2021: 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 2020, it was when a product leader called attention to the quality of my work. In 2019, it was when I left my job and when Chris comforted me that we are ok. In 2018, it was realizing my own qualities. In 2017, it was giving advice in hopes of inspiring others. In 2016, it was the moment that when immersed in the election aftermath that anything could change. 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.

At the global level, it should have been the vaccines. It should have been that. It should have been the moment that I was waiting in line for my first dose of Pfizer (I admit that I got in line a few hours before people in my age group were qualified). I stared at everyone around me—fellow SF residents, the SF General staff, and thought…it’s going to be over. Now after a variant and yet another one, it’s still not done. It’s the antivaxxers. It’s the discovery that my sister’s mother-in-law is unvaccinated. It’s the growing number of covid cases around me. And at the national level, it should have been when Trump was silenced on social media and the aftermath of the insurrection should have been proof of that. It should have been a new political administration and everything else. But it wasn’t.

I am privileged to have a safety net—both socially, healthwise, and financially. A reasonable environment, primarily progressive.

And yet.

What is the best moment that everything’s going to be alright? It’s always the small moments that validates that I’ll be fine. From the job. For the future. For the writing. For my goals. That I keep reminding myself that who I am and who I want to be…and even how I want to spend my time isn’t dependent on money and keeping up with the Joneses.

It’s these moments of being told that my work is good—whether it’s that income-generating type or that my essay is good enough. It’s being told by writing programs that they loved my work (and then some weird line about how there wasn’t enough space for me). It’s being told that they appreciate me. It’s receiving all those messages. It’s even as simple as waking up and thinking, Hey I am still alive and happy in my pocket.

Maybe it’s this moment that I had with my therapist although I detest it a lot—that I have rarely ever been someone who doesn’t act. Whether it’s a good or bad thing, after college (or maybe grad school), I made a decision that I will not be frozen. I will always keep going. I kept myself accountable for that for so many years, tracking what I did and who I was with. Then I started to enjoy making my to-do lists. Not because I enjoyed the task itself, but I enjoyed the thrill of telling myself that I completed it. I loved checking things off even if it was as ridiculous as putting things back, cleaning dishes, buying something, making a phone call. Little things matter. And all of that action has made me forget what it would be like not to do something. As much as anxiety and depression can creep up for me, it doesn’t freeze me. Yes, I may sprial into what they call unhelpful thoughts, but the act of doing keeps going. Because I always believe that there’s something around the corner. The itch that I have not to feel sad or anxious is always relieved by action.

So let’s act.

2021: 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. In 2018, it was about seeing the big picture. In 2019, it was about moving on (on my own terms). In 2020, it was about valuing the things (and people) I love.

There’s THE JOB. Which is depressing in some way. My next step is to decide what’s next. Literally.

At least if things happen, I know that I want time off—to do the writing thing. I have several things already lined up—applications to summer workshops (thinking that I ‘ll get into at least one), being part of a novel reading workshop, revising my (forever not finished) novel, rewriting essays, pitching essays, ideating on essays, crafting my nonfiction and fiction. All of that plus contemplating where my writing would be and go.

Then what?

Of course, I can reconnect with people that I know and can trust. I can see where they and how they feel. And so we can begin there.

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: 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 thingsthat 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. In 2018, I made scones (from the Tartine cookbook)! In 2019, I made another holiday video! In 2020, I made some minor things (a chapter and writing prompts), but of course the biggest thing was the annual holiday video!

This year, of course, it’s a version of last year.

I made minor things as I always do, nearly every day. This time mostly food—a failed dutch baby pancake this morning, because I decided not only to substitute the milk with our So Delicious coconut milk but also the all-purpose flour with coconut flour. Then I accidentally overmeasured the flour which called for approximately 2/3 cup, but I put nearly a cup. So then I increased the amount of coconut milk and eggs. But it became this unbearable mush that didn’t even turn into a luscious dutch baby. But I did make a good kahlua drenched apple and banana slices. I am happy with my growing compost pile.

Then other minor things of recent—cranberry chocolate pocketbreads for xmas eve, revising my essay about the grocery store incident, ramen eggs, etc.

But of course, the big thing was the annual video. This year, after multiple sessions about how we could incorporate moments throughout the year including the car scraping, the pandemic, vaccines, etc…and also the big trend of TikTok, we finally were inspired by the SNL TikTok clip. Of course! Unfortunately, iMovie was soooooooo limiting. Could not make the UI that I wanted for our “fake” TikTok called BingBong. Could not do the messaging the right way even with my skill in Figma. Every placement was off. And it was frustrating to go between a phone app to iMovie. But I hacked it.

And then of course when we sent it off Christmas morning (along with the top ten things we learned), we reaped the benefits. AMAZING. FUNNY. ENTERTAINING. NEED SOME JOY IN OUR LIVES (IN YET ANOTHER SAD YEAR). I can’t imagine other people would do the same thing in the effort. But you know!

Sometimes I wonder if I should do this more—creating content like this. But I hesitate. If I do, won’t the joy dissipate? The fact that I’ll be chasing the money, the profit, the freedom of being? I’ll be left with a dislike of everything that I loved doing for low stakes, because there wasn’t any judgement?

Maybe though, I would enjoy the writing. Even as arduous as it would be. But I would always need an outlet to express myself without the fear of judgment, without the pressure of an income, without that despair could crush my dreams with rejetion.

2021: One Moment

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

In 2020, it were the moment(s) when I was creating. In 2019, it was the moment that I realized that he was actually…alive and whole. 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.

Each time that I finished creating something for really myself—the wedding invite video, the Thanksgiving video, and the annual holiday video. And maybe even when I finally saw my How to Grieve essay out in the world. I would run around the apartment, finding Chris and tell him about it.

“Look, I finished!” I said. “Look!”

When it was low stakes, especially for the videos, I felt a sense of pride. This ultimate creation. I am so proud of it. When I finished the wedding invite video, all the tension, all the planning, all of it just washed away. It was that moment of—I can’t wait until all of you see it.

And of course, some pat myself on the back type ones—I can’t believe that I was clever to come up with this. I can’t believe that it looks so good! I can’t believe that it actually achieved the effect that I wanted.

I remember sitting down in front of my computer—fretting over whether I had the right clips, studying the source video to sync as much as possible with the low-level editing quality of iMovie, figuring out how to made the partial opacity during the wave scene, and worried that I was missing some footage. But it worked out so well. And I was able to stuff some old footage.

And of course, there was the hard part of putting it actually into the messaging—plugging it into the website and incorporating the email. But it worked out.


2021: 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. In 2019, I let go of expectations. In 2020, I let go of uncomfortable pants.

I want to say expectations again like in 2019. So many still to have achieved. So many still have yet to meet. So many are not even close. That I can just accept it.

But beyond that, it’s moments of acceptance. So obviously then, it would be obvious that I am letting go of rejection.

In the last week, I have been reflecting on why I encounter so much rejection, namely failure. The idea that I even said once that my skill was failing often. It is because simply I take a lot of risks. And because they are inherent risks, I fail. But sometimes of course, they are painful. And in that horrible way of thinking of resilience, I keep trying and trying. In one perspective, it may be about trying to validate the pain. Seeking because my young child was trying to find someone who would prove that failure is all that I am good for. Or in another perspective, it’s because one day, it will provide the truth and hope. And that it will always be worth it in the end.

Like all the writing rejections that I have garnered, soon, they’ll fall into the pile of rejections. Then it will grow and grow. Some will topple and fail. But some maybe will burst into growth, newness, all to say something new toward what I wanted all this time.

2021: 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. In 2019, it really was the lack of accountability. In 2020, I said that it was about losing my creative space to WFH, but it really was about setting time for it.

Because of not one, but two writing groups, that actually fit my style, I have accountability. Plus another writing group may be the possibility!

Partly right now, it’s work. I put the writing energy there and it’s not quite the same when I write creatively. At work, I am being questioned so much about the writing, but somehow, then I second guess myself here. It’s not what I want. I would like purity between the two. And I don’t like thinking of the potential outcome to eliminate work to preserve my creative space.

If only the work burden could be eliminated in some way to not reduce my end goals.

There are risky things, of course. Quit the job. Do the writing thing. But almost everybody I know in the Bay Area (or maybe even elsewhere) when they do that, it rarely ever works out. Soon enough within a year, they are back to some day job. Everybody talks about the need to have a day job, because that keeps your boundaries focused when writing. Or they become successful, so a day job isn’t necessary, because writing is the thing.

*Sigh* It feels like a catch-22.

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