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A Year of Change: Making Big and Difficult Life Decisions

A Year of Change: Making Big and Difficult Life Decisions

One of my greatest faults is my inability to make quick decisions, even about minor issues. I am so indecisive that I will see-saw back and forth for mundane decisions such as what to wear for the day or what meal I should select at dinner. So when I’m faced with the task of making a big and difficult life decision — such as relocating or pursuing a new career — I am usually paralyzed with anxiety.

This year was filled to the brim with life-altering choices that I saw as junctions in the big road we call life. read more

Graduating, Leaving California, Traveling to Ireland and Getting Married

Graduating, Leaving California, Traveling to Ireland and Getting Married

I apologize for the long, silent hiatus on this blog.  I usually try to update once a month, but since May ’17 my life has been absolutely crazy.


I honestly thought going back to school would be a nice break from “real, work life,” but it was actually more demanding and taxing both mentally and physically than my previous 8-5 office job.  In graduate school I literally spent 10 hours a day in the library reading (and comprehending) the 500+ pages of literature, as well as write an average of 2-3 essays per week.  Graduate school was a repetitive schedule of sleep-study-eat-study-sleep.  That was my life for ten months.

Although it was honest-to-god painful to do so much studying in such a short time frame, it was refreshing.  Instead of the repetitive, administrative tasks I was assigned during my previous job, I was pushed to think critically and write my thoughts clearly and with conviction.  I was given so much homework that unless I worked smarter and more efficiently, I wouldn’t finish.  The amount of knowledge I took in from graduate school is simply immeasurable.  Despite my initial hesitation and anxiety about going to graduate school, I can now say it was probably the best life decision I ever made.

Not only was I slated to graduate in June, but I also had four 20-page papers due for finals; my family was visiting from Utah, I had three days to pack up all my things and leave San Diego forever; and somehow I also had to make time to say farewell to the friends I made there.  It was really intense.  There were many, many, many sleepless nights.

And then, somehow, I graduated.  Unlike undergrad, I felt proud.  Like, holy-shit-I-can’t-believe-I-finished-this-hard-as-hell-program proud.  Myself and fellow classmates were beaming, smiling, giddy—we all were—because we all suffered together and somehow, someway, we made it.  Personally, it was a huge achievement and one of the proudest moments of my life.

Leaving California

I had approximately five days to move all of my belongings, fix my damaged car, return the car to the dealer (since it was a lease), fly to Northern California to help my man move, then say farewell to family and friends and leave California forever and ever.  It sucked.  I was almost too busy to be sad.

But for some reason me, the girl who hates driving with a passion, became an emotional wreck when I handed the keys of my red Prius to the dealer and said farewell to my very first car forever.

All things said and done, my Prius was “just a car.”  Yet to me, it symbolized my life in Southern California.  The first thing I did when I decided to stay in Southern California was go to the dealer and get the Prius.  It was almost like making a three-year contract with the state itself, because it’s impossible to cancel a car lease.  I remember feeling like a true adult filling out the papers for the lease agreement as my aunt and uncle stood by my side to help guide me through the process.  That Prius took me all over Southern California and was always by my side.  Fom LA, to the inland empire, to San Diego, and beyond.

And now it came full circle.  With my aunt and uncle by my side once more, I took the keys and gave it back to the dealer.  The return of one’s car in California can only mean one thing: Your time here is up.

California was a weird stage of my life.  It probably wasn’t the smartest place to move as someone who was trying to re-acclimate to US life (moving to the city with the world’s worst traffic? Brilliant idea, Mary!); but despite the initial pain, there was also a wealth of happiness and pleasure.  I met the man of my dreams, my socal coworkers became life-long friends, I spent more time with and got to better know my family in LA, and I went to one of the best graduate schools in the country.

California, despite my complaints, you’ve done a lot for me.

I don’t know if my life path will bring me to California again, but those three years not only matured me—they also blessed me with a wealth of fond memories.


Immediately following our move from California, my man and I were on a flight to Dublin.  We spent two weeks touring the north and west of Ireland.

And man, Ireland does not disappoint.  Like Japan, it fulfills all your expectations.  Ireland is now one of my favorite places in the world and will definitely become a repeat destination.

I’ll write a separate post on Ireland later, but all I can say is: just do it.  Just go to Ireland.  You’ll love it.

….And Getting Married

You know when people say weddings are stressful?


Especially for the bride.  I mean, let’s be real, the bride usually plans the whole wedding.  It’s a long story, but neither my parents or in-laws really helped with the wedding planning, so I had to rely on my man and my maid of honor for all sorts of wedding advice.  Throw in a bridesmaid who threw out her back and canceled a few days before the wedding, along with a groomsmen who is—well, no other way to put this—an asshole and also canceled mere days before the wedding, and I had a complete stress fest on my hands.  Getting 20 Vietnamese relatives, 10 friends from China and Japan and a whole lot of out-of-towners to a venue in the Utah mountains was no easy logistical feat.

But we did it.

Thanks to an awesome groom, a stellar maid of honor, my aunt and her daughter,  helpful friends, some good vendors, an amazing venue and dumb luck—the wedding was perfect.  Our wedding was a smash success and almost everyone who attended said it was the most enjoyable wedding they have ever been to.

And of course, I’m happy to marry my companion, my soul mate, my best friend and my one and only.  He was so patient, understanding and helpful during the whole chaos of the wedding, and we were a happy, giddy couple on our special day.  Now that we’re married nothing really feels different—and honestly, I think that’s what leads to happy and long marriages.

Post-wedding my now-husband returned to work and I took my friends from China and Japan on a one-week road trip to Yellowstone.

I returned from Yellowstone, dropped off my rental car keys, went back to my parent’s home and crashed.  After almost three months of nonstop life events, I can finally give a sigh of relief.  It’s over.  It’s all done.  I’m free.

Will the Ruby Ronin Keep Writing?

Uh, duh.  Of course.  I have a slew of posts ready that range from Ireland, to Yellowstone, to wedding mishaps and more.  I promise to never leave the blog silent this long ever again!  I apologize dear readers—and trust me, I do miss writing—and you!

The Modern Ex-Pat Returning Home

The Modern Ex-Pat Returning Home

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I check my e-mail to see the response I have been waiting for sitting there in my inbox, calling my name.  I told my friends this is “my dream job,” even though I knew the chances of me actually snagging the position were to slim to none.  Still, this organization called me in for an interview (to my surprise) and they seemed impressed at my credentials and skills.  Since the position was in Washington DC, I knew the likelihood of me being selected as a candidate from halfway across the country was extremely unlikely, but I still had hope.

I opened the email.  I don’t even read it all, just scan to the middle to look for the one sentence that determines everything.

I see the word “unfortunately” and “other candidate” and I close the window.  I had a gut feeling that I wasn’t going to get the position, and I was right.  I sighed and put my phone away, then concentrated on making dinner for my aunt and mother.  This wasn’t the first rejection letter I received, so I knew that I could handle it.  I knew that my chances were slim, I knew that it probably wasn’t going to happen, and I knew this wasn’t going to be the last rejection–life goes on, I told myself.  The right opportunity just hasn’t presented itself yet.

Yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and maybe that’s precisely because this isn’t the first time I received a rejection letter and it definitely won’t be the last.  After weeks of job hunting, the “unfortunately” e-mail has come all too often.  After scouring countless websites, contacting various friends, inputting my information at dozens of company portals and interviewing at over 30 positions, the most recent rejection really hit me hard.

Moving back to America has been really difficult


I don’t want to lie and say that life in L.A. has been full of martinis on the beach and parties with movie stars.  It’s been a rough adjustment to a life I find hard to return to.  I don’t have a car of my own, I have no place to call my own and I am starting from scratch once again. I feel more lost than ever… even though this is supposed to be “my home.”

The ex-pat returning home already struggles when it comes to reverse culture shock in their search for a new sense of belonging, but the more pressing and difficult task at hand is the setting up of basic necessities such as finding a place to live, a means of transportation, and most of all a job.

I attend weddings of old friends married to their sweethearts.  I go to graduations of loved ones receiving their doctorates or law degree.  I swap drinks with old acquaintances that have developed careers as bankers, lawyers, doctors, or even a CEO.   I tell captivating stories about China and Japan and make my life sound as attractive as possible, yet I still hold a strong feeling of disconnection between myself and the friends that stayed behind.

While they moved forward here in my home country, I find that I’m just the opposite.  When I left for China and Japan I was almost certain that the international business experience I would gain would make me an attractive candidate and open up a floodgate of opportunities–but what I didn’t expect was a market crash the year I graduated (2008) and a sluggish economy where the job market is cutthroat and everyone is struggling to find a job.

And then, I think the worst.

Maybe my life abroad didn’t benefit me at all.  On the contrary, maybe it just made me fall even further behind.

Was living abroad a mistake?


I remember waking up in my apartment in Shanghai.  My room faced the rising sun, so I always woke up to a stream of sunlight filtering in through my window.  Every morning I made a fresh cup of coffee and my usual breakfast of eggs and toast, then strapped on my heels and suit and headed out for another day at the office.

The walk to my office in the morning was always my favorite part of the day.  I had a 20 minute walking commute in the French concession, with bike peddlers all around me, street vendors selling Chinese breakfast of soymilk and dumplings (bao zi), and fruit vendors bringing out their fresh produce of the day.  Chinese and foreigners alike whizzed by and meshed into  a literal sea of people that washed over me in their rushed commute to work.   I walked the same path to work everyday, passed the same shop owners, security guards and dog walkers.  In this routine I felt a sense of peace and belonging: I felt like I had a real life in Shanghai.

I took the crowded elevator to the 10th floor of my office.  I said “zao” to all my co-workers until I reached my desk next to Takada-san.  She mostly wore a suit, sometimes a leather jacket, but one thing never changed: She always looked up at me with a smile, and I greeted her with a “good morning.”  I shared lunch with my co-worker turned close friend, and in the evenings I created magical memories with a smorgasbord of people from around the world either dancing, listening to jazz music, eating delicious food or cooking at their home which was wrapped in a warm blanket of friendship, comfort, and happiness.

After remembering Z, and J, and Shanghai and Japan…  all I can do is ask myself:

How could something so wonderful be a mistake?


The Traveler and the Journey Home


The time I spent in China and Japan has given my life so much meaning, depth and joy.  I didn’t cure cancer, I didn’t put an end to world hunger, and I didn’t develop an app to change the world–but I met and impacted groups of people from all walks of life, and in turn they made me feel more alive in 5 years than I had in the previous 20 years.

The traveler thrives on the unknown.  A new city, a new destination, a new group of people, a new experience–this is what makes the nomad feel alive.

Yet despite all the traveler has faced in the past, the most difficult obstacle the traveler will ever encounter is ultimately:

The return home.

Like many return ex-pats, I’m in constant conflict with my emotions as I struggle to fit back into my “home” society and find a job.  After fulfilling my dream of traveling the world and learning the languages and cultures s, really… what’s next?  What goals do I have?  What do I want to do for the world?  What work would make me happy?  Where do I want to be in the next five years?

Finding a job and a new place of belonging in a country that is supposed to be “home” is paralyzing and frightening.  Re-joining a race that we left many years ago has us feeling far behind the other athletes, and even further from the finish line that we call “success.”

Yet honestly, I think that race isn’t for me.   We need to find our own path, our own means of happiness, our own personal meaning to the everyday.  Everyone doesn’t have to run the same race.

And I think all of us returnees know that if we had the chance to redo it all over again–we would.

Standing Back Up Again


It’s been two months since my return back to America.  There are times I feel absolutely defeated, and there are other times when I look out to the horizon and feel that chance I’ve been waiting for is almost within reach.  I’m working hard to find a job, and I know if I can survive 2 years in the boondocks of Japan and throw myself blindly into Shanghai with nothing to my name, then starting a new life in the USA should be a piece of cake.

It’s been a long battle, but I feel job opportunities are closing in and all of those days laboring over a computer, perfecting my cover letter and writing the perfect resume are finally paying off.  I feel hopeful, and more than that, I’m learning to find peace with myself in this new environment.

I miss Shanghai.  I miss my friends.  I miss that near perfect life I set up for myself over there.

But I’m here in America now, and I have to give it my best shot.