Conference prep

This week has already started as quite chaotic, as my company is currently prepping for its big conference of the year in Las Vegas, which is happening next week. I am going to be there to help facilitate the event and also to meet with customers, both old and new in my book of business. Not everyone on my team is going, and the team members who aren’t going are expressing jealousy of the ones who are going.

I’m sure the event will be a lot of fun over three days, but at the same time, I don’t think I’d be that disappointed to not go. At these events, networking is everything, and so is “building relationships.” I am really an introvert at the end of the day; I like my quiet time to reflect and be by myself, and I have a really hard time being “always on” at events like this. I am literally planning dinners and drink events with customers that begin at 9:30pm in the evening. And I usually like to sleep between 10:30-11:30, so I cannot even imagine how tired I am going to be next week once the week is over.

Caffeine will be a good friend of mine next week.

Groceries expenses

I was having a chat with my colleague the other day, who told me that she and her boyfriend, who she lives with, have been trying desperately to find ways to save money in this expensive city. They’re both working on paying back loans from their undergraduate studies, and on top of that, her boyfriend is paying off his law school loans. So when they were evaluating their expenses one day, they were both shocked to find that on average in the last several months, they’ve been spending about $800-900 on groceries per month! That’s over $200 per week! What could they possibly be buying — fois gras and rib-eye steaks every week?!

I told Chris this in disbelief. Granted, I haven’t ever carefully scrutinized our grocery expenses, but that just sounded like too much to me. On average based on memory, we’d spend about $50-60 on groceries per week, and oftentimes, that would include re-stocking up on stables that last a long time, whether that’s olive oil, dried beans, or spices. Chris said it was around $70 per week on average based on Mint data (that’s $280/month). We also would eat out a couple meals during the weekends, but most New Yorkers do that and more, anyway. Oftentimes, my biggest grocery expenses are in January-February of every year because I’m restocking staples, as my rule is that I have to empty out and use “staple” items like spices, rice, beans, canned goods, by the end of the calendar year.

So now she’s trying to save money by having her boyfriend expense both of their dinners every night on his current client by staying at the office until at least 8pm every night (that’s the rule at his firm). I wonder how much they are spending on groceries now. Eeek.

The reality of children in our apartment

Our apartment is like a children’s death trap. No, let me reword that. A child would not die running around this apartment. I would probably die from the horror of seeing any little blob running around this apartment and breaking literally everything, from the glass coffee table to the glass legs of my dining room table to even my small but growing collection of European Christmas houses that we have displayed in our living area.

It kind of felt that way today when we invited four friends over, two of whom are a couple with a 1.5 year old son. He was generally very sweet and well behaved, but there was of course the occasional moment when I was watching him and literally holding my breath at what was going to happen next. He’s my child, so I can’t just grab him and hold him down like I may have wanted to. He smashed a squishy football into the plate of frosted pumpkin cinnamon rolls. He slammed his mom’s mobile phone onto the top of our glass coffee table (thankfully, it wasn’t hard enough that any damage was done), and we had to keep him far, far away from the Christmas houses (they are made of ceramic, and I’d probably strangle him if he did anything to them). I was at the most peaceful state when he had passed out from exhaustion. That was a good moment.

I knew this when we got this apartment and the furniture that came with it, but this apartment is not child-proofed. In fact, it’s a terrible place for little children running around. There’s glass furniture everywhere, sharp corners, delicate display pieces from my little houses to our wine decanters. I shared this story with colleague, who said to me that yes, while you do have to child-proof your house once you have kids… you kind of have to child-proof your child and make sure they understand what’s off limits and what’s wrong.

That is so terrifying.

Too Heavy for your Pocket

Tonight, we went to see the off-Broadway show Too Heavy for your Pocket, which is set in Nashville during the early 1960s, when racial segregation was the norm, and when whites went to the white bathrooms and the “coloreds” went to the coloreds’ bathrooms. The main character gets a scholarship to attend college, a big deal for him and their family, but he decides to risk it by joining the Freedom Riders’ movement to stand up for black people’s rights. That also means he risks leaving his wife a widow, and a single mom given that she’s actually pregnant with his child (but he doesn’t know this because she’s too angry with him to tell him).

There’s the micro element of how Bowsie’s standing up for black people’s civil rights affects his two friends and wife, and thus his family. But there’s also the macro element of how what he’s doing is contributing to a better life for his future children and future generations of black Americans who simply want to have a seat on a bus and not think about certain sections being for whites vs. blacks. There’s the desire to live in a world where he doesn’t have to have a designated water fountain just for people who have the same colored skin as him. And there’s the desire to just be, and to be equal to everyone else. Maybe he might die, but he’d die for his future generations of black men and women, and for his child who may end up growing up in a world, never knowing what it was like to sit in the back of the bus with other “colored” people.

The feeling I had watching this show was similar to how I felt when Chris and I visited Little Rock Central High School last October with my local friend there. Imagining being one of a handful of people who looked like me, attempting to attend my first day of school full of white people who didn’t want me there would be absolutely terrifying. My friend and I both joked that day that the two of us would be too scared to do what the Little Rock Nine did in the late 1950s. We’re not fearless or radical at all; we have lots of fear. We’d be scared of pain, scared of being spat on and given death threats. And in Bowsie’s case, we’d be scared of dying and never seeing the people we love ever again.

That’s why every time I hear stories of the Freedom Riders or anyone who has protested or risked their lives for civil rights, I always feel a little bit more and more awe and respect for these people. They were thinking about the future lives of others, not even their own lives or the lives of people they knew in their lifetime, and how those lives could be better. They’re far bigger than I could probably ever be.

It’s working

I woke up this morning, and for the first time in four weeks, I did not wake up coughing. I actually felt better. My throat wasn’t filled with mucus. And my voice actually sounds better than it did yesterday. And as the day progressed, I felt less need to constantly drink liquid to keep my throat moist, and I coughed far less. It looks like the simple over-the-counter treatment regimen is already working for me.

Now, I’m wondering why I didn’t just see my regular doctor sooner to get this referral. This is when it’s bad to avoid seeing the doctor and to just think you will get better naturally on your own. Because how was I supposed to know that my stomach acid was eating away at my throat, and that something as simple as Tums and antacids would be the cure?

When a camera goes down your nose

Today, I had my much anticipated appointment with the ear-nose-throat specialist. I came in first thing in the morning and discussed the last four weeks of my condition with him. Today literally marked a full month of being ill for me, so he could tell I was not a happy camper, nor was this some simple cold. And so he explained that he’d spray my nose and throat to numb me, asked me to breathe through my nose (as difficult as that would be), and he gradually strung and then dropped a camera through my left nostril and down my throat.

I do not wish that experience upon anyone, even people I really cannot stand. If it lasted any longer than it did, I may have passed out.

He said he found a lot of inflammation on my vocal chords and larynx, and that I ultimately had a very common condition called laryngopharyngeal reflux, also known as silent reflux. As per usual, the nickname makes zero sense because in this condition, you are anything but silent. You are coughing, disgustingly phlegmy, and your voice is either lost or not fully there due to the inflammation of your larynx and vocal chords from the stomach acid that is eating away at both. He said this appeared to be a side effect from the virus that I had, during which I vomited quite a bit…. and vomiting causes stomach acid to travel up (which… it is not supposed to do) and inflame my throat.

So the good news is that this is easily treatable. I just have to take an over-the-counter antacid before dinner each night, then take a couple Tums before bed and elevate my head at bedtime. And I should be fully cured within four weeks.

I just have to avoid or minimize alcohol, caffeine, spicy food, and citrus. In other words, I have to avoid everything that provides joy. As I was learning this, I wondered to myself if I’d done something really bad to have deserved this illness as retribution.

Transferable

A friend from my last job and I met for dinner tonight after a couple months of not seeing each other. Since we last caught up in July, he’d decided to be bold and quit his job without anything lined up, mostly because he found the job and company uninspiring and meaningless. I always felt that way while there, in addition to anger and resentment about everything wrong there (which is pretty much everything), but I was never big enough to just quit without anything lined up.

He’s been searching and actively interviewing, but a problem he’s been encountering is that companies are finding holes in his skill set. How does the typically tech company define what a “data scientist” role should entail? Well, whatever it is, he clearly was not doing it at the last company, and so he’s been getting declined left and right. “I feel like none of my ‘skills’ are transferable,” he said to me tonight. He’s tried to expand his search as a result.

That was always my fear at my last company, that I learned nothing, that I wasn’t growing, that I was surrounded by and thus becoming a part of the complacency. It’s easy to be that way you get paid well and have flexibility, two massive privileges that I was fully cognizant of. And he was cognizant of them, too. Why else would either of us have stayed so long at such a miserable and growth-less place? It scared me that in future interviews, people would find out I was a phony and didn’t really know much at all, or I wouldn’t be anywhere as smart or skilled as the competition interviewing against me. I feel bad for my friend, but all I could do was tell him to keep looking and the right thing would turn up.

Laziness  and complacency really comes back to bite you in the ass.

Caribbean catch-up

Tonight, I met a partner who works with my company on a temporary project for Caribbean food for dinner. I had no idea how old he was before finally meeting him in person (we’d been on video chat many times before finally meeting in person today), but when he told me that he literally graduated from college this past December, our age gap suddenly hit me, and I felt a bit old sitting across from him while chewing on my jerk chicken and plantains.

With his Puerto Rican and Dominican heritage and my Chinese Vietnamese heritage, we ended up talking a lot about race and how it’s perceived in different parts of this country. He grew up in Georgia and Florida but now lives in San Francisco, and while I have always lived on one of the coasts, I’ve definitely been many times to the deep South and the Midwest, where people who look like me are not always the norm. Now that he lives in San Francisco, he said it’s almost like being in a different country than where he grew up, where races didn’t intermingle much and race pretty much determined what your life would be like. But even in his own community and own family, Trump supporters can be found. And people repeatedly defend him.

This is the America we live in, where people continue to vote against their own self interests but think they aren’t. Maybe we really get what we deserve.

Sick visit

I’ve never had a sick visit to the doctor’s in New York City. I guess I am lucky enough that I usually don’t get sick often, and when I do, I drink so much liquid and take so much lemon and honey that I end up peeing whatever evils that were in my body out within a few days. Unfortunately because I’ve had lingering mucus and a cough and a weak voice for nearly four weeks now, I decided to schedule this appointment with my regular doctor.

After a lot of discussing the sequence of events from Australia to New Zealand to San Francisco to here and examining me, my doctor concluded she still had no idea what was wrong with me, but knew this wasn’t normal that I still had these symptoms after nearly a month. So she referred me to an ear-nose-throat (ENT) doctor to see what could be wrong. She said that what they could do that she couldn’t would be to stick a camera through my nose and down my throat to see if anything could be stuck on my vocal chords or on my larynx.

Oh, goodie. Now, I can’t wait! Because who doesn’t want an experience like that at least once in their life?

Keys

Yesterday, we passed by a KeyMe key making station and decided to test it out by duplicating one of our apartment keys. It seemed so simple; it recognizes you by your finger print, it saves all the keys as you name them, and anywhere you can find a KeyMe station, you can get a key. It would be the most useful in the event you locked yourself out and had no other way of getting in. And if you think it costs too much, just decline buying, and it will ask you why you don’t want to complete your purchase. The options include… “changed your mind,” “don’t need it anymore,” and “too expensive.” And being us, we hit “too expensive” to see what it would say, and lo and behold, a 50% off discount that can be used immediately! And it even allows you to have a design on your key! Ours was the New York City subway map. Chris suggested that I keep it because of how excited I got to have a key with a design on it, and so I swapped out my original key for this one.

Well, that was a mistake because on its second time this morning attempting to unlock the apartment door, the key literally got stuck and jammed. It was so bad that we had to call our super and handyman, and together they had to completely remove the lock and change everything out. It took nearly 45 minutes to get done. And… my friend was on a time crunch to get to the airport in time for her flight. She literally got to the gate after everyone else had boarded with ten minutes remaining.

The handyman asked us if we used KeyMe, and we said yes. And he said, don’t do that again.

Yeah, we won’t.