Rainier Maria Rilke on Marriage

When I was in middle school, I thumbed through Rainier Maria Rilke’s book Letters to a Young Poet. I’m tempted to read it again now, as when I think about relationships, my thoughts often return to what I read in that book. He was the kind of writer who, when you read his writing, it kind of just stays with you and soaks itself in your head. And then at random moments during the day after reading his words, those words just come back to you without you even consciously thinking about it.

The quote that always comes back to me, which apparently on the web is oftentimes cited, is this one:

“The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”

It aligns with what I’ve thought to be the ideal relationship: one in which two people do not become one (the idea of being “joined at the hip” has always made me want to vomit in my mouth; those couples I meet at weddings or parties where they cannot allow the other to have a 1:1 conversation have always disgusted me), or the idea that after marriage, a spouse must stop doing all the things she’s loved doing individually or with others. The ideal relationship is one in which the two spouses can still be their individual selves with their individual loves and hates and opinions, but when joined together, enrich each others’ lives with their similarities as well as their differences. They relish in each others’ company, but they also respect each others’ boundaries and allow each other to be themselves and have their own time and opinions. They have shared experiences, but not everything will be shared, whether it’s experience or outlook or opinion, and that’s healthy and fine. They are still individuals, right? They grow together, with each other, and motivate each other to be the best version of themselves. They challenge each other to be better, to be happier and more developed. They accept that they have an understanding of each other, but they may not always understand each other fully, and that is healthy and normal because even one cannot fully understand oneself fully, so how can we expect our partners to? At the end of the day, they trust each other. They may betray each other’s trust at times, but they will love each other to the point where they can have forgiveness and learn from the times of betrayed trust. We’re all human beings. We’re imperfect. We’re going to mess up. It’s okay. And that’s just part of life and growing.

As a society, we have such unrealistic expectations of romantic relationships, of marriage. So it’s no wonder that the divorce and separation rates are so high, that people are always in and out of relationships, that we keep seeking out “the perfect one” but it usually ends up in vain, or we “settle.” But perhaps we should be more forgiving, more open minded, more questioning of these unrealistic expectations to create our own that are more in line with what we think should be right and good for ourselves.


I went and spent the day in Hoboken today to visit my friend who lives there, as he’s been eager to show me his place and also cook for me given that I’d invited him over for dinner months ago. I walked into his condo and was really stunned by how homely it was. I’m not trying to be a jerk about this, but it’s just that when I think of a single guy in his 30s living alone, I don’t really imagine a spotless, well-decorated, thoughtfully furnished place. I think of a bare-bones, minimalistic setup with Ikea furniture and the basics to eat, sleep, and shower. That is not what his apartment was. He had paintings and prints up that were representative of places he’s been and things he likes. His kitchen shelf was lined with cookbooks he’s discussed with me before, and some even had pages that were yellowed and torn from heavy use. He even had a wall plant pot that he created and designed himself. His bathroom had a customized Japanese toilet whose lid opened when you entered the bathroom. And yes, the seat was heated.

Hoboken is a small town, but one that has its charms. Walking down Washington Street to get to my friend’s place, it felt very quaint, a world away from the concrete jungle that Manhattan is. But I get why people like it — it’s a quiet suburb, doesn’t have many cars, yet is just close enough to Manhattan to be connected to the urban hustle and bustle. It’s definitely a nicer place for my friend to walk his dog around, too.

Relationships and communication

I’ve been thinking about communication in relationships for the last week. Last weekend, Chris and I were out with my friend and her boyfriend, who have been together over six years but are not married. Her boyfriend has been married twice before, and like most of us, has cheated on his significant other. We all have our opinions about infidelity and how to deal with it, but he said something last weekend that made me think. My first inclination (well, initially) is that if I were to ever be unfaithful, that I would tell my spouse. Why? Well, frankly the first reason is to make sure that if he were to ever find out, it would be from me and not someone else (that idea really sounds terrifying). The second reason is to clear my conscience and not feel like I have to hide anything. I want to have open communication about the good, the bad, and the ugly. The guilt would really chip away at me. Maybe it’s the Asian guilt gene in me. But my friend’s boyfriend made me question why I would have any need to clear my conscience.

“If you have one indiscretion, you make out with someone, you have sex with someone else once — why do you feel a need to admit it to your spouse?” he asked hypothetically. “Outwardly, you are doing it supposedly to protect him, to be honest to him, for him… but you’re actually not. Because if you really think about it, you’re being selfish and you just want to clear your own guilt. You’re thinking about yourself, your feelings. You want to make yourself feel better. You want to be in the clear. But you’ve just caused unnecessary pain for your partner. And that’s going to eat away at him and cause him paranoia. And that’s not cool. You haven’t done him any favors.”

I guess it’s one way to look at it. And while chatting with Chris today, I realized he agrees, too. The only reason to bring it up in his mind is if you are having not a one-time fling, but an actual affair that is ongoing… because that’s a true sign that it wasn’t just a random indiscretion in the moment, that it’s actually indicative of a problem in the relationship.

In a perfect world, in a perfect relationship, we’d be transparent about everything, but we’re not mind readers, and we don’t necessarily and should not want to communicate every single thought in our minds because that’s not practical, nor possible, nor is it even human to be able to do that. So then that begs the question of… how much should we be sharing and when?


Throughout my teen years, I always thought I was more mature than most of the people my age. I scoffed at the “teen angst” I witnessed, the occasional drug use and the fascination of getting drunk. Maybe that was partly due to the fact that I grew up in a dysfunctional family, got criticized a lot at a young age and had to build a slightly thicker skin, or because I was exposed to my brother’s suicide attempt and mental illness at the age of 11. Or maybe it’s because of something innate within me that just drove a greater curiosity of people, the way they think, why they think what they think, and how I felt I was ultimately understood, if at all. I got obsessed with the idea of deeper meaning when I was 13 and got frustrated with what felt to be endless superficiality that surrounded me on a day to day basis. People my age felt so mundane and trite. I had to find interest somewhere else, or at least with people who could entertain my thoughts.

So that might be why today, when I meet people who have a harder demeanor, who appear to be extremely tough and rigid, I always kind of wonder about them and what drives them to be the way they are. What are they hiding? What experiences have they had that have contributed to the way they carry themselves? There’s no way they could be that hard behind closed doors. We’re all humans with feelings. We share them outwardly in varying degrees. But at our core, when no one else is scrutinizing or judging us, we all seek the exact same thing: to be loved, to be understood, to be wanted. Everyone wants some level of attention, of human contact, of human touch.

I don’t seek to understand or get close to everyone; well, that would be quite exhausting. I’m more thinking about people who have that type of demeanor but have openly reached out to me to be there for me, to provide some level of solace to me when I haven’t been in the brightest places, or when I haven’t actually asked for any attention or support.

Maybe that’s what makes me a little dysfunctional myself. In trying to understand this about others, maybe inside, I just have a desire to “save people,” to help them get to a happier and more open state. Maybe Ed’s struggles and death feed into that. If I couldn’t help him, maybe I could help others? Maybe that’s part of what my actual purpose in life is. I’m still figuring it out.

Java Script class, Day 2

While the first day of Java Script and debugging was mostly a review of HTML, which I already understand and is fairly basic (well, it’s not even a language, so it can’t be that hard), today, we delved into the basics of Java Script. So, I started thinking about how miserable I was when I took my intro to computer science course in college just to test it out, and I did a miserable job. And while in class today, I felt probably just as miserable as I did then, except at least now, I don’t have to get graded, and I just need to have the highest level understanding of this.

Some things were meant to be. Coding and me were not.

Administrative Professionals’ Day

Today was Administrative Professionals’ Day, so after one of our colleagues noted it, I collected money across the office to pool together for several bouquets of ranunculus and roses for our office manager. Everyone gave really generously; in the end, I ended up having extra money and had to go out and buy even more flowers. Everyone was more than willing to contribute, and enthusiastically did so. Our office manager really goes above and beyond to make sure that we’re comfortable, that we have everything we need (even the variety of “milk” and the snacks), and that all our guests are fully accommodated and welcomed warmly. If I had her job, I know I’d be exhausted.

It’s like I am still adjusting to how generous and kind and full of integrity people are here. It’s still surprising to me, but in a good way.

Hijacked class

Today is the first day of our Java Script and debugging courses after work, which will last for two hours each Tuesday and Thursday for approximately the next two months. We got approval for funding for these classes to have an instructor come to our office and show us the basics, as a few of us agreed that we might be more effective in our roles if we knew more of the technical aspects of our product. I figured it would be a good opportunity, especially since our company is already paying for it, so there was no reason for me not to join. I could suck this up for two short months for a longer term reward in understanding more deeply.

But the class didn’t really go the way I expected, as one of my colleagues ended up hijacking the topic halfway through to ask random, customer-specific questions. I was sitting there, playing with my sushi dinner, wondering when we were going to get back to the core of what the instructor was supposed to be going through. But it never ended up coming.

This was my frustration in school whenever some jerk in the class would take us on a long tangent that was unrelated to the actual subject matter at hand. It’s just like being in school again here where one little twit hogs all the attention of the teacher.

End of the quarter

It’s the last full week of our company’s quarter, and it looks like from a sales perspective, our office is not going to hit its number. The funniest thing about this for me personally is that in the past, at least at the last wretched company, there was never a known “number” to hit, nor was there communication about whether we were ever over or under that number because we didn’t really sell any software; we just existed because of our services. Here, we’re actually selling something tangible, and what we’re selling is hard to get to be “sticky.” So now that I’m aware of these things and more or less keep track (because I am post-sales, so it’s not like my job is on the line), I can actually feel the pressure that our sales team is experiencing.

We’ve gone through a lot of changes in the last year since I’ve joined. In that time, we’ve tried to scale to become more of an enterprise company. That means massive growing pains, turnover, and a lot of new process that has not always been the best new process to implement. In the last three months, I’ve probably felt the most exhausted from work than I’ve ever felt. In some way, that’s a good thing because it means I’m engaged and have a lot to do. I find the work far more rewarding than anything I’ve ever done before professionally. But in another way, I know that I’m really here because of what the end result is, which is my paycheck and the flexibility a job like this gives me. I’m far luckier than most people, but part of me is wondering if there could be something else out there for me that could give me more.

Sardines and anchovies

Sardines and anchovies are oftentimes considered the lowest on the food chain because they are some of the tiniest fish you could eat. They don’t have the worries of mercury behind them the way swordfish do, nor do they have the massive farming issues that salmon does. I’ve really gotten into sardines in the last couple of years, but anchovies, for whatever reason, have intimidated me because of how naturally salty and fishy they are. I love them in authentic caesar salads, but in my actual cooking, I generally steered clear of them.

But then I found a Sicilian recipe for Sicilian pasta with sardines, anchovies, fennel, and toasted bread crumbs, and it attracted me immediately. I’ve been actively trying to use ingredients recently that I’ve been avoiding or ignoring, everything from dried Mexican chilies, fennel, cabbage, and now anchovies. This would help me expand what I’m comfortable with. It gets boring to always cook the same cuisines or the same dishes, and I get bored extremely easily with almost everything. I’ve made a number of Italian dishes, but have never made anything Sicilian. So I took a chance and actually made the dish today, and it came out incredibly well. The anchovies’ saltiness really spread, but just enough and without being overwhelming. I just used a small tin. I barely added any additional salt to the dish, and it turned out perfectly. Even Chris was skeptical but was convinced after he had a few bites. It’s the little wins that get me excited in the kitchen.

All day long

I originally planned to just have lunch and maybe a dessert with my friend today, but it ended up turning into a lunch, dessert, drinks, more drinks, and dinner, and additional drinks through the night where both of our partners joined us. It was one of those semi spontaneous Saturdays that seems to happen rarely, if ever for us now. The older I have gotten, the less and less spontaneous the things we seem to do are. We have plans, our friends have plans, so we can never just expect anyone to be available on a whim, and I just loved every minute of it. I loved that it was unplanned. I loved that we all got together and had fun banter among the four of us, and that we went from place to place as though it were just another thing we could do on a happy and carefree Saturday. I wish we could have more spontaneity like this. Maybe it’s just my subconscious fighting the reality of getting older.