Two Takeaways From My 2015

For as long as I can remember, I have been saying that each year that goes by gets better and better.

Well, this past year… hm, this past year.

Let’s start with this.

2015 was unpredictable. I’m pretty sure I finally “grew up”.

<<rewind<< to August, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

My friends work hard — it’s contagious. They also play hard — like ALL OUT, 200% as if they deserve it, because they do.

During our last night in Vegas, my good friend and I got back to our hotel before anyone else.

I don’t really remember the before or after, mostly because I only remember the short conversation we had. You see… my friend is genuine and thoughtful. She doesn’t speak nearly as much as our other friends do, but when she does, it usually carries a lot of value.

Something along the lines of “Ben, who are you?”, randomly sliced through the silence in our room while we waited for our friends to come back. “You never open up. I know nothing about you and we’ve been friends for years.”

?! What !?

Ouch, that definitely stung and left me in shock — for a while. Survey my friends and acquaintances or my co-workers and family members; they would probably all tell you I’m social and extroverted.

Little did I know that my short exchange with this friend in Vegas back in August, 2014 was the beginning of my unpredictable 2015.

January 2015

I lived in Seattle, WA — I took an opportunity with Lyft to relocate.

Seattle, Washington

It rains a lot in Seattle.

Not really the best fit for California boys who brought a windbreaker as their only jacket and a pair of flyknits as their only shoes.

I visited Vancouver, Canada for the first time and Las Vegas for the 4832th time (told you my friends like to play hard).

Vancouver, Canada

February 2015

I really only knew one person in Seattle, though I lived a block from her, we didn’t see each other much (regrets!)

I spent most of my nights indoors, alone.

Most of my meals, “table for one” or takeout.

Rain became okay, I got familiar with the cold. (28 degree nights and 40 degree days were fine).

March 2015

My work in Seattle was done, this marked my 6th month living in the northwest — I moved back to Oakland, CA.

Flew off to Hawaii for the best hike of my life: Haiku Stairs aka Stairway to Heaven.

Haiku Stairs, Oahu, Hawaii

It was illegal and unsafe, but I like breaking rules. That’s probably the one thing that has never changed about me.

April 2015

Lyft relocates me to Portland, Oregon to launch our service.

I was still alone, like I was in Seattle.

But I wasn’t lonely, unlike I was in Seattle.

Seattle and Portland taught me that it’s okay to be alone. It doesn’t mean you’re lonely. With that switch up in mentality, I ended up meeting a lot of people in Portland — I miss Portland!

Portland, Oregon

I love the Pacific Northwest.

May 2015

Trip to Los Angeles. Roscoe’s is overrated. Soju ain’t bad.

June 2015

Trip to New York. I love Brooklyn!

Brooklyn, New York

If I didn’t live in California, I’d choose New York, hands down.

July 2015

Lyft relocates me to Las Vegas, Nevada to launch our service.

Vegas, baby! I’m hyped.

August 2015

Vegas isn’t all about the gambling, nightclubs, and the strip. Met an awesome friend who brought me away from the daily 115 degrees to hike near the cool Red Rock mountains.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Beginning to understand that traveling is more about the people you will meet, rather than the actual destination itself.

September 2015

Took a break from traveling for work, and traveled for myself instead.

Tokyo, Japan.

People here are fearlessly fashion forward, it’s inspiring. My favorite countries I’ve visited in my life are Japan and Korea.

Tokyo, Japan

Bali, Indonesia.

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

There is something super humbling about going to another country. I could talk about Bali all day, but what Bali really reminded me was how fortunate I am to grow up in the United States.

This realization was definitely a high point in 2015.

I’ve had my fair share of lows, mostly kept secret, because it was more so my emotions and struggle with identity — something I thought even my best of friends wouldn’t understand.

The question I kept asking myself during my trip to Bali was: “why don’t I open up to people more?”

Here is my answer:

I love my friends and family, none of them would ever turn me away if I needed them — I know this. The thing that terrifies me is the thought of effort. How much effort do I need to put in for someone to actually understand me? What if I open up but I’m still not understood? The thought of helplessness can be overwhelming.

October 2015

Still in and out of Las Vegas for Lyft.

Made a trip to Yosemite. I freaking love Yosemite.

Half Dome, Yosemite

November 2015

Still in and out of Las Vegas for Lyft — meeting the most influential people I’ve ever met. It’s about who you know, relationships are important.

I’ve been on 42 planes in the calendar year so far.

December 2015

Ventured out to Belize.

Central America is beautiful — just like the people there. I’ve never had so much chicken, beans and rice in my life. I’ve also never seen water as teal as the Caribbean ocean.

San Pedro, Belize

This trip for me was about reflecting and projecting.

Reflecting on the wild 2015 I’ve had — counting my blessings.

Projecting what 2016 will be like — unpredictable.

In 2015,

I’ve been on 46 different planes, lived in 4 different cities and visited 4 other countries.

I think I might’ve hit an early quarter life crisis at one point.

Definitely was depressed at another. Depression flies under the radar, do not overlook it. Ask one of my best friends, Alan — I broke down to him outside of Cheeseboard Pizza in Berkeley before our trip to Belize. That was my first time really opening up and showing vulnerability.

This year has definitely been a growth year for me. In terms of identity, this is what I came to realize.

I’m a social extrovert, yup.

But I’m also a emotional introvert.

I’m both.

This open letter is mostly for the ones I care about the most, I’m trying to open up to you — this counts, right?

Lastly, I want to share my two takeaways from 2015 with you:

1. Life is about people.

The relationships that are carved out over time is more important than a career, salary, status, rules, school, New Year’s Eve plan, etc.

People. It’s really about people.

2. Emotions. They are a thing. Embrace it.

Imagine a graph. We’ll call it a graph of emotions.

Draw an imaginary horizontal line that runs across the graph — lets pretend it is unconditional love.

Unconditional love is constant and it doesn’t vary.

Someone who loves you unconditionally will never love you more (higher) or less (lower) than this horizontal line on this graph.

Emotions come and go in spikes

However, love isn’t the only emotion that exists (it won’t be the only line on the graph). Anger, jealously, sadness, fear, etc. are all emotions. The difference between these emotions and unconditional love, is that these emotions are not constant.

They come out of no where and when you least expect it.

These emotional spikes go vertical on the graph (opposed to horizontal like love), meaning that at times, you forget what unconditional love feels like because it’s overridden by anger, sadness, and other emotions at that one given moment in time on this graph.

Embrace it. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to feel vulnerable or helpless at times.

Because at the end of the day, these spikes of vertical lines will fall back under your sturdy and constant horizontal line and the only thing left standing will be the unconditional love from your friends, family and self.

Looking ahead to 2016, here are five things I want for myself:

1. Be better — in everything I do.

2. Try harder — in my relationships with people (friends, family or strangers)

3. Work smarter — not just harder (I’m still going to play hard!)

4. Instead of trying to do more with less time, focus on less while making bigger impacts.

5. Think bigger. 2016 will be huge.

El Capitan, Yosemite

My 2015 started in August, 2014 with one short (but impactful) conversation in a hotel room.

>>fast forward>> to New Year’s Eve, 2015.

My 2015 isn’t ending here, I’m bringing it with me.

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