did today happen?

IMG_1317Today is a holiday for me, but not for hubby. I took him to the airport at 9a and picked him up at 6:30p. The whole time he was away working, I was in bed reading another online novel. The day simply disappeared, and I was in another dimension altogether.

I’m grateful for having the luxury of making a whole day disappear in my life, but this is not going to get me anywhere. It is the quarter end. It is time to reflect on my progress.

Once upon a time my life view was such that as long as I experienced life to its fullest, there was no need to have a goal. I used to think of life as a sailboat in the ocean, and as long as the sail was full, I should not care where the boat was going. That life view had served me well for many years, until one day I looked back and found my boat was floating alone in the middle of the ocean and I was idly waiting for the wind.

That’s when I realized that I needed motivation. I know I can achieve anything I want, if I want it enough. But what is worth wanting? What kind of love and passion can guide me from daydreaming to action? I do not know.

I have been seeking the answers ever since. This blog was one of the outcomes of this pursuit. Strictly speaking, if I have to evaluate against progress towards goal, utilization of time, etc, today is a very bad day. But in truth, it was a good one for me.

So what if I spent another day waiting for the wind?

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book planning (3)

Maybe re-read Dream of the Red Chamber is not enough. Maybe I should read the translated versions as well. A masterpiece such as this, just like Shakespeare, is considered to be one of the greatest works in all the history of literature. No one would dare to tarnish the integrity of the work through bad translation, and therefore the translated prose ought to represent the best way to express certain ideas and sentiments of that era in English. And THAT, is exactly what I’m looking for.

There are three translated versions according to Ms. Wikipedia:
A Dream of Red Mansions by the Chinese scholars Gladys Yang and Yang Hsien-yi (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, three volumes, 1978–1980).
A Story of the Stone by David Hawkes (first 80 chapters) and John Minford (next 40 chapters) in 5 volumes and 2,480 pages. (Penguin Classics, 1973-1980)
Red Chamber Dream by B.S. Bonsall in the 1950s.

I want to read at least 2 of them.

I’m excited now after being idle for two days that I’m making a plan for my book. I will give the credit to my friend A.K. When she called today she talked in such a way that her words went straight to my heart. I felt comforted, but that was still not enough for me to get up and face the world. But then we talked about my novel and she made me a plan. She asked: “How long it would take you to finish reading the book?” And I thought, I haven’t even bought the books yet, and I still have 10 books unfinished. But after some negotiation, it was decided that I would deliver the draft manuscript of my book in 7 installments to her starting in May, so that we could finish the project by the year-end.

I’m so grateful to have her push me and set a deadline for me. She is going to be my work-out buddy, except the “work-out” is writing my book. Now I really have to get off my butt and do something. Because I must finish reading the translation of the book, as well as finish my rough draft by end of April in order for me to get into editing mode in May and deliver the pieces!

Author’s note: Part (1) and (2) are backdated posts, not because I had a busy day. In fact, I was definitely not busy. But I did not want to do anything at all and did not want to leave home. When will I get out of this rut??? Saw this article called getting out of a rut and working on a passion on tiny buddha and it might just be the medicine I need at the moment.

Alex and the young Asian pianist

11.Bolshoi_Theatre_1I went to a piano recital last night, hoping to see Alex. Alex is a 70 some years old man, whom I met in the last recital. I’m usually not a big fan of the classics, but Alex played with such joy that I couldn’t help being affected by his mood. He played Beethoven’s Pathetique 1st Movement. I didn’t know I was fond of Beethoven before that night!

Interestingly, another performer that night, a young Asian woman, also performed that exact piece. So I had the rare opportunity of comparing different playing styles on the same piece of music. You’d think they ought to be quite similar if not identical, as it is classical music. But they were blatantly different. The young Asian woman was a better pianist. Her strokes were clean and her techniques were impeccable. But I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel the joy and the passion in her play. I only heard perfection.

It reminded me of my visit to Bolshoi Theater Moscow to see Swan Lake. The dance was flawless, the lead male dancer’s technique was beyond reproach, and all in all it was an excellent show. But, yes I know, there is always a “But”. After each piece of music, the dancers would stop to bow and curtsy to the audience and to receive applause. Don’t get me wrong. I’m more than willing to give applauses. It’s just these pauses broke up the story flow, and you couldn’t get as emotionally involved with the show as you would otherwise do.

I chatted with Alex after the performance, and I asked him when he started to play piano. He smiled and said that he started when he was already in his adulthood in his 20s. I could see that he really enjoys playing and I could picture him playing hours and hours for fun at home. Then I realized, I don’t envy perfection. I envy passion. I want to be just like Alex.

beggars at Starbucks

It was another busy day at work yesterday, as I was set to leave for Maui super early in the morning and I was concentrating on trip preparation. Once in a while, the office get together to “lunch and share” and yesterday was one of those days. The manhunt of Christopher Dorner was the top news of the day, as it seemed that every policeman in San Diego was out there looking for him. So feel free to jaywalk, but if you resemble a little of Dorner, or just in the same age range and have the same skin color, it would be best for you to stay home just to be on the safe side. Somehow a huge debate on  gun control sparkled up from the Dorner story, and I was amazed to realize that even though people in the room were on different sides of the gun issue, they were uniformly Republicans. Why was I surprised, you ask? Well, last time I checked, California was still a very blue state.

But party affiliation doesn’t really matter. Most “normal” people I know are fiscally conservative and socially liberal like me, regardless of the party affiliation. I think the two parties represent the two extreme ends, and they force people to choose one or the other. I’ve seen a chart about the amount of overlapping ideologies of the two parties 30 years, 20 years and 10 years ago verse now and there were quite a lot of overlaps in the beginning and it gradually reduced to the current state of near zero. I will upload the chart if I can find a soft version.

I went to chat with one of my colleagues who didn’t go to the “lunch and share”. He had many interesting views, although very different from mine. We both came from an immigrate background, but his motherland is still in economic turmoil while mine is already a mighty growth engine of the world and the largest creditor of the United States. Our birth countries’ economic status caused us to have different views on immigration policy, and I would like to ponder further over this issue.

What I liked about the conversation was that it revealed to myself that my mind is not fixed. I am still flexible and still thinking. It also reminded me my Starbucks story.

Have lived in NYC for almost 10 years, I’m an expert in “not seeing” the beggars and homeless people on the street. I believe being homeless is a life style choice, especially here in southern California. By the way, I also think these are the smartest of the bunch. If you had to be a homeless, California got to be much better than Milwaukee. In any case I never gave them money, as I know there are government assistances available and they would most likely use the money to buy drugs or alcohol. I always felt that I would be encouraging bad behaviors if I help them.

One day last fall I went downstairs to the Starbucks in my building for my daily coffee fix. A 40ish man approached me and said, “Can you buy me a coffee?” I was completely shocked and caught off-guard. Instinctively, I responded, “Why should I?” He doesn’t leave, but instead he stood behind me in the line. I was able to observe him from the corner of my eye. He looked like a construction worker, but wearing a pair of glasses. I felt nervous as he was standing so close to me. Thankfully more people came in for coffee and he asked the same question to the man and woman behind him. To my astonishment, the man agreed. Was I wrong for not buying him a coffee? No, I was actually thinking about talking to the Starbucks’ manager, because it was their duty to prevent their customers from being harassed.  I just never thought that other people would be so agreeable to the beggars.

Anyway, after that incident, I felt sort of bad about it. I don’t know why. I was certainly not wrong. Alas, I started to “see” these people in Starbucks, and I even saw that same guy again a week later. Just like me, he was a regular.

First day back to work this January, I went to the Starbucks. It was an unusually cold day for southern California. A woman came behind me and picked up a bottle of Naked Juice smoothies and asked me: “Can you buy this for me?”

I said “no” without any facial expression. And she stood behind me in the line. By now of course I knew that was customary. But she explained, probably to relieve me from worrying, “I’m going to wait in line and get a water.”

I nodded and started to observe her. She was a nature blonde. I could imagine that she was once very attractive. She was carrying a couple of big bags, and on top of one there was a leather jacket that was quite stylish. How did she come to this, begging at Starbucks? She might have had an exciting life when she was young. Maybe she was in a band. But now in front of me she was old, alone and filthy. What choices had she made that led her to this? Am I immune to mistakes or was I just lucky?

I picked up the drink and said to her: “I will buy you this.” When I was getting my own breakfast at the register, I thought I might as well make her day, so I asked her whether she would like something to eat. She said she would. And I got her a hot breakfast sandwich.

There are risks of pursuing your passion. Very serious risks. Such as the possibility of not able to support oneself. For the immigrants to this country, the first one or two generations have no choice but to get into a “real” profession, be a doctor, a lawyer, a banker or an engineer. Only with family’s financial support, the next generation could venture into more leisure fields like arts and music.

It is sad but true.

Author’s note: Today’s post was completed much much later than I would like and what I have mentally committed to do. It simply could not be helped. I finished the draft at 1:26 am and I was desperately tired. I had to get up at 4:45 am for my flight to Hawaii. It’s not like there are thousands of you waiting for my posts. In fact, I would be surprised if I even have one reader so far since it is only the 3rd day of the blog. Nonetheless, I was not happy with Evernote as it forbad access to my own note offline, so I was not able to work on it over the long flight to Maui. My apologies my phantom readers. I will plan better for my upcoming China trip so the posts will go out in the mornings of my local time, regardless which time zone or which side of the timeline I’m in.

fire and rain

I worked for a straight 4-hours yesterday on producing a comprehensive 2012 spending report for one of my larger clients. As I worked, I didn’t notice time and the world around me, since I was completely in the zone. I love the feeling of being in the zone.

Before I started my endeavor of managing money, I spent some time thinking about what the ideal profession for me would likely to be. I thought, “I like money, I like counting money and I like to work on my own personal finances and investments. Why don’t I do it professionally? If that’s what I like to do, then it won’t feel like a job, it would be part of my life. And I can do it till my old age.” Here I am 6 years later. Sometimes I still feel the same way, such as a day like this; but sometimes I wonder where my passion has gone. If managing money is my true calling, I won’t be sitting here writing a blog about finding one’s passion and motivation. But worse still, my hubby had requested the same report (since last year this time) for our own finance, and I have not done so. In fact, I’m doing the very minimum of maintaining our own family finance, such as just getting the bills paid on-time. Even with my own 401K, after selecting the funds from 5000+ that were made available to us financial professionals two or three years ago, I have not gone back to review and re-evaluate them. I conduct reviews for my clients because it’s my job, but I’m not treating myself equally. This is like an aesthetician who doesn’t take care of her own face, or a fashion designer who does care about his or her own image. Why am I like this I don’t know. Do I need to rekindle my passion? But that would be wrong, because I still love many aspects of the job: I love the intellectual stimulation; I love the feeling of understanding the world through the real lives of the families I work with; and I love being the person others trust and rely on. Maybe I just don’t like to do the same thing at work and at home? No, that’s not right either. Maybe it’s just simple laziness.

If I’m really honest with myself, I have to say that there are two things about the job that irritate me, and from time to time they overshadow the love and passionate I felt about the job. There is however no point of changing professional field, as I know whatever intrigues me would at the same time has some qualities that would annoy me. So the real question becomes, “How to keep the fire burning when it is pouring rain?”