What is the work you’re willing to struggle for?

I’ve picked up a book recently called The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck. Today, I'm going to share a point that's really resonated with me. 

In the book, the author introduces a spin on a well-known question we ask ourselves all the time – “What do I want out of life?” This is an arguably a rather simple, easy question. At the end of the day, everyone’s striving for universal things like happiness, good health, fulfillment, etc.

The harder, more introspective question to ask is – “What kind of pain do I want?” This weeds out pipe dreams that we’re not actually willing to put hard work into and soul-sucking jobs where we just keep grinding at because it’s what we’re supposed to do.

The truth is, we’ll deal with problems and pain all our life no matter how rich, successful or satisfied we are. So while problems are inherently unavoidable – there are some problems we can handpick to have in our lives. And if given the choice, we should be picky as ever.

Pick the ones that make you feel alive.
The ones that excite you in the morning, and get you babbling at dinner.
The ones that defy people's expectation of who you should be (because this is your life!). 
The ones you must give a try, even if you’re afraid to fail really badly.

Looking ahead

Happy New Year! 

One of my resolution for 2016 is to practice more art. I've been pondering on some inspiring thoughts that will hopefully keep me in check. Most of these nuggets are from books I've been reading - notably Fail Fast, Fail Often and Better Than Before. I want to share in case they might help you out too! 

Know what type of person you are when it comes to habits. 
For the longest time, I couldn't understand why I was good at discipling myself with work-related deadlines but horrible at dedicating time for my hobbies - activities that I love and chose to pursue. Then I was enlightened by this idea: all habits can be broken into two types - those motivated by external expectations and internal ones.  Externally based habits are ones that are typically shaped by your job and societal obligations. On the other hand, internal ones are set by yourself, such as "I want to go to the gym more."

Knowing this distinction helped me realize that I am externally motivated (mainly because appearing dependable and acting like an upright citizen is important to me) but I am willing to compromise with personal habits. One possible solution for someone like myself is building accountability as it makes intrinsic habits visible to others. Want to exercise more? Find a gym buddy. Practice more art? Sign up for a class. 

Form goals that feel easy and achievable.
When I was younger, I always believed that goals needed to be grand and big. I didn't see the point in setting something attainable. Now I realize that by breaking down goals into digestible pieces, we're actually more motivated to achieve them because they feel more tangible and less effortful. So instead of saying "I want to start a blog that gains 500K active users by 2017," say "I want to write a blog entry every 2 weeks."

Do it now, and don't overthink it. 
Doing too much research can actually demotivate you to take action, aka "analysis paralysis." This concept really resonated with me because I over research most things. (I'm one of those people who spend way too much time on Yelp looking for dinner options.) Case in point, today I spend 2+ hours looking for the "perfect" art class to take. Near the end, I was so fatigued with my options that I almost wanted to shelve it for another day. However, I reminded myself that I feel motivated now so I need to capitalize on the momentum and take action now. No regrets.  

Embrace the mindset of a beginner. 
Finally, one of my biggest epiphanies going into the new year: not everything needs to be a reflection of my intelligence. This is something that I want to constantly remind myself at work and in life. Likewise, not every piece of art needs to reflect my ability and talent. Don't aim for perfection, aim to get better through relentless practice. There should be no shame in embracing Day 1 mentality when striving for greatness. 


It’s been over a week since I returned from my Paris & Iceland trip with Amy. 


It goes without saying: Iceland is a beautiful country. As a native New Yorker, it also encapsulated the opposite of what I’ve known my entire life. I grew up surrounded by rows of houses and buildings, and few animals (dogs and pigeons as exceptions). On the contrary, Iceland was home to all kinds of nature. Waterfalls. Mountains. Lots and lots of flat green land. And most importantly, there were horses and sheep everywhere. 

On our first day, we drove the Golden Circle, which included the Thingvellir National Park, Geysers at Haukadalur, the Gulfoss Waterfalls, and the Kerio Crater Lake. Unfortunately, this was also the rainiest and windiest day of our entire Iceland trip.

On this day, the Gulfoss Waterfalls is one of the most memorable stops. Here we had to choose between staying warm and semi-dry, or maximizing the time we had by hiking further and closer to the falls. In our moment of weakness, we almost turned around. But something came over us, and we decided to brave the weather and go forth! By the time we reached the end, we were drenched from head to toe. I was numb from the cold; could barely feel my fingers. However, I felt exhilarated. I felt strangely alive and carefree. (I wondered if that was what a runner’s high felt like.) And my favorite quote from Amy after our dubbed test-of-strength: “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not a badass!”

My second favorite memory was our short stay in Vik, a small village in South Iceland. We stayed at a guesthouse with a friendly host and his even friendlier Siberian Husky. The long winding road to get here was the most scenic drive I’ve ever experienced. It was just an absolute dream.

That night we saw the Northern Lights. Seeing the night sky dance before my eyes gave me an unexpected feeling of giddiness. I felt like a small being in a big universe. I also felt extremely close to the sky…as if I could almost touch it. It has been a long time since I experienced such childlike wonder.

This concludes the highlights! The other half of the fun included the abrupt stops during our drive for photo ops, a spontaneous day hike to Thorsmork, and a relaxing last day at the Blue Lagoon. 

Till next time!


California Lovin'

In March, I had the pleasure of visiting San Francisco for the very first time! It was a lovely city with wonderful people and a sunny vibe. Of the many places I ventured to - one of the best parts about the trip was how accessible nature was! Unlike New York City, a quick car/bus ride can make you feel as if you left the city entirely. This post is dedicated to my absolute favorite spot, Land's End. 

Land's End is this breathtaking area that takes you on a trail of ruined bath house, beaches, greeneries, and a wonderful view of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

In my week-long trip, I actually went to Land's End twice. Once with my family, and then again with Troy. The second time I wanted to find this hidden spot called the Labyrinth. It was originally created by a man named Eduardo Aguilera in 2004, and consist of stones that make up a circle maze of sorts. 

Finally stumbled upon it. I was happily surprised when we hiked up a cliff, and found it under us!

The weather was beautiful, and the breeze felt amazing. I definitely want to come back one day. Until next time!

Brunch Date: Finding My Way to Art

Almost every weekend, Troy and I have our ritual of Sunday morning brunch. We basically have 2-3 spots in the area on rotation. One weekend, while waiting for our food we started talking about my newfound hobby, calligraphy and watercoloring! Everything from how I got inspired, to what my game plan was going forward. 

Talking to him about art and passions reminded me something about myself. I've always been interested in art, but never in the traditional sense.

Growing up, I was surrounded by a lot of people who were definitely better artists than I was. (Nope, that's not a humble brag.) I had three good friends who were superbly talented. And in my opinion, my younger brother had the most intricate and interesting drawings. 

I didn't enjoy drawing because I couldn't get the dimensions right. I actually came to this epiphany when I was in elementary school when I had to draw a horse and a bird for art class. The sizes, the angles...all wrong, and it bothered me oh so much. 

In middle school, I took oil painting classes on the weekends. I wasn't so great because I never mastered the details. I remember spending hours on a canvas, feeling OK about it. Only to have my instructor assist, spend 10 minutes on it, and effortlessly turn it into a masterpiece. How did she do that! 

Arguably, I didn't spend enough time or invest in enough practice to get to where I wanted to be. But I looked around me, saw so much talent, and decided it probably wasn't for me. 

But I was obsessed with photoshop and digital art.

At the age of 12, I discovered what wonderful things you could create with a computer. You can design layouts for blogs, you can manipulate images, and even create ones from scratch with vectors. Unlike today, where the Adobe suite is accessible and well-known everywhere, this was considered uncharted territories for someone my age and background. And to be honest, I never considered it art, or a hobby, or even an "interest." While I spent hours everyday doing it, I didn't really connect the dots to it being something more than what I spent my free time doing.

I know this was long-winded but this allowed me to come to three conclusions. 

1. It's not just about natural talent. It's about working hard and putting in conscious effort to get to where you want to be. That's why it's important to document your progress because you can see how much you improved since you started. And it's motivation to keep going. Even if you do have the talent, it's also about acting on it. 

2. Don't let what you know to be "true" stop you from discovering new things you enjoy. Just because they don't teach you calligraphy, or whatever-it-may-be at school, doesn't mean it's not important, or worth pursuing. With the internet nowadays, it's so much easier to learn new skills. Everything from Skillshare, General Assembly, to Craftsy. 

3. Think about where you're spending your free time. As an Asian-American and first generation child, anything related to art was highly rejected, and so I never really fostered that interest. But looking back, I also didn't even realize that what I was doing could be a career choice. Part of the responsibility lies with parents and schools not fully exposing kids to career opportunities outside of being a lawyer, doctor, teacher. But I think that it is also our own responsibility to recognize passion and interest when it arises and see where it leads us. 

That's all! And in case you were curious, I ordered Eggs and Corned Beef Hash for brunch that day. 

Calligraphy: You Are Precious

"Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you."

Hello wonderful people! 

Check out my latest work. I'm still trying to find my personal hand lettering style. Is it neat, straight? Does it flow loosely? Is it playful, sophisticated? I think the more practice I have, the closer I will be to figuring it out. 

In my watercoloring, I've been experimenting with masking fluid! That's how I achieved the white textured background in this piece. What masking fluid does is temporarily cover up parts of your paper, allowing you to paint freely over it. Once the color dries, you just rub it off. HERE is an easy 101 on it. It's useful for painting waves, small details, accents. Basically anything that you can imagine! 


Calligraphy: Transient

I'm finding a tinge of comfort from this quote. It's an excerpt of Dan Gilbert's Ted Talk: The Psychology of your Future Self

Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been.

Calligraphy x Watercolor: You've Got Magic

Happy Sunday! It's been a busy January, but still trying to make time to do the things I love. This one is inspired by a Colbie Caillat song, "Magic." Just in time for Valentine's Day, folks ;) 


Calligraphy: You Make My Heart Sing

It's been a while since I posted my calligraphy! No excuses, but I've been waiting to get some new supplies because I overused what I had. I recently made a purchase at JetPens and I highly recommend them - super quick shipping, website has lovely UX, and they have a good variety of tools. 

I've been playing around with a number of different nibs, but I still go back to a beginner's favorite: Nikko G. I also got a new nib holder (pictured below) that has a good grip, and can hold two different size nibs. Totally obsessed!

You make my heart sing. Fun fact: I used to collect stickers when I was in elementary school. I remember I had one sticker with this quote, and recently these words have popped up in my head. It's such a lovely sentiment, and it's a refreshing way to tell somebody "I love you!"

Homemade Apple Pie

Devouring donuts and hot cider, apple picking, digging my boots out of the closet, and walking on the streets with a crisp breeze...Fall is definitely here. Last weekend, I had a quintessential Fall moment by visiting an orchard over an hour away from the city. Unfortunately, it was only half awesome because there were barely any apples to pick. So instead, I got this photo of some (shy) sunflowers. 

Nonetheless, I still managed to bake an apple pie yesterday using some of the apples I got! I used to love baking, but haven't committed any time to it in the past couple years. I actually forgot how therapeutic it is to dedicate a couple hours out of your day to make something really delicious for other people to enjoy. Check out that lattice top crust. 

How else are you celebrating this season? Share with me! 

Brooklyn & Manhattan Adventures

The weather was so beautiful this past weekend - almost felt like Summer never left. Just when I thought I was ready to embrace the brisk cool air, I'm now wishing these 70F type days would stay a little longer. 

Thankfully, I took full advantage by making my way around New York City this past Saturday with Troy. It was an eventful day that ended with a nice view of the city. Keep reading for the details!

We started the day with some mental exercise with Mission Escape Games. Basically, a group of 10 people are stuck in a room where you need to solve puzzles, look for clues/keys to get out in under one hour. Super fun and challenging! Our group escaped with 12 minutes to spare - not too shabby. 

Since it was located in Chinatown, we head over to one of my favorite ramen places, Bassanova Ramen. I discovered it a while back when I used to work nearby, and I have been a fan since. The broth is a sure winner - it's really flavorful and rich. Yum! 

After lunch, we made our way to DUMBO for the Dumbo Arts Festival, a celebration of the art born out of the neighborhood. We saw a bunch of cool projects, but my favorite is the below: Degrees of Freedom. And then, some more notable pieces that caught my fancy! 

As I mentioned, the weather was gorgeous. We walked to Dumbo park and found this little sanctuary, that made me feel as if I had left the city. It was really peaceful to sit on the rocks and people watch. We watched a couple of kids throw rocks into the water, it was very precious and a total throw back moment.

Ended the night by watching the sunset on a rooftop in Manhattan. Seeing all the skyscrapers light up reminded me how small I am compared to the grand scheme of life, the city, the universe.

And this reminder made me feel both relieved and humbled. Relieved to know that the world goes on amidst our mistake, and everyday is another opportunity do better. (The world will not crash and burn without us!) And all while humbled because despite how grand this world is, I get to be a part of it all. 

Mini Adventure at the Maker Faire

Happy Sunday! 

I felt inspired to put more love into this blog. And so, as a trial run I put together a little snippet around my Saturday afternoon. Troy and I visited the Maker Faire in Queens, and the Bev Lab section was totally Instagram-worthy. 

Basically, we were encouraged to customize our own beverages by mixing juices and flavors. It's meant to push the experiences we have with our taste buds. I didn't get too crazy, and stayed mostly within the juice territory. I ended up making a concoction of peach & ginger, all sorts of fruits (grapes, pineapple, grapefruit), and...chili powder.  

Then, we were able to experience our concoction not only by drinking it, but eating it as well! We froze our beverage with liquid nitrogen. Fun stuff - get a taste with my photos. 

Calligraphy: Be in the moment

Hello beautiful people!

Today's artwork is inspired by this little mantra I've had in my head for the past couple weeks: be in the moment. It is definitely one of those sayings that people, including myself, brush aside because it's been used so often that it's cliche sounding.

But I've since realized something about this saying that brings me comfort whenever anxiety kicks in or when I feel myself worrying about situations out of my immediate control. 

The present - it's all we really have. The past is over, and the future is not here yet. Our moments are temporary, they're fleeting at best. So instead of focusing on what will never be again (the past), and what isn't here yet (the future), we need to fully be and live in the present. 

It's 9PM now, going to make myself a cup of tea. Also, exciting news: starting a new job on Monday!