What’s Up | 02/05/14 | Work-Life Balance, Stoicism, Personal Finance

Alright! My first What’s Up post of the year! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these updates, and even longer since I’ve had the chance to really freestyle-write. Even though I highly value these moments of time where I get to reflect on the different things that have been going on in my life as well as the random stuff I’ve been thinking about and experiencing, I feel that I don’t do this enough. So tonight’s post will be a longer one, but it’s my hope there’s a little something here for everyone – I know I’ll definitely enjoy writing this!


Chinese New Year Weekend

I just came out of a very interesting weekend. It was Chinese New Year weekend, and I’d bought a Megabus ticket for LA to visit my mom for a couple of days. On Friday, I went out to eat with my manager, and about an hour after the meal, I started feeling really queasy. I was sitting in a meeting when I suddenly felt like…throwing up. But it wasn’t until I broke out into a cold sweat that I stood up and calmly walked to the restroom, then proceeding to barf my lungs out. Then I felt flu-like symptoms, so I was pretty sure I’d been food poisoned. I left work early, went home and crashed, then woke up feeling terrible (like my body was jelly), but still had to pack and get to the bus station to catch my overnight ride to LA.

Thankfully, there weren’t any embarrassing episodes on the bus – I slept most of the way and made it into LA in the early morning hours. After my mom picked me up from Union Station and I arrived home – home sweet home – I felt as good as I possibly could at that moment before I knocked out for another few hours, waking up to the sounds of my mom cooking rice porridge and then proceeding to eat my first meal in 24 hours. Needless to say, Chinese New Year dinner felt like a feast, even though my mom and I split an order of beef noodle soup and dumplings at a local Taiwanese restaurant. Despite the pain and suffering, it was good to be back.

The rest of the weekend went by quickly and I took most of the time to relax and fully recover, returning to the Bay Sunday evening to get ready for another week’s work.

Work and the Oft-Mentioned Work-Life Balance

Speaking of work, I’ve been enjoying my time at Macys.com a lot. I really can’t complain – I’m managing my own (small) project, getting lots of breathing room to learn by doing, and figuring things out slowly but surely. My team, supervisors, and co-workers have been phenomenal. Even though a lot of people at my workplace are older and I was initially skeptical that we’d have much in common, I found that the more I got to know someone, regardless of age I’d find some sort of commonality, and sometimes quite a bit more than just one! It’s been very eye-opening and I’m encouraged to keep an open mind as I continue to meet new people in life.

Granted, I don’t want to make it seem like I have a perfect job – I don’t. And the truth is, nobody does! No matter how awesome someone’s job may seem, there will always be tedious moments, challenging setbacks, and bad days. But I find it a lot more productive to my personal growth to focus on the good things, enjoy the time, and continue to learn as best I can. There are definitely setbacks and bad days, and sometimes I’m frustrated by our progress or structure, but at the end of the day, if I’m learning either through difficulties or by picking up new skills, I’m all for it.

The constant blessing I realize time and again from work is the work-life balance. I might not get fully-stocked kitchens or catered meals, but I have something that I’ve come to value more and more – time. The most I’ll work in a given week is 40 hours, with no weekend work ever. And I find that once I’m done with work, it’s easy to file all my work-related thoughts away so I can concentrate on the present moment. That’s left me with two very essential things – me-time and flexibility (especially needed since I work a 9-5 job).

After work, I spend my time exercising, taking care of errands, reading, or just plain relaxing. And the weeks where I’ll have more meet-ups or events planned, I have the flexibility to go with friends for dinner in the city or make it out to Berkeley to attend events and hang out. The downside is that with more time, I fall into the trap of wasting it or not spending it wisely – whether it’s endlessly browsing the web or taking longer naps, I’ll always get nagged by the thought that I should be doing more things.

But I’m not in a rush. I have to constantly remind myself that life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And until I do have something that I’m convicted to do, I will spend my time learning, growing, reflecting, and resting. There’s nothing wrong with taking breaks – I’m finding them to be an increasingly important time for me to sort out this crazy decade called the twenties.

On Stoicism and Personal Finance

Recently I’ve found two new areas of interest, and I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and learning more about these areas, namely Stoicism and personal finance.

I’ve always had some knowledge of Stoic philosophy, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve taken a closer look at it and realized that many of the big ideas of this philosophy align with my personal thoughts, approach to living, and belief system. It was one of those aha! moments of clarity, and I’ve been thinking about the philosophy ever since.

The common understanding of Stoicism as a Spock-like philosophy devoid of emotion is largely inaccurate. The Wikipedia article provides a great intro and I really like the provided explanation:

The idea was to be free of suffering through apatheia (Greek: ἀπάθεια) or peace of mind (literally, ‘without passion’), where peace of mind was understood in the ancient sense—being objective or having ‘clear judgment’ and the maintenance of equanimity in the face of life’s highs and lows.

So the commonly-misunderstood lack of passion meant peace of mind, not the absence of emotions. It’s a compelling way to frame problem resolution, and I’ll definitely be reading more about it and potentially posting about this topic in the near future. And don’t worry, Glen is not becoming a tunic-wearing Stoic – he’s merely learning more about how different people approached living their lives throughout history and applying important lessons to his own approach to living life!

The other area of interest I’ve been pursuing recently is personal finance. Since starting work, paying my own bills, and figuring my way around adulthood, I’ve developed a bigger obsession over personal finance, whether it’s researching how best to invest, spend, or save the money I earn from work or figuring out how to live well in such a crazily-expensive city as San Francisco. After years of watching on the sidelines (and the occasional simulator), I’m getting my feet wet in stocks, putting a considerable amount of my savings into ETFs and some handpicked stocks.

It’s crazy how having to pay my own living expenses has suddenly brought to light just how expensive things are, and that I really need to be wise in my spending and saving. I’ve been digging around personal finance blogs, just getting a feel for how others before me have approached money management, and I think it’s important to be mindful about the cost behind my purchases. To be clear, I’m not advocating penny pinching or coupon clipping (I’d never for practical reasons, only for personal enjoyment reasons) – what I’m starting to realize even more now that I’m working is to save money where it counts. So the starting point is to look at larger purchases and work from there. I’ll keep you posted on my findings in the near future!

And Can’t Forget About Berkeley

And finally, a word on Berkeley. I’ve been working for about six months now and I still go back to Berkeley quite a bit for various events or just to hang out with friends. What I’m noticing is that each time I’m back, the place feels a little stranger. It’s hard to describe the feeling exactly, but at the risk of sounding melodramatic it’s like a stranger that I once knew. I think it’s a very normal feeling and makes sense because I’m no longer part of the day to day at Berkeley – the cycle is the same but the players are different. So while I don’t feel as connected to the place, I still get a lot of good vibes and I feel joy whenever I’m at Berkeley. So now that I think of it Berkeley feels like an old friend, and friend it shall remain in the years to come.

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Proud Golden Bear at www.RandomTidbitsofThought.com.

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