Posts tagged Life
Why Should We Care What People Think?

“But how will this look?”


Ivan here.

Thanksgiving is coming up, bringing families together to celebrate the anniversary of when a boatload of immigrants crossed the Atlantic to settle in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where they proceeded to take jobs and land away from ordinary, working class Americans.

But I’m being petty - which is the opposite of what this holiday is supposed to be about.


The Least Productive Question In the World


For obvious reasons, my family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. The closest Taiwanese equivalent is the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is held in August or the eighth month of the lunar calendar. On this holiday, we Taiwanese like to take our flip flops and plastic footstools to the river to stake out spots for an impromptu, hobo-style barbecue.

But no matter what the holiday season, it’s always stressful when extended families come together. We’ve all got our own ways of dealing with this. I can’t speak for Jennie’s side of the family, but there’s one thing my family does that I have no patience for, and it starts with a single question:

“But how will this look?”

This is the question that sets most people off on a path to making one bad decision after another.

Here are some examples taken from our life:


1. What Will People Think

When They See My Wallet?


Here’s a picture of my wallet.

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I’ve had it for almost ten years. It looks like it'd been chewed on by a dog for at least that long. It’s too bulky for most of my pockets and I can’t keep coins smaller than quarters or they’ll fall out of the ever-expanding hole.

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But it’s my wallet, and I like it.

While I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m both stubborn and a cheapskate, those aren’t the reasons why I still have this wallet. I have this wallet because Jennie bought it for me in Kyoto nearly ten years ago for 1,000 yen ($10). I like the yellow-checkered pattern (or what’s left of it). I like that when I showed it to an old friend from our Kyoto days in Chicago last month, he laughed and remembered the exact store I got it from.

Why should I apologize for the things I like?

A few years ago, I was in the Toronto financial district, about to pay for lunch with a few co-workers. I whipped out my wallet from the inner pocket of my Brooks Brothers jacket.

“That’s your wallet!?” said the sales guy in the Hugo Boss suit.

“Yep,” I said.

“No offense buddy,” he said. “But that’s disgusting. You should invest in a Louis Vuitton.”

“I don’t know,” I said as I paid the tab. “I like it.”

There was no point in arguing, but if I had to explain it in sports terms so that he might've understood - here’s Odell Beckham Jr on Twitter:

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2. What Will People Think

Seeing Us At a Bus Stop?


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Jennie got rid of her car recently, which means we’re back to using public transit and ride-sharing. This is strange for Los Angeles. Very few people here ride public transit unless it’s the only thing they can afford.

But the neighborhood we live in is actually perfectly situated for public transit. There’s an express line running right past our apartment that takes us to Venice Beach in 20 minutes, Jennie’s office in 30 and downtown L.A. within the hour. There are also four grocery stores and a farmer’s market within a five mile radius - more than accessible by a $5 Lyft ride. We are very “lucky” because early on, we made conscious decisions about where to live and how much space we actually needed.

It was early afternoon on Friday. Jennie and I were waiting at a bus stop in front of a run-down Carl’s Jrs. We were planning to run some errands and get some camping gear for our upcoming trip to Joshua Tree.

Weekend traffic had already picked up. An obnoxiously loud sports car inched by. All that horsepower, no room to run. I watched the middle-aged man in the driver’s seat, and fantasized about sitting across from him at a poker table. His psychological profile must be practically childlike. It’d be like taking candy from a baby.

“I wonder what people think driving past us,” said Jennie, interrupting the royal flush I was on the verge of making.

Here, I saw my opening to quote my favorite character from Game of Thrones:

“A lion, Jennie, doesn’t concern herself with the opinions of the sheep.”

Editor’s note: I rolled my eyes.


3. What Will People Think When

We Turn in Empty Bottles at CVS?


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Tap water is completely safe to drink in Los Angeles, but has a strange aftertaste that lies somewhere between chlorine and rust. Our apartment is also a pre-1970s structure and has lead pipes. For those reasons, Jennie and I started buying bottled water from Costco since moving from Boston.

This leaves us with the problem of getting our $0.05 deposits back for our bottles. We drink a LOT of water, so that’s about $10 a month worth of deposits.

Luckily for us, there’s a CVS right next to the Japanese grocery store we shop at that takes bottles. Perfect, I thought. We can get our deposit back without going out of our way.

Jennie was more hesitant. The thought of standing in line at CVS just to get $10 triggered some flashbacks of growing up in poverty.

“I’d do it myself,” I said. “But the limit is 100 bottles a person and they only take bottles on Sunday.”

“It just brings back bad memories.”

“Okay, so what do you want to do? Just throw away $10? Not a great message to send to all the poor kids out there: Ten dollars? No thanks. Too embarrassed.”

“Why aren’t you embarrassed?”

“Because I’m going to do what I want, when I want. What everyone else thinks is irrelevant.”

“Besides,” I added. “Most people are just like you and me - they’re too busy thinking about themselves to worry about anyone else.”


So, What’s the Right Question?


I used examples from our life to illustrate something that we all struggle with. That is, understanding the fine, virtually indistinguishable line between:

  1. What we want

  2. What we think we should want

Do I want an expensive sports car because I enjoy driving and appreciate fine automotive engineering? Or because I think chicks will dig me in this car and that an outward symbol of my success will compensate for my inner feeling of inadequacy?

Do I want a big house because I plan on raising a large family and the price tag is well within my means? Or because I always imagined myself as an owner of a big house that’s the envy of my family, friends and neighbors?

And on and on it goes. For everything.

This is just my personal opinion, but I think the more we think about “how something looks,” the less likely we are to end up making the optimal decision.

Because the right question should always be:

Does this add value to my life
and the lives of those I care about?”



Marriage Podcast: A Six Year Long Distance Relationship #LDR

If you subscribe to iTunes then check out their channel here!

Jennie here! 

A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to be featured and interviewed on a Brooklyn-based podcast called The Paper Year. Evan and Caitlin started this podcast in order to document their first year of marriage together and to chat with other married couples about their experiences. 

So, how did we get on this podcast?

I was a huge fan of their podcast since they started and really admired their ambition to start and run a podcast together! So, I reached out via email and told them a little bit about our (slightly Kafka-esque) long distance relationship and marriage. And a few months later they asked us to be on the podcast! I had to twist Ivan's arm to get him to agree to the podcast but, in the end, we both decided to put ourselves out there. 

It was our first time podcasting and we had a great time speaking with two strangers we had never met over the internet. Anyway, make sure to check out the podcast (linked above) and read a few of the highlights below.


Highlights and Quotes from the Podcast


It was a Kafka-esque immigration process...like [the short story] In the Penal colony where the guy is getting hole-punched by the machine...
— Ivan
 

Lessons Learned From Our Long Distance Relationship (of 6 Years)

  1. Not all love stories are romantic. Yeah, so our relationship started off because of a drunken kiss. Who hasn't experienced that? In the end, we ended up together and that's romantic and real.
     
  2. Manage expectations – with yourself and each other. In our case, we created a "social contract" to solidify our expectations and plans together. We talked about how often we'd see each other, how often we should evaluate our relationship, etc. This contract helped us communicate better and carried us through various milestones together. 
     
  3. Be realistic about your budget together. Can you really afford to see each other? We were two broke students who couldn't see each other often because it was expensive. Over the course of six years, we spent upwards of five figures on visiting each other.
     
  4. The immigration process is probably one of the toughest experiences you'll have as a couple. For Ivan and I, we had no choice but to immigrate and begin that process together – otherwise, it would've meant the end of our relationship. The 17 month process was long, hard, and emotionally draining. 
     
  5. Independence is crucial to the success of any relationship. Throughout our relationship, we prioritized taking care of ourselves first because we did not want to be defined by our relationship. We wanted to have our own projects, hobbies, and distinctive goals. Ultimately, prioritizing ourselves helped us become better partners.
 

He was so drunk...he was swimming on his bedsheets because it had dolphins on it...
— Jennie
We will chase down a goal until it’s dead.
— Ivan

5 Reasons We Want to Travel (and Live) Abroad

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
— Ulysses, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson,

Ivan here.

The only fate worse than death is spending a lifetime waiting on the sidelines. Ironically, that’s the exact situation I found myself in a year ago, as I tried to navigate the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of (legally) immigrating to the United States.  

Before that dark place consumed our lives, everything was going according to plan. Jennie and I were lucky. We both landed decent paying jobs straight out of college, her in Boston and me in Toronto. While we weren’t thrilled about working for corporations, we made the best of our situations by building one of the most unassailable f*ck off funds imaginable

We were also working towards a very specific goal: to sign the marriage paperwork within a year, and start the US immigration process in the second

That’s when US Citizenship and Immigration Services happened, and a process that should’ve taken 10-12 months ended up taking 17 because of lost paperwork, a government shutdown, and garden variety incompetence. 

A shot from Terry Gilliam's 1985 film BRAZIL, a dark comedy about living in a dystopian, bureaucratic society.          

It was around this time that we first started talking about a round the world trip. Initially, we were just joking around, imagining a life where we’d leave everything behind for a nomadic lifestyle. But after the immigration debacle, we turned dead serious. After six years apart and 17 months squirming in bureaucratic limbo, we had lost our sense of humor. We dreamed about a life without restrictions. The ability to come and go as we pleased. 

In short, we were tired of waiting. 

As two ruthlessly practical, Type A personalities, we immediately started planning and setting goals. We would save $40,000. That was going to be our cushion. In the meantime, we’d also try to generate $2500 a month in remote income to make a sustainable living abroad. 

We promised ourselves that we would be gone before September 2018. That’s one of the main reasons we started this blog. To keep ourselves accountable. 

There will be no Eat, Pray, Love up in this bitch.

We’re not traveling to find ourselves. There will be no Eat, Pray, Love up in this bitch. On the contrary, we understand ourselves too well to be restricted by mortgages, kids, and to be tied down by a mountain of things we could live without. More than anything, we just want to be ourselves completely, and to accept no compromises for what we want. 

So when friends ask us why we want to travel, here are the five reasons we give:


1. Because discomfort is the best education

2. Because standing still is moving backward

3. Because we enjoy the challenges of new places, people, and things

4. Because life’s too short, time moves too swiftly to allow ourselves to be governed by the wishes of others

5. Because years from now, we don’t want to look back On a life not lived


Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you took a slightly different road? Don't waste time wondering.

Start today.  

Jennie & Ivan Take The Proust Questionnaire

What's your favorite virtue? 

Jennie: Honesty. I spent a lot of time abroad and what I found was a lack of transparency with what people wanted.
Ivan: Simplicity. I prefer everything and everybody to be as straightforward as possible. 

What are your favorite qualities in a man?

J: Consistency. Knowing exactly what I signed up for. Managing expectations is sexy. 
I: I admire people who stay true to themselves. Comfortable with who they are. 

What are your favorite qualities in a woman? 

J: Humility. A lot of women I meet are pretty amazing. Sometimes they don’t realize just how amazing they are.
I: Independence, ambition, and drive. 

What do you appreciate most in your friends? 

J: Effort. Putting any effort into any relationship is tough. The people who take the time and put in the effort to see me, email me, or even just think of me, I appreciate it a lot.
I: Low maintenance friendships is a really big thing for me. Being able to pick up where-ever we left off, even after a long absence.

What's your main fault? 

J: My stubbornness. It always gets me in trouble.
I: Arrogance. I've only recently realized that humility is probably a better strategy. 

What's your favorite occupation?

J: Sketching, painting, and ordering people around. 
I: Reading, writing, and being left alone.

What's your idea of happiness? 

J: I think happiness is a transient thing. It changes for me on a daily basis depending on where I am in my life. It depends.
I: Leading a time-rich life. Being able to come and go as I please. That means no boss, no office, no commute. 

What's your idea of misery?

J: That’s easier. When my personal relationships are a mess, that’s a really big deal to me. I don’t enjoy arguments. 
I: Always taking the safest and conventional route. Letting life happen to you instead of making conscious choices. 

Where would you like to live? 

J: I’d love to live in Seoul.
I: I'd move to Tokyo tomorrow. 

Your favorite authors? 

J: Don’t have a favorite author but I enjoy reading a lot of personal management and time management books about entrepreneurship. 
I: From the dead, I'll read anything by Fyodor Dostoevsky, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Raymond Chandler. From the living, I like Haruki Murakami, Toni Morrison, and Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Your favorite heroes/heroines in fiction? 

J: Sailor Moon dayo! 
I: Luffy from One Piece

What characters in history do you most dislike? 

J: Hitler is usually my go to. But there’s a lot of despicable people in history. I don’t know.
I: Pol Pot. He was an underrated douche-bag and all time fuck-up. 

Your favorite meal? 

J: Korean ramen and chai latte. 
I: Chicken pho, banh mi, and a fresh coconut or Cherry Coke.  

Natural talent you'd like to be gifted with? 

J: Dancing. 
I: The natural talent of needing less (or no) sleep. That'd be awesome. 

How do you wish to die? 

J: With the penguins. 
I: Honestly? Assisted suicide. I want to drop the mic and leave on my own terms. 

What is your present state of mind? 

J: Ambitious. I’m 27 now,  there’s a lot that I still want to accomplish.
I: I'm okay.

Your favorite motto? 

J: Don’t wait till tomorrow. 
I: Do less, better. To live a life that flows in quiet. 
A 20-Something's Guide to Starting Over
We shall not cease from exploration, and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
— TS Eliot
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Ivan here.

Los Angeles is our sixth city in ten years. This means that on average, we move to a new city every twenty months. With any luck, we plan on being on the move indefinitely. It’s how we like to live.   

To us, moving is living. I joke with Jennie that the day we decide to settle down and buy a house may as well be the day we pick out our own coffins (I prefer maple, she likes bamboo.) Or as Woody Allen puts it in his film Annie Hall, “a relationship, I think, is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies.”  The last thing Jennie and I need is to have a dead shark on our hands.

While you can certainly ‘move forward’ without changing zip codes, it’s a special kind of thrill to be able to physically hit a reset button. It’s like flipping over a Monopoly board when the game has dragged on for too long. Therapy.

Over the years, we’ve gotten pretty good at starting over. Here’s a rough guide to this simple art:

1. Recognize when it’s time

There are no hard and fast rules, but it’s usually time to make changes when your days become virtually indistinguishable from each other. Sun comes up, sun goes down. Sunday starts looking like the inbred cousin of Saturday.  

This requires introspection: what is it that you want out of life? What are your goals? Are your routines getting stale? Are you starting to feel stagnant?

We try to keep in mind that time is the only currency you’re always spending that can’t be replenished. When you find that you’ve grown numb to time's passage, getting punched repeatedly in the face is preferable to feeling nothing at all. 

2. Plan Your Exit

If only in your dreams, you’ve already traveled to the city you’d love to wake up in.  Here’s your chance to make that a reality. That said, as hard-core planners, we don’t believe in making follow-your-heart, impulsive type moves. 

Spoiler alert: you know that movie The Beach starring Leonardo Dicaprio as the young dreamer who decides to go searching for the perfect beach, even though the guy who tells him about it ends up committing suicide five seconds later? Yeah, do the exact opposite of that. Get your ducks in a row. Have a game plan and plan on following through with it at least 6-12 months in advance. 

                                                                       Don't be this asshole. 

                                                                       Don't be this asshole. 

3. Make a Moving Budget

Moving is expensive. Between flights, a security deposit, first/last month’s rent and new furniture, you’ll need a minimum of $5000-7000 in start-up costs to move to a new city. A good rule of thumb is to track your expenses for a month and multiply that by six. That’s your emergency fund. Then plan to save another $2-3k on top of that. 

4. Keep Your Relationships

In the digital age, your relationships shouldn’t be crutches that keep you from doing the things you want. Outside of the person you’re going to be living with, you don’t really have to compromise on anything. Distance has given us a new perspective on the relationships that actually make a difference in our lives, and those are the ones we make the extra effort for. 

5. Ditch Your Things

We regard possessions as major inconveniences, which is why in preparing for each move, we sell or donate all our cheaply purchased furniture and purge everything that doesn’t fit into two large suitcases. 

If you’re moving to a city that doesn’t require a car, do yourself a favor and get rid of it. Cars are the worst (more on this in a later post). Having the luxury of ditching yours is often enough to justify your entire move. 

6. Take a Scouting Trip

Scouting your destination beforehand can really give you a leg up. More importantly, it’ll help you avoid the costly rookie mistakes in your first couple of months.  You’ll be surprised how much you can learn in just a weekend if you tackle it with a purpose. Ask questions, meet people, get advice from locals and simply walk around the different neighborhoods. 

7. Savor the Countdown

Life is strange. Nothing makes you fall in love with a city more than when you’re about to leave it. Starting over isn’t about running away, it’s about giving you a new appreciation for the here and now. 

8. Start a New Life

The first few months should be a balance between exploring new things and developing a routine. It’s kind of like jazz -- you improvise over a steady rhythm. Exploration gets you out of your comfort zone and a strong routine eventually gets you to where you want to go.

For us, that's everywhere.