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!

Being a Good Human is an Art Form

(I submitted this essay to Wolf & Wilhelmine's in-house magazine, HOWL. This edition is themed ACTION: HOW TO BE A GOOD HUMAN. It explores the multitude of ways people, communities and societies do their part to fight the good fight. You can read the full issue on Medium. Enjoy!)


As a first generation Asian-American woman, I grew up with a very narrow ideology of how to live a good life. When I was a child, I learned from my immigrant parents that ‘good’ was the result of hard work, resilience and grit. Success followed a very specific plan where survival reigned first, passion second: Take this class, that internship. Stay at this job. Move. Get promoted. Keep climbing. Higher.  

I was a good kid who wanted to make my parents proud so I forged ahead. Every step of the way, I asked questions like, “Can I do this? Do I have the skills, the willpower and persistence to do this?” Yes, the answer was always yes, as long as I committed myself to it. Over the years, my goals may have shifted and morphed but I was always reaching for higher.

One day, I finally paused. What happens if I deviate from this plan? A bit of fear, some uncertainty but a whole lot of possibilities. This new mindset unlocked a few provocations that completely reframed how I wanted to live my life.


Lesson 1.

Having the ability to do something well does not mean you were meant to do those things. Rather than “Can I do this?” I should’ve been asking, ‘Does this work excite this? Do I come alive when I do it?”

"Don't confuse drive and passion. Drive pushes you forward. It's a duty, an obligation. Passion pulls you. It's the sense of connection you feel when the work you do expresses who you are. Only passion will get you through the tough times."
-- Randy Komisar in ‘The Monk and the Riddle’

As humans we should not choose something out of fear, ego or for stability. Do it because it makes you a better human.


Lesson 2.

Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa—individuals who made it their life mission to stand up and fight for something they knew was important down to their core. This is what the mind conjures when we hear the words good humans. Yet, we should all be holding ourselves to this standard of good.  

The truth is, the greatest contribution you can give to the world is to follow a calling where you show up 100% of the time as unmistakably you. Whether it’s building technologies, baking wedding cakes or designing experiences, seek what brings out your light and pursue it relentlessly. It’s a false distinction between those who do good for the world and those who pursue the passions that make them come alive.


Lesson 3.

As I venture into my late-20’s, I’m rediscovering a new passion: creating art and sharing it with the world. My mind is constantly swirling with ideas of how I could improve my craft and make it a bigger part of my identity. The simple act of sitting down for a practice calms and excites me at the exact same time. It’s a pursuit that has changed how I perceive the world and I’ve never felt more “me” than the present day.


So instead of asking, “What is the meaning of life?” Ask yourself, “How do I live up to the grandness of being alive?” Instead of, “Who am I? What is the one career path for me?” Ask, “What is a side of my identity that I want to explore next?”

Reframing simple questions into action-oriented propositions makes it difficult to stay stagnant, propelling us closer to the good human inside each of us.

The more time I spend improving my craft, the stronger the connection I see between a purposeful life and the beauty of art. Both are universal languages that transcend words and connect people in a magical way. When we take it upon ourselves to fulfill a personal calling, everyone else around us feels it and the world becomes better for it.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s make a masterpiece.

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. 


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!