I’m writing to you because I heard around the grapevine that you listen. I think you are in a good place right now. Not a great place, but a good place.
You’ve done a lot this semester, and I honestly, you’ve been a little too harsh on yourself.
Did I get a 4.0 GPA? No. But at least I won’t be regretting the fact that I never put myself out there and be questioning “What if?” in all the opportunities that I would have easily passed up on just a year ago, or even just a few months ago.
The only time I regret not studying more for a test is immediately after the test, and that regret lasts maybe a few hours at most.
To this day, I still regret not asking asking out my best friend in high school to prom, or asking out that pretty girl in high school, or starting that poetry club I always wanted to start, or performing poetry, or learning to dance, play more violin, learn to drive, travel more…
You get the idea.
Your life will continue to spiral. The cycle will continue. Just remember to rebound when you hit the trough, and make sure to really enjoy those peaks.
Anyways, I’m ready to keep on keeping on. To keep trying. To putting myself out there into life. To be a Good Jeff Wang, in my own way. How do you like them apples?
Last night I dreamt about musical theatre. I dreamt that I was back on stage, rehearsing lines, singing songs, choreographing dances, forgetting lines, forgetting my costume… Lion King is coming in 2019 as a Live Action and all I can think about recently is how fun it was to be among such talented people, sharing the stage together. I still get shivers hearing Rafiki, Mufasa, Simba, Nala, singing their solos. Seeing all the animals come in with all their intricate costumes literally took my breath away.
On stage, I could be anyone I wanted to be. I could be a Prince, a Spider, a little Kid, a Husband, a Monster. I could be Scar. I could put on a mask and makeup and forget who I was before because on stage, I am someone else. I always played ugly characters.
You might think it’s a dangerous thing to always put on these masks and pretend to be something else. Maybe you might sometimes forget who you are. But actually, it’s the opposite. The more time you spend rehearsing to be a character, the more you realize that the best character you can play is yourself. And in fact, in every character I played on stage, I was really just Jeff. I was expressing myself through the most beautiful way with the most beautiful people I knew. Everything comes full circle because the best actors aren’t “acting”; the best actors become their characters. I hope we can all become great actors playing our own roles.
Rehearsing and performing for Lion King was the most stressful months of my life but also the most rewarding. The amazing cast and crew I got to spend almost every day with was absolutely the best way I could have ended my senior year of high school. I love my crew, my two directors who I constantly fought with, my two amazing stage managers I always gave headaches to and I love my fellow talented cast!!! They all really made me look a lot better than I actually am 😅. Thanks for the memories.
Cannot wait for Lion King life action 2019. I’ll be pushing aside the little kids to get in front of the line🤷🏻♂️ #
My irrational brain likes to give me irrational fears.
Like for some reason, I am absolutely petrified by pigeons. Ironic, because I love New York City, and plan to live there one day.
My irrational brain likes to tell me how ugly I am, before I quickly brush it off and remind myself that everything I do is part of my path to self-love.
My irrational brain likes to wake myself up at night, questioning existence sprinkled with philosophical and theological debates, and then I look up at the stars and realize how ineffable this galaxy we live in is… and then I spiral again and begin questioning why the Earth rotates around this Sun, and why not another Sun… and then it’s 3 AM and I ask myself why humans need sleep, and not scientifically, but as in why do humans need to literally be unconscious for 7 hours a day to refuel rather than just be awake?
My irrational brain at random times during the day likes to tell me that I need to get out there more or else I will die lonely.
The funny thing about irrational fears is that when you relinquish that fear is when you step over to the side of relief.
I’m not afraid to learn about humanity and existence, I am afraid of the answer. I hope I never know the true answer. I’d probably not believe it either way.
I’m not afraid of skydiving, I’m afraid of landing.
I’m not afraid of taking exams, I’m afraid of the result.
I’m not afraid to ask out a girl on a date. I’m afraid of the answer.
Irrational fears are irrational. I’m glad that I realize that because it makes it much easier to do things. The answer I can’t really control. You can’t go through life without a little risk.
Tomorrow my friend is driving us back to Villanova…
A 7-hour drive. Thanks Philip.
But I’m not ready to go back and leave these vacation days. I’m not ready to go back into reality, to school, to my life where everything becomes more consequential.
But I’ve been reading this book called The Art of Possibility
It’s written by Ben Zander, who is the conductor of the Boston Philhamonic, and his wife, Rosamund Stone Zander.
Using music as their metaphor, the Zander’s taught me this important rule when it comes to approaching not only musical performance, but also life: Rule Number 6.
And Rule Number 6 says to “Don’t take yourself too seriously”
I think I really could have used that lesson when I was in high school. When I played violin, every missed note and every mistake to me seemed like a catastrophe. Getting a B on a test was blasphemous to my morals. And of course, I was heartbroken after not getting into my dream university.
But here I am. None of that matters to me now. Why did I need to take myself so seriously at the age of 17?
I’m 19 now, and I need to still actively practice this lesson.
I recently did very poorly on my marketing test, and it’s probably a first for me for getting such a low grade on an exam. But I spent no more than 30 minutes sulking. And moved on.
And tomorrow, even though I am going back to school, back to this reality of life that I am consciously afraid of, I think I just need to apply Rule Number 6. Don’t take myself so seriously.
Vacations are great. Reality is also great, if you can learn to not take everything so seriously. (Obviously, some things that ARE serious need to be taken seriously).
But ask yourself: will this matter to you in 5 years?
If the answer is no, then don’t spend more than 30 minutes feeling regretful about it.
It’s time to go back to reality.
This time, it won’t feel as stressful as before, because reality to me isn’t that serious. It’s life. And I intend to enjoy it.
Aristotle has this theory on virtues called the “Golden Mean”
Virtues are things we strive to have.
However, we can have excess and deficiencies of each.
Too much courage and you have hubris. A deficiency of courage results in no action.
An excess of kindness results in obsequious behavior. A deficiency of kindness and you are an asshole.
I like to apply this theory to a lot of parts in my life. In politics, in economics, in life habits, in academics.
The Golden Mean teaches us that there is such thing as too much of a good thing. Too much money or lack thereof are equally bad. Helping someone too much and they become lackadaisical and dependent. Too many compliments and they become worthless.
Too much sleep and too little sleep equally make me tired. Too much studying and too little studying equally makes me intellectually weak. Too much exercise and too little exercise both deteriorates my body.
Find a proper balance, a Golden Mean, in your life. Don’t fall into the extremes.
I have no idea what it feels like to be in a relationship
I also have no idea what skydiving is like
Or the feeling of winning the lottery
Or driving a car
Or breaking a bone
Or participate in a flash mob
But I know what it feels like to perform on stage in front of hundreds of people. I also know what it feels like to mess up in front of hundreds of people.
I have felt the sting of rejection
I can do a one-handed push-up and one-foot squat
I have felt the tranquility of being on the Great Wall of China
I’ve hated my body and subsequently learned to love it
I’ve done a lot of living but in hindsight, I also have a lot more that I have yet to do. Maybe all of those things will happen in the future, or maybe not.
But I think the most important thing I need to realize is that I’ll never be able to cross off all these bucket list items if I never take the first step. As a basketball player, I know it just as well as anyone else: you never know unless you take the shot. If I never take a chance in the first place.
So here’s to taking chances. Here’s to jumping out of an airplane one day, to getting rejected and to getting accepted. Here is to a life full of taking chances.
So my friend and I woke up at 8 AM to go play a basketball tournament about an hour away from the city.
The first game I played terribly–it’d been over 3 years since I’d played organized team basketball like this, and it took me a long time to adjust. I only scored one three-pointer and my friend had to carry the majority of the weight of the team. We ended up losing badly by 39 points.
The second game, after we went and ate lunch and regained some energy, our team did much better. Granted, our opposing team wasn’t as good as our first team, but I was also much more comfortable with the basketball. I scored maybe 6-7 three pointers, and also hit the game winning floater to put us up 61-59 in overtime. It always feels great to be in the zone. I had a lot of fun either way, because basketball has always been one of my passions. Maybe I’ll continue playing more league games like this; it’s an entirely different vibe and atmospheric competition than playing casually with friends at school.
We ate dinner in the city and then walked around exploring Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and finally ended up in Bryant Park.
There is always this ethereal vibe when walking around the city at night. When you notice how beautiful certain buildings are, and how the lights reflect in different ways, and how all of these people, couples, groups of friends, are all just existing together. It’s therapeutic to me. I’d imagine if I lived in the city, a casual pastime for me would just be walking around the city while listening to some of my favorite songs.
Bryant Park was extremely cute. There was a skating rink in the center, which I really want to go on one day with a group of friends (but more planned). There were also a bunch of vendors selling unique accessories, jewelries, clothing items, and other miscellaneous items.
The more time I spend in New York the more I fall in love with the city. How I Met Your Mother has been my favorite TV show since I was 12 and watching that show made me truly fall in love with the concept of Manhattan. Getting to actually spend time here occasionally on the weekends has made me realize that love.
Although a part of me is still sad that I was rejected by NYU, I’m also a little satisfied that I am not spending my college years in NYC. I have the rest of my life to live anywhere I want, while my 4-years at Villanova will be amazing. I know it because I’ll make sure it is–and so far it has been.
I’ve been trying to practice mindfulness in life through meditation and through my writings. I’ve also been trying to be more in tune with my expectations and I think it’s starting to help. The first basketball game today, I was expecting myself to perform really well, despite the fact that it was early in the morning, I was tired and hungry, and I hadn’t played organized basketball in quite some time. The pressure I put on myself got to my head, and of course, I performed terribly. While the second game, I went in with zero expectations. It was low-pressure, and just pure fun. And the more fun I had, the better I performed, and in the end, it surpassed any expectations I could had previously set on myself.
I don’t know that I would be having as good of a college life if I went to NYU. Maybe I expected too much from living in the city, and maybe I just fantasized too much about being an NYU student.
I’m happy where I am right now. But I won’t forsake how much more happier I can become. But I also won’t go into life with these expectations, because I’ve learned that in the end, these expectations will only drag me down.
But if I can’t get an internship for the summer of 2019, I actually have thought about legitimate alternatives.
I’d either stay home in Vancouver and take a break from how much I did last year (where I went to Singapore then went to Shanghai for the summer). This would give me time to reconnect with my friends, spend more time with family, and just work on “me”. Maybe start new projects, learn new classes, and explore the city more and live a little more.
Or, I might go back to China and go to the Shaolin Temples and be a monk for 2 months.
It’s definitely on my bucket list to practice mindfulness and practice a life of asceticism.
I’d get to spend my days meditating, practicing martial arts, learning Chinese culture and language, calligraphy, and practice mindfulness. I’d imagine I’d have a lot more time to read and write, especially since I’d probably not be spending my spare time on Instagram.
So what do you plan to do for next summer?
I’ll probably be working an investment bank job, or I’ll be in China in a temple.
Either way, I’m excited. And I think that’s a good place for me to be in, because I don’t have any expectations. I just expect to make the best out of whatever situation I’m placed in.
It has been one year of blogging. I have written a daily blog post 365 times.
Whether you started reading my posts from day one, or this is your first time reading my writing, I thank you for being a part of my journey. It’s been a wild year.
I’ve always considered myself an open book, and if after reading this post you don’t agree, let me know. At the top of my blog, I have the subtitle “Unfiltered Thoughts”, and that’s because I like to speak my mind without filtering out the good (or the bad). I like to share my thoughts in the most genuine way possible.
And so I’d like to pour my heart out and talk about my life so far. So let’s start back from last year, but not exactly 365 days. I want to go back to the summer of 2017, the summer right before I went to Villanova to start the University life.
Summer 2017: Despair
This was perhaps the most difficult months of my life. I had just graduated from high school with slightly broken relationships. Not to mention I had this overwhelming fear of not knowing what the hell I’d be doing after high school, especially since I’d be traveling all the way to the East coast, and to America.
And then my body decided to just break down. I was essentially bedridden for that entire summer. I visited three different specialist doctors all who gave me not much hope. It was the usual case. I have this autoimmune disease that likes to act up at sporadic moments in my life and this was the worst it had ever been. Depression hit me and most of my days were a blur. I had never felt more lonely than that summer. Did I mention that I had to cancel my Japan & China trip, which was meant to be my high school graduation gift? It was also supposed to be a little getaway for me and my sister. Instead, she went without me and I had to stay because I just needed to survive. And that’s what I did that summer, day to day, surviving.
It was at this point that I seriously contemplated taking a leave of absence and never going to Philadelphia/Villanova to start University. I felt like maybe I needed to seriously pause at life and figure out all I had going on. But the final weeks before summer ended, I got just good enough to get out of my bed. And even though I still felt terrible, I wanted to get on that plane. I wanted to start this new part of my life. Maybe leaving home was better for my depression and better for my health overall. Healing needs to be done not where you were hurt.
Fall 2017: Villanova
The toughest months of my life was followed then by the happiest last few months of 2017.
Everything was going well for me at Villanova.
My grades were good. My health got better. I met my best friend at university. I had great professors. I started playing basketball again once my health got better, and I started performing magic again and it was leading to many great interactions and opportunities.
I brought all my experiences in my first semester of university back home. I shared it with my close friends from home. I shared it with my high school where I did two Ted-style talks (while using magic as my metaphor).
The first 3 quarters of 2017 was the longest 9 months of my life, which was followed by a great time at Villanova that I believe shaped who I am today.
Spring 2018: Singapore (and all of Southeast Asia)
As if flying 5000 KM from Vancouver to Villanova wasn’t far enough, I decided to spend an entire semester abroad in Singapore for my second semester (13,000 KM away).
Singapore was full of big highs and low lows. I never felt more homesick in my life. But at the same time, I was experiencing life as an adult.
A whole list of first experiences occurred in Singapore. Everything was new to me. Cars were on the other side of the road, I spoke English and Chinese in day-to-day interactions, and I also had my first full-time job working at a blockchain company “R3”. On the weekends I found time to travel… A lot. Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia…I went to clubs and danced a lot. I went to my first rooftop bar on top of the most beautiful building in the world (Marina Bay Sands, which is essentially a giant ship on top of three skyscrapers. Pictured below). I did boxing and Muay Thai. And I grew up.
Summer 2018: Shanghai
There is nothing like reconnecting with old friends after branching out and living an independent life. I brought stories back home to my family and friends, and my friends and family reminded me how important this feeling of community and home was to me. But after a month back home, I again hopped on the plane and spent 7 weeks in Shanghai where I studied Chinese economy and worked at a marketing research firm. At the end of the trip, I went across all of China.
I went to Beijing to see my biological father.
He took me to Gui Zhou, his hometown village where he grew up, and I met my grandparents on my father’s side for the first time. And yes, I have extremely awkward photos to prove it.
We went to Chong Qing, home of the best spicy hot pot in China.
We then went to Zheng Zhou where I reconnected with my cousins after ~5 years.
And I also lost my passport. So for one day, I was immensely stressed. If I hadn’t found it, I wouldn’t be able to travel and would have to be detained in China (as my Visa expires), and missed my $2000 flight back home. I’d also end up missing my LA trip that my sister and I planned months in advance (more $$$) and I’d probably miss the first few days of classes back at Villanova.
I seriously cannot convey how bad that day should have been for me. But. I put it aside.
I seriously learned that day how to push past things that I have no control in. I hadn’t seen my cousins in so long, I didn’t want that burden dragging me down. So I had a good day. I shopped with them and had a great dinner. And at dinner, the airline finally called us back and told us they found my passport on their plane.
At that moment I believed in God.
I finished my amazing summer with even more travel.
My sister and I went to LA as a remake of our initial travel plans that went bust last summer. We saw Crazy Rich Asians in the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd, we went to Universal and saw Harry Potter World and all the amazing Hollywood studios and sets of some of the most classic movies, and we ate. A lot.
Fall 2018: Confusion
Back to Villanova.
I’ll be honest, this semester didn’t start off as well as I’d hoped. Well, maybe because I was comparing it to my Singapore semester and how much fun that was.
It felt a bit odd to be back on campus after so much traveling.
But October has been a rocky month for me. If you’ve read some of my recent writing for this month, you might have caught a hint of… emotional wreckage? And that’s because I’ve recently been questioning life in general.
Right now I’m a little confused about everything. What career do I want? What type of life do I want to live? Where do I want to be? Who do I want to spend my time with? What the hell are all these emotions? What is love?
I’m happy. I am.
But I also feel sad a lot. And I feel lonely. And I feel lost.
There is this giant void that I don’t understand. And, during mid-terms break, I tried to fill that void by going on a date.
And honestly, the date went really well, because, well I accidentally met the perfect girl. It was my first ever romantic-style date. But either the timing wasn’t right, or the place was wrong, or the spark didn’t spark, but nothing came to fruition. Anyways, this person was perfect, but not perfect for me, and I was definitely not perfect for her. All I can say is: thank you for stopping by, and I hope you’ll leave the door open. (Yes, this is where you cringe, sorry not sorry for being a romantic)
And here I am, back to my introverted thoughts. And here I am, writing about my past experiences again.
But life is good because I’m here breathing and living and surviving. Day-to-day.
I honestly can say that right now, I am at one of my cyclical crossroads. And that scares me a little, both in a good and bad way. Does it get better? Or will it get worse? I mean, if I’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that my life truly moves in cycles. I have high highs and low lows. And those lows are seriously damaging. But those highs keep me optimistic.
So thank you for being a part of my journey.
I’d like to finish this post off with a gratitude list:
Thank you to first and foremost my family. They have always supported me and mean so much to me that I cannot convey in words.
Thank you to my best friends here at Villanova and back home. You know who you are.
Thank you to my freshman business professor, Dr. James Borden for inspiring me to start this daily blog.
Thank you to my humanities professor who has taught me and continues to teach me to look at life in a contemplative manner.
Thank you to Vinh Giang, Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin, Adam Grant, for teaching me how to be the best version of myself.
Thank you to anyone who has ever asked me “How are you doing?” especially when I needed it the most.
Thank you for passing through my life. Whether you’ve decided to stay, or whether we’ve just had a few interactions.
Thank you to anyone who reads this blog. Whether we talk daily, or we haven’t met in years. You are a part of my journey, and I hope you’ll send me a message so we can reconnect.
Thank you to the world. I am here. I exist. And I am human being.