Now it’s that obvious

For many years as I lived in the Mission, I ignored much of what was whispered as I walked along the sidewalks. Essentially what that meant was that I only heard what I wanted to hear and ignored everything else—including racial and sexist comments.

Shortly after I moved here in 2006, a friend and I walked down Valencia Street. Apparently someone yelled something at me, but I didn’t hear a single thing. My friend, a white dude, was offended for me. He said something racist, my friend declared.

He did? I answered obliviously.

I continued on.

Of course, I had always been quite passionate about any injustice. I remember distinctly arguing with my parents as they disagreed about the way that race took part in our lives. Around my high school days. But despite my desire to change things—I felt incredibly held back by social anxiety and a general lack of confidence. I never participated in any protests or join any groups…or even tried to change society. Instead, i only tried my best.

Until the last year with everything. I try to be sensitive to things going on around me.

As we walked back from dinner today, I heard some white couple talked about the police and how it was challenging. I didn’t think too much about it, except how annoying they were to dodge around us as they rushed to get in line at the Chapel. Once we were out of earshot, Chris noted that the guy was complaining about the black guy drumming upside down buckets and about how the noise was a front for laziness, drunkenness, and how the police wouldn’t do anything about it.

I was incensed. The overt racism. The disrespect. The dismissiveness of the residents just living here. Even if the guy was going drink or whatever, that’s his choice. His choices, as long as they don’t infringe on physically hurting others, are his and he’s free to make them. He may use up the city’s resources, but this then becomes a more systemic problem in trying to understand the root of the issue.

Chris noted how the couple likely went to the Chapel to listen to music likely by white performers. Then they were very likely to go next door to Tacolicious, a partial representation of “Mexican” food. I agreed. They would declare how the Mission is so fun and cultural while never interacting with the people who live here.

Earlier in the day, I recalled the memory of talking to a female Asian friend who grew up in the South. She talked about how people in the Bay Area believe that they’re not racist, but incredibly they are. It’s probably worse, we agreed. But then this is an area that I felt less educated about—the solutions that could fix it. I tried to make an intellectual argument—that now felt a little dumb, it’s hard to fix systemic racism. It’s hard to change everything, I said. She became firey insisting that people in the Bay Area don’t get it. She knew, because she grew up in the South where the amount of racism is about the same. And that there is an easy solution to fix systematic racism. But whatever she said nice, I could not remember. Not because I was stunned that she was shaming me for my ignorance, but because I didn’t understand her solution. I just couldn’t understand it.

But right now, I wonder if I heard it at all.

If you asked me what I wanted to do in the next year…

It’s this: edit my novel, create a strategy for a podcast (about Asian Americans perspectives? about pop culture? about movies?), buy that road bike, edit and publish short stories, get Chris to a good place about jobbie.

And create that idea. Refine that idea that I would like to spread.

Why is it that I don’t have a yearning to improve my professional life? Is there a reason why my desire for that is quite lacking? Am I not interested?

Does everyone think this way?

Here’s my backwards attempt for writing something for March

What are principles if we cannot abide by them? Should principles guide us? Or does empathy guide us? Where’s the right balance?

I remember a talk on ethics and empathy. If we lean toward empathy, that doesn’t mean that our choices are ethical. We may choose to help the young boy who has a sob story—the one where he never got to see daylight and the one where he was caught indoors and all he wanted to do was play with his friends and learn about science. But then we might naturally ignore the big-boned woman who lives with depression and diabetes…who has a story that doesn’t make our heart warm.

I choose what’s right.

On the way to be the crotchety old woman

On Friday to catch a 7 am flight, I woke up unexpectedly at 4 am when my android phone decided that it needed to warn me that if I wanted to get to SFO, I better leave NOW NOW. I had planned to wake up at 5, grab a lyft at 5:30 to the plane, and be at the airport for the minimum (safe) time before my flight.

But now I was an hour early awake!

Because my phone was too smart.

But I don’t know if that was beginning of the crotchety behavior that persisted into my behavior for the rest of the day, at least in the morning where that adrenaline spiraled me into making decisions that were like an old woman.

As I clambered into the lyft, I could tell that the driver was going to make an illegal u-turn, so I promptly told the drive not to do so. “Please don’t do an illegal u-turn across the double yellow. Just go straight and make a right. Then you know, make another right.”

But I was quite aware of how nagging and lecturing this could come off. But then moments later as I noticed that the driver wasn’t too pleased with my comments, I decided to present a rationale for why it was important not to do an illegal u-turn (although waze said so). I proceeded despite a desire not to offend…to talk about how dangerous it was for everyone—pedestrians, other vehicles, cyclists. Of course! I had nearly been run over by other drivers like this especially when on a bike. Maybe he didn’t realize it, I reasoned. But I immediately reasoned that he didn’t care as he suddenly turned off waze and proceeded to take a VERY slow way to the freeway. As a city dweller of over 12 years, I knew that he was pulling off a passive aggressive move. If he was a lyft driver in the city, the route to the airport, especially from the Mission would be quite common, especially down cesar chavez and no matter, he would know that driving down any numbered streets would encounter multiple stop signs. It was simply obvious and I gritted my teeth as I said diplomatically whether he knew the way. Apparently, he didn’t, he said in a strained voice. Knowing that there was no way that I could avoid appearing a nag, I proceeded to tell him how to get on the freeway. I wondered how my rating was like, but I realized that I didn’t care. I only took lyft for work. So I was like whatever.

He drove at the speed limit and in the slowest lane of traffic on the freeway. No complaints, because he was driving safely.

And then on the line to board the plane, I noticed that a guy dragged a rollaway was in the wrong group. I couldn’t help myself and told him that he wasn’t in the right group. “They’re only boarding the A group! You’re the B group!”

He proceeded to ask me if I was security and that why should I care. Especially that it was none of my business. I protested, “You’re taking the space of someone! You’re cutting in line!”

I silenced when I got on board, and suddenly a thought occured to me. What if I could sit next to him so that his flight would be horrible as I shot lasers to him! So I proceeded to follow him onto the plane. But then I realized that my own flight would be ruined by this erratic decision. I thought about how I would ruin everyone’s flight. For just over an hour. I thought about it. But instead, as I saw him settle in an aisle seat, I immediately turned the other direction and took a window seat. I made sure that I gave him a glare and settled into my seat, wondering what crotchety woman got into me.

Because you know…get off my lawn!

2017: Everything’s ok

What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

In 2016, it was the moment that when immersed in the election aftermath that anything could change. In 2015, it was the moment when I realized that I could finish Ice Cream Travel Guide. In 2014, it was when I wrote a well-crafted piece (that I read to a live audience 11 months later). In 2013, it was when light shone in the face of despair. In 2012, it was when I stood up for myself. In 2011, it was a moment of clarity, sincere belief and friendship. In 2010, it was an action of commitment.

I got many rejections this year. I got the disappointments. I saw the disbanding of the nation heading toward the unneeded isolationism.

But what made everything ok was when I gave advice to others. People who were seeking solace, mentorship, hope found me. I often wasn’t ready to give it. I didn’t quite believe myself, but I tried to give the right thing.

And oddly, others believed me. The more that I said it. The more that I started believing it. And the more that it became true.

The people who were starting in UX and wanted my ideas. It was the new writers. It was the people who had just moved to San Francisco. And other.

And it really made a difference to me.

2017: Next Step

When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

In 2010, it was about dream making. In 2011, it was about sticking to my boundaries. In 2012, it was about being true. In 2013, it was about embracing fear. In 2014, it was sitting my butt down and writing. In 2016, it was about leading.

Interestingly, in 2017, I did make that effort to lead. It paid off, because I acted more like I knew what I was doing. Although there were a few moments where I expressed my own insecurity openly. But I kept going.

My next step is about persistence. I know my goals. In a short story from a few years ago, I wrote a character based on myself that simply declared to another that she always knew the right choice. She never was uncertain. She was deliberate of her choices that were based on evidence and data. And partly intuition.

What matters the most is pursuing those goals, because I know what I want. So I must persist despite rejection. Despite disappointment.

I will keep prevailing. In writing. In the job. In the home. Because setbacks shouldn’t matter. They are just stumbles along the way.

2017: Travel

How did you travel in 2017? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

In 2016, I traveled to Finland/Sweden for my first big speaking gig, Portland for a “bachelorette” party, road trip to LA for my sister’s wedding, and Minnesota for work. In 2015, I went to Brazil for a conference, multiple work trips, and a midwest trip. In 2014, I went on multiple weekend trips, increased business trips, and found a destination for ice cream and writing. In 2013, I finished off the bulk of the travel for the Ice Cream Travel Guide. In 2012, I started the journey of a life and went to what I thought was unfathomable (in my life) — six domestic destinations and eight international destinations — for professional and personal reasons. In 2011, I went on one international trip, one domestic…and one super local. In 2010, I went on one international trip and multiple domestic trips.

In 2017, I traveled to:

  • Minnesota one more time. And it wasn’t even for quitting my job although I had planned that already.
  • LA not once, but twice. Once for the pre-planned trip to a writer’s conference. On the way back, Chris made some strips in cities along the way, which was quite excellent. Then another one to visit the Museum of Ice Cream in LA, because I had to. Although regrets, because it came to San Francisco just about five months later!
  • Las Vegas for a short-sighed omgihaveajobibettergosomewhere. It wasn’t the most excellent trip (because Las Vegas is limited for what it is), but it was very filling with food!
  • Then that big trip to Thailand and Myanmar. All because my friend Sasi mentioned that she was going to visit family and I am always rather fond of visiting along with friends to their home country. And Chris came with me! To make up for not going in 2009. We went to Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Then hopped over to Yangon. The Thai stuff was amazing, but Myanmar was somewhat disappointing.
  • And that was it. Somewhat disappointing, since I didn’t actually go to New York. And because of the torrential rain downpour earlier this year, the roads to Big Sur were cut off due to landslides. So the writers camp didn’t happen.

    But this coming year? I am guessing that I have make a work trip to Minsk at some point. Hopefully that can fold that into a trip to Budapest to visit Callie. But perhaps, it will fold in with a Health 2.0 conference. What I hope for is some tangential trip for a film festival (Telluride perhaps?) or somewhere to ski (Whistler? Colorado?). And I really hope the writers camp at Big Sur happens?!

    2017: Moments

    Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2017 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2017

    2016 5 minutes, 2015 5 minutes, 2014 5 minutes, 2013 5 minutes, 2012 5 minutes, 2011 5 minutes, and 2010 5 minutes

  • Visiting Thailand (foodie!) seeing Chiang Mai and Bangkok
  • Eating at Gaggan
  • Doing that long circle train ride in Yangon, Myanmar
  • Starting to understand what fake news really is about
  • Witnesses Trump’s tweets and misdeeds
  • Attending the Women’s March and making it all the way to the end at the Embcadero in the rain (with Tomomi!)
  • Attending the March for Science march
  • Speaking at MidwestUX
  • Making frens at MidwestUX despite social anxiety and making strong connections that hopefully will last
  • Going to interview at Fitbit and saying quite directly that I didn’t like the idea of a wearable
  • Getting that job
  • Realizing that my level was actually at Principal level
  • Quitting Mayo Clinic and telling my manager there about it…on his birthday (unintentionally)
  • Visiting Arizona for Lorri and Paul’s wedding
  • Seeing yo lady house and other stuff in the same trip
  • Having Chris finally moving in
  • But having to deal with all the stuff !
  • Watching Star Wars, Gook, Big Sick
  • Hosting movie nights at taiche old place
  • Figuring out how to dump taiche old desk
  • Remembering the last trip to Rochester Minnesota
  • Seeing the quote that I mentioned in my goodbye email be printed out and posted on the cubicle wall after I left Mayo
  • Moving my desk into the office
  • Having my bikes stolen :(
  • 2017: Making

    What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

    In 2010, I made xmas photo. In 2011, I made metaphorical things—that were intentionally symbolic of relationships and history. In 2012, I made ice cream. In 2013, I made design. In 2014, I made “my room”. In 2015, I made the last line of Ice Cream Travel Guide, literally. In 2016, I made my annual holiday video.

    This year? Well, just minutes ago, I did some design work for my job, which doesn’t feel super compelling. But things that I am proud of—that ice cream sandwich. That petit four thingie. And reorganizing my place with Chris.

    But the most satisfying thing was creating my annual holiday card, compiling a list of 10 things—which was a mass of discussion in trying not be too negative about 2017. Not everything that we learned in 2017 really needed to reflect our political tendencies or the disgust of how the country is going.

    As with all years, I made a holiday video. The previous week, I spent browsing the most viral videos of the year to find the video or meme that would not only be simple to make but had that instant connection for me.

    After browsing through a number candidates, it was clear that the BBC news interview interrupted by a young 4-year old was the clear winner.

    First I had to consider my setup. Due to Chris’ recent move-in, everything was in disarray. But I remembered that the deep analysis had looked at exactly how Robert E. Kelly had setup his interview—books that would look intellectual, a world map to suggest that he was wordly, and a sports jacket.

    As a principal product designer, I take video conferences all day. Quite often, I am anguished by external sounds—like the construction or roommates stomping in the hallway. Not only that, I often spent some time perfecting my background so that it looks that I am serious about my job (NOT!)

    The wall where Chris and I had done an affinity diagram of our goals for 2017 was quite appropriate. I also had the business suit that I had purchased right before college education (I soon discovered that most jobs in the Bay Area do not want a business suit).

    And so after explaining the scene to my sister and Chris, I set up the scene. I removed as much possible from the bed. Then I placed a copy of Ice Cream Travel on a nightstand. Then I tried to move the laptop (yes, this time a laptop to simulate a video call) as far as from the door as possible. I put it inside a bookshelf within the Expedit. Then we had to consider who would play the role of the little brother, especially since we didn’t have any small child available. At first, Toad was the right candidate, but we realized that Toad was going to be too small in any rolling tool that we had (and the camera wouldn’t put at the floor anyway). So we took Mr. Bear and placed him in an office chair with the instruction that my sister would push the door open.

    “Dress rehearsal!” I called.

    Then with one take, I started blabbering into the camera using Photo Booth app on my macbook. Then Chris entered, doing a jaunty dance. I pushed him aside. Then Mr. Bear entered while Chris looked through the book. Then my sister entered the room pulling Mr. Bear and Chris out. I continued blabbering. Then Chris entered with a Happy Holidays greeting which I would jump in.

    After the dress rehearsal, I looked through the video to see any adjustments. Mostly to make sure my sister appeared out of frame when Mr. Bear entered in the office chair.

    Then on the next take, we executed! Looking over it briefly, we decided that it was good enough quality.

    And that’s how the video was made.