Saturday, July 11, 2009

What is a Dragonc?

"What's up with dragonc?" My friend Jed quizzically asked as we walked around looking for lunch one day.

"What's up with it?" I said. "Well, you use it everywhere!". "I don't know what you're talking about", I keep walking nonchalantly, hoping to plant some confusion, but my laughter gave me away after a few steps.

I knew what Jed meant, of course, and it wasn't the first time that question came up. I've told the story enough times that I think it deserves its own place in cyberspace here, and to help settle the score for anybody wondering what it could possibly mean out there (eh, that's you, all two of my blog readers :))

Michael Johnson and Track & Field
In high school, I was a competitive runner in track & field and cross country. I was obssessed with it. I ran mornings and nights, and all I could think of was how to improve my time, and part of that was reading up on how professional athletes trained.

At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Michael Johnson made history by breaking the Olympic Record for the 200m *and* the 400m, and was hailed the World's Fastest Man. Naturally, I was a fan, and I had to read what the World's Fastest Man had to say in his book, Slaying the Dragon: How to Turn Your Small Steps to Great Feats.

In the book, Michael described the dragon, not as other people you're racing against, but as your own self. It is your own inner hopes and fears that you must own up to.

Morihei Ueshiba & Aikido
From about age 9 to 12, most likely to find an outlet for my exorbitant energy, my dad enrolled me in Aikido, a Japanese martial arts promoting peace within and without.

The one lesson I remember most is the philosophy and history of how Aikido was created, that Morihei Ueshiba, the founder, has trained with the most formidable swordman in all of Japan, and realized that no matter who you defeated, you will always be defeated by something else, time, age, politics, another swordman, or another technology, namely, guns.

The only friend and foe that you'll always have to work with or against is yourself.

Choosing an Alias
When it came time to choose an University of Washington email, I was going through an enormous amount of existential and identity crisis. Instead of using my name, I wanted to look for an alias, something that I felt was most "me".

Having "dragon" as part of the alias came to my mind, because I kept relating the two separate encounters with that concept. I actually almost didn't use it, lest perpetuating some Asian stereotype of the dragon image.

Finally, I decided to go with it, because it just fit. A dragon is that fiery mythical creature to slay or to befriend with, all born from my imagination. A dragon is me.

What's the "C"? That's just the initial of my last name, Chau. (dragonchau just seemed beyond silly.) So, no, it has nothing to do with Dragon Ball Z. I don't even know what Dragon Ball Z is.

This September, I will officially have this alias for 10 years. The twentysomething years is all about getting to know your inner dragon, and letting it slay you a couple times over before you can even start to slay it. The good thing is, the dragon never dies as long as you are alive.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Entitlement Generation

During a session on the Business of Yoga in my Teacher Training, we talked about how to get a job. My teacher Kathryn gave an example of how someone just called her out of the blue and said, "Yeah, hi, I'd like to teach at your studio." This was an example of what *not* to do.

"What are you, the Entitlement Generation?" She half jokingly described her reaction.

I chuckled along, but, eh, admitting, with some pain. Yes, I know, my generation has had it good, too good, perhaps some people would say.

The Trophy Generation
It is probably common knowledge by now, that the Millenials, people typically born around the early 80s to the late 90s or so, are different. How earth shattering, every generation is different, you might say.

Well, according to "them", we're different because we're "digital natives", that due to the attention we received from the media and what influenced us politically, there is a sharp contrast between us and those born before or after us.

I am not entirely sure that we are all that different from other generations, because every generation has its own struggle and advantage. But, since I am not an anthropologist, I will only speak for my self, and by proxy, my own generation.

The one single common factor that I will confess that we all have, as twentysomethings in a First World country, is the luxury of not only dreaming, but also having the means to chase our dreams for those that dare.

We are, for the most part, extremely lucky to be able to say, "I want to do what makes me happy." While our circumstances vary, we are the generation that gets a trophy just for showing up, our society has raised us to believe that we *are* entitled to achieve what we seek.

What are we really entitled to?

And so, one might think that perhaps a dose of Capitalism Armageddon is what we need to come back to reality, that, no, you can't be IMing, checking Facebook, Digging, tweeting, watching YouTube, texting, listening to Pandora *and* getting a paycheck. After all, how productive can we really be?

I say, yes, bring on Capitalism Armageddon. It will surely teach, not just twentysomethings, but thirty-, forty-, and fiftysomethings a thing or two about our perspectives and assumptions about life.

One of my favorite Anne Taintor creations is "She has not decided to use her power for good... or for evil." If our sense of entitlement can be used for evil, why couldn't it be used for good? Couldn't we put the foot down and say, "No, we are entitled to a health care system that really cares about health, a job with less bureaucracy and more flexibility, and cities that are designed for people, not cars?"

Everything is Amazing

A couple days after that yoga teacher training, I saw this clip on YouTube where Louis CK talked to Conan about how everything is amazing, and nobody is happy. Louis didn't specifically talk about a generation. He talked about the general attitude of how people in general in this modern time act like they are entitled to everything.

This leads me to thinking, is it really *my* generation? Us twentysomething young punks? Or is it the mentality of my days? Have we, all of us, somehow been sucked into this mindset?

I don't know the full answer to that question, but I do think that if we can all put our collective sense of entitlement together for the greater goods, we will be heading in the right direction. After all, we do have a lot of debt to repay...

Baby, you're gonna miss that plane

Even though I know that nothing lasts forever, I really desperately want to have a reason to believe that you can have mind-blowing, blood-rushing romantic love after the honeymoon period is over.

It is past midnight and I've got so much on my mind and I'm writing a bunch of incoherent, stream-of-consciousness stuff which I delete as soon as I finish writing it.

I'll just copy & paste this quote and leave it at that... for now.

“Writing a record is like dating a few men at once. You take them to the same restaurants to see if they measure up, and at some point you decide who you like best. When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condom-less sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about at the time.” - Lady Gaga, in an interview with Blender.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The D word

Q: How do you know when you're getting in your late 20s?
A: Your friends start getting divorces.

Yes, I realized I was no longer in college when I started hearing the sound of my friends' divorce papers getting shuffled. I remember a couple summers ago, when I excitedly talked about my bridesmaid dress, and a consultant I worked with told me that in my 20s is when I go to weddings, 30s is when divorces start flying, and 40s is when I go to people's 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th wedding.

I laughed then, but I knew it was oh-so-true. Given that the divorce rate is at an all-time high in this country, chances are pretty good that these marriages won't last until death do them part.

I've always thought that I *don't* want to ever go through that. Breakups are already hard enough for me, and there are no kids or dogs to saw apart. "Divorces, like STDs, happen to other people, but not me," I've always thought.

However, today at the climbing gym, my friend Dave and I happened to talk about this, and he brought up a good point. Maybe, just maybe, the divorce rate indicates some kind of evolution, that as we grow and change, we realize that we *do* have options, and we *do* have the freedom to go seek our happiness elsewhere.

To demonstrate his point, Dave told a story of his aunt and uncle, who stay together despite being in a miserable relationship, because that's what they think they should do. To them, there are no options.

For sure, we (at least the heterosexual people in this culture) have way more freedom now in our relationships, and with that freedom, do we have some responsibility to make... well, responsible choices that last? Is that somewhere within the Realm of Possibilities?

How do we, as Gen Y people, differ from other generations in thinking about this? How long before we start predicting our friends' marriage lengths on inTrade?

Moving home

After five years of living on my own and being by myself, I moved back home recently.

To me, home has always been where I feel comfortable enough to sleep with both eyes closed, which is pretty much... anywhere (I'm easy, what can I say). In this sense though, I'm talking about home as in, where my parents live.

Despite the fact that I, along with my brother and my parents, put money in to buy the house, and helping to pay off the first mortgage, I have always felt more "home" in my apartments in Fremont, Belmont Shore, or Queen Anne, even though at times those places lacked any "real home" elements, like tables and chairs.

My brother often jokes that he doesn't live with our parents, he just has roommates that happen to be our parents. And, even though he's removed from his social life and friends in Seattle, I know that he's totally enjoying living on his own in Houston.

What is it about living with our parents that we are so allergic to?

It could be that to them, we are always 7 years old. Maybe 5. Or even 3. I realized that my dad and I do not have conversations, we have nagvertsations, where he nags and I divert, turning around and running back to where I came from. My mom, the constant worrier, never fails to tell me that she fears for my life! Yes, she fears that someone will jump in the windows at night while I sleep and Do Very Bad Things. She also loves to tell me that I'm much too skinny, and I really should eat more.

It's the little things, and it's things born out of love, really. But it's usually the little things that get to us in a big way.

Of course, there are other reasons why it's hard for me to move home after having lived by myself for so long, but I want to talk about the relationship with my parents first.

In my Yoga Teacher Training one day, we talked about compassion, and I made a comment that it seems easier to have compassion for those we don't know well than for those we love. My teacher, Kathryn, gave a beautiful and priceless suggestion, "Try to be more interested in him instead of you," she said.

When I do this, the experience is completely different, and, in a weird way, I even welcome it when my dad wants to tell me to put my socks on because it's cold out, or park the car in a certain way because it'd be easier to get out, or when I should leave to catch the bus so I won't be late.

I would study my dad's face, his wrinkles, his permanent tan from who knows how many years in the sun, his drooping eyes, his crooked mouth, even his cigarette-stained teeth. When my mom tells me how scared she is, I would look at her sunken eyes and the sound of her voice, the veins on her hands, and the color of the nail polish on her toe nails.

It occurred to me that all these years of me complaining about how *my parents* don't see me as who I am, a grown-up, *I* myself have not seen them for who they are either. Time has frozen for both of us.

I still have an image of my mom being in her 40s, not 50s, and definitely no wrinkles around her eyes. And my dad, I have always had such a twitching allergic reaction to what he says, that I have not seen him for his struggle to stay connected, to have some kind of relationship with my brother and me. It seems to me, that he has assigned himself the role of the parent for so long, that he doesn't know how to just be himself.

Lately, what I'm learning is that living with my parents has taught me to be an adult more than I ever imagined.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

27 is Lethal!

As it turns out, being 27 can be hazardous to your life, especially if you're a hot shot punk rocker. They even have a club. (Good thing I turned down that gig, ya know?)

Today I learned the significance of 27 from a coworker. If you believe in this sort of things, it's the time it takes for Saturn to "return to the natal position". This is aptly called, "Saturn Return".

The following is straight up rip-off from Wikipedia.

The Saturn Return is an astrological phenomenon that occurs at the ages of 27-30, 58-60, and finally from 86-88, coinciding with the time it takes the planet Saturn to make one orbit around the sun. As Saturn "returns" to the degree in which it occupied at the time of birth -- approximately every 29.5 years -- we cross over a major threshold and into the next stage of life. ...

The first Saturn Return is famous because it represents the first test of our characters and the structures we have built our lives upon. Should these structures be unsound or that we are living out of touch with our true values, the Saturn Return will be a time of upheaval and limitations as Saturn forces us to jettison old concepts and worn out patterns of living.

It is not uncommon for relationships and jobs to end during this time of life restructuring and reevaluation....

Fun fun fun!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

As Time Goes By

This past weekend I realized something. I tend to give more, physically, financially, and emotionally. Especially emotionally.

I wonder if it has anything to do with me being a Scorpio, the whole "Intensity is my middle name" thing. Or, if it has more to do with my desperate need to hang on to that punch-drunk, gasping first-kiss, manic first-week, trembling first-touch, butterfly in the stomach, blood rushing, back-flipping feeling.

I want to feel that magic every time, all the time. But, is it possible? After a while, things seem to be more stable, relationship-wise. You know what the other person is like, for the most part. You've seen them naked at least a couple times. You've seen them rushing to work and coming back cranky. You've seen them washing off the makeup or scratching their balls (hey, just staying true to my material here.) There doesn't seem to be any more mystery to unravel anymore.

Basically, that weak-in-the-knees, heart-pounding feeling seems to be a distant memory.

I always maintain that it doesn't have to be that way. Just like the Mariners' Refuse To Lose '95 magical season, I refuse to lose the relationship magic (without a fifth of whiskey). Do I need a good whack in the head, or is what I'm talking about actually possible?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Young Love

Okay last post of the night before I go out and see what this Friday the 13th brings. Here's to young love.

The Point is, To Live Everything

I've been reading Rainier Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet because I *love* one of the passages about being young and having patience with things unresolved in my heart (we have a few of those things laying around, don't we?) The most gorgeous sentence for me is, "Love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language".

There is an interesting parallel that he draws between living the life of an artist, its intensity, and sex. I'll write more about that later.

You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.

Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Perhaps you do carry within you the possibility of creating and forming, as an especially blessed and pure way of living; train your for that - but take whatever comes, with great trust, and as long as it comes out of your will, out of some need of your innermost self, then take it upon yourself, and don't hate anything.

Sex is difficult; yes. But those tasks that have been entrusted to us are difficult; almost everything serious is difficult; and everything is serious. If you just recognize this and manage, out of yourself, out of your own talent and nature, out of your own experience and childhood and strength, to achieve a wholly individual relation to sex (one that is not influenced by convention and custom), then you will no longer have to be afraid of losing yourself and becoming unworthy of your dearest possession.

Here's To The Night

So I have been thinking about songs that represent my 20s.

Eve 6's Here's to the Night is on top of my list right now. What are some songs that you think represent your twentysomethingism?

So denied
So I lied
Are you the now or never kind
In a day
And a day love
I'm gonna be gone for good again
Are you willing
To be had
Are you cool
With just tonight

Here's a toast
To all those who here me all too well

Here's to the nights
We felt alive
Here's to the tears
You knew you'd cry
Here's to goodbye
Tomorrow's gonna come too soon

Put your name
On the line
Along with place and time
Wanna stay
Not to go
I wanna ditch the logical

Here's a toast
To all those who here me all too well

Here's to the nights
We felt alive
Here's to the tears
You knew you'd cry
Here's to goodbye
Tomorrow's gonna come too soon

All my time is froze in motion
Can't I stay an hour or two or more
Don't let me let you go
Don't let me let you go

Here's a toast
To all those who here me all too well

Here's to the nights
We felt alive
Here's to the tears
You knew you'd cry
Here's to goodbye
Tomorrow's gonna come too soon
Too soon

Here's to the nights we felt alive
Here's to the tears you knew you'd cry
Here's to goodbye
Tomorrow's gonna come too soon

YouTube vid

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Success and Failure

Failure is hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you're successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever." - Po Bronson

What Should I Do With My Life? Part 1

So, with the US economy exploding like a pot pie that's been in the microwave too long, and layoffs now happening as often as we brush our teeth, most people are happy to just get a job, or have a job.

Is the question, "What should I do with my life?" still valid? I mean, is it a luxury to ask that kind of question? Really, who are *we*, the common people, the peons with a mortgage and no golden parachute in the wing, to ask that kind of lofty question?

I'm going to put out something really bold here, something that will probably stir up some pots.

I really do believe that that question is more important now than ever.

I believe that when we lose everything, especially when we lose a golden handcuff, is when we dig deep down and ask ourselves a lot of hard questions, the ones we are too busy to think about otherwise.

One of my favorite writers about this is Po Bronson, and it is incredibly amazing what he wrote 7 years ago is still hitting the spot today.

I'm going to quote some of my favorite passages from Po from the Fast Company article "The real meaning of success -- and how to find it" printed in 2002 here.

It's time to define the new era. Our faith has been shaken. We've lost confidence in our leaders and in our institutions. Our beliefs have been tested. We've discredited the notion that the Internet would change everything (and the stock market would buy us an exit strategy from the grind). Our expectations have been dashed. We've abandoned the idea that work should be a 24-hour-a-day rush and that careers should be a wild adventure. Yet we're still holding on.

There's a way out. Instead of focusing on what's next , let's get back to what's first. The previous era of business was defined by the question, Where's the opportunity? I'm convinced that business success in the future starts with the question, What should I do with my life? Yes, that's right. The most obvious and universal question on our plates as human beings is the most urgent and pragmatic approach to sustainable success in our organizations. People don't succeed by migrating to a "hot" industry (one word: dotcom) or by adopting a particular career-guiding mantra (remember "horizontal careers"?). They thrive by focusing on the question of who they really are -- and connecting that to work that they truly love (and, in so doing, unleashing a productive and creative power that they never imagined). Companies don't grow because they represent a particular sector or adopt the latest management approach. They win because they engage the hearts and minds of individuals who are dedicated to answering that life question.

This is not a new idea. But it may be the most powerfully pressing one ever to be disrespected by the corporate world. There are far too many smart, educated, talented people operating at quarter speed, unsure of their place in the world, contributing far too little to the productive engine of modern civilization. There are far too many people who look like they have their act together but have yet to make an impact. You know who you are. It comes down to a simple gut check: You either love what you do or you don't. Period.


Of course, addressing the question, What should I do with my life? isn't just a productivity issue: It's a moral imperative. It's how we hold ourselves accountable to the opportunity we're given. Most of us are blessed with the ultimate privilege: We get to be true to our individual nature. Our economy is so vast that we don't have to grind it out forever at jobs we hate. For the most part, we get to choose. That choice isn't about a career search so much as an identity quest. Asking The Question aspires to end the conflict between who you are and what you do. There is nothing more brave than filtering out the chatter that tells you to be someone you're not. There is nothing more genuine than breaking away from the chorus to learn the sound of your own voice. Asking The Question is nothing short of an act of courage: It requires a level of commitment and clarity that is almost foreign to our working lives.

The years shall run like rabbits

It just occurred to me that the last time I wrote something in this blog was almost three years ago. Three years, a lot has changed, a lot remains.

I definitely regret not having been writing. But, I think it speaks to the nature of that stereotypical twentysomething fickleness. We get excited about things, we start off full speed, then we lose steam, stuff fizzles out, other things come in the picture, maybe more urgent, more exciting, more distracting, and poof, before we know it, we've abandoned the project.

Sometimes, though, if it tugs at us enough, if it means something more to us than just a one-night stand, a Facebook meme du jour, we return to it, time and time again.

Time is a stretchy thing. I remember being 22, and thinking how *old*, no, really, how very very *old* 27 must be. At 25, when 27 was a bit closer to shore, I still thought of it as something akin to Middle Earth. It's on the map somewhere, but not on my planet. And 30? Well, 30 is one of those things that happen to other people, but not me.

And here I am, 27, and I can surely see 30 from here. Do all twentysomethings lament about the inevitable Three-Oh?

It is like what Julie Delpy's character Celine said in Before Sunset, "I was having this awful nightmare that I was 32. And then I woke up and I was 23. So relieved. And then I woke up for real, and I was 32".

So, it is the year 2009. We have our first Black president. (Yessss.) We're no longer riding high off of fraudulent securities. The US economy just puked. The world economy also smells like a frat house the morning after. The Middle East is still the place of holy and holy smokes (literally). Most of my friends are either in our mid or late twenties, trying not to look at our 401k, praying our logons still work tomorrow morning.

Nothing lasts forever. As Auden would say, "you cannot conquer Time". And yet, "Life remains a blessing."

Hit it, Audie.

As I Walked Out One Evening
by W. H. Auden

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
'Love has no ending.

'I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,

'I'll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

'The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.

'In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

'In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

'Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver's brilliant bow.

'O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you've missed.

'The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.

'O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

'O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.'

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.