peace out 2017

2017 was a year of accidental second chances. And by that I mean I’d be on a brink of some disaster, only to be saved by the kindness of some outside force, family, or friend. Maybe grace is the right word to describe that.

At the end of January I moved in with someone who turned out to be a classic white supremacist. At 11 PM he tried to fight me after arguing for concentration camps. Lucky for me, he had a broken back and all I had to do was sidestep him. I drove away and slept on a beanbag in the design lab, thinking I could just hide out there or crash on friends’ couches until the research project ran out of funding.

Then Colleen’s family stepped in. “You can’t sleep in the lab”, she said. So off I went to live with her mom and daughter for the week, where I got spoiled with love and home cooked meals. And ice cream. I went from feeling like 0 to 100 in less than 24 hours. Then when the week was over I slept over at Jake’s couch like old times.

My last days in San Diego were spent at Colleen’s, where again, I got spoiled with love and home cooked meals. And alcohol. (Don’t worry, I made sure to refill her wine supply). What did I do to deserve any of this? I remember feeling like the luckiest bastard in town. I still do.


During the spring I got rejected by all the Ph.D. programs I applied to. That’s not the end of the world, but it does stink when you have no immediate job to return to and support yourself. I moved back home to San José feeling silly. I was 22 (now 23), and had this impression in my head I would be out in the world carving my path, not hanging out and feeling lonely in the same suburb I grew up in. Ah, if only.

Then again, it’s also given me the time to hang out and understand my family as an adult, which is an opportunity that gets rarer and rarer the older everyone gets. In San José, I am spoiled again with love and home cooked meals. Dad doesn’t drink, and my brother isn’t old enough (har har), so I usually just drink wine or beer with mom.

I also have the flexibility to drive and meet people with fascinating lives and perspectives for lunch or coffee — people who just days earlier I only knew from emails or their LinkedIn profile.


I’m floundering a bit professionally, but maybe it’s a sign I should be focusing on growth outside of research. I ran the San Francisco marathon with an old friend from elementary school, learned how to be a proper barista at Peet’s (latte art included–at least the hearts), and took up speedskating again. I kept a 183-day writing streak on, and then broke it for a reason I don’t remember. Today will be my 21st day in a row.


I’ll leave this here for now; there’s a New Year’s Eve party with family friends to tend to!

returning to the ice

Behind the glass wall.

Yesterday I went speedskating for the first time in over four years, this time with the Northern California Speedskating Association. I wore my long-track skates with huge ankle supports (the mark of a noob) and fell on my knees twice within two minutes. I forgot how sore the lower back gets after several laps, and I forgot how to turn left without tripping over myself when crossing my legs. At least I can still go straight.

My plan was to keep a low profile and fail privately, but Margaret skates up to me and says, “Hey, you’re new here!!”

Call it an exercise in humility: getting schooled by kids less than half my age. There wasn’t much hiding I could do inside a borrowed ice hockey rink anyway.


Speedskating is still considered a bit of a fringe sport in the United States. Will it ever reach the mainstream in my lifetime? I’d be thrilled if it did.

I’m the only person in their early 20s at practice for now. Odd, because I thought going fast on ice would be a great outlet for all the other anxious twenty-somethings in the Bay Area. Most of the club members present are either half my age or 50 years and older — and still trying to beat the national and state records for their age group.

(and they have a good shot at it, too)