2019: 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. In 2017, it was about persistence. In 2018, it was about seeing the big picture.

My last day as a principal designer/product design manager at my last job, only a few days ago.

Now, I wouldn’t say that it was a job that was traumatic or beat me up. It wasn’t that at all. There were jobs that I held previously where I felt incredibly pummeled. And even then, I have often withstood them and drawn my clear boundaries.

Some would say that I didn’t give the job enough time. But I believe that I held my ground and that for over 6 months, I was clear about what I needed and knew that I couldn’t get it at the company.

Rather, it was this idea of getting what I wanted and constantly reframing it. I wasn’t too thrilled with the things that I was tasked to do, because it didn’t align with my goals. My interest in the industry declined as I realized that the health and wellness industry simply could not compete with the policies that the government enforced on its citizens.

“What could have been done differently?” my manager asked after I gave my notice.

“I would have left earlier,” I said.

Yet when I see news stories or friends’ posts on social media (or even strangers’ post), I still would recommend health coaching to encourage at least some initial behavior change.

And it’s in this work that I learned about resilience. A significant type of education in health. Maybe some people would say that it isn’t resilience. But resilience is about the idea that in face of failure and disappointment, that…I can still get up. It doesn’t freeze me. I have it within me. I can adapt and work through stressful situations.

2019: Moments

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2019 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2019.

2018 5 minutes, 2017 5 minutes, 2016 5 minutes, 2015 5 minutes, 2014 5 minutes, 2013 5 minutes, 2012 5 minutes, 2011 5 minutes, and 2010 5 minutes

  • Learning about Chris’ bike accident and then ER
  • My nephew Jakobe being born
  • Trip to Tokyo especially Hokkaido despite the freezing weather and Tokyo — day with the Waldos and…yes alas getting separated
  • Getting a promotion
  • Deciding to quit the job
  • Interviewing at many places and refining my narrative
  • Litcrawl with my new writing group
  • Having dinner and coffee with Jenny
  • Going to Portland for XOXO despite having challenges with Chris
  • Going to New York despite Chris’ noise issues
  • Standing up to badly behaving coworker when he said something inappropriate
  • All my great research projects at work especially personas, abandoners, and consumers
  • Cinderella bike ride in the east bay…for the third time, I think
  • Going to Yosemite despite it not being the best
  • Hike in the Pinnacales…
  • That pseudo proposal with a ring pop!
  • Creating our holiday video, especially the concept and editing process
  • Having my short story workshopped at the CCSF writing class and realizing that hey, my story actually really works and other people really admire it
  • Being on the healthcare panel

2019: 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. In 2017, I made another annual holiday video. In 2018, I made scones (from the Tartine cookbook)!

Well, of course, literally, the last thing I made as popcorn as a snack for myself as I idly worked on my penultimate day for my job. My stomach rumbled and I craved some salty snack. Knowing what would happen if I tore open any packages, I decided to make something…perhaps more healthy. Chris had procured some fancy popcorn kernels now stored in ziploc bags in a fancy cardboard box. I used one of our fancy saucepans. Dunked some olive oil—likely went rancid. Then popped 2 kernels in and covered the pot, following some recipe out there that said this was the best way to make popcorn. Waited until a kernel popped then I poured in a quarter cup of the kernels. Then once the popping slowed down to one every ten seconds, I poured it into a bowl. And ate it.

But really, what I made was a holiday video. Proud! Like every year, I suddenly realize that it’s holiday video time just before Thanksgiving. It’s time to think of the concept. A meme?! A viral video? A message that I want to say?

This year after debating two approaches—one of which was a version of the Peloton ad. Instead for ease of use (and decreasing the burden of acting), we decided on Succession, a VERY GOOD show from HBO. But then began a collection of clips and photos. Being a lifelong collector of photos and videos (of my life), I already had a lot in store. I asked my dad to get the DVDs that contained digital versions of the many home videos. Unfortunately, Chris didn’t have that much of anything from his childhood. So I cobbled together videos and clips in iMovie. In studying the title credits for Succession, I realized that there was an old VHS filter and large flashes for transitions. iMovie was limited in that respect. For a moment, I considered using Adobe Premiere Pro, even to the extent of downloading a trial. But when faced with the immense app, I could not bring myself to use it, especially in figuring out everything that I needed to know.

So I decided to just use iMovie.

Over the course of a week, I clipped videos and photos (and took the audio track from the Succession clip). For all videos and photos “before us”, I made it black and white with the old movie filter. Then I added some title words to emulate Succession as much as possible, but instead of a collection of words…I just used our names and locations where we lived. (although I just realized that I left out Pittsburgh, PA…ugh!)

Then I played it over and over again until it was done.

As always, we created a top ten list of things…and then carefully selected a group of recipients!

And then done!

2019: One Moment

Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail.

In 2018, it was the moment that we realized that the car would start. In 2017, it was the moment (or moments) that I deeply connected with a group I had just met at a conference where I thought I would have been antisocial (or just horribly socially anxious). In 2016, it was the moment that I felt in the flow in telling the story of Ice Cream Travel Guide. In 2015, it was the moments after my hat was “stolen” in Rio. In 2014, it was a moment in a writing workshop that I had achieved greatness. In 2013, it was talking to Yasar Usta in Istanbul. In 2012, it was using the ocean as a “big toilet” while floating outside Palawan. In 2011, it was my birthday moment. In 2010, it was the success in Journey to the End to the Night.

Alive? This is the thing. About a month ago, I was asked by this financial coach about when I felt the most alive so I mentioned the one in 2016 about telling the story of Ice Cream Travel Guide. But I knew that she was meaning about the moment that I felt happiest by using other words.

I could point to the moment in the Lyft as we were arriving on scene, but I am not sure if that was when I felt the most alive, in trying to determine the next path to take based on how severe the accident was.

Or was it the moment that Chris and I got separated in a Tokyo subway station. It wasn’t quite being alive, but it was devastating and perhaps traumatic.

But what is this aliveness? I get that the word is about being the most present, sitting in the moment. But does it involve emotion?

I think about these moments of the past years: when I finally finished the holiday video in celebrated in the triumph of achieving the goal that we wanted, hosting new years brunch successfully!, hanging out with the Waldo family not just in Tokyo but also traditionally in San Francisco during Thanksgiving weekend, or was it in the hospital room with Chris?

Maybe it’s truly the latter. Maybe it wasn’t the ride to the scene. But it was finding that he was okay as he looked up in confusion and then recognition. “Jennng!” he said.

It was finding him sitting on the gurney right in the middle of the hallway after this ride with the police officer through the city of San Francisco sitting on a plastic backseat. It was after we located the bike where the nurse had misremembered where its actual location (it was in the storeroom of the ER). It was after a doctor and nurse checked his vitals. It was there in the bright lights where I offered my sunglasses. It was where I said things—maybe because I was trying to pass the time. But it was as I recounted in detail.

Of course, I didn’t know that this would be the beginning of a long recovery process. One that peopl—outside people—cannot see.

I knew in that moment that as I bounded over from the hallway with my black Timbuk2 backpack and coffee mug (that I didn’t want to spill so I was holding it) and was so relieved that he was in one piece. His face was contorted in a neck brace. And then it was okay.

I would like to think that it was because I was there. But I think that it was because the future was actually known.

2019: Letting Go

Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

In 2010, it was a person. In 2011, it was an idea. In 2012, it was a symbol represented by a person. In 2013, I let go fear. In 2014, I let go of humility (or the desire to appear humble). In 2015, I let go of perfection. In 2016, I let go of expectations. In 2017, I let go of things and people I don’t need. In 2018, I let go of constant discovery.

This year, I let go of expectations. For years, I know that I have expectations, especially from another, things don’t happen. What I do know is that you can make your own destiny.

Of course, I believe that I demonstrate it through my ridiculous behavior of making sure everyone knows that it’s my birthday! :D

I only know that I can make it happen. If nothing happens, it’s not because the world isn’t listening, but it’s because I didn’t make an effort to do something about it.

Earlier this year, my manager told everyone at an all-hands meeting about the best advice he ever received. When he was young, tt was some random guy who pointed him and said, “You make it happen, captain.”

So it’s about making it happen.

The job. The “big” life changes. The people around me.

2019: Writing

Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

In 2010, I said everything. In 2015, I said fear. In 2016, I said that it’s sitting down and doing it.
In 2017, I said that it was work.
In 2018, I said that it was lack of support.

But this year? At first glance, it was work. But for the first half of the year, I took a CCSF class in fiction—the intro class. I am not sure if through it, I was burnt out. Because shortly before it ended, I decided that I had to follow through on a promise that I had made to myself—to quit my writing group. The one that I had been thinking of quitting for a long time due to a number of factors.

And so I could say that the latter half of the year is this idea of the lack of accountability. But it’s not that either.

It’s possibly…simply the idea that the consistency isn’t there. I used to write every day on this blog. But then other things took precedence. The job. The TV watching—yes, lots of that. And then there was this guilt that I still wasn’t finishing the novel. The inability to finish editing.

With a lack of a group, I don’t have the accountability but I also mostly lack of the consistency of simply sitting down and writing. I don’t have the structures that I used to build myself because I used to have so many online friends which lowered the barrier to simply writing.

The computer tires me. The Internet tires me. All I do notice is that my short quips have made it. But my long drawn out thoughts don’t.

Maybe though that’s the thing that needs to be invirogated. to build up that consistency again. To make me love the written word.

2019: One Word

One Word. Encapsulate the year in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2019 for you?

From years past: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010

The one word that captures this year:


Last year, I had hoped the word would be Comfort. Interestingly, my initial thought of the word was acceptance. But I wanted acceptance of the way things were and how I was able to work with it.

And because of the work that I had been doing at my current job—building a Resilience program through building inner strength, practicing mindfulness, regulating emotions, and carrying thoughts…it had to be this word.

It’s the idea of bouncing back in the face of tough times. Maybe it’s because of all these behavioral things that I have seen. And not just looking at others, but thinking about how it might apply to myself. In college, I was constantly devastated thinking that the world was against me. Fridays were always unlucky. People were mean. And it’s not that I still think that things are bad. They are bad. But I work with it and they don’t trouble me into a constant dark place.

I used to let other people’s anger or disappointment get to me. That it says something about me. But I have built some of kind of inner strength to know when people say something about me…that it’s not about me. Of course, I have known about this for more than a decade. But I think that I have truly embodied it.

All people can be like children in a tantrum. I can be too.

Next year, I hope that maybe…with this resilience, I would seek gratitude. Gratitude for myself. Gratitude that I carried all of this forward.

2019: Travel

How did you travel in 2019? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

In 2018, I traveled very domestically, mostly local for retreats in Ukiah, Scotts Valley, and Big Sur. Then San Diego for a work thing. And a trip to Squaw Valley. And a crazy long adventure through Chicago and New York. In 2017, I traveled to Minnesota for work, LA twice for “fun”, Las Vegas for a not-so-good fun, and Thailand/Myanmar! Also somehow forgot to mention Cincinnati for MidwestUX! And did I forgot to mention Phoenix? 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 2019, I went:

  • Phoenix (twice) to see my sister pre-baby and then post-baby!
  • Japan! All over Hokkaido and then Tokyo for an AMAZING two week trip of everything, I would have wanted in a winter vacation.
  • New York for a friend’s wedding, but alas this was shortly after Chris’ incident, so it was a so so experience
  • Portland for XOXO fest. Again Chris felt funnie so it wasn’t the best. But we made the most of it.
  • A side trip to Bass Lake/Yosemite, which turned out to be less than I would have liked
  • A little less than I would have liked. But after doing so much international travel (and growing awareness of climate change), I am reluctant to really travel much!

    In the coming year though, I hope to go to Phoenix again. Then a planned retreat with my writing group to the Santa Cruz area. And *crosses fingers* hopefully a writing workshop—but that all depends on getting in. But I realize that I don’t particularly like going to places without Chris, because I would rather share my experiences with him.

    Nonetheless, I still have hopes for places like Vancouver or New York City again. And if I am willing to go inside a metal tube, Korea one day. Or maybe back to Ukiah? ;)

    2019: Entertainment

    It’s that time of the year…to recount the past year. And then the past decade! Although technically, the decade is not over until December 31, 2020. But here we are when we say a new decade is starting!

    Nonetheless, to begin!

    I recounted the most impactful entertainment pieces for me in 2014. Then I did it again for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. Now 2019.

    Movies I Saw
    A little tough halfway through the year due to Chris’ incident, but still…very impactful!

  • Parasite
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco
  • Burning
  • Detective Pikachu
  • TV Shows I Watched

  • Watchmen
  • Game of Thrones granted, a very mixed season
  • Succession
  • Barry
  • Fleabag
  • Books I Read

  • Pachinko
  • The Power
  • Exhalation a collection of short stories, but it counts!
  • Educated
  • The Making of a Manager
  • Ways to Pass the Time

  • Bon Apetit videos
  • Always reading news on Twitter, but noticing conversations and paying attention to the context of a tweet rather than the tweet itself
  • Listening to podcasts of shows and Esther Perel
  • Brainstorming ways to use up leftover food (e.g. what can one do with a surplus of roasted potatoes)
  • Confirming Chris’ recovery
  • Technology

  • Instagram stories—yes, I know
  • Google Home…when it works
  • Google Photos
  • Abstract, even if it’s a work thing, but the abilty to control versioning and look at history!
  • Slack. Still my favorite app of all as long as it doesn’t stress me out. Found communities this year, although not sure if I will have sustained interest

    “Would you still be with me if you knew that our relationship would end in tragedy?” I asked.

    Instead of answering directly, he answered like Dr. Manhattan from the episode where I got that idea from. “Why yes, of course,” he answered in an emotionless voice.

    I wrinkled my nose, but tears slide down my cheeks. “Would you?” I repeated.

    “Don’t all relationships end in tragedy?” he said, mimicking Dr. Manhattan.

    I sighed, but I already knew the answer.

    Just two hours previously, I was vacuuming the bedside table, sweeping all the dust, in an attempt to prepare my sleeping space to better my accommodate my recovery from a cold. Despite the roar, I heard the door open and close.

    It could only be.

    Of course, I had been shaped by videos, stories, books, photos, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. I wanted the flashdance, the surprise, the friends. I always joked about the “Purpose…Proposal” from Avenue Q for years. Until the few moments that I thought that it was going happen. As we drove from dinner for my birthday, I fell asleep in the car. When I woke up, I discovered that we were at treasure island next to the setting sun. I sat up, alert. Was this it? He began, “I know that I don’t know how to express my emotions…”

    I was relieved that it wasn’t. I was relieved that nobody was watching. I was relieved that it wasn’t a spectacle. I was relieved that I wasn’t put on display.

    But the more that it didn’t happen, the more that I constructed a thought for myself. Soon over the years as we navigated challenges and successes, I started to say exactly what I wanted. So much that I (almost) literally wrote it on our annual goals post-it.

    And today, technically yesterday, for weeks, I had decided exactly how and where I wanted. It didn’t quite end up that way due to the noise in the restaurant and our timing.

    So instead on the following day after meandering through the Moma and he left to run an errand (pick up Philz) and I was vacuuming, it happened.

    After vacuuming, I came out to the living room and he acted surprise.

    “Is it—” I said.

    “I think that I had it in Toad bag,” he said and pulled out the original one.

    “Not a fresh one?”

    Then he pulled out another one. And gave me a deep hug. I started making excited screams and he handed it over to me. I wrinkled my nose and said no, waving my hands.

    “It has to go on!” I said and clarified. “Out of the wrapper.”

    I also waved him to kneel down.

    And then it happened.