I Have Type A Personality, and I’m Proud of It

I'm sorry that I messed up your book title, Foucault, but doesn't that sound much better with matching numbers of syllables?

According to today’s Wikipedia page, Type A personality means  “ambitious, rigidly organized…impatient, take on more than they can handle… obsessed with time management…hate both delays and ambivalence.”

I think a more vernacular and succinct definition is “over-achieving control freak.”

All my life people have been telling me I “care too much,” “take everything too seriously,” and “need to relax.” I don’t really resent it because I don’t think that’s negative at all (and I’ll relax once the issue is resolved, duh!). Why do anything if I am not going to put 100% into it? Why do anything that I care little about? It doesn’t make sense to me.

Trust me, I don’t like worrying about the future either but I do it because I am actively trying to steer its course towards the way I want it. I make lists so I am less likely to forget anything. I keep an agenda so I can plan days and weeks in advance. The whole point of planning ahead to me is that appointments, reservations, and social engagements will work out without wasting anyone’s time and effort.

It’s not that I don’t like spontaneity. If someone says “keep next Friday night open because I’m surprising you with something,” I’m totally up for that! What I dislike is when someone refuses to make a commitment with wishy-washy language, because then they occupy an available slot that could be booked for something else with more certainty.

The other day I was talking to one of my best guy friends, Will. He’s a few years older than me and likes to think of himself as a real-life Ryan Gosling, so naturally I like to ask him for advice on what to text cute guys back, and then not listen to him most of time.

Of course, I went against his council again and he said “The way I see it, you got two ways you can go: You can try to fight your Type A, play the game, and try to get a dude that way. Or, just be you and at some point you will meet a super compatible dude who loves how forward and plan-tastic you are…That second route is probably better in the long run, just might take more time.

Cue huge relief of heavy sigh here. It is so refreshing to hear the opposite of “You’re too _____ and need to change” finally. At this point in my life, it is too late for me to mold myself in a way that I do NOT like. Don’t get me wrong- I love to better myself and aim for improvement all the time, but if I don’t want to see myself going in a particular direction, then why should I?

My unofficial personal motto is “All or Nothing.” And I am sticking to it. My blood type is even Type A, btw. What a coincidence, right?

Take it or leave it,

Chin

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Amazing Life Advice from Older and Wiser Ladies

I am trying to take a peek at a store that has not opened yet. This pretty much sums up my attitude in life.

Last week thanks to my job, I had the chance to hang out with twenty women who are mostly mothers for a whole day. I know, don’t be too jealous of me. They were bloggers we invited to an event for Method who makes green cleaning products. These ladies were inspiring with how much they do and how well they do it. As more wine started flowing, I think I actually told some of them that they were role models. How embarrassing!

Anyway, over this course of time, many of them bestowed some valuable life lessons upon me, which I happily and gratefully accepted. I also heard some stories about being pregnant and giving birth, but you can Google those.

This couldn’t have come at a better time since I just turned the age of 24, AND found a strand of grey hair on myself for the first time ever a few weeks ago. Almost everyone’s reaction when they found out how young I am is “Wow, 24! That’s a wonderful age!” But many women slightly older than me have said that quarter life crisis, just like midlife crisis, comes in waves and may last for years. Needless to say, I’m a bit freaked out and scared.

Overall, the ladies told me to not worry so much. I am a Type A person who tries to plan everything in her life, from miniscule things like working out on which weekdays to far away schemes like where I plan to live when I’m 30. Of course, the majority of my meticulous plans fall through, but I can’t help making to do lists, both on paper and in my head.

Many of these smart women admitted that they had similar perspective when they were my age, but gradually came to realize that there’s no point in trying to plan something before the situation arises because you can’t predict the future. Life has turned out SO differently than what they imagined years ago, but they wouldn’t want it any other way. So just deal with making decisions as the choices appear, and not get stressed about them beforehand.

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My Happiness Project: Cats

Somehow I befriend cats anywhere. This was in Turkey.

Today I did two things: finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and finally had the chance to go to the volunteer info session at the San Francisco SPCA.

I highly recommend The Happiness Project as a person who does not believe in the traditional self-help books. I think they’re full of really generic ideas since they have to appeal to the masses. This book is different. It is practical and realistic.

Similar to Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert which is also a favorite of mine, the book is about a chronicle of a woman trying to be happier within a year. Not everyone can afford trips around the world or be offered to do it for work like Elizabeth. In Gretchen’s own words, she set out to change her life without “really” changing her life. Using philosophies and advice from famed authors, historical figures, friends, and more, Gretchen examined how we can aim to accomplish every day happiness in an empirical manner, complete with charts and lists of resolutions.

I won’t ruin the book for you but here are the key takeaways that echo with me (some are direct quotes while others are paraphrasing):

  • What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while
  • Enjoy the process, and be in the present.
  • You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.
  • It takes work to be happy, but it’s totally worth the effort.
  • You’re the sole person most influential to your level of happiness.

Some people may think that trying to make yourself happier is not a very noble goal, and Gretchen addresses this issue, too. Happiness is an marvelous cycle and it’s highly contagious. Two examples: One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. AND the reverse is also true- the best way to make those around you happy is to be happy yourself. In addition, happier people help others more whether through volunteering or making donations, or something else.

No I’m not depressed or anything, but can’t we all be even happier? A piano master still practices every day even after she wins awards. Lastly, you shouldn’t wait for when terrible things happen to learn about trying to be happier. Knowing what makes you happy and how to do it is like insurance for when things get bad.

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Enter the Year of the Dragon

Me owning a piece of the Great Wall of China

Happy Chinese New Year!

This lunar year is the year of the Dragon. The dragon is the only mystical creature out of the twelve animals on the Chinese Zodiac. It does not make much sense at all. There is a children’s story about how the gods held a race in pre-historic times to determine the order, but how a mouse beat a horse (and were there no cheetahs back then?) is also quite a mystery to me. I am certain that the ancient Chinese had some other wiser reason for this arrangement. They always do.

What is even more peculiar is that the ancient Chinese did not come up with the concept of dragons based on dinosaurs at all. Rather, a Chinese dragon is the combinations of 9 different things: antlers of a deer, ears of a cow, body of a snake, belly of a clam shell, scales of a fish, claws of an eagle, paws of a tiger, AND eyes of a demon. Despite that last part, dragons remain a positive symbol for prosperity and good luck in Chinese culture. A Chinese dragon is also basically all-mighty: besides being able to fly and breathe fire like its Western counterpart, a Chinese one also can swim gracefully. It dominates all three environments of sky, land, and water.

Tonight I took my brother and my father out to Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner at Tommy Toy’s downtown. Like every Chinese restaurant would, the venue was decked out in red paper decorations for the holidays, most of them of four-character idioms of happy wishes. My brother made an interesting observation- although Chinese New Year is like Christmas in the sense that it’s a time to be with those close to you, eat a lot of good food together, and people give out presents in the form of money in red envelopes, the good wishes of CNY are so much more…practical and worldly.

I’ve translated and paraphrased some below. Keep in mind that these sayings have existed for thousands of years, and no, I swear I’m not making these up:

  • Congratulations and become rich! (the well known phrase “Kung hei fat choi”)
  • Live long and thrive!
  • May all your family members be safe every time they go outside!
  • Continuously improve and get promoted!
  • Hope you have lots of offspring!
  • All your kids will get into good schools!
  • Happy nation and peaceful citizens!

…and my friends wonder sometimes why I’m so practical. What can I say? It’s in my lineage.

In ancient Chinese belief, people are supposed to have the best luck in the year of their birth zodiac sign, and that big things will happen in their life during this time. True story: In the middle of our conversation about the paper decorations at dinner tonight, a display with the word “fortune” FELL ON TOP OF ME. If that’s not a sign of good luck, I don’t know what is.

You guess right: Yep, I am a Dragon. And I did write this whole post just to say that people born in the Year of the Dragon are awesome. Fellow dragons, this is so our year! I’m excited.

Roar,

Chin

Hang in There With Me

The pandas I saw in Mainland China were so unimpressive.

Hey there,

I just wanted to take a moment and explain myself: I started this blog to get better at writing, so I can be a copywriter. This goal assumes that I’m not good enough right now, and it’s sadly true.

I’ve regressed to write as if I’m talking out loud. From work, I’m used to typing with bullet points and numbered lists. And the only creative things I’ve written since college are basically flirty text messages, and passive aggressive notes telling my housemates to clean up while trying to sound funny and not too bitchy. That’s about it.

This is why I’ve decided to begin writing about the subjects that I know best: myself.

Please think of this is a disclaimer- I’m not as self-absorbed as the recent posts make me seem to be, and I promise to expand the topics of this blog soon.

I know. I wish I could start a blog about writing this blog. So meta!

Thank you for your patience,

Chin

Dance of the Dragon Daughter

Me in 5th or 6th grade. Also the last time ever that I had hair past my shoulders.

Ever since the Wall Street Journal posted an excerpt from Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother a whole year ago, I’ve been asked the same question quite a few times: “Chin, you’re Chinese. Was your mother a Tiger Mom?”

The answer is no. Do you see me play any musical instrument? Let along a classical one well? Definitely not!

All kidding aside, I finally read the book a few weeks ago. Ironically, my mom was the one who offered it to me. The book was excellent- hilarious, touching, and very emotionally intense at various turns. I highly recommend it.

I don’t even know how to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on the piano anymore (that’s basically how far along I got on that skill), and no one ever needed to push me to study at all. Once I got the taste of the rewards and ego-boost that came with doing well academically early on, I just kept going.

I do recall that once I came home with a report card in probably third grade, my mother took a look at the score in the high 80’s and said neutrally “I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.” I’ve gotten a lot of B’s and even lower grades after that (in fact, I got an F one time in English in 5th grade. Oh the irony! ), but for some reason the shame and guilt I felt that first time I ever disappointed a parent really stuck with me.

Right at the entrance of most Taiwanese schools is a rankings board of each class

Although I am very glad that my mom isn’t a Tiger Mom, there is actually one instance where I hope for the opposite: I really wish she didn’t let me quit dancing.

Even when I was little, I was really good at knowing what I want and going after it with concrete steps. My elementary school bus’ route passed by this dance studio with a huge sign of its phone number outside, and at some point it occurred to me that I wanted to learn how to dance. I wrote down the number and I handed it to my mom at dinner that very same day.

I think it must had been only about 10 months in my ballet and jazz classes when I told my parents that I wanted to stop for the most ridiculous reason: I said that dance classes were taking away time and energy from my academics. I WAS IN FOURTH GRADE! Was drawing class too difficult and time-consuming?

To this day, I don’t know why I did that. The excuse I provided was legitimate for almost anything in most Chinese parents’ eyes, so I must have picked that for its success rate. Maybe Amy Chua was right- a hobby only becomes fun when you’re able to be very good at it. Perhaps I realized I was never going to be great at institutionized dancing because I started so late compared to the other girls. I did enjoy it immensely, but possibly I was also afraid of not being good enough?

On the other hand, I’ve learned my lesson from this huge regret in my life. I’ve been taking as many dance classes as possible “for fun” ever since high school. And I also tend to contemplate very carefully if I’ll regret quitting something before I actually make that decision. That’s exactly how I surprised everyone and changed from a kid getting sick once a month to varsity cross country runner, but that’s a story for another day.

Best,

Chin

The First Chin Up Is the Hardest

Me circa summer of 2008. You can check out the photographer at http://www.bryantanphoto.com He might be mad that I turned this into B & W.

Hi there!

Chances are I don’t know you, but welcome!

And I already have a confession to tell you! I’m starting this blog for very selfish reasons, but I do think people should do whatever makes them happy as long as they don’t hurt anyone, so I don’t really feel bad at all. My real confession is that I overshare what goes on in my head and in my life, with a lot of people and very often, too. The plan is I’m going to try to distill everything, take out the parts too personal to post publicly on the Internet, and continuously share that crème de la crème of my thoughts and stories with you here.

Translation: I don’t know the focus for this blog yet, either. Sorry about that.

The “real life” practical aim of this blog is to hone my writing skills and practice flexing my creativity muscles in order to be good enough to be a copywriter in the advertising industry soon.

The title of this blog is a play on words: it’s my first name, the encouraging saying “keeping your chin up,” and the exercise technique of chin-ups. It is supposed to represent a combination of myself, positivity, and the strengths that come with self-discipline and facing challenges. (In all honestly, the “daily” part just sounds much nicer than “I’m going to post here whenever I can.” We’re still cool though, right? )

Hope you like it here and come back every once in a while!

Best,

Chin