Thursday, July 12, 2018

adulthood and authenticity

I am struggling in this new world where tact equals mincing words, and politeness means not saying exactly what you mean. Adulthood feels like an endless trek through happy hours on eggshells, where the mimosas are always bottomless, but the slight is always unintentional.

Maybe that's why I have not written in a long time. This blog was my confession booth. Cathartic release had its virtues but when you reach adulthood, it can be taken as whining, being petty or just plain rude.

There is so much pent up that I'm ready to explode. But am I still brave enough to let the words flow? Adulthood has stifled that rebel voice, rounded it out and has taken away it's resonance.

Being an adult means molding yourself into the nicer, kinder, watered-down version of you so that you don't hurt others. Because being an adult means everything is a hidden attack. The last minute invite, the striking personal preferences that contrast with others, the seating arrangements and the wedding gifts – all fucking landmines.

This adult world where people are so polite that they stop being themselves, that they barely scratch the surface of another person's being.

What are we so afraid of? Looking lonely at a party? God forbid we get caught by the punch bowl with no one to talk to.

As I get older, I realize my tolerance for superficial conversations has dwindled down to nonexistence. I simply do not engage and embrace the resulting air of rudeness. To hell with politeness. One can only smile and put on airs for so long. I've lived long enough in this world to understand the consequences of my actions and I'll take responsibility for all of them.

To hell with what they think of you. Repeat this to yourself: I think very little, if at all, of you.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

⚡️marks upon the skin

A new year calls for a new tattoo, right? That wasn't exactly my logic but after the tremendous year that I had in 2017, I felt it was time to mark the journey onto my skin. So when an artist that I had been following for a while posted that she was doing guesswork in Los Angeles for a weekend, I immediately made an appointment. Hesitation usually breeds regret and I haven't really regretted any decision made on an impulse.

A post shared by tattooist IDA (@tattooist_ida) on

This marks my eighth tattoo. The first one was at sixteen years of age with my mother, who rushed me after I spent an hour looking over every page of tattoo samples on the walls. I never dreamt of getting a tattoo as I'd assumed my parents would be against it so when my mother offered to take me to get one, I was shocked but game for the experience. As it turns out, she had been helping a friend open his business and as a thank you he offered her a free tattoo. She didn't want it, so she passed it on to me. I had no clue what I wanted since I had less than a week's notice. So my decision was ultimately rushed and I picked something totally cliche.

Years later by the beach town of San Juan Del Sur in Nicaragua, I covered up my first tattoo with a watercolor-inspired design that was designed directly on my skin. I had no idea what the end result would look like, but I knew whenever I saw this tattoo I would remember those past few months in that humid country.

They say after you get one tattoo you will always want another. And they are totally right. I love each and every one of them. They've become such a seamless part of my body that I often forget that I even have them. Sometimes when I catch myself, a few times a year, I imagine what it is like for the world to see me: a petite Asian girl with a very strong personality smattered with tattoos here and there. I wouldn't say this makes me unique since tattoos are no longer taboo and have become mainstream, but when I was young it was a novelty. And I felt it in the eyes of those who saw the marks upon me. It was intriguing and a talking point. I no longer think these things are intriguing to any beholder; they no longer serve that purpose of differentiating myself from those around me. The motivation for my tattoos have shifted over the years. They now mark a moment in time, a season of growth, a person or  a story worth remembering.

As the stories accumulate so will these beautiful scars.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

abre los ojos

Happy 2018. I'm a month late and about a year overdue for a real entry. If anyone is still here, I still think about this blog pretty much every day. Funny how that is. It's on my mind practically all year long. There is a reminder on my phone set for every evening at 8pm to 'draw or write something.' And I let about 365 of those reminders pop up before I finally took its advice. Procrastination is a real thing, guys.

But life taking over is also a real thing, too. So much has happened since the last real entry. 

So recap of 2017, in list format because I procrastinated for so long that it only makes sense to cover such an expansive time in bullet points:
  • Employment. I switched companies and hired a few and fired a few. That was a challenging time emotionally. 
  • I married the lover in a chateau in France. Pictures are on Instagram. If you're curious, however, here's the video. The videographers are so talented and genuine. They recently moved to Los Angeles by way of Italy. I expect them to be in high demand.
  • We bought a house in our favorite city, San Francisco. One of my pet peeves is when people say they live in San Francisco but their mailing address lists a city in the peninsula. Worry not; I ain't one of those people.
  • For the first time in my life, I started working out consistently. And the changes I feel in my mental health and see on my body is astonishing. 
We don't work out in Vietnam. It's just not a thing. My first memory of physical exercise was in second grade, a few years after I had moved to the U.S. On the first day at my new school, the gym teacher made everyone do a pull up. I remember looking at this impossible task and feeling super defeated having never witnessed a human do such a thing. I muttered, "I can't," and the teacher turned red. "We don't say can't in this class!" I felt humiliated as he forced me to try, of course, to no success. My scrawny little arms couldn't lift my body one inch. The rest of my gym memories after that were of torturous one-mile runs where I would come in last, out of breath, with shin splints, and a cramp in my abdominal. I did win a first place Field Day award for a long jump but only because I was the only kid who managed to pull off the correct technique. Why anyone would put themselves through the pain of physical activity for fun was beyond me.

I guess it was pretty traumatic because I avoid physically activity for my entire adult life. As an adult you could say I was a fragile little thing. I was clumsy and could probably be knocked over by a strong gust. I needed help with every heavy thing and moved through the world on my own some times in fear and all of the time feeling very small. 

When I finally started working out it was because of vanity. I wanted to reverse my slowing metabolism. I never cared about being physically strong until my mentality changed and I looked at things that were difficult as challenges, instead. I think that comes with age and maturity. There's a determination in me to prove to myself that I could do anything I set my mind to. So I resolved to get stronger, to learn how to do a real push up and maybe one day a pull up. I enrolled in Basecamp last year and would go 4-6 times a week for about a year. Progress was immediate and while it took a full year, this January I finally managed to do a real pushup–with my elbows close to my body and not pointed out to the sides. It's incredible how easier it is to move through the world when you feel marginally stronger. 

After we bought our house and moved in December, Basecamp got too far to be convenient. The only studios around here are yoga studios. So I enrolled with a bit of hesitation. Yoga is bourgeois. It is expensive, full of vegans (no offense) and overflowing with spiritual bullish*t. All the stereotypical things, I thought them all. But the practice took me by surprise. It challenged my perception of myself and forced me to be super uncomfortable in weird poses that I couldn't get right. It taught me to appreciate the process of learning and to be patient with my body and it grew into these poses. On a superficial level I can see my abs coming into fruition. But mentally, I feel so much better.

When I used to have anxiety attacks I would feel such extreme disassociation that I would think whatever I was witnessing was a dream and that the real me was in a coma, dreaming these things; that my mind was trapped in that dream. Now a part of me wonders if my consciousness was trying to tell me something. I wanted to stay asleep so badly that I gave myself panic attacks. I needed to wake up. 

Some people go on sabbaticals, some people are struck by tragedy and have to reassess everything they once deemed important. For me it was the physical utilization of my body, the moving and cranking of rusty levers. Mobility shook out the dust that had accumulated in those dark corners, long left forgotten. It is now that my eyes are finally opening.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I hate the east coast but....

...I may have to move somewhere in which autumn resides.

my yearning ripened
like the last apple
russet and out of reach
but for the sun
touching it briefly
the ash lost its leaves first
and in your absence
autumn touched my heart
and I feared a winter without you
so many leaves underfoot
that the grass yellowed
two squirrels chased each other
in a rough scramble
up and down
the broad poplar
and two starlings dipped
into the dark water of the birdbath
twice I found bones at the bottom
brought by crows
I shivered in the chill
of that October morning

a fatal bite

I imagine a bullet would feel like a bite from a dragon; searing, sharp and quick.

My tumblr account is half dead, but the app still sends me notifications. It's such a dreamful realm, so much youth, full of raw confessions. The antithesis of 'adult.' I don't want to let that side die. I don't want to give in to expectations.

One of the most expensive cities in the world, San Francisco, withholds the luxury of air conditioning from it's residents. Luckily, SF summers peak at 75 degrees so we get by by sleeping with the windows open, shades drawn, and distant sirens singing us to sleep, forsaking our blankets and clothes. I feel exposed to the darkness. There is a childlike fear attached to the darkness that in the morning, feels absurd. But it's so real at night. I once immersed myself it in to try to find to root of the fear and I found it, rooted in memories I had suppressed–rooted in anger. My darkness is full of anger and heat.

writings before bed

Thursday, October 27, 2016

I promise not to forget

"Give yourself a moment to enjoy your achievements."

The past few years have been nonstop going from one to-do item to the next. Each completion felt like I was getting one step closer to the person I was supposed to be, the person I should be; someone with a degree, a full time job, a six-figure salary and a 401k. This blog, and ultimately my own well-being, fell by the wayside. If anyone still subscribes to this blog, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey. You are not alone in yours.

If you remembered how lost I was in Shanghai, jobless and in a foreign land, you would not recognize me now. I manage a global channel for a large company. I do technical shit that requires a lot of coding which in turn pays a hefty sum. So professionally, and from looking at my Instagram, you might say I that am successful. Internally, I live in the midst of a storm.

The things that took place in my past have finally caught up with me in adulthood. They manifest themselves in the form of anxiety, a bout of insomnia that lasted for a few years, a questionable drinking habit, and often crushing self-doubt. As long as you wear the right shoes, walk tall enough and know your angles, you can fake enough charisma and self-esteem to fool anyone.

Learning to love yourself is a lifelong process. I heard the phrase first in grade school and it felt abstract but also absurd. Of course I love me, my infantile self would say. But as you get older you realize that it's a journey backwards, back into yourself that you have to find. To learn to cope with adult things and adult knowledge, of loss and atonement, of betrayal and tragedy all the while still holding on to your constitution and be able to ground yourself in the knowledge that you are you and that is truer than true (shout-out to Dr. Seuss). It requires an absurd amount of emotional and spiritual acrobatics to hold on to your sanity as the world continues to fall apart, to strive to climb the ladder when refugees wash up on faraway shores, to plan a destination wedding... you get the point.

There is much work to be done, and I have only just begun. I am deeply flawed and relishing in the journey back to the center. With each and every painful revelation comes release. A heavy sigh of relief from holding on to burdens I did not even know I was holding.

I will be writing more. I promise not to forget to write.

Friday, March 25, 2016

let them flow

I sit empty. Head empty, hands empty, past empty...heart full and bursting, beating like the last marathoner in the race. Always last. There are moments where I feel like a complete fraud, where I search desperately within myself to find myself only to come up empty. I've lost all my memories, convictions, and confidence. I have nothing original, funny, or even contrite to contribute to the conversation. I want to disappear. To start all over. Let me put on a smile. 

Now that I am a real adult, I can no longer playing pretend...there are no more excuses.

When you spend your life telling yourself to smooth out your edges, conform to ideals of being a student, colleague, girlfriend, woman, Asian adult, etc., the lines begin to blur. Where do the ideals stop and the real you begin? They merge. One will always dominates. Libras are notoriously bad at balancing. 

Traveling for the past two weeks gave me some time to be stuck with myself. The only voices around me as I walk through airport terminals with my headphones on were mines. I picked up a book and I'm back on the blog. Too many things have been suppressed, held back. 

Let me find the motivation to let them flow.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

traveling to ourselves

Funny how we forget other worldly pleasures when our life is taken over by chaos. In my case, the chaos of moving. We forget about books and movies and simple pleasures (a cup of tea) and stillness. When surrounded by boxes and living out of suitcases are your daily life, it's hard to create a quiet moment to read a bit of Rumi.

Moving has always been a heavy word for me. My first major move was at age seven when my family packed our entire lives to leave Vietnam. We left the spices, the open markets, the silk dresses and my grandfather for hamburgers and soda and Disney World. I slept the whole way across the Atlantic Ocean and missed all my in-flight meals. I wore my favorite white dress. I remember my grandfather holding on to me until the last second. I remember him holding my hand and walking me into the airport at dawn. When moving equates to your whole world changing and to always yearn for the ones you love, you know to brace for it.

The second time I moved, I left my family for New York. It was very matter of fact the way it all played out. We sat down for dinner and I mentioned casually that in two days I will be moving up to New York. That was how we did it at home; independently and on our own will. My parents inquired where I would be living and how I would feed myself. Beyond that they were completely fine with letting me into the world on my own. My brother and I operate on this strategy: we just go.

My third move was to Shanghai, a whole other world for a whole other entry.

Then there was Nicaragua. Heat. Dust. Smiles. Sweat.

Now there is San Francisco. The lover and I have moved into our own one bedroom, sans room mates. For the last two weeks we have thoughtfully been furnishing. Every weekend we would pack ourselves into a rental and drive to furniture and rug stores. We picked out dining sets, a couch, bedsheets, desks, and shelves for the bathroom. We painted. For the last two weeks, I have found it hard to feel settled. The roots that I have carefully laid down for the past two summers are becoming unfurled. Today is the first day that I remembered I had a blog. Two nights ago I remembered I had a Kindle. Sleep has been elusive for the past couple of weeks until two days ago, when the bedroom, the curtains, and dressers have finally found a place to go in our new home, then sleep came.

There is this nagging voice inside that tells me I need to find a job soon. Like two summers ago when I had four interviews lined up, it tells me I need to find that fire again. Then there is the guilt that knows that I have not conjured up the energy.  Displacement engulfs every space in your mind. It forces you to address it until there is no more noise inside your head, inside your living space.

Picking up on this journal today was like finding fresh air again. I know I had it in me, but I totally forgot what it felt like to write. It wasn't lost entirely, just put aside for more important needs. But what could be more important than writing? I'm glad I haven't forgotten entirely. I'm glad I still have my writing to keep me sane.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

an exercise in appreciation

Since it's uncharacteristically warm this Christmas on the east, I'm taking a bubble bath after my soulcycle class and dreaming of walking through snowy fields of whiteness. 

As my elbows and toes raisin in this tub, I'm penning this on my iPhone. Tonight we will probably do a low key dinner and catch a Christmas movie. We've stopped giving gifts a long time ago at my request. At the risk of sounding cliche, my entire existence is filled with so many gifts big and small. I cherish every memory. I'm trying so hard to remember every moment. We've lived so much, seen, felt and have done so much. Today I'm just grateful to have been given so much from friends and strangers alike:

• the strangers who housed & fed me in Nicaragua

• the bon vivants who have become travel companions and inspirations 

• the friends who keep me young and grounded, sticking by me despite my flaws

• the lover. Oh lover. Not enough words. This man who would do anything for me without asking anything in return. Unconditionally. 

• the aloof parentals who show love in their own silly little ways. Who gave up so much and continue to. 

• everything that's made me who I am today. Love accumulates. Don't let hate.

• the endless encouragement from people who think I'm worth encouraging. 

• the new friends I've met this year. I can't believe this still happens. I hope we continue on this path. 

Wealth comes in many forms. Only the lucky ones realize this. Don't let quantity fool you. Quality has a bigger return on investment :) 


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

i never loved california

peace + quiet. hello old friend.

It's been a very long time since I've had some time to just graze away beneath my sheets. The past two years have been filled with so many busy moments, terminals and gates, take offs and shaky landings, rushed goodbyes, papers after papers and endless team meetings with people I tend to despise. I know as an adult I'm supposed to be able to get along with just about everyone having honed on my social skills over the years, and I do. But that doesn't mean I have to like everyone. I learned at an early stage that I struggle between misanthropy and gregariousness. You just have to embrace the person that you are and stop guilting yourself into having to like something or to be a certain way. You are you. Before this turns into a Dr. Seuss imitation, let's move on shall we...

So I slept in until 11 today, missing all my gym classes. Then I did something luxurious that I have not done in a long time: I added new music to my collection. The last time I did this was at the beginning of this year in January. In between I resorted to generic pop hits from Taylor Swift and One Direction (please don't judge me).

During my break, my goal is to binge on Korean dramas (Healer & Pinocchio) and lose weight with sleep and good intentions (it is possible). In exactly six days, I move across the country to beautiful San Francisco. This will be the fifth move in my short lifetime. The first on the west coast, and the third location in the United States. And it certainly won't be the last move I make.

Thinking back on all the places that I have lived, I realized that I was so in lust with each and every enigmatic location that each one ended up breaking my heart in the process. I've fallen out of love with New York and Shanghai. I've fallen out of love with Vietnam. I know the fault lies with me and my expectations as does my inevitable disillusionment with each city. The charms still exist in each one, but it was my fault for going in thinking each one will love me back, for idealizing.

San Francisco was a different story. I never loved it. I was never interested in it. I didn't want to love California because everyone loved California. I went for a wedding and we took a wrong turn and ended up on the Bay Bridge. I caught a glimpse of Coit Tower to my left as I sat high above the waters. Something tugged at me. I felt a lump in my throat and my heart sank. Our car could have dropped into the waters and I would have never taken my eyes off that majestic sight. That was all it took.

A few years later here we are in the summer interims living in view of Coit Tower, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, and walking distance from Lombard Street. Too much good luck. Too much of a beautiful thing. And it was all ours. Sometimes you luck out enough to realize that you may never have it this good again for as long as you live. So I took it all in while I could. I strolled languidly to yoga two blocks away on Hyde. I bought fresh tomatoes from the bodega down the street, and we held hands as we dined in our neighborhood sushi spot. On weekends we enjoyed music at outdoor festivals. We drank until everything blurred. We drunkenly fought on New Years over the steep steps outside our place. Idyllic. Unintentional.

When I would return to the east coast, California stayed on my skin. As the tan faded, friends kept calling. Reminding me I had a place out west.

And that was how I came to love California.

Merry Christmas Eve. May you fall in love with something new this year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The years get shorter as we get older

A very wise person recently told me why the years seem to pass by so much faster as we age. Remember when you were seven and a year took forever to end? Summer break would take forever to arrive and some winters felt like the winter of our lives. Well the answer as to why we feel this displacement isn't revolutionary. If we look at the sum of our years lived at the age of 7, one year is actually 14% of our young life. By 25 one year becomes only 4%. The years aren't getting shorter. Your perception of time is dimishing and with it time seems to move faster. 

As I type this entry there are about 22 days left to this glorious year. And how glorious it has been. In such a short span I have managed to fit in Coachella, Nicaragua, Montreal, Toronto, Paris and Disney World. But these are just destinations that anyone with the luxury of time, ambition or a disposable income can achieve. What really counts then?

The mistakes you've made counts (may they not be the same ones as last year's) and the lessons you've learned. The ties that you've severed and the new and old ones that continue to strengthen themselves despite your cynicism about how hard it is to make long-lasting friends at this age. 

This whole year, the past four years actually, have been a non-stop race with my own expectations to try to outdo myself, to rank tops, to silently prove that I am good enough for myself. These have been hectic days. Brutal and sometimes unkind. And the world just refuses to stop spinning no matter how many times I beg for it to just stop. To give me some rest. Please just let me nap for five years (in a kryogenic state or frozen so I do not age).

The truth is, and I am inspired by Steve Jobs here, the crazy ones never stop even if they want to. It's just not in our nature to let opportunities slip by, the little nuts and bolts constantly churning inside our heads. We have this gravitational pull that continually catapults us forward to new terrain, to constantly test and disprove everything we thought we once knew to be true. 

Who we are today is not who we are last year. Next year I will be even stronger. Even more loving and maybe even more jaded. We go through cycles of stress and discomfort and contentment. But the real change only happens when we are at our breaking point. That's when the magic happens. 

As this year comes to an end I would like to wish all my loyal readers (all 2 of you) to never shrink from your own strength. To test what you are made of. To go after your breaking point. I want you to learn how much more you are made of and surprise yourself in your discoveries. I know I have. 



Ps. Don't be afraid to drop the people who add no value to your ever diminishing time. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Paris, to forget your troubles

Traveling in general makes one forget their woes, but Paris especially. Especially when you are staying right by Ave. Montaigne and a skip from Rue Honore with a 360 degree view of the city with the Eiffel Tower within sight. I don't know how birthdays are to be happy after the 21st year, but the Lover managed to do it and found this gorgeous place on airbnb. The best part was when I returned to learn that the company loved my photo so much they posted it on their Instagram. 

I arrived home with a bit of a heavy heart. This was around the time my grandfather passed away but I felt his presence in Paris, at Pere LaChaise. I feel his presence all the time. 

Loss never leaves you. You just learn to live with the pain. You move on, but you never truly heal. I keep reminding myself how lucky I have been to have experienced such love in my life. 

This was all back in September. Since September I have been keeping busy. Working and school and then more traveling adventures in between. I should update more (I say this in every post).