My Next Thirty Years

The last couple months have been pretty eventful. A few of the highlights:

  1. I went to the wedding of my math grad school besties in Canada! So beautiful. I wish I could move back up there.
  2. I spent a week in Seattle for an environmental statistics workshop. I got to see some old friends and hang out with new ones.
  3. I spent a week at home, during which I saw The Book of Mormon at the Pantages Theatre. Amazing and so hilarious!
  4. I turned 30.
  5. My roommate started teaching me to cook. So far, we’ve made an omelet, pancakes, and pan-fried steak!
  6. I (finally) started the Ph.D. program. I’m one week in and I’m incredibly stressed out already.
  7. I’ve continued seeing a therapist. It’s been helpful to acknowledge my issues and slowly work through them.

When I turned 30 about a month ago, I did a lot of reflecting on my life, where I’ve been and where I’m going. I grew up a lot in my twenties. I accomplished a lot (on paper) and became a lot more comfortable in my own skin, but I still have a long way to go. I know that my thirties are going to be even better than my twenties.

I love this song by Tim McGraw called “My Next Thirty Years.” I made sure to listen to it on my birthday this year, as it seemed especially appropriate.

Out of the Past

Ten years ago. I was 19.

I was at a summer math research program many states away from home. I fell in love (or what I thought was love) with another student in the program (let’s call him Guy). I didn’t know he was gay until there were only three weeks left in our program.

We had some fun together for a couple weeks. The long hugs and cuddling for a couple hours in the afternoon were the best. But Guy didn’t want a relationship. We went to school in different cities, and he was against long distance relationships (he had been cheated on in the past). I tried to convince him to try (I certainly wasn’t going to cheat on him) but it’s hard to argue logic with a math major. We reverted to being “just friends” for a while.

July 26, 2002. We both got a little drunk at a party (there was a lot of drinking that summer), and things heated up again. We ended up alone in his room. Here is an excerpt from something I wrote the next day, in an old journal I used to keep:

So I asked Guy if he liked me and he said he did. But I think when he’s sober, he likes me as a friend. When he’s drunk, he likes my body. Nowhere in there does he like me for me in a more romantic sense. I finally began to realize that as we were making out last night.

Guy wanted to take things a little further but my body and my mind were telling me not to. Like, my body refused to feel what was going on, and my mind was thinking about our relationship and how it could never work. So I wasn’t feeling sexual, and Guy was getting frustrated at me. I wanted to make Guy happy, but my body didn’t let me. He called me a 13 year old child and said that I’m not a man. He also said I’m not gay, because being gay means I want to have sex with men and all that stuff.

I thought I had buried this experience a long time ago, but the ten year anniversary of that summer somehow stirred up a lot of old feelings. I think a big reason why I still consider myself a boy and not a man stems from that night.

I started seeing a campus therapist last week. I think seeking counseling has been long overdue. It’s been good to talk through a lot of my feelings, both past and present. I hope I can finally move forward.

Saturday Will Be Date Night

Making resolutions seems to get harder every year. Last year, I only had one:

1. I would like to finish another book this year. I cheated a little last year because I had a specific book in mind when I made the resolution. I was already eagerly waiting to read it. I want to see how I do if I don’t specify the book. Finding a book to read will be part of the challenge. If I can do this one, maybe I’ll up the 2012 resolution to two books!

I did read a book last year! I read the complete Bone graphic novel. It’s not a major work of literature, but it is a 1300 page epic with an amazing story and both depth and humor. Once I started, it was hard to put down. I finished it in about a week in September, which is pretty fast for me, even for a graphic novel.

For my new resolutions:

1. I would like to make an effort to spend time away from my office. When I’m studying/working, it’s so easy to spend every night, seven days a week, in my office until 12am or later. Whenever I spend even just an evening with my friends and/or family, I remember what it’s like to take a break from work. As much as I enjoy what I do, I need to find the balance between work and non-work.

2. Related to the previous resolution, I need to be more social. It’s been a long time since I went out on a date. I tried online dating a few years ago, but it didn’t go anywhere (partly because I didn’t drive on the freeway at the time). My old boss/friend (who now has a boyfriend) gave me the remaining paid time for his account for a popular online dating website, so I should use it. My goal for the year is to go on two dates, not necessarily with the same person. Two dates doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a big deal for me.

Even my advisor told me not to come in to the office on Saturdays, so maybe Saturday will be “date night,” or at least “social night.”

I’ll try to add more resolutions if I think of any. I graduate with my second master’s degree in five months, so this will be a year of change, regardless of what resolutions I make. It should be interesting to see what I’ll be doing at this time next year.

Muscle Epiphany

My university is very large. The vast majority of students ride bikes (and the rest drive) around campus. I never learned how to ride a bike as a kid, so I walk everywhere. Even though I live on campus, it easily takes 20-30 minutes to walk from my apartment to my office. The campus shuttles only run every 20 minutes and they stop running around 8pm, so they’re generally unreliable, especially since I stay late in the office almost every day. More often than not, my advisor drives me home at night.

A few weeks ago, my advisor said that my hour (round trip) commute was inefficient and (strongly) suggested that I learn how to ride a bike. He was willing to help teach me or have someone in our research group teach me. My first task was to get a bike with which to learn, so I went to the campus bike shop to either rent or buy one.

I don’t know the first thing about bikes, other than that they have two wheels. My first trip to the campus bike shop was so overwhelming. There are three general types of bikes (mountain bikes, road bikes, and hybrids), and each has their advantages and disadvantages. Then there are different frame sizes for different people. Having never even sat on a bike before, I had no idea what size frame I was supposed to get. I’m incredibly indecisive even when I’m well informed, so trying to buy a bike by myself would have been impossible. I asked one person from my research group (i.e., another one of my advisor’s students) to come with me and help me choose a bike.

Back story: The person I asked to go with me had heard that I was going to learn how to ride a bike from our advisor, and he was more than happy to help me. As most people do, he thought it was crazy that I never learned how to ride a bike. He is ridiculously cute/hot. He has strikingly bright eyes and a dimply smile that makes me melt. And, as all the people who I tend to crush on always are, he’s straight. I’m going to refer to him as my cute/hot friend.

Anyway. When my cute/hot friend went with me to the campus bike shop, he knew all the right questions to ask. In five minutes, he knew that we needed to go off campus to find a suitable and affordable bike for my size and level. We went bike shopping the following morning. My cute/hot friend took control of the entire process; he was like a parent (or perhaps a big brother) buying his kid’s first bike. Long story short, from my cute/hot friend’s recommendation, I bought a mountain bike with a 16″ frame (I’m pretty small, apparently). During the process of finding the perfect bike, I sat on a bike for the first time ever.

A couple days later (this is now Sunday, October 23rd), I had my first bike lesson with my cute/hot friend (my advisor joined us halfway through the lesson). There’s a fairly steep hill behind my office building. At first, my cute/hot friend held onto the front of my bike while I got the feel of sitting on the bike. After some basic training in braking and stopping, my first goal was to coast straight down the hill, without pedaling. Basically, I had to learn how to balance on the bike. I was out there for a little over an hour, and I could probably coast about four feet before I lost my balance and had to stop. Basically, I couldn’t balance at all. I kept leaning too far to one side. I stopped with my feet/toes a lot, my butt kept hitting the seat when I started and stopped, and my arms were tense from holding onto the bike so hard. I was hot, sweaty, and sore everywhere (and not in a good way). It was incredibly frustrating. I felt like I would never learn how to ride a bike.

My cute/hot friend told me that riding a bike is about muscle memory. As frustrated as I was after that first lesson, I needed to make sure that my muscles didn’t forget the feeling of being on the bike, so I was determined to practice at least an hour every day. I didn’t want to have another formal lesson with my cute/hot friend until I felt like I wasn’t wasting his time, so I practiced by myself. Since I couldn’t ride my bike anywhere yet, I kept my bike at my office building. Every night (usually around 10pm), I stopped working for an hour and practiced riding my bike on the hill behind my building. Here’s how it went:

Monday: Still tried to coast down the hill but to no avail. I stopped too hard once and halfway toppled over my bike. I didn’t fall completely, but I knocked the bike chains out of alignment. Not knowing at the time what I did, I freaked out and called my cute/hot friend for help. He came and fixed my chains. He said my balance on the bike was improving, even if I couldn’t tell. Later that evening, I ran into my officemate/ex-roommate (he stopped staying with me that night, actually). He gave me a mini-lesson by having me hold onto his shoulder while I slowly pedaled around the courtyard in front of my office building. I couldn’t balance without holding onto him, but it gave me the feeling of pedaling.

Tuesday: For about half an hour, before my choir rehearsal, I tried again to coast down the hill. I still couldn’t do it. After choir rehearsal, I gave it another shot and finally was able to coast down the hill. I have no idea how I did it the first time. I must’ve had some sort of muscle epiphany or something, because my body was able to balance the bike and I can’t explain how. To make sure it wasn’t a fluke, I coasted down the hill at least five times before I texted my cute/hot friend about it. He was really excited and wanted me to show him. Of course, under pressure, I couldn’t do it. Darn performance anxiety.

Wednesday: My coasting downhill improved a lot. I couldn’t pedal on flat ground yet, but if I started from coasting downhill, I was able to pedal and stay balanced. There’s a small hill at the bottom of the big hill behind my office building. After coasting to the bottom of the big hill, I got off my bike, turned around, coasted down the small hill, and pedaled up the big hill. I couldn’t turn at all though. I could only coast downhill or pedal uphill if I was going straight the whole way.

Wednesday was also the day that I had my first fall. I must’ve been too confident with my coasting or something, but I went too fast and didn’t brake in time and actually fell off my bike to the ground. I caught myself with my hands, so I didn’t hit my head (I wore a helmet by the way), but I hurt my legs. My right leg had a medium sized scrape with blood, while my left leg hurt when I twisted it the wrong way. Both leg injuries are mostly healed now (two and a half weeks later), but they aren’t 100% just yet.

My biggest fear after I fell was that I would be afraid to get on the bike again (much like how I avoided driving for years after I was the passenger in a car accident). Knowing myself, I forced myself to continue riding my bike immediately after I fell. I think it was good that I fell early on, because I’m now very conscious of how easily I can fall. I’m very cautious when I ride my bike (much like I am when I drive).

Thursday: I graduated from the hill behind my office building to the courtyard in front of the building (flat ground). I was able to start pedaling from a stopped position (i.e., I didn’t need the added velocity from the hill), and I learned how to turn. It was another muscle epiphany. Turning requires a slight shift in balance with minimal arm movement, but I have no idea how I did it at first.

Friday: Improved pedaling and turning.

Saturday: Improved pedaling and turning.

The following Sunday (now October 30th), exactly one week after my first and only official bike lesson, I showed off my bike riding skills to my advisor, my cute/hot friend, and my officemate/ex-roommate. I stumbled a little bit (darn performance anxiety), but it was obvious that I had improved by leaps and bounds. Everyone was very proud of me. The last milestone occurred the following day (October 31st). I rode my bike all the way from my office building to my apartment for the first time.

I seriously thought I was never going to learn how to ride a bike, and now I ride my bike to and from my office every day. I bike between classes and bike to the student union building to grab lunch. My commute time is now about one-third of what it was before; it only takes about 10 minutes to bike from my apartment to my office. I still need to gain some experience though. I haven’t ridden off campus yet. I also get a little intimidated when other cyclists are around. I feel like a baby just learning to walk who is trying to play with the big kids. I’m growing up fast though!

Belated Four Year Anniversary

September 28th was the four year anniversary of this blog. I’ve been unbelievably busy lately, seemingly more than ever before (but I always seem to say that).

Some landmarks from the last year:

I bought a MacBook Air.
I was so sick that I had to miss singing in choir concerts for the first time.
I spent Thanksgiving by myself.
I held my college friend’s baby when he was only a day old.
I was the best man at my high school bestie’s wedding.
I bought an iPhone.
I started doing research in statistics.
My brother became a doctor.

I haven’t mentioned this landmark anywhere, but it happened before September 28th: My advisor got me an office! I share it with seven other people, but at least I have a desk and chair that I can call my own! Unfortunately I’ve been staying there until past midnight for the last two weeks…

My list of landmarks seems to get shorter every year. The next year should be full of interesting decisions and possibly big changes. Stay tuned!

The Hope

The first few weeks of August were some of my busiest of the last year. There was one particular week when I worked until 6am almost every night and even pulled my first all-nighter of the year. The hard work paid off, though. My advisor said that I’m the most productive person out of all of his students, even though I’m the youngest academically (his other students are Ph.D. students and postdocs – I’m the only master’s student).

My advisor gave me the biggest compliment I think I’ve ever received. He called me “The Hope,” as in “The Hope for the Future of Statistics.” It was a nickname that his advisor gave to him, and now he’s passing it to me. I’m apparently a rare breed in that I enjoy applied statistics but don’t shy away from theoretical statistics either. With my math background and workaholic work ethic, my advisor believes I can be a superstar in academia. He gushes about me all the time. I still don’t have such confidence in myself, but I’m definitely flattered by how highly he thinks of me.

Near the end of August, my advisor went on a business trip to Australia for a couple weeks, so I finally got to take a summer break while he was away. I spent a few days visiting my math grad school besties (and their twins!) in Canada and spent the rest of my time at home in LA. Given how focused and productive I was all summer, I assumed that I would still continue to do some work during my break. I surprised myself by how easy it was to stop working.

I had a fantastic break. I hadn’t been home in five months (a long time for me), so I had to see and catch up with a lot of people. My social calendar was completely booked for two weeks straight. I saw family, high school friends, college friends, math grad school friends, old work friends, and even a Target friend. I went to two aquariums (one in Canada, one near LA), Disneyland, Griffith Observatory, and the Hollywood sign (the last two of which I had never been to before).

The problem with my break was that it was too fantastic. My friends kept asking if I will pursue a Ph.D. after I finish my master’s, and I honestly don’t know. I thought I knew what I wanted, but now I’m not so sure. When I’m at school and focused only on statistics, pursuing a Ph.D. seems like the natural progression, especially since my advisor constantly expresses his confidence in me. But when I was at home, it felt so wonderful not to be focused on statistics and to have a life outside of school. I forgot how much I missed my friends and family and how happy I am when I’m around them.

I’ve been back at school for a little over a week now. After such an amazing break, it’s been really difficult getting back to my old level of focus and productivity. I keep going back and forth about the decision I’ll have to make in a few months. My advisor says he doesn’t want to put pressure on me to pursue a Ph.D., but “The Hope” is a nickname I’d like to live up to.

When The Inevitable Happens

My mom is in her late sixties now. A few months ago, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and was put on a thyroid medication (a replacement hormone or something). A couple weeks ago, she told me that her doctor thought she might have a couple nodules on her thyroid, so she needed to get an ultrasound.

My mom got her ultrasound a few days ago, and the results showed that she indeed has a couple nodules, about 2cm wide (I’m guessing that’s each). She’s now waiting for a referral to get a biopsy done to see whether the nodules are cancerous or not.

This is the first time either of my parents has had any sort of potential cancer scare. It’s still too early to tell, so I’m not really sure what to think. I certainly hope it’s nothing, but I’m a bit worried. My brother (the new doctor) said that thyroid cancer is very treatable in that even if my mom has to have her whole thyroid removed, she just has to take a pill every day. Still, that scenario doesn’t sound too pleasant.

My parents are getting older, of course, and they won’t be around forever, but I still can’t imagine what it would be like without them. My maternal grandfather is 91 and still kicking (although his pacemaker is apparently doing 95% of the work for his heart), so I guess I was hoping to be my mom’s age and still have my parents around. My parents were older when they had me, though, so it’s probably more difficult for that to happen.

During my lifetime, I’ve lost a few aunts and my paternal grandparents, but I wasn’t particularly close to any of them. I didn’t mourn for them in the same way I would expect I will for someone in my immediate family (or even my closer relatives).

My mind is definitely jumping to conclusions, but it’s hard not to think about these things when cancer is even mentioned. It’s probably difficult for anyone to face their parents’ mortality (or their own). I can’t imagine anyone is ever really ready for the day when the inevitable happens.