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
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.
Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail.
In 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.
This year was full of ups and downs than the typical year. But was it those moments? When I executed a plan on quitting my job? Or when I went to constant protests and showing up to events? Or was it when I interviewed and received an offer? Or when I had decided that I didn’t care what people thought anymore? Or was it smaller—when I stopped being afraid of being quiet and spoke up, sometimes too much in a confrontational way (because of this year)?
I know that this year, it was less about the moments of ice cream. Although I still had some great ones at Wanderlust Creamery in LA and that constant flurry of great flavors at Garden Creamery in San Francisco.
What I do know was a moment that I had been at a conference earlier this year. It wasn’t about being on stage. It wasn’t about the fact that I got my talk accepted or that I stood in front of a huge amount of people telling a story that touched people. It wasn’t even after the talk when people came up to me and ask more about my thoughts. It was none of that.
It was the moment that stemmed from the moment that I had enough of skulking around one of the conference mixers, because I was having horrible social anxiety. For whatever reason, I was unable to connect with anyone. All conversations that I had fell flat and dwindled into nothing. Then suddenly, I found myself standing alone, awkwardly.
I had read Captivate earlier and was trying to read the cues of where to interject. I wasn’t end up like the awkward person I was in college where I had failed to make connections because I never tried. I was going to try. But everything kept falling flat. I kept looking for the feet pointing outward, but I just couldn’t find it.
So instead, I finally headed to the patio (a place where I had awkwardly entered already twice by this point). There, I noticed a group of people stand up, leaving a seat on the sofa open. It seemed like a prime opportunity, but I knew that the potential could fall flat leading into a conversation of nothing.
And it started super awkwardly. But somehow I made a good impression when suddenly everyone wanted to get up and I shyly asked whether I could join. And when I suggested “ice cream”, everyone cheered and I immediately earned my place.
It wasn’t exactly that moment. During that first night, I was still evaluating the group, trying to figure out who these people were.
I just knew that I had made a good impression, but nothing more. In the subsequent days, I made an effort to talk to people one-on-one. And there connections were made.
But it was the moment at the conference closing party. Where I was invited to stand at a table, chatting with everyone. When suddenly a conversation about being conservative and liberal popped up. I thought carefully and crafted my conversation. But most of all, I was being me, communicating my thoughts. Insisting on my place as a woman of color. I knew that because the group liked me, they would always side with me. I thought that they were fascinating too.
We went to the rooftop of a boutique artsy hotel. On the way, we said goodbye to some. Then I said goodbye to another.
But then that was what it was. An instant connection all because I took a risk. I felt alive in the resulting moment, because I rarely if ever connect with people that instantly. Especially people who were so very unlike me. And then I did it.
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.
This year, I am letting go of things and people I don’t need. Specifically things that bring me down.
There’s always this perception that I should keep things just in case. On the materialistic side, this can result in hoarding, building up unopened items, desires, and more…all of which lead to disappointment. It might be konmari-ing everything in my life, but it’s really about simplification so that I can dedicate my energy to where I want. And as I get older, I care less about what other people think.
Previous to this year, I had believed that it was important to surround myself with people that would challenge to me. To an extent yes, but why should I if on a daily basis, they drain me and offer so little support? Or even any potential of a future benefit?
So I let go of those and things that can’t satisfy me. Because I don’t need them. I don’t want them.
And for once, I feel free.
Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
This year? It’s oddly work. In an effort to recalibrate my life, I started 2017 with an intent to quit that job. By March, i did. Then I had an intention to find another one that matched my goals and interests. By July, I found one. This initiative though distracted my writing as much I attempted not to let it distract. When I had started Ice Cream Travel Guide, it was with the intention that the freelancing was intended to be temporary so that I could write. What I learned during the process was that I shouldn’t ever quit to just write. Working gave me inspiration, the income, and the need for structure.
So I did it.
But then suddenly with more responsibility and seniority comes the fact that I don’t have energy at the end of the day to write. There’s this tricky balance—to have a high-powered job and to write effectively. Which do I choose? Which is my passion? And yet, at the same time, what will drive me continually?
I have though dumped money in certain things—the novel revision bootcamp, finishing the last of the sessions with the developmental editor, found my way to Spun Yarn, established a weekly checkin with a fellow student from the bootcamp. But to that end, I am only finishing the novel. My passion lies with the short stories I believe.
But what I need to congratulate myself on is actually sticking to the monthly checkins for submitting at least one thing every month. What can I say: I did it.
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 2017 for you?
The one word that captures this year:
Moments ago, I thought movement was the appropriate word. Or perhaps progress. But it’s not quite what resembled this year.
Perhaps it was due to the election and all the action that came from it. I could have said resistance, but that word isn’t quite part of my nature (yet). I did resist, but more in terms of reaction.
This past year, I have made an effort to see what doesn’t work for me—my job, the people around me, my housing situation, my budget, and processes. I have made more effort this past year to inch closer to my goals. Nobody could say that nothing in my life has changed this past year. I have made steps toward writing, design goals, living situation. I tell people what’s going on instead of keeping inside. And although perhaps my external reaction is better. My internal reaction is probably too much. We’ll see how it goes.
Last year, I had hoped that 2017 was going to be Confidence. Based on above, it’s probably the result of confidence. So I progressed further than I expected. I had confidence in taking an action so I took it.
Next year, I hope the word is Diligence. Reaction is the first action, but to do act well, one must act with diligence in acting based on context and priorities.
I recounted the most impactful entertainment pieces for me in 2014. Then I did it for all of 2015 and 2016. Now 2017.
Movies I Saw
TV Shows I Watched
Books I Read
Ways to Pass the Time
More than ten years ago when I was working at a hourly college job, my supervisor came up with this grand idea for a team outing. For every alcoholic drink we drank, we could charge an hour. I was the only one underage at the time and by that social outing, I had already decided that I wouldn’t ever drink. But I felt obligated to go, so I went. At the bar, my supervisor got upset when I refused to drink. “You can have juice,” he angrily said.
My coworkers didn’t notice. I got assigned the role of keyholder. But as the night wore on, I hated the idea. People became stupider and I wanted to go, but of course being an insecure college kid, I felt like I couldn’t leave.
By the end of the night, I was pissed and unhappy. And being a contemporary of that time, I went back to my apartment and promptly described the event on my blog.
And also at that time, everyone read each other’s blogs. My supervisor imed me and immediately asked me to modify it. That I could leave it up, but I had to remove the word “my supervisor”. It would get him fired, he said. After some consideration, I took it down, because I decided that it would hurt him.
My memory of the event and the events that happened consequently are fuzzy. This wasn’t sexual harassment. But it was coercion and I certainly felt powerless. I was also very insecure and lacking confidence. I didn’t know if people would punish me for having gone along with the idea. Plus with the fact that I didn’t drink, I was already super insecure about my personal belief and felt that most people wouldn’t accept that about me. And all of that kept me silent for years although in casual conversations here and there, I would openly talk about it.
To this though, I have always wondered what would happened if I did say something? That era is different from today. Blogs and journals were valid evidence of anything. They were only soulful laments of lonely people. But today in this day and age, it means something more.
As a courtesy, I walked up to the car blocking my driveway and tapped on the window. This time though, I was holding so much stuff in my hands—my car keys and three bags (including a bag of laundry), so in that moment, I also accidentally tapped the window with my keys.
The woman in the driver’s seat leapt in surprise. Realizing that it was just me, she rolled down the window. I immediately said tiredly, “I am leaving in a few minutes.”
“You could have just told me! You almost broke my car!”
Stunned, I paused. But then as she rolled up the window, I yelled back, “But you’re blocking my driveway!”
As I stomped down to my car, I knew what was going to happen. I adjusted a few things in my garage and things in my car.
Then suddenly, I saw her back up. Initially, she was only blocking 50% of the driveway, but now she blocked the entire driveway. So I did the only thing that I could do: I drove out and pressed the horn. I knew that this passive aggressive thing was going to happen, but I wasn’t going to go out of my way to be nice. So as I blocked the sidewalk and she blocked my way out, I honked loudly. Pedestrians dressed in their Halloween wear, most likely partially drunk, sauntered by, yelling, “Everyone is just blocking the driveway tonight!”
I wanted to ram her car and she was suggesting me to do it. But I knew exactly what that would entail. So we were not moving. But after 30 seconds, she finally drove off and I followed her. But after about a mile, I gave up and drove to my destination, annoyed and irritated. And realizing that how my impatience has grown as a person who lives in a large city.
This is a common photo from Thailand. Standing in front of elephants in a supposed sanctuary. Here we are (with Toad protected in a plastic bag).
But what did I learn?