Management. Apollo. All buzz words on stuff we’re working on at our company. Actually I’m really thankful that I’m playing a much bigger role as of late with some big projects for new clients that will affect how our company moves forward. It means management trusts me, and I really thank them for that. Through these high pressure projects, I’ve grown professionally, learn how to work in a team and meet important deadlines face-on. And I am also really glad to have experienced interviewing new job candidates, being on a client call, leading test coverage overview meetings, and being acknowledged in front of higher management for good work. All in my first six months of working! Really, really, really thankful.

But man, working 65 hours in five days is rough. How do residents or IBankers do it? I only had to do it for one week, and that was enough.

5) Life lessons. I learned many through my challenges this year. So this deserves its own special category.

I’ll start off with the friendship lessons that I learned from my housemate/coworkers after my period of depression. That being, if you want friends post-graduation, you have to go out and find them and make the effort. At school, they might come to you, which they did for me. But after school, you really. just. have. to make the effort. You have to stop being afraid of awkwardness, you have to take risks, you have to acknowledge that you’ll hang out with people and they might not like you. You have to realize it might take several hangouts for the conversation to flow. But you gotta start somewhere or you’re not going to have friends.

About this whole you gotta put yourself out there. That’s called being proactive. And boy did I learn that at work quickly. Not only do you have to be proactive, you have to own your tasks/goals. Nothing gets done in the real world if you do not take ownership of your goal. Maybe I have been babied, but that really spoke to me, because I have done a poor job of taking ownership of anything in my life.

While I was in the process of losing grip of friendships, and freaking out our female housemate, I learned that me being all giggity and loud and crazy and haha chill^1000 really does not work in the real world. Staying calm and keeping your voice down works wonders. I feel most of my friendships have failed because I react too strongly to stimuli. Basically, I need to calm down. I also learned that my quirkiness and weirdness, though liked in college, will not cut it in the real world… and that I need to be somewhat more mellow and normal, at least initially, when I’m meeting people.

The word priority is uttered at my workplace about once in an hour. I realized in school I did not tackle items in priority order. This is a key thing moving forward, to prioritize my tasks.

Kanban board… having to-do tasks visible and transparent, I think that is nice to have, and can be effective. So I built my own kanban board at home with all my projects. 😛

And the most consistent flaw that has been exposed this year! I react poorly to unexpected situations that are out of the plan! I just sit on my butt and hope that everything falls back into the plan. I don’t do anything about it. This cost me a couple of friendships, and would have cost me my job if I wasn’t new/just out of graduation. I think everything about this year is reacting wrongly and not resolving the situation in a proper manner.

I have a lot of maturing yet to do.

6) China trip. Most of it has been written in my 2012 reflection. Would like to add it was surprisingly, if not ridiculously, stressful (arguments between parents, air pollution, etc.). But worth it, and I’m looking forward to going back. Also, I met some cool people, including some peers. One of them came to the States in August and we’ve been in contact since!

7) Being sick for the first two months of the year. Sucked. Why is this in my year-end reflection? Because it’s not normal to be sick for three months. Started off with photographing something (football game?) and catching a cold because it was too cold. Illness got a boost on the plane to China because that was a very tiring flight. Another boost when we visited Beijing during historically bad pollution. Then I caught the flu when I visited my grandparents right before starting the semester (some bug spreading around the senior citizens home). A boost of that at the B&G retreat when I slept 2 hours after getting drunk and then hiked 5(?) miles the next day.

It was bad, and in retrospect, this plus the stress on the China trip was a bad omen for this entire year.

8) A very stressful final semester. Stat 134 + NE 104 = at least two all nighters per week the second half of the semester. Impossibly difficult problem sets. Ridiculously long lab writeups. At least I had breakfast with Charles that one time, and those late nights with B&G friends, either at the yearbook office or at SLC.

Oh, and btw, I think I lived exclusively in those two locations around the final few weeks of the semester. Omg. And I really thought I was doomed for finals… this last round was my most depressing.

But in the end, worth it, because I ended up with a 4.0 my last semester. Yay! 😀

9) Graduation. If you haven’t noticed, I’m going in chronological order now. This is more of a milestone than any big thing. General commencement was lols. Engineering commencement was wonderful and well-organized.

10) Post-Graduation trip/cruise. This was the first cruise I’ve ever been on, and it was amazing. I’ll never forget the first night in Miami when everything was so fresh and new and the colors of the sunset were so surreal. We were walking along US 1. And it was such a refreshing feeling. Everglades, Nassau, getting job paperwork frantically done. Seeing the exterior, and then the interior, of the ship for the first time! Learning how to play craps (and losing horribly)! Discussing the lives of casino workers inside.

We grew apart after the trip…but I’m really glad for this last hurrah. And I’ll never forget all the experiences that culminated in this. Thank you.

11) Late-May Tornadoes/Moore/Typhoon Haiyan: I’m clumping this weather stuff all into one. So funny that all but one of the major tornado events this year happened between my graduation and the end of my cruise, lol. I watched the Moore event from start to finish (pretty lucky I had nothing on that day), and I have a whole post to devote to it. That was really something. But I missed all of 5/18, 5/19, 5/28, 5/30, and most of 5/31 because of items #9-10. That’s okay, because items 9-10 were wonderful… the timing of the severe weather was just poor.

5/31 really affected me hard. It was on the day the cruise started, and I had Internet access in the morning to get work errands done. But the parameters were off the charts and I never stopped checking the weather charts until the cruise ship was far enough from shore that I lost signal. Storms were forming around then. Of course, the rest is history. Four days later I awoke while the ship was arriving back in Miami, and read about Tim Samaras’ death. Likewise I have a whole blog post to devote to this.

Jump to November. I have many job deadlines, but the strongest tropical cyclone I’ve ever seen is about to bear down on several million people. So I can’t stop watching it. On that day, working on 4 hours of sleep, about to lead my first meeting, and having attend two others, I take breaks watching the most powerful landfall in recent history. Typhoon Haiyan ends up killing over 6,000 people in what is the deadliest typhoon in Philippine history. Haiyan reflection blog post is in draft right now.

12) Photography. Multiple milestones this year:
-Upgrading from Nikon D40 to D7000
-Getting Tokina 11-16mm lens.
-First time capturing lightning! (August)
-Pt. Reyes photography adventure with Micca (November?)
-First time capturing a meteor! (December) For a moment, I enjoyed college-life carelessness again.
-First time getting my Golden Gate Bridge low-fog photo that I’ve wanted for years. (December)
-Capturing the historical new Bay Bridge opening (September) – by sneaking up trails around Treasure Island. That was something. Also, I met the outstanding SF landscape photographer David Yu!

It was an extremely good year for photography, and the encouragement of everyone really helps keep me going. Much gratitude to the support from everyone.

13) New Roommates (I.e. housemates)! I saved the best for last. I didn’t think much, when on graduation day, my middle school/high school friend asked me if I was rooming with anyone. Seven months later, I realize how lucky I was. Moving in with him, having a companion whom I could talk to at least, and moving from my messy Berkeley apartment to a new Emeryville apartment marked the turning point of my depressive episode.

In these few months I’ve really gotten to know him better and we both keep each other active and not “on the couch” on weekends. Joking around with him about my forever-aloneness makes the single bachelor life that much more enjoyable. And I really can’t thank him enough for tolerating my occasionally loud music and the dishes that I leave in the sink.

Then of course we got our female housemate. Just looking for that third housemate was a pain in the ass. But she’s pretty cool, and as mentioned before provided some good advice on post-grad friendships. And at the very least, she doesn’t hate us – I confirmed with her. 🙂

I want to say in conclusion that there’s a reason why the second half of this post is overwhelmingly more positive than the first half. I think my trials early on really prepared me to go out of my way more often and to take risks. I have an inkling, and I do hope this isn’t wrong – that 2014 will be better, just based on current d(life)/dt, photography adventures, etc. (After all, at this time in 2012, I was struggling with illness and I was experiencing a period of intellectual decline.) Maybe, we’ll see. Looking forward to the year change, that’s for sure.

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