2010 Recap: A Year Of Ups And Downs

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” –John Wooden

Frequent readers of this blog (all six of you) know that I generally don’t write about personal subjects too much. But since I’m basically spending New Years Eve alone this year, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to take a break from my sulking and reflect on the past year.

2010 was definitely a year of ups and downs. When it was good, it was really good. At the same time, the bad times have been really bad. 2010 was also a year of transitions. By that, I mean important decisions that have really affected my day to day existence and career. I’m the kind of guy whose life is constantly in flux. I’m always on the move. But it’s the quiet moments of equilibrium that I really treasure. My friends sometimes ask me why I sometimes like to just ‘do nothing.’ My answer: equilibrium achieved.

Q1: Jan, Feb, Mar

The year started off with a bang. I had just returned from London and narrowly escaped the infamous underwear bomber. If you’ll recall, there was a crazy terrorist who boarded a London plane and tried to detonate his underpants. I flew back to the United States from London two days after the incident. Security measures at Calgary were… how shall I say… extreme. I must have been patted down three or four times.

In January, I also moved out of the haunted house from Sunnyvale into a small apartment in Mountain View about 2 minutes away from work. Recall that this was the house in which the previous tenant died and her son went crazy and stabbed the walls and exploded the roof. My brother drove up from Santa Cruz to help me load everything into a U-Haul.

The new apartment was smaller, but felt like an upgrade. It was warm. It was cozy. Most importantly, it wasn’t haunted. On the downside, the walls were extremely thin that we could hear all of our neighbors conversations. When their kids would turn on their loud music, it was unbearable. Nevertheless, it was only a 6-month lease and the landlord was very nice.

In March, I finally biked the Golden Gate Bridge. One more adventure crossed off the bucket list! The bridge has an interesting history. That is, a lot of people commit suicide by jumping off the bridge every year. I’ve sometimes wondered what it would be like to jump off a bridge and plunge into the icy waters of the bay. So when I was biking, I peeked over to take in the view. You have to give the bridge jumpers some credit for their bravery. Jumping is something I could never do.

Q2: Apr, May, Jun

During this time, I started to really transform the blog. I tried to focus my writing on interesting news stories in the games industry. I also wrote several feature articles about Warcraft and cosplay. However, this effort was short-lived because I realized that (1) I had no readers and (2) I wasn’t making any money from my writing.

I had a cancer scare during this time and went to the hospital for a few days. I thought it was appendicitis. But when the doctor came into the room and told me it might be cancer, I felt the world collapse around me. Thankfully, further tests revealed that the growths might be benign. Ultimately, I waited a month and got a colonoscopy. The results were negative, meaning I did not have cancer. The experience taught me to treasure every day and live in the moment. As Steve Jobs once said, “every morning I ask myself if this were my last day on Earth, would I be happy doing what I’m doing.”

In May, the epic TV show LOST ended. Thus ended an important phase of my life. People who watched Friends used to say that they felt a chapter of their life had ended when the show aired its finale. I’ve also known people who felt the same way when the final Harry Potter book was released. For me, LOST‘s finale was that moment. While the ending was controversial, I felt it was satisfying. Unfortunately, it meant I’d have to find other hobbies to fill all of those hours I had spent since junior year of college theorizing about smoke monsters and mysterious slave ships in the jungle.

On the day of the finale, I went hiking in the Portola Redwoods State Park. I had my own little ‘lost’ adventure being lost in the woods. Interestingly enough, I ran into some Google employees in the same situation. We ended up fording a river (Oregon Trail style). Using our misguided sense of direction and amateur boy scout technology, we ended up back on the right trail. Now I understand the importance of not cutting the salaries of California’s park rangers.

In May, I also visited Hawai’i for the first time ever. Ever since I was a kid, I always wondered about what it would be like to vacation on those big, beautiful islands. My parents never wanted to go. Long story short, it was incredible. I’ve never seen water so blue and foliage so green. The island of Oahu is simply breathtaking. I loved every moment of it.

In June, I went to E3. This was my second year at the big gaming trade show in Los Angeles. It rocked. The games were better. The girls were hotter. And the parties were crazier. But the best part was watching my coworker Paul, who is not a big gamer, become obsessed with Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and stalk me on the showroom floor.

Q3: Jul, Aug, Sep

In July, things really started to shift in my life. Winnie left to go to Berkeley for law school. We moved out of our Mountain View apartment and I decided to rent a single 1BD 1BA apartment on the second floor of a much nicer complex. I realized that living alone has great upside and great downside. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. However, solitude can also be maddening when you’re bored. The advantage of living with another person is that if you ever get bored, there’s someone a few feet away willing to talk to you.

The peace and quiet of a new apartment was really beneficial because I had decided to study for the GMAT. I later took the GMAT and got a great score. This was a great confidence booster for me because I’ve traditionally performed poorly on standardized tests. Both my SAT and LSAT scores were somewhat average. I realized that with hard work comes great rewards.

Following that, I spent about two months preparing applications and visiting schools. I ultimately applied to three schools: Harvard, Anderson, and Haas. The first rejected me outright. The last two extended interviews. I will find out if I got accepted in mid-January.

The application process consumed my life. When I applied to law school back in 2005/2006, the situation was completely different. There’s a centralized database available for you to feed essays and recommendations to as many schools as you want. Thus, a law school applicant can apply to 10+ schools if he or she desires. With business school, every application has unique questions. You not only have to write 5-7 unique essays for each school, but you have to solicit strong letters of recommendations from people who know your professional work (and who are preferably alums of each school).

I enjoyed the application process because it helped me learn a lot about myself. I realized the importance of many of the projects I had worked on in the past and how they shaped my professional career. I was also forced to take a good hard look at myself and understand my strengths and weaknesses.

On the flipside, the time-commitment of the application process caused me to become more introverted. I lost touch with many friends because I didn’t have time to attend social events. My own relationship with Winnie probably suffered as well because I had to work around deadlines and we were both stressed with our respective problems.

In September, there were other changes. First, I became a interviewer/recruiter and made my first campus recruiting trip to the University of Texas to interview candidates from the McCombs business school. It was a really wonderful trip because I had the opportunity to explore Austin with a coworker. People from Texas are very nice. The really funny thing is that Andrea, the recruiter who led our trip, was actually the first person who interviewed me back in 2006 at UCLA. In many ways, things have come full circle. The interviewee was now the interviewer.

At work, my team gained a new member, Maggie. Things have been working out very well. Paul and I are very similar in that we hunker down and do our work. Maggie has a very different background and working style. She’s a lot more organized and that has helped my team tremendously. It also forced me to be a lot more organized in my work and take on more high-level responsibility. Mostly, it’s just great to finally have fresh hands and a fresh perspective on the team.

Q4: Oct, Nov, Dec

During October and November, I had to decide whether to pursue Round 2 of business school applications or focus my energies on practicing for my interviews. I chose to practice my interviews, visit schools, and talk with alumni. I attended the ‘play’ conference at Haas and had a fantastic time. I returned later to sit in on a class and have lunch with students. I also visited Anderson and had a pretty good experience.

That being said, December was a pretty terrible month. Not only did I spend Christmas alone, but I’m now spending New Years Eve alone. It sucks when all of your friends are from out-of-state and return home for the holidays. Also, I got the cold.

I think maybe it’s because so many good things happened this year that the universe decided to give me a bunch of bad experiences to balance things out. All I know is that while unhappiness is inevitable in life, it’s especially bad when it all happens in a condensed period of time. Worst of all, I got a flat tire on New Years Eve, rendering me incapable of even meeting up with what friends I have left.

Here’s to a better 2011!

My resolutions are to work out consistently, regain my former status as a social butterfly, kick ass at work, and travel. If I should be so lucky as to be admitted into a business school, I shall also dedicate significant time to taking business prep courses.

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” –John Wooden.

Rest in peace, Coach.

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