Maybe there is still a chance to have it all

One of my girlfriends is visiting NY for meetings and she asked me to help her to pick up her wedding gown from Vera Wang the day before. I am so happy for her. You know there are times when you say “good for you” you actually feel “gosh it’s so unfair I cannot believe she is getting this while I didn’t!” But that kind of feeling is not in my dictionary anymore. I am lucky to be surrounded by both guys and girls who are as ambitious, capable, observant, insightful and FUN as myself (sorry I’m complimenting myself again), if not more, and they complement me as a human being, and they inspire me every day to give back more with passion and love.

Ultimately it’s not about a competition after all. It’s about inviting someone to join the life journey with you, to learn, to share, to enjoy; or sometimes, just to sit quietly together while looking out of the window, and maybe laugh, and sing.

 

Treat people right, any people

 

When I was in Hong Kong I went to this Portuguese restaurant once and ordered some baked pork and rice dish. I asked the waiter some standard question on what kind of sauce he recommends, how long it will take, and how big the portion is etc. Apparently he was relatively new and he couldn’t answer half of the questions. I got very impatient. I unintentionally raised my voice and I was at the edge of asking to be served by another waiter. He was embarrassed obviously, and my friend who went with me gave me a very disturbed stare, which I couldn’t quite figure out why at the moment. 

Later on he asked me if I noticed I was being quite rude to the waiter. I said well I just happen to be a person who weighs a lot on efficiency. The waiter gets PAID to do his job and these are the things he SHOULD know. Why should I be so patient and nice about it if this is what he should be doing in the first place? It’s not like he is going out of his way to help me or give me a discount.

My friend gave me another stare: “so what you are saying is: you are only nice to people who are good at what they do. If they are not good, if they are still in the process of learning, you are not nice and you want to yell at them.” “Well I must just have high standards, people are not always nice at work, but I still thrive to do a good job, always. So I guess I am asking the same from other people too.”

My friend was silent for a while, and then he said, almost with anger, “RIGHT, PEOPLE ARE NOT ALWAYS NICE AT WORK, BUT YOU GET PAID TO SUCK IT UP! But if you treat everyone else around you like that, in real life, you are F*CKED!”

I was speechless and it was right there and then that I realized there is nothing to be proud of that I am not a typical “nice” person. Previously I always thought if you say someone is “nice”, it means you have nothing else to say about them. So if anything I was always proud that I am the other way around – “assertive” or even “aggressive”. But isn’t that too narrow or too deceiving a definition of being nice? Being nice means understanding and respect, it demands a great deal of emotional intelligence, mental cultivation, patience and strength in character in order to achieve that attitude.

And I realized it’s something hard to find in other people too. The more well-off you are, the more privilege you have, the busier you are with your own life, the less likely you care about how other people feel. That is unfortunate. But if you are going down that road, just like how I felt I was before, it’s not too late to stop.

.

Is there anything else you can hold on to?

A guy friend used to tell me how he navigates the dating scene in New York: I know what you girls are thinking about. Ivy League school – check; a job in finance with good pay and all that – check. Great, let’s date! We can worry about all the rest later!

Isn’t that how our parents (typical Asian) think? You need to be with someone who had a good education, a good job, a good family background. And if there is someone they know who has all that, they will be so surprised, how come you are not dating him? How come you are not together already, how come you are not talking about getting engaged and all that?!

If it’s that simple, if it’s really that simple, if it’s really about 2, 3, 4 checks on a spreadsheet, then half of the population in the world will probably lose their jobs instantly. People know it doesn’t work that way, but we still secretly judge, and compare. So I guess I can’t be too harsh on my friend because I used to have those little checks too.

Then I realized there’s nothing wrong with being proud that you went to a top school and you have a great job. You earned those things and you deserve the respect. What bothered me was the fact that he thinks these are the ONLY pre-requisites or the very foundation of a good and healthy relationship. But really?!

It’s just like going into an interview. The best interview you could ever have is an interview about fun things and more personal experiences, and nothing really related to your resume (or your so-called qualifications).

You are great on paper but the deeper question is: WHO ARE YOU AS A PERSON? Aside from Ivy League and investment banking, aside from top brand handbags and shoes, and a big house or an expensive car, IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU CAN HOLD ON TO?

.

 Some questions worth asking twice, if not more

There are many answers you could give to a simple question “How are you?”

1. Good, how are you?

2. Great, oh I love your skirt!

3. Not bad, really busy, but we should catch up next week over coffee or something.

4. I’m doing okay. Work kind of sucks, thinking of switching jobs now, let me know if you know any openings.

5. Good, just came back from vacation, had a great time, met this amazing guy and I think he’s kind of into me too, so we’ll see!

6. Can’t be better. My parents are in town this weekend. I wanted to invite you to come over for dinner!

Note that these answers do NOT reflect just the reality of the person but the RELATIONSHIP between the two having the conversation. Why? These answers could very well come from the SAME person but TO DIFFERENT people, and how detailed how intimate your answers are define how close you are with the other person.

But honestly, out of all your connections, colleagues, friends, how many people fit into the “1-3” category? How many of them would count toward the “4-6”? For all those people you have only talked to on a level of “1-3”, have you ever even tried to take the conversation to a level of “4-6”, or maybe even “7-9”?

We evolve with our environment and our experiences, but we all have walls built up against our hearts. How many times do you get that question “how do you feel” and your default response will always be “good!” regardless of how you really feel. And how many times the other person cares enough to ask you a second time “talk to me, how do you really feel?” And how many times does it take for him/her to ask you in order for you to really open up and tell him/her what’s truly on your mind?

These are hard questions. And many people don’t even bother. But that defines a deep conversation, that defines any sort of relationships, and that defines us as human beings.

So if you ever wonder: How come I know so many people but there is absolutely nobody to call when I feel mad, sad, disturbed, depressed?! Or…How come I’ve known this person for so long but I still don’t really know who he/she is?! Then maybe you should start knocking off these walls already.

It will not be easy. But “we only live twice”.

.

YOU WILL BE OKAY

Last night I was really happy. I had a 3-hour long dinner with a couple of girlfriends, walked 30 some blocks from the restaurant back home, called a good old friend and talked about nothing and everything, and I felt genuinely relaxed and at ease.

Just like my girlfriend who said: “I may be heart-broken again, I may do all I did and be not given the credit I deserve again, I may lose everything I thought that’s important to me again, and I may cry like a baby again, but I know I will be okay”, it will all be okay.

So maybe there’s still a chance of having it all after all. We pursue what’s good in life, but we are not perfectionist. The chance of having it all is a state of mind, and it lives in our hearts, our hearts that are peaceful, happy, and full of hope.

I hope one day, you will feel it in your heart too.

.

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  1. PY
    August 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    One can be patient only if he can afford the wait. One can be nice only if he doesn’t have to take everything as business. It’s a luxury, but worth working for:)

    • August 19, 2011 at 2:08 am

      It’s a luxury, but worth working for. I am glad you see it this way and I agree with you.

  2. Fang
    August 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Every once in a while, your blog would touch my heart.

    This time, my mind could not stop churning around your story in Hong Kong. There must have been a similar, if not the same, situation in my life not long ago, which perfectly explains why the resonance remains so strong. To resolve this issue once and for all, in my opinion, takes a lifetime to learn, but first and foremost, one has to know how and when to give up.

    To illustrate my perspective, I would like to tell a story about my friend A.

    Profile of A:

    1. Earned a graduate degree from Ivy League school
    2. Worked for the best IB firm
    3. Received over half mil bonuses in 20s
    4. Big mansion house and everything
    5. Straight A student since elementary school
    6. From mainland China

    It pretty much covers everything you have summarized for a stereotypical success for a new immigrant on Wall Street. What happened to him? Nothing and c’est fini.

    Nothing? True.

    As the major part of his life has been dedicated to learning skills and making money, finding a dream girl has become an unreachable luxury, not to mention getting married. Unfortunately, he happens to be a family guy whose ultimate goal is to settle down with a Ms.Right. For some reason, he is always kept from making it come true.

    It seems a simple problem to address, but matter-of-factually, it is not. He turned to me for help and just in a short while, I figured out the root of cause, which lies in his standards:

    1) She has to be pretty, but can not be too pretty.
    2) She has to be bourgeois, but can not spend too much.
    3) She has to be bright, but can not be too smart.

    The list goes on and on and I guess you have also sensed what’s wrong. Although he claimed he’s not a perfectionist, he is, at least in my eyes. Furthermore, he lives in a dream instead of a real world, which is attributed to, I believe, his early years filled with everything but life. He is probably living a better life than most people in NYC, but he has no life, and not surprisingly, no clues how to date a girl for a serious long-term relationship.

    Overall, life is fair. When you earn big in one place, you must let go of something in another, willingly or not. Hence, to my knowledge, having it all is difficult, if possible. My doctoral dissertation is on “rare event”, or in plain English,”small probabilities”, so in theory I wouldn’t deny the existence of such a chance, however small it actually is, even one in 100,000 years.

    But if it is possible, how to achieve it?

    To increase the probability, technically speaking, we need to change the surrounding environment. In another word, make efforts to live a different LIFE. Once he renders his standards closer to the ordinary people’s, the chances would be significantly improved, which was proved in my defense. Essentially, it means GIVING UP, whether the standards of choosing or the perceptions on the rest of the world.

    If we push it to another extreme, then “having it all” is feasible, albeit short-lived:

    Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like it’s the end of the world.

    “Having it all” is the highest level of ENJOYING or HAVING A GREAT TIME. To achieve that, we must learn to sacrifice something– attention, pride, compliments(sorry to take this away, too:)), materialistic wealth and even most of the life. In a word, “having it all” requires “all in”.

    • August 19, 2011 at 2:07 am

      I cannot agree with you more and I hope my fellow readers are subscribing to your comments too, maybe you should be reading your own articles if you are not already doing so. I especially resonate with your point about “giving up” and “having it all = “all in”. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective. It’s enlightening to me and I’m sure to a lot of other people as well.

      • Fang
        August 19, 2011 at 2:03 pm

        I’m flattered by your reply, truly.

        By the way, I would love to recommend a movie, which may shed light on my points in a better way.

        El método (2005)–a Spanish movie.

        Here’s a teaser scene if you are not certain weather or not you want to watch it:

        Context: a group of candidates, all highly qualified and competitive, participated in an intensive interview for a supposedly highest-paying job in the country.

        Scene:

        One interview question: if they were left on an isolated island to survive, everyone has to justify his existence because one candidate has to be eliminated for limited space.

        If I recall it clearly, the following is some of their ideas–

        1) A man, with law enforcement background, volunteers to be judge, saying certain rules need to be enforced in order to create a livable environment.

        2) A man volunteers with EE background volunteers to be an engineer, insisting there are chances he would fix the communication device some day to make emergency calls.

        3) …

        4) A beautiful woman, with no specific skills, pauses for a while and then volunteers to “make babies”, stating that life has to go on, even in an deserted land.

        5) A man, with no specific skills, also pauses for awhile and then volunteers to “tell stories”, claiming as the best story-teller among them, he is most needed since life would be too boring without the entertainment he can offer.

        6) A middle-aged woman, a senior executive, volunteers to be a cook, the best one as she repeatedly emphasized.

        Do you know the result now? Who’s going to be eliminated?

        If you have a correct answer in your mind, you would understand why I am quoting such a scene here.

        Life is much, much, much LARGER than ivy league schools, high-paying IB jobs and huge mansions. Maybe in those cutthroat workplaces, “hard skills” or “resumes” mean a lot, but remember, it only accounts a small portion of life if measured by significance. (unless he or she chooses to marry work or money)

        A much bigger world outside work demands a whole different set of skills, and above all, entertaining, either oneself or others. It may sound a bit odd to some, but would mean the world to those who have gong through a lot in life.

  3. Yale 06
    August 18, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Self-obsessed. I have never heard a fellow yalie drop the name as much as you do. All you do let the brand name YALE represent the rest of your life.

    • August 19, 2011 at 2:06 am

      It’s funny. I ran a search on my article and the only Yale I found is in your “name” and in your “comment”. I did reference “ivy league”, but I am not talking about myself, I am simply illustrating a certain group of people who would like to identify them with “top education”. And as a matter of fact, I agree with you that many fellow yalies, including myself, don’t typically drop the name, and we quite often use “I went to school in Connecticut”. Regarding self-obsession though. Maybe a little bit I have to admit. I do like to analyze myself, but with the purpose that I can understand myself better, make sense of my behaviors better, and ultimately I want to improve myself. If you call that obsession, it’s fine by me. Do you see where I am coming from now?

      • yale 06
        August 24, 2011 at 10:55 am

        Thank you for the response.

        My statement still stands. If you spilled a drink on someone else, you can only think of it in terms of how it affects you! It’s not about you.

        • Fang
          August 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

          Although I am not a graduate from ivy league or any elite schools, I understand full well why someone, or even everyone, at some point in his life, would have such an experience from within or without. In another word, it’s perfectly normal for us to go through a stage where brands or achievements mean everything and can be used to belittle others. The difference is, as it turns out, only a few would make a pause searching who they are and what really matters. Without such a self-discovery process, no improvements can be made,hence leading to immaturity.

          So, you are right that the whole article and her argument are about HERSELF or HER THOUGHTS. As an outsider, however, you are just walking along the same line: what you really care about is not the reputation of Yale, but rather that it may embarrass you if your friends happen to see this article and believe all Yalies would be like “that”. Therefore, you are not defending anyone but YOURSELF. What difference does it make, anyway?

          It is a public blog, where everyone is entitled to opinions, but still, show some basic respects when making replies whether or not you truly agree with others.

          If, by any chance, that’s not you way of addressing issues, please allow me to get confused by who actually embarrasses Yale or others.

        • September 6, 2011 at 9:47 pm

          I am not sure if I see the connection here. I guess if I spill a drink, I will worry about the other person for sure! I will also worry about how it may affect me too, because I will be like, “gosh I can’t believe I get so clumsy again…” lol

  4. Meiran
    August 18, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    “Being nice means understanding and respect, it demands a great deal of emotional intelligence, mental cultivation, patience and strength in character in order to achieve that attitude.” Beautifully written. I cannot help wondering how come the more mature I become, the harder it is to simply be nice to others. I am also big on efficiency, so I totally understand why you feel impatient when dealing with people not good at their work.
    This journal has touched my heart deeply:) Wish you live in peace and have a balanced life.

    • August 19, 2011 at 2:00 am

      Thank you Meiran. I am glad this piece resonated with you. I think there’s always a way to figure things out and to improve the situation, as long as we’re conscious about it. We should work on this together, good luck too!

  5. August 21, 2011 at 1:34 am

    写的很不错啊,支持一下博主。

  6. Clarice
    August 22, 2011 at 4:08 am

    Hi Danye!

    Hope life in NY is treating you well! I happened to stumble across your blog through a recommendation 😉

    Regarding your “Is there anything else you can hold on to” entry, I completely agree with you.

    “Aside from Ivy League and investment banking, aside from top brand handbags and shoes, and a big house or an expensive car, IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU CAN HOLD ON TO?”

    It’s the inside that counts. And not a lot of people get that (including my parents!)

    Keep up the great work! And I look forward to your next entry! 🙂

    – Clarice

  7. August 23, 2011 at 12:21 am

    很不错,支持一下。

  8. October 24, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Don’t concern yourself with Yale ’06. He/she is accusing you of his/her problem. After all, he or she has made his/her identity . . . well . . . Yale.

  9. November 24, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Keeping work-life balance isn’t just about proper prioritizing and time management; it’s also about, like you said, a state of mind.
    “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be” (以其終不自為大,故能成其大) — Lao Tzu.
    Thanks for the inspiring blog.

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