Archive for May, 2019

Carpe Diem is YOLO

Posted: May 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

I am approaching the 2nd month of my arrival in California. I wouldn’t actually say time flies because it really has only been 2 months. However, I feel like those 2 months have been full and substantial. After all, as I mentioned in my previous post, I felt that I had come a long way since I left and I am slowly recovering from my financial downfall.

In hindsight, however, I feel that I achieved a lot in the two months that I have been here in California.

There were a few aspects in my life and in my move here, which and where I felt, I was not going to go further and farther or progress faster rather easily. One is the aspect of FRIENDSHIP, the other being in the category of OTHER ACTIVITIES.

Quasi-Prologue: When I left the east coast or before I left my old job as an ER nurse in New York, I had this nagging fear of not being able to settle down easily, especially at work. I remember my conversation with my then-coworker and good friend, Barry Kagan. We both agreed that we may be stuck in a rut in Mt. Sinai (Hospital), because we are both too old to readjust. That is, admittedly, part of the reason that it took me forever to move out of Sinai or even find a job elsewhere in the east coast, even with the advanced degree that I have. However, other friends were more optimistic and said “you will make friends,” as I cried at the prospect of readjusting to a new work environment.

I guess I came to the new job with the mindset of “I am just going to work and probably not make friends.”

And so I came to Stanford Hospital and it hit me, that, in fact, making friends was going to be a tough ordeal. I signed on to become a radiology RN and that entailed working in different clinics, which also means working with different nurses from different sites and, possibly, just seeing them once every 2 weeks or so. Not exactly a great way to bond, I thought.

So I let that go and just juggled meeting different staff members from different facilities in a month or so. I just worked and went home and ran or hiked on my days off. There were bouts of loneliness when I came home to an empty house and all I did was talk to the dogs and listen to Cigarettes After Sex. Once in a while, I met up with east coast transplant-friends like Mama Michelle, which was a great help with transitioning my social life– if any.

However, I must say that working in New York City did a lot in transforming my personality over the course of years. I remember how, as a new nurse, I was bullied and even, at one point, literally, pushed against a wall, and talked down to. Over 10 years ago– believe it or not, I was not the same opinionated, vocal, and feisty person that I am now. I attribute that to culture-shock. Not that I didn’t know how to speak English before I came to the US; it was more because words were not as fluid then as they are now when it comes to rhetorics and rebuttals. The ER taught me the survival skills and part of that involved being able to speak up and out.

Coming to California, I still was intimidated. Those thought recurred as I wondered if I will become subject, once more, to being pushed aside.

As I would discover, however, even as I moved from one clinic to another for work, people are nice and are receptive to this new person “from New York.” (Yeah, they refer to me as the one from New York. I guess because that is where I worked.) And people have all been nice and welcoming. ANDDD I am able to speak, to be fluid in conversations, and have more confidence in reaching out. In no time, I became more than just coworkers to a few people. And yes, it may be premature to say they are now my “friends,” but I actually like how I get to hang out with some of them and make plans for hike trips, drinks, or rock-climbing.

And speaking of rock-climbing, yes– I segue way into that other aspect that I want to talk about: OTHER ACTIVITIES.

When I just moved to California, one of (mostly-virtual) friends, Khristina Kurdyla, and I were in constant communication via text and Instagram messaging. I say virtual because she and I met once and only once at a race about 4 years ago. However, that did not keep us from being friends since then. She was among those who encouraged me, talked to me, consoled me– virtually– during those months that I was in a limbo. Once or twice she told me that now that I am in Northern California, I must seize the moment and engage in activities I have always wanted to do.

Slowly, I am heeding those words. And actually doing things and engaging in activities outside of South Bay!

I have always thought of rock-climbing but never really pictured myself doing it in New York or Jersey. On Tuesday I finally mustered the courage to do it for the first time– thanks to my coworker, Zach, who did Leadville years back, by the way, and Ian, a former coworker in NYC. While I was sore and scared shitless for a while, I actually enjoyed the activity and although I know I will never be as good as those teens and girls in their 20s, I realized I can use this as an alternative to sulking or being on social media.

Also, I have done a lot more hiking and running and have continued my running streak, which I started this year– thanks to the beauty I see outside everyday AND the absence of the billions of pollen that would have plagued me now, had I been in Jersey. I love exploring new trails and learning of new trails and even went back to registering for trail races. I think it comes with the territory of being here in Northern California, where you cannot not try to be fit, enjoy the outdoors, and find some physical activity to engage in.

Apart from this, I started looking into plays and shows that my not-endless-pocket can afford and actually watched Flower Drum Song in Palo Alto recently. While it may not be Broadway, it was refreshing to see people perform on stage.

Quasi-Epilogue: I do not wish to say “Ah.. this is the good life” because it can be better if Mariska were here. But I am appreciating these things that I achieved, did, and learned to embrace in the short time that I have been here.

Yes, the apartment is still a mess and I have yet to take the dogs out to a nice dog park to give them their share of happiness. But these times and opportunities I get spend with me to pamper me is what my former coworker, Felix, once said is essential so you can love and take care of others.

The Narcissistic Show

Posted: May 11, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Social Media (and I will use this in a singular form) has an uncanny ability to make our lives look fancy. It highlights the good and skews the rest. Or, perhaps, it is us. It is us, users of the different modalities of social media, who tend to create an illusion, willfully or otherwise.

I came up with this reflection, once someone on Instagram commented about how “cute” my journey was from the east coast to California. I said thank you to that, but deep inside came this nagging urge to throw some rhetorics. But I held back and, thus, from that came this writing. (Note: This is not the first one I wrote on this topic. This is probably the 3rd attempt.)

My life, especially my journey from the east coast was not an easy one.

There were so many battles fought. And they were not “cute,” particularly, as we speak about how my financial state at the time was.

Here is the story:

I left New Jersey in March. March 18 to be precise. I tendered my resignation on March 1, 2019. It came after about only 2 weeks following an interview with managers at Stanford. As soon as I received the job offer and one quick sick call at my previous work place in Mount Sinai, I tendered my resignation on March 1st. Given the turn-around time between the date I first submitted my application for the job while I was in Amsterdam in January, the interview in February, and leaving in March, I really did not have time to prepare for the move. That, I admit.

However, if you know me, I am big on procrastination. And “winging” a lot of things.

Packing was done 2 days before I left, as I hauled everything into my Subaru. Material things were not what I was concerned about. That was nearly insignificant. What scared me more at the time was my financial state.

For those who follow me and my constant travels on Instagram but do not know me on a personal level, yes, my life does appear “sweet” and happy. It looked “cute” as I hopped from one European country to another or one US state to another in the past 3 years or so.

However, the fact was I left with only $700 in my pocket and 1 or 2 credit cards. I barely put aside any money in the bank. Even the little amount which I have at the time, I didn’t have access to because I could not, for the life of me, remember what the name of the bank was. I now recall it to be Goldman Sachs, where I purposely left whatever I saved because they didn’t have a “physical bank,” thus, the near-zero possibility of me easily taking money out. Then the little stocks that I invested, which, also for the life of me, I don’t want to sell because I didn’t know how to. In short, I really didn’t have any wiggle room to address future expenses.

Yet I left.

I was in a middle of some form of crisis, emotional and mental, at the time, that I just didn’t give a fuck about the rest. Not that I didn’t care because it really consumed me at that point. But I had mentally and emotionally checked out of the east coast at the time and all I wanted to do was leave that I didn’t anticipate what lay ahead.

Again, in short, I was not financially ready for the move. Yet I left.

Thankfully, my rent was paid for before I even began the journey. What I didn’t know, however, as someone who was mortgaging a condo in Jersy, was how the renting system goes. I had thought that once you rent, the money you put down covers you from the time you make the payment until the same date the following month. Wrong. Apparently, it only covers you until the end of the month then you make another payment at the beginning of the new month. That threw me off further. Much as I hated it, I borrowed money from my sister in Minnesota. Then I came up with other “smart ideas” to streamline my monthly expenditures, including the decision to let go of my Crosstrek and trading it in with another car, just so I can skip a month’s payment.

It was hard enough that I was unemployed and uninsured for a week. What made it worse was that my new job paid on a bi-weekly system– something that I was not used to working in New York, where I got paid weekly. It was a stretch of nearly 3 or 4 weeks of not having the income that I am accustomed to. I have not been not employed and not having soluble income was not my thing. Those 3 to 4 weeks were probably the longest 3-4 weeks in my life as I struggled at “adulting,” which I define as “paying for utilities, rent, insurance, food.” There had been times when I was scared I would not have anything to eat in the next days. Thankfully that did not happen, although there have, admittedly, been times when I felt I was in a “sorry” state.

The other day, someone on Facebook called me out on my position favoring charities and “free stuffs.” I deduced he was not in favor of these, citing that there can be ramifications if you do so. I contested by saying that there is nothing wrong with charity and receiving help. I used to be very “prideful.” Okay, I still am. However, given what I went through the past months, I learned to swallow all the pride, as I accepted help from people who knew my situation voluntarily extended help. Believe me, these help came in the form of plates and dishes, oven toasters, cutleries, and the like. But, rather than looking at these as straightforward “charities,” I figured I must have done something good in my life to deserve the gift of material things I needed to start a new life and more importantly, the gift of wonderful friends, who backed me up when I needed the push.

IMG_5142

This was a box from a package I received. I used this box as a table, while I waited for the right time to buy a small dining table.

 

Now I circle back to the question about what brought me to that financial downfall.

The answer is simple: I did not save and became too comfortable with my life. Plain and simple.

At the time, I figured that for as long as I worked, I did not have to worry about money coming in. I became too complacent. I failed at saving “Fuck You Money,” as my good friend, Lizette, describes that fund you set aside for when you decide to move on and out.

Also, as I mentioned, I traveled so much in the past 3 years. More than anything, I think that was where my money went– to all the plane tickets and hotels. Plus the fact that in the past 6 years or so, I have not been able to recover from the series of hounding from the IRS. I was audited for 2 years, was constantly paying additional income tax during filing season, and that biggest brouhaha that happened 7 years ago when I had to pay Uncle Sam $12,000 in tax money for some new rule that changed related to my immigration status.

Yes, I traveled so much. From France, to Italy, to Switzerland, to Denmark, to Finland, to Estonia, to Norway and Sweden, to the UK, back to France, Italy, and Switzerland, then Iceland. Greece. And back to the UK and The Netherlands and Prague. Those trips became my escape. A rather expensive diversion and reprieve that cost me, literally. It was therapy from my realities, as I smiled, or pretended to smile, while I bled on the inside.

I have to admit that I never had to ask myself if I ever regretted those travels. After all, it was and still is something I want to do– to see the world. Because while it lasted, it filled my soul, even if only momentarily. I always thought of myself as a wanderer. And I think that will always be inherent in me.

As I sit in the middle of the night, I am looking back at the past month or so and think that despite the challenges and anxiety, I have come a long way. I learned a lot of lessons and can only take comfort in knowing that I have gone to the “bottomest” pit and there is only one way to go and that is up. One big factor that also helped was the guidance from friends. I look at my friend, David Wiskowski, as my guidance guru. I am often reminded at the thought of him to “Let it go… and to let go of the idea of letting go.” Difficult as it was, I did that; with prayers, I let go of my fears about money and just let the universe take over. Much to my surprise, once I did that, a huge amount of money came in from something that I didn’t realize I saved, which eventually took care of my “adulting demands.” I am in awe of the power of “letting go.” Seriousness aside, I now own a couch and a table. And while many non-material things are missing, I am at a better place and in the process of rebuilding.

But to say that my journey was cute is a pure understatement of what I went through. Of those nights when I would wake up scared. While the financial issues were at a grander scheme of things, the emotional battles were even bigger– one that I would rather keep private at this time. I will talk of them one day, when the occasion deems it appropriate.

Unfortunately, you do not see that on Instagram or Facebook. What you see is a 5-foot, 1-inch and 104-lb nurse who is smiling, running, hiking trails, and “having a good time” in California. A “happy” person, essentially. It is an altered reality of my life, similar to the lives of many of today’s people, who portray their part in the biggest scam of today called social media.