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

    Do you feel different?

    “No,” I begin, knowing that the standard answer is a long list of nothing-changed. “But it made me realize how society values the married label.”

    For most, at least at the very beginning, I tell the story about how we were in line and how when we used the wife-husband labels, that people reacted differently. That there was some different weight with those labels. That those people might be SERIOUS! And whatever they’re asking is IMPORTANT! Then I go into some angst about how it’s dumb, about how about the people who are single, who don’t marry for whatever reason. Why is it that labels define us so much? That blood is thicker, but suddenly marriage is even stronger?

    Although I realized that Chris and I had masqueraded for years in front of my (somewhat religious) uncle and aunt that we had lived apart when he finally moved in three years ago. But I never confirmed any change in status. So when my uncle asked, “Oh where did you move?”

    I was stunned. Of course, nowhere. But then I paused realizing the context. How my cousins had devoutly lived separately for years before marrying. For us, it wasn’t about religion, but mostly around practicality. His car wouldn’t fit in my garage. And I wouldn’t ever move to a place where I had to be further away from the BART line and had to pay more! So we gave some story about how we had roommates and then the roommates were kicked out.

    But in a moment of fury in the response to Mr. and Mrs., I added, “I didn’t change my last name. I absolutely have no plans on changing my last name.”

    And then there we were, as conversations shifted and morphed to some controversial topics. I was happier there, I think. No questions about me. But questions about beliefs, attitudes, behavior that weren’t quite about me. But I had the passion to argue about for hours.

    Day 1 of Honeymoon

    Technically, it’s day 2, but we arrived late yesterday.

    This morning, I woke up in that usual mixture of where-am-I and work stress.

    “Maybe we can go see the sunrise?” I said looking at the clock. “Although we have only 20 minutes…we might not make it.”

    It was first started as some usual morning waking—the usual scrolling of Twitter and news. Then figuring out how to make tea. Then suddenly, it transitioned into Chris checking his work things and then I had been rolling back and forth on the bed, thinking that we could be out getting malasadas and that we might be missing a chance to get them early in the week. Maybe tomorrow?

    I intended to spend time writing and editing. So I tried to get into the mood for that. A coworker pinged me based on an Instagram story I posted about looking at the forest outside our window. The shot also showed a reflection of a laptop in the window. I wrote, “someone is working when on vacay!”

    I sighed as time ticked on. The irony was that I was soothed by Chris talking on the phone—was it commanding? Instructing? Clarifying? It sounded like he was in charge and I was proud.

    Then I became that annoying child, annoyed in my seat, asking over and over again, “Are we going yet? Are we done yet? When can we go? I am bored!”

    Part 1: Prancing into city hall

    So 2 weeks ago…it finally happened.

    Maybe I didn’t sleep that well or I was filled with nervousness of waking up. My sister messaged me shortly after 6 am that she was up. They were leaving Lafayette and she shared her location. The day before, she had made the trek to San Francisco to Cal Academy and it took over an hour due to a burning truck and usual traffic. But this time, perhaps due to the time, they made it over to the apartment in 30 minutes.

    “Someone is sitting on your doorstep!” she messaged me.

    I was annoyed, of course, and was too busy just trying to pull on my clothes. Trying to wear that near strapless bra that I didn’t want to wear. I remember how a friend told me that I needed to get the dress tailored and thought how unnecessary it was. My anger simmered at that, but I suppressed my feelings because it was ultimately irrelevant. And my sister found a solution that worked fine, after all.

    “Go open the front door!” I told Chris.

    But we were rushing around the apartment getting ready. I didn’t want my parents to come up and look around the apartment, judging the cleanliness or the state of things, especially since we barely had anybody over during the pandemic. So there was a pause until Chris finally went to let my sister in.

    She came up with Jakobe. “In the other bedroom?” I said.

    I had pulled out the fun or at least what I had deemed to be fun, Jurassic Parks. Unfortunately Jakobe, almost 2.5 years old, was feeling unhappy about being woken up. I could tell, because my eyes felt sore too and he was grumpy. But then my sister did the thing that she didn’t like doing and pulled out her phone. All was well as he sat on the bed. No need to worry about him exploring. He was satisfied just there with the screen playing a video.

    Then my sister proceeded. I had the hairspray, the foundation and blush I acquired from Sephora, hair pins, brush, eyeliner, etc. In very little time, we were done with curls and what not.

    And then we went. Chris got there easily. We paid, for the first time!, at the parking meter, because we were not going to be late. As we crossed the plaza, I noticed a car at polk. And there was Allison. I hesitated because I also saw the photographers along the way at the entrance. The entrance, probably first, so I deviated my path and waved over Allison. I was so awestruck by the crown, boutonniere, and the scepter. It was exactly what I wanted! Vegetables. Extravagance. Elegance. And whimsical. But I was a little troubled by suddenly realizing that I had to perform as the photographers began as Allison placed the crown on me.

    Then my sister, Jakobe, and others arrived. I went ahead through security with Chris and the photographers. Because of the stroller, it seemed like they went an alternative route and were admonished for “sneaking” past security. But no time to waste, I went ahead down the hallway to get registered. We sat around waiting while the photographers slipped in photos. We met with a judge, had a conversation. “How long have you known each other?” she asked.

    I noted that she had a neck decor like RBG. “Almost 15 years,” we replied.

    “So just getting things in order?”

    “Yes,” we agreed.

    Chris mentioned that we were also planning to drop our ballots and the judge mentioned how she didn’t like the recall. I was surprised that a judge could say so in a public setting, but Chris told me that they didn’t have any policies to conceal their politics outside the court.

    The Recurring Nightmare During the Pandemic

    My nightmare wasn’t ever about someone I care about dying. Rather it was something…more sinister or just a greater personal fear of mine.

    It starts like this: I am going somewhere public. Whether it’s work with people I don’t really know. A public mall. Some gathering. As I look around, I realize that I am the only one masked. Am I supposed to be wearing my mask, I worry to myself. What are they thinking?

    But I resist because I had made decisions previously to mask and be safe. And yet, I am vaccinated and even with the confusing recommendations, I hesitate to go maskless.

    But then yesterday happened. In recent weeks, I have been a bit more looser about outdoor masking. The heat is one factor of course, but I have decided to accept the studies about outdoor activities—it’s safe. So I let it go.

    But then with everything they say that going maskless indoors is fine. I am wary of course due to the increase of cases by the Delta variant.

    And with yesterday’s incident where Chris forgot his cloth mask and thus had to use my blue disposable mask, which broke shortly. I went maskless and it was like it was before. The Before. It felt uncomfortable, but normal. And yet I don’t know. I felt exposed. Not just to potential viruses and bacteria. But knowing that people see me, like really see me. I don’t want to be seen. Not until I actually want to be.