2014: Recapping a Different Year

For reference: 2011 | 2012 | 2013

2014 can be summed up by one word. Change. Glorious, glorious change, and a marked departure from the stagnation of 2012-2013. It was a banner year, one I will never forget.

Without further ado, the top 10 of 2014:

1) New work friends. I remember a conversation from November last year, where I asked my then roommate how she was able to make so many friends. Many of her friends, she claimed, were former coworkers when she worked at Stanford. She responded that the friendships kinda just materialized. At the time, I could not fathom such a scenario happening. Was she just a friend magnet?

Well, fast forward a year, and everything has changed. I’ve hung out with people from Berkeley fewer than 10 times this year; I’m hanging out with coworkers outside of work about twice a month. It’s odd to see how quickly the tables turn. It’s taught me a thing or two about not being hopeless when I feel like I’ll never find friends. Friends can and do come when you least expect it.

So I can’t really put my appreciation in words, because this group’s been wonderful. In fact, beyond wonderful… dare I say: miraculous, because of how I could never have imagined it a mere year ago. Potential trips to Vegas, Tahoe, the shooting range, Mission Peak, the new Bay Bridge pedestrian walkway, and an Alaska cruise have all been discussed. I’m looking forward to another year with these people.

2) Increasing work responsibilities and confidence. In January, I wrote my first bit of code on my own (without needing oversight from my boss). By December, I had improved the test code quite substantially, saving a lot of test time in critical situations, and was the resident expert in most of the features in our application. I’ve gained the trust of stakeholders such as project managers and product owners. It’s been a transformative year in my young career.

I can attribute my success to multiple sources — the aforementioned friends who always support me, the management that trusts me and allows me to be creative and independent, and the numerous coworkers/contractors who have taught me best practices, coding principles, and even proper work etiquette. Without these pieces in place, I could not have progressed as far as I have. This is #2 on this list, but is just as great of a miracle as #1. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities I’ve had in my job. It’s been awesome, and the work’s been great, which is better than what most people can say at my age… 2014 has been a fantastic year in this arena!

3) New car. First off, I have entirely my coworker to thank for getting me a kick-ass deal on this car, and for my roommate for accompanying me to the dealership in Vallejo the weekend before Thanksgiving. It’s funny what happens when you move to a place where you need a car, and Zipcar decides to be dumb and remove a Zipcar from your closest location when demand was already high. So I lived a month essentially without car access in suburbia. Never again.

Since I got my car, I’ve been driving all across the Bay Area… and it’s exhilarating. I feel free at last. I’ve been all around the Bay Area since, and it’s been more useful than I ever imagined possible.

4) Taiwan trip. Oh my, the hoops that I jumped to get this thing to happen! From my New Year’s resolution I drew up a trip to Tibet. Then it was changed to Taiwan. Then I lost my passport, and filled out ALL CHINESE forms IN CHINESE two months before the trip, to be told it would take almost two months to replace. Luckily I got it in time, but I needed to apply for the Taiwan entry pass, requiring more ALL CHINESE forms.

Ugh. Two days before my flight I finally finished my paperwork and received all my required documentation.

The trip itself was great… my partner helped me quite a bit in all things Chinese, including talking to people and planning. Many thanks to her. I probably wouldn’t go back during summer again though. It’s too hot. Big shout-out to her by the way, for helping me with the Chinese forms and the guidance. I don’t know if you’ll read this, but thanks. 🙂 You were the highlight of the trip.

5) Storm chasing trip. (How could this go down to #5?! What a year!) What can I say about this… I didn’t know I’d go until the Tuesday before the weekend I did this, dropped a boatload of dough on flights and the rental car. Literally the most #yolo thing I’ve done. But worth it. You can tell any experienced storm chaser this and they’d be shocked — my first storm chase on Sunday, April 28th, 2014 was solo, having flown from weatherless CA, with SPC having issuing a High Risk of tornadoes — in the jungles of SE Oklahoma, with the projected storm motions about 40-50 kt. They’d tell you that I was completely nuts, and potentially suicidal.

And I was nuts. But I certainly wasn’t suicidal, and you know what — I think back to the anticipation of the chase day, watching the towering cumulus clouds percolate in the distance, calling my nowcaster to hear about the PDS Tornado Watch issuance, core punching the supercell of the day, trying to see the meso through the forest, watching Reed Timmer’s dominator fly by — and I smile.

Big shout out to those who housed me and my nowcaster for saving me bucks and butt. Most important being the latter. Also big thanks to the officer who opted to let me off with a verbal warning instead of a speeding ticket — I actually have been more careful with my driving speed since.

6) Desert Southwest/Texas roadtrip with family. This is fresh and new, having been completed on New Year’s Day 2015. I’ll never forget the freezing drizzle, the cold air damming, the vast, endless caves, the vast, endless sands, and the vast, endless Saguaro cacti…. but the theme of this centered around bonding. And really this was what the trip was about. Bonding with my parents like never before, talking about real adult stuff, showing them my passions in photography and weather. Even here I saw change… the new relationship with my parents differed from the old from before adulthood. This new version is deeper and more meaningful — and it’s awesome.

7) Early-year depression. With so many wonderful things happening in 2014, it’s easy to forget how bad it was until mid-April. Between Jan and March, most of my weekends were spent sitting at my computer feeling sorry for myself. My gosh, it was bad. Very bad. Extremely, terribly, bad.

Ultimately, a hangout with yearbook peeps from college and my storm chasing trip broke me from my depressive cycle. It would still occasionally flare up (e.g. late Oct/early Nov period) but never again with the persistence of Jan-Feb and April. The development of having friends and meaningful accomplishments at work made the difference.

I don’t like to bring this up because it’s so darn negative, but it’s so important to bring up, because it underlines the change that 2014 brought upon me. Yes, even as late as mid-April I felt completely hopeless for 2014.

Yet here I am now remembering 2014 as an overwhelmingly positive year.

8) Exercise. One of my New Year’s resolutions dealt with exercise, and I followed a strict regimen for four months. Then I crapped out. However, it established a precedent that stayed with me through the entire year. I still go to the gym occasionally — a few times each month. Thanks to my workouts, I now have an un-embarrassing amount of muscle mass — i.e. not negligible. And though I gained quite a bit of weight, I am not out of shape nor obese, and without any exercise this year I certainly would be. I’m looking to improve on this arena (again).

9) The decline in photography. Those few weeks in October I did not have access to a car killed me in this area. But even before then, I’d lacked inspiration and had been taking really crappy shots. Not sure if it’s related to my depression (#7) but I’m hopefully looking to get some of that inspiration back for 2015. We shall see.

10) Adult life. You know, like doing taxes by my own for the first time, consulting coworkers about personal finances and investments, taking out a term loan for my car, getting car insurance, budgeting for the car, getting a new credit card on my own, handling 401(k)/health insurance benefits/etc. Basically a lot of stuff that my parents have done before, but now by myself.

Reallyyyyy makes you appreciate what your parents did… quite a bit more. For me, it’s extra significant because, whereas I took a class on personal finance and have good English communication skills, my parents learned all this with little to no English skills as fresh immigrants from China, with the responsibility of a baby son , with almost no cash to start out. So yeah, wow. What is adult life.


2014 ended on a positive note, concluding a week-long family road trip while staying at a hotel in Tucson, AZ. I was alerted to snow(!) outside my hotel room by a Mr. Warren Faidley (a well-respected storm chaser), while browsing Facebook. So naturally, as the confetti and fireworks ringed off for 2015 in the distance, I was fumbling around with my camera trying to snap photos of the powder. It encapsulated my year perfectly, a year where I searched, and found. A year where I dared to be different, and the difference rewarded me.

I can only hope that 2015 brings me similar luck. Maybe I can get a girlfriend (lol), though the higher priority will still be with storm chasing and career development. It’s certainly been an interesting journey enough through 2014. May 2015 do the same, and even better and greater.


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