I'm afraid that something will happen to my family when I move especially my grandma. I'm afraid that my expectations for myself can never be reached. I'm afraid of letting down all the people I grew up with in San Ramon. I'm afraid that my relationships in California will change for the worse once I move. I'm afraid of realizing that things I've dreamed of are in fact impossible. I'm afraid that I won't like my new job and city. I'm afraid that I've ruined a friendship that's really special to me. I'm afraid that I procrastinate too much and act too lazy at times. I'm afraid of success and I'm afraid of failure. I'm afraid that Stanford will never be good at basketball again and I'm afraid that hate will always exist. Basically I'm proud to say I'm afraid. I'm proud to say I'm human. I'm been holding back on feeling for far too long now and I feel more human than I have in a long time.
I'm not sure why all of these thoughts finally broke through and I'm not sure why it took me basically acting stupid towards someone I care so much about but it did. Life is funny that way. It's unpredictable and it's relentless in that you can't take back your actions. But it's also brilliant and things seem to have a way of working out when you do the right thing and treat people around you well. I might be afraid but you know what, I'm finally ready. The next chapter is about to start and I'm ready to take on life and ready to take on the next challenge. I just hope that all the people I love and all the people that have made me who I am are there to see when I do.
When I was little, my mom would tell me to clean something up and I would always tell her that I would do it tomorrow. Every time her or my grandma would bring up the story of Lord Ganesha and his wedding. Parvathi (his mom) would continually ask Ganesha when he wanted to get married. Everytime she asked, he would say that he would be ready tomorrow. As it turns out, he was never married because he always postponed the date.
After millions and millions of lazy moments in my life, where postponing something inconsequential has led to a huge headache (i.e. credit card bills, rebates, RSVPing for stuff), I got hit in the face with a revelation of sorts. What if I always tried to put myself in the best situation tomorrow. Do everything I can right now to make tomorrow sweet. Now, to some of you that may sound simple but this is coming from a guy that used to write high school essays the morning they were due at times and had to run to the post office to get his college applications in on time. So the idea now, is to act in a way to make tomorrow easier than today.
This matches well with my philosophy of life that you need to view things in life as if they are a groundball in baseball. Now if you wait on the baseball and let it come to you, chances are it's going to take a bad hop or bounce and hit you in the face. Believe me, my laziness has definitely resulted in me getting hit in the face (literally and metaphorically). In this position, we are back on our heels and we are basically at the mercy of the bouncing ball coming our way. We don't give ourselves as much reaction time and we end up getting eaten by the ball. Now, a great short-stop was ready for the ball even before it was hit. In their stance even before the pitch was delivered, the short-stop creeps in on the ball and decided which hop of the ball he wants to charge. The play is made on his terms and in his time. I feel like that's how I need to start living life.
I've been on my heels for far too long now. Saying things like, "my diet will start after this pizza slice" or "I'll send out that email tomorrow morning" (I barely even see mornings these days). I'm starting to think this way of thinking applies to everything. Business environments and social environments alike. Charging the groundball is what life is all about. I was going to postpone this blog entry but I keep repeating in my head, "tomorrow starts today.... so make it happen."
Why not come up with annual awards for people that have made a difference or have influenced my life? At first I thought having something like "The (V)Love Award" would go to the person that has shown the most amount of altruistic love and selflessness to people that I know. But then I realized that this could go on and on. I could give a "Flava in Your Ear" Award to the person that has been the best listener to me this year. I could give a "Dr. Phil Award" to the person that has given me the best advice this year. How about a "Michael Richards Award" to the biggest asshole in my life this year. And I am not just talking about posting this online or sending out an email. I want to actually get trophies or plaques for these people. Here are some other categories I thought about:
The (V)Love Award: most altruistic and selfless person of the year
Flava in Your Ear Award: best listener
Dr. Phil Award: best advice giver
Be Like Mike Award: person I strive to be more like
Kobayashi Award: favorite eating partner
Diabetes Award: always making others smile, basically the sweetest person
Urkel Award: the person that urked the shit out of me the most
Kramer Award: biggest asshole I've been around
You got any more for me? I guess whether I do the first annual (V)Love Awards or not doesn't really matter but just thinking about them since last night has really got me thinking about how specifically people around me make a difference and influence my life. What awards would you make for your life? And among people we both many know, who would you nominate from my list?
"On first meeting a stranger, a beard will never up the face value of that person. It will either cause a neutral to negative affect."
"Beards look sweet on people that you already know and look especially sweet when they're not on your own face."
I have seen my theory pan out time and time again and I am sticking to it. Anyway, I've been growing my beard out for quite some time now and once you get past the itchy and uncomfortable stage (as Rones will atest) having a beard can actually be a lot of fun. Here are some beard shots I recently took:
Me and Rones looking like real mountain men.
What just cause I have a beard? (That's what I was thinking)
Alas, tonight my beard was trimmed into a goatee. We shall see how long before I revert back to a shaven face. Thus is the life of a beard my friends. Enjoy them while they last because everyone knows most beards can't live forever. (I wish I could insert a montage of beards here with "Forever Young" playing in the background)
Well actually it hasn't gone anywhere but the last few days I have been quite insane with my recklessness with spiciness. Before I get into a few tall tales of my historical relationship with peppers... I would like to precaution you... some of what you are about to read may disgust you... it may horrify you and in the end it may reach out and give you a case of the "ring of fire."
Growing up I wasn't necessarily consciously a nut about spicy things but I didn't really have a choice. My mom would make (and still makes) some of the spiciest curries I have ever encountered. When I was really little I would try to fight off the spice with cup after cup of water or milk or I would try to eat something quickly after dinner to quell my mouth pains. All foolish tactics I would later learn. Water basically only postpones the pain, milk makes you way to full and kills off the amazing after-taste of some dishes (I will sometimes not eat dessert just to keep an after-taste as long as humanly possible) and trying to eat something afterwards to ward off the pain? Just foolish. Often times the thing would be hard or crispy and would just feel like it was cutting my mouth all over the place. So what became my standard tactic you might ask? I would go outside, take deep breaths, and let my eyes and nose water and my head sweat. After a few times that feeling became almost euphoric (and still is!). At times the dishes were still bordering insanity but me and my sisters built up a tolerance.
It was then that I realized my mom's dishes were just a gateway drug into harder spices. The fried pepper challenge arose. My mom and grandma would fry giant and medium size red peppers every year and keep them in a jar in our kitchen. My sisters would began challenging me to eat as many as possible without drinking any water. I think the record was something like 8 or 9 back then. They are soooo delicious by the way and not as spicy as you would think they would be. They are actually more salty than spicy. Anyway, that is neither here nor there.
Middle school and high school were mostly a blur in my spice life, other than my Tabasco shooter before finals in high school. My sister got me a six pack of tiny Tabasco shooters and I would carry one in my backpack all the time. Before one final I took a shot and did well so I started doing that before all of them. Not gigantic shots, just a tiny taste to get me fired up. Who knew I was still no naive at this point in my life about spices?
Let's fast forward to freshman year in college. I was rushing Sigma Nu and one of our pledge events was to eat spicy chicken wings. Vik, Ziggy, and I laughed at this idea. We were all cocky in our abilities to eat spicy things and thought the older guys were going to feel stupid when we actually enjoyed eating the wings. So we got to the place and basically every older dude in my fraternity was on hand to watch the challenge. That worried me a little bit and then I got worried much, much more. One of the older guys went up to the counter and ordered 3 "911 Challenges." We were given 3 clipboards and 3 waivers to sign! WAIVERS! I kid you not. Most of the things on the waiver were written in a joking manner but I was still worried (things like, "if I touch my eyes and go blind...... if I need medical attention.... I will not hold Cluck U responsible). Anyway, we all looked at each other and I took a deep breath and then the wings came out.
You couldn't even see the wings in the paper boats. They were swimming in a thick black sauce and with them came these instructions from a waiter. "You guys have 10 minutes to eat all 12 wings. You cannot wipe your hands or your face and you cannot drink water for a full 5 minutes after you're done eating." Basically we were screwed. We grabbed the first wing and ate it down. Tasted like a normal wing..... oh wait that was until I felt horrible, painful burning all the way from my lips to my tongue then to my throat all the way down to my stomach. At this point my stomach was burning. I could still feel (with burning pain) the entire path of the wing. But on this day I was not going to back down. I grabbed another wing and sucked it down. As I grabbed my third wing something happened. My eyes and nose started to water. GLORIOUS euphoria I thought. But alas, that watering was followed by the numbing of my entire face and giant hiccups. My hands started to tremble. I still slowly moved the third wing toward my mouth but one of the older guys made me stop and I was done. Vik actually got through 3 wings, which is balls out in my book. I ran outside and threw up all over the place. I then drank about a gallon of milk and a tub of ice cream right in front of the joint. At this point, I was so shaken up that I couldn't safely drive home. I was basically wasted. When I got home I ran to the bathroom to puke some more and low and behold, Vik and Ziggy were already in the can puking their guts out. Want to know something disgusting? Yeah spicy chicken wings are even spicier when they splash into your eyes. My night ended with me passing out on the floor in the hall and my RA calling an EMT friend to come check me out. I had no idea that eating something spicy could actually kill you. I went to bed and vowed to never eat hot wings again.
Spicy eaters know full well that eating extremely spicy things is a commitment. You are committing to the meal itself, whatever stomach issues that might arise, and of course we always forget to think through the next day when spicy treats reenter the world. That morning, I was startled by Ziggy coming up to me and saying, "Whatever you do, don't take a shower. My hands... they're burning." What a crazy thing to say, I thought. Holy shit, my hands BURNED sooooo bad when I got into the shower. The felt like they were on fire. I ran to my room and called my grandma (I just had a feeling that she would know what to do), who calmly said, "Just put them in milk." (Well she said that in Konkani. She doesn't speak English remember?) So by noon, I had basically visited the "ring of fire" in the bathroom and I was sitting in the dining hall with my two hands in two cups of milk.
I guess the moral of the story here is that most foods you can enjoy at anytime and live in the moment. Spicy food on the other hand is not just food... it's a commitment and if you're not committed for the next 24 hours might unwillingly be visiting your good friend vlove at the "Ring of Fire." (Since I seem to have a summer home there.)
Well I went off the college, I made the move in no less than 10 trips (since Stanford is so close to home). So it didn't really feel like I was moving. I guess it felt more like an extended trip I was going for a long time. When I moved to San Francisco, I fit all my belongings into my Toyota Carolla, so that didn't feel like a real move either. Needless to say the last two days have been weird. This is where I need your help. One of my New Year's Marinations is to write more things down. So, I have catalogged everything that I have packed thus far. I have one more day to pack and then of course I can bring some things when I actually fly out in January. So check out the list and tell me what I'm missing! (I didn't include clothes because that would just be boring to ya'll). So in all the moves that you have done, what are the things you wish you had brought along with you but forgotten? And what am I missing below???? TELL ME!
Chicago Packing List
12 Serving Spoons
Spoon Holder (Stove)
Fish Runthay Sauce Pan
Spaghetti Pots (4 qt.)
Sauce Pan w/Lid (3 qt.)
Sauce Pan w/Lid (1 qt.)
Tiny Omelet Pan
Spaghetti Strainer (metal)
Random Bowl (off-white)
2 Random Marination Bowls
Indian Pan/Pot Cover
George Foreman Grill
Cutting Board (white)
8 Stanford Plastic Cups
5 Plates (w/ tan abstract design)
Down Comforter (blue)
2 Bedsheets (Queen - bamboo pattern)
Bedsheet Set (tan w/ stripes)
4 Pillow Cases (turquoise)
2 Pillows (green)
Rough Throw Blanket
Flannel Throw Blanket (wild)
Gigantic Blanket (baby blue)
4 Large Towels
3 Medium Size Towel
6 Hand Towels
6 Wash Towels
1 Beach Towel (ridiculously large)
8 Irish Spring Bars (micro)
6 Irish Spring Bars (aloe)
2 Agras (1 metal/1 plastic)
I have challenge for you people. I would like to make November a month to experiment with resolutions. For example, I am not eating meat until Thanksgiving, changing my workout and I am thinking about only drinking water and milk (and hard alcohol of course - don't worry). I call these things, New Year's Marinations. Think about it.... how good would you feel if you sat down this week and came up with a bunch of things you want to change about yourself, your life, your existence and you slowly started doing them this month. Then in December you could become even more strict with these Marinations and by the time 2007 arrives, you will already be at full speed on your New Year's Resolutions, instead of giving up things cold-turkey.
So what New Year's Marinations are you thinking about this November? Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to meet a new person every week? Do you want to get better at keeping in touch with friends? Do you want to save more money and spend less? Do you want to learn a new language? Do you want to cook a new dish every week? I have a bunch of things I would love to get better at in the New Year. In an effort to get on the right track, I am going to keep track of certain things in November and December. Here are a couple examples:
1) Fitness: I would love to continue my fitness goals and for this I am going to keep track of everything I eat (in my eats log) and everytime I work out (in my get yolked log).
2) Communication: I need to get better at staying in touch with people. My goal for 2007 is to send 2 personal emails every single day. So I'm keeping track of people I email and making a list of people I haven't talked to in a while (in my holler log).
3) Productivity: A long time ago, Ramit told me to start keeping track of what I do every hour of every day. I was scared to do this because I don't do anything most of the day. Anyway, I need to get better at managing my time! (especially being more proactive Friday through Sunday) So I am keeping track of my productivity each day (in my make-it-happen log).
Anyway these are just a few examples. Other people I've talked to have brought up all sorts of great, creative goals. Resolutions having to do with reading more magazines per day, having more random conversations with random people, volunteering once a week, etc. So folks, send me some Marinations that you've been thinking about and I would love to share them on my blog (anonymously if you wish!). The more great ideas we can share now, the better the chance that we jump on board BEFORE New Year's Eve.
I guess the point here is.... don't wait until December 31, to think about this. There's a quotation that I hope sums up 2007 for me. It goes.... "tomorrow starts today, so make it happen right now." Start some New Year's Marinations now in November, grow them into Resolutions in December and bring positive change to your life even before the clock strikes midnight. The main question here is, who do you want to be? Make it happen.
About a month ago, me and some buddies rolled to this new hookah lounge in Blackhawk. Now I had frequented this place maybe 2 or 3 times before this visit but this time I was in a very talkative mood. We had been bbqing the entire day in the park and I may or may not have been drinking since around noon on that day. Anyway, we rolled over to the spot around 11 at night. When we arrived it was the usual workers that I had always seen. Two young boys (probably around my age or younger) and their uncle (I knew it was their uncle because I had asked the time before). I was on a mission to hang out with these guys that night so as soon as we walked in I told the uncle that he had to come and smoke with us. To give you an idea of what this dude's style is like, he's a middle-age middle eastern guy, that always wears a white dress shirt (of course with no undershirt and the top few buttons undone) and lots of jewelry. He also usually has a Bluetooth earpiece on and randomly chats with seemingly imaginary people on the other end. To make a long story short.... he brought his own hookah to our table and sat down with us. His two nephews came over too and they told us basically their lifestory. They were Palestinian and enlightened us about what it was like living in Palestine and coming to America. They sat with us the entire night basically and answered any question we had for them. At times we all broke into heated debate about everything from the Israeli government to who actually killed Mahatma Gandhi. It was an awesome night. I don't know too much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it was seriously mind-blowing to hear all the first-hand stories from these gracious guys.
Why doesn't this happen more? No, I don't mean me hanging out with Palestinians, I mean random conversations, with random people, about real topics. I really miss freshman year in college for this reason. We would stay up super late and just chat about anything. It seemed like as soon as one random topic was completely exhausted someone would chime in with another totally random question and we would all go nuts on it. Sometimes I just crave these random rambling conversations. I think they're healthy because they 1) let you understand your friends better (when you have them with your friends), 2) let you understand yourself better (when you have them with random people), 3) and make you think about things that you would have never sat by yourself and thought about. So am I promoting sitting around and talking about deep topics with your closest friends? No, not at all.
I feel like the opportunity to hear other people's story is all around us. It could be the cab driver that drives you to club night tonight. It could be the girl sitting next to you on the train. It could be the man working behind the counter at the 7-11 (I've had some awesome conversations with clerks before). I remember one conversation I had with an old man on a place. Actually I don't remember any of the conversation except one thing. He said that whenever he gets overwhelmed he thinks of his granddaughter. Whenever he visits her, he would pick her up above his head and she would say to him, "Grandpa, I can see the entire world from up here." For some reason I think about that line when I lose sight of life and need some perspective. I've had cab drivers from all sorts of African countries (that have told me about their country) even one in Austin, who's contact information I got because he was so awesome to chat with.
What's kind of sad these days is that people kind of keep to themselves when they're in public. On public transportation people are rocking their iPods and I see people eating by themselves all the time at restaurants (I hate seeing that). Would it be weird to ask someone eating by themselves to join your party? Why don't they make a restaurant where each table is different topic? Or better yet, half of the restaurant is just seating for people that want to actually talk to each other.
We have on family friend in Texas that is probably the friendliest woman I've ever met. You know when you ask someone to take a picture for you (when you're on vacation)? Well before digital cameras were around, she would take other people's pictures on her camera too and get their contact information and actually keep in touch with them. Talk about great communication skills. I guess I'm getting a little off topic here though.
The point is, everyone around you has a story to tell. Some of them know what their story is and some of them need people to ask them questions to formulate that story. Some of them have told their story many times and have refined it to perfection and others have yet to even spread their gospel to the world. Think about the random people you encounter every single day! The grocery store clerk, the gas station attendant, the stranger at work, and many many more. Remember they each have a story to tell.... are you going to listen?
There are 3 songs I've been thinking a lot about lately (you should download all 3 right now!). They are Bobby Caldwell - "Open Your Eyes," William Bell - "I Forgot to Be Your Lover" and Stevie Wonder - "Ribbon in the Sky." Let me know when you download them so I can welcome you to your new life. William Bell's "I Forgot To Be Your Lover" is one of the greatest songs my ears have had the pleasure to experience. Also if you've never heard any Donny Hathaway, your life is not as pleasurable as it could be.
I was going to be super randocious with this post but I've decided to focus on music instead. Growing up my sisters were HUGE music fans. I HATED! music. They would sing all these 80s songs and we would watch Disney movies and they would sing along. It all rubbed me the wrong way. Then one day I was in the bathroom and I caught myself saying/singing "tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme.. beauty and the beast..." I thought to myself... what the hell. Where did that come from? Anyway unfortunately my sisters heard me singing that on the toilet and clowned the shit out of me for a while. Anyway I guess that's the first time I remember enjoying music. Weird eh? Don't judge me! My musical life was born and I never looked back.
My buddy David and Joey and my sisters would become the foundational elements for my music tastes today. My sisters implanted that 80s flavor in my head (although I didn't appreciate it till I was older - all that New Order, Duran Duran, the Cure, etc). Anyway, David, Joey and I would only listen to Guns and Roses, Metallica, and Dr. Dre growing up. So I loved hard rock and I loved rap. I'm glad they had such broad tasts because it made me appreciate weird music when I got older.
Question time out: What's the first CD you ever bought? Mine was the Fugees "The Score." I don't even know where it is today but I listened to that CD SOOO much. What's the first concert you went too? Did you have good time? I didn't go to a single concert until I was in college! Can you believe that?
Okay back the post. Middle school was filled with R and B. Boyz II Men, Aaliyah, and Mary J. Blige. Rome, Ginuwine and 3T. I fell in love with hip hop and R and B music. What a great time for school dances. All the songs were dirty but we didn't even know because they were so cleverly soulful. My music taste stayed the same through high school with the occasional rock group I liked but Tupac and Biggie and 90s hip hop were a big influence.
Then I went to college and my head exploded. I don't think I ever thought about music until I went to school. I loved music. I loved certain artists but I never THOUGHT about what I was listening too and what artists were saying. My roommates and homies changed my musical life forever. My drawgoup at Stanford was 5 buddies. They all had crazy different taste in music and they all rubbed off on me! Then the girl I was dating was super into country music and that rubbed off on me too! So I got heavy into conscience hip hop, some folk music, spanish guitar music, and country music. Anyway I guess that's the evolution of my music tastes. Here are some of the greatest music moments of my life:
Me and a bunch of buddies went to Mexico for Spring Break. We brought a couple Country Mix CDs and some of the guys (one in particular - Mike Scrafford) was clowning the shit out of us. Things like "why would you bring that music..' blah blah blah. He's from Kansas mind you. Anyway, one night we came back from partying and everyone was still drunk. Me and Dede threw in one of the CDs and went nuts! We were bopping around the room and singing super loud. Within 5 minutes a bunch of girls from the University of Kansas and some dudes were in our room prancing around and singing with us. Everyone one was belting out the lyrics - oh oh including our buddy Mike Scrafford,who kept saying "this is my songgggg." That shit was classic.
Tyrone and me used to call our room in the Soto Dorm at Stanford, "The Booth." Oh was the booth classic. After parties people from our dorm would come to our room, we would put instrumentals on, and everyone would freestyle. It was such a healthy atmosphere. People who were shy would even get on the mic. It was awesome! One time Gustavo even freestyled in Spanish. That wasn't the best part though. We hated our lives that year for many, many reasons. But something I will never forget is Rones and I would pull ridiculous all-nighters and get frustrated or tired and pause. We would bump some dope beats and just break it down in the middle of our room. Just crazy dance moves, act a fool, do whatever we felt like to relieve our stress. The Booth lives on.
This last one is more obscure but I want to do it again. Sigma Nu Formal my senior year and we were about to roll on the bus to the venue. But right before we left the house, we put on some 70s funk music AND everyone around us got into two rows and we made everyone STRUT down the row. Each person did their own classic strut and busted out. We all got so pumped and I loved every moment of it.
So there it is. I love music. I used to bring the boombox into the bathroom to brush my teeth, take a shower and all over the house. I would listen to music when I was going to sleep and as soon as I got up in the morning. I'm obsessed in other words. Over the years, the people around me have influenced the way I hear and listen to this music and I really appreciate that.
I'm stressed, maybe even troubled about this whole moving situation. I've never left the Bay. I've never been more than an hour from The Familia. The fact that I'm moving to Chicago in a few months is seriously weighing heavy on me. Don't get me wrong here. I am extremely excited and happy about moving. In a lot of ways though, it's just hard for me to grasp. When confronted with major change I tend to get overwhelmed. I've been thinking a lot about the people in my life (my family and friends) and how those relationships are going to profoundly change once I move. I wasn't thinking about all these deep things at all until sometime late into Saturday night. Not sure why my mind all of a sudden became so frazzled but let me tell you, it came at the tail-end of what can only be described as a Top 5 Weekend of All-Time.
Let me break down the festivities for you in 5 or less sentences! On Friday, the Oakland A's won their series against the Twins, I went to Happy Hour with Rones and Ritz in the city, then went to Singhma Coots birthday party, which ended up being more of a college reunion. Opened my eyes around 8 AM Saturday morning, partook in an early morning delirious laughter session, ate delicious MEXICAN taqueria food for breakfast, and rolled down to the Marina. The NAVY was in town for their annual airshow. We arrived a couple hours early, watched Stanford football at a bar, drank FREE Rockstar and Smirnoff all day and if that wasn't enough we snuck into a roof party for the actual airshow. Mafternoon peaked as I sipped tasty beverages on a roof overlooking the Bay, with Blue Angels screaming directly overhead, a DJ (that actually played my resquests) and ladies and gentlemen, a huge TV with the Tigers/Yankess game on it. Seriously it was one of the most euphoric situations I've ever been in. My buddy leaned over and said, "Vaman it can only go downhill from here for us." That night I saw just about everyone I lived with in college for some classic Karaoke and Bobbito's birthday party. I just sat at karaoke and felt so blessed for all the things in my life.
Sometime between the end of the night and going to sleep, my mind began an intense marination session, which has yet to stop. Maybe it was that I realized that I won't be around all these people I love so much anymore. Maybe it was because I had soo much fun that I was just having fun withdrawal. Whatever it was, it left me with a feeling of want. A feeling of wanting order again. Why can't we just relish in the things that we do have? I'm so focused on what's to come that I've lost sight of enjoying the things I do have before I leave. It reminds me of a quotation that I often marinate on.
"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; The wise grows it under his feet."I'm doing a little bit better with staying focused on enjoying life in the Bay Area before I leave. The mind is still all over the place and it's still thinking a lot about uncertain things. Argh. I really believe that cultivating and growing the things around you can get you where you need to get. Did that even make sense?
Anyway, here's a video that made me feel bad about my dilemna. This video really blew my mind and made me feel thankful.
My last year in college, I finally sacked up and decided to deliver a spoken word piece at our annual poetry slam. I'm including it below because looking at it reminds me who I am and where I come from. It sounds a lot different when recited but hopefully it gives you some insight into me.
I'm the guy that's asleep on the couch when you come down for lunch because
I'm the guy that spent the entire night talking to Jimi, Dee and Dev about life.
I'm the guy that feels comfortable speaking in front of thousands of strange people but
I'm also the guy that has trouble finding the right words in front of that special girl I have my eyes on.
I'm the guy that still visits his high school because he's afraid of forgetting his past.
I'm a guy who has many things to teach but much more to learn.
I learned about religion from Chuck and Nathan, who are steadfast in their faith but also open-minded.
I learned about attitude from Kurt, who is positive and optimistic no matter what cards life deals him.
I learned that I like sweet girls from SB, who was motivation enough for me to run long distances in high school.
I learned to be the professional dancer that I am today from my sisters, who always forced me to dance at family parties.
I learned not to take life for granted from my grandma, who cries on my birthday because she's afraid that it might be the last one she will see.
I learned to value people again from my cousins in India, who have nothing but each other, which is really all they need.
I believe that having a positive attitude can really change everyday of your life and
I believe that we're all not completely honest with ourselves and
I believe small acts can have a profound impact on the people around us and
I believe the world would be a much better place if people were more empathetic towards one another and
I believe our generation not only has an opportunity but an obligation to bring about positive change to the World.
Who are the people that have made you who you are?
What have you learned?
What do you believe?
I know that it's people like you who have made me the man I am today.... a Vaman to be exact.
Tonight was my sister's wedding anniversary so I went out with her and my brother-in-law to a Middle Eastern joint to relax. He loves coffee so we got some Turkish coffee, which apparently is ridiculously strong (at least to someone that never drinks caffeine.) Needless to say I feel caffeine drunk right now. I could probably run outside and pick up my car if I wanted to do (my arms would probably rip off first but how crazy a story would that be?) Anyway the night got me to thinking about what I refer to as “everyday magic." It's funny how we as humans get super excited about big events in our life. We hype up for months proms, weddings, sporting events, parties, blah, blah, blah but when I think about my own life, the most memorable moments (the ones you would tell your kids about) are the off the cuff, simple moments, when people just made the most of life. You know what I mean when I say that? I was thinking about this when I was hanging out with my little cousins. An afternoon hanging with little kids is equivalent to the feeling I get at like five nights out partying. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration but.... you get the idea. Instead of continuing this dissertation, I would like to tell you a story that is very dear to me that is along the same lines. An experience of “everyday magic” if you will. Are you ready? You better sit down for this….
It was the Summer….. yes, circa 2005 (if I remember correctly) in
I had been to the Motherland the year before so I was pretty well acquainted with the locals and such. We stay in a really small town. There are basically only two roads that are named after the larger towns they lead to. Everyone in the town knows one another and my family have lived there for many, many generations. Our house is right in the middle of the main road so many cars and people are constantly passing the house. It's kind of a funny dynamic for me because I can speak Konkani with my relatives but everyone else in the town speaks either Kannada or Thulu. I know many of the townspeople but communicate with them in really shitty Kannada or basically sign language (since no one there speaks English). I usually converse for about 30 seconds with people and we just laugh and enjoy the awkwardness. Anyway, that's the town in a nutshell.
It was the night before my cousin's wedding. He was really excited and a lot of people that had moved away from the tiny town were back for the wedding. Anyway, my cousins love music and they love dancing. We put on some hip beats in their upstairs bedroom and me and a bunch of cousins were getting our groove on. Steps that rivaled things seen on MTV's the Grind back in the day were engaged in. Lots of bhangra moves and such were also seen in that room. We danced and laughed for a while but we wanted to crank the music. Frankly my cousins wanted more space to get jiggy in. So the groom's brother suggested moving the boom box to the front patio (that is street side mind you). The groom (who is quite traditional) was really against the idea. We moved the boom box anyway. We were about to plug it in and my aunts and uncles came out and were really appalled at the idea. Here's some background on that:
The Konkanis (we're Konkanis) in the town are really traditional. When we would go to functions at the local school lots of other people would dance but the Konkanis would just sit and watch. They kept saying that only drunken people dance and even if you're not drunk, people will assume that you are drunk. Another funny thing people would say is that, "Alsheek, ami dance kurnachee. The Christians-ani kurche." Basically that only drunk people and Christians dance in the town. They didn't want to be labeled like that I guess. So the front yard was out of the question. So we sat around and didn't know what to do. The party was over...... for a bit. Out of no where my cousin runs over, plugs the stereo in and a few people start dancing. Then a few more people start dancing. Before I knew it, all my cousins and little cousins were all dancing. The older folks came out to tell us to stop but my cousins didn't listen. So my whole family was dancing outside, totally in the open. At this point, the people dancing were mainly teenagers. My uncle, who loves to dance comes over and asks me if I want to have a couple drinks at a local bar real quick. We run over to the bar with a couple others, get pretty happy and roll back.
As soon as we come back, the dancing is at an all time high. People are creating new dance moves and just really having fun. Then the magical moment happened. Folks from town walked over and started dancing too. Before I knew it all my cousins friends were dancing too and a ton of people were on the street watching everyone dance. By the end of the night, my uncles, aunts, and even older folks were dancing on the patio with no inhibitions. Such pure enjoyment.
Kind of a Footloose moment eh? You think Kenny Loggins was smiling somewhere? So why did that moment strike such a cord with me? I think because it didn't take anything to produce. It was not planned. No one was trying to be cool. No one cared about what other people thought. It was pure. How often can we say that about things we do? We're always worried about how well a night is going. We’re always worried about our expectations for a certain event. We're worried about what this girl or that guy is thinking. All those thoughts were lost in us. We were all alive for those few hours. That's magic.
I think back to college. I went to tons of parties, went to tons of events, and had a ridiculous amount of fun. What do I remember though? Not the formals. Not the fancy dinners or crazy nights but I vividly remember all the nights when me and my fraternity brothers would sit in a circle for hours and play music with pots, pans, cups, and our hands while other people would come and dance in the middle of the circle. People who are shy. People who don’t even like dancing. People who felt safe to come outside their comfort zone. That's magic.
I guess we get so caught up in our routine and focus so much on these big events in our lives. We put unrealistic expectations on them that they can't live up to and all the while what we're really looking for is all around us in the people in our lives. Those moments when you get to act like a kid again. Those moments when you just sit around with you family the entire night and just act goofy. Those moments when you stay up all night just talking to a friend. All magic. I guess the best way to think about it is that most of our memories are like an Etch-a-Sketch drawing. Well developed at times, but after time and newer events they fade out. Magical moments are those moments in time that are vividly painted into our minds. So next time you get caught up in the anticipation for an event or are out with friends, remember that fancy dinners, posh clubs, and crazy vacations are great and often needed but in the end the “magic” we all seek is free.
I went to a wedding recently where the groom's friends were ripping on him for always using Excel spreadsheets to make important decisions in his life. Over the year he put together these elaborate Excel files to decide which college to go to, which cars to buy, and as crazy as it sounds, he even put together a spreadsheet to decide whether or not to marry his wife. Most people in the audience were extremely weirded out and perhaps some of the uncles were impressed at his number crunching skills. Anyway, I was intrigued by the idea of quantifying life choices.
When I was in middle school, I was introduced into the world of Final Fantasy III for Super Nintendo. As funny as it sounds, the music, storyline, and gameplay are things that I am still reminded of all the time today. Final Fantasy falls into the genre of "Role Playing Game." For those not in tune with all things nerdy, Role Playing Games or RPGs are games where you usually start with a weak, simple character and throughout the game attempt the gain experience in all sorts of facets of the game world. At the outset of the game, you can't defeat any enemies and basically are able to succeed at nothing. So you try to get your character experience with fighting, magic, healing, or one of many other characteristics that makes each character special. So with some time, you have a couple characters that you have developed with different skills and expertise. Now, after marinating on the Excel spreadsheet idea for a while, the world of Final Fantasy III popped into my head.
(LIGHTBULB) Why not think of your life and your world in the same way you think of the character you control in a RPG. Develop yourself the same way you develop each character. Realize that each character is different and make choices based on what best suits your strengths. Think long-term but understand the baby steps and experience needed to develop each characteristic. And so my friends the RPG Lifestyle was born....
People hear me talking about the RPG Lifestyle all the time but usually think I'm just crazy. Here's the idea: One day, me and some buddies sat down and identified 4 or 5 characteristics that we would like to be better at. Some of the main categories were Communication (with family, friends, ladies, random people), Finance (spending, saving, investing), Home Economics (laundry and ironing, cooking, etc.), Image (personal hygiene, fashion), Fitness and Information (newspapers, books, etc.). Anyway this is a general summary of our brainstorms. Now each person makes a spreadsheet with each category and fills in the category with the subcategories. An elaborate point system was created and with each successful task completed you could move toward moving up in experience in that column. For example, maybe you get 5 points for every new dish you cook and 1 point for every repeat dish. For every 20 points, you move up a level in the Cooking Category.
Anyway, I was on the brink of launching this RPG Lifestyle to a test group to see what would happen but the point system got super complicated and difficult to understand. I'm working on it, so when it makes sense again I would love some volunteers.
Here's the point to this rant though:
Just by sitting down and creating these categories, my life changed. I wanted to try out the RPG Lifestyle because I could see my future. Two years from now I might have a sweet job and live in a fun place but as for ME and all the facets about ME, they were on a very static path. That needed to change so chalked something up with my friends and finished scoring systems for Fitness and Communication. Now I chose an arbitrary 5 points for every workout and some other random number for every personal email I sent to friends. The result: For about a month, I would wake up in the morning and literally be thinking, "Vaman, let's rack up some points today man." I would actually feel awesome when I had 10 freaking points or more by noon. It made my day feel worthwhile and I felt accomplished. I am a very competitive person too and this scoring system really brought about a game type feel to life. I was actively trying to make myself better and I could see my progress. It also forced me to think about what I was weak at and how I wanted to develop. I felt in control of my characteristics and I could decide how well-rounded I was to be. I felt empowered again.
The RPG Lifestyle is still in the works and the first experiment shall be launched soon I hope. It's a way of life. I would love if some of you wanted to help out. One idea was to keep track of points and levels online so everyone involved could motivate one another to get better. I think there is some communal potential there. More than that though I really think that the RPG Lifestyle can make our routine and banal lives fun again. We get into these boring routines and kind of forget that we can be as dynamic as we wish. Stay on the lookout for the RPG Lifestyle Launch and between now and then marinate on this..... Who do you want to be?
Being two sleeps away from my sister coming home for A WEEK, I can't help but think about all the little, tiny (at the time insignificant to them) things my sisters did and said to me when I was a youngin' that has had a profound affect on me. They were all little things that my sisters probably don't even remember doing but were that significant to me. I realize as I get older, that our little actions can have a profound influence on the people around us (sometimes even people we don't realize are around us).
Being the baby in the family there is 8 years between my oldest sister and me and 4 years between my middle sister and me. I know lots of other folks with a similar family structure and the result was the oldest and middle child being close or the middle and youngest child being close. Anyhow, ever since I can remember my sisters were never too cool for me. When I was in elementary school, my oldest sister would take me everywhere with her. She would even take me out with her friends. She would take me bowling when they went bowling. She would take me to housewarming parties. She would even have her guy friends come over and play basketball with me. I can't tell you how cool this made me feel hanging out with REAL high school kids! As I grew older, my oldest sister left for college and I became a middle schooler. My middle sister would take me to high school events with her and really got me interested in volunteering. She even said something to me back then that I still think about all the time. She drilled into me that I should never do anything to make my resume look better, if my heart is not into it. To always do things because I truly want to do them. The point here is not to get all cheesy or give my sisters any props..... sorry. The point is when you're in the midst of things you don't realize how profound an influence you can have on the people around you.
So what was the result of my sisters' actions? You better believe when I was in high school I wanted to return the favor to the other kids around me ten-fold! Whether it was the freshmen when I was a senior (not the freshmen girls... don't worry) or the little Konkani kids at family parties..... I still feel like I owe them something because of the way I was treated by older people around me when I was growing up.
Besides random family acts of random kindness, marshmallows, and rainbows this idea of the profoundness of little actions goes much further. I went to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama about 4 years ago in
While in Vegas last week, I met a guy (who's now a good buddy) who at first impression was an angry looking dude with tattoos and dreads. We went to the local store together to buy some candy and gum. He reached the counter and his total was something like $2.15. He dug 3 bucks out of his jean pocket and threw it down on the counter. Almost before the bills hit the counter, he quickly picked up the money, organized it, and instead placed it in the cashier's hand. When no one was watching, he decided to do the polite, helpful thing. To me that says more about his character than someone who is outwardly gregarious all of the time.
How about the time when a new acquaintance not only remembered your name but actually said it? What about when that lady or fella you had your eye on said your name for the firs time? Ooooh Weee. How about when you visit family and they make your favorite dish for you without you asking? How about the random email your friend sent you just to say they were thinking about you? Huh? How about that?
Randomly one day on the way home from high school my senior year, I saw one of my friend's little brothers walking home. Anyway, I stopped my car and picked him up since his house was on my way home. He was a freshman at the time and a super-duper sweet kid. I dropped him off and he thanked me, even though I didn't really do anything. A year later at Stanford, I got a hand-written letter from him and in the letter he wrote that he remembered how I had helped him out that day. Now that is a special example but I didn't really do anything and he still remembers it. The little things are so profound much of the time because they're things that people do inherently. They're not looking for the ends but rather are just acting natural. I know that I have had awful days when just seeing a little kid waving to me or having a friend run up to me to say hi has totally changed my mood.
I think we have the power to have profound positive affects on one another and we don't utilize it enough. So should you email a random person everyday? Should you leave a note on your friend's car for them to find on their way to work? Should you take that youngster under your wing and show them some direction? Perhaps. In about 10 minutes, think about how many peoples' moods you might change. Little actions with a profound impact. Think about it…
my relatives and was forever changed at the core. For the first time, I felt like I knew where I came from. I felt like I was apart of something bigger than myself. I felt the enjoyment of people again rather than material things. I returned to school and the concept of family felt bigger than ever to me. Yet the evolution was not stable.
Fast forward to a couple months ago. I sadly realized that once I start working full-time, trips to
If my head had not already been affected, I began to think about my friends growing up and my college buddies. Many of them have had gigantic influences on my music tastes, the way I dance, the way I view the world, sports I like, the girls I'm into, etc. They are also a huge part of the person I have become and when it comes down to it, they are VLove. So these people are also family right? I was getting overwhelmed. Apparently I have more family then friends? Anyway, the last evolution of family was yet to occur.
Two weeks ago, after what felt like a family vacation with some Konkanis, my buddy invited me to join his clothing company for a fashion conference in
(<---------- The Esfac'e Family and Me)
Family isn't about blood. You might not talk to your family everyday but when you're around them nothing has changed. Family makes you feel apart of something bigger than yourself even when you're by yourself. Family helps us rise up and reach that much higher than we could have by ourselves. Family is selfless in its love. I feel very blessed that my family continues to grow in my mind... how about yours?
I feel a little bit like Dave Chappelle right not. Not because I'm funny or rich or anything like that. I took sooo long to write my first post that I got to marinate over it quite a bit. It was quality for that reason and some people enjoyed it. Wow, talk about pressure. I need to come with quality material each time not just verbal diarrhea? Yikes people.
Speaking of pressure (awkward segue to weird you out), what are you doing with your life? Why are you wasting time reading this right now? You just finished complaining about your job on AIM, so why are you still there? I have had the last couple months to sit at home (where I am supposedly applying for jobs in a rent free environment) and I have had too much time to really marinate on life. When I say marinate, I am not just talking about a zesty Chaka's Mmmmm Sauce or orgasmic Soy Vay original recipe. (don't mess with Soy Vay Wasabi.. why change a good thing?) I am talking about some straight Southern, passed down ten generations through oral tradition type marinade. So with this bone suckin' marination process, have I come to any mind-blowing revelations? A few that I may write about later but one question continues to slowly eat away at my mind similar to the way you slowly eat away at those cold fries when you should just let the server take them away. The question my friends, what is vloves purpose in life?
About a year ago I had an intense conversation with my parents about where my life was going. My parents are very practical. They want me to find a good job (good = pays a lot... is secure.... and in the Bay Area) and they want me to get married and pop out lots of babies. After all my parents are Indian so they subscribe to that three step process. Anyway during the conversation I brought up the possibility of volunteering in
Don't get me wrong here. A great family life is of course a huge goal of mine. I would be very fortunate and blessed to just complete that goal. But aren't you and I expected to do more? I don't mean expected in terms of others expectations. I mean shouldn't our own expectations of self be way higher? Immigrant parents came here to create a better life for their children. They worked hard and created a life of stable jobs, marriages with children, and comfortable homes to cultivate our generation.
A family tree is just that, a tree. A tree grows and evolves and in its simplest form reaches toward the sky. So why are so many of us so complacent on the ground? Why are so many of us comfortable all the time? I am very uncomfortable (because I'm socially awkward) but more so because I am deathly afraid of mediocrity and complacency. I don't want to just be successful like our parents generations. Many of us have been given that base success just through our upbringing. Just like our parents gave up everything to help us get to the next level, shouldn't we look around us and help the next generation continue on to an even higher level? Shouldn't the impact of every consecutive generation be exponentially larger than the previous generation?
I've always believed that
Let's not be complacent. Let's not get comfortable with mediocrity. Let's offer the next generation even more care than our parents gave us. After all, our parents worked hard to create a life of stable jobs, marriages with children, and comfortable homes to cultivate our generation. Well friends, it's time for the harvest.
Life is......difficult....beautiful....at times brutal and at times gentle..... and recently I've been feeling like life is extremely overwhelming. I've been wanting to start this blog for over two weeks now. While driving around I've had incredible ideas and subjects. I would sit at the keys and nothing would come to me. The ironic thing is I have been teaching public speaking for the last five years and I have to come up with lots of content every week. For some reason when I'm speaking, I don't worry about the words so much. When I write there is something more final about the words and in a lot of ways that's intimidating. My hope with this blog is that my personality and emotion shines through in these posts and that I provide substantial marinade for your mind.
I've been wanting to write about my extraordinary trip to
Let's rewind two weeks. The convention itself was amazing. It was well put together and well planned and I got to see sooo many people that I love and haven't seen in a long time. Sounds great Vaman? What's your problem? Well anytime I go to these large Konkani events, I inevitably become caught up in thoughts about relationships. Not about certain people but more about my distant future. Being on vacation after the convention didn't help this situation. I had so much chill time the days following the convention that I spent a good deal of it in my own head. Thinking about the future and stressing about future relationships or perhaps the lack of relationships. This of course moved me right into stressing about my job search. So in other words, I became entirely overwhelmed by these thoughts. Canadian Konkanis were able to overpower even my over-analyzing mind and made the last few days in
One of our last nights there, a bunch of us went into
In my drunk state I became so overwhelmed by everything on my mind I needed to get some fresh air. My plan was to walk to the harbor where I would sit and watch the sunrise. As I walked out of the hotel, I quickly had no idea where I was going. I stopped some random kid on his bike. He pointed toward the harbor and if I wasn't drunk that probably would have ended our interaction. I looked down at his bike handle and I noticed a blue hankerchief tied around his wrist. I grabbed his hand and asked him what that was all about. He explained that he was part of the Crypts. I'm not sure what most peoples' reaction would be in this situation and I'm not sure in a normal state of mind what mine would have been. I yelled at him. I got incredible upset and pissed off. I went off on the kid saying things like "how can you buy into something that you didn't even start?" "I'm from
It was such a beautiful morning. The sun was out and there was no one else on the street.
So the gang member from Jane and Finch and I ended up walking around Toronto and on the harbor front for about 3 hours together and then ate brunch together at a really nice hotel on the water. As we walked into the swanky hotel everyone stared at us. The gawking was very blatant and in some ways I felt like I was protecting this kid from their misconceptions. We grabbed a ton of food from the buffet and sat and talked. We talked and talked and as our conversation went on, I came to learn that Al's dad was a super wealthy man in the Middle East (oh yeah Al is Middle Eastern by the way) and had decided that he no longer wanted children and abandoned them in Toronto. Ever since then he's been living with his Mother and sister in Jane and Finch. That's when I realized the appeal of gangs. They offer people the ability to feel apart of something bigger than themselves. They make them feel apart of a family.
I continued to pester Al about why he would join a gang and finally he gave me a new answer. He said his mom wasn't looking after the family very well and he wanted to make sure his sister was protected as she grew older. So this gang member from Jane and Finch went from a person that society deems as someone that's dangerous and wants to hurt people, to someone that truly believes that joining a gang is the only way to make sure the people he loves don't get hurt.
I was overwhelmed by this whole exchange. As we finished our meal and the hotel overcharged me (bastards!), something crazy happened. Al reached down and took off his hankerchief. I asked him what he was doing and he said, "Listen man, I don't want anything to happen to you. Someone might see us walking together and shoot us both up." I responded by saying, "No man leave it on. Leave it on. That's association. That's exactly what's going to happen to you when one of your boys runs up on someone and then they retaliate by killing you. You hate hurting people but your association with people that do is going to get you killed." He refused, took of the hankerchief and walked me part of the way back to the hotel.
I seriously had to get away from him at this point because I was about to start crying. I felt like a complete asshole. An asshole who felt bad for himself over non-existent relationship stuff and a job hunt. Al has nothing yet stands tall and I've been given everything yet complain about the few things I don't have.
A quotation I saw on a friend's profile has been bouncing around my head for a while now. It reads: "The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; The wise grows it under his feet." I thought it was very profound and spoke to me. It made so much sense to me.... until I met Al. The problem with the quotation is what about the man that has nothing under his feet to begin with?
Al is an artist. Al loves to draw. Al has passion for things many of us only dream about. Yeah, I realized what has been bugging me after all. As people with more than enough growing below our feet, don't we have a responsibility to offer those less fortunate a place to stand? A place to grow? Perhaps it's our generation that finally makes some space for Al. Since in the end this "gangster" from Jane and Finch is really only trying to make space for his sister.