As An Asian Woman

With the recent anti-Asian hate crimes that have grabbed the attention of the nation, I’ve been forced to re-confront my own experiences and thoughts on what it means to be an Asian-American woman today.

My personal philosophy in life has always been to focus on the positive, because I know from experience that only seeing and feeling the negative just leads to a downwards spiral for me, which helps no one. I don’t want to oversaturate this space or drum up the despair more to a piercing decibel. But right now, I feel like the helpful thing to do would be to speak up.

In writing this, I have two audiences. For those who are like me, I want you feel seen and less alone. For those who are not like me, I want to help you understand what it’s like.

What I’ve experienced

Walking with my roommate at 4 pm from the park back home:

Walking, talking, and laughing in Koreatown with my best friend at 8 pm on our way to dinner:

Standing at a subway stop or sitting in a park, reading or on my phone, during the daytime:

Stopping at a stand at a Saturday morning farmer’s market to look at some essential oils:

They are always men. They are of all races, alone or in a group. They are old and grisly, in tattered clothing, and they are young, professional, and dressed in suits. They leer, they grin, they lick their lips. Their eyes follow you long after you’ve quickly hurried away from where they stand. Or, you go completely still, eyes to the ground, waiting for them to lose interest and go away.

Imagine having your race shoved in your face every single time you are also verbally harassed on the basis of your sex, in the ugly chant of a language that may not even be yours. Imagine, each time, realizing that to some people you are just a porn category, a foreign conquest, or a TV character who sleeps with and is then discarded by the white male protagonist. The sting never quite goes away. I don’t like to say “hello” in Chinese anymore to friends or family because I’ve heard that phrase uttered in twisted, mispronounced catcalls more times than anything else.

And that, I think, is pretty sad.

On catcalling

What it is, what we should call it, is public humiliation. For these men, catcalling has never been about picking up women–it’s about ignoring boundaries and exerting power over them, and in public, as if to say, “So what? What are you gonna do about it?” How many times have I uncomfortably laughed off the casual verbal harassment with my friend beside me, pretending like it was sooooo strange or that we didn’t understand what “that weird guy said”? Because that is the only way we know how to move on and attempt to reclaim the great day we were just having.

You are stunned, and then you move on. But it doesn’t make it hurt any less.

What happens in broad daylight is a reflection of where a society’s baseline stands–and so when these things happen in a public forum, it is both a challenge and a threat. These men feel comfortable enough publicly declaring their dominion over a woman’s body–to comment on her, to determine her value for her, to elevate themselves above her. Our existence, our sheer nerve to appear in front of them, is an invitation to insert themselves where they have no right.

I realized over time that I would be letting these men win if I responded with equal vitriol, or if I stopped going places or wearing certain (perfectly fucking normal) clothing out of fear of being seen. If I let my shoulders become so tense and rigid every time I stepped out on the street that the slightest crack would cause me to snap, what would my life be reduced to but a small black box of hostility? So I ignore it. I still go out to dinner in the city and transport myself home at night on the subway. I still wear sundresses and skirts. I simply refuse to allow them to take that away from me

There is, I guess, no one correct approach to how a woman chooses to deal with cat-calling. It’s just another burden for us to bear: balancing the line between not letting these violations overtake your mental wellbeing or cast chains on how you live your life, but also not being silent and complacent.

On physical and psychological safety

When we talk about safety, I feel that it’s important to distinguish that a lack thereof doesn’t just mean fearing for my literal life–it’s a more nebulous, psychological fear of being racially and sexually reduced that has not necessarily dictated, but nonetheless impacted, my worldview, interpersonal relations, and persona.

For many women, a physical fear of bad men is either something have instilled in you growing up, or a firsthand defensive mechanism you develop after being taken advantage of. I picked up boxing partially to combat the anxiety I felt about my own categorical weakness, borne out of an urge to do something to protect myself from the humiliation of potential victimhood.

But it’s when I think about psychological safety that I see the deeper harm that this noxious combination of sexism and racism has wrought on me. It’s the deep rage that robs me of my carefree joy, and the fear that robs me of vulnerability. Mentally, I have contorted the soft, gentle aspects of myself to be harder, in order to be what I thought had to be to feel safe–more aggressive, enraged, more “like a man“.

Sometimes it feels like the world expects women to be constantly on edge in order protect ourselves (because it’s our fault if we get harassed or abused) but also be always smiling, delightful, receptive, flirty, and feminine (or else nobody will like you and you’ll die alone). Even more so if you’re an Asian woman, dealing with the harmful stereotypes that all Asian women are petite, childlike, cute (kawaii!!), and submissive. God forbid you ever feel hurt and unsafe, which prevents you from being a bubbly one-dimensional emotional support vehicle for men. God forbid you’re a real, grown woman who’s experienced some shit, and not a pleasant, perfectly happy trophy.

I’m exhausted from having to worry if I’m being fetishized by any man who shows interest in me. I’m sick of the self-hatred that wells up when they end up doing just that. And let’s not even get started about internalizing all of it too, of starting to see yourself the way they see you. Wondering if there’s something wrong with you, if this is all they seem to see when they look at you. Wondering if you’re “too” Asian, or not Asian enough. Implicitly molding yourself to those male fantasies because you’ve come to believe that is the only way you can add value.

There’s too much to say about this topic, and about being a woman in general, that I can’t get into all of it in this post. But this is something, I think, that maybe more people should talk about–about being an Asian American woman. Our culture conditions us to minimize our struggles, compare them to others who “have it worse”, to accept hardship as a given in life–in Chinese, 吃苦. But I fear if we continue to eat the bitterness, we will choke. And if we continue to bear the burden in silence, we will crumple.

On current events

When we see senseless acts of racial violence like what happened in Atlanta, it’s a reminder that this is the worst case scenario of all the little things we experience in our lives. I don’t know what it feels like to lose your mom, sister, or daughter to anti-Asian hate. But I do know my own lived experiences, and these are the few specific things that I have talked about today.

I know that, at the end of the day, I’m still socioeconomically privileged in several ways. I’ve considered just avoiding this topic and not say anything at all, in fear of being seen as an attention-seeking band-wagoner. But I’ve come to realize that even if it’s something that every woman experiences (like catcalling) or it’s something that doesn’t seem as extreme as the other things you see on the news (like being called a racial slur), doesn’t mean I have to be silent about it. If it hurts, I have a right to communicate that–we all do.

Our pain is real, and wanting a world where this pain happens less often, shouldn’t be some sort of audacious demand.

20 Things I Learned in 2020

Another year, another listicle! Yeah, I’m late, but

  1. Better late than never. Here I am, with a generic 2020 reflection post, which I fully am aware is overdue and cheesy. Still, every now and then I like to write publicly so as to convince myself that I still can do more than make 250-character quips on the bird app. So here are 19 preachy things I learned or adapted this year.

  2. Empathy as a skillset cannot be understated. It’s really as simple as what we were taught when we were young. The value of empathy and kindness can often take a backseat in a world that glorifies cage-fights and clap-backs, or when tensions run high, as they have in 2020. However, one more novel realization I had this year regarding empathy was that it was applicable not just in relationships, but in the workplace as well.

    Empathy is a skill that bonds you closer to those you care about, makes more people like you, and eventually actually pays literal dividends. Not that it should be monetarily relevant to be important—but sometimes people only see “niceness” as something that gets you head-pats from acquaintances, instead of a powerful tool that can sculpt success out of all areas in life.

  3. Exercise grace. Grace is a concept often tied to religion, but I believe it’s a universally valuable trait to embody. Particularly in times of high uncertainty, people will behave differently, and it’s easy to be high and mighty until you find yourself doing the same thing. Obviously there are limits to this and some things can be put in the Always Bad category, but I find myself often jumping to judge others moralistically, and it never turns out well for me because I, too, am imperfect. So that’s what grace is for—to give others the benefit of the doubt and sometimes forgiveness, because in doing so, you forgive yourself.

  4. I started meditating. I never thought I’d be able to meditate. Ever. My mind just raced too fast for me to control. I hated even yoga because it was such a painfully s-l-o-w workout and it also left me too much time to think and exist, at rest. I was so uncomfortable with being in the present and in my body—and in many ways, I definitely still am. But an unexpected breakthrough this year came in the form of me meditating for just five minutes after working out in November and December. Maybe it was the 100th influencer I saw using Headspace. Maybe it was this Mark Manson article I read that finally did it for me. But either way, I’m glad I started.

  5. Self-care is sometimes painful. It’s not all face masks, chocolate cake, and sleeping in. Sometimes self-care is working out when you really, really don’t feel like it. Sometimes it’s putting down the phone and journaling when all you want to do is mindlessly scroll and “relax.” Sometimes it’s about ending a relationship with someone even though you’re scared to.

  6. Celebrate what is slow. Slow progress. Slow relationships. Slow living. So much of what we want in life comes slowly by design. In fact, you should probably be wary of anything that promises something fast—love that has yet to be proven, diets that advertise pounds lost in days, and coping mechanisms that make you feel better without resolving the true issue at hand.

  7. Guilt and shame are the lowest vibrational energies. To be avoided, examined, or excavated at all costs!
The vibrational states of energy. Obviously not scientific, but a useful framework.
  1. “Happiness is really just about four things: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness (number and depth of your relationships), and vision/meaning (being part of something bigger than yourself).” -Tony Hsieh

  2. Masculine and feminine energies. This one might be too controversial and/or new-agey, but I had to throw it out there. I’ve been on a long journey to feeling comfortable in my feminine and understanding my social identity as a woman in the 21st century. I could probably talk for hours about this, but long story short, 1) femininity is not weakness, 2) you don’t have to act like a man or a “badass” to be valued, and 3) know who you are and what you want or someone else will try to tell you. Oh, and everyone has a balance of masculine and feminine energy—it’s not about gender roles or stereotypes, it’s about your personality and what you want out of a partner.

    Obviously this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re like me and you’ve struggled with feeling comfortable expressing your femininity or questioning if you’re “enough”, it’s a very worthwhile topic to explore and learn about.

  3. I really do have some quality fucking people in my life. I’ve always been moderately insecure about my social life. Everyone else around me seemed to be more extroverted (read: “better”), went to more parties, or had more friends. College really didn’t help with this insecurity either, as I went to a school where Greek life and perfectionism dominated the culture.

    But somewhere along the line between graduation and now, I counted the closest people around me and realized I, as an introvert with debatably average social skills, had created a circle I was actually really proud of. I have a sister I can tell anything to, three best friends who know me better than I know myself, a handful of close friends I can talk to for hours and hours, and some casual friends across the country I can catch up with or support from afar on social media every now and then. Maybe it’s not the Friends or “girl squad” situation I’d always imagined, but it’s my real-ass life, and I am just as happy with that.

  4. Buy nice stuff for your parents. This one goes out to my financially independent Asian children in particular—buy shit for your parents. It seems like a really obvious way to express love to your family, but I just never really did it. This year, instead of overthinking whether my mom preferred words of affirmation to acts of service or gifts, I just clicked a button and bought her a ton of luxury skincare. When it comes to family, who cares which is what—just fire on all cylinders and show them how much they mean to you.

  5. Maybe it really is about the sleep. I have been lectured my whole life by my dad that sleeping earlier is the key to success. In a cruel twist of fate, and as other people have noted, maybe waking up at 5 am does solve all your problems. 2020 was a pretty great forcing function for my sleep schedule. Of course, I had to hit rock bottom spending a few too many sleepless nights in the spring staring at my phone until 5 am, but towards the end of the year, as the sun started to set at 4 pm, I resolved to go to sleep early (10-11 pm) since there was literally no point to be conscious and vitamin D-pressed that late at night.

    Now, I am finding it a lot easier to wake up around 7-8 am regularly, and I freaking love being the only one awake in the morning, enjoying the sunshine on my skin and moving about undisturbed.  

  6. Stress costs money too. I’m that person who thinks about a T-shirt for a week before getting it, calculates the net cost-benefit of a sales heuristic, and believes that paying full price is for chumps. But sometimes this calculus is so draining that it can detract from me achieving my actual objective, which is feeling satisfied from things I buy. Some of the best purchases I’ve made this year have been extremely quick and pricey. Maybe it’s a fine line, but there is a difference between impulsive and just knowing what you want/living in the present. I’m starting to get the hang of it, I think.

  7. Community is key. In 2020, I started to find more community and put down roots in New York City.

    I stumbled across a local co-op farm in my neighborhood during a long walk in April, and now I’m an active member. I started volunteering at an organization for a cause I’m passionate about, and my little routine of going every Saturday morning has brought me a ton of contentment. I even found a few Facebook groups that I really jive with, and it’s brought me happiness to be able to connect with those people too (I swear this isn’t a Facebook ad).

    Community is something I’ve never really had my entire life—between being an introvert, growing up with immigrant parents with no direct family or religion, moving around every 4-5 years as a child, and never really finding my “circle” in college, I’ve never really felt I “belonged” anywhere. But belonging is super important to human social health and happiness, and maybe that was a missing piece I’ve been struggling to fill in this whole time.
The community farm I joined this year finally allowed me to connect to the inner #cottagecore I knew I always was capable of
  1. Some things should be done well, and only well. Such things include gold jewelry, hair coloring, and organic fruits and veggies.

  2. A year cannot be “wasted”. One of my biggest fears in life is time wasted—particularly for things in life that are deadline-sensitive and/or irreversible. When the shit hit the fan in 2020, I thought, “Great, a whole year of my precious twenties in NYC is gone.” However, I’ve also thought the exact opposite—that 23 is the best age to be in a global pandemic, because you’re young, healthy, independent, not missing out on crucial college years, but not at the age where you also need to rush to find a spouse. Also, calm down, Jenna, you’re 23. I know, I know—it’s something I’m trying to work on being less anxious about.

  3. Happiness is just the quotidian—nothing more, nothing less. I watched the new Pixar film Soul recently, and without spoiling it, the montage at the end really struck a chord in me. The animators captured the way moments look in micro so perfectly, distilling silence and sunlight into pixels. Happiness is found in those moments of quiet savoring—the rattle of the 7 train, the slant of sun through concrete-caged trees, that triangular first bite of pie. The practice of gathering these bits and pieces is what makes life so enriching.
Soul (2020)
  1. One gratitude a day: early mornings, city encounters, and long talks with friends. Since high school, I’ve intermittently kept the habit of writing down the highlight of each day of the year (when I can remember it) and putting it into a wine bottle. Then, at the end of the year, I break the bottle open and read all the best moments of that year. It’s more qualitative data than anything, but this year I found some patterns:

    1) I am very proud of myself when I wake up early or work out in the morning
    2) Long, three-hour conversations with close friends who I feel really understand me are the salve to my soul
    3) The smallest encounters on the streets of the city can make my day—an adorable French bulldog puppy taking a liking to me in particular on the subway, an old lady stopping to ask if I was lost, the way the trees looked by the waterfront one afternoon.

  2. On aloneness. I was flipping through my journal and found this entry from my birthday this year:

    Why am I so at peace with myself? I have to laugh a little bit. Three years ago—two years, maybe even a year ago—I was absolutely terrified of the aloneness. My mind was inflamed by it. It really was a terror I felt…terrorized by my circumstances. And now, I could not want anything else.

30 Ways to Boost Your Quarantine Mood

Turns out it only takes a pandemic for me to make a return to blogging! It’s no question that these are unusual times. I’m sure most of us already know about what’s happening in the world regarding COVID-19 and how to protect yourself, but in case you still need to hear it: practice social distancing and go into self-quarantine in the coming weeks

As such, it will be uncomfortable and strange. Last night, I started jotting down any and all ideas I had to alleviate the stress of being stuck in a small space for at least the next 14 days. Now I am sharing them here! Keep in mind that not all the tips may be suited or available to you, but hopefully they will inspire you on what the heck to do to keep from going crazy at home while we wait this thing out:

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  1. Make a pennant banner to hang up around your home! This is a fun DIY project to do together with a housemate and also a great way to inject some timely inspiration or humor. I’m about to make one that says “Quarantine Sweet Quarantine.” That one was original, thank you very much, but you can steal many other good quips off of Twitter, Reddit, or Tip #30.
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  2. If you don’t have the materials to be very DIY, consider ordering some fridge magnet letters or a little letter board to display your quotes, coffeehouse style.
  3. Put out some fresh flowers to brighten up your space and bring spring indoors. If you can’t go outside, you can at least look at something beautiful from the outside, right? I wouldn’t usually advocate for fresh flowers all year round because the costs can really add up, but if you’re going to be indoors for the next few weeks, you’ll definitely be getting your money’s worth out of gazing at a lovely spray of hydrangeas or a cluster of seasonal tulips every morning.
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  4. Light some candles. The scion of hygge, the emblem of coziness…candles. If you don’t own any, order some online. Recommended brands include Brooklyn Candle Studio (free shipping right now on all orders) and Diptyque (whatever, treat yourself, it’s the end of the world).
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  5. Take care of a plant. I know it might be a little hard to buy a plant if you have already quarantined at this point, but if you can literally get live baby chickens USPSed to your house (been there done that), I’m sure there’s a way to order a plant online too. In general, plants are great to co-exist with, and also add a little beauty, oxygen, and life to your space. I have a rambunctious little Monstera Ginny growing on my sill right now and seUntitled_Artwork 5eing it unfurl a new leaf like every week is really nourishing for the soul. If you suspect you don’t have a green thumb, start out with a snake plant. They’re really hard to kill, so if you do end up killing yours, I’ll be impressed.
  6. Download some new Kindle/e-Books to read. If you don’t have a Kindle, there are Kindle reader applications for laptops and Internet browsers. And if you don’t like spending money on books, most public libraries have e-books available to loan online!
  7. Create a wind-down/zen/relaxation playlist on Spotify. Here are a few of mine–and here is my yoga studio’s. In terms of particular artists, I especially love Berlin-based ambient mastermind AK, Australian vibe curator Yoste, and London-based electronic songwriter SOHN.
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  8. Buy hand/body lotion or face masks for a spa day in. This is a very basic self-care/pamper tip, but considering how often you will be washing your hands now and how still the air will be inside your home, your skin will likely get super dry.
  9. Now dipping fully into self-care routine territory, diffusers are great. I am a cult user of my small MUJI diffuser, as well as the brand’s super high-quality essential oils. I’ve discovered recently you can do all sorts of other quarantine-friendly things with essential oils, too, like putting them into DIY cleaners and room sprays!
  10. Buy bar soap. Again, since hand-washing is center stage right now, why not make it more luxurious and get some pretty, great-smelling bar soaps? There’s been such a mad bull charge on hand sanitizer, but in self-quarantine we have access to, uh, sinks with water. Plus, bar soap is low/zero-waste. Consider getting some.
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  11. May I add here, all these tips are great in and of themselves, but combine some and that’s where the magic can really happen. For example: Plants + candles + zen playlist + lavender lotion + bath?? Yesssss.
  12. Bake something new. Minimalist Baker and Epicurious are some of my favorite online resources for baking. Here are also some of my favorite food bloggers, many of whom are plant-based and health-oriented!
  13. Lean into self-sufficiency. Obviously, this whole situation sucks, but if we were to find a silver lining in all of this, it is a reminder that we really were (are) living in such lucky, rarified times. And it’s a reminder that everything we take for granted can be shattered so easily, like a ripple across a reflection in a still pond. So take this as an opportunity to learn how to be more hands-on and resource-efficient: learn how to make some dough, store your vegetables properly in the fridge, and only use what you need. We’re not in an actual apocalypse, people, but keep in mind that we very well could be in 50 years because CLIMATE CHANGE.
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  14. Makes plans to watch an episode of a feel-good TV show every 3 days with a friend. The key is to stagger it out so you have a positive routine to look forward to. My roommate and I will be watching Netflix’s “Crash Landing on You”, a gratuitous Korean drama about a woman who gets stuck (one could even say…quarantined) in North Korea and falls in love with a soldier there, in an attempt to finally culture me. If you live alone or with someone you don’t interact with much, you can always set up FaceTime TV dates with a friend!
  15. Cleaning parties. Yes, we are all Corona Cinderellas now. Put on some music, a podcast, or a comedy show in the background, and get to cleaning! Here’s your chance to do all those little things you’ve been putting off forever in the house. My list includes cleaning out some candle jars I’ve finished, washing all of my tote bags, and finding a favorite highlighter I misplaced.
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  16. Yeah, board games are fun and all, but have you considered doing Instagram filter games together with your quarantine buddy? Particularly, the one where you draw something with your nose and the one where you decide who’s more what by tilting your head (iykyk). We’ve already tried both and they’re hilarious, though short-lived–but benefits are you can share the fun with others, and I’m sure there will be more to come.
  17. Read up on Stoicism. This ancient Greek philosophy is all about focusing only on what you can control, while understanding the natural order of the world and man’s often minuscule role in it–a mindset fit for times of coronavirus as any, in my opinion! I have The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday sitting on my bedside table, which contains one bite-size wisdom for each day of the year. Not gonna lie, I’ve been pretty bad about reading it before bed each night, as I told myself it would be great to (like a Bible for the philosophical atheist!), but I will definitely be picking up the habit again over the next two weeks.
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  18. Speaking of book topic recommendations, another subject I’ve been really into lately is hygge, the Scandinavian design philosophy and way of life that prioritizes coziness, connection with nature, and simple comforts. In more concrete terms, think: candles, rustic loaves of bread, and twinkling lights in the window. I think we could all benefit from learning from one of the happiest (and most indoors-bound) regions in the world on how to make our homes more livable, seeing as we will be spending way more time in them. Recommended reads here and here–and remember to check your online libraries first or buy used on Amazon)
  19. Foster a pet. This one is for my ballsier quarantiners. Animals shelters in NYC are currently under heavy stress due to COVID-19, and since many of us will be home anyway…why not? My roommate and I both love cats and have discussed this casually, but in reality, bringing an animal home for even a short period of time requires resources, time, pet-proofing, potential tenant fees, and overall adjustment. I have heard other people bring this idea up, though, so just to put it out there on a potential animal lover’s radar!
  20. Reread some of your favorite novels/short stories. Harry Potter is always a great option. Old reads may be worth revisiting just for the sake of nostalgia–or you can always pick up that stray copy of Eat Prey Love from your coffee table and see if it lives up to the hype.
  21. Look outside (if you’re lucky to have windows/a view) and note what has changed since yesterday. The idea is to find peace in simple observation of nature and how it documents its own passage of time, Thoreau style. My windows used to offer a big, sunny view of the Manhattan skyline, but now it’s nose to nose with a gigantic Great Wall of Construction. Hence, if you’re lucky.
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  22. If you have the opportunity to go outside and take a little lap somewhere in relative solitude, do that. It might be the forest next to your house, your backyard, or the rooftop patio of your apartment building.
  23. Crack a window open if the weather is nice and warm. Chances are coronavirus won’t be riding a zephyr into your house, and you could do with a bit of vitamin D.
  24. Drink more water. Cold water, hot water, water with ginger, lemon, cinnamon, turmeric, honey, Airborne, or just good old water. Drink more water because it’s good for you and easy to forget!
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  25. Create a Pinterest board to plan for something exciting in the future–a dream vacation, a summer wardrobe, or just a new layout for your bedroom since you’ll soon become tired of staring at the same chair and table all day. If you’re a man and you’re like “I don’t do Pinterest boards”…go sharpen your hatchet and prepare for the actual apocalypse or something, idk.
  26. Embark on a 30 day squat challenge, push-up challenge, or just run-up-and-down-the-stairs-of-your-high-rise challenge. I personally hate prolonged body weight exercises and “self-guided” workouts, so I won’t be suggesting anyone go full-on boot camp with a yoga mat in their living room for an hour. But maybe just doing a little something and then continuously building on over the next two weeks will help you count the days with relish, not despair.
  27. Read up on best practices for working from home. Don’t underestimate the impact that a very different work environment will have on your mood and productivity. Everyone enjoys working in their PJs on a Friday every now and then, but if this is our new normal, mixing work time with home time may end up creating more stress. Consider changing into a slightly nicer pair of sweatpants and designate a corner of the room to be your office, to start.
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  28. Along the same line–set boundaries and times for when your workday begins, when you go into the kitchen to rummage for snacks you don’t need, when you FaceTime family/friends, and when you stop reading the news. Yes, it’s a gross amount of self-control and scheduling, but it may be necessary without the luxury of distance and space at your disposal.
  29. Yes, do stop reading the news. And the Facebook posts your family and friends keep sharing too. I know it’s like you can’t tear your eyes away from the hourly Twitter updates and the emails from every single company you didn’t even know you gave your e-mail out to. But that shit’s not good for you after the 50th depressive headline.  Trying to stay as logical and sane as possible sometimes means turning the channels off.
  30. But, if you are going to engage in coronavirus content, consider a curated meme experience. The Zoom Memes for Quaranteens group is exactly that. Thank me later.

My 5 Favorite Pieces of Journalism Ever

When I was young, I used to read a lot of books. Fiction, specifically, of all genres. I’m not sure when the transition happened, but over the years, I started to read more nonfiction and journalism. When I say it like that, it sounds like the soul and spirit of youth were sucked out of me as I became a Serious Adult. But honestly, maybe it’s perfectly fine to like books that discuss the real world, and I’m just overthinking it. I have tried to get back into reading fiction, but the most I can muster is juggling The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and The Rough Guide to Iceland by David Leffman and James Proctor during my daily commute to work right now.

This article, though, is about journalism. Over the years I’ve read many an online story. Here are five of my all-time favorites. I did not pick them based on historical significance or current relevance, but rather on a basis of storytelling and technical skill. I might also just start a monthly “favorites” thing as another way of trying to keep writing. We’ll see.

Without further ado–

  1. The Really Big One by Kathryn Schultz. This long-form article explores the possibility (or rather, inevitability) of a mega-earthquake in the Pacific Northwest in the next 50 years and how we are so not prepared for it. It won a Pulitzer and is an example of science journalism at its best.
  2. A Generation in Japan Faces A Lonely Death by Norimitsu Onishi. A long-form on the painful societal and national impact of an aging population. A great example of multilingual, multinational journalism, with great photos to accompany. I was inspired by this piece towrite my own on the same topic.
  3.  How Anna Delvey Tricked New York by Jessica Prestler. An insane story about how one girl grifted her way into New York’s elite circle, duped big banks out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and ended up locked up at Rikers, all out of sheer force of personality. This is a prime example of entertainment journalism. Shonda Rhimes acquired rights to the movie and I was inspired to do my own mini-dig into the real estate angle of the story.
  4. 8.4 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York City A Horrible Place To Live by The Onion. Published nearly a decade ago, but still sidesplittingly relevant today. I actually only discovered this article yesterday but damn, is it some good satire.
  5. How Goop’s Haters Made Gwyneth Paltrow’s Company Worth $250 Million by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. This article delves into the very polarizing celebrity and science behind Goop!, a wellness empire founded by Gwyneth Paltrow. What makes this unique is the infusion of the author’s personal experience and the skillful way in which she navigates difficult themes like holistic health, economic privilege, and female psychology.

Happy reading!

-J

I Will Take Pictures of My Trash For A Month

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Two things I love: alliteration and not condemning our species to extinction.

A few months ago, I had a fun idea: challenge myself to live as close to a “no waste” lifestyle as possible for a month. The original title of this post was going to be “No Waste November,” but then I thought, “How do I employ my twenty-first century journalism skills to ensure a higher CTR?” Mind you, this is not click-bait. I am actually going to deliver. Here’s how:

I plan on producing minimal trash throughout the month of November. What I do produce, I will document (tastefully and aesthetically, of course, per M.O.) to observe the quantity and type of landfill I generate. Things that will be considered trash are any non-organic materials I discard to the landfill.

This idea is not new in the slightest. There have been people who have tried it for days and for weeks, and some who live the lifestyle 24/7. This idea is also not to shame people for creating trash because, obviously, all have to produce waste to exist. Not to mention, most of us have a bunch of other things to direct our physical and mental energy to every day.

My goal in attempting this is, rather, to simply to try and improve myself while hopefully inspiring others to take small steps to do the same. I want to a) become more aware of my own carbon footprint and b) find easy, reasonable ways to decrease it. I believe the biggest barrier to waste reduction isn’t the cost of the action itself, but our mentality around it.

It’s not our fault we were raised with the status quo of no limits and no consequences regarding our contribution to landfill. How could we know better if we never see or experience any of the negative consequences? I was, for the majority of my life, not even aware of how much trash I produced, nor that I had alternatives to producing it. Single-use consumption is as simple and engrained into our daily lives as eating, sleeping, and breathing. Nobody gives a second thought to every takeout box, coffee cup, or paper towel we go through. And why would we?

I want to circumvent shame and jump-start action. It is not our fault, not our personal deficiency, that we were born into this situation. But it is our reality that our only home in the galaxy needs help, and our moral imperative to act. I don’t care if it’s just one plastic straw you save by keeping a metal one beside your desk at work one day. I don’t care if it’s just three plastic bags you save by bringing your tote to Trader Joe’s this week. You have to start small, and once you realize how easy it is to change, keep doing it.

Skeptics will say that it’s all meaningless, and that one person can’t save the world. It’s a deep-cutting ridicule that kills grassroots change. I think about that myself a lot at night, filled with self-doubt, wondering if I should be putting the equivalent mental effort into advocating for carbon taxes or environmental protection law, or not getting on airplanes, or corporate policy change. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have that cost-benefit analysis figured out yet. But I feel like where I currently am at, I can at least spread awareness about the issue, and try to lead by example in my little social circle.

Anyway. Enough with the philosophical rambling and back to taking artsy pictures of trash. I’ll be posting weekly to my Instagram stories of my adventures in low-waste, and I hope you’ll join me in taking on this challenge–officially, if you like, but non-officially for sure. I’ll be posting plenty of examples of the easiest ways you can reduce your landfill. I’ll also try to write weekly updates on the blog about my strategies and struggles. I already anticipate my frequent work-related travel to be a challenge (curse you, travel-size liquids) but you know what? We’re going to make it work.

-J

 

How To Literally Travel For Free

There are two things I really love: travel and free money. If you’re a human person, I’m guessing you also like travel and free money. Over the years, I have finagled my way into quite a few sweet deals that have allowed me to visit some of the world’s most enviable cities on all expenses paid trips. Now, the time has come where I will teach you how to travel for free.

Of course, there are a few caveats. Firstly, the kind of travel I am referring to is not the “credit card mileage points Couchsurfing” kind of travel–it’s the “application for trip sponsored by public/private entity” kind of travel. Secondly, this article is sadly limited to a specific subset of people. You will find it the most helpful if you are demographically similar to me, aka any of the following categories: an Asian American, a college student, or a college student at the University of Pennsylvania. Still, even if you’re not any of the above, you can read this article to get a sense of how to sniff out the many travel opportunities that lie in wait for you out there in the world. Some of them may sound too good to be true, but trust me, they are both pretty good and pretty true.

  1. The Kelly Writers House (Various Grants)

    Eligibility: Penn undergraduates
    The deal: $2500-3000 to go anywhere in the world

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    London, England

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    Me, smirking in a chair in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris because I got here for free

    I love the Kelly Writers House. It’s one of the original reasons I really wanted to come to Penn, and though I wasn’t as involved with it as I would have liked to be during the course of my undergraduate career, the resources and opportunities it’s provided me have been priceless.

    One of these opportunities is, of course, free money. KWH has a whopping three grants, totaling up to a sum of $8500, that they give to students each year to support creative travel-based projects. In 2016, I won the Cultural Preservation Writing Project Grant, which gave me $3000 to travel to London and Paris to do a cool independent research project on my favorite author and lifelong obsession, George Orwell. There’s also the Terry B. Heled Travel & Research Grant ($3000) and the Creative Ventures Capital Prizes (up to $2500).

    So how do you win these grants? Well, all I did was send an email with a two paragraph proposal. Next thing I knew, I was handed a check and told to book my plane tickets. I was literally able to travel for three dreamy weeks in Europe, a continent which I had never previously been to, and engage in a creative project that had me poring over rare primary documents in libraries and hunting down old residential addresses in the cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter. And I had a lot of time left over to just be a tourist and hang out with my friends. I’m almost embarrassed to say how much.

  2. The Kakehashi Project

    Eligibility: Asian-Americans under 25
    The deal: An all-expenses paid trip to Japan for a week

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    A busy intersection in Tokyo, Japan

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    One of the many delicious meals provided to us while on the trip for, you guessed it, FREE

    Each year, the Japanese government pays for 200 young Asian-Americans to visit Japan in a week-long cultural immersion program called the Kakehashi Project. We regular schmegular second gen kids are shocked that we are so valuable to Japan’s strategic foreign policy, but do you hear anyone complaining as we descend upon decadent soba noodles and charge into seven-story stationary stores in Ginza, Naruto-style? No, you do not.

    Should you get accepted, you are bestowed one round trip flight to Tokyo with checked luggage, hotels, meals, and transportation all covered. While in Japan, you get to visit government agencies, chill in an onsen bath in a ski lodge in the mountains, live and bond with an adorable homestay family in the Japanese countryside, and make a ton of new friends. It’s not literally a free trip in the sense that you have a strict itinerary you have to follow and you’re traveling in one big tour group all the time. But I was able to squeeze maybe about 8 hours of free time over the course of the week, most of which was spent shopping for snacks and omiyage to fill up the entire virtually empty luggage I’d brought with me.

    I don’t know the exact monetary cost of this trip, but it must have been at least $10,000 per person, just for flight, hotel and transportation. Add in food, four dedicated bilingual tour guides, and months of fastidious coordination efforts, and wow. You’re basically getting a once-in-a-lifetime tailored cultural experience for free. I also have it on good authority that Kakehashi’s acceptance rate is literally 50%, so please, for the love of God, apply. There are two trips a year, one in December (during many schools’ Christmas breaks) and one in March. Yes, if you’re a college student and you go in March, you do have to skip a week of school, but let’s be honest…a lot of y’all do that anyway.

    I also do want to mention here that while this post focuses on free travel, that’s not the entire point. The most valuable part of my Japan trip was all the amazing people I met, both Japanese and American, and the unique chance I got to engage with everyone from rural farmers to national and local government officials. You can read my most recent Forbes article on Japan’s terminal villages, which was a product of precisely this kind of cultural immersion and engagement, and a deeply touching experience that no doubt would have never happened without Kakehashi.

  3. The Kakehashi Project – Penn Edition

    Eligibility: Penn undergrad studying International Relations, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Huntsman, etc. Or SAS grad student.
    The deal: Same as above

    If you are not Asian, you may have just read my entire summary of Kakehashi above with a mixture of despondency and chagrin. Well, good news: Turns out you don’t have to be Asian to go to Japan for free! Bad news: You do have to be a Penn student studying a very specific major in a very specific year.

    This past January, the Penn Biden Center sent 9 students to Japan on basically a Penn-exclusive version of the Kakehashi Project. The dates vary year to year, as do the requirements (a couple years ago I think it was only open to Wharton students), but the structure is essentially the same. I guess you technically don’t have to be non-Asian to apply, but if you are Asian, your chances are obviously much better with the regular Kakehashi Project.

  4. JACL Youth Legacy Program 

    Eligibility: Asian-Americans under 25
    The deal: An all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles for four days

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    Me in SoCal, circa 2015. It seems my film photography skills have only deteriorated since.

    One of my friends from my Kakehashi trip informed me about this program, which is sponsored by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and the National Park Service. It’s a free four-day trip to sunny Los Angeles, and the point of the program is to expose young Asian Americans to the history of Japanese American plight and their own AAPI identities. You will be visiting Little Tokyo in LA, as well as Manzanar, the infamous Japanese internment camp about an hour away near Lone Pine, CA.

    I didn’t apply for this trip, so I will not be going come August, but I am putting this out here as another chance for free travel if one of my fellow Asian Americans wants to take a swing up to the West Coast. Again, these trips are rarely literal free money being thrown at you to have fun, but, unlike those giveaway vacation raffles, which you have approximately a 0.0001% chance of winning, they are actually legitimate opportunities that you have a good chance of snagging if you submit a quality application.

  5. University of Auckland Summer Research Scholarships

    Eligibility: College students and recent graduates
    The deal: To live and conduct research in New Zealand

    New Zealand has some of the best, most breathtaking natural landscapes I’ve ever seen. So imagine my elation when another one of my Kakehashi friends (yes, this group is intrepid!) notified us of a free travel opportunity that he had previously partook in and greatly enjoyed.

    Basically, the University of Auckland will give you $6,000 to live in one of its biggest cities, Auckland, and conduct research over 10 weeks in the summer, which, remember, is our winter (assuming you are in the Northern hemisphere). I’m not too clear on the logistics because I haven’t done this program personally, but my friend says it was a great time and that he got to do a lot of leisure traveling around the country too. If you graduate in December, are taking a gap year, or just want to do some adventuring and exploring before committing to your next big move in life, this is a great opportunity. I would love to take it myself, but alas, full-time employment calls.

 

And that’s it! There you have my short but sweet list of free travel opportunities, including every single one that I’ve personally taken over the years. There’s probably a lot more out there that I haven’t heard about. If you’re a college student, I especially suggest you look into the nooks and crannies of your university’s myriad programs and scholarships, some of which are bound to involve travel, or at least productive output whilst abroad. Endowments are so big these days that I am certain there are millions of dollars just floating around right now, waiting to bless whichever opportunistic young thing finds them first.

As for my motivations for sharing my travel secrets, they are twofold. One–I’ve already made the most of my time on these trips, so there’s no point in me hoarding information. I’d love to see more people take advantage of my tips and tricks (and maybe bring me back a snack or two from whichever exotic destination you end up going to). Two–I strongly believe that travel shouldn’t be just an elitist luxury afforded by the wealthy. I want to show that you can attain leisure travel for cheap and, sometimes, for free! And you don’t have to be an Instagram influencer, international escort, or trust fund baby to do it.

21 Things I’ve Learned at 21

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Credits: Isa Zapata for Torch Zine

 

I’m 22 today! This year, my birthday has fallen pretty neatly in-between graduation and the beginning of my adult life, which means extra introspection upon another year of age. I’m spending the weekend up north in Michigan, but thought I’d take the time to write up a post on some of the things I’ve learned thus far in 21 years.


 

  1. You don’t need to convince anyone of your worth. Unlike the free market, you are not a good that someone needs to be persuaded to buy. As it turns out, human beings are born with a lot of inherent value to each other. I used to think I had to prove that I was good enough, and I ran myself ragged doing it. It took me a while to realize that if someone doesn’t see it, no amount of laboring will ever change their mind. Which takes me to number two…
  2. You are enough. Inherently. Just by merit of existing. I know this might sound all kooky and millennial, but I’m not saying you can be a complete drain on society and be happy about it. I’m saying that if you are a good, decent person, that is more than enough to deserve other good, decent people. A lot of us have been taught that we’re only worthy if we get straight As, if we fit into size 2 jeans, if we make six figures and have all these annotations on our resumes. It can be hard to break out of that utilitarian mindset, but I think once you hit a breaking point, you start to explore the absurdity of other ideas. Why is it such an alien concept to accept that we are worthy just because we are human? It doesn’t mean you should stop trying at things and just coast by. It just means that you should stop doing things in desperate hopes to fill up what only you can give to yourself. 
  3. Don’t wait until you’re fully ready to do something–do it now. In retrospect, the decisions that transformed my life the most were always things that caused me a lot of discomfort at first. Don’t be afraid to fake it until you make it, because most people don’t know what the heck they’re really doing at first anyway.
  4. “The universe has three answers for you at any given time: ‘yes’, ‘not yet’, and ‘I have something better for you’.”
  5. “The universe is not in a hurry; you are. It’s why you feel so tired, stressed, and anxious.”
  6. Speaking of the universe: you need to become comfortable with uncertainty. As an atheist, I’ve definitely gotten a lot more spiritual this year. I’ve always been pretty leery of religion, but I find that as a deeply introspective and existentially despairing type of person, I need to have some sort of faith in the unknown. Whether it’s a coping mechanism or a veil over the godless truth is another issue entirely. In the end, spirituality for me increases utility and leads to a happier, calmer mind.   
  7. The entree your friend orders always looks better. This is my way of refreshing the ragged “grass is always greener” aphorism. Comparing yourself to someone else is just so shitty because 1) you don’t even know the whole story to compare, 2) life operates in ebb and flows, and 3) why do we have to be the same person anyway?
  8. Continuing that thought: everyone is on a different timeline. One of my worst fears in life was/is “falling behind.” I didn’t really know what that looked like, but I just knew that I could not stand to watch all my peers surpass me in the racetrack of life and feeling like doors of opportunity were closing on me, or that I was too late to do something. But the concept of “falling behind” assumes there is some sort of universal blueprint that everyone must follow in the first place. Go to an Ivy League school. Date your first serious boyfriend for four years in college. Get a well-paying job in New York. Collect a graduate degree. Get engaged by 28 and married by 30. When did I get the idea that I needed to do that, and more importantly, whose timeline is that anyway? It seems strange to say, yet a lot of us haven’t actually thought about what we want. It’s easier to just go along with the status quo, not realizing that it sets us up for inevitable failure while distracting us from taking active control of our lives.
  9. Learn to accept and give compliments freely. A lot of us can’t accept compliments very well. Next time someone tells you they love your outfit, don’t downplay their compliment or negate it, forcing them to perform additional emotional labor. Just smile and say thank you. It doesn’t make you vain, or presumptuous, or peacock-y. In fact, the opposite.
  10. Practice gratitude. I spent a couple months writing down five things I was grateful for a day, and it always left me in a better mood. I haven’t reached the level of enlightenment necessary for meditation yet, but I find mindful reflection to be a baby step towards it.
  11. What’s for you will not miss you. This applies particularly to people. Sometimes we’re so busy chasing them that we don’t stop to wonder why we want so badly that which does not want us.
  12. That being said…no good thing comes easy. Pain is inevitable—so which kind will you choose? We spend so much energy trying to avoid pain, but actually, the harsh truth is that you are going to be in pain anyway. Read that again: you are going to be in pain anyway. The real question is, are you going to choose the type of pain that’s good for you? Being in a toxic friendship is painful. Cardio is painful. But there is a difference between challenging yourself to become better (good pain) and living an endless cycle of suffering (bad pain). Remember: short term losses, long term gains. In other words, the sooner we accept that pain is inevitable, the better we can stomach the good kind that will lead to a ton of happiness and self-fulfillment down the line.
  13. Always keep your passport in a safe, zipped place. This year I lost my passport temporarily in a stack of library books, and then spilled half a bottle of hand sanitizer over it in my purse. Yikes! In both instances, it could have been avoided if I had just kept it in a safe, designated holder.
  14. “People underestimate how much they can do in one day, and overestimate how much they can do in one year.” 
  15. Know how to isolate and listen to your intuition. I think it took me like 20 years to learn where my quads and hamstrings actually were. Similarly, I was also wildly out of touch with my intuition. It is, as I discovered, not just some floaty, random feeling that resides in your gut and comes and goes like a petulant muse. It is actually your higher brain recognizing the patterns your conscious mind struggles to see. It’s like, Yo, this is the sixteenth slightly different permutation of the same problem you’ve been experiencing your whole life. Cut it out. But no, your reptilian brain convinces you it’s really different this time, and so onwards you stumble. It’s taken me some time, though, to not only acknowledge the existence of intuition, but understand its power. Just because you can’t see the reason right away for it, doesn’t mean it should be discounted. If you sit with yourself for long enough you will realize that intuition is actually highly sharp and logical: it just takes into account the entire iceberg that you can’t see right now. 
  16. Reapply your SPF (like, every two hours). I use facial sunscreen religiously, but I only found this new tidbit out like a week ago. Maybe I shouldn’t put it on the list until I’ve confirmed that this isn’t just the work of sunscreen industry lobbyists, but I’ve definitely sweated off all my protection before and neglected to reapply. By the way, if you don’t wear sunscreen everyday, do it. 
  17. It is essential to have boundaries. Having limits are the cornerstone of self-respect. Without boundaries, not only do you open yourself up to be taken advantage of, but you end up risking everything else good in your life. If you don’t stick up for yourself, nobody will.
  18. Try a diffuser. They seem unnecessary. They seem like the adult version of lava lamps. But I bought one on sale at MUJI this year, along with a little vial of lavender essential oil, and that stuff honestly brought me so much happiness. I’m not even that big on my sense of smell, but retiring every night to the jovial little bubbling of an aromatherapeutic soft sphere of light by my bedside was…delightful.
  19. The difference between loneliness and aloneness. It’s okay to fear loneliness, but you will never be alone. Loneliness comes from a disconnect in the self. Aloneness comes from when you’re standing on an ice cap in Antartica and there’s nobody around. Learn that no amount of people can be the antidote to the work you need to do within, but that just like you, everyone else is going through it. 
  20. A couple months ago, I was on vacation with a group of friends when one of them asked during a late night heart-to-heart: “What are you addicted to?” That question really made me think. I believe everyone is addicted to something, and that our dependency on these things, people, or concepts makes us fundamentally unhappy. Figuring out what those weak spots are, why we have them, and how to break their control over us is a powerful form of self-care. So what’s your vice?
  21. Drink more water. 

Revival

Hello!

I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to restart my blog over the years. Every time I experience a wave of extreme self improvement, I think, this is it. This is the moment I’m finally going to launch an online journal of my prime introspective musings and attain a higher level of self-understanding through my love of oversharing everything about myself on the Internet.

So what’s the impetus this time around? I recently graduated from college, which is pretty crazy. Apart from now being the owner of a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (lol), I have also been released into the world to presumably work until I retire. This summer is the last stretch of freedom I have before adult life really, really begins. And so I thought to myself that I really need to make the most of it.

 

 

On the offhand that you are reading this blog and don’t know me irl, here’s some gratuitous graduation photoshoot pictures. Photo credits go to the amazing Tiff Chang!

I thought I was going to travel extensively this summer, as post-grads are wont to do, but those plans never materialized, so here I am, back home in Michigan instead. At first I was a bit bummed. But then I figured I had probably done enough traveling for the first half of 2019 anyway, having been to Japan, Italy, Canada, and recently Hawaii. Now, my plan is to take a few small trips this summer instead to visit friends in Cincinnati and Chicago, and maybe a drive up north with family. Then, at some point between late July and mid August, I will move to New York City.

I’ve been back in my nice big house in Greater Detroit since last week, but it’s funny to think that most of my life, I hated being here. I equated “home” with no mobility, no freedom, no sense of self, and overall just a place where nothing ever happened. As someone who craved independence and spent a good chunk of her childhood living in one of the biggest metropolises in Asia, I reveled in going to college in a big city like Philadelphia and interning in the crazy beehive that is New York. I also honestly had a rough time in high school academically and personally, so being back reminds me of that beaten-down, hopeless, angsty teen I once was.

Now, though, I realize that I don’t want that to be my permanent impression of home. Instead of instinctively cringing away from it, I feel that being back here this summer in the ‘Hills is exactly what I needed. I need to sit here in the stillness, for once, and spend time with my past selves before I jump into the rest of my life as a completely mostly independent adult. Call it psychobabble, or maybe my psychology minor, but I truly believe that most people could benefit from an unpacking of their childhoods. Sometimes we’re so busy rushing forward with pre-determined GPS directions for our lives that we forget to stop and see whether the destination that’s been programmed in is actually one that we want, or whether our engine is in good enough shape (had to throw in an auto metaphor for Detroit there).

At 21, I definitely do not know fully who I am yet. I think I am at maybe 65% right now (and this is a pretty generous estimate, because I consider myself to be prettyyyy introspective). I doubt it’s something I’ll be able to unravel in a week, or a summer, or maybe ever, but starting from the beginning seems as good a plan as any.

So while I’m out here poring over my elementary school diaries and chewing on the Big Questions (Where do I see myself in 10 years? When do I want to get married and do I want kids? What does professional fulfillment mean to me?), I don’t want to just melt into an unproductive lump. This is why I have a couple of measurable goals I want to achieve this summer too. They include:

  • Working out (aka decreasing my mile time, increasing my total mile time at the gym, doing more push-ups, and planking for longer). I have specific numbers but I do not want to embarrass myself here. I also plan on making use of the heavy bag stand sitting in the basement. The reason for all this is pretty self-explanatory. Sure, living longer is nice, but mostly I just want to look hot, given the staggering premium our society places on young women and their outer appearance. No, but for real, I am trying to grow into the mindset each day of just being damn grateful for what I was born with. I have limbs that get me to the tops of mountains and across towns, and a heart that can pump a lot of blood very fast. It’s taken some eye-opening over time to realize how silly it would be to let body dysmorphia take away the best and most active years of my life, when some people truly would give anything to have my good health. Thus, my time at the gym is going to be spent building mental fortitude, if anything, and celebrating what my body can do. Oh, and endorphins. All of the endorphins.
  • Reading books. I was going to make it a point to read multiple of them, but then I recently stumbled across a thick tome that had once been assigned to me as an 8th grade summer camp reading: the hefty, 800-page The Art of the Personal Essay by Phillip Lopate. It is actually this anthology that turned me into an Orwell fanatic, but it occurred to me that I had never actually read most of the other essays in it. I just got through the introduction yesterday, and I have to say, I am very impressed. Erudite yet digestible. I think I have a lot to gain by polishing this book off over the summer, and it will probably make me a better writer. If I give myself a month, that’s roughly 28 pages a day, which is very realistic and quite doable for even the densest of prose.
  • Getting my driver’s license. I almost didn’t put this one up, because at this point, I have developed a sort of PTSD regarding driving. I mean, I really don’t want to play into the stereotypes here, but I think at this age and after two spectacular fails, one could probably consider me…a less-than-stellar driver. Nonetheless, I realize that there’s no logical reason why I cannot get my license if pretty much every human being is able to, and that it’s probably all just a matter of practice and confidence. This summer is truly my last ditch shot at obtaining that shiny rectangle of plastic that would conveniently serve as proof of my identity rather than having to whip out my passport at every bar I go to, and I actually have the time this time, so I need to go for it. Honestly, if I achieve nothing else this summer except this, I’d still be stoked.
  • Writing some stuff. To me–contradictory as it may sound, because it is one of the things that brings me the most joy in this world–no beast is scarier than writing. Oh, the procrastination! The fear! The perfectionism that stops me from stringing together a simple sentence, even as my thoughts are running a million miles a minute! Anyway, I’ll just spit it out. It’s been a little over a year now that I’ve been writing for Forbes, which is just crazy. It’s changed my life in so many ways and it still gives me goosebumps every time I talk to a (intimidating, much older, much smarter) source. However, I’m far from satisfied. I still have many ambitions waiting in the wings, and I doubt I’ll have a lot of time for that once I’m working full-time in consulting. These include: writing more hard-hitting stories, more in-depth think pieces, stories outside of real estate/tech, and writing about travel. I dearly want to diversify my portfolio and get published in some of my dream outlets.What’s so scary, though, is that I have no idea how–and that’s why this goal is the vaguest, because I literally don’t know anything about anything still. Getting started in freelance journalism is literally just throwing a thousand things at the wall and seeing what sticks. I hate it, but I love it, because nothing else has taught me the importance of the hustle and the self-starter than this profession. As my phone lock screen says these days, “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” And we don’t have time to waste sitting around, because life will pass you by if you give it the slightest chance.

 

I think these intentions are satisfactory enough for now for me to have a very productive yet refreshing summer. I will check in sporadically to update this little corner of the Internet on my progress, as well as any other mini-projects I may get up to (learning how to cook a few more complex Chinese dishes from my mom, playing around on iPad ProCreate, maybe purchasing a DSLR???). Oh yeah, and obviously the pertinent offshoot of the last goal would be to blog. Like, actually blog this time.

Historically, I have not been successful, but you never know–this time could be it.

-J