Top 10 Most Influential People of the Decade (to me): 2010s edition

I did it then, so let’s do it again!

I am surprised that I had put down the former manager at Method for my last list. Interestingly, I didn’t really talk to her after I left Method. Beyond a short sweet moment where she actually supported my Kickstarter and a brief attempt for consulting, I only saw her life pass me by from afar.

So let’s see. It should be easy to name 10!

Okay, after more than an hour, it really isn’t. Unlike my previous lists, the names couldn’t come easily. I looked through my contacts, people I talked to on Google Hangouts and Facebook messenger, email, elsewhere. I wonder if it’s because I have a more cynical view of people now unlike the optimism that I had 10 years ago. Also, like most people, I now reject the idea of celebrity and influencer culture. I don’t believe that a single person should be obsessed over. And yet, who really influenced me? Or is it just entities rather than individuals?

10. 45
Because you know that he doesn’t deserve a name. Before the election, I joked about him winning, thinking that I would move to another country if it happened. Of course, it did happen, but I did not move. But it made me rethink what my purpose was in work and life. Like could I really make a difference? And the type of people I wanted to surround myself with? It made me…as they say…more woke. It made me more aware of the things that I say and do that could affect others. It made me question how I wanted to treat others and how I wanted to be treated.

9. Some male comedians
As I was brainstorming names, a name would pop up in my head, but I would dismiss it, because they weren’t that influential to me now. But then I thought about it. It’s because there were certain people, especially for male comics, where I 100% admired them and their work, especially to the level of celebrity obsession. But then something happened like an exposé (Aziz) or I saw them in person (Jimmy O Yang). Everything that I thought they were disappointed me. I had admired them, because they inspired the fact that I could tell good stories and be funny while doing it. Maybe Hasan, but he’s so new that I don’t know what to think right now.

8. Damon Lindeloff
Now, I never really quite liked Lost. But I did like The Leftovers. And especially the Watchmen. I never knew that a TV show could do that. If I hadn’t taken the path of novels and short stories, I would want to be a screenwriter. But as those negative affirmations go, I think that it’s too late. Also would I even like it? Being in a writers room, which feels just like being in a design brainstorm. Regardless though, I admire people who lead the creation of something. Because it makes me believe that I could do it too. In hearing how he led the team for Watchmen, it made me realize that diversity is possible. There are great leaders, especially if they respect their teams and hear their feedback. Great leaders empower others, because without a team, nobody can achieve anything alone.

7. Deb of Smitten Kitchen
An easy one. I got obsessed with creating nearly everything from scratch. Because I can! This is the one blog that I trusted, because it had such a natural voice. So there! I struggle to name many food peoples—maybe Samin? Maybe David Lebovitz? But after meeting him in person and barely following him, is he still that influential to me? Whatever the case, Deb and whatever food person convinces me that yes, I will cook and bake for people. Because it feels good to make food for others.

6. Chen-Je
Despite how much the first year was full of dislike, I was surprised by how much invitation he gave me. Not at one job, not just two, but at three jobs. The freedom and trust was amazing.

5. The British guy
This is a painful one, because it wasn’t that it was influential in a completely positive way. Rather, this person forced me to reflect on who I was and what I wanted.

4. Cheryl Strayed
Maybe I am a bit more jaded now. But the discovery of her Dear Sugar rumpus articles was so…amazing. There were moments that I found immense beauty like The Black Arc of It. What I find beautiful is the small moments among heartbreak and pain. The way that we seek something concrete to soothe ourselves in hope of finding solace. I admit that I wasn’t completely in love with Wild. But my fascination with everything led me to taking the workshop at Esalen and 1440 Multiversity. Afterwards though (and even during because of the long years of waiting to get in), I was disappointed. My expectations weren’t quite met. But most of all, I was discovering the challenge of being surrounded by whiteness as a writer of color. When asked a question about diversity in writers and #metoo incidents, she gave a cop-out answer. And so she was influential to me, because she gave me hope. But now, I am not quite sure.

3. Celeste Ng
She has my last name. She wrote incredible novels, especially Little Fires Everywhere. She has a very good Twitter. I have met her several times at readings. I am worried, of course, of being disappointed. But so far, she has influenced me to the effect that she said the first time when I met her, “You ARE a writer.” I am!

2. Vanessa Hua
Although many people didn’t believe in my passion and strength, she believed in me to invite me to an online writing group that changed my writing life. I may not be super close, but it made a difference. And I am forever grateful. She is someone who has given me hope of a chance.

1. Chris
What can I say! My number one believer, fan, and everything.

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