Happiness

A dark purple sky hangs overhead, stars glazed and twinkling in the moonlight. The town is illuminated by distinct signs of life: cars driving through neighborhoods, lights pouring out of kitchen windows, sounds of a small plane ascending overhead. The faint sound of my friend’s guitar fills the silence as we sit on a bench on the edge of a hill. We sit side-by-side, legs crossed and eyes up at the sky. It feels like we’re on the edge of the sublime, untouchable observers in our own corner of the world.

“Do you think there are people that go through college without ever stressing? Besides tests and grades — do you really think people are happy?” they ask, breaking the silence.

“Probably,” I say, peeling my eyes away from the stars. I glance at the ground, the question pulling me back to the present.

There’s a pause.

“Are you happy?”

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A Day With Stryker

My entire life, I have been a people-oriented individual. I love being surrounded by others, and thrive when I am with those who mean the most to me. I have always found satisfaction in giving back to not only my loved ones, but my local community. It says a lot about someone when they are aware of the value that relationships carry, and the positive impact giving back can have on others.

These are values that I carry with me in my everyday life. As I begin to navigate the beginnings of my professional career, I am constantly looking at a company’s values and determining if they align with my own.

When I saw that Stryker was hosting an Industry Day specifically for Cal Poly students, it immediately piqued my interest. Through word-of-mouth and my own research, I knew that the company emphasized the importance of corporate responsibility and worked on philanthropic projects with a global impact. But that was the extent of my knowledge.

After hearing from Stryker employees about their personal experiences with the company, I learned that the company works with Operation Smile to perform free cleft lip surgeries for people in developing countries. They host missions and volunteer with organizations around the world like Red Cross.

I also found that the people-driven mission statement translated not only into their philanthropic work, but also the culture at Stryker. The company promotes a collaborative environment and is deeply invested in the wellbeing of their employees with diversity and inclusion programs like Stryker’s Women’s Network (SWN) and Stryker’s Allies for Equality (safe). The company has received numerous accolades for their accomplishments in establishing several aspects of their workplace, from being recognized as a LinkedIn top company of 2018 and Fortune’s Best Workplace for Giving Back.

Hearing directly from executives at the company solidified my confidence in the company’s values. If anything, it showed me what I should look for when determining what kind of company I would like to work for in the future.I know now that pursuing any opportunities to see real-world applications of my interests is important. Any way that you can gain a firsthand perspective into a company has the potential to show you what type of workplace culture appeals to you and how you might fit into it.

 

The Pursuit of the Future

As a college student, it is too easy to get caught up in the future. I am surrounded by people who share a similar desire to figure out what’s next in all aspects, whether that be professionally, personally, socially, or academically. The decisions I make are done with the intention of consciously working towards the answer to a question: what is my future? And what does that really mean?

Coming to college solidified my independency by showing me the value of making decisions that I believe in wholeheartedly. At the end of it all, I am the only one that can truly carve the path that’s meant for me, and that’s terrifying. But there’s no roadmap and there’s no directions telling me which way to go. These questions I am trying to answer are so broad; it’s as if I’m standing on the edge of the ocean and all I see are distant, hazy shades of blue. How do I know where to focus if I don’t know what I’m looking at?

I am guilty of over-complicating. I like to take time for self-reflection and introspection, and I think it is healthy. But sometimes I become too occupied with what’s going on in my head and forget to consider what’s right in front of me. I’ve learned over time that the best way to approach this question of my future is to break down my overall life goals into smaller, more tangible steps.

For example, my dream is to run my own publishing company in New York City. Right now, it sounds so farfetched; it’s a dream. It’s an answer I’ve considered unrealistic and unachievable, but I know now that it could be attainable if I start working towards it. There are many steps I can take now, like reaching out to professionals and entrepreneurs in the industry or looking at other individual’s success stories or even just taking classes related to my interests.

There is always the concern of finding and maintaining a balance though. How can I work hard and still be able to live my life fervently? There is still so much for me to see and to do. I don’t want to neglect giving myself those experiences. You only get the chance to live out each and every day once. When I look back on my time in college, what will have truly forged the memorable moments is all the times that I was surrounded by the people I love, not worrying whether I’m constantly moving myself forward professionally.

But that level of comfort and confidence with my decisions will only come with knowing that I put all of my best efforts forward when focusing on my professional and academic career. It goes both ways.

It’s important to build a level of self-awareness when considering your future. I think it’s necessary to set certain goals for yourself, even if they do seem broad. It can help give you a sense of confidence by allowing you to make decisions based on those goals, and set you on a purposeful trajectory to that future. Just don’t forget to enjoy yourself every now and then. :’)

 

 

 

 

 

 

📖 This is Water.

As humans, our views tend to be enduring. Rarely do our opinions shift. But every now and then I’ll stumble upon a piece that resonates with me so much that it makes me take a step back and really consider my outlook on everyday life.

It sounds dramatic. But then I read and watched David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College.  It was an assignment for school. At first, I grumbled words of dread at the idea of sitting through a long video. But as I listened, his words struck me. His commencement speech is not a typical one; he pokes fun at the conventional layout and clichés often brought up to a graduating class. He addresses the realities of life after college, when you are an adult and naturally fall into an everyday routine.

I highly recommend that you watch or listen to the entire speech. But what I wanted to focus on is the message behind one specific section:

If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable.

But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it.

What Wallace is saying here is that it’s easy to operate on a default setting. It’s easy to live with the belief that the world is supposed to cater to your needs and to your feelings, and anything hindering your progression through the day is an inconvenience. If you think about it, there is no experience in your life where you aren’t the absolute center of it. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you, but your own are immediate and real. This is our default setting, “hard-wired into our boards at birth.” But it’s rarely spoken about because it’s considered so abhorrent in a social context.

He uses the example of having to go to the supermarket after work. You’re tired after a long day, but forgot to get groceries earlier in the week. So now you’re standing in the check-out lane. And now there’s a lady screaming at her kid in front of you. Maybe you begin to feel impatient. In that situation, it’s easy to automatically become annoyed or frustrated. Because they are taking up your time by making you stand in this line longer than you feel is necessary, so now you can’t beat the evening traffic to go back to your home.

It requires little effort to take on this default setting that you are the center of the world when you are experiencing the mundane, frustrating, and boring parts of your adult life. But what Wallace emphasizes is you have no idea what people around you are experiencing in their lives. When you are aware enough, you can choose to look at these situations in a different light. Because maybe you are the one in their way. Maybe that lady is going through the worst imaginable experience in her life right now, and she’s yelling at her kid right now because it’s all bubbling up and coming out in that moment right in front of you.

Society promotes this mindset. Society pushes the idea of personal freedom, letting us, as Wallace puts it, “be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of creation.” But real, true freedom means having enough consciousness and awareness to choose how you construct meaning in your experiences.

So what kind of knowledge does it take to adjust your mindset in day-to-day life away from the default? He admits that this is a difficult thing to do. There are days when you won’t want to put in the effort and there are days when you just can’t. Wallace speaks to his own experience, saying that an academic education actually enables his tendency to over-intellectualize, and get lost in the “abstract argument in [his] head.” He misses what’s going on right in front of him.

But what I got out of his speech is that it’s important to just be aware when you are experiencing those kinds of days. Having the ability to remind yourself of the true realities that exist around you and the potential differences in perceptions between yourself and others is essential to living a meaningful life. I never considered that idea fully until hearing Wallace’s speech.

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The phrase “This is water” from the title of the speech is part of an anecdote that Wallace begins with by telling a story about two fish.

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’

The meaning behind this story drives Wallace’s point home. What it means to live with knowledge is to live with your eyes open and knowing what’s right in front of you. It means to live with discipline, awareness, and attention. It’s choosing what’s real and what’s essential. It’s reminding yourself “This is water.” It’s getting to choose what is meaningful to you, and understanding what it means to think. And it’s putting those ideas at the forefront of your daily consciousness.

LINKS TO CHECK OUT:

In the Clouds

I’m on a cloud. It’s dawn. The sun is glowing radiantly, with its rays peering through the cracks in the clouds as if they are preparing to unveil a mystery that’s been waiting to be discovered. The clouds around me are reflections of the sun’s golden hues, combining to create a kaleidoscope of colors and signaling the beginning of a new day.

I am alone. I am laying down, hands resting at my sides and eyes pointed at the sky. I am paralyzed in awe, as if the sight in front of me is holding me down, insisting me to stay just one more minute. Forget your obligations. Forget your responsibilities. It feels like a trance or a dream.

Time seems to slow down. For a few moments, I believe everything and anything is possible. Suddenly, I see thousands of images flashing before my eyes. I see myself conquering every fear and every doubt I’ve ever had. I see myself accomplishing the impossible; I am unstoppable. At first, the person I see is unfamiliar. A stranger. But the more I watch, the more I recognize myself. This is me. I am an invincible dreamer up here, in this utopia that embodies my zenith. I am enveloped in warmth, feeling a surge of hopefulness, optimism, fearlessness. The sun beams down at me, shining so brightly that I fight the urge to look away.

But then I look down. I am staring down at the ground, where the force of people and nature together is controlled by reality. It is a reminder. At the basis and foundation of my hopefulness is a place where everything seems to go wrong, full of uncertainty and unrest. I shake my head. I don’t want to go back. But then I feel the warmth of the sun on my back. It reminds me that everything down there works out in an unexpected way. Down there, the beauty comes from within those who emerge from the chaos amidst the negativity and the confusion with their own unique and original thoughts, ideas, dreams, and desires. And the sun still shines, even on the days with the darkest of nights.

My head is in the clouds while my feet are on the ground. I am grounded by the people and the experiences that have shaped the story of my life, including the good and the bad. I am a dreamer, an optimist, a realist. These two places create the balance of how I react, grow, learn, and love.

Why I Lost My Inspiration

On Thursdays, I post. Every week for the past six weeks, I have made sure to have a piece written, an Instagram story scheduled, and a Facebook post drafted by 2PM. I have been proud of what I have been writing and have loved the feelings of happiness I get out of sharing it on my own personal website. All the work I put out is entirely my own, and that’s the best part about this endeavor that I started back in May.

And then I have these incredible moments. Moments when I am so invigorated by an intense desire to write that I can feel it building up inside of me, like I’m just bursting at the seams. And when I sit down with my laptop or journal open, it all just comes spilling out of me. I love those moments. But I know they aren’t consistent. They are not always going to show up on the dot when I want to write a post and have it ready by 2PM on Thursday.

I love spending time alone because that’s when I can think the clearest. That’s when I feel the most inspired because I get to hone into myself and my emotions. I become more aware of my surroundings and build a sense of self-awareness that only comes with spending time alone. But sometimes that becomes a rarity when I forget to prioritize myself. When I forget to do that, I neglect to take the time to sit back and check in with myself. Since coming back to San Luis Obispo after summer, my priorities and responsibilities have naturally changed, and that has exacerbated the problem. My focus has been all over the place. And as a result, my writing habits have suffered.

Let me explain. Before I started a blog, I kept journals. I had been writing down my thoughts in notebooks and journals and in phones for years. It was my way of reflecting, and every time I wrote my thoughts down, it gave me a sense of relief in being able to give up those thoughts and dreams and emotions and see them in front of me in a tangible form. It kept me centered.

Since starting my blog, that catharsis has been mixed with writing on my blog. It has been a place to let out my thoughts in the past. But because I have been caught up in my schedule and my blog is no longer my only focus, I have been guilty of neglecting to make time for myself. This has been building since I started working over the summer. But with the start of the school year and the inevitable chaos of my schedule, I have found myself losing the inspiration to write because it has become another thing to check off of my to-do list.

It’s important to live in the moment. But I have been living so much in each moment that I haven’t been looking outside of that, and that’s why I have lost the drive and inspiration to write that pushed me to make this blog in the first place.

Honestly, I wasn’t even aware of the extent of this issue until I sat down to write this post. Which just drives my point home. These ‘Thoughts” posts are a way for me to share what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling, and people seem like them because they get the most traffic on my blog.

If anything, I hope this post shows you that it’s normal to fall out of good habits. Everyone is guilty of it to some extent or another. It’s easy to neglect yourself and put other responsibilities first. But you are the best version of yourself only when you remember that, and make your self-care and wellbeing at the top of the list of your priorities.

Why My Expectations of College Were Wrong

There is a lot of anticipation that comes with going to college. You spend hours upon hours writing your essays for your applications, having endless conversations with family and friends about your future plans, and spending months waiting for your acceptance letters to arrive in the mail.

When I finally decided where I wanted to go and settled into the idea of attending Cal Poly, there was a sense of relief in knowing where I was heading. But over the summer prior to college, the nerves slowly but constantly built back up. I had many expectations for myself going into college. But when I got there, I quickly figured out the reality.

When I came to Cal Poly, I thought I was going to be a different person. A lot of people talk about having a fresh start when coming to college, and how that allows you to do whatever you want and be whoever you want. I had this misconstrued idea that going to college was automatically going to change me. I thought that simply being in San Luis Obispo was going to be enough.

But that’s not true. What really defines the first year of college is experiences. I only recently came to this conclusion after going back home for three months during summer. I realized how different of a person I had become after really immersing myself in my first year of college.

My fall quarter of my first year was relatively uneventful. I got acclimated to living in the dorms, made some new friends, and figured out how to navigate my way around the school. But going into winter quarter I knew that I wanted to branch out. Even though I knew it was going to make me uncomfortable and force me out of my bubble, I decided to rush for a business fraternity on campus: Alpha Kappa Psi.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it quickly became one of the most defining experiences of my first year. Even during the week of rush, I learned a lot. I came on the first day to simply see what the fraternity was about, and it pulled me in. I went to every day of rush, and learned about building a professional profile. I started paying attention to my resume and my LinkedIn, and was introduced to the idea of networking by simply trying to form connections with the brothers of the fraternity.

Then during pledging, I became close friends with the other pledges as I learned how to maintain a balance between work and extracurriculars and figure out how to organize my priorities. It was the first place in college where I felt like I was committing all of my effort, and felt a huge personal investment into the process. On top of my other involvements with organizations on campus,  I was learning how I wanted to define myself as a student, friend, and aspiring professional.

Prior to college when people were telling me about starting anew and having a fresh start, I interpreted it in the wrong way. I thought that simply being in college was going to change me. And don’t get me wrong — naturally, it did by putting me in a new environment. But what evokes real change for yourself is learning what it means to put yourself out there. It means having experiences that introduce you to people and ideas that are different from what you’d normally surround yourself with.

I highly encourage you to take the time to figure out what that is for you. It won’t always be easy or automatic, and it might take a bit of trial and error. But when you find something that really challenges you and encourages you to grow, you’ll know.


Thanks Calvin Lin (@calvinlinphoto) for the featured photo!

ALSO — If you go to Cal Poly, Alpha Kappa Psi is having rush next week! Come check it out and meet the brothers. 🙂

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