2021: Moments

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2021 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2021.

2020 5 minutes, 2019 5 minutes, 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

Sometimes I wonder if this is my favorite end-of-the-year entry…

  • January 6 insurrection right as a PSC overview was happening
  • No new year’s brunch
  • Getting my first dose of vaccine after being told that I was eligible and rushing over to SF general and all that tearful joy/happiness at that moment
  • Texting my group letting them know that I was going to be late because of the vaccine
  • Getting my second dose
  • Taking a sick day after my first dose, but realizing that I didn’t really need it
  • Taking a photo of myself getting the vaccine
  • Hearing other people getting the vaccine
  • Going to Tahoe and spending a day snowed in on my birthday
  • Eating at a restaurant (indoors!) for the first time in over a year
  • Realizing that I wasn’t afraid that Chris was going to get a headache due to a busy place anymore, sort of
  • Eating at at a restaurant outdoors and telling people that it’s our first time…eating…in a long time
  • Getting lots of fancy takeout like from Ernest, Farmhouse Thai
  • Showing proof of vaccine for the first time to an indoor thing
  • Making the Weddin invite video
  • Making the Weddin website
  • Preparing all the little things
  • Making the Weddin book
  • Going to Sensorio
  • Staying in Paso Robles
  • Hawaii, oahu, honolulu
  • Getting my bag (and phone) almost swept away
  • Flying during this time
  • Fully masked but vaccine
  • Holiday video Tiktok version

2021: 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 2020 for you?

From years past: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010

The one word that captures this year:

What can you say about a year that feels like progress from 2020, but not really. In some ways, it felt like hope. The vaccines arrived, but then so did variants. The new president was…well confirmed, but then the denial and the lies kept going. Not to even mention that the insurrection began the whole year, the shootings of Asians in Atlanta, the harassment we endured… And then some professional failings. And personal, which was only consumer loss, but it felt too personal—the car, the phone, the ebook reader. But what is it all really, if it suggests new beginnings?

Last year, I said grief, maybe because 2020 started off with my grandmother—the last of her generation in my family—gone. And then the loss of what. There was the isolation yes, but also the pleasure. When things did open up in 2021, I resisted the interaction. I didn’t want to see people, but I eventually did. And it was fine. I liked seeing people. But I also felt like I was obligated. There were ups, my own creation, and downs, the failures.

And then I had then thought this year was hope. But instead, I say unstable. How can things be good and bad? It’s all in the reframe if I decide that it’s all good or all bad. I see it as a snake winding up and down, up and down. But what if the bad is simply just little bumps that you expected anyway to the good?

Next year, maybe more optimism. Beginnings. To new beginnings.

2021: Travel

Of course, travel in 2021 became…more ok? But not really normal. But well, you know. Fortunately, I am older and don’t need to be constantly seeing new things. But…

How did you travel in 2021? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

In 2020, in the first year of the pandemic, I stayed local and only went to a few overnight destinations within a few hours of a drive—one before the pandemic (so it doesn’t count) and down to Central California. In 2019, I made a big trip to Japan and many domestic trips to Phoenix, Portland, and New York. 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 2021, I still traveled locally. Interestingly, in contrast to my wishes last year, I didn’t feel so compelled to travel internationally. I remember there were many icebreakers about the first thing you would do post-pandemic. I answered variations from Iceland, Arizona to see my sister, and Disneyland. And guess what, I didn’t do anything of that! Partly, the urgency wasn’t high and that it just didn’t feel cost-effective. And my sister came to the Bay Area instead!

We traveled to:

  • Lake Tahoe for several days for my birthday weekend (a surprise trip from Chris)my parents’ house for a few days, a night at Joy’s place, and Paso Robles in Central California for Fourth of July week
  • and….yes….because there was a Southwest deal, we went to Oahu for a week for Chris’ milestone birthday (it was hot and uncomfortable in the airbnb, so it was more unpleasant than it should have been, plus pandemic)
  • Next year, I hope to NOT travel for work. But who knows. Maybe New York. Maybe Arizona. And I really hope somewhere for a summer writing workshop. And somewhere for a writing retreat! Soon, I hope soon. And somewhere where Chris and I can go for fun. That is actually fun. Maybe Tahoe…that is once we get a new car…

    2021: Entertainment

    Well, 2021! You would think everything was back to normal. A bit, but still not quite. And just like 2020, entertainment helped so much to pass the time, and sometimes it reminded us that things were kinda normal.

    I recounted the most impactful entertainment pieces for me in 2014. Then I did it again for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

    Movies I Saw

    Well, we still have yet to go to a theater, except that one moment that we saw Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at Oracle Park. But it reminded me how hard it was hear when there’s PEOPLE. I enjoy HBO Max and Disney+.

    • Nobody
    • In the Heights
    • Godzilla vs. Kong
    • South Park: Post Covid
    • The Mitchells vs the Machines

    TV Shows I Watched

    • Industry
    • Succession
    • Hacks
    • Wandavision
    • Loki

    Books I Read

    • The Loneliest Americans
    • Earthlings
    • A Visit from the Goon Squad (yes, I know that I was several years later)
    • The Midnight Library (for the concept mostly)
    • Crying in Hmart (less on the representation, but just some resonant scenes)

    Ways to Pass the Time

    • Baking bread
    • Watching. So. Much. TV.
    • Trying to write something, but end up not being happy with it, so it just sits on my computer
    • Telling Chris to clean up
    • Work on yet another personal project, usually something related to the wedding (yes, even now)


    • Spotify (for some reason, after nearly a year, I didn’t realize that I could listen to music without disturbing other people because nobody is around!)
    • Google Home (and now if it actually listen to my voice)
    • Pixel 6 (if it actually SHIPPED)
    • Would have been Clubhouse, but the craze died quickly, I am sad
    • Discord, but it only works if you have the right community

    2020: Moments

    Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2020 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2020.

    2019 5 minutes, 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

    • When they announced shelter in place
    • When they called it at Four Seasons Total Landscaping
    • Biden winning Arizona
    • Getting accepted to Tin House
    • Getting accepted to VONA
    • Co-leading the BIPOC community at Tin House
    • Reading at a BIPOC event at Tin House
    • Workshop at Tin House
    • Getting published at Quiet Lighting
    • Reading at Quiet Lighting
    • Reading at Novalia
    • Taking a class on Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings
    • Making sourdough bread the first time
    • Making sourdough bread and it turned out well
    • Making a dutch baby
    • Birthday zoom
    • Animal Crossing and having people on the island on birthday
    • Meeting people on animal crossing
    • Getting Animal Crossing and switch
    • First day at new job
    • Eating at cafe of new job
    • New writing group
    • going to Orr hot springs
    • Getting po po big watch
    • po po funeral and burial
    • Doing The Artist’s Way
    • Taking the shuttle to new job
    • Winning trivia night organized by Becca
    • Watching lots of TV
    • Watching Tenet
    • Seeing Chris getting Tenet from Santa
    • Getting first covid test
    • Getting second covid test
    • Getting negative results each time
    • Seeing parents for the first time in their backyard since March
    • Having dinner with parents in early March against our recommendations
    • Waiting in line for House of Prime Rib on Thanksgiving
    • Having Farmhouse Thai birthday (remote) celebration
    • Having fancy eats from San Ho Won
    • Having first take home meal from Han Il Kwan
    • Having Claws of Mantis
    • Having the basque cheesecake
    • Giving a Pecha Kucha at work research summit
    • Writing and workshopping How to Grieve essay based on my experiences in the pandemic and Po Po’s passing
    • Reading a truncated essay of that at a Minor Feelings reading

    2020: 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 2020 for you?

    From years past: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010

    The one word that captures this year:

    Maybe it’s because I am writing two prose pieces that have to do with grieving. One about how my grandmother passed away last year and its effect (and primarily its lack of effect) on me. The other to do with things I miss that will be gone and things I don’t miss. With grief in the pieces’ title, that word is so omnipresent.

    It’s ironic, though, because I typically write these entries about a word that is uplifting from resilience to understanding. But how can I really summarize this year? If the pandemic didn’t happen in the way that it did, I probably would say something like comfort or authenticity or truth, because of all the feelings that I can truly be myself since I am at home so much without worrying about what other people think of me. And yet.

    I grieve for the loss of the businesses, for the loss of art, for others’ hope and dreams dashed. And at the same time, I know that I am comforted by so many things—I am so free, but that comes out of being in a privileged place and how can I say this in the face of tragedy? How can I say that I am so glad not to have to hug when everyone else is falling apart due to no touch? How can I say that I love sleeping in my own bed when businesses, cities, countries are decimated by the lack of tourism? I am troubled because I am one person and I can’t celebrate my own happiness in face of so much despair. It feels inappropriate. And yet. There’s a ring of truth, isn’t it?

    I hear stories of people. Everyday. The struggle of not seeing a loved one. The loss of a dream business. The slow death. They tear my heart. And yet I couldn’t shed a tear for my grandmother. The internal conflict is too much. I grieve for people I don’t know, but I can’t grieve for my own.

    Or maybe the word is numbness. I am perfectly happy wearing a mask even beyond the mandatory order. I am perfectly happy seeing nobody. I am perfectly happy cooking, cleaning, etc. on my own. I isolate myself, but everything else is still…there. I am here.

    Last year I thought this year’s word would be Gratitude. It could be. But I have been cynical of it late. Is it gratitude if it’s I am grateful that my family didn’t ask me to come to Thanksgiving or I am grateful that my family respects social distancing and mask wearing? I remember earlier sharing that as a gratitude “ice breaker” during a meeting, but it felt like a downer. But I couldn’t help it.

    Well next year, another word. I am not in dire straits, so it can’t possibly be survival. But I really hope that it’s hope.

    2018: 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.

    I look at the lights that we put up in the office. It’s the same set of white lights that I had acquired (craigslist? garage sale?) when I first moved into this apartment. I had gotten it as decoration for the housewarming ugly sweater party. During that party, I put it underneath the table which provided a nice light for everything.

    Growing up, I had always wanted a house decorated with Christmas lights. Although I don’t quite remember what we did in the first two houses in Hercules, I know for a fact that the house from 1991 in Lafayette never had any external lights. It’s a house far removed from the main street, up a long driveway, hidden from sight. Perhaps, matching my mom’s desire to be out of the spotlight. So far from the spotlight. And the fuss that it would require to decorate the house. We rarely had any visitors—family or friends. Christmas lights would never done around the house (although there was a Christmas tree of sorts).

    Yet, interestingly, my parents created a game that my sister and I would play for years. Every time we saw Christmas lights (aka a house decorated with Christmas lights), we would count. At times, we would go over one thousand as we drove around the neighborhoods. (We could count the same houses on different days as new numbers.) It was a counting game at its core, yet it made me admire Christmas lights.

    So when the holidays rolled around, now that Chris finally lives here and I don’t need to share the office/small room with anyone, I demanded that we decorate something. Especially when I can see the windows in the fancy condo building across the way has Christmas trees hanging in the window with lights emblazoned everywhere like they’re taunting the everyday commoner who doesn’t want to have the holiday spirit.

    So we put up the lights, twisting them around the window blinds, across the desks, and plugging them into a wemo so that they would turn on after sunset and turn off before sunrise.

    The lights are at the right level for the office at nighttime, making it feel like a moody bar.

    But here, I see that a few bulbs are out. Dark and burned. But these modern lights don’t mind them. No other lights are affected. The current is not disrupted by these dark bulbs.

    The string of lights cast a glow that I adore. It’s the big picture that matters.

    What I mean by all of this is the intention to see the bigger picture. The fact that perfection isn’t always determined by the details. The big picture matters. Did I reach my goal? So be it. Nobody notices the smaller details except the creator. And I must question myself, does it matter? Look at the big picture. Look at the intention. Look at it all and judge appropriately.

    2018: 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.

    Yes, I did make another holiday video. Which was an one-year-delayed reaction to my uncle’s comment during Thanksgiving in 2017 about kneeling in the NFL. “Don’t you think that employees should be fired if they don’t listen to their boss?” he said.

    It’s very likely that I said something that rejected his answer. It’s also very likely that my mom being who she is probably interrupted with an obtuse topic, distracting me from answering. But it’s also very true that I held my displeasure. That is, until my aunt suggested to the entire family that we share a video / slideshow about our life in the past year.

    But what did I make? It’s a mundane answer for this entry. I don’t want to answer making design. But rather the latest, always, it was making food. Specifically tartine-like scones.

    For the last 5 years, ever since a moment of inspiration during a Halloween book club, I have been falling back to the biscuits idea as a way to make something homemade, but also tasty.

    Because Chris insisted on buying the 2 lb bag of cranberries from Costco for my Thanksgiving cranberry ice cream, I had too much cranberries. Yet, what could I do with them? After some brainstorming (keeping in mind with my ample cupboard of ingredients and past skills), I fell back to the idea of biscuits. Particularly scones.

    The last time I had made scones was a slightly disastrous attempt at making fancy scones from a fancy cookbook. Many recipes don’t mention certain techniques like cubing the butter or creaming the butter. Instead, it makes assumptions that the baker knows.

    Because I am self-taught, I know absolutely nothing.

    And the cookbooks that I love? Or even the recipe blogs? Are the ones imbued with the sensibility of a home cook.

    And I have found my perfect recipe. One that has been a cookbook that I have owned for more than 10 years. The Tartine Cookbook. Specifically the recipe for buttermilk scones (usually mixed with berries).

    I made it for myself 2 weeks ago, sharing it with nobody except for Chris and myself. I had one everyday on the way to work.

    I even had trouble eating my coworker’s scone when she made it for tea time.

    Then as a present for my sister, I made buttermilk scones with blueberries. Dashed with Hawaiian sugar with lilikoi (passionfruit) infused sugar mixed with bits of lemongrass.

    Although I probably shouldn’t use my (warm hands), I enjoy the process of mixing all the dry ingredients together (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar). Then mixing the dry ingredients with the butter, making sure that pieces are only as big as a pea. So I push and rub with my fingers until the mixture resembles a coarse grainy result. It takes me at least 30 minutes to do it, but I find it meditative. Then after that, I pour in the buttermilk, mixing it with a spoon until the dough holds generally together. Then pulling it out to a working surface, I mold it into a rectangle, cutting it into triangles.

    Then very important! Freeze! Overnight so that the dought can get that crackly texture.

    Before baking, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

    Bake at 400° for at least 20 minutes. Or at least golden brown. For some reason, I don’t know how to estimate this correctly since the recipe doesn’t give instructions on how to extend the time if the dough is frozen.

    And done!

    Always fantastic results.

    I hope to make this for the new year’s brunch!

    If nobody eats it, I will eat it every day. Perhaps this will be a thing. A Sunday bake. For the every day of the week.

    2018: Moment

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

    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.

    Right before I started a new job, I decided that Chris and I should do a getaway somewhere. But unlike my attempt to do something in 2017, which ended up this expensive trip to Las Vegas that only seemed fun to some people, but definitely not us, especially in the heat of the summer. For some reason, I typically have started new jobs in the summer, so not many great destinations were in mind.

    This year though, after going to a writers retreat at an airbnb in Ukiah and hearing about nearby hot springs from a writer there, I was instantly intrigued. And also having spent a whole week at Esalen where I lamented that the hot springs weren’t that interesting to me, but how it would be great to share with Chris.

    Knowing that Chris always enjoyed hot baths (but to me, I find them to be a waste of water), I thought that this would be a good bonding experience. Especially coming from a writer who I trusted and appeared similar to me.

    So we decided to drive up to Orr Hot Springs and spend a night. I spent time researching it and understanding its layout/intentions. Although I had misjudged how much stuff we should bring for meals (yes, you have to bring all your condiments including spices and butter and pretty much anything you need to make food), it was still quite intimaite.

    But the moment actually was with our prudish style. Although I really don’t have a problem with nudity, I am a bit more private. Chris is too. So our last dip to the hot springs, we decided to do with bathing suits since the darkness couldn’t mask us anymore. By this point, we had to check out of our room (a really cool wooden yurt in the woods!) and pack the car. Our plan was to do one dip before driving out of the resort and back to San Francisco. Back to reality (note: not cellular reception here nor access to the internet). I had some optional social event in San Francisco at 6 pm. But because we’re prude and private, Chris left the car keys in his swimming trunks. He realized that he had the keys after 5 minutes into the bath. But by then, it was too late. In the hot sun, we thought that the key would dry quickly. But it didn’t. The car didn’t start.

    Soon we begged to use the phone to call tow trucks, but there was something wrong with the insurance and the closest car dealer was more than 50 miles away (so it would cost extra if we went that route). Then there was an issue of no callback number, because it would have gone directly to the voicemail. The resort staff refused to allow us to have the number called. So we were stuck. Surpremely stuck. Not only that the insurance company didn’t understand the issue so there was a long wait and they didn’t understand why there couldn’t be a callback number. At the last moment, we decided that we could call someone to pick us up. But of course, nobody in the right mind in 2018, would pick up a number from an unknown destination. Until of course, I called my parents who immediately freaked and said absolutely no. But then again would I have wanted my parents in their late 60s to drive a windy road for 3 hours?

    In all of this, Chris figured out how to open the key with the lack of tools we had—our bare hands and possibly a pen. Resort staff was completely nonchalant and unhelpful. With that, I was able to dry out the key. The sun sucked up the water. And soon, in our constant repetitive desperate attempts, Chris tried the car again.

    The moment is this: I was trying to keep calm as this was my last hurrah before a new intense job. Also, I was of the mind that I would drop $1000 to fix things, but Chris (fortunately) disagreed. With that last dry, he found that the car actually started and he drove quickly out of the parking lot, left the car running and ran into the lodge where I was happily reading Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere and declared “LET’S GO. It’s working.” We said our thanks to the no good, slightly helpful lodge staff and jumped in the car, driving within rules to San Francisco.

    We stopped at In N Out so that we didn’t have to stop the car in case things died.

    The lesson: to work as a team and believe. Well, the latter part at least. Or simply, just sit back and let the sun do its real work.

    2018: 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.

    This year? I thought about the past year and realized that I had already done lot of carving out of things/people that I didn’t need. I am a less stressed out about things hovering around me (minus the actual physical things around me).

    What I did let go was constant discovery. The need to try and discover new things. When I first moved to San Francisco, strapped with an expensive apartment, I felt compelled to do something every day, to prove to myself that I was not wasting my time living in San Francisco. I was out each night, always busy every evening, seeing a new person, building friendships. But in the past year, especially after Chris moved in, I am rather content to do the same thing every day and every weekend. Those “netflix and chill” days? Works for me. Eat dinner at the same time every day? Go to sleep!
    Sounds good!

    I can tell that I am falling into a consistent routine. Part of me worries that all my days will blur together and I’ll become a robot, unaware of the days. So I’ll have to be checking that regularly so that I don’t lose sight of the curiosity and excitement. It’s not that routine means that I can’t be curious or want to try new things. It’s more that now I really want to know that it’s worth it to go beyond my routine.

    Perhaps the reason is that I didn’t have something better in my routine. Now I do. The new things often are disappointing and I know that. So if there’s a chance for something interesting and new, prove to me first.

    Otherwise, I am thrilled with the routine. The sameness. The contentment of being okay with the way things are.