Life Is At a Standstill… Run a Marathon!

May 6, 2009

I am a serial hobbyist. I’ll admit it. Growing up, my parents had at some point enrolled me in violin lessons, piano lessons, flute lessons, art classes, karate,orchestra, and choir. Some of these things were short lived, others I’d done for almost 10 years. Aside from those extra curriculars, I picked up other hobbies of my own such as building my own websites, playing with Photoshop, and burying myself in the internet. Yes, I started young. :) Most of the wonderful lessons and classes I took were abandoned as soon as I entered college, but that doesn’t mean the hobbies stopped there. My love for art, technology, and music later prompted me to buy a guitar, buy a DSLR to start taking pictures, buy a tablet for my computer so I can further dabble in digital art… and contemplate buying a video camera so I can mess around in video editing. Yes, I am a serial hobbyist… perusing online hot deals did not help the cause as most of those purchases were the results of spotting a hot deal somewhere.

However, with all those on my plate there are still times where I feel like life is at a standstill. Even when work is going well, my personal relationships are great, I am happy… but life has stopped moving forward. Probably because I have not picked up a new hobby, made a new big purchase, reached a goal, or achieved something brilliant in a while. A couple months ago, I found myself in that state. I was stuck in a rut. I yearned for something new, but I knew I could not pick up a whole new hobby… and I was not in the mood to nurture an existing one. Or so I thought.

It was nice one day, so I asked a friend to go jogging.. and then almost instantly regretted it because a couple months prior to that, I had attempted a 5k and while I finished in an okay time, I had trouble just completing that without walking. I work out regularly so I thought I’d be in better shape to complete the race, but it was just an off day for me. Well, this day was different. I absolutely hate backing out of things, so running I went. To my surprise, I completed just over 5 miles and felt able to keep running. That day, I decided to sign up for a half marathon and start training.

Fast forward two months, I have just completed the La Jolla Half Marathon, which has a reputation for being extremely tough due several hills in the 13.1 mile course. I know I might have found a niche because even in pain, even during rough hilly runs, I keep wanting to do more. I never once felt discouraged in my 2 months of training and am seriously considering on doing a full marathon next. It isn’t a new hobby, but rather an extension of something I’ve always incorporated in my life (fitness). And for that reason, I realized that it was perhaps the perfect new thing for me to pick up. While before, working out was just something I did, I now do it with a rewarding goal in mind. I’ve turned something that was just routine into something that I can constantly work towards, and if I continue to train for races then each race is a new milestone I’ve reached. I’m excited for what’s to come, and I encourage all of you who may be feeling a little less motivated to find something within your life and see if you can bring it back to life. It’s great =)

La Jolla Half Marathon Elevation Map

La Jolla Half Marathon Elevation Map


My “Investment” Portfolio

April 13, 2009

I’d say that my investment portfolio is up. My financial portfolio? A massacre. My Roth IRA bleeds. My taxable account has been laid to waste. My bonds and CDs provide the only sustainable lifeline, ensuring that my portfolio doesn’t fade into oblivion. But aside from my financial portfolio, there’s the other side of my investments – myself.

“Why don’t you play the bass for me?” she asked. I was practicing with my headphones on in the corner of the room.  My girlfriend’s textbook sat neglected on the pillow of my bed. Apparently she had been watching me for awhile.  My friends and I had a band, but it wasn’t really a band since we only played cover songs and we didn’t have a singer. At the moment I was practicing a Cake song. I tried to explain that the bass isn’t like the guitar, that it would sound like a random melody since it was a support instrument and not a leading instrument. Plus I was terrible, but I omitted this from my explanation. She bit her lower lip and slowly placed her hands in her lap. “Please?” she asked. I was rendered powerless. My eyes focused on the frets as I placed my fingers on the strings. I imagined my friend on the drums and when my queue came up, I played. The melody for the verse and pre-chorus flowed out effortlessly – my two days of practice had paid off. But an incomplete third day and likely fourth day led to a broken chorus and ending. After I finished, I raised my eyes to look at her. She squirmed. “I see,” she said.

I’ve had many hobbies over the years – bass guitar was one of them. The instrument currently rests at the corner of my bedroom, an expensive decoration. My alarm clock and my cellphone sit on the top of the amplifier, now an end table. This was one of my failed investments. The same year I quit playing bass, my girlfriend and I broke up. I guess it was a down year for me. Other investments sit around my room. On a table at the far end of the room in front of the bed, a vintage record player and collection of vinyls entertain me once a week. I’m still holding onto this one. My snowboard helmet lays awkwardly at the bottom of my closet. I think it fell when I was looking for a thicker blanket when it got colder a few days ago. My doctor told me that I can’t snowboard this season because I broke my foot late last year, even though it seems to be healed. A stack of books grew out of my nightstand as a result, a winner in my portfolio. And a used DSLR full of pictures from a recent trip to New Orleans with a close friend rests on the floor next to my bed – due a bout of nostalgia the night before for times away from school and work – a combination of a new hobby and a favorite pastime.

Saving money is important. But lost in the sea of posts like “$3 daily lattes will cost you more than you think!”, “Clothes at outlets: same or different?” and “How the Rule of 72 will change your life!” (all good topics which may someday be covered by this site) there is also another kind of capital that should be monitored as carefully as any bank statement: personal capital. And even though there’s no indexes or numbers which detail the gains and losses, you will know when an investment pays off big.My portfolio isn’t aimed at getting the most money. So I probably won’t be partying with Diddy on a yacht off the coast of Monte Carlo with empty bottles of Cristal at our feet. But I don’t want that (except the yacht). I’d rather be eating grilled mystery meat from a street vendor in Asia with a friend. And I want to security of knowing that I can do what I want this year and for the next 80 years (maybe). Money is important. But why live a money-driven lifestyle? Instead, let’s try something else. Let’s aim for the lifestyle-driven-lifestyle.

– Vince