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.

    They are right and I am left

    We began sharing our year in review videos (yes, a family tradition started in the last year). Chris and I shared ours through an unlisted youtube link. Most people shared it through AirPlay, because that’s the type of people most people are.

    But then I noticed my uncle’s first page of apps. The usual suspects—email, maps, phone, etc. But I vividly remember one app right in the first position of the third row. Fox News.

    Two years ago, at Thanksgiving, I launched into a debate about Colin Kapernick with him. He had triggered my tirade with “shouldn’t people listen to their employers?” in reference to the NFL and kneeling.

    Which as a very older millennial, I completely disagree with. I don’t listen to my employers when I disagree with them at a fundamental level. Yes, this might be a moment I might in this age, I would say “OK BOOMER”.

    Everyone at this point must know that I don’t take jokes well. Because I sense the truth underlying them and I need to get to the belief of the joke. Sometimes I realize that it’s to my detriment because maybe that person doesn’t want to or not ready to reveal their true feelings at that moment.

    I knew that he and my aunt might not have voted in the 2016 election. My dad said something to that effect. It surprised me, because beyond their very Christian values, I didn’t really know their political position. They had moved from outside Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area. Very willingly despite the uptick in the cost of living. I had always thought of them as yes very Christian, but also very agreeable and very assimilated to American society as they both owned a sports memorabilia gift boutique shop for many years. They were people who were naturally part of the community.

    And so there it was. The Fox News app. I thought about the notifications that it sends with updates and headlines that linger and catch the mind as it scrolls by. I thought about the trigger to download that app over any other like the thoughts of “I trust them more than other news app” or “I need to stay informed”.

    I didn’t anything to latch onto in that moment. Nor was it my prerogative to start a debate. So I saw it and later whispered to Chris about what I saw.

    Later, as we drove out of the senior community, I looked to see if there were showtimes for Parasite, the korean movie at the nearby movie theater. Of course, it wasn’t. It was full of more mainstream movies—Frozen 2, Ford vs. Ferrari, Knives Up…

    I wondered what kind of environment my aunt and uncle live in out here in a city that people in San Francisco wouldn’t even recognize as the Bay Area. My aunt and uncle are Asians who arrived in the United States in their mid 20s—coming from Hong Kong and Taiwan respectively, lived in the midwest for most of their lives, living a very middle class existence running a small business, adhering to very Christian values. They would be okay with certain people, the whiteness, the people who have enabled them to live well in the midwest. They oddly have built a wall for themselves to learn so the desire to be the identity that I would have built for myself is totally foreign. They don’t need it. They’re already happy where they are.

    Before Chris moved in…

    The majority of my time, outside of school and work, consists of this very screen. Whether it was my first desktop—the shiny Compaq that I had for freshman year of college. Or the desktop that I upgraded to, built with components, sort of on my own. Or the subsequent Apple laptops—first the 12″ Powerbook, then all the small Macbook Pros. All my time that was spent idling was spent here in front of a screen. When I first was looking for a room share in San Francisco, I wrote brazenly in my introduction email through Craigslist that I was a good, quiet roommate—”I like to spend most of my time with my laptop!”

    I didn’t receive any requests for emails with that line.

    At one of my first jobs at a design consultancy, an older colleague, fascinated with the behavior of young people (before the term millenials filled the national lexicon) asked me what I did with my free time. I was one of the youngest employees at the design consultancy—just 3 years out of college, 1 year out of graduate school. I was puzzled. “Go home, chat with friends online, then browse the internet, then chat with friends online, and again and again,” I said.

    “How do you have time for that?”

    “It’s what I do.”

    He marveled at my generation.

    But what I know now—a decade later—is that I had a lot of free time. But even more so, the words that I typed online—whether it in an instant message or blog—was my way of spending my time in the world. To figure out my life’s messes. To better myself. To explore and learn. To be more. To make myself feel better. To let out the angst, complain, rant, show off, pride.

    Now though, it’s the after. I am partially troubled by the goal, more like the habit, that I had set for myself when I was young.

    Write every day in this blog, because it’s what you do.

    The after is different what I had imagined. My angst, my desire to better myself, my yearning to express is all replaced by this simple desire to spend time with Chris.

    In reflecting on that, is it because all the things that I had been seeking on the Internet was replaced by someone else?

    In graduate school, a classmate was always up for anything and helpful toward any reqest. Always at the ready. But when his girlfriend came to visit, he completely went offline. He was unreachable. He would have made plans, but usually would forget about them if she was in town. I remember feeling so appalled that someone could fill up so much need in one’s life.

    He’s married to her with three kids.

    But perhaps that’s what I am seeking. To feel whole. To feel like I am somebody. Or moreover that all I wanted was someone to witness my life. The Internet in its awkward ways can do that. But what is better than someone you can trust completely who witnesses and champions your every move?

    What does it mean when I write less?

    In June, I completed 14 days of writing 1000 words every day. No problem.

    But I have had a contrast since I first started this blog. I used to write everyday. Sometimes more than once a day. I kept it up for so many years.

    And then…nowadays, it may not happen. But what does it mean?

    I know that I was drawn to writing, because it helped me. But to pass the time. But because I found it as a way to relax. I found it as a better way to communicate. Simply by the nature that I had a habit of hanging around my computer, it was a natural place for me to be.

    And then now. Is it because that I have found satisfaction elsewhere? is it because all that energy that I once had to writing now is poured into work? That I found ways of expression that really work?

    I don’t know what it is. But I hope that I haven’t lost my edge.