Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor: A favorable weekend


 "Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor." ~ Rumi

I first heard Arianna Huffington share this quote when she appeared on Accenture's International Women's Day webcast. Ever since then, along with watching The Secret and completing Jeremy Hunter's Practice of Self Management class at the Drucker school, I've been doing my best to think limitless thoughts. This may not be the best thing for someone who has an optimistic disposition, but I like to think I have strategic or realistic optimism. Now limitless thoughts have become part of my new strategy to break down inherent barriers I tend to sneak into my internal narrative. Since, I've started practicing this strategic mindset of living life with the mindset that everything will be rigged in my favor, I see life becoming more a treasure box of a journey.

The latest treasure my husband, Rumen, and I were able to experience was our trip to San Francisco this past weekend. In the midst of graduating, helping build Rumen's architecture business, and wrapping up a client project on employee engagement, I've been given the mission to find a place to live in the most expensive city in the US of A. At one point, someone warned us that we'd have "an easier time finding a job than a place to live" with the demand for housing in SF being so high. Well, we had our fair share of missing out on locking down the right apartment just within hours of putting down a reservation deposit before the trip. Hence, we were thinking this trip to SF would be full of apartment visits, fierce competition against other SF transplants, and heartache.

Before the trip, I heard the voices of doubt about the move mixed with feelings of anxiety, and I countered it with a mindfulness meditation to track and sit with my feelings. After the meditation, I asked the universe to give us a sign for the right place to call home, so we could make a satisfactory decision sooner than later and maximize our time relaxing and exploring. Here's the story of how the universe did its thing.

We had six apartment visits booked back-to-back. By the fourth apartment, we were growing weary of asking the same questions of each leasing agent and agitated of the SF Friday traffic. Our fifth showing felt right the moment we drove up and parked. Wow, they actually have parking for prospective tenants. Who knew I would be so surprised at a detail that before now seemed so commonplace to me. The apartment community had all the amenities we were hoping for - several workout rooms, spas, pools, grills, rooftop terraces - you know what you expect to get in addition to the 400-something sq ft. studio you'd be paying for an arm and a leg. Also, since, I was tracking this apartment community online, I was able to lock in a price ahead of time that was comparable to other studios half the size of the one I reserved. Oh, and get this, we had our own fairly large patio and the studio was right next to a gate door. When you live the college student apartment living lifestyle long enough, these things - like fast accessibility to your car full of groceries - matter! It was in a great neighborhood in SOMA/South Beach area, and throughout the community we had views of the Bay Bridge. Oh, and the last of the perks but not least, the apartment community offered free fitness classes, an onsite deli, and a shuttle to FIDI. It was feeling soooo right.

Now, it was time to run to the next apartment showing. Rumen and I got the info on next steps should we choose this was the right place, and we jetted to the final showing of the day. Hungry and exhausted, we were hoping the next showing would be quick, so we could grab a bite to eat. When we arrived, we found out the landlord accidentally forgot the keys to the apartment at home. We felt bad for the guy bc he told us he was sitting in traffic for an hour to get to us. We thanked him for his time, got back inside the car, and thanked the Universe for its sign. We celebrated the decision at Ryoko's. The next day we signed the lease papers on our favorite apartment community.

After signing the lease papers, Rumen and I were able to enjoy omelettes at the Delancey Street Grill run by the Delancey Street Foundation. We had an awesome view of our future home community, the water, and the sun came out in all its glory. It was extremely hot, and I kept kicking myself for dressing for Mark Twain's "coldest winter." The day continued in a relaxed pace as we got to explore Crissy Field and the green Presidio. We scarfed down sandwiches from The Sandwich Stop for a late lunch on the field as we watched kites flying and people windsailing. At this point, it was freezing, so we were definitely ready to head to our Airbnb home for the weekend. 

In the evening, we met up with one of my mentor's emerging leaders collective, as well as Kate from CGU. It was awesome getting to know other like-minded young folks that were chasing meaning and impact rather than just money. Our new friends showed us a good time out at Tonic, but we definitely did not get as much a chance to shake our tail feathers as we had hoped. It's okay though bc this evening only made me feel even more excited to be back in just a couple weeks.

Since, we had a whole day to kill before our 8pm flight, we went on a lovely nine hour Napa Valley Wine Tour on a limo bus equipped with mimosas. Our driver was a man named Jimmy who had a great attitude, although it was Father's Day and he was spending it with us instead of his family. After a quick stop at the Golden Gate Bridge, we quickly found out that Jimmy's father-in-law was in surgery and that work was keeping him busy while everyone else in his family was waiting through the surgery. Rumen and I said a quick prayer for Jimmy and his family. 

The first vineyard we visited was the Jacuzzi family vineyards (THE Jacuzzi family, as in what you sit in when the pool's too cold), and it was probably my favorite one bc the grounds were a beautiful imitation of the Jacuzzi family's estate in Italy. I especially loved the olive oil tasting, and took home a classic champagne balsamic vinaigrette. Next, we continued the wine tasting and had our first cup of gelato of the day at Viansa. It was too easy to sit back and relax as we faced the hills of grapes vines. The warmth of the sun, the taste of mango gelato, the sounds of the birds talking to each other, and the smell of pizza being cooked in the clay pizza oven on the patio right behind us made this a beautiful moment to embrace all the stimuli hitting all our senses at once. We then took a trip to the Madonna Estate in Napa Valley. I appreciated the educational tour our guide gave us as we waited for our lunch to be prepared. It was the first time I attempted to say Gew├╝rztraminer, as well as learned of a neat tool that allows you to uncork and re-cork your wines. You mean, I don't have to keep buying wine stoppers? Steal!

During lunch, we learned Jimmy's father-in-law's fighting spirit got him through the surgery smoothly and we celebrated that moment of relief with him. In the afternoon, we arrived at Yountville, CA, which is a cute town in Napa. We had the pleasant surprise of getting to browse vintage cars throughout the downtown grounds due to the Napa Valley Father's Day Invitational. Although I didn't see my red Porsche, I had to take a picture next to a beautiful convertible Chevy (one day...). We tried another two scoops of gelato - coconut sherbert and vanilla bean mmmm... After resting in some shade and walking around a bit, we headed back through Oakland to the city. We had a great conversation with a couple from Texas - Susan & Lance Dobson - about adopting and got tips from a foster parent's point of view on what to do when you first adopt (i.e., family therapy asap!). Susan and Lance were celebrating their 30th anniversary that year with visits to all 30 baseball stadiums, and they were just starting their tour of the California stadiums. Of course, we told them to wear blue to the Dodger stadium bc you know, we want them to enjoy themselves rather than fear the wrath of some LA Dodger fans with no sense of humanity.

On the Bay Bridge, we realized pretty quickly that traffic was making our 9 hr trip a 10 hr trip. Instead of getting to our rental car by 6pm, we would be getting to it closer to 7pm. That would give us only 30 min to drive back across the Bay Bridge, return the rental car, check-in to our flights and go through security. Which was impossible. Rumen and I were praying for a miracle. Jimmy did his best to drive as the limo bus as fast as he could, and when we got close to our stop at Pier 39 he told us we should run to our car bc it'd be faster than sitting in traffic. So, we did. We ran through tourists and across the busy street of cars on the Embarcadero. I used my racing skills to drive us to the rental car return by 7:20pm. It was 7:24pm, and the shuttle to the Oakland airport from the rental car lot had just left without us within a couple seconds of running up to the pickup point.

My optimism kicked into gear, and I started thinking Ok, we just need to get to the gate by 7:30, and since we didn't check-in we'll be part of the B group. So, we'll have a couple minutes. The check-in line for Southwest is never long. We'll be fine! We got onto the next shuttle bus. I was trying to keep my foot from shaking in nervousness. We can't afford to stay in SF one more night, and if we did - where would we stay? Something told me to look at my emails, which I had neglected all weekend (I was so proud of myself for this btw!). After deleting a few emails, I saw one from Southwest. Our flight had been delayed until 9:25pm. Wow. We now had a whole two hours, which meant we could actually feed our hungry tummies with some dinner. But, right when we got up to the terminal entrance, we saw a line going outside wrapping along the Oakland airport building. When we got off the shuttle, we heard that the security line had an expected wait time of two hours. Gah!

We rushed to check-in. Standing in the check-in line, Rumen remembered that Southwest offered curbside check-in. He went outside the building to scope it out. Yes, there was no line and they were accepting check-ins. A kind man with personality named Kenneth at the check-in counter told us that the other Terminal had a very small security line compared to the one wrapping the building, and encouraged us to take advantage of it. We ran on over to the other terminal and found the efficient and less utilized line. We got through security by 7:52pm, and we still had an hour to try the Mexican food at Andale before hopping on our delayed flight. The El Presidente burrito was awesome btw. This was the first time Southwest had ever delayed our flight, and we sat back in gratefulness. Rumen smiled at me and said, "I'm glad we have your optimism love."

In this moment, we had an immense appreciation for the universe for rigging everything in our favor this weekend - from the sign on which apartment to call our next home, to the maximization of relaxation and exploration, to the swift driving Jimmy, the delayed Southwest flight, the kind Kenneth for his tip, and the great food we got to enjoy to end the trip.

If I start living with this strategic optimistic mindset more often, I can just imagine the peace that will replace the anxiety that comes from uncertainty and doubt. I think this is the peace God wants for all his children.

I can't believe I can stop marking my occupation as Student this Saturday!


It is 11:39pm, May 14th, 2014. I just got back from Zumba (which I haven't done in ages!) and pressed send for a second paper draft. In this moment, I can truly say that although I'm still working on a client project that won't end until late June, building Seeds Studios & DIRTfoundation, and have no idea where I will be living in the Bay come July - it is okay - because I HAVE CROSSED THE FINISH LINE OF GRADDDDD SCHOOOL!!!!

I started this journey of completing my dual-degree with an MBA in Strategy & MS in Human Resources Design after being rejected from the CGU PhD program I had applied to. I remember feeling crushed when it happened, yet hopeful that I had been accepted to the masters programs. In retrospect, it was the biggest blessing in disguise. I took this journey of higher education all because Mrs. Swieck pushed us to think of "working hard while your young, so you can play hard for the rest of your life" and the late Dr. Linda Evans exposed me to the idea of going to graduate school. She instilled the thought that higher education would help you to "do what you got to do, to get what you want to get, to be where you want to be." I, being the child of first-generation immigrants, had started painting a picture of success that meant I had to get my PhD.

I was lucky to have gone to universities that had great mentors and programs. Shari taught me the power of positive psychology. Connie Shears pushed me to do my own research, and my leadership professors at Chapman challenged us to self-reflect, meditate, and think about the legacy we wanted to leave behind when we died. This started the path of more self-discovery, in addition to all the psychological tests I put myself through for fun. However, it wasn't until I got to CGU and switched from the Positive Org Psych program to the MBA program that I learned that no matter how much research you do or how you calculate your estimates, you will never have all the data to be 100% precise in your calculations to back any decision - whether they affect your life, your business, or others. Life is just not like that - life does not have fool-proof right answers. Sometimes, you just got to take what you know and move forward and do! Life is an iterative process, you can try something and change course. You don't need to know everything, as long as you surround yourself with people that are willing to question your decisions and offer their expertise in specialties, you can go forth and be a force.

It wasn't until this year through my MBA classes, coaching, and introspection that I found I am a Doer. I have a natural inclination to do something to make a positive difference everywhere I go. Hence, constant research and studying wasn't always fun because rather than read and then write about what I read, I wanted to just read and APPLY what I've read. It also wasn't until this year that I realized I was too end-goal oriented to enjoy the process and was chasing an end-goal vision of success that, at my core, wasn't me. Had I been accepted into the PhD program, I may have been unhappy not doing what was natural to me. My true vision of success is still being painted with the lifestyle I want to live, and I'm doing my best to rid it of associated labels. However, I do know that I want to continue traveling, learning, creative writing, and making a positive difference no matter what I do or where I go.

I'm grateful for all the growth and the learning this pursuit of higher education has offered me. It wasn't always easy doing two degrees in three years and there was a lot of sacrifice that went into it (financially, socially, and sleep-ly!), but I am so glad I did it. I thank everyone amongst my family & friends that stuck around and still love me despite how much I was a hermit behind my books. I plan to make up for lost time!

My advice to others, if you decide to go to grad school - do it. Not for a label of success, but for the opportunities to surround yourself around like-minded people who will push you to be a better version of yourself, the opportunities to learn more about subjects you're crazy interested in, and the opportunities to stretch yourself and grow.

As for me, it's time to stop being a Student by occupation and start being a life-long learner in the class of Life! La'chaim!

Birthday present to me!


Today is my 24th birthday!   

I want to share the reason for my blog, but before I do let me digress for a second and direct attention to the picture below. 

My mother is 24 years old in it! Look how beautiful +Emilia Roldan is and how small and duckling-looking I am! I can't believe I'm now 24 myself because time has flown by so quickly. I hope to age like my beautiful mom =)

Anyway, one of the goals I had for myself this year was to start a blog. So, as a gift to myself, here it is! But you're probably asking yourself, why should I write a blog and why should you read it? 

Because although I'm 24 years young today, I've gone through quite a bit in my short life that has forced me to grow up quickly and wise up. I learned through life experiences, wise mentors, and positive psychology researchers (some of which I've had the honor to meet and take classes with!) that many people have been living their lives chasing an artificial image of what constitutes the "good life" and ultimate happiness.

The "good life" chase, which is technically termed the Pleasant Life in positive psychology research, is characterized by elaborate spending, hedonism, and the never-ending hunger of wanting more, and it leads one to live a substantially meaningless, cluttered life. This may resonate and sound like common sense to some people, but for others who are so used to chasing the next thing - from the next look, to the next expensive toy, to the the next fling in hopes of the happiness of honeymoon love - this may sound a little disconcerting. No one who cares about the impact they make in their lives voluntarily wants to lead a meaningless, cluttered life, but unless they're willing to move against the current - against popular demand and the voice of mainstream mass media and advertising - they are most likely living the consumerist life prescribed to them by our big business-biased society. It takes constant effort to choose to live the ultimate good life, which positive psychology researchers consider the Meaningful Life.

The Meaningful Life consists of pursuing actions that directly relate to one's well-being, such as actions motivated by personal growth, personal excellence, and contributing to the lives of others. Hence, to contribute to the lives of others, I'm sharing what I know and learn on my own personal journey along my Meaningfully Simple Life. (I added Simple in the title to remind myself to not always feel like I need to complicate my life with more, but rather to have a "simple by design" mindset. Very Zen Buddhist of me, I know.) I share different aspects of my journey from daily living, to juicing, to planning a meaningfully simple wedding.

The idea of starting the blog first came when I was initially planning my wedding, and as I looked online for ideas I realized that the majority of people had bought into the idea that to have a normal wedding you had to either have $25,000 on average to spend or be content with starting a marriage off in debt. I personally didn’t buy into it, and my fiance and I felt as though we'd rather use that money toward our own place. Hence, we set out to throw a wedding celebration together for approximately $5,000. People thought it was impossible, so I wanted to start a blog to illustrate my journey toward the impossible. Also, I wanted to use my blog space to share juicing recipes online, since I'm a big advocate for living a healthy lifestyle and juicing!

If you're interested in the concept of or living a meaningfully simple life, and you'd like to see how a fellow meaningfully simple lifer is doing on her journey feel free to follow and connect.