2015: Everything’s OK

What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

In 2014, it was when I wrote a well-crafted piece (that I read to a live audience 11 months later). In 2013, it was when light shone in the face of despair. In 2012, it was when I stood up for myself. In 2011, it was a moment of clarity, sincere belief and friendship. In 2010, it was an action of commitment.

In 2015, it was the moment that I realized that I could finish Ice Cream Travel Guide. I am not sure if it was the moment that I put the last words to the page (perhaps on the Caltrain). Or was it the moment that I finished the layout and found myself super motivated to finish the layout. Or the moment that I found out that the hardest part was over (the writing). The easiest part for me was the design, the layout, the website, tech management, logistics.

I remember what Steve Almond once said. He hates writing all the time, especially during. The best part of writing for him is when he finishes. That’s the best part for me too. When I look back and say, hey that’s amazing.

But the fact that I was able to finish all the writing, the editing. That this year, nearly all off it, I gave up all the fears that I had about the book. I was afraid that people would see me as a bad writer. That fear paralyzed me so much that I didn’t do anything. But oddly enough, I forced myself to read many books. In a mixed way, I realized that many writers are pretty bad. So I couldn’t possibly be the only one.

After all, it’s supposed to be about “good enough”. Am I proud of the book? Yes. Could I have done more? Absolutely. But the moment that I accepted that it was “good enough” was the moment that I stopped being afraid and the moment that I knew everything’s ok. After all, a bad book doesn’t kill anyone, right? Although one of my nightmares the last few years was that I would die before the book was published…and that would be the worst thing ever.

Everything’s ok.

2015: Travel

How did you travel in 2015? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

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.

This year, I aligned all my goals to my travel, and it really did work out that way. I didn’t even go to Tahoe!

In 2015, I traveled to:

  • Multiple business trips to Chicago (twice!), Los Angeles (all day trips), Atlanta
  • A weekend cycling trip in Point Reyes
  • A long wandering trip to Michigan for my cousin’s wedding and Chicago to visit friends
  • 2.5 week trip to Brazil for a conference while stopping in Rio, Sao Paulo, Foz Iguazu, Brasilia, and beach towns along the coast (Paraty, Ubatuba, Ihla Bela)
  • In 2016, I already have a Finland/Sweden planned for a conference (where I am speaking!) and fancy restaurant reservation. There’s my sister’s wedding in Los Angeles. Then there’s a plan potentially for her casual fun time in Portland. Potentially, I promised a friend that I would do a super casual cycling trip in Italy in the fall. There’s also the Seattle to Portland bike ride that I want to do in July. Then there’s unknown business trips. Who knows what will come? Will I have an ice cream book tour? Or will I limit myself until the second printing or picked up by Amazon?

    2015: Moments

    Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2015 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2015

    2014 5 minutes, 2013 5 minutes, 2012 5 minutes, 2011 5 minutes, and 2010 5 minutes

  • Driving rules in Brazil
  • Visiting Ihla Bela (beautiful island) and coming out as expected with black fly bites
  • Presenting at a UX Strategies workshop
  • Presenting a short ignite talk about ice cream and my book
  • Going to Epic and being able to make the relationships that I wouldn’t have been able to do earlier
  • Really finishing my book about ice cream around the world!
  • Visiting Walt Disney World as part of a conference
  • Establishing a user research practice at a startup that didn’t have any
  • Talking to a lot of people with diabetes type 2—for some who never had been listened to ever
  • Submitting a talk to Interaction 16 and getting accepted!
  • Attending the (disappointing) Interaction 15
  • Leading a diversity workshop earlier this year
  • Leading and partnering on research with rheumatoid arthritis patients in January/February
  • Visiting Chicago, Atlanta…and Bay Area in the span of three weeks
  • Learning about behavioral design
  • Seeing my cousin get married
  • Hearing my sister get engaged
  • Having apple cider in Michigan
  • Having acai and fresh juices in Rio
  • Visiting the favelas in Rio
  • Eating lots of good food in Rio
  • Getting the hat “stolen” in Rio
  • Still having the ability to make great ice cream from scratch
  • Finding ways to make quick, fresh meals from things that i just have in the fridge, especially tomato basil pasta
  • 2015: 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”.

    The last line of my entry last year bemoaned the fact that I hadn’t made my book. But this year, I DID. It is the very last thing I made.

    Through lots of sweat, blood, and tears, I did it.

    On January 1 of this year, I decided that I had to finish this book. It was the worst burden to have weighed on me my entire life. A burden that I decided to take on willingly.

    So I pushed through the remaining writing. The remaining editing.

    And then…

    At the end of November, after a month of begging the person, I realized that I couldn’t entrust him to finish my book layout. In the worst way possible (just like many potential contractor relationships), I was realizing that the project wouldn’t be done to my specifications. What I wanted was clearly enough in front of me. Perhaps, I didn’t articulate it enough. Perhaps, I didn’t get enough motivation. And all that resulted was simply that: my book was delayed.

    I had to take control.

    So I pushed myself through the horrors of Indesign, photo selection, Photoshop.

    And then I was done.

    I made my book.

    All I need to do now is press the button that says “PUBLISH”.

    2015: 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).

    This year, I let go of perfection.

    What I mean by that is a personal desire to do the right thing, do the thing right. Yes, the latter is my design mantra: design the right thing, rather designing the thing right. But perfection is an unattainable goal. Because I want to be the best, to be the brightest, be the coolest. In an effort to do that, the fear of not reaching perfection settled in my veins, slowed all action, and locked me in one place. I procrastinated, I distracted myself (unintentionally), I made up stories to cover the imperfection.

    What I understand now is the process to reaching my goals doesn’t have to be perfect. Nor does the end result. It’s the fact that I reached the goal matters to me. I will finish writing the book is quite different from I will finish writing the finest book of quality, well designed content. The addition of adjectives adds standards and requirements. When in the first goal, it’s simply the completion of an action.

    Because I let go out of the perfection, I was able to accomplish more goals than I had in previous years. If failed, it didn’t matter, because I had tried. Failure is an option. But for the majority of the goals I had set for myself, because I tried, I still won.

    2015: Moment

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

    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.

    I want to say that it’s the moment that I realized that I really finished (writing) the Ice Cream Travel Guide. Although it can’t be it, because the layout isn’t finalized. So is that it?

    What I think of is all the moments that I felt like I had truly achieved my goals: getting accepted as a speaker for Interaction 16, successfully established a design and research practice at the last project, writing the short story “Rainbow Sprinkles”, building a “ship” at Epic, giving a talk about ice cream and research.

    But interestingly, it might really have been the moment about 10 minutes after I took this photo:

    Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião

    I had been casually following the idea of manslamming—the idea that I don’t move aside for anyone. And yet. After visiting the catedral, Chris and I walked to the main street through the catedral’s parking lot. By then, because it was a Saturday, the lot was deserted. We didn’t think much of it, and Chris walked ahead (to this day, he claims that he was ahead to confirm that an exit existed so that I didn’t have to walk more than needed). I noticed a group of young boys walking toward us. Chris walked away from them. I walked behind and with the manslamming philosophy in my head, I kept going in the direction I had set for myself, not changing my path even though it seemed the young boys were directly walking to me.

    This ridiculous thought crossed my mind: Boys need to be taught that women don’t go around them.

    As we passed, one young boy leapt up and grabbed my hat. Surprised, I turned and tried to think of all the Portuguese words that I could. But I couldn’t think of any and yelled “hey” as I ran after them. It’s interesting that I would say that I felt alive at that moment, because thousands of thoughts ran through my head—let go of the hat, what to do if I catch up to them, does Chris know, do I beat them up if I catch them. A Catedral employee in a car yelled at the young boys, and the hat dropped to the ground. I ran up and picked it up as the young boys ran away. The employee came up to me and yelled at me in Portuguese, gesturing that I needed to put my bag in front of me. All I could do was agree. And I was angry at myself for heeding the whole manslamming philosophy.

    Perhaps the being alive is the idea that in situations like this, where there is a clear right and wrong, I insist on making things right. And I will make it right. And in that effort, I felt alive.

    2015: Writing

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

    I had an awkward response in 2010 where I listed everything that was a distraction.

    For 2015, it was simply fear. It’s a big word, yes, but for me, it’s the fear that I cannot produce anything of value. Then everything I do—sleep, cook, eat, make money (by doing UX, sending email to clients, updating protfolio)—is about not confronting that fear. I do all of those things to procrastinate so that I don’t have to be full frontal with the beast.

    In 2003, last year, and this year, I participated in nanowrimo. Last year and this year, it was more of an effort to get my ideas on paper. Initially, it was difficult—the idea of putting something unknown and uncertain down. But by the first and second week, I got the hang of it, spilling out words to make whatever I wanted to do. But there was that lingering fear. But what could I do except to face and say, “I will write nonsense, trash, crap, and just put it down here.”

    And surprisingly, through that confrontation, I was able to churn out some good stuff. Not a lot, but something. But there’s something completely awkward about that method. The brute force of it all, the wasting way of my brain cells just to meet the word count (50,000 words in one month). Do we run over 20 miles just to say that we did it? Do we put a house together with wood and nails just because we did it once in a miniature form? It’s strange how it goes.

    There’s a proverb that I included in the story when the main character struggled with inner turmoil to tell the truth:

    A lion who goes up the mountain to find food is more likely to be hunted and torn down. But the truth of the matter is: what if the lion never goes? Then the lion will never have the chance of finding food.

    “I love that proverb,” a fellow wrimo told me.

    “I made it up,” I said proudly.

    “It feels so real,” he said.

    What if I hadn’t even written? What if?

    2015: 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 2016 for you?

    The one word that captures this year (from 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010):


    Last year, I described the year of progress, but with so many trials and tribulations. But this year, I personally have achieved goals that I had set for myself. They weren’t dangerously high, but they were achievable. Like finding a steady gig. Submitting a proposal for a talk (and getting accepted!. Network in order to get those gigs easily. Give talks. Organize my closets. Finish the book (well I am actually now really close!) Revise the nanowrimo story. Get one good product out from a gig that I can discuss on my portfolio.

    I actually did it.

    Even though it wasn’t evident on the surface, I did it all. And I did more.

    There was a fortune in a fortune cookie that said that I would meet someone who would change my path (for better?). I excitedly met everyone for the next month, hoping that someone miraculous would land in my lap. Until I forgot about it a month later. But every single person I meet has been insightful and interesting. Maybe just because of the heightened interest and hope.

    A friend once told me that I had potential if I only focused. Although today, I question whether that friend was truly a friend, I wonder if that’s completely true? So then was the year 2015 a year where I actually applied myself? Or rather that I believed in myself?

    I would love 2016 to be the year of confidence.

    2015: Entertainment

    I recounted the most impactful entertainment pieces for me in 2014. These are mine for the year of 2015.

    Movies I Saw

  • Room
  • Inside Out
  • Ex Machina
  • The Search for General Tso
  • Spy
  • TV Shows I Watched

  • The Leftovers
  • Togetherness
  • The Affair
  • Game of Thrones
  • Mad Men
  • Books I Read

  • The Martian
  • Eleanor & Park
  • The Girl with All the Gifts
  • On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City
  • Still Alice
  • Ways to Pass the Time

  • Writing workshops
  • Cooking my favorite foods
  • Selling unused items
  • “Konmari” my room
  • Cycling
  • Technology

  • Duolingo
  • Google Photos
  • Glow
  • Yerdle
  • Snapchat
  • What does this say about me?

    For years, my sister has been invited to grand weddings. Her close friends ask her to be the bridesmaids. These events are huge galas. Extravagant. All encompassing. There is drama, of course. Then there is the parading. The beauty and the memory.

    And then there are my friends. Of course, there’s the usual traditional wedding. But my close friends? By coincidence, many want to have a private wedding. The kind that is at city hall. A small dinner with only immediate family. The only change is the facebook status. A wedding? A financial nonsense.

    How do our friends describe who we are as people?