Goodbye 2018, it was great while it lasted. ✌️

Hello! It’s been a very. long. time. since I last posted. Life has been a whirlwind and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past year. Over the years, I’ve shared my life lessons learned around the new year on this blog. I haven’t been so consistent, but see: 2016, 2013, 2012. After re-reading some of them, I’ve realized that it’s now much more important that I discover my life’s work versus viewing my career as its own separate endeavor.

Here’s a few things I’ve realized, prioritized, or learned this year…

Do things that are good for my soul. Yes!! Whatever it is, it’s taking time to reflect on your decisions and making room for what feeds your soul. This year, I’ve recognized that I actually bombard myself with so many unnecessary thoughts - whether it’s replaying a scene in my mind or searching for solutions to problems that don’t yet exist - they are constant. I hope to seek more moments and experiences that engage my mind, so fully, that I can truly be at peace in my own head. It can be as simple as pausing to focus on my breath when I recognize I’m spiraling or as extravagant as taking a laidback beach vacation to recharge.

View a career as a lifelong journey, not a destination. I haven’t shared this on my blog (yet!) but in 2017 I decided to quit my advertising job. There were many reasons and feelings tied to that decision and maybe one day I will elaborate on it in another post. It was scary but it was liberating, and it was the exact action I needed to take to help redefine my relationship with work. I now see my career as an ever-changing journey to discover different aspects of my identity and interests.

Trust my gut and intuition more fully. This means being ok with sharing a thought or opinion just because it feels right (given circumstances, of course). I tend to hold myself to this unrealistic standard of always needing to say the “perfect” thing - fully thought-through and backed by research and reason. While data and thoughtfulness is crucial, there are also moments when you have to trust your instinct to lead you to better work.

Be kind to myself. This never really crossed my mind until a loved one pointed out that I actually speak a lot of negative thoughts out loud about myself. I need to be more aware of the truths I tell myself. I think it starts by realizing that truths about me are actually shaped by me. I have full control over how I show up in the world so why not craft a narrative that promotes self love?

Just freakin’ START. Don’t wait for motivation and inspiration to kick in. Just commit to starting, and the rest comes easy. To be honest, 2018 wasn’t one of the best years. I wished I’ve done more outside of work. Sometimes, I get so caught up in tackling the small issues that I forget to step back and focus on what matters. I hope 2019 has a bigger focus on pursuing passion projects and creative endeavors beyond work!

Passion Project: My Dearest Co

It’s been a while but it’s been a good few months. I went ahead and did something that I’ve been meaning to do for a while - I finally shared my artwork with the world! Some of you may know that I’ve been practicing both calligraphy and watercolor for a few years ago. 

This year I decided to create a separate place for me to share my creative expression with the world: MY DEAREST CO. My dream is to make every piece symbolic of what “my dearest” means - a statement of love and endearment - for people who bring it into their homes. You can read more about it here, follow on Instagram here or visit my Etsy shop here.

The purpose of this blog post is to reflect on the past months and share what I’ve learned about myself on this exciting journey.

You’ll never be ready for your first step.
Don’t wait until you feel 100% prepared to do something because you’ll never feel absolutely ready. Don’t worry about needing to know what the next 10 steps are, just keep taking one step every day and it’ll become clear as you go. In other words, be okay with not knowing.

Don’t compare your practice to someone’s masterpiece.
If you expect to create an end product every time you practice - you’ll just be let down. Go into each session with the intention of bettering your craft and good work will come naturally.

Find the work you cannot do, and actually do it.
Is there something that you can’t wait to dig into every morning? Where “work” doesn’t really feel like work, and where you have uninterrupted flow when doing? Then you’ve found something that makes you feel alive and/or gives you meaning for living. Seek out that thing and find ways to spend more waking hours on it to nurture that passion.


As a final note... 
I’ve also come to embrace the “seasons” of living and now believe that there are times and places for different opportunities throughout our lives. I’m blessed to have this be my side project right now with the hopes that one day this could be something bigger. Until then, baby steps onward!

What is a passion project you’ve been wanting to explore?
What are you waiting for? 

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. 

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. 

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. 


Time Away From Home: Mexico

Can you believe it? It's almost the end of 2013! It's honestly been a great year - full of small changes, and big life milestones. In 2014, I'm going to try to write more because it will help me be more honest with my feelings and thoughts. It has fallen at the wayside a bit..but I'm going to make more of a conscious effort to blog. 

For me, it's very easy to get caught up in a routine. It's comfortable, and also easy to go through motions without really putting effort to think about

why

we do what we do. So I had the chance to take a mini vacation, and it really helped me to step back from the day to day. The time away from home allowed me to get in touch with nature but also gave me the opportunity to think and reflect. 

Anyways, a photo is worth a thousand words...so I'll let them do the talking here. Here are some photos from Mexico, taken courtesy of my lovely iPhone. 

photo+1.JPG

En route to Mexico and away from New York City. 

Arrived at our hotel and loving this design.  

My favorite part of the trip: dipping my toes into this refreshing + crisp water.

photo+4.JPG

Sunset on the beach. If passion had a face, it would look a lot like this.

A visit to a Mayan Ruin. It felt like I entered a time from the past. 

photo+4.JPG

"If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?"

photo+5.JPG

I tried to imagine what it could be like to live 300 BC. How different life would be back then. 

photo+2.JPG

I'm actually quite afraid of swimming in water. But I felt such a fascination for it on this trip. Can you feel fear and fascination at the very same time? 

photo+5.JPG

"There is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it's sent away." - Sarah Kay