2016: 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 2015, it was the moment when I realized that I could finish Ice Cream Travel Guide. 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 2016, it was the moment that I realized that everything that was disappointing this year can change next year. Sure there were the results of the election and suddenly distraught I was the following morning, but I found solace in potential political groups, the sudden community, and the outpouring of hope. And obviously Chris, the most political savvy person I know, didn’t say that the world was the end. I knew that it was okay. It was also the moment that I realized that I could change how my career went. I found myself in a place of disappointment, but I realized that I had the skills and experience to change my destiny. It was also the moment that despite what the adage goes, it’s harder to make friends when you’re older, it was when I was meeting new people easily for both my work and writing. I didn’t have to stay with the status quo.

In the last several years, I have learned to be proactive in the face of insurmountable obstacles. Because somehow deep inside me, I sincerely believe that if I keep chipping away at a block, I will finally climb over it. It’s like a jawbreaker. Usually, it’s too huge to put in your mouth to suck at it. But eventually with multiple licks (and probably chipped teeth), it will get smaller and smaller. Because any huge obstacles do not stay obstacles if you keep leaning.

I will ask. I will keep moving. I will keep requesting. I will keep trying. I will keep doing. I won’t stop.

Everything’s going to be ok.

2016: 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.

This coming year? I hadn’t written about next steps in the last two years, mostly because I didn’t have that desire to have a next step as I always had it. Partly, I don’t want to be accountable for the declaration of a next step if halfway through the year, I decide that I didn’t like that next step, that it wasn’t true to me.

But I want my next step to be leading. I want to stop quibbling about my issues of following. I want to make a difference, and the best way to make impact is by leading. Although some may say that I should be my own boss, I am past just following directions—whether for my career or my career.

Yesterday, during dinner with female colleagues, I openly spoke about upcoming challenges in my career. I didn’t intend to fall into a trap (that I must have felt myself falling toward), but I essentially asked, “What should I do?”

Perhaps all I wanted at that moment was that I wanted to be assured that the decision that I was going make was the right one. Yet I suddenly found myself in that dark, expensive farm-to-table restaurant where I felt conflicted about the menu full of foods that didn’t fit my appetite nor fit my pickiness (too much kale, too much flowery vegetables, too many olives, too much food that required wine, etc.), one colleague started telling me what to do and then everyone else followed. I found myself inviting people to tell me what to do—the shoulds and the coulds. My fingers tightened, and I gazed at the black leather billfold. But my politeness was leading the way. And so I followed.

I need to be leading. I need to stop let others keep me trapped or even falling into the trap. Some would say calling it being authentic. But rather, I would do it with the empathy that I truly want

So lead. Make a difference. Be fearless. That’s all I really want for the next year. Job. Writing. Personal life. And find those who can support me the way it should be.

2016: Travel

How did you travel in 2016? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

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 2016, I traveled to:

  • Finland/Sweden for Interaction 16 where I gave my first huge talk, visiting Northern Finland for jaunts at Santa Village and attempt to see the Northern Lights, one whole day in Estonia, then a whole day in Stockholm, road trip to Jamtland for Faviken and skiing…not to mention one day in Istanbul (again). And we went by ferry, car(s), overnight train, cross country skis, downhill skis, trams, subway, streetcar…
  • A pseudo-bachleorette party with Chris and my sister in Portland with a surprise visit from our parents
  • Driving on a road trip to LA for my sister’s wedding and fooding along the way
  • Three visits to Minnesota through Minneapolis and Rochester for time at Mayo Clinic
  • No trip to Italy. No trip to Seattle/Portland. No visit around the United States for a book tour. So it was less than anticipated.

    Next year, I hope that there will be a work-related trip, perhaps to New York. But there’s a trip to Phoenix for my friend’s wedding. Then a trip to LA in April for a writing conference. Then a side trip to Big Sur for the writing workshop with Cheryl Strayed et. al! I am not sure what trips are planned for the rest of the year, but I would have to be convinced. Perhaps New York? I hope. Perhaps somewhere where I could use my points? I don’t know!

    2016: Moments

    Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2016 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2016

    2015 5 minutes, 2014 5 minutes, 2013 5 minutes, 2012 5 minutes, 2011 5 minutes, and 2010 5 minutes

  • Watching Black Mirror
  • Visiting Sweden and Finland
  • Appreciating winter (cold) destinations
  • Not quite seeing the Northern Lights in our special cabins
  • Realizing that a vacation can be enjoyed without eating out at all
  • Visiting four museums, eating hot dogs, and more in one day in Stockholm
  • Giving a talk to approximately 1000 people in Interaction 16
  • Launching Ice Cream Travel Guide into the world through book festivals, advertising, launch party and more
  • Giving the Pecha Kucha about Ice Cream Travel Guide for EPIC 2016
  • Being the enthusiastic emcee for an ice cream eating contest for National Ice Cream Travel Guide
  • Watching my sister get married and being part of her chillz bridal party
  • Eating a n/naka (and meeting Chef Niki) with my sister and Chris
  • Hosting multiple movie nights
  • Hosting friendsgiving for a total of 15 people
  • Getting a job at Mayo Clinic
  • Some freelance jobs at a consumer electronics company
  • Being part of XX/UX senior-level peeps group
  • Shipping and autographing copies of Ice Cream Travel Guide
  • Telling my story in Bangkok in a succinct and engaging way
  • Traveling to Minny Apple and Minny Soda again
  • Making more ice cream and more ice cream
  • …and not quite wanting to remember the election…

    2016: 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.

    This year, it could be a number of things—the creativity that comes in the burst in this year. Whether it was the youtube video for the Christmas greeting (see below). Or the directing people to make the cheesecake in the Instant Pot for at home Christmas Eve dinner. Or whether it was the creativity that I lent toward the Christmas gifts this year. It’s all of that, because it’s my way of expressing myself.

    It’s the creativity of the holiday magic. I love creating things. The video is the second time that I have done it, coming up with the idea in the span of the day and executing it with as little overhead as possible. But what I have in my mind has been churning for a number of days—the vision was already set in my head with shots and poses. Or the gifts (aka #smallacts) had settled in my mind, because my desire to be less materialistic and shallow — I tested the water at a White Elephant exchange a few weeks ago where I offered an anonymous gift that was simply $20 in honor of the white elephant gift recipient. No gifts for anybody because you’re just going to get something donated to charity in your name! Or food, in an effort to demonstrate a gadget or food that people normally never eat. Thus CREATIVITY.

    On the video above, it took about 30 minutes to shoot. Part setup in getting the stuffed animals and Game of Thrones video together. Just one walkthroughs, one dry rehearsal, one dress rehearsal, and two shoots. And getting my sister on board to shoot everything. It was awesome.

    Then I had an egotistical moment once completed. I wondered aloud whose name would be present if I had credits rolling. Like for director, editor, writer, location scout, sound editor, director of photography, producer, production designer. “Oh wait, that’s me!” I shouted.

    2016: Moment

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

    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.

    There are moments that will stay with me this year. The launch party for Ice Cream Travel Guide. The getting up on stage, not once, but twice, at huge conferences. The first day at a full-time job in four years. Watching my sister get married and giving a speech. And of course, the realization that the president wasn’t going to be who I thought it would be.

    But the moment?

    Perhaps it was in this moment:

    Another #icecreamtravelguide event a success in Noe Valley!

    A photo posted by Jenn Ng (@jennism) on

    I realized how much I had perfected the story of ice cream, starting with that moment in Bangkok. I know all the beats that I need to take. I know how to push the emotion to ride high and then ride low. Then twist the narrative to bring it back to the concrete. What people don’t know is all the sweat and tears that went into telling that 6 minute story. There are things that I cut out—the breakfast at the American hotel, the sliding along in flip flops. The fact that a friend was actually with me the entire time. There is also the mixed feelings I had that were actually more optimistic than the way I told the story.

    What I learned through studying writing is that the narrator doesn’t have to be the true self. It can be somewhat fictionalized. Even better if it’s exaggerated. Who wants to hear about someone who isn’t quite there? We want to hear about someone whose emotions are clear and vivid, instead of complex. At least for the sake of this complex lovey-dovey melodramatic story.

    So at Umpqua bank, I sat on the stool reading the excerpts from my book to an audience of 10. I realized how I had mastered so much more than that story. I had also overcome my fear of public speaking. I looked for the hints of how people were paying attention and adjusted accordingly. I remembered what people said and addressed them directly. Eye contact. And in all of this, I held their rapture, at least I thought that I did.

    There were kids in the very back, enjoying the ice cream. I do remember that. But I kept going.

    And telling my story about that singular ice cream in Bangkok. I don’t know the flavor. Perhaps it was vanilla, mango, peach? Whatever the case, it changed the direction of my life.

    2016: 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.

    This year, I let go expectations. Much like my one word, I realized that disappointment came with expectations.

    I could only appreciate things as they are. As they truly are. And most of all, to accept them.

    What had always surprised me the most about my book was the fact that most people don’t think like me. They don’t enjoy food the way I do. They don’t savor the stories of people who make the food. Nor do the stories elevate the food for them as it does for me.

    Sometimes I find myself looking through my own writing—the struggle of finding an interpreter during the protests in Istanbul or the uneasy overnight in a dairy farm, I think in a dazed moment, “How did this writer really know what I like and love?”

    Then I remember, “Oh it’s me.”

    I wrote for myself, of course. Whether or not I have this streak of self-centeredness and narcissism, it surprised me that others don’t have the same mindset. And it’s disappointing to pitch my book to people at book festivals, at bookstores, at ice cream shops, and to find that the interest wavers.

    And what’s more is that so many people suggest do this or do that, but have they stood with me in those precarious moments? When I was at a festival, pushing, but not pushing too hard my book? When I look at a passerby who loves the concept, but the comments are only “Wow, that’s so amazing!”

    There’s a hesitation in all of that. Good enough, but not good enough. That’s the trouble of writing sometimes. To write for yourself, but realizing that you can’t. Not always. Not until you find that others will truly feel like you.

    Will you enjoy this as much as I did?

    2016: 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.

    This year, it’s just sitting down and doing it. This year, I did nearly 3 rounds of forcing myself to complete writing. First, there was that ridiculous idea of #the100dayproject on the worst platform for my kind of self-expression: instagram, which I did 100 days of plotting. Then I did 30 days of Writing. Then for the third year in a row and the fourth year, I did nanowrimo, this time writing about multiple relationships to a dead woman. For the latter, I really thought that it was impossible to finish due all the significant events happening during November. But I always finish, so I finished.

    I was pleased with the results by pushing myself through it. This year, I spent 160 days writing. And there probably was more when I was editing my work. Although much of the writing produced probably didn’t result in greatness I still felt that some really did.

    If I hadn’t: I couldn’t have touched the nuances of a CEO in Silicon Valley. Nor would I have instantly explored the toughness of a woman on the brink of stepping off a cliff. Or encapsulating the fragile relationship of a divorced, bitter mother with a young curious son.

    And so what can I do with the other 205 days? My hired developmental editor suggested setting an award for completion. But maybe it’s letting the inspiration come all the time. And most importantly, letting the horrible first draft arrive. Then I write the better draft.

    Sit my butt down and write.

    2016: 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 2017 for you?

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

    The one word that captures this year:


    Last year, the word was Goal and I hoped that 2016 would be about Confidence. Interestingly, it wasn’t. I published my book, but didn’t expect that the marketing would be difficult. I applied to jobs, but didn’t expect that the job I wanted would turn out the way it did. I achieved the goal of giving talks at conferences, but didn’t expect that the intended goals from giving those talks would be less than I wanted. And most of all, I certainly didn’t expect the election to end up the way it resulted.

    Everything is not what I expected.

    I was able to achieve my short-term goals, but the long-term goal wasn’t achieved. So what’s left is disappointing. Or in a different perspective, it’s simply unexpected. There’s an opportunity for change and improvement, so it’s not wholly negative.

    Next year, the word should be Improvement. I want things to change. So this time, instead of looking for a goal that I hope would lead into my goal, let’s make sure that both of those goals are actually aligned. The first step should always lead to the second step that I actually want.

    It wasn’t supposed to be this hard, but it was.

    Come visit me at @baybookfest on Literary Lane and learn about #icecream from #icecreamtravelguide

    A video posted by Jenn Ng (@jennism) on

    2016: Entertainment

    I recounted the most impactful entertainment pieces for me in 2014. Then I did it for all of 2015. Now 2016.

    Movies I Saw

  • Sausage Party
  • Zootopia
  • Arrival
  • Ghostbusters
  • The Lobster
  • TV Shows I Watched

  • Game of Thrones
  • Westworld
  • Master of None
  • Black Mirror
  • The Night Of
  • Books I Read

  • All the Birds in the Sky
  • The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships
  • Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble
  • Re: Jane
  • Ice Cream Travel Guide (obviously!!!!)
  • Ways to Pass the Time

  • Thinking of new things to vitamix
  • Thinking of new things to Instant Pot
  • Reading news
  • “Cleaning”
  • Writing
  • Technology

  • Pokemon Go
  • Miitomo
  • Twitter – Moments
  • Allo (for like 2 days)
  • Facebook Video