Wrong End of a Telescope

Multiple times during my early twenties, I tried to destroy all remnants of my past.

I purged emails, I tossed journals and letters, burned pictures.  This was usually after great disappointment, during periods when I learned that life was not going to follow my Grand Script.

During these times, I wanted to change everything about myself, because I didn’t like the person I had become.  But now I regret it, and I would urge any person of any age to keep a journal.

There are lots of reasons to keep one.  It’ll remind you of the person you once were.  In recent years I’ve been searching for who I was at 20, 25, even 30.  It’ll remind you of why you made certain decisions – so you can make better ones in the future.  It’ll keep you honest, even if you sometimes don’t like the memories.

Another important reason is it’ll give you hope for the future – because of how much things change, and that in many ways, the present is beyond the wildest imaginings of our past selves.

At some point for everyone, you’ll wake up one day and feel old.  This has officially happened to me in the last few months.  There’s a lot to this I’ll discuss later.  But in the meantime I’ve been doing a little reminiscing…

  • In my elementary school during the ’80s, I remember having emergency nuclear war drills.  They were kind of like earthquake drills, where you had to crawl under your desk.  In the event of a war with the USSR, who I always remember was this weird figment of an enemy, imbuing things with a malaise I couldn’t quite name.
  • In elementary through high school during the ’90s, there were gangs everywhere and you couldn’t wear certain colors: red, blue.  In elementary school I remember it was a little more strict, and there were even more colors like purple and black, because some of the gangs wore Raiders gear.  I remember our sixth grade teacher telling us all these salacious stories of older kids murdering each other in terrible ways.  Those older kids, to me now, are just kids.  I remember going through junior high and high school always with a low level of terror about getting jumped or tailed somewhere and jumped because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I remember some kids I know getting stabbed, shot, hit with baseball bats, going to jail, overdosing, etc.
  • I remember as a kid not having to wear seatbelts, and falling asleep standing up in the center back seat.
  • I also remember the seatbelt law taking effect in LA, and hating it, as I chafed and sweated under it.
  • I remember when I was a toddler, my dad telling me to wait outside a liquor store as he went in and bought something.  I was 3, and this was Koreatown, LA.
  • I remember living in that neighborhood, on Mariposa, and hearing gunshots all the time – pop, pop, pop – and being terrified whenever my dad went jogging.
  • I remember on flights there being a ‘smoking’ section, and hating having to fly to see family because where there were smoking sections, there is no such thing as the ‘non-smoking’ section.  I remember smoking sections in restaurants too.  How idiotic.
  • I remember that growing up, in our home, the phone line was the scarcest resource.  Not only did my sister and I spend hours talking to friends on it, it was also the only way to log onto AOL – and the internet.
  • I remember first using the internet and chatting with people.  I remember distinctly feeling like the access to information was changing my brain.  There was a point, as I chatted on AIM and surfed the internet at the same time, that I remember thinking that my old ways of writing letters by hand, of doing research using encyclopaedias, taking notes, etc., were gone and had been erased.
  • I remember some of my closest friends getting suspended or expelled for having marijuana at school.  Now it’s almost banal.  I remember when dealing was a lucrative and highly illegal trade, and sometimes there were kids who all of a sudden came to school with nice cars, dropped with rims and insane stereo systems that would pop your eardrums out, new jewellery, all from this trade.
  • I remember when Facebook first came out, and my friends and I being confused about what social network to go all-in on: Myspace, Friendster, Facebook.  It was too much trouble trying to update all three at the same time.
  • I remember learning, in the supposed best business school in the world, about the neat way that interest rates and the economy were managed by the Fed, about neat formulas on how to value things, about supply and demand curves, and a lot of discussion on Japan, and nothing on China.  Right now I use almost nothing I learned there, except accounting.
  • I remember 2001 when the planes hit the WTC, I was in finance class and a kid ran in and shouted that a plane had taken out one of the towers.  Blankly, the professor looked at him and kept talking.  Some kids shuffled out.  Later, I turned on the tv and watched the smoke billowing out of the tower, thinking it was surreal.  But classes still went on.
  • A few months later, after a rash of suicides, a malaise settled over campus and I remember a group of my friends sitting in my dorm, all talking.  The two girls huddled next to me were my friends who I regarded/regard as sisters.  I remember the service guys coming in to install unopenable windows to prevent the aforementioned suicides, seeing me in particular, chuckling, and saying that they wished they were still in college.  I didn’t think of it as any big deal, but now I know what they meant 🙂
  • At my graduation, I remember seeing a fairly big celebrity who happened to be the father of one of my classmates, as he posed for pictures in front of Huntsman Hall.  Who would have thought he would be our current president.
  • I remember the real estate bubble.  When I returned home after graduating college, all my friends were either loan officers in Orange County or directly/indirectly involved in the marijuana trade.  I remember when LA/South Bay/Westside buildings used to trade for 6-8% cap rates and the astonishment in our office when things traded at 4-5% because it was “expensive”.
  • 12 years ago when I started my first job, I remember spending a lot of downtime downloading videos from all over the internet for my colleagues’ amusement.  I remember Youtube coming out, and thinking it would fail because it had none of the videos we wanted to watch.
  • 11 years ago I remember looking at my friend’s iPhone and feeling that the world had changed.  This is an appropriate time to use the phrase mind blown, because it is one of the few times in my life I actually felt this.  The time before that was the internet.
  • I remember taking my first international business class flight around this time and thinking it was so cool, feeling smug and satisfied, and wishing that flying around the world could be my job.  Now I hate traveling.
  • 10 years ago I used to drive 40-50 minutes to travel 3 miles to work.  If I still had to do that hellhole of a commute again, I would Uber.
  • 8 years ago I remember in Silicon Valley, thinking that my bschool classmates who wanted to go work for Twitter and Zynga and companies like that were making a crazy choice.  I remember Uber first coming out and thinking it was the dumbest thing I had ever heard of.

I wish I had kept a journal.  Keeping one is probably one of the best habits I could have had.

Besides that, I’m positive that the next 10 to 20 years will be beyond anything we’ve ever imagined.  In a good way.

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