Monday, March 31, 2014

The First Quarter in Silicon Valley

It felt like I woke up the next day and carried on with my life as usual. The past 3 months in Silicon Valley almost just occurred like a whir at the back of my head. Many things have happened, yet, ironically, it also feels like nothing much has changed.

The kind of independence required to fend for yourself here taught me a deal or two about being self-reliant. Going by myself to settle everything administratively - getting a social security card, opening a bank account, signing employment documents - I didn't have much of a problem with, as I've already developed habits of taking care of such matters in Singapore.

The first week that I landed in the land of the West, right at the West Coast, San Francisco International Airport, I felt ridiculously lost and homesick. Jet lagged and tired, yet fuelled by insane amounts of adrenaline from the rapid changes and uncertainty that occurred, I got by my first 4 days with barely an hour's worth of proper sleep. Then it was travelling to Lake Tahoe for 2 days worth of my virgin snow-skiing trip and my virgin natural bouldering at Castle Rock State Park, watching the fireworks at the Bay Bridge on New Year's Eve, letting the cold chill my bones at Twin Peaks in San Francisco, those were my first few defining events that made me feel all the more homesick and uncomfortable, yet fun and thrilling all the same. People and places were unfamiliar, I had only myself to comfort, reside in, and seek energy from.

It was a trying time to get adjusted both emotionally and physically. The weather was a drastic change that ranged in single digits, a far difference from sunny Singapore. Winter in SF is pretty gloomy, and it matched my moods. Some nights I slip into the cold bed shivering and missed my warm home and my loved ones and let a tear or two fall. Showers were cold, and shampoo-ing or soaping the body was a mad rush to get the warm water running again. It felt like I was rubbing ice onto my scalp and body and I might have inflicted some first degree burns on my skin for the first month as they all turned red and slightly wrinkled. I needed the hot water to keep myself barely warm and the water was so scalding to my skin, but felt sufficiently warm relative to the temperature. The couple of handwritten letters that I brought with me were all I clung onto for some comfort and warmth.

Work officially started on 6 January 2014 and I was in an unfamiliar city with the crazy winds that always reminded me of how warm and cosy Singapore is. The sun sets dutifully at 4/5pm, and by then when I step out of my office into the streets of SF, the sky had turned pitch black. The darkness and mystery only feed themselves to the dangers that I was often told to beware of - walk fast, hold your stuffs close to you, avoid the hobos (homeless people pushing a cartload of belongings, mostly you detect them by the pungent smell of ammonia and stench, and those ragged clothes and layers of bedsheets they collect from garbage and goodwill centers) and druggists - give them the money, and save your own dear life. My senses have never felt more alive with the cold and the acute sense of awareness that I have to be cautious and watchful of at least the 100m radius around me.

I settled into my work routine pretty quickly and it was actually one of the first few things I got comfortable with. My work gave me a sense of familiarity. I looked forward to the week days and was lucky to have colleagues that were almost culturally similar in terms of being asians. By the 3rd week of January, I have almost ridded myself completely of the feelings of uncertainty and hopelessness. I was charged with a new passion and drive to make the best of my time here. February was probably the defining moment when I really felt like I have gotten used to life in the USA, living with friends, being in solidarity to recharge myself.

In the middle of the February, just after Valentine's Day, we made a trip down to Los Angeles for the weekend. It was a really touristy time as we did all the attractions there were with our GO L.A Card. Warner Bro's Studio Tours, Getty Center for the art through different time periods, Natural History Museum, Hollywood Stars Home Tours around Hollywood Hills and some upwards of ten million dollars homes, and the famous wax museum of Stars at Madam Tussaud's were the attractions we managed to squeeze into our 2 days worth of activities.

March was the month of events. Working in the city gave me the convenience of popping by different meet ups after work. I learnt to deal with hunger and not eating dinner at 7/8pm. Usually when I reach home all tired from work, event, and the forty minutes drive, I will whip a simple meal to soothe the hunger pangs and wash up and sleep. Initially I was attending all sorts of events which ranged from entrepreneurship to networking, and I learnt for myself what was useful and what wasn't. I learnt the difference of paying for a valet parking at a hotel and heading straight for an event vs. circling around the streets for free street parking and walking a few blocks to get to my destination. My goal was to buy experiences and I took it as a journey of learning.

I purchased my first course on Udemy, learning mobile app design for $19, and paid for a pricey conference at $200 for Commercism - all things on e-commerce by 500Startups. I attended a talk by Arianna Huffington (Founder of Huffington Post) and Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) titled Redefining Success. I purchased a virtual ticket for $327 to access 80 sessions of keynotes for the Social Media Marketing World 2014, apparently touted as the world's best Social Media Marketing Conference. With the rapid spending on education / learning to accelerate my growth here, I realised how much I value knowledge - only as much as it's value for the money paid. And then again, who's to attach a price to knowledge?

We applied to Y Combinator (A startup accelerator / seed-funding program that is apparently one of Silicon Valley's most prestigious start up "schools", opening up access to the Valley's best investors and getting a head start with powerful networks) and did the whole application within 24 hours. The chances are slim, but it never hurts to try.

March is coming to an end, and that will effectively conclude the first quarter of 2014.
Have I achieved much? Probably in terms of learning. I wouldn't say successes but it's baby steps to getting better at commitments I pursue, both in terms of career, entrepreneurship, and self-development

The topic of long distance relationship is one that is worth bringing up. I think everyone handles their relationships uniquely, and what one couple might say to the next, may differ slightly or extensively. All the horror / beautiful stories that were fed to me prior to coming to US drifted around in my mind. I let them hang without judgement because I had my own to experience. Having a very supportive, motivating, understanding, and driven partner are some traits the both of us share in common. We are fiercely independent in being the best versions of ourselves which really come back in full circle as being the best for each other. The 15/16 hours time difference (depending on daylight savings), meant that one of us is always awake while the other is asleep. We could only catch the waking and sleeping moments of each other and our lives are flipped opposite. My days are his nights, and his nights become my day. Our messages we leave for each other get seen in different time contexts, and we only get the opportunity to Skype a video call once a week on the weekends. It really forces us to value the air/video time we had with each other, sharing about our stories and highlights of the week. This was quality, deep, and engaging conversations where we just focussed on and devote our 100% attention to each other for an hour or two. I celebrate in his momentous achievements in his career, while he indulges in my drive for learning. This is the epitome of a truly loving and lasting relationship - one where we always come back to each other from our own hard struggles to bring each other higher than we can ever be on our own. Every single day, I'm thankful and appreciative of what we have built together as a couple and it makes every bit of my life worth living and fighting for.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Dear mommy

Hear and understand me.
Even if you disagree with me, please don't make me wrong.
Acknowledge the greatness within me.
Remember to look for my loving intentions.
Tell me the truth with compassion.

Monday, May 27, 2013

3 things that 20-somethings ought to know

1. Identity capital - Do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that's an investment in whom you might wanna be next. Now is the time for that internship, the start-up company, whatever it is that you want to head towards. Don't procrastinate. Make it count.

2. Social capital - Best friends are best at giving rides to the airport. But 20-somethings who huddle together with like-minded peers, limit who they know, what they know, how they think, how they speak and where they work. New things seldom come from our inner circle. They come from our weak ties - our friends of friends of friends. Reach out to your weak ties.

3. Pick your family now - The best time to work on your marriage is before you have one and that means being as intentional with your love, as you are with work. Picking your family is about consciously choosing who and what you want rather than just making it work and killing time with whoever who happens to be choosing you.

30 is not the new 20. Claim your adulthood, get some identity capital, use your weak ties, pick your family. 
Don't be defined by what you didn't know or didn't do, you are deciding your life right now.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Where to?

I don't know where to turn to for comfort.
I don't confide.
I'm not a bottle.
I can't tell you.
I just want to feel the calmness to know that it's something that I can do again.

Jups, why share this sad sad song with me, the tears just keep welling up.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

On Lifestyles

An excerpt from Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story

I promised myself that we would never have to use Maria's (at this particular chapter, she was his girlfriend who eventually became his wife) money - neither the money she earned nor any from her family. At that point, I was making $3 million for Predator, and if it did well at the box office, I'd earn $5 million for the next project and $10 million for the next, because we'd been able to nearly double my "ask" with every film.
I didn't know whether or not I'd end up richer than her grandfather Joseph P. Kennedy, but I felt very strongly that we would never have to rely on Shriver (Maria's family) or Kennedy money. What was Maria's was hers. I never asked how much she had. I never asked how much her parents were worth.
I hope that it was as much as they dreamed of having, but I had no interest in it.
I also knew Maria wouldn't want a two-bedroom rental apartment lifestyle. I had to provide her with a lifestyle similar to the way she'd grown up.

Haven't really given much in-depth thought about this topic before, maybe once or twice it has crossed my mind, but reading this excerpt triggered me to question how I should approach this. This is definitely just Arnold's point of view as a man with an Austrian background. What about the culture and context in Singapore? What about the times? That was during the 1960s. Has the progression of time shifted man's thoughts as well? I think the important question lies in this -what about the individuals involved? There is honestly no right or wrong. But there is something that nudges at one's comfort level. Are you being honest with yourself that you are / will be happy with the kind of lifestyle you want to live?