Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Reflections on Change

Today I sit in my new cubicle, in my new building at work. Our entire business group, once spread over several buildings, has moved into a cluster of three, on the opposite end of campus as my previous one.

The old building was uglier than heck. Yellow walls, yellow cubicles, reminiscent of mustard or baby poop, take your pick. But even the most aesthetically unpleasing environment can grow on a person after a while. After 4 1/2 years in the same building, in the same thin-walled, puke-yellow cube, it felt almost like home.

My new cube is bigger, much bigger. More room for all my junk. A nicer green/gray combination. But it doesn't feel like home yet. Maybe it will when I unpack all my stuffed animals, slinkies, wall hangings, trinkets, flags and pictures. I couldn't take the stickers with me. They were stuck to the cabinet on the old cube. Whoever is moving in there will have an interesting surprise. :)

As you may have noticed, there are now entries in this blog dating back to September, 2000. Over the past few weeks, I have collected all the email newsletters I sent to my friends and family shortly after our historic relocation from Toronto to the San Francisco Bay Area. I have posted these letters and pictures here to tell a story that, until now, was only told to a select few.

Reading through those entries has made me realize how much I have grown, changed and matured in the last 4 1/2 years. I barely recognize the wide-eyed, fearful, yet optimistic person who boarded the plane with Tiger in a carrying case and work visa in hand, into the depths of the unknown, a mysterious and exciting place we call Silicon Valley.

Moving my life to a different city, in a different country, was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. As you can glean from my early writings, there were numerous frustrations, growing pains and hassles. It took some time to get used to the personality, culture, values and quirks of this society.

I now believe it was one of the best things I've ever done.

Since moving here, my husband and I have learned what it means to be truly independent. I have always been a free spirit, an adventurer, a questioner, an explorer. However, the demands of a new job, an unfamiliar area, a very different culture and a complete physical separation from one's support network can easily become overwhelming. Even so, we persevered. With patience, lots of mistakes, and with acceptance of the new area's good and bad characteristics, a feeling of belonging - even pride - has emerged.

In my time here, I have undergone a number of changes, both physically and otherwise. I lost weight. I dyed my hair. I pierced the top of my left ear. I learned some Spanish. I volunteered for the Emergency Response Team. I became an EMT. I dedicated myself to a fitness program with a personal trainer in hopes of someday passing the firefighter test. I took up Karate, discovered a deep passion for the art, and have integrated its principles into my daily life. I branched out into a myriad of sports, classes and activities that have been the cornerstone of my non-work life. Through this, I have started to break down the chronic psychological barriers - the self-doubt, the uncertainty, the large walls built up around me in the past for self-protection - that have held me back from doing all that I wanted to do.

I am becoming the person I never thought I could be.

Self-esteem. Confidence. Self-assurance. Qualities that, until now, had only existed in me in their most basic forms; often overshadowed by the taunting and criticism of my youth, and the persistent voice in my head repeating those messages over and over throughout the years. Yet with this newfound life and independence, I have seized the reins of my future with every ounce of my passionate resolve. The inner strength that grew from the conquest of my weight, and from the multitude of opportunities I have been given to help others in need, have built up a tenacious core of self-reliance hitherto unknown to me.

I have always wanted to be the person who could start - and maintain - conversations with anyone in a room. I have always wanted to be the one to make others laugh. I have always wanted to be the one people would turn to when they needed help, advice, a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to listen.

I am becoming the person I have always wanted to be.

While living in Toronto, working for the cable modem Internet provider, the thought never occurred to me that I could ever live or work anywhere else. I was fine where I was. I didn't need anything more. The very suggestion of a change, even up to a year before I moved, would have been met by complete denial, and likely, a disbelieving laugh.

And yet, here I am.

When one is inside one's own environment, it is difficult, if not impossible, to step out of that area of security and familiarity, and understand - truly understand - what the rest of the world has to offer. Sometimes, it takes a cataclysmic removal from that superficial comfort zone to set one on the path to knowing true happiness. Sometimes, it takes a complete overhaul of one's life to give that person the strength to break through the walls of self-doubt and to forge ahead in the pursuit of fulfillment. Sometimes, it takes a total rewriting of the inner scripts that have been imprinted in one's head for as long as one can remember, to allow that person to see, with clarity, the multitude of opportunities ahead.

Embracing the change, welcoming the opportunity for renewal, and relying on one's inner stores of fortitude and perseverance, are the keys to not only survival, but to personal growth, expansion of one's circle of influence, and the wholehearted, spirited pursuit of lofty goals once thought unattainable.

Every person who experiences a change, whether that change was desired or not, holds those keys in his or her hands. That person has the power to choose how they will react the situation at hand. They can choose to wallow in the "unfairness", to lament about how the old place was so much better the new place, to reject the positive qualities that the new place has to offer, and to pine and yearn for the familiarity and safety of the life left behind. Alternatively, they can choose to embrace, accept and welcome, then move forward with an open mind and an open heart; and in doing so, can reach out to others, build deep, meaningful relationships, and blaze a path to self-improvement.

When I stepped off the plane 4 1/2 years ago, cat and bags in tow, I chose the latter. And now, in this new green and gray cube, in this not-yet-familiar building, I make the very same choice.

Carpe Diem.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Being born and raised in Toronto, Canada, it has always been impossible - by golly, unthinkable - to be able to walk outside in short sleeves, amidst blooming flowers and chirping birds, in the middle of February.

Toronto is still in the tenacious grip of a bitterly cold winter with no end in sight. Undoubtedly its residents are completely fed up with the unrelenting sleet and snow, howling wind and sub-freezing temperatures. Though it is not my practice to gloat, I could not resist sending the following email last week to my wonderful family living in that great city of my origin:

It is currently 18C [65F] and super-sunny in San Jose. 10-day forecast is all partly cloudy, no rain, highs between 12C [54F] and 17C [63F]. People are already starting to mention spring.

Walked to a medical call today, 3 buildings away, in a t-shirt without a jacket. Didn't need it.


This was my mom's response:

Bite me!!

sending you a package today,

Love Mom

HAHA ! My mom rocks. Here's a picture of our beautiful February flower, currently blossoming in our front yard.

Oh yeah, and I got a bit of a sunburn yesterday when we were driving to San Francisco with the sunroof open. Life is tough, isn't it ? :)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

"Give Me Grandchildren"

Every parent, especially those at the tail-end of a toddler temper tantrum or teenaged angst-ridden melodrama, dreams of the day that their children will grow up, leave the nest, get married and have offspring of their own. The parent longs for the time when they can hold their grandchildren, play with them, spoil them, then hand them back when they misbehave or dirty their diapers.

Yes, that is what they all tell us. But I don't believe them. Yea, though I have seen the light ! I now know the real reason why parents beg and plead with their children to give them some grandchildren. I've figured out the truth.


Yes, payback. Diabolical revenge for all the times we turned them into screaming, flailing lunatics headed straight for the nuthouse. Payback for all the sleepless nights, first from us crying for food, and then later, carousing with our friends at all hours of the night doing God-knows-what. They want nothing more than the very same insanity for us, so they can sit back and gloat as we are flushed down the slippery slope into offspring-induced hysteria.

"Just wait till you grow up and have kids." We laughed at them then. Just as they laughed at their parents one generation ago.

Revenge is sweet. Oh, so sweet.

It is no surprise that most parents believe that their children "owe" them some grandchildren. Especially after the years of interrupted sleep, yelling matches, slammed doors and premature grey hairs. There must be some way for us to compensate for the two plus decades of unrelenting talkback, loser boyfriends, nutty friends and loud, unintelligible music.

Not surprising was my parents' stunned, disbelieving reaction when I told them I had chosen not to procreate. What ? No kids ? How could I do this to them ? How could I deprive them the opportunity to thoroughly enjoy watching me experience the same torture I inflicted on them as a child ? Inconceivable !

(Any fans of "The Princess Bride" out there ? hehe)

Fear not, dear parents, for you have hope. The time will come for my two younger sisters, possibly sooner rather than later, to fulfill the perceived obligation. Mark my words that you will have your revenge. You will have your day to say "I told you so !" You will have your time to enjoy all the benefits of a bubbly, drooling, cooing lifeform without the associated diaper, referee and vomit patrol duties. Your revenge will still be exacted on us three now-grown, but still cherubic girls who drove you to the brink of insanity and back.

Despair not, for there will be payback. Even on me.

Because my only "offspring" is that of the feline variety, there is plenty of room in my car for you to sit in the back seat and fight. That was always your dream, remember ? The opportunity exists, though 2,600 miles away, to allow this fantasy of high-speed, top-volume backseat brawling to come to fruition. Come. Sit in my car, draw a line across the middle, and unleash the demons of Hell if one of you crosses it with even a fingertip. Go ahead. Don't hold back an ounce of your exuberance. You deserve this, at very least, for putting up with the likes of me.

Just don't be surprised if I turn up the stereo really loudly to drown you out. :)



I must give credit for the inspiration to this piece. This topic of parental demands for grandchildren came up on one of the message boards I frequent. There were two responses that made me laugh out loud here at my cube. They provided the catalyst for the above writing.

The one--and only--time my father said ["Give me Grandchildren"] to me, I handed him my cat and walked away.

About five years ago, long before I met [my husband], my mother was talking about me having babies so she would have grandchildren. I told her there wasn't even a man on the horizon. Her reply, "There are ways!" Quite appropriate for a Thanksgiving weekend conversation. STAY AWAY FROM ME WITH THAT TURKEY BASTER!

And of course, credit to ADAMSLD for starting the conversation. :)

Friday, February 04, 2005

Busted !

Yesterday, I was driving down the street, travelling from a meeting with my boss back to my building. As I was waiting at a red light, one of my very favorite feel-good, dance-your-butt-off tracks came on the satellite radio. As is my custom on these occasions, my arms began waving to the exquisite sounds emanating from my finely tuned, mirror shaking, heart thumping stereo system.

Little did I know that one of the Safety & Security managers was stopped right behind me. Watching my every move. And, he proudly announced this fact at the medical drill later that day, in front of a number of my ERT and Safety & Security peers.

Busted. :)

I had to know it was going to happen at some time or another.

And before you ask, I always have at least ONE hand on the steering wheel. Even if the other is being used for drive-dancing. :)

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