Month: May 2011

There is No Crying in Racing

There was certainly no need to, either. What a fantastic weekend. Lots of my friends won, trophied, or had some spectacular showings. I couldn’t have asked for better luck with weather, either (aside from maybe not getting sunburned). PJ won his first ever Pro Solo Class Win, our cars ran the whole time with no trouble, there was a wedding at practice on Friday night…tons of fun, I tell you.

Photo courtesy of Perry Aidelbaum

Of course, despite the no crying in racing rule, I almost cried this weekend….twice.

I was so nervous that I nearly threw up, and was fighting tears before my first runs. I went out, took a run, and came back shaking. On day 2, I positively BLEW the last run on the left side (and I really needed it to move up in the standings) and I felt my lip start to quiver. But there’s no crying in racing, I had the most fun I’ve had in a long time, and there were too many other winners from my region that deserved the attention. I learned a lot this weekend: You can’t let other people get to you, you have to learn how to focus like crazy, and it’s almost more important to support the team.

The pressure is enormous, and the stress makes you crazy. But once it’s over, you kind of wish there were more. It’s nice to relax, though. I had a friend teach me his tricks on relaxing at the start line, and they really work. I also kind of want to get married at Nationals in August (does that count as eloping?) to perhaps take away some of the wedding stress, right before we participate at the biggest event of the year. 

After I ran (and lost), and after she emerged as the top lady of the event (she won a huge runoff challenge), I told Heather (below, far right) that I almost pulled an Old-School-Heather, since she used to be notorious for crying when she didn’t win. She laughed at me, and said she was glad that she was able to remind me that there’s just too much good at these events to ruin it with a foul mood.

Photo courtesy of Wiley Cox
I find this picture hilarious. I look like I’m super short. 

The other things that happened this weekend, in no particular order:

  • We had 6 class winners, and 6 trophy winners. For those of you that care, results are here.
  • There was drama I will get into later, because I’m still fuming over it.
  • I nearly beat the girl on the far left, who I’ve been trying to catch for years (damn cones).
  • I remembered how to play Asshole. Believe me, even though you haven’t played since college, it only takes 3 beers and one turn as the Asshole to remember all the rules.
  • G-Fab Racing and its affiliates drank a bottle of SoCo, a fifth of Jim beam, and 8 6-packs of beer in two nights.
  • PJ was very proud of me, and told everyone I put on a clinic on how to launch my car, since I did it better than the 3 guys in the car…with a total of 30+ years of racing experience between them.

But best of all:

  • I beat the boys 🙂 There’s not much better than catching people you’ve been chasing for years.
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Dear Amy Chua: Thanks.

Amy Chua has been on my radar since I saw her speak at the 2003 Honors Colloquium at URI. When an excerpt from her new book was published in the Wall Street Journal, she got a lot of publicity, mainly negative, for it. It’s not a guide to parenting, nor is it simply a memoir. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother gets a bad rap, but I feel that it’s unjust, people take her too seriously, and that in many cases, the ends do justify the means. I just finished this book, and I am very lucky that I chose now to read it, and it came at a most important time.

I’ve been whining about everything for a while now. I give you all lots of credit if you read all my entries. Yes, I’m in a slump. But a slump didn’t stop the best of the best. Even after an 86-year one, the Sox still came back and won the World Series. Twice. Instead of being the Asian I’ve been striving to be, I’ve been the self-indulgent white girl. It would be foolish to think that this book is solely about parenting, of a parent-child relationship. It’s about relationships of all kinds, going beyond what you think is possible, and finding confidence and happiness in yourself. Amy Chua knocked some sense into me, when I needed it most.

“Nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work…Western parents worry a lot about their children’s self-esteem. But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child’s self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there’s nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn’t.” Reading and rereading the section where she talks about this, I realized something. I was whining and complaining about being burned out, not having fun, not driving well….what was that? Not driving well? And PJ was a bad Tiger Mother: “So quit. I’ll sell the car.”Maybe if I changed my thinking a little bit–maybe if I were striving for first place, instead of “Just Not Last,” I’d push harder, and get faster.

All I need is more practice. Practice comes with a price, but that’s the only way you get good at something, and that’s the only way it’s fun. When I was easily and quickly improving by seconds every run, things were fun. Now that I’m struggling for tenths and thousandths of a second, it’s less fun. I need to keep practicing. When I get better at driving, when I have a particularly good run, I’m happy, and it’s fun again. How very simple!

“Everything valuable and worthwhile is difficult.” I think this works in two ways. Instead of feeling sorry for myself about my living situation, my job (and my coworkers), my sad financial state, and my lack of a wedding, I should be working hard and overcoming the obstacles that are being laid in my path. Conversely, once we buy a house, I get a permanent position, save some money, and get married, it will all be worth it, if not more, because we had to work so much harder for them. Sometimes things work out, and sometimes they don’t. But as long as you worked your hardest, and sometimes even harder than your hardest, at least you can say you tried. And at that, if you didn’t achieve said goal (like a big giant wedding), then perhaps it was not as valuable to you as you once thought.

“But just because you love something…doesn’t mean you’ll ever be great. Not if you don’t work. Most people stink at the things they love.” There’s the argument that if you end up turning something you love into a job, you end up hating it. There’s also the argument that if you get really good at what you love, you’ll love it more. The better you are at something, the more you want to do it, especially something you love. I love racing…I really do. And if I were better at it, and won more trophies, and was asked to be an instructor, I might enjoy it even more. And when you’re the best at it….well, that goes without saying. Winning that National Championship jacket would be my crowning achievement in the sport. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I never had a Tiger Mother. My mom is Portuguese Italian, and my father is Italian. While I ended up with a lot of “Chinese” qualities, I also quit a lot of things, had my self-esteem worried about, and was never told I had to finish what I started.

I look back and regret practicing piano only 30, and sometimes 15, minutes a day. If I had worked harder, I might have played at Carnegie Hall, or gotten a music scholarship. I regret playing computer games on weekends instead of studying for the AP exams. I might have gotten ahead with my college credits even more than I already did, which means I could have done engineering as well. And I really, really miss not having someone to push harder when I pushed back. Sure I had strict Catholic parents, and have turned out better than most of my peers, but I wonder where I’d be now if I had that typically Asian backing.

The loudest message in this book, to me at least, was that while these lessons are most easily learned in childhood, it’s not too late for me to be my own Tiger Mother and to push myself beyond what I think I am capable of, and to the heights that people like PJ know that I am capable of. I think then, I might really start to excel…and to live. I will start to really get the most out of everything I do. And who knows? Maybe I’ll even have a little fun.

 

Throwing in the Towel

When do you cut your losses and give up?

I love racing. I really do. I love the people, I love the events, and I love the fact that we’re such geeks…but we’re geeks together. I even love that PJ and I can do it together, even though we rarely see each other throughout the day, since we’re both so busy. It’s my main, and pretty much only hobby, since I would rather race than do just about anything else. I’ve gone without eating, sleeping, and turned down invitations to do some really incredible things (like Xanga meets) to go racing. 

But when you hit a wall, don’t improve, can’t focus, and are nothing but frustrated about your performance every time you do something…when do you know it’s time to quit?

This Saturday was an experimental event on a surface we had never driven on. Let me tell you. The pavement at the New Meadowlands stadium is heaven. However, I couldn’t get myself together and I couldn’t drive to save my life. I was about 3 seconds off pace…which is really, really frustrating. I had a good run, and BLEW IT at the end because I didn’t adjust my braking zones, and went so far off course, it was embarrassing.

PJ thinks this picture is hilarious, since I have to look UP and over to see out the window. Riding with me is a good friend, who was also giving me some pointers.

I saved the event, and made a name for myself at another club. I managed to import a list to another computer after their timing server crashed halfway through, and we were able to continue and get runs in. I was lucky enough to run after the crash, so all my times were recorded. I didn’t think they’d post results, but they did, and I was 70th out of 85 drivers with times, out of 145 participants. Fail and FML. I mean…I don’t ever finish in the top 10, or even the top 25, but I used to finish in at least the top 50, with 130+ participants. 70/85. That’s so extremely poor, that I didn’t even know what to do aside from sit there and cry. PJ was frustrated with me and tried to throw excuses about tire temps, the fact that 53 of those people are National trophy winners, I’m in a new car that’s never run right….but it was still very, very discouraging.

This car, though I kind of love it a lot and it means a lot to me, has done nothing but cost me money. I’m broke, PJ is $6k in debt over it (and also the repairs for Panda, but Panda is definitely not as severe a contributor), I’m stressed because I can’t drive well, there is still a laundry list of things to do to get it running right, and I haven’t had a weekend off since March. It’s the reason we’ve put things on hold, like buying a house, or even me getting things I need, like new clothing (I have all my clothing in storage, with the exception of about 10 outfits…I’ve literally worn holes in them). I can’t do laundry more than once every two weeks, PJ’s mom is irritated at me because I am not illustrating how I will take care of her Miracle Baby, and I have no time to even talk on the phone anymore.

It’s something I love, with people I love, and it is usually fun for me. But lately, I’m just hitting a wall…and it’s been such a thick wall, it’s been two years since I’ve really shown any improvement. Even when I try to talk to PJ about how I’m getting faster (and trying to convince myself, I guess), he just nods and dismisses it. At one point, he even said that I wasn’t getting any faster. So what’s the point? When do I quit trying?

Nerves

I’m competing in my very first Pro Solo next weekend, at the New Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ. 

For those of you that don’t want to click the link and read a lot, here’s an in-car video, map, and a brief explanation: There are mirrored courses, set up next to each other. It’s the only form of autocross when you start your run with another car starting the run at the same time. It’s a drag start, with a Christmas Tree set of lights, and on green, you go. You run through the course, and then immediately switch sides and go through the course on the other side. You get two tries on each side, three times over a day and a half.

Here’s the map: It looks confusing, but it’s actually sideways, and makes sense if you watch the video.

It’s a little nerve wracking for me because though I have been to several of them, I’ve never driven at one. I’m not confident in my launching-on-command….I don’t practice at stoplights because I’m afraid I’m going to be hit, if someone runs their red (as is common in cities). 

Anyway, I’m starting to have nightmares about it….my first one was last night, I woke up shaking, and it happened as described below (this was an email to PJ, with explanations for those not familiar with the terminology in red):

Me: I dreamed it was raining and dark and cloudy. Heather Everett (a friend of ours who drives a Shelby Mustang) and I were in a log cabin talking about racing and she said we were running second and working fourth (there are usually 4 heats, with classes divided between those heats…you are off for two to do as you please, and you work for the opposite of the one you are driving in). I had to pee and went into the bathrooms, but there was no lock on any of the doors and no toilet paper in the stalls. I kept trying to see who was racing out the window so I’d know when to grid the car (there are four areas: paddock, where you keep your stuff; grid, where you are waiting to run; staging, where you are getting up to the line; and the course, where you are actually driving. You grid the car in the heat before you run, so if you are running in Heat 2, you will bring your car to one of the two grids to get ready about halfway into Heat 1 in order to keep the event moving and flowing smoothly), and I saw a yellow 370z almost on the line, and realized I was supposed to be racing. I couldn’t find my shoes  or my helmet and I ran outside and realized we were on a beach. I got into the car and was freaking out because I hadn’t walked the course (you walk the course before you run it, so you have an idea of where it goes. It’s also very helpful because walking the course will also give you an idea of where you will need to brake, accelerate, etc), and the cars in front of us went, and the one on my side spun out. They were taking their sweet time cleaning the car up, since it was stuck in the sand, but then her lights went, and then mine just skipped to the yellow before the green. She got her car moving before I did, but the car in front of me was still in the way (before the 60′ mark –it’s a true drag racing start, so on top of the Christmas Tree lights, you get a reaction time {if you cross the timing beam before 0.500 seconds, it’s called a Red Light, and your run does not count because you went before the green}, and a 60′ time, so you get your 0-60), so I stopped and they had me reverse back to the line. 

I went alone (you are generally paired with another person from your class, but if there are an odd number of people registered, a car will drive alone so they do not have to go against someone from a different class – as it stands right now I am to be paired with a Shelby Mustang, but not Heather’s), made it around the course (which was actually in a giant warehouse that had sand for a floor), but got to the finish and it was only like 2′ wide (which is definitely not wide enough to drive a car through), so I drove around the lights, opened the door and dragged my foot through the beam. I got to the other side (of the course, for my second run) and yelled at them to fix the finish, but then the event stopped so I got out because I was using different sneakers and wanted my Pumas. I walked back up to the log cabin and the toilet I wanted to use was overflowing. I was late to grid again and got mad and smashed my helmet on the ground, and it cracked in half. Heather told me they’d never let me race with a giant crack in my helmet. Somehow, my car was already in grid, and the pink helmet (my old one–my new one is just plain silver) was on the seat. I pulled into the staging line and the yellow z girl started to go before me, and I had to tell her that she is supposed to go when I go. We let a car go through alone, and then I had to go. My christmas tree wasn’t working, so they told me to just go by hers, so I did and it took like 6 seconds to launch because of the sand. I was beating her around the course, but then got to the finish before her and had to stop because it was still only 2′ wide and I couldn’t get the car through. They gave me a rerun (if there is something wrong with the course, or a worker is in the way and in danger of being hit, or if you catch another car because they’re going too slow, you are granted a rerun and your time where there was an error is erased) by myself again and they fixed the finish, and I finished the course, but I was DFL (dead fucking last) of everyone, not just in L1 (the class I am in for Pro Solo – it’s a Ladies’ class of all stock and mildly prepared cars with only basic bolt on modifications).

PJ: That is so ridiculous, it’s funny. Can I read it to Paul?

Eu-Gene

Because I’m a project coordinator, I get to help the project managers with some of the things they’re working on. One in particular is working on revising the coverage manual, since Yale has its own private HMO. There are certain issues that arise, and claims doesn’t know how to handle these cases, so we are working to revise the criteria so there are clear rules on what Yale will or will not cover. It goes without saying that I’m doing all the research for these issues. I check Aetna, Cigna, Anthem, Harvard Pilgrim, and a few other insurance companies, compare policies and come up with recommendations for Yale. Not too bad, and I get to use engineering graph paper. Win? You’d think so. However, I’m now up to “genetic testing” and “genetic counseling,” which has got me thinking about things. 

Generally, insurance companies will only cover the costs of genetic testing and counseling if there are family histories, either parent is a carrier of a recessive/dominant chromosomal abnormality, either parent is part of an ethnic group that is known to be at higher risk for a genetic disease (ie, Ashenkazi Jews and Tay-Sach’s). There is NO coverage of the expensive tests “for informational purposes.” Of course, there’s an incomplete list of about 75 different genetic diseases to test for, and because some had names I had never heard of, I figured I should look them up. BIG mistake. HUGE. 

Genetic diseases can’t be cured. Managed, yes, but not cured. Some nearly guarantee death by an early age. Others sneak up on you when you’re in your 50’s. Some even result in what could be considered torture: sound mind but completely incapacitated, extreme pain, or severely disfigured.

I started to get worried about my children. Yes, they’re 4-5 years off, and yes they’re probably already screwed because PJ’s family has strong histories of cancer and heart disease/high cholesterol. But at least we know that. I don’t know if my birth parents were exposed to heavy metals, were carriers of the twins gene, had any sort of family history of cancer, diabetes, mental retardation, blood disorders, genes that result in physical mutations….nothing.

I suppose this is one of the perils of adoption. You just don’t know. It’s really nerve wracking and I hate it. Sure, I’m healthy and try to take good care of myself. Sure, I don’t exhibit symptoms of any sort of a disorder. However, it doesn’t mean that I’m not a carrier of something really horrible. I don’t want to be responsible for bringing a child into the world, and having him/her suffer their whole (albeit possibly short) lives. For example, anencephaly was the highest occurring neurological defect in Korean populations (though most pregnancies diagnosed with this are terminated now). I’m not posting a picture of this because it’s pretty gruesome, and very sad.

I don’t want it to be my fault that my child has Downs Syndrome, or Kleinfelter’s, or Huntington’s…I don’t want to have to explain to the neighborhood kids that making fun of my daughter’s polydactily (also common in Korean society) is not nice, and it’s not her fault. 

And perhaps this is a bit selfish of me, but I used to work with people with mental retardation and developmental diabilities. I saw what parents, family, and friends had to go through. It’s a full time job trying to raise children with a genetic disorder, and I don’t want that. I want to have the canonical family life; I don’t want to have to go to special class, or quit my job to make sure they are under full time supervision, or go bankrupt paying for said supervision. 

I started to have a panic attack at work yesterday. My best friend (who can trace her lineage back to some random nobility in the 1600’s, and does not want children) told me I’m being ridiculous, need to chill out, and there’s no point in worrying about all of this. My unni, who is also adopted, says she worries too. It just put an extremely bad taste in my mouth, that there are so many disorders out there, that I can’t, and insurance companies won’t, help…

It’s the not knowing that scares me.

Easy Way Out

I was talking to a Frenemy of mine, and she was complaining about a girl we both know. Said girl has tattoos all over her body: a farting bunny, the Mario Kart love song, pink cheetah print with all the guns from Modern Warfare 2, her car (2006 Subaru WRX STi), a random XKCD cartoon…She must have close to 20 tattoos.

Now, needles are not my thing. I’m deathly afraid. I pulled the gloves off the nurse once, when I was little. Getting my ears pierced was traumatic. I’m lucky I’m not a diabetic yet, because I would probably say “F it.”

So a tattoo is not in my near or distant future. However, if I *had* to get one, it would have to be something significant, no? Not just something random, or what I’m feeling at the moment…it’s got to mean something to me, right? Because it’s going to be on my body permanently…..or is it????

I told Frenemy something that I didn’t really think about at the time, but after a day or so of reflection, it has actually bothered me a bit more. I said:

me: I dunno, I guess there are lots of easy outs of bad decisions these days.
It’s unfortunate, because it means people with enough funds can continue to make poor decisions, as long as there is a way out

If said girl ever decides that she is sorry about her tattoos, she can just have them removed. So why not go crazy, with pink hair and insane tattoos everywhere…you can always take it back later. But then what the F is the point?

Example #2: Some of Frenemy’s other friends were talking at a bar one day. One of them said, “I always have unprotected sex. It feels better. And I mean, that’s what abortion is for.”

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?

Yeah. She actually said that. So because there’s a way you can get out of 18 years of responsibility, after you choose to do something irresponsible, that makes your bad decisions ok? This struck more of a nerve with me than tattoo removal, but it’s along the same lines. You choose to do something, you regret it, but instead of living with the consequences of said decision, you can just wave some greens and it goes away.

I got to thinking that this is why people make snap decisions more frequently than they used to, and why young people seem to be so blissfully unaware (or maybe uncaring) of consequences. You want to get married? You want a tattoo? You don’t want to use protection? You want to take a class, but go drinking every night? There are ways around it, if you can afford it. Divorce, tattoo removal, abortion, even dropping classes because you’re failing, and not getting an F. It kind of makes me sad that so many people rely on the easy way out, instead of sticking it out with their choices and accepting the responsibility for their actions.

I wonder if these easy outs had never come around, that we as a society might think longer and harder about the choices we were going to make.