2023: 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 2022, it was it was the moment that all my hopes for the year started happening. In 2021, it was all the small moments that validates that I’ll be fine even if it was a tiered rejection letter. 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.

Some may or may not know that Chris has had a horrible year. In the way that information and trust could be used in malicious ways. Maybe I did devote a lot of my energy in making sure that he was okay.

I have found more than ever that my creativity and energy gets paused (or zapped) when I am worried. Especially worried about him. Imagine if I had kids. I think that would be worse?

But I guess the moment came later when I could see him really enjoying our hikes in Utah. Although there were definitely several times that I complained that he was running up ahead and not waiting for me, it felt like we were in the flow as we climbed Angels Landing. When we watched the GoPro footage later, he reflected that he was worried that I was going to give up and that I worried that I was holding him back. In truth, I was fighting against a desire to go faster because I certainly didn’t want to fall all the way down the cliffs. I wanted to be sure about my footing which meant that I was going slowly. And I knew that I could make it. It was just going to be slow.

I remember that he was willing to wait. I could tell that, although it may come off like mansplaining, that he enjoyed telling me where to place my hands and feet, what rocks could appear easiest, how to swing. In an earlier essay, I alluded to how he described running up ahead, ““I am the herald. I am Jack Bauer. I am just making sure it’s safe for you.”

He was. Clearing the way. Making sure that I was okay. He wasn’t impatient. It wasn’t that I was grateful for his patience. It was embarassing in a way that I was so cautious. But more that it gave up him purpose. For a few days, he could feel needed. Seeing the red rocks lit by a rising or setting sun (when we actually made it), finding footholds, and just being in nature (because mobile coverage was so poor!)

I liked touching the rocks, he said later.

Like a spider? I asked. Like being one with the rocks.

Yes, to all of that.

2023: 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. In 2021, it was about deciding the next thing. In 2022, it was about execution.

My next step is about building the life that I want. At least to the best of my ability. Clean out the cobwebs. Lay out the infrastructure. Interestingly, without great intention, I did that in 2021, which led to a good 2022. But then this past year, I hadn’t done that much in 2022 for 2023 so then I didn’t have it. So I need to build. I need to lay it all out because that means that I could reap the rewards later.

That means, more effort to put my novel in the world. The same with essays and short stories. The just enough effort into the job so that it doesn’t intrude in my other parts of life. And as always, explore the pleasures of living.

I need to read more books. I need to clean out the things that I don’t want or need. I need to pull out all the dust from the things in my head so that I can see them in clarity. I need to sweep.

Maybe that’s what it all is. Cleaning the space so that I can thrive in the best way possible.

2023: Moments

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2022 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2022.

2022 5 minutes, 2021 5 minutes, 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

Here we go! The one entry that’s easy, I think? Sometimes though, maybe recency bias?

  • Going Utah and visiting the Mighty 5 (all national parks) and actually making it all the way through Angels Landing (am I afraid of heights? yes, but if I don’t look, then it doesn’t matter)
  • Seeing my sister and her kid not once, not twice, but thrice this year
  • Visiting Universal Studios for the first time since I was a kid and making it through Nintendo World, especially through single rider lines, Toadstool Cafe, and various things
  • Losing Toad at SFO, getting the call that he was found (although really it was just the item as SFPD calls it) and retrieving him a week later
  • Eating not-so-great food in Utah
  • Doing the “hike” to the “superbloom” in that beachy beach place just south of Pacifica
  • Hosting and organizing not one but two writing retreats with fellow writers—one north in Calistoga and the other in Point Arena
  • Getting feedback for my novel which encouraged me to keep going even with all the doubt that I have for myself
  • Several days when Chris went to Tahoe and left me behind, and me wondering could I survive? Of course, I did
  • Baking regularly for Writing Accountability Group
  • Reading my piece about my childlike tendencies, pregnancy stuffs, and Ho-Oh at The Racket and being told that it was meaningful

  • Walking with Jakobe throughout San Francisco while playing Pokemon Go
  • Going to the old school Muni buses and light rail trains celebration day
  • Going to the Winter Holiday (to try to buy the sweater) for BART
  • Working in the government?
  • Attending the Diane Feinstein memorial while navigating Secret Service and (barely) rubbing elbows with very important people

2023: 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! In 2021, it was of course annual holiday video, which was built on little videos that I had made throughout the year. In 2022, it was again the holiday video.

Perhaps it’s always the timing of it. At least I don’t want to say the most significant that I last made was something that I did at work. Like writing an email to a participant. Like completing training (because obviously they’re due at the end of the year). Like writing up a document.

No, of course, it was the holiday video was sent late on Christmas because we had just arrived back from Utah. I had done a slightly similar version of the video on Thanksgiving gathering in responding to an uncle’s question last year during Thanksgiving, “Is living in San Francisco dangerous?”

I was angered by the question, suggesting that the city was a bad place to live. I sputtered at the time, because I knew what he was asking about all the shoplifting and the visible poverty. So as I have done in previous years, I created (along with Chris’ help) a video that played on the Instagram vs. reality. Which was reversed. It felt like a showy response of what we did in a year, but that was the intent for Thanksgiving.

For the annual holiday video, I added more substance and played into the viral trend of showing a mundane day in the life of. As usual, I used clips and photos from the year. I had fretted a lot over the music because when I had no music, it felt kind of dead. Initially, I did Sia’s California Dreamin’, but with our voiceover for Day in the life of…it didn’t seem to work. Chris suggested using a record scratch sound effect as a transition. And it worked. When we did the voiceover, we did it in cuts, because how could we describe everything accurately all in one take. Whenever I would mess up, I would just stop the recording and do the portion again. So easy, especially cutting it up in iMovie. There was no complexity like it was for the parody of doing Tik Tok a few years ago. Then I pulled everything together. Adjusted the sound for each audio and video clip. And done.

Making the 10 things we learned this year was somewhat hard. I brainstormed a list in a Google doc. But for Chris because it was a bad year, it just invited him to ruminate about all the bad stuff. So that took some time.

But then we sent it late evening on Christmas to over 75 people (bcc’ed) and boom done! Were people offended? I don’t know! I did have one clip of a protest. So!

2023: One Moment

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

In 2022, it was the moment on Cathedral Rock where I passed other cowardly people, thinking that it wasn’t that bad! In 2021, it was all moments after I finished creating something like after the initial Weddin video. In 2020, it was 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.

Would it be recency bias if I mentioned the hikes that I did in Utah? Particularly like the moment in Angels Landing when I actually reached the peak? But that was only last week and because it hadn’t snowed/frozen over, I was less afraid. And also because I had already done Cathedral Rock in Sedona, there was a bit less fear. It was all about just trying and knowing that I’ll be slow at it. And the big difference was that I didn’t see anyone who was too cowardly to go on—or at least if they turned back, they did so quietly rather than an outward display like that woman who suddenly wouldn’t go any further on the slight incline.

No, I would say that the moment that made a difference for me was when I read my piece at The Racket when Lauren was hosting. I had never been invited to read until she did. It made me feel like my place in the writing mattered! I felt so pleased and awed by her invitation to read a piece where the theme was Birds. Initially, I fretted about it—I am not an animal person, so what animal could I choose? And animals don’t naturally show up in my writing. But then it came to me, it had to obviously be Pokemon.

I had written pieces already about how sometimes I falter into a child state. But more recently for me is the bigger topic of what it means to be a parent—did I want it?

Anyway, that one moment was when I read it. I was nervous about it, because I had only written the piece weeks earlier as I had attempted multiple treatments of it. I revised and revised and practiced and practices.

Dress for the occasion, Lauren had suggested. So I did thinking that my wedding dress and my orangey scarf plus the pink gloves and a pokeball could offer everything that I needed. The whole time I fretted until it was my turn, squirming in my seat on the bench. Jessica was there too, intrigued by my offer to attend a reading. So when it was my turn, Lauren introduced me reading a short intro that I wrote only earlier that week that even included lines from the Pokemon theme song. It was embarassing, but it made a stir in the audience. Then it was my turn.

I had overanalyzed the situation already, thinking about how to position the mic and paper, especially since it had multiple sheets. Do I hold the paper over the mic? Do I speak loudly? How far is the mic from my face?

Then I read, trying all the effort to maintain gaze and read slowly but surely. And the audience aahed and laughed at what I think was the right times. And then I looked up, my voice quivered even though I didn’t mean to as I talked about my loss. What did it mean when I lost something? What did it mean when I felt so mixed? What did all of it all mean? I worried about being judged and feeling like people wouldn’t see me the same.

But afterwards, people did come up to me and said that they loved my piece. And maybe that’s all that mattered.

2023: Let 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. In 2021, I let go of rejection. In 2022, I let go about feeling bad about rejection.

Rejections, disappointments, feeling bad. It’s still around. And as I reflect on this Christmas day (we just came back from Utah!), I can only think of one thing: I would like to say that I let go of being very upset when other people are upset.

Today, on the airplane, I sat in the middle seat next to a mother of two young children. The father was sitting between the two young children across the aisle. Who knows why she decide to sit apart from the children? Maybe it was because she wanted a break. But she didn’t get a break because I could tell that she was more vigilant than the father, constantly monitoring what the children were doing or not doing. Guiding them? But there’s something about parenthood where the young children’s emotions are meant to be seen just as they are.

2023: 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. In 2021, I said that it was work. In 2022, I said that it was the way I used my free time.

This year, it was interestingly this desire that I didn’t want to spend money on extra things. Not on classes. No on workshops. Not on things. I wanted to keep it minimal, because at the time, I didn’t see how the other things helped me.

But that also meant that I was more stagnant (my sad little one word!) in my writing. I wanted to do more, but felt a bit paralyzed by various little anxieties. And then the worst always happens: social comparison. It’s not social comparison held me back, but it made me envious. I would see someone get accepted into a workshop/fellowship, published in a literary journal, repped by an agent, and that rare occasion, sold and published. What about me?

I wonder from time to time, what if I did spend a little? But I have this problem where I am cynical. I don’t like the people. I don’t like the instructor. And I am back where I started, maybe I shouldn’t have tried, maybe I shouldn’t have gone. Yet, when I created the small spaces, as they say with intentionality, I am always surprised by the comfort and connection I have.

People believe in me, mostly because I asked for it. And when I am believed, it matters so much to me.

2023: 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 2022 for you?

From years past: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010

The one word that captures this year:

Maybe it was because I had limited vacation from the new job. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to spend more money on writing workshops and classes. Maybe it was because of all the things that Chris was experiencing. I didn’t progress in writing. My body didn’t progress (again). And so I ended up in the same place as I did last year.

And yet, you could say that I actually did achieve connection, because although I didn’t change much at all, I strengthened what I had. Particularly at the Ruby where I got to know people, which was a huge contrast from the previous year. I led a writing retreat there (plus the one with Jeffrey and Liwen). I stayed in touch with many people. It wasn’t all for naught. I got to know people at work. But I am still here, unchanged. And of course, Chris went through one of the worst things ever.

But no change isn’t that bad. It means that things didn’t get worse, though it didn’t get better.

For next year, it should be: Movement.

Can it be? Can it be growth? And hope? And change? or just a nudge to something else?

2023: Travel

How did you travel in 2022? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

In 2022, I made up for all the lack of traveling by going to the Netherlands, Ohio, Portland in less than 2 months plus a stop in Arizona. In 2021, the second year of the pandemic, we stayed locally although did jet to Hawaii. 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 2023, I traveled much less as predicted due to limited PTO from the new job. And it’s like…did I really want to go to many places? But here’s what I did:

  • Tahoe for a ski trip after a pause in three years. Though we actually went up for a surprise bday gift for my birthday in May during the pandemic
  • LA for my sister’s 40th! And Universal Studios plus good foodie
  • Sacramento for a weekend trip for Chris’ birthday (and a visit from my sister and Jakobe!) We also stopped by Locke, but it was well…less than.

So I guess that I didn’t leave the state at all! But we’re going to Utah next week!

Next year? I hope to get into a residency, but it feels impossible! Maybe a workshop, but I am not quite sure if I want to do that this summer. Maybe a stop in Arizona to see my sister and Jakobe. Maybe New York? Maybe this Mexico City thing? Maybe Vancouver? Maybe Hawaii for Pokemon Go?

2023: Entertainment

I recounted the most impactful entertainment pieces for me in 2014. Then I did it again for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022

Movies I Saw

Although now it’s less about the fear of going to the theater, it’s just…is it worth it? So many annoying people, a combination of rudeness and them getting me sick! So this includes some streaming

  • Oppenheimer
  • Barbie
  • Starring Jerry as Himself (my review)
  • Past Lives
  • The Menu

TV Shows I Watched

  • The Curse
  • Fargo (we are through season 1 and 2, partway through 3)
  • Jury Duty
  • Invincible
  • The Last of Us

Books I Read

  • Chain Gang All Stars
  • Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
  • Yellowface
  • The Memory Police
  • Counterfeit

Ways to Pass the Time

  • Thinking about how to use up ingredients in the pantry for the next writing accountability grop, based on what I find in the NYT app
  • Scrolling through the news apps like NYT, New Yorker…and now WashPo
  • Whining to Chris about reducing stuffs
  • Social media browsing, especially when it gets into scrolling on TikTok and Reels. Unlike most people, my mind just gets numb and unable to be creative
  • Worried about all the age-related things that can happen to me


  • Threads, obvs
  • Bluesky, especially because I begged for an invite
  • Substack
  • Ember. It’s great when it works and it sucks when it doesn’t (which is most of the time)
  • Aranet, even though nobody cares