Monthly Archive: June 2014

Why I Travel Now, Not Someday

I always wanted to see the world.

Someday, I whispered to soothe my mind. Someday.

I was on a good career track. I kept getting promoted. I couldn’t leave now. I saw friends taking leaps and taking trips and continued to get up and get on the subway and travel downtown.

My Starbucks consumption went up. Tea is soothing.

Someday.

I watched oil prices spike in 2008, fall in 2009, settle back to somewhere in the middle, but higher than before, like a tide that slowly creeps in until you’re standing knee-deep, surrounded.

Someday.

New York City flooded after Hurricane Sandy. Rats washed away when the subways filled with water. They crept back, after a few months. Everything returned to normal. I paid for my studio and got promoted again.

Someday.

Airline tickets cost more than they did 10 years ago. $250 for L.A.-to-Newark in 2001. $670 for Newark-to-SF last month. Frequent-flyer mile devaluation is taking off.

Someday became today in May.

Because I want to travel. And there are still empty seats on planes and tickets for anyone with miles or $600.

If I wait to retire, 25 years will pass by. 30 years. If plane tickets cost $10,000 or 1,000,000 frequent-flyer miles, if there are fewer flights per day, if retirement is at age 70, if I’m too sick or didn’t make it to retirement or became a caretaker, wishes won’t take me there.

I’ve seen too many people never get their Someday. They play by the rules but can’t control all the factors, random or not, that determine life’s course.

So someday is today. Maybe there’ll be more of it next year, next decade, and in 30 years. Which would be wonderful. There could be new ways of getting around the planet, ample opportunity and mobility, great breakthroughs.

But there are no givens.

So I travel now. I travel light, and I learn as I go, and I’ll do my best to carry something useful from this experience into whatever I do next.

Don’t wait. Whatever your someday is, take steps to make it real, starting today.

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Day 30: Check-In

It’s been a month.

I gave notice and then left work on May 23 and it’s been a month.

I went almost immediately to AltConf in San Francisco, a free developer conference, to indulge my hobby of developing iPhone applications. Not only did I have a great time, I drew a clear line of separation between Before and After.

I did it on purpose, to get a clean, clear jump into all the new things I want to try, without wallowing and feeling useless for a couple of weeks.

I spent some quality family time with my dad for Father’s Day, a few more days back in New York socializing with friends and then relaxing at a meditation event.

Amid all of this, I got a lot of work done.

I finished the NASM book last week. I populated the back-end question database for my flashcard app with 80 questions (a good start, but I want to add at least 320 more this week). I read some of the Swift Programming Guide (not 200 pages, but 50).

I had a balanced week. I made progress without obsessing over how much progress. I stayed in the West Village, a neighborhood I always wanted to live in when I lived in New York full-time. I took time for myself, time for friends, and time for work.

I had some great ideas and some not-so-great ones. I wrote blog posts for future dates. I bounced ideas off of people I know to zero in on which ones might be worthwhile. Three get a very consistent positive response, which is heartening.

I know not every week can be like this. But it was a much-needed, pleasant interlude as I prepare to go all-out in the next few months — traveling, learning, improving and finding the right path.

Major goals for this week:

  1. Add 320 more questions to the flashcard app database.
  2. Fix the formatting and add a search function to the flashcard app.
  3. Pass the NASM test.

It’s been a month. But it feels like an epoch.

Day 24: Fear

It’s funny that I’m still afraid.

I used to think of everything I’d do if I left my job. I viewed work as a roadblock in my path to personal expression, the reason I could not do X, or Y, or Z.

Now, that roadblock is lifted, but another remains: fear.

I majored in journalism. I wrote and edited for a living. I was inordinately comfortable with self-expression.

That was a long time ago. Seven years.

Now I think of publishing exactly what I think and my breath pauses. My family will find this blog. My friends will read it. It’s a space for me to share my process of learning, of exploration, of dreaming.

Dreams sometimes die when they’re exposed to the day.

Truth sometimes flourishes.

I don’t know what will happen.

I’m not used to sharing anymore. I find myself afraid to post what I think, afraid it could come back to haunt me years later, afraid to share with the world instead of with a few colleagues in a private meeting. Afraid it will put me at a disadvantage.

I think this fear is false. Sharing knowledge is the only way to generate exponential benefits. If we all kept our experiences to ourselves, the world would still look flat to most of us. Debate, vicious or vibrant, is vital.

Fear is just fear. It is the nightmare of the introvert. It prevents me from living a full and authentic life.

I am terrified to post this. I’m going to let it sit in the queue, waiting, for the day when I feel ready.

(Edit: posted it on Day 26.)

Day 22: Concentration and Its Discontents

I take work less seriously when staying with family.

This is an inconvenient truth, because I love spending time with my family and intend to do so again.

But this week, given all the time I needed, I accomplished fewer goals. I appeared to be working intensely for 12 hours a day, since I toted my computer around the house, hoping to be productive.

In reality? I worked for about 4 or 5 hours each day.

Here are the major goals I accomplished:

  • I read 275 (not 200) pages of the NASM textbook.
  • I worked on my flashcard app, making useful additions and cleaning up the user interface.

Here are the major goals I did not accomplish:

  • I did not do any work to build out my flashcard app’s back-end question database.
  • I did not read any of the Swift programming guide.

I made myself feel better about this by procrastinating productively:

I realized, somewhere between surfing Hacker News and watching House of Cards, that when I pay rent like I did last week, stakes are higher and my productivity is correspondingly higher. When I’m with relatives, not paying rent, stakes are lower and my productivity drops.

Like I said, I’ll keep spending time with family because I love them. But I need a plan to establish momentum for future visits. So here it is:

1.) Wake up. Open Xcode. Every day. (Virtual guarantee of a productive day.)
2.) Work in the office room, not on the couch.

It’s not a complicated plan. I start tomorrow.

Major goals for this coming week are:

1.) Build out my flashcard app’s back-end question database and finish the user interface.
2.) Finish last 75 pages of the NASM textbook.
3.) Read 200 pages of the Swift programming guide.

* I activated my Facebook account in March. I came late to social media and am trying to figure it out as I go.

Day 17: Back to the Grind

Back in New Jersey. It took a little while for me to adjust. Back to family, and home, and distractions. Even when distractions are good, they’re still distractions. So I need to schedule blocks of time when distractions are okay, and blocks of time when they aren’t.

Today, I carved out the after-dinner period for coding. I made  progress on my flashcard app, building on what I learned last week at AltConf and from my Thinkful mentor. I worked for a solid four hours.

A funny thing is that’s not good enough. I just typed, “I worked for a solid 12 hours,” and felt really great about it until I realized:

IT WASN’T TRUE.

I typed what I wanted the truth to be.

Tomorrow, I blocked out the entire day for working.

My major goals for this week are to: Make significant progress on my flashcard app, including entering back-end data; read at least 200 pages of the NASM book; and work through at least 200 pages of the Swift book, highlighting important points and follow-up questions.

I do have peripheral goals, but if I went into each week with all of them competing for space in my head, I’d set myself up for failure. With three major goals, I aim to accomplish all of them. And when inevitable procrastination strikes, I take it as an opportunity to tackle some peripheral goals.

I also have overarching goals, which can’t be accomplished within a week. Those are the big life things, like health and wellness, long-term career development, and purpose.

I don’t count them, because counting them is not important.

I sleep on them. I dream with them. I move toward them, step by step, goal by goal.

Day 12: Carousels and (Alt)Conferences

I’m sitting near the Leroy King Carousel in San Francisco, typing this blog post in the sun while drinking coconut water.

It beats working under fluorescent lights in my cube.

I spent the past three days going back and forth between the Children’s Creativity Theater and Jillian’s restaurant, which are hosting AltConf near Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference. WWDC has grown so popular that Apple moved to a lottery system this year, so many shut-out developers have chosen to spend the week meeting new friends and learning new things at AltConf instead, which is free.

I love the conference. I’m not such a party person, so I’m more comfortable meeting people during the day, one on one over tea, coffee or sunshine, rather than drinking and forgetting names over the roar of a band.

The great thing is that AltConf and WWDC provide both types of venues for meeting people and having fun.

The coolest part of AltConf for me, besides meeting new friends, has been the AltLabs at Jillian’s. So far at the AltLabs, I’ve:

  • Gotten advice on a problem with how UICollectionView scrolls horizontally in my flashcard app (solved Monday night by working with my awesome Thinkful mentor, hurrah!).
  • Added accessibility features to my flashcard app. This took about 15 minutes, compared with the hours it would have taken me to investigate these features on my own.
  • Downloaded the Philips Hue SDK (software development kit) and understood how it works in 40 minutes, compared with the days or never it would have taken me to explore this on my own. Began customizing a basic app and learned where to find help in the guidelines for developers.

I’m also enjoying San Francisco itself, a city I love visiting. I’m staying in a quiet neighborhood away from the conference, which is less convenient but also a lot cheaper. It’s been relatively easy to get downtown in the morning, even with the MUNI workers’ pseudo-strike-sickout Monday and Tuesday. Less easy to get back home, but I expect the situation will improve with more buses on the road now.

It’s still cold here when the wind blows, consistent with my experience of San Francisco in summer. At least the haze has cleared and the temperature is higher now. A few dozen miles away, in Cupertino, it’s 83 today. Here? 64.

Jacket. Sweater. T-shirt.

Coconut water. Sunshine.

Day 10: AltConf Adventures as Swift Launches

I woke up in Pacific Heights around 5am, jet-lagged in my favor for once. Into a cab at 5:50, quiet streets all around, and arrived near the Moscone Center just after 6am.

Crowds queued outside Moscone West, waiting for the WWDC keynote. I was attending AltConf, a free event for developers without WWDC tickets to network, learn and have fun.

The mood at AltConf was exuberant throughout most of the two-hour keynote, turning to anticipatory dread when the crowd  realized the end of Objective-C was nigh, then overcome by relief and curiosity when Swift appeared to be a useful replacement.

I say “appeared to be” because I’m still reading the Swift iBook released by Apple today. Still absorbing, learning, and seeing a lot of work in my future to master this new language. But looking forward to understanding and then mastering it.

Food-wise, today was half disaster, half dream. I started the day with a nutrition bar and a tasty burrito, followed it with burrata mozzarella on toast, then had an organic egg crepe, organic vegetable juice, a muffin, fried polenta sticks, kale salad, almonds, a pack of organic raspberries, and half of an organic chocolate tart.

Come to think of it, I ate a lot.

Tomorrow: Less food, more code.

Day 8: Leaving Home Again, New Goals

I left Brooklyn yesterday. Took my three bags to the subway, got on the A train, sat down while stations whisked past. I struggled with my bags, impractical and heavy, and realized: Three bags is still too many. Even after a giant clear-out, my stuff still drags on me. Lighter is better, in all things.

I thought about how easy it was to leave New York, after six years of living here. I didn’t feel any ties, no, “I’m moving now” signs flashed in my head. Just the same subway stations brushing past as blurs. I’ll be back in a few weeks, then gone, then back. I won’t be buying souvenirs while traveling, since I have no stuff. Instead I’ll bring back experiences, new motivation, and refined goals.

Tomorrow I fly to San Francisco. I’m bringing one small backpack and a shoulder bag, which should get me through the week. I don’t think I could travel so light for a month-long stay, but I do see the appeal of switching to a much smaller rolling suitcase. The one I have now is a carry-on that always seems an inch too large for the aisle on the plane. And I think I should have two bags, not three — even for longer stays.

Major goals for this week are: 1.) Network and meet new and old friends; 2.) Work on my flashcard app at least a little; and 3.) Have fun and learn new things!