Quarterlife Crisis, a Conflict of Choice

Earlier today my personal essay about what quarterlife crisis feels like went live on The Bold Italic. I actually have some additional thoughts on the topic that didn’t fit in story so I thought I would share them here.

When we were little, we had our families to tell us what to do. Parents taught us what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong. In school, teachers instructed us what to do and provided grades as measurements of how well we were doing. We applied to schools using standardized tests and a pre-determined system. Then upon completion of our education, we are told by that the world is our oyster, go wild. The expectations from others remain, but no longer can someone else tell us exactly what to do when and how, step by step. “It’s your life,” they say—Indeed we have our three-fourths of our lives ahead of us. Married couples with children say they envy us for having no one to be responsible for except ourselves, “You are free to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do.” However, these statements often terrify twentysomethings instead of making us feel powerful and liberated. Why? Because there are simply much more options to choose from than ever before.

This is termed the Paradox of Choice by a psychology professor named Barry Schwartz in 2004. He published a whole book on the subject and the main concepts are outlined in his TedxTalk. To sum it up, Schwartz points out that when presented with too many choices, one often feels paralyzed and unable to choose. And when we do finally make a choice, we can’t help but wonder about the other options we’re missing (FOMO, anyone?), thus feeling much less satisfied than if we had picked from a smaller quantity of choices. And when presented with a plethora of options, logically we reason that one of them should be the Perfect One, and when we realize or doubt that our chosen choice may not be the best, we start to blame ourselves for not having the foresight to choose better. It’s a vicious cycle, and Generation Y grew up in the midst of this culture of overchoice and information overload.

The examples Schwartz gave in the video were commodities—the insane number of salad dressings available at the supermarket and the dizzying different types of jeans to purchase. If deciding what to make for dinner and which pair of pants to buy are already stressful, imagine what it feels like to face that kind of anxiety every day about your own identity. That is quarterlife crisis in a nutshell, trying to navigate murky waters saturated with too many choices and conflicting information, and swim towards self-actualization. Twentysomethings worry about “choosing wrong” for which professional industry to pursue, which city to live in, which person to date seriously, whether or not to go to graduate school, etc. It feels like standing at a crossroads with thousands of paths that are obscured by thick fog— you know you can’t stand still forever but you are unable to see far down the routes, so you hesitate to take a step forward. It feels like having all the time in the world while simultaneously having so little time because there is so much that you could be doing.

Ten years after Barry Schwartz’s, Ruth Chang a philosophy professor from Rutgers University also spoke about choice on Ted Talk, although this time the focus is on how to making difficult choices. Her point is that certain decisions are only difficult to make when the options are different yet equal. Chang advises that instead of trying to compare the pros and cons of these options, it is better to think of each option as having different values and determine which values you can stand behind. 

For example, let’s say you recently have two new job offers. One is at a non-profit company supporting a cause you care deeply about, and one is a much higher-paying job at a huge corporation. Both paths have their various merits. Chang would suggest that you examine within and see if you care more about ideals and helping others vs. prestige and money (Obviously most situations aren’t as black and white as this hypothetical one).

She also reiterates this philosophy in a New York Times Op-Ed: “Instead of looking outward to find the value that determines what you should do, you can look inward to what you can stand behind, commit to, resolve to throw yourself behind.

No matter what kind of issues you’re going through—self-identity, location, career, relationships, family, etc— I think at its core, quarter life crisis can be boiled down to the conflict of making difficult decisions in the present world of overchoice culture

Hope all of this helps you as much as it helped me, 

Chin

The Best Quotes and Moments from the MTV Nicki Minaj Documentary: “My Time Again”

nicki minaj mtv my time again

Last night MTV aired the documentary Nicki Minaj: My Time Again centering around her recent VMA performances and new album. I’ve been listening to the Pinkprint non-stop just like what I did with the Beyonce album when it dropped in 2013 so imagine my delight when I heard there would be a TV special (apparently this is part two of a trilogy, YASSS).

There are several occasions of Onika crying, tearing up, and about to cry on television—it is incredibly refreshing to see the tough queen of rap not worried about being seen as vulnerable. Candidly yet without any privacy-compromising details, she discusses the end of her recent long term relationship, abortion, and wanting to be a mother eventually.

The segment shows both personal and professional sides of Onika, presenting her as a hardworking perfectionist who keeps challenging herself while being extremely appreciative of her supporters and coworkers. During her VMA performance rehearsals, she definitely was not afraid to give out constructive criticisms for others or admit her own slights. During a break, she surprises the dancers by showing them the finished Anaconda music video for the first time, and it is obvious from the excited shrills how happily proud everyone is of the end result. Then she rallies everyone back to rehearse once again with enthusiasm.

When she finally has time to visit her childhood friends in Southside Jamaica, Queens to recharge from her hectic schedule, she gives us a tour of where she grew up. She pointed out the streets where she used to see drug dealers and crack vials, and stands in front of the land where her father burned down her family’s house. Nicki pays her regular visit to her favorite local nail salon and draws a crowd of schoolchildren outside. She is touched by their love for her, and hopes that she serves as an example of being able to make it out of this rough neighborhood. After shouting at the screaming crowd that she loves them, she signs a little girl’s piece of lined paper “Be good in school” and tells the kids repeatedly to stay in school from inside her chauffeured car.

In the studio sharing her new album with fellow rappers D bigz and Brinx Billions, they joke around with her giddily, but when Nicki discusses how she doesn’t just want to be a “female rapper,” they support her statement: “She came up with the dudes and surpassed every other dude, and is now able to stand next to the people that she looked up to…She’s one of the best rappers.”

I highly recommend watching the 60-minute special (Link to full video here. Really 41 minutes without commercials) but I also went ahead and typed out some of her own words verbatim below. You’re welcome.

On “Anaconda

“I wanted to make a sexy record that was fun. I wanted it to be super singalong…It was geared towards being proud of your body. It empowers women. There are lots of thick girls who tell me, ‘Thank you.’”

On her recent low point in life

“…Sometimes when things are difficult, we try not to see them, but I’m learning how to face reality.”

On the emotional aspect of her new album 

“I didn’t know when I set out to make this album that it would entail an emotional roller coaster in my own real life…It’s just that I write my life.” 

“I didn’t want to make an album that was just being fake-happy: I wanted to deal with it, and leave it, and move on, and be real-happy.” 

“Brokenness leads to such beautiful art sometimes, and I think I was really really broken writing this. The brokenness is okay as long as it inspires people.”

“Imma put my album out…for girls that want to have some truth and who see my heart in it. I just want people to see that it’s heartfelt.”

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Life Lessons I Learned from Yoga, or How Yoga Keeps Me Sane

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Here’s a pretty nature scene photo I took in Taiwan, because it’s kind of weird to take photos in yoga class.

I’ve been doing yoga consistently for about 10 years now. If it were a person, I would marry it.

In the past year or so, I took a hiatus from blogging here, not on purpose but just due to the sheer amount of the priorities I made willingly. I switched jobs twice. Some new faces entered into my life while some left. I continued some hobbies and dropped others. I know everyone goes through changes like these, and for me, yoga has been a trusty companion that helps restore my physical and inner balance through my ups and downs.

Yoga releases the stress caused by my demanding work projects or upsetting situations. It reassured me during my multiple waves of quarterlife crisis by calming my crippling anxiety and panic about uncertainties. I have silently shed a few tears during Child pose and shavasana multiple times. In my opinion and experience, this form of moving meditation is one of the best methods of anger management. When I would enter a studio furious or disappointed, after exerting myself to exhaustion for a while, I leave knowing that I can eventually forgive, let go, and move on. Yoga has provided important positive reminders of my blessings and confirmations of my strengths through all of my breakups and heartbreaks. When friends tell me about certain hardships they’re facing that I cannot help with besides offering emotional support, I pray for them and send positive energy towards their way when I shut my eyes during lotus pose.

There were plenty of triumphs and happy moments to share with my metaphorical old friend too. During the classes I attended right after achieving something important to me, I felt invincible from controlling my body to take actions in just the ways I want. Very often when my mind is cleared from moving from pose to pose, the things I appreciate and those I treasure in my life would randomly pop into my mind, and I would be grateful for their existence. And maybe it’s all the “heart-opening poses,” but when I am happily in love, I would smile and giggle through the movements and my affection for that person would feel intensified somehow afterwards. At the peaks of my self-confidence, I would feel extra powerful and beautiful from being able to move gracefully, making me feel like a badass Peaceful Warrior.

Through doing and the words from instructors over the years, I’ve learned the following from yoga:

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The Opposite of “Meet-Cute”: Didn’t-Meet-WTH?

There's really no good photo for this post.

There’s really no good photo for this post.

Unless you are one of those rare people don’t watch movies or TV shows ever AND do not have any friends in relationships, you most likely know what a “meet-cute” is. It’s a strange/entertaining/coincidental scenario where two people meet each other for the first time and fall in love later.

You know, when you ask a couple how they met and they say “Oh, it’s actually a really fun/cute/funny story…” Let’s be honest here, most of the time the story ain’t that cute, but I do know a really good one.

“Talking to Strangers on Public Transit Late At Night Is A Great Idea!”: My coworker was taking the bus late at night and this dude was standing on his skateboard on the moving vehicle while holding onto the rail. She told him to be careful, and they started talking. He invited her to go “see the best band in San Francisco” right then, and she went with him. No, she didn’t get murdered or robbed that night, and he actually chose the exact same bus route to propose to her on years later. Awwww! (But seriously, usually it is not a good idea to go somewhere alone with someone you barely know at wee hours of the night, kids!)

I’m a sucker for well-written romantic comedies, so I’m that person who patiently listens and smiles at the right spots as boyfriends and girlfriends finish each other’s sentences and tell me all about the circumstances that had to line up for them to lay eyes on each other for that first destined moment. I ask almost every time, and I usually don’t regret it.

But meet-cute does not happen to me. Instead I get the opposite. Let me explain.

So I’ve been single and going on dates for a while now, and many of my lovely friends have tried to set me up with their coworkers, their friends, or their acquaintances, which I really appreciate. I have gone out with plenty of these guys (Thanks again! *Thumbs up*). However, there are also instances where the universe lines up the stars just to prevent me from ever meeting someone who was supposed to be oh-so-perfect for me. I call this the “Didn’t-Meet-WTH.”

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If I Could Live-Tweet A Bikram Yoga Class

6:25 pm: Wow ok it felt like I just hit a brick wall made of hot air when I opened the door and walked in. I can do this! #healthy

6:27 pm: Goddammit why is every available free spot still DAMP with the sweat from the previous person? Gross! Will try to be early from now on! #hot

Image6:30 pm: We’re starting to breathe like crazy people staring at the sky praying for aliens. Feels like I’m inhaling in 50% humidity + my neck hurts!

6:35 pm: So glad to do the Half Moon Pose! I’ve done this 1000+ times before #NBD Ooh look at that drop of sweat gliding down that @HotGuyInFront’s spine

6:38 pm: Um the Awkward Pose is SO awkward. It looks like we’re being forced to hold over a toilet ugh my thighs are burning too

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6:41 pm: I feel you, bro! RT@FellowNewbie: God what did I get myself into!? #BikramYoga

Eagle pose

6:44 pm: …the Eagle Pose looks nothing like an eagle unless an eagle really needs to go to the bathroom but can’t and is vogueing at the same time

6:47 pm: What is this pose called? The Ashamed Flamingo?! Why so many birds, you guys?!

ashamed flamingo

6:50 pm: Oh wow I didn’t know that my knees have the ability to sweat until today. #Interesting

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If Beyoncé Emotes Situations in My Life (an Animated GIFs Post)

I love, adore, admire and respect Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, and if you don’t like her, you should just get the hell out of here because I don’t have anything else to say to you. BAIIIIII.

I get to go to the Mrs. Carter concert in just a few days! I am a very secular (yet spiritual) person so this will most likely be the closest thing to religious worship I’ll ever do. Words cannot describe how much I appreciate this woman, so I thought I will let animated gifs do it.

In honor of Queen Bey, I decided to compile a list of my favorite animated gifs of her and match them with every day situations, because on various circumstances, I’ve often wondered What Would Beyonce Do? Oh right, she would deal with grace, sass, and confidence, so I should too. Enjoy.

(I found all these images from http://fuckyeahbeyonceknowles.tumblr.com and http://beyoncegifs.tumblr.com and BuzzFeed)

First and foremost:

When I heard that DOMA and Prop 8 are struck down:

About mothaphucking time, y’all!

And then we celebrated this Pride weekend like:

Hai oh haiiiiii

At da club

When it’s super hot and I try to sexily and subtly wipe my sweat:

When a group of creepers are closing in on us:

Dancing violently and big will let them know what’s up.

When I’m dancing on the stage and I spot someone cute in the crowd:

When someone challenges me to a dance-off:

Boy, I don’t think you know what you just got yourself into.

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Pt 3: Strange Advice My Dad Gave Me On Very Important Things In Life

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Today is Father’s Day so I took Papa Lu to dinner at a nice restaurant. Like most parents, he likes to ask his children how our dating lives are going, because we all enjoy answering those questions so so much. I shrugged and joked sarcastically “Well, no one wants to marry me yet, so nothing worthy of note.”

My dad responded with “Maybe you should start listing that on your online dating profiles. Write in ‘I only date to get married.’” My eyebrows went up to the level of are-you-for-real, and immediately saw that yes, he was dead serious.

“…Um no! I’m only 25, Dad. I’ll maybe consider doing that on eHarmony when I’m 35. Or I’ll try being a cougar.” I didn’t even have time to attempt to explain why that will send most 20-something men running in the other direction before my dad started launching into how I could work on different techniques. True to Lu fashion, he had to use analogies.

“There are lots of things you can learn from nature. Female lions usually are the ones who hunt for food, not males. They go in packs. They stalk and observe other animals for hours to see which ones are the best target- the old or the injured ones. And then the lionesses would spilt up and attack the prey from both sides so there’s no escape.” Hmm okay. So I should get some of my girl friends and go pick up guys who are easy by cornering them? Great tips, bro.

He continued as I zoned out. Come on, Dad! The hunter and the prey thing is so cliché. Tell me something new.

“…Or there are other examples, like carnivorous plants. ” My ears immediately perked up. Oh someone stepped up his game.

“Look at the Venus flytrap. It attracts insects with its nectar. But does it strike when the bug is on its edge? No, that will give the fly time to flee. Instead, it waits and lures the prey into the center, and that’s when it goes for the kill.” He gestured with his hands for simulation.

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Wise Words from My Amazing Friends: Vanessa on Matters of the Heart

This is the face of someone who will not hesitate to punch a person in the throat or groin if needed.

This is the face of someone who will not hesitate to punch a person in the throat or groin if needed.

Vanessa is one of my oldest friends. Since high school, she has been there for me throughout almost all of my boy problems and boy joys (Cute rhyming, right? Maybe the phrase will catch on). She’d listen patiently when I giggle through detailed recounts of great dates, and comfort me when I cry through explanations of why it didn’t work out. She’s also one of the rare few people who don’t look at me like I’m crazy when I draw parallels between real life experiences and something that happens in Harry Potter.

We are so close and comfortable with each another that when we used to both have super short hair, walking down the street together we received glances from strangers who obviously think we’re a lesbian couple.  It was very amusing, but yes, we should all be so lucky that the person we’re dating happens to be one of our best friends.

Anyway, recently Vanessa comments that I’m very good about keeping safe. It’s true: I carry a pepper spray with me 95% of the time, I rarely use my headphones outside of the office or home because I like to be aware of my surroundings at all times, and I only very occasionally get wasted and I only do that when I’m surrounded by close ones. My dad grew up in a part of Vietnam that was pretty shady back then, so at an early age, I was taught the mindset to always be cautious: “If someone asks you for directions, tell them but don’t go with them. Write it down on a piece of paper if they insist.” “If a stranger offers to help you carry your luggage, say ‘no, thank you’- who knows if they’ll run off with it.” “Try to memorize the cab driver’s name or license plate until you are out of the car.” And of course- “Never get into a physical fight with anyone in their own home. They would know where the knives are.” I remember reading multiple books on safety tips for children as well. High five, parents.

So I tell Vanessa that, yes, I am very careful about physical safety but I am actually really terrible at guarding against others when it comes to matters of the heart. Continue reading

Yes, I Have Quarter Life Crisis, and “The Defining Decade” Book Review

I have type A personality so I like to do as much research and preparation before I set out to do something. This includes dealing with quarter life crisis.

I remember my very wise friend Natira telling me that quarterlife crisis comes in waves: At different age in your twenty’s, you freak out about different things.

I remember the paralyzing fear and anxiety I felt during the period after college. I went to the campus hospital because I was experiencing sudden bouts of nausea, intense headaches, and difficulty breathing. I thought I had developed a brain tumor or asthma, or caught some weird disease somehow.

When the doctors kept running tests and coming back with negative results, I vividly recall the nurse asking, “Is there anything else going in your life right now that we should know about?” When I answered with feigned nonchalanced, “Oh um, I’m just looking for my first real job. I graduated a couple of weeks ago. Not doing much,” the nurse’s face changed from puzzled to really, really concerned. She suggested softly “You need to go see a counselor, hon.”

Thus I made an appointment at the psychological services department. (Big shout out to UC Berkeley for letting students keep their health insurance for a few weeks after graduation! AND providing the first five counseling appointments FO’ FREE! Thank you, thank you, thank you!) Each session flew by quickly because I just had so much to say, things that I thought would make me seem weak or whiny if I told them to my peers or family. I thought I was one of the very few people going through similar things, or at least the ones taking it the hardest.

At the time, I had no idea that quarter life crisis was a thing. I also had no idea how common it is. After I’ve found a job (well, paid full-time internship is close enough), I told friends about the physical symptoms I had that lead me to seeing a counselor, and to my surprise, many of them apparently also made themselves worried-sick during their first real job hunt. We were just all too embarrassed to admit to each other. Most of them did not seek professional help like I did because they didn’t think this was important enough to warrant that.

Now I’m not so nervous about my future that I’m tossing my cookies randomly anymore, but now there’s just a quiet disturbance always bubbling beneath the surface. I didn’t want to wait until for it to erupt to learn about how to deal with it that when my other twentysomething coworkers told me about the book Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—And How To Make The most of Them Now By Doctor Meg Jay, I bought it immediately.

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I find it extremely helpful. The book couldn’t possibly give me personalized, specific recommendations on how I can work to improve my life, because every reader is unique, but the book did provide really poignant ways and realistic perspectives to think about how I can begin to improve various aspects of my life. Using examples from her anonymous clients, Meg Jay draws insight from these real-life twentysomethings’ often misled reasoning and how we could do differently to move forward. While I don’t have the same issues as them, I easily sympathize and quickly relate with each one. Sometimes I’d even think to myself, “Oh this sounds a lot like my friend ____!”

I’m not going to spoil the book for you, and it is definitely worth reading for yourself, but here are the three main points that I personally find the most valuable:

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Vocabulary for Dating

W00t earlier today my second published story went live over at the Bold Italic! http://www.thebolditalic.com/ChinHuaLu/stories/2889-the-top-10-typical-dating-profiles

Bold Italic Chin Lu Top 10 Dating Profiles

I am very surprised that so far no one has left a “Who does this chick think she is for writing this? She’s only 25!” sort of comment, but maybe that will come later. I mean, it’s true- There are a lot I haven’t experienced yet and my dating history definitely does not make me seem like an expert in the field, but how else am I supposed to learn? Not through avoiding trying or never discussing it with others.

And since we’re on the topic of romance…Recently I’ve come to the realization that my friends and I often use words carelessly when talking about dates.

Let me explain myself first: When I was a mass communications major, we learned about semiotics and their importance. For instance, the word “Dog” signals to you the common domesticated four-legged mammal, but we had to learn that. The word “Dog” is a signifier and such animal is the signified. (Read more about signs here if you’re curious) When you were a kid, you had to receive instructions and cues in order to understand that while a Chihuahua looks and sounds very different from an Alaskan Husky, they still both count as dogs. And this is another common example: the Eskimos have multiple words for different kinds of snow and ice because cold weather is so prevalent in their every day life.

The kind of vocabulary you possess from a language influences the way you think about things. It’s difficult or sometimes even impossible to have meaningful thoughts about something if you are unable to put words to it, even just in your mind.

Anyway, I’ve noticed lately that I need to clarify more when I talk about dating because if I’m able to get my definitions and concepts straight, then I can think about it more clearly.

There are two major phrases that leaped out at me.

When I say “He was nice,” what exactly do I mean? Is it that he’s a morally good person, as in he’ll voluntarily help an old lady carry a heavy bag up the stairs when the BART station’s escalator breaks down? (Oh I’m looking at you, 16th St. Mission!) Or do I want to let my friends know that he was gentlemanly to me? Or even a third possible meaning is good compatibility or chemistry. These are all very different things. Sure, they may overlap sometimes but other times they’re completely separate from one another.

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