A Critical Look Within

Good morning everyone! It’s currently Saturday, August 27 at 7:13 a.m. I actually woke up over three hours ago at 3:45 a.m. due to jet lag from China… So far the day has been pretty productive. I woke up, took a shower, made myself a protein shake (it’s part of this new fitness program I’m doing… will elaborate later), continued packing for college, uploaded more pictures China trip pictures onto Facebook, and now I’m writing!

Things have been pretty hectic since I got back from China on Wednesday morning at 1:00 a.m. The same day I got back, I had an eight-hour shift at Hollister, from 1:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., with a couple breaks in between. That eight-hour shift was probably one of the worst decisions of my life. I figured that since I will be going to college soon, the extra money from work couldn’t hurt. That morning, I woke up around 7:00 a.m. and went to the gym, followed by grocery shopping/taking care of my debit card at Nob Hill Foods. I got back home around 12:00 p.m., where I prepared my lunch and snacks before heading out the door to Hollister. I felt great on the car ride there- I was super positive, energetic, adult-like and ready to kill that eight-hour monster!

It’s funny how we always overestimate our capabilities… Three hours into the shift, the jet lag kicked in. I remember feeling super drowsy and just out of it while standing behind the cash register. Because of my sleep deprivation, I ended up messing up SO many times at the register… there was one customer who wanted her clothes folded super nicely because she would be giving the two shirts to her friend as a birthday gift. Not too much to ask, right? Well, folding has never been my strong suit in the first place… When I tried to fold the first shirt, the lady was very unhappy with the way I did it (which was, admittedly,  pretty sloppy, despite my honest attempts), so she simply grabbed the shirt out of my hand and said, “Never mind, I’ll do it myself”, clearly impatient. I’ll be the first to admit that it was my fault… I felt so embarrassed that I couldn’t even fold a shirt properly! All I could do was apologize profusely. In another instance, I rung up a family from Germany- two young women, their mother, and, presumably, their grandmother. They had paid for their clothes, and I was just about to pull out the change, when all of the sudden, the grandmother discovered she had a bunch of coins she wanted to get rid of since she didn’t want to carry a heavy wallet back to her home country! So she handed me a bunch of quarters- three dollars’ worth. The solution was easy- add on the three dollars worth of coins to her original payment, subtract that new number from the net cost of the clothes, and that’s the new amount of change you give her. But my brain, being completely fried as it was, could not comprehend that. Plus, numbers have never been my strong suit, and I can’t do mental math for the life of me. Add on the fact that the line of customers was growing longer by the second, and I was the only brand rep on the register. Panic set in. My mind kinda just went blank. It was incredibly embarrassing… took me like five minutes to figure out what to do… and the lady behind this German family was scoffing, probably at my incompetence (thankfully, another person hopped on the register next to me, so I didn’t have to ring her up). In the end, one of the girls from the family pulled out her phone and did the calculations, and I paid them the change. The girls were very nice, though, and they weren’t bitter about my slowness to comprehend. On a third occasion, I rung up a teenage boy and his mom, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I had forgotten to take off the security tags on one of the shirts! Strangely enough, the tag didn’t ring when they exited the Hollister store… But they came back about an hour later, and I was like, “Oh hey, you guys are back again! What’s up?” And the lady pulled out a shirt and shoved it in my face, speaking incomprehensible words. Don’t ask me why, but I didn’t see the security tag directly under my nose, and I thought I heard the lady say something about a return. So I asked her if she wanted to return the shirt. She replied with a heated, “NO! Don’t you see this??” and pointed at the security tag. I was horrified. I apologized profusely to the customers, for what seemed like the tenth time that day, and removed the tag…

I got back from Hollister around 10:30 p.m., feeling a mixture of relief, dejection, and accomplishment at simply surviving the day. My feet hurt like hell (I was wearing flip-flops), I felt dehydrated, and each breath seemed to take extra effort, like something was physically weighing down on my chest. I found my mom in the parking lot, and despite my complete physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, I wanted to drive home. Of course, my mom didn’t let me, since she saw how tired I was. She asked me how my day was, and I told her that there were some difficult customers, but I handled it well (lie). I didn’t feel up to rehashing the details of all the mistakes I made…

When I got home, I made myself a nice protein shake (added too much water, so it turned out too liquidy), took a hot shower, sat in my bed, and watched Back to the Future on Netflix. I ended up falling asleep around midnight.

The next day, I woke up early again- around 7:00 a.m. I was still in recovery mode. My muscles ached and my mind was groggy. But I had arranged to meet my best friend, Shirley, at the Belmont library, and I planned to take the bus there, to practice independence (and also to avoid badgering my mom, who was stressed out about helping Chris pack for college). The 260 SamTrans bus to College of San Mateo was scheduled to arrive at the nearest bus stop at 10:20 a.m. I got there at 10:25 a.m., however, and missed it. The next bus to arrive was at 11:20 a.m., but I didn’t feel up to sitting at the bus stop for 1 hour, or walking back home. I couldn’t chase down the bus either- not with the heavy backpack on my shoulders. I decided to walk onward to a further bus stop, hoping to catch an earlier bus going in the same direction. Around 10:45 a.m., a 260 bus stopped where I was at. It wasn’t going to College of San Mateo, however- it was headed towards the San Carlos CalTrain station. Really, this wasn’t a big issue, because I could’ve just transferred buses once I arrived at the station. But me, being the idiot I am sometimes, did not do this. I sat got off at the San Carlos station and sat there, waiting for a bus to transfer to. There were two other people sitting near me at the bus stop- an elderly man and a middle-aged woman. I used Siri to tell me how to get from the CalTrain to the library. Siri clearly told me to take the 295 bus towards Ralston/Alameda. Right as the 295 pulled up, the 260 bus towards College of San Mateo also pulled up! I thought, well originally I was supposed to take the 260 to CSM… that is, back when I was at the Redwood Shores stop… Now I’m in San Carlos, so the route may be different. Plus, Siri told me to take 295. What do I do?

A sensible person would probably trust Siri, right? Well, at times, I am neither sensible nor rational. I saw the two people next to me hop on board the 260. I naturally felt more inclined to follow the crowd, rather than board the bus no one was going on (the psychology of conformity). Plus, since I am a relatively inexperienced bus rider, I didn’t trust my own judgment and found it easier to follow other people. So I hopped aboard the 260 and paid the fee. As I passed by the elderly man, I heard him tell the bus driver he wanted to go to Redwood Shores. Wait a minute. Redwood Shores? So this bus is going BACK to the place I had just come from? At that moment, the doors to the bus closed. The 295 was still in plain sight. I still had time to catch it… But I made another mistake. I decided to keep quiet. In my mind, I was thinking, Well I already paid, so it would be a huge hassle to have the driver give back the money… Plus, it would be embarrassing if the people found out that I got on the wrong bus! Low and behold, everyone, the dangers of worrying too much about what others think of you… The dangers of putting others’ needs in front of yours… The dangers of fearing to speak up. As the 260 bus drove back to Redwood Shores, I cursed myself a million times over in my head… I looked at the route, and saw that it would eventually reach my destination, but only after it looped around the place I had started. This was the same 11:20 a.m. 260 bus towards College of San Mateo that I would’ve taken, had I waited patiently at the first bus stop I was at. Instead, I screwed everything up. I took the WRONG 260 bus towards San Carlos CalTrain. I transferred onto the WRONG bus, instead of boarding 295, which would have led me directly to my destination. I had not only wasted $1.10 for the bus fare of the unnecessary transfer, I had also taken the longest route to the library- from point A to point C, then point C to point A to point G (aka my destination). I could’ve gone from point A directly to point G, had not missed the 10:20, or waited for the 11:20. Instead, I took the wrong bus that went from point A to point C. Even then, though, I could’ve transferred to a bus going from point C directly to point G, had I boarded the right bus. But being a complete airhead, I trusted my own fallacious judgment and took the bus going back to where I started!

I eventually got to the library way later than anticipated and completely frustrated at myself. I went to a nearby Starbucks and got a quinoa salad and water. My friend told me she’d be at the library around 2 or 3 p.m., so I had a lot of time to myself. I sulked to the library, ruminating over the complete debacle that had just happened. How could I go to college if I couldn’t even navigate public transportation? All I had to do was read the bus routes… Once I got to the library, I went on the computer and took care of some emails and things about college. I went outside to eat my lunch, feeling more and more exhausted each minute. I had a strong urge to lay down on the outside patio and take a nap in the sun. I was scheduled to have a dance lesson that afternoon at 5:45 p.m. The plan was for me to take the 3:45 CalTrain to San José Diridon station, then Uber my way to the studio. I didn’t know how I would gather the fuel to survive the coming trek, especially after messing up my journey to the library.

Around 2:15 I got a text from my friend, who said she had missed the bus. My mom, who had called a bit earlier, wanted me to come home to rest up for the dance lesson. I told her I’d be fine and that I had to wait for Shirley to come. When I found out that Shirley might not make it on time (I had to leave at 3:30 p.m. to catch the train), I called my mom back and said she could pick me up at that time, instead of leaving me at the library until 3:30 p.m. Right after making that phone call to my mom, however, Shirley called back and told me that she hadn’t missed the bus, that the bus was simply late. So Shirley was on her way to the library, and my mom was about to pick me up. It was a messy situation… I apologized to Shirley and told her I had to go. At that point, the jet lag was getting really bad, and the thought of going to San José for a dance lesson made me want to cry. I needed every minute of rest I could get.

When I got home, I went straight to bed and set the alarm for 3:20 p.m. I was beyond tired, but I couldn’t fall asleep because I was dreading the coming journey to San José, which at that point, I didn’t want to make. At 3:15 p.m., while under the covers of my memory foam bed, I made the decision to cancel my lesson. No way was I physically or mentally capable of going. I felt terrible for canceling my dance lesson last minute. But at that point, I simply had to put my own needs first.

After sending the difficult text to my dance teacher, I fell into a deep sleep that carried me into the evening. I was woken up by the sound of my mother telling me to come down for dinner. I rolled out of bed and felt dizzy. I noticed a tickle in my throat- the tell-tale sign of oncoming sickness. Understandable, since the past couple days, I had been driving myself to the limit, despite being already drained after a lot of traveling and in need of a good rest. After dinner, I took a shower, curled up in my bed, and watched the 2nd and 3rd Back to the Future‘s on Netflix. Because of my erratic sleep schedule, I ended up falling asleep at around 2:00 a.m. I had a restful sleep that night, however, and woke up Friday morning nearly 90% recharged.

Yesterday was a lot better than the previous two days, though I still messed up quite a bit. I got a lot of college packing done, and our family friends took me, my brothers, and my parents to Alcatraz island as a high school graduation present. It was a chilly day in San Francisco, so we all had to layer on jackets so we wouldn’t freeze in the biting SF air. Being the forgetful and absent-minded person I sometimes am, I left my jacket hanging on the back of a living room chair! I only found out as we neared the house of our two family friends, Auntie Ella and Uncle Henry, who we were picking up. After a well-deserved scolding from mom and dad, I borrowed a jacket from Auntie Ella. So that was mess-up #1. Mess-up #2 was promising my best friend, Leyla, that I could sleep over at her house that night after we got back from the city. I thought I could do it, I really did. But, yet again, I overestimated my ability to fight jet lag. By the time we finished touring Alcatraz (which, by the way, I will write a post about), I was physically and mentally drained. I had to cancel the sleepover, which understandably disappointed Leyla, who was eager to see me after one month of separation.

Over these past few days, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. And in the process, I’ve let down many people. To those I’ve hurt in any way, I apologize sincerely. I could blame the jet lag for a lot of my mistakes, but there really is no good in making excuses for myself. It was my fault for not planning carefully, for biting off more than I could chew. For not prioritizing my rest over my duties. But, with all mistakes in life, the key is to learn from them. So, what have I learned these past few days?

  1. Without proper rest, you can’t function. Don’t expect to be productive if you don’t have your z’s.
  2. Be realistic about what you can or cannot handle. You are not superwoman. You are human, and you have limits. Accept that.
  3. Don’t make promises to others you can’t keep. You’ll just end up dragging down others with you.
  4. As hard as it is to admit, I can be extremely absent-minded and forgetful at times. Solution: do a mental checklist every time you leave the house (or any other place). Scan your surroundings, and don’t leave until you are absolutely sure you have everything.
  5. If you are not sure about something, ask questions! Questions are not a sign of weakness. At work, if you don’t know how to take care of a customer’s wishes, then ask your manager. In class, if you need the professor to clarify a concept, don’t feel ashamed to ask, or worry that you’ll appear dumb in front of your peers. If you are boarding the bus or train and are not sure which direction it’s going… ASK DAMMIT!
  6. I obviously suck at folding clothes. Practice your folding technique!
  7. When ringing up a customer, double check each item to see if you accidentally left on a security tag.
  8. My mental math and logical thinking are weak. Solution: take a logic course. In situations that call for computing numbers, don’t pull out your calculator. Try to do the math in your head. If you keep doing that, your mental math will improve, and you will be sharper with numbers.
  9. My sense of direction and spatial intelligence are also below par. Solution: be more observant of your surroundings during car rides. Get more experience with public transportation.
  10. Mistakes are GOOD. You learn from them, and you grow. That’s what I’m doing right now- identifying my mistakes, which take me directly to my weaknesses, and then asking myself, how can I fix such deficiencies to make myself grow? These past few days, I’ve screwed up many times. While making mistakes never feels good, it is a necessary part of life. Mistakes don’t make you incompetent. Mistakes make you human. Humans are innately fallible creatures. Trying to be perfect is like trying to live without breathing. It’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes are not the same thing as failures. To me, failure happens when you make the same mistake twice. When you don’t learn from past experience.
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