Archive for the 'modus operandi' Category

the future is so much awesomer than the past

Happy 2010! Since that last post, there have been a few adjustments to my life. For one, I’ve decided to stay in the Bay Area for at least another year (unless I get a really good job offer in NYC, or I end up not finding a job and entering the Peace Corps for four years). For another, I’ve figured out most of my game plan for the next five years. Also, 2009’s finally over and it’s the fucking future! They say 2010 is the start of a good stretch for the Rabbit.

My decision to stay on the West Coast was a hard one, but it’s nice to have family around when you’re just getting started in the real world, just in case you fuck up and they have to save your sorry ass. But yup, I’m probably moving to San Francisco the first chance I get, given that most of my friends are up there and I’m turning into a hermit in my house. “Empire State of Mind” still makes me feel both homesick and proud, but I’ve got history here, now, too.

As for doing the things I want to do: I still don’t know exactly what career I’m going to end up in, but I know for sure I’ll be doing lots of music on the side. There’s this producer in Daly City I’m working with to make some epic vocal trance, and one day when we have a place to practice, my Motown punk band will be back on. And I will eventually edit and re-write my novel and get it published, but I’m going to try and find some meaningful work first, hopefully involving a fun, possibly do-gooding company or NGO. Yes, this is not the starving artist schtick I expected it to be, but you can’t really do that when you’re 22 with a Stanford diploma and $100k in debt ($200k with interest!). I might as well be useful.

So, I’ll be investing my free time in music, my extra money in stocks and savings, and all of my trust in only my closest friends. The student loan thing is still a problem, but I think it’s one I can solve. Things are on the up and up.

P.S. I’m sorry that this blog hasn’t been living up to its name. There hasn’t been much serious “transit” going on besides the CalTrain and BART I take to get to SF. I’ll try to write more pieces on cultural stuff, but since I’m staying put, this blog is effectively on indefinite hiatus. PTFO.

ahoy again

It’s been a very, very strange year. I wish I could get a do-over, but at the same time I’d MUCH RATHER NOT have to go through all that crazy shit a second time. I graduated and transitioned into the real world of unemployment and despair. I went to Burning Man (again). I got dumped (again). I went to war with and cut myself off from some crazy, pushy, confounding, conniving people, stressed to the point that I had to question my priorities, my morals, and the very nature of my character, and sometimes I still have to remind myself why I did what I did. I moved back in with my parents and got a sweet little dog who cries when she’s alone. I’ve got lots of free time now, and I spend it working on two novels I’ve written for NaNoWriMo, tinkering with GarageBand and my resume, learning how to drive, and trying not to get cabin fever.

I realized that the three-year cycle that keeps me ever “transitory” is coming around again, and after a two-week jaunt to NYC in October, the “Empire State of Mind” song is stuck in my head. I really might go back to where I came from, that ghetto-ass Chilltown that my sister and I spent years trying to forget. I think I want to finally live in the city proper. I think I’m finally prepared.

Then again, I’ve got a bunch of loans to repay, and maybe staying under my parents’ roof would be a better idea. I don’t know. I’ve talked to so many people this past month. Some of them are my age, or younger, or decades older, with kids a decade younger than I am. Some of them are still at Stanford, some graduated with me and are still unemployed, some have been working the same insanely cushy job for the past five years, some are my parents’ friends who have been working for the past five decades.

I’ve told each person something different about myself and what I want in a job. Everything I’ve said has been true. Everything I’ve said has been me talking out of my ass. I’ve gotten more advice than I know what to do with.

My sister scared me best: You have a degree that will make you more money than mine will, but because of that you also have more debt than I ever had. Pay your dues.

A thirtysomething friend and father of two put it this way: It’s never too late to do what you want to do.

I feel like my clock is ticking, but this is a recession. Despite all of those newspaper articles on people finally chasing their dreams because they lost their jobs and are retooling their priorities, I need to be making bank.

I’m clinging to hope. A friend currently at Columbia told me about a fellow neuroscience Ph.D. candidate who is in a fairly popular Brooklyn indie band. The guy spends all day at his job and all night rehearsing and doing gigs. Sure, you can always make time. Am I really that dedicated, though?

how to go green without becoming a self-righteous douchebag

One of the things that annoys me about living in the co-op community (and in Northern California in general) is the vast number of people I have to deal with who shop exclusively at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, scoff at non-organic and non-local products, shell out shit tons of money for Dr. Bronner’s (and perhaps console me with “It’s totally okay” if you can’t afford to be good to the environment), spend their summers Flying Out to Third-World Countries to Help Poor People, bitch you out for leaving the lights on, and carry themselves with a smug holier-than-thou air for being so goddamn good. The superbaby progeny of doting soccer moms have evolved into a generation of everything-conscious neo-hippies who embody American whitebreadism. While the vast majority of them are harmless and mean well, some of them can be as stereotypical and annoying as the extremist factions of GreenPeace and PETA.

I’m vegetarian for ethical reasons, and I try not to bitch about it. For lack of money I can’t do the all-organic all-local thing, but I’m also wary of all that shit– those labels sometimes don’t mean anything, just as kosher sometimes doesn’t equal humane practices; small-time farmers with excellent farming ethics don’t always get those expensive cage-free and organic labels, and “certified organic” companies aren’t always what you think. Also, I use lots of jet fuel and electricity, and it’s not even to volunteer to help poor people.

Do I feel guilty about my T-Rex-sized carbon footprint? No, because I’m trying to reduce it, and I’ve learned that guilt over climate change, like guilt over third-world countries, gets you nowhere. (I’ll probably write more about guilt later.)

So the question is: Can you “go green” without turning into a rabid environmentalist? Sure, but it might take conscious effort to both 1) start becoming aware of your products and practices so you can change them, and 2) prevent yourself from proselytizing once you do become aware.

I approach green/Fair Trade/socially responsible/”conscious” living as I would religion: you’ll probably mess up sometimes (or all the time), but try your best. I’d say focus on changing your habits. Use less toilet paper. Turn the lights off. Slow your faucet use to a trickle. Read magazines online. Bike instead of drive. Carpool. Start a compost heap. Dispose of batteries properly. Bundle up instead of turning up heat. Don’t use plastic grocery bags. Buy used. Freecycle. Eat less meat. Drink tap. Cook. Blah blah blah. (It helps that most of these tips also save money.)

Like religion, the whole point shouldn’t be about consumerism, about splurging on rosaries blessed with water from Lourdes or being able to afford fancy bikes, solar panels, organic cotton and Dr. Bronner’s soap. It’s about believing in the gist of things and having your actions speak louder than words.

So yeah, I do think going green is like trying to be a good person– and to me, a good person isn’t self-important or judgmental (I’m obviously still working on this one, given this bitchy post). They would generally be ready to talk about or defend their beliefs if they were addressed directly, but otherwise wouldn’t turn their nose up at people who “aren’t trying hard enough”.

In short, my advice on saving the world is try your best, but shut up and get over yourselves. The end!

an interesting lunch date; or, life plan no. 2987213

Contrary to what most people think, I don’t chill with true TCKs (Third Culture Kids) all that much, even though I really like talking to them because they know what it’s like to have been uprooted and different. I guess I’m really close with Aldo, who’s been in similar situations as I’ve been and likes picking up languages too. But, like me, he doesn’t qualify as a true TCK– neither of us have lived with our families in another country for an extended period of time.

I did have lunch with a TCK last week, though (raised in Hong Kong and London, then went to Stanford for college). She was a breath of fresh air since I’ve been living in a hippie house (read: the co-opiest co-op on campus) and needed an infusion of something to combat the American whitebreadism I’ve been immersed in. We’d both been in the Stanford in Paris program but at overlapping times, so we met to compare notes, then started talking about our various life plans after graduation– serious, crazy, location-based, people-based. Which city to live in? (This is a serious consideration, given that our friends are all scattered around the country/globe.) Sick of wanderlust yet? (She is.) Just gonna screw it all to hell and go for the Japanese rock star thing? (That would be me, and that would be a yes.)

There were a couple of similarities in our considerations that made me feel better about my own indecisiveness. One was wanting to be able to visit our old home bases (for her, London/H.K.; for me, Jersey City) without all the fanfare, since the visit usually turns into a sprint that involves meeting up with a ton of old friends/family in a small amount of time. Another was that we both have a serious plan and a crazy plan— she wanted to be a model in her crazy plan, and I still want to be a Japanese rock star. But we’ve both got more serious “fallbacks”– careers that we’ve been dreaming of since we were little. For me, I’d probably end up working in the field for an NGO.

The thing is, she’s sick of moving around so much. I’m not. I think I’ve still got a couple more places to live in before calling it quits. I’m probably going to keep at it until I have a kid, and even then I’d probably send them to boarding school if I could manage it. Gotten used to being a stranger in a strange land, I guess.

Anyway, talking with her (and Aldo, who also has crazy, highly mobile life plans that change on a regular basis) made me realize that I need to decide what to do after college REALLY EFFING SOON. I already know what I want to do– try my hand at the rock industry! (Because I’d definitely regret it if I didn’t try).

So I just need to:

  1. Move to where I need to be— which is TOKYO. oh shit, my parents are gonna get pissed again.
  2. Get to know the local music scene. Which normally entails some bar- and club-hopping.
  3. Start a band. An international punk rock band, to be precise.
  4. Break into the local music scene. Get some gigs, become a rock star. Easy, right?

I’ve got #3 down, but in the wrong place (namely, here). I got #2 down, but also in the wrong place (Paris!). And I would like to get in touch with my host family before doing #1. (I still haven’t heard from them since 2004. omg. Talk about not tying up loose ends.) Also, the plan requires more thought on these questions:

  • How the hell am I getting to Tokyo?
  • How the hell am I gonna make money in Tokyo in the meantime?
  • What the hell am I gonna do about my college loan repayments?
  • How the hell am I going to find and break into this Japanese-international punk scene?
  • Should I get braces now, before I move again?

Among other things.

Shit, I better get started on re-learning Japanese, then. Wait, I still have to finish college first! Then graduate. Then make some money.

One step at a time.

with high internet connectivity, user productivity approaches zero

Since I am now anchored to one location and probably will stay that way for the next year or two, I think I’ll be turning my thoughts to digital global culture more often. The Internet has shaped a lot of who I am– I got my first AOL account at age six!– and only when I had to live without it did I realize how much of an impact it has on my life.

Living with the Internet makes everything much more convenient, but it also makes my life infinitely more complicated. In the span of fifteen minutes online, my curiosity and insatiable thirst for information led me from vegetarian recipe searching to a Wikipedia entry about a character from His Dark Materials. (Whoever can name all the connections I took to get there wins a prize.) Think about how much havoc I wreak on my work and sleep schedule when my house on campus has high-speed WiFi! I can hole myself up in my room for weeks and just pull a hikikomori on everyone.

This means I can’t work in my room, and I can’t work in the public spaces of my house because the social interaction is just as distracting. I also live at the top of a hill, so I’m discouraged from venturing out to study, but good *god* it’s almost finals week, I have to. (At least the weather’s a whole lot better than it was a month ago…)

I’ve found that I work best outside of my dorm, sans laptop, in a public place that isn’t too quiet— on campus, The Axe and Palm in Old Union does the trick. I usually can’t work with people talking in the background, but somehow I don’t mind random people talking. Maybe it’s because it’s an improvement from the background noise I get at home, which involves my family talking instead of random people. Or maybe it’s because I’m afraid of making embarrassingly loud noises (i.e. passing gas) in a pindrop-silent study hall. Either way, I don’t have to deal with the knowledge that I have a wealth of information at my fingertips. Seriously, the convenience of a WiFi-enabled laptop destroys me.

But hey, it could be worse– I could have an iPhone.

about self-censorship, or, a blogger’s worst nightmare

I just found out that certain members of my family have found this site somehow. No idea how, since if you’ll notice, I’ve taken care to keep my real name out of it. Anyway, it’s an uncomfortable prospect, but it’s one of the risks I assumed when I started this blog. (God knows how much of my past online fodder my dad’s been able to find. Man, getting flamed by your dad is SO uncool.) I tried my best to make this blog easy to stay away from if they were of the opinion that ignorance is bliss, but I figured that it’d only be a matter of time if their curiosity got the better of them.

Taking this into account, I’ve decided to try and go on blogging as if I still didn’t know that my mom or dad were looking over my shoulder. I mean, if anyone has a right to know what I’m up to while in Paris, it’s probably my parents, right? They’re the ones preventing me from starving here. It’s only fair. Besides, I’m kind of sick of constantly hiding shit from them for fear of criticism or wrath. At this point, it would be an insult to both my intelligence and theirs if I were expected to forever be as obedient or conservative as they’d like me to be, because that would take a ton of lying on my part, and a ton of blind acceptance on theirs.

So anyway, Warning: In this blog, I drink, I curse, and I tell no lies. Would I act the same way in front of anyone and everyone in person? Of course not. But I speak in this blog like I would speak to most of my friends, and on the Internet it’s hard to mask one persona from another. Writing in this blog would cease to be enjoyable for me if I had to censor myself any more than I already do, so the best I can do now is keep my name out of it for the time being, and hope that I won’t get filleted later by my parents, mentors, or prospective employers.

N.B. Mom and Dad: I’m sorry if any of this gives you high blood pressure. You know how much I hate not being honest. Anyway, chill, you’ve raised me well enough– and jeez, you know I’m not doing stuff like going around whoring myself for money, otherwise I wouldn’t be asking you guys for any! So stop grumbling, Dad, I’m fine.

And now we return to our irregularly scheduled blog posting.

b in a castle = fish out of water

I am currently battling some sort of cold right now (I hear that there’s a French version of Airborne but I haven’t been able to find it), and I have been away all weekend and will be in Barcelona next weekend, so I apologize in advance if you don’t hear from me for a bit.

That said, I’m gonna use this short post to write about and my weekend jaunt to the Loire Valley courtesy of Stanford-in-Paris’s most generous donors, the Bings.

The Bing family has donated tons and tons of money to Stanford and to the Stanford Overseas Programs in particular. They want to help “the world leaders of the future” learn about “the meaning of culture” by paying for “cultural events” such as ballets and operas at the Opera Garnier and Opera Bastille, and our trip to the Loire, where we were housed in a castle, toured other castles, and fed expensive gourmet dinners.

I appreciate the Bings’ kindness, but this version of culture is a bit too much for my taste. For one, I’m probably not going to be a world leader, so this crap is pretty much wasted on me. For another, I’d rather they do more productive things (like pay my loans or help feed starving children) with the tons of money that they’ve spent spoiling me rotten.

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed being spoiled rotten. I loved living in a castle, eating the world’s best cheeses and drinking fine wines, being introduced into the world of the high-class elite. In the back of my mind, though, there was always a nagging feeling that went something like, You aren’t rich. You aren’t high-class. You hate being a tourist. You’ll be paying off your college loans for the next forty years. There are starving kids in Africa. What the fuck are you doing here?

It didn’t help that the lavishness of the castles made me want to both cry and puke my guts out. Besides, if I imagined living in them when they were at their prime, I probably would’ve been a slave. No fairy tale dreams for me.

Maybe I should just visit the Loire castles sometime when I have more time to myself to explore them. I get the feeling that I would be able to see more of their beauty and less of their obnoxious wealth without cameras snapping, tour guides talking and forty privileged Stanford students chattering in the background.

N.B.: I really wasn’t trying to disparage being wealthy in this post. I was reflecting on my lack thereof. Yes, I’m insecure about being less affluent than most of my classmates. No, I don’t resent them because of it. (And I’m quite grateful to the Bings, though I really believe that they shouldn’t be wasting .00005% of their fortune on me.)


What?

This is a blog of things place-related, by a cash-strapped Stanford grad who's lived in various places and writes about life. She's currently looking for a job in Manhattan or the Bay Area.

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