Trixie Layhadi

I remembered seeing Trixie at a couple of the PSA events, and I knew that she was active with all of the Asian American organizations.  I was always drawn to the glasses.  I think a part of me always wished that I could sport them myself.

I was always a non-member, member of PSA.  I would pay dues or attend events at random, but I was always jealous of the Kuya/Ate/Ading program they had.  Literally everyone would call each other by their designated sibling title in Tagalog, and it would make any only child go mad.  I even signed up twice for it (sorry, Cathy, but I think we were paired because we were the only two Koreans in PSA at the time).

BTW, I wasn’t the best Ading/Kuya around, but this isn’t about me.

I remember filling out the form to apply, hoping that I’d hit the jack pot (what that meant, I have no clue).  I didn’t realize it then, but I would be paired with a truly loving and caring person.  I always wondered where I got this extreme habit of wanting to help people with their problems, critique their resumes and cheer them up when career building felt more like career dreaming.  There was never anyone like that in my life.  Except for Trixie.  She was that person for me.

I was nobody.  I still am, but again, this isn’t about me.  I was just transferring from the School of Music, and I had nothing to my name.  I was already burnt out trying to get all of the prerequisites and at that point in my life, I was regretting a lot of the decisions I was making to jump ship.  I would see classmates who were years ahead of me, and I was just trying to get my feet on the ground. 

Career fair began at the beginning of every semester, and I still remember the day pretty clearly.  It was a gorgeous day.  The sun was out, and it was one of those winter mornings where no matter how cold it was, you felt a warmness around you.  I attended my 8AM Intro to Leadership course that morning wearing a suit for the first time in my entire life.  I was anxious and miserable all at the same time.

You see, a couple of weeks before, Trixie asked me if I was going to go to the career fair.  I thought to myself, “What the hell?  I have to start finding a job already?  I just got here!”

I felt like an idiot.  Luckily, Trixie reviewed and critiqued my resume, and even let me see how she put her resume together.  Trixie was an all-star, and she still is, but at the time she had just done her internship at GE’s premiere Financial Management Program, and I was being groomed by one of the best.  It’s one of GE’s famous leadership rotational programs, and they only looked at the best of the best.  Luckily, they had her.  She had just finished doing work in one of their divisions to divest one of their manufacturing arms…I didn’t even know what a divestiture was at that time, and I was just like, “Damn…that’s awesome.”

She literally did everything she could for me.  She dropped off resume paper for me.  She gave the final approval of my resume, and she even gave me her portfolio folder.

I still remember that morning, before the career fair, she told me to call her and tell her when I’d get to the Union, so that she could talk to me.  I took the 10 minute walk to get to the Union, counting each and every step, and when I got there, she handed over her very own leather, UIUC emblem embossed, folder and she said, “Keep it…I won’t be needing it anymore.”

"What a stud," I thought.

I was the only person who came to the career fair without one.  Chalk one up to the novice, but luckily she always had my back.  I remember I walked around the career fair twice sooo afraid to talk to any of the recruiters, and I didn’t.  I walked outside to wipe the sweat off of my face.  I was dying and I hadn’t even done anything.  It was already two hours in and I was thinking about how I could reapply to the School of Music.  I called Trixie again, and she came down and asked me how things went.  I lied and said things were going well, but she knew I was tanking.  She told me to stop worrying and just approach a random company for my first talk and not even think about getting an interview.  Just talk.

Another hour passed, and I decided to just go for it.  I walked up to Canon.  I thought Hey, I love photography, so I’ll just talk to the recruiter about their camera lineup and what she thought about the market for digital photography, right?  You see, I read somewhere that you should be knowledgeable about a company and their products/services.  It was my turn.  I walked up.  The recruiter had no idea what I was talking about.  Apparently, Canon does 100 things other than digital photography, and I remember the conversation ending very quickly…I didn’t even get a business card.  I told Trixie about it all, and we laughed.  After that huge flop, nothing really scared me anymore and it turned into a big game for me.  Somehow, I got called back for 3 interviews.  Unfortunately, when I told them that I had not taken any business classes yet, the honeymoon ended, but that’s all I really needed for my first experience.

Trixie even passed my resume along to GE, and walked me through the info-night process and even told me what things I should talk about.  I got an interview for the same internship she had just finished up, and when I looked at the sign-in sheet for the first round of interviews, it was all Technology & Management students, so I knew it wouldn’t last long, but again, she went above and beyond for me.

I even remember her taking me out for Happy Hour at Legend’s on a random weekday.  I never drank, and I had never gone to a bar before, so I was pretty nervous.  Don’t laugh.  People who know me, know that I’m not a bar-guy, a drinking-guy, or a guy-guy at times, so whatever.  She showed me the menu and told me to order a drink, so I ordered Sex on the Beach.  She laughed.  It tasted awesome.  It was only until later that I realized that there was a continuum of feminine to masculine drinks, and I was ordering off the wrong end. 

We just talked and talked.  We ordered burger and fries.  We talked some more and she walked me through the concept of cocktail hours and social events that I would have to experience for the remainder of my time as a business student.  She showed me the ropes and even walked them with me.  Looking back on all of it, as sad and hopeless as my situation sounded, would you ever imagine meeting someone who would do that for you?

There was also an awesome night where we went out to Schnuck’s, bought some cupcake mix, and baked cupcakes.  Purple cupcakes don’t ever turn out purple, but I remember bringing some back home and sharing them with people at 808.  Trixie made a ducky cup cake if I remember correctly.  Or at least that was the intention.

All of the stories are have follow the common themes of love, laughter, fun, and smiles. 

I had more than just an Ate.  She was a mentor and someone I would model for years to come.  If I hadn’t met her at the time I did, I probably wouldn’t have made it very far.

Trixie went above and beyond what anybody would have ever done for me or anyone else for that matter.  I have a feeling it was that first experience of meeting someone so supportive in the College of Business that set a very high standard for me.  A standard that I tried my best to follow years after.

For everyone who knows me pretty well, you can probably tell that these stories sound very familiar in that these are some of the same things I do to this day. Trixie had  a lot to do with it.

We all need to be a little more like Trixie.  We really need to start investing in others.  Even if we don’t realize it until years after, looking back, it’s all worth it.

The last time I saw Trixie was when I was living in Lakeview, walking down Halsted to catch a cab in the morning.  I was in a hurry to get to work and after not seeing each other for so long, we said we would catch up.  We never did.  I was so consumed by my work and random things that weren’t really that important, and I just wish I could have just come to work late that day looking back at it all now. 

Trixie, I just want to thank you for teaching me so many beautiful things about life and how to live it.  I know I never got to share all of my accomplishments with you in person, but just know that everything you’ve done for me and all the times you encouraged me…I will never forget them.

Thank you, Ate.


I caught a glimpse of happiness in the daylight this morning as I wandered/wondered aimlessly back and forth on the roads in front of my hotel. The sun rose, and with it, my understanding of what is truly valuable in life. We may defer our thoughts or recite the common adage of wealth and materials things not being the source, but there’s actually much more to it than you may think. People may consider it to be simple, which it is, but the difficulty comes from making sense of our inherent, complex thinking to appreciate and recognize the beauty of its simplicity.

We are not weak thinkers by nature. It’s exactly the opposite. We naturally over think every situation or variable to the point where our minds are trained to generalize, summarize, and paraphrase our thinking to make it feel as though we can think simply, when in actuality we truly do have to work harder to think simpler.

To put it simply, happiness is something that is felt, and can never really be defined. It exists over a lifetime and cannot be achieved in a moment. This also means that through our hardships and failures that we find happiness through those experiences as well.  Similar to a painting, we not only appreciate each brush struck and detail, but we also appreciate its beauty as a whole.  In the same way, in life, we focus too much on the individual brush strokes while forgetting about the larger piece. By doing this, we are too easily influenced by the momentary hick-ups and emotional flares that will always guide us in varying and contradicting directions, but take the experience and look at it within the context of a day, a week, a month, a year, or even a lifetime, and that is when it can truly be appreciated for its beauty.

I would agree with people that happiness can be achieved, but I find that it is more of a realization than a discovery or conclusion.  It’s something that we must work very hard to look at simply and wholly to make sense of its beauty and appreciate its presence. It’s there, we’re just not looking at it from the right perspective.

For all of you who are struggling to pursue your dreams, please take note of all of those hardships and appreciate them. Cherish them, because these are the details that make up the larger piece. The goal is to realize the entire painting and be able to share your art with the world.  Don’t ever lose faith. When you start to feel it slipping, step back, look at the art in its current form and fill in the negative space with imagination and dreams that will eventually reveal themselves in their true form as the piece is being completed. 

I have found that many people start their life’s work with beautiful strokes and vibrant colors. These are the days filled with happiness, exploration and true dreaming. But somewhere along the way, the colors lose their beauty and the strokes lose their conviction.  

Somewhere along the way, we have to find a way to get it all back. It’s not easy, but it is surely possible.

In the end, you will look back at your work and appreciate it for what it means to you. Then it’s up to you to share that art with the world. Inspire others to pursue their dreams. Leave behind a legacy to be admired. Be the father/mother your children aspire to become. Be the human being you were meant to be. Be happy.

I’m still learning to live, but I appreciate where I’ve come from, I realize where I am, and I’m still dreaming about where I will be. Each brush stroke will be made with a purpose. 

I caught a glimpse of happiness in the daylight this morning.

It was absolutely beautiful.


Over these last few weeks, I’ve questioned whether or not I’ve actually learned to live. I believe that mankind has the tendency to procrastinate the most on learning this lesson, and there are far too many people who never make it to the last chapter.

I think a lot of people get stuck at the penultimate: “How much control do we really have?”

In religion, the concept of free-will is one that is constantly debated and interpreted in many different ways. Ranging from the idea that everything is foreseen yet free-will is given to free-will and destiny coexisting in one space, people can get lost in-between, but I’ve come to understand one simple thing.

The world’s greatest lie is that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. I believe in what the king told Santiago that day, and I also know that it is when we convince ourselves of this lie, we actually do lose control of our lives.  

I’m not here to question anyone’s faith or religion, but I am going to question whether or not you believe in your competence and whether or not you have dreams. If your answer is ‘no’ to either one of these, then the answer is not to give up or rationalize why now isn’t the right time. 

Everyone in this world faces hardships and regardless of what countries we reside in or call home, this is something I see all too often throughout my travels. It shows its face in many different forms, but its eyes are always the same.

In a sense, we’re all dreamers, but why don’t we do anything about it?

I have my own idea for why it’s taken me so long to learn this much, but I’m going to let you figure it out on your own.

Let’s learn to live. Let’s see if we can make it to the final chapter this time. 

'N' is for 'Loser'.

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"Maybe death is the great equalizer, the one big thing that can finally make strangers shed a tear for one another."


Morrie S. Schwartz

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"So many people, Mitch, walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half asleep even when they are busy doing things they think are important. This is because they are chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning."


Morrie S. Schwartz

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There’s this side road that I take to get back to the hotel everyday, and the great thing about it is that there is barely any traffic, and it’s quite a peaceful walk, but today was different. I won’t lie, I’ve only been in Bangalore for a week, but this is the kind of walk where in the middle of a densely populated city, you have space. Space to think and move.

The weather was beautiful, I had just gotten my haircut and even found time to pickup a xeroxed copy of a book my friend let me borrow (don’t ask). 

I was about to reach the hotel when I noticed a group of about 5 boys (about 8 to 10 years old) surrounding a bully (about 14 to 16 years old) throwing another boy to the ground. He couldn’t have been older than 10, and he was on his knees crying and grasping for a plastic bag that had plastic Tupperware in it, but the bully kept throwing him to the ground.

I was so angry, that I just stood there staring until the bully noticed me, and when the other boys pointed out that I was there, he turned and started to smile acting as though they were playing, and the other boys started to play along.

I looked into the eyes of the boy on the ground and they were so tired, ragged, and filled with tears of hopelessness.  They were the eyes of someone who was about to give up.

The bully started to walk around and finally threw the boy’s bag on the ground and kicked it over.  

Eventually they all turned to me smiling as if it was all a game. I crossed my arms, and asked if the boy was ok. He stared at me silently with tear-filled eyes not breaking contact as all the other boys signaled that everything was ok and laughed the whole thing off. I asked again, but the boy could do nothing but stare at me. What did he want/need me to do? I couldn’t figure it out.

I didn’t know what else to do, and people from the neighborhood started to gather around, so I walked away.

I’ve been pacing back and forth lately wondering about what happened to the boy after I left. Did I handle the situation correctly? Could I have done more?

I’m really hoping the boy knows that life isn’t always going to be like this.  We all get kicked down every once in a while, but the worst thing to do is to let the hatred and anger build up, or even worse, give up. An embittered person is a person who seeks only to disrupt and destroy what has been created. A passionless person is a person who doesn’t realize value and therefore cannot create or destroy, resulting in a life unfulfilled.

I’ve been told many times in my life that I wouldn’t succeed or that my dreams were impossible (it even happened this past week), and I’ll admit, there have been times when I let the anger get the best of me, but I always let it go. The way to combat this is not only by proving them wrong, but also by proving yourself right. The latter being the most important of the two.

I hope that someday I can prove every naysayer wrong, but until then, I’ll just keep on proving myself right.  My dreams are my own, and nobody can take them away from me.

To the boy I failed to help earlier, live a life of passion and keep on proving yourself right. That is how you gain strength. That is how you gain respect. That is how you learn to love life.  Be a believer in yourself.

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This is the last of the three videos. 

The memories I have from traveling can fill volumes.  What i’ve noticed though is that the more memories you have to share, the less eager you are to share them.  I feel that as you experience more, it becomes less practical to share every detail, and you should rather reflect on all of them to find common threads where lessons are woven through the timeline.  You can then draw on these instances to share that thought.  When you’re younger though, you have a tendency to ‘spill the beans’ and go too much into the irrelevant and extraneous details.

I guess that’s what makes true storytellers that much more impactful.  Their ability to explain life in phrases and short stories rather than chronicling their every breath and moan.

I hope that someday I can become a true storyteller.

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I put up a post not too long ago, about someone who had traveled to ‘x’ amount of countries in about 2 years (just a guess).  Well, I just realized that the video was one of three short pieces made by 3 guys across 11 countries over 44 days.  Traveling over 38,000 miles, these guys were commissioned by STA Travel Australia to go all over the world and shot over a TB of video footage.

All of this for simplicity.  Three concepts: movement, learning, and food.

I’ve been truly fortunate to travel to a lot of these countries, and looking back on all of my experiences, I can easily compartmentalize each memory into one of these three categories.

If we can live life simply, then it all might make sense, but we tend to segment to the point where we lose ourselves in thought and forget about our reality.  The one filled with dreams driven by our passions and ambitions. 

Simplify your thoughts.  Make more sense.  Get moving.

I could play back a number of my own memories to a soundtrack, but I think these guys have done a much better job.

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I’ve had a lot of requests for the song I wrote about two posts ago, so I thought I’d show you the trailer of the TV show I first heard it from.  The concept is so beautiful and it compels the viewer to ask, “What if I were forced to choose between the people/dreams/realities/things I love most?”

"Which would I choose and why?"

"Would it be possible to live with both?"

"Was there even a choice to begin with?"

I’m taking the concept a little deeper than most, but if your reality were split into two which could never cross or merge, how would you choose between the two?  The show uses multiple realities with loved ones, but doesn’t this apply to everything we love?

Is it possible to live both lives without losing ourselves in the process? 

I find myself walking a fine line between the reality I’ve been taught to love, and the reality I was raised to love.  It almost seems as though one is real while the other is just a dream, but the problem is that they’re both real.  Also, if both were the same, this would be easy, but they’re usually not.

If you had a choice, which would you choose?

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This is what life is about.  I’m guessing he did this all in the last two years with an HDSLR.  To travel to so many places in such a short period of time.  I’m jealous…so so jealous.

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In life, we have so many opportunities that we never realize because we limit ourselves to a critical path that’s designed around fame, fortune, or power. At the end of every day and at the end of our lives, all we have is our home.  Home is where our lives should begin and end.  In the end, when we return home, will we be satisfied with all that we’ve done?  Will we be happy with who we’ve become?  Will we be surrounded by the memories and presence of those we love who love us just the same, if not more? 

I hope that some day I can build a home.  A home where I can remember.  A home where I can be at peace.  A home where we can gather.

Someday I will build a home.

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  • Michael: Are you doing ok?
  • Mark: I'm doing alright. I found out about uncle, but he had everyone with him, so I don't think you can really ask for more than that. Things are a little tough here, but I'll get through. It's like the last mile in a marathon.
  • Michael: That's good to hear. Yeah, I think uncle went the way he would have wanted. Peacefully, and with family around. It's good that everyone had a chance to see him and say goodbye. And BTW, we changed mom and dad's vacation to Oct 1-8. They were set to leave yesterday, but clearly that wasn't going to happen. Good luck with everything. You'll do great.
  • ---
  • Michael: Hey, Mark. How you doing?
  • Mark: I'm alright. It's been difficult these last two weeks, but I'm working through it.
  • Michael: Because of uncle, or work, too?
  • Mark: Just everything. I've been through so much and i'm just confused right now. I don't feel like I'm the same person I was when I first got to my second project. I used to think that I'd just go back to the US and start my career in something like consulting, but there are so many things that I can do here in India that are all things that I've always dreamed about. And I'm wondering if it's possible to do both or if I put it off, will the opportunity still be here when I come back?
  • Michael: Sounds like these are all good issues to have. And all a part of being on your own, alone and in a distant country. You are growing superfast, which can be confusing and difficult. But that's ok. I'm proud of you.
  • Mark: I really appreciate it. I just don't want to make any rash decisions. Also, I've learned so many things about the Indian culture that I don't understand so my emotions are a huge strain on my work, and i'm trying to work through it this week
  • Michael: I wouldn't worry about rash decisions. It sounds like you only have good options to choose from, so either way you win.
  • Mark: I'm just worried about money. I need to pay off my loans as quickly as possible but it feels like it's impossible to do.
  • Michael: Yeah, money's always a stickler. For everyone.
  • Mark: So i have to figure out how I can make money while doing this work
  • Michael: Then plan to pay it off slower (in 10 years) so that you can do what you love. You're not planning on retiring, right? Go with your heart, not your pocketbook.
  • Mark: haha Naw nothing like that.

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."


Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States

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This is actually how I felt yesterday; that I would have to compartmentalize my dreams from reality. I’ve just started to realize this myself.  We can do both at the same time.

This is exactly what I needed when I needed it the most.  Thanks to Nicole McConnell for the inspiring share.  

I wish I had a copy with me right now.

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I never would/could have expected the events that have transpired over the last weeks.  I’m just glad that everyone is ok and that things can be rebuilt.  My heart has never been so violently shaken, I wonder if it will ever be the same again.

For now, the relief is starting to settle in.  I am no longer the same person, but better, and slightly stronger.

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