Friday, March 30, 2007

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda.

Not too long ago, I had this irrational notion that I was meant to be a business consultant. Had I listened to my parents, graduated summa cum laude, and done everything right in life, it woulda been me clad in the tailored Theory suits, attending fancy client dinners and becoming well versed in the culinary landscapes of many a major metropolitan city. I coulda been the one with the collection of miniature Bliss samples acquired while hopping from one Starwood hotel to the next, and enough United miles to grant me free transatlantic flights to any European destination of my choosing. Of course I would be much too busy to afford any time off, but one well deserved trip to the Cote d’Azur each year would have to do. While I would be tired of living out of a suitcase, the simplicity of my W Hotel suite and a warm cup of genmai tea would calm my nerves as I curled up on my bed with a copy of the New Yorker. I had myself convinced that that shoulda been my career path, and somehow, that equated to success.

We all have our irrational what if scenarios masquerading as regrets. You know the ones - perceived and supposed epiphanies of success where if you really think about it, it makes no sense at all, at least not for us. Who am I kidding? I would've been miserable. But being the neurotic people that we are, we're convinced it should have come to pass. But despite the shoulda, coulda, wouldas, I'm seeing that life is exactly as it should be.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Luck Be A Lady.

I've never really been the jealous type. Sure, I compare myself to others for better or worse, but I like to think that the green eyed monster doesn't often rear its ugly head. That being said, my friend Grace and my cousin Hannah are currently #1 in their respective March Madness brackets, and I'm straight up jealous (but thoroughly proud). Whereas I had initially scoffed at their unoriginality - their presumed selection of the top-seeded teams based on rankings alone - I came to discover that there was indeed strategy involved. Extensive research. And once again, I learn never to assume, as it makes an ass out of u and me.

I feel as though a girl should have some knowledge of the goings on in the ESPN domain. While daily viewings of SportsCenter are not a requirement, the ability to speak intelligently is. This year I decided to join in the fun and choose my brackets. Knowing next to nothing about the NCAA college hoops world, I subsisted off a meager diet of regurgitated statements allowing me to feign some semblance of insight into the wide world of sports. This is where having a brother comes in handy. All those years of him spewing facts at me while I blatantly tried to ignore his presence; I guess there's something to osmosis after all. Throw in a couple random comments about the '96 Atlanta Braves lineup (his once favored team), and already you're up five notches.

And so I leaped into the selection process with much gusto. But how would I, with the sports IQ of a peanut, base my decisions? This couldn't be haphazard, as bragging rights were at stake. And so I opted for relevance. Many of the teams did not ring a bell, so obviously, those couldn't possibly be any good. Oral Roberts? Old Dominion? No thank you. My second line of defense became relevancy. UCLA was a no brainer, as one must always cheer on their alma mater, especially if they were #1 at some point this season. I had friends who attended BC and UNC, thereby determining their success, and I vaguely remember hearing the name Vanderbilt. Nomination by association. And then there is the historical data. One must always learn from the past. I seem to recall a player from last year's Gonzaga team crying like a baby. I don't remember if this was because they won or lost, but the outcome isn't relevant. The point is, I remembered. Ergo, Gonzaga.

My guy friends will make well informed, statistics-based decisions. Having followed the season religiously, they know each coach by heart and can list off the players' respective high school mascots. And the best part is, despite their education and determination, sometimes, it comes down to magical thinking. True, I am embarassingly behind in my fantasy league. But let's hope luck will be a lady tonight.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Across the Universe.

Recently, I discovered that certain childhood memories or experiences are not all universal. Now I suppose this ought to be an obvious statement, but I find that I am genuinely distressed by the very notion. This was so shocking to me, in fact, that hours later, my mind was still reeling from the thought.

I have always assumed that everything that I grew up with fell under the umbrella of the quintessential American upbringing - from Disney afternoons, to En Vogue, to most Asian parents being engineers. Of course this is all shaken the moment one enters college, when you meet people from different areas, different backgrounds. Notions of naivete come and go with the floating of your childhood.

Appalled at my ignorance in light of today's egalitarian society, I decided to investigate this gross miscalculation and trace it back to its roots. Where did I go wrong?

Oversight #1: I forgot that not all of my friends grew up in the States.

This applies to those seemingly assimiliated friends who are dead ringers for native sons and daughters of the U.S. of A. Much of the 80's and early 90's culture that I would reference would, for example, be lost on my friend Jeff, who grew up as an island boy on Papua New Guinea, swimming with the sea turtles and wearing garments constructed with leaves (joking). And references to certain fads (pogs) or trendy snacks (Raven's Revenge) would result in a blank stare from Jon, my brother from another mother, whose childhood memories hail from Moscow, where he was dodging neo-Nazis (not joking) and growing up with ex-pats and the Russian elite. Lesson learned: never make assumptions.

Oversight #2: I forgot that location is everything.

So not everyone goes to Outdoor Science Camp, and (gasp!) there are actually those who have attended indoor schools. I always wondered what that would be like. Weather and area-specific natural disasters have a lot to do with it. I have found that as rainy days are pretty universal, so is Heads Up 7-Up. There apparently weren't annual visits from the Yogi Bear Earthquake Mobile, which for those lucky 4th and 5th graders, would simulate 6.5 on the Richter scale and teach the proper responses to a natural disaster (though how a thin plank of wood loosely referred to as a desk can shield one from a crashing ceiling still remains a mystery). And while Southern California never allowed me the opportunity to go sledding or experience the thrill of having a day of school called off, I just have to think positively and consistently remind myself: Earthquake Mobile! Earthquake Mobile!

I had a conversation with a friend recently. And as I was explaining how I had bought a bunch of records and was in search of a record player, I had mentioned that I was the proud owner of one Peter and the Wolf album. To which the response was a quizzical 'huh?'. So appalled was I, that I proceeded to survey my cousin, roommates, friends and co-workers on whether or not they were familiar with the Prokofieff's classical narrative. Fact (insert simultaneous Dwight Schrute hand motion here): Every school goes to the theater to watch the story of the boy (Peter) and the antagonist (the wolf) unfold, and how the wolf eats the friend bird, represented by the piccolo. That's just how it goes. And while I'm not sure what kind of twisted childhood these people must have led - "..You mean the boy who cried wolf, right?" - I, clearly, was the normal one.