To my memory, I’ve never been a particularly satisfied person. I’ve always wanted more and more, and when I couldn’t get what I wanted, I became depressed.
Recently I decided to dig out my diaries — entires penned from 10-year-old me onwards. They’re cringe-worthy (to say the least)…but they reveal a lot about who I am, and why I am the way I am.
2001: (10 years old)
“Sometimes I hate my brother because he gets all the attention. My parents thinks he is so cute but to me he looks like the uglyiest asian in the world! And every single time he does something that makes my parents mad they just hug him. And when I do something bad my parents scold me. Life is soo unfair.”
“I can’t wait until I grow up. Then I could be free! Now I am like a trapped bird in a cage.”
2002: (11 years old)
“I have been begging my mom for eyeshadow. She has bought me glitter, but still, I’m ugly. Period. But when I am not looking in the mirror, I feel like a beautiful person, but outer appearances matter. Never in my life, no one has liked me. Why me?”
2005: (14 years old)
“I hate being the normal. The regular, quite azn gurlie. Fugly and not special. no guy has ever told me they liked me, or no one else did. I wish, I can be unique. Not someone out in the crowd, but center stage.”
“Dreams don’t come true. Happily ever afters are rare. I’m a speck in this faceless world. I have little impact on people. I’m just another face. A hated face. I can’t spend time on what i want. It won’t happen.”
2006: (15 years old)
“I’ve been taught to be so friggin reserved my whole damn life that I can barely write down my feelings. If I’m not allowed to even express myself out loud, can’t I just do it on paper?”
“Dear God. Please just give me that A. I’m so close. It’s like a big obstacle in my life right now and it’s really suffocating me.”
2008: (18 years old)
“I’m somewhat disillusioned with my identity. I’m Asian — thus, I feel, somewhat inferior. Because I’m Asian, I don’t feel in any way attractive. Because I’m Asian, I don’t feel I can voice my voice confidently. I have ultimately suppressed my voice.”
“My worst fear? Becoming like Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice — marrying a guy that will provide her basic happiness. I’m terrified of simply loving a guy. I want to be madly in love, and I want him to erase my anxieties.”
“I hate this conservative mind barrier that I have.”
“For once in my life, someone noticed me and did something about it. He’s cute yeah, but it’s awkward. A part of me wants him to like me but I know nothing will come out of this.”
2009 (19 years old)
“I put so much hope into him. It hurts so much I don’t think I’ve ever cried this much for a boy.”
“He’s an idiot that makes you miserable. he didn’t have an urge to talk to you for a week. Reread your diary.”
“All he does is make me miserable. I want to feel wanted, needed.”
2010 (20 years old)
“I can’t leave him. I’m too engrossed in this relationship.”
“Until now, I didn’t know the human heart was capable of so much pain. I can’t stop crying. What did I do to deserve this? While other boyfriends prioritize their girlfriends and care for them — mine is someone who I have to fight for and continue to fight for.”
2012 (21 years old)
“Three to four years from now, when I read this, what will I think. Will I finally be happy?”
The negativity is striking… and I know exactly why I was who I was. A heavy, toxic religious upbringing, strict Chinese conservatism, Asian in America. I was rarely praised, only criticized, my accomplishments were never celebrated, only dismissed. I was never told I was beautiful, only told what I could improve on…the list goes on. I never felt good enough, because no one ever told me I was good enough. And as a 10-year-old child, I needed to hear that. Because I never believed it.
I transferred the negativity to my younger brother. I constantly criticized him. As a result, our relationship became dangerously competitive and spiteful.
The cycle fed itself and I became critical and hurtful towards myself. I never felt satisfied: in my career, with my friends, with my love life. While my perpetual dissatisfaction helped my career reach new heights, it stunted my emotional health.
When I finally did get a boyfriend, I was clearly in a toxic relationship..and knew it a month in. Yet I was terrified of ending it because I thought I didn’t deserve better. That ended up dragging on for 3.5 years…to no one’s benefit.
A lot has changed since. I’ve learned a lot more about myself and no longer pen bottomless rants about what I hate about myself. Regardless, I still go through phases of negativity and self-doubt.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ― Søren Kierkegaard
Better late than never. Time to really turn this ship around.
I always get sentimental when the New Year rolls around, mainly because in the last couple of years, each one has marked a major shift in my life. I truly believe the start of the year is the time to make resolutions, to change for the better and look forward to the future.
Some say you can make resolutions any time, any day. But for me, there’s something particularly special about a universal restart of the calendar and the seasons.
Last year was a miracle. I started off 2013 newly graduated, jobless, and back in L.A. after a four year stint in New York City. I had just emerged from the depths of a painful depression, but was cautiously hopeful. My New Years Eve was spent at a raging party in Thailand with my best friend — drunk, single, and 21.
There was a photo that emerged from that night of me holding up a sparkler, with a man whose name I don’t and will never remember. It was the first photo of 2013 and the first in a long while where I actually looked genuinely happy.
And so with that photograph in mind, I resolved to make 2013 a year of recovery and hope. A year to get back on my feet, get a job, and be finally become emotionally healthy. The year blew my mind away. I ended up on the Travel Channel, started writing for the L.A. Times, got a job at KCET, had multiple T.V. stints and newspaper appearances. On the personal front, I met my current boyfriend — a wonderful man who brings out the best in me.
My New Years Eve this time around couldn’t have be anymore different. I spent the Eve with Clark, parked on a vantage point that overlooked the entire Bay Area. When the clock struck midnight, we said our farewells to 2013 as multiple fireworks lighted up the cities and the bay underneath us. It was quiet, comfortable celebration with lots of blankets, layers, and a good bag of chips.
What will 2014 bring?
Last year was a period of recovery. This year will be one of growth. I finally have a better sense of who I am and what I want to be. Last year it felt like I was just blindly throwing darts and going with whatever stuck. Now I finally feel like I can see the bigger picture.
While I have a feeling the changes this year won’t be as dramatic as the last, I’m looking forward to strengthening my current relationships — both professionally and personally.
Cheers to the New Year.
Living in a metropolis is mentally exhausting. New York burnt me out so I moved back home to Los Angeles — but even so I feel caught up in the rat race. There’s a goal to be obtained, a relatively active social life to maintain. In my universe at least, monotony is frowned upon, stagnation has become a stigma. I’m afraid to stop working, to stop writing, to stop exploring, to stop publishing, to stop making money. I’m terrified of idleness.
My ex was a workaholic and that, in its own twisted way, fueled that fear throughout college. We’d be on a beautiful island on summer vacation but would spend a majority of the time in a coffee shop doing work. I eventually resented him for prioritizing work and naturally, we didn’t work out for that very reason.
Fast forward a year and I’m in another coffee shop. This time it’s in Los Angeles and my current boyfriend Clark* is staring me straight in the eyes.
“You’re not present,” he says.
It’s not the first time he has brought it up, but the statement hits me hard.
I don’t blame him. As a person who works in media, it’s difficult to separate work from the rest of the day. I’ve become so adept at multi-tasking that I’ve forgotten the value of really listening and giving someone my complete and utter attention. He’s right. Not being present is disrespectful. It’s rude and hurtful to the other person.
My body temporarily goes into shutdown mode and I want to run far away. In a twist of irony, I’ve become the very person who caused myself so much misery.
“I’m sorry,” I say, swallowing up every bit of my pride and fighting back tears. “I’ll try harder.”
My solution: I put down the phone. Brief photo taking is okay — because that is just the nature of my job — but by and large I avoid the social media channels when I’m off the clock.
The embedded photos in this post are snapshots from my recent San Diego weekend trip with Clark — 100% unedited. They’re a window into how my life is transforming since I’ve decided to slow it down a notch. I’m allowing myself to be idle and I’m giving myself permission to not be as updated on current events (or my Twitter feed) as I would like to be. I try not to spend my meals with Clark and my friends analyzing the ingredients in the food, the background of the chef and the average price range of the menu. I forgo most social media channels and no longer spend time conjuring up hashtags and a witty caption. A simple upload on Instagram and geo-tagging does the trick in my book. The rest I deal with on my own time.
Quality time with the people you love or even self-care time needs to be untainted in order to be effective. For me, the fear of idleness came from living in cities with so much movement. This sounds pathetic — but taking a vacation sans my laptop was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long while.
I’ve become (and still am) adamant on making a name for myself and establishing klout in the media world. ..So much so that I sometimes forget the physical world.
But the truth is the high I get from traveling far outlasts the excitement of getting an article published or seeing myself on television. Intimate moments of face-to-face conversation are far more valuable than connecting with strangers online a là tweets. I spent the last three days being present and being okay with not doing anything in particular — and it was fantastic.
“Would you ever move to San Diego?” Clark asked me when we were driving into the city.
“I’d get really bored here.”
Now, I’m not so sure.
*Boyfriend, name changed.
So the other day I wrote this piece about best friends for xojane.
But in all seriousness, it was just one of those topics that came to me on a busy weekday afternoon. Sometimes I get a surge of motivation and that day I was just feeling particularly thankful.
In some ways, the piece can come off as really cynical — depending on how you look at it. I guess I should kind of clarify. I’m not this anti-men-anti-boyfriend extremist. I adore my boyfriend and believe it’s all about finding a balance. Do I hang out with him more than my girl friends? Yes.
But at least now I make a conscious effort to set time aside for the girls.
My main takeaway from all of this is to not devalue the importance of platonic friendships and to be aware that those relationships are just as important as any romantic relationship.
Do romantic relationships inevitably end?
Well, all relationships at some point will end…whether it’s via a breakup or on the deathbed. So the ones who have stuck in your life longer…they deserve constant recognition and appreciation.
Here are the comments that made me smile:
…how to slow time down? I know.
It’s a cheesy ass title but HEY you clicked it.
Disclaimer: this has nothing to do with food. I’m trying this new thing where I use my blog as a carefully filtered journal. Mostly because I’m sick of just posting about Chinese food (though that will still continue) and I want to use my metaphorical pen and writing degree to show my audience (that consists of my Facebook friends and maybe two strangers) that I’m more than just a content churner.
But back to the topic at hand. HOW TO SLOW TIME DOWN .
I have been having a lot of conversations about how to live life to its fullest and what the meaning of life is. It’s a loaded thought but at the very least it spurs conversation on what solid actions I can accomplish to make the most out of my time.
I’d say I’ve been doing pretty well. In the past four months I’ve gone to Catalina Island, appeared on the Travel Channel, went to Yosemite, Disneyland, biked around Manhattan Beach and Newport Beach, hit up at least two dozen new clubs, bars and/or restaurant, gone hiking multiple times, went to the Yamashiro Farmer’s Market, went to a Lakers v. Clippers game, Vegas, a random jazz bar in Silver Lake, the Grand Central Market, a drive-in movie, a few museums and whatever other random adventure I’m completely blanking out on. I make a conscious effort to plan things to do and make the most of free community concerts or events. And hey — we’re in Los Angeles. There’s no excuse not to be out on the weekends.
So on a related note, I stumbled upon this YouTube video by VSauce on aging and on certain creatures that have basically achieved immorality. At the 2:20 mark, this point was made: “Intense moments of your life are remembered as lasting much longer than times that were relatively dull.”
No wonder my undergrad career felt like it zoomed by without a beat. I spent my days interning, doing homework and on the weekends, pigeonholed inside my apartment avoiding the cold.
From the video: Our brains take deeper and richer memories of events that are novel. When your experiences are intense and novel, you aren’t remembering more things about it but you are making more copies. Many people think that is why intense moments are remembered as lasting longer. “Because your brain is putting in all these new details, when you think back on it later, there’s so much more to remember, it just seems slower.”
Conclusion: Do more novel things. Have more intense experiences. Don’t let any time go by that’s mediocre.
I remember walking out of my last final in college in mid-December. I was still clutching onto my study guides and my notes. Mostly for warmth though. It’s always freezing in New York. That I do not miss.
The feeling was liberating but at the same time, absolutely terrifying. No more structure, no more planned-out semesters. I was flying back to Los Angeles with a completely clean slate. In all aspects of life — career and relationship-wise (ugh). And that meant if I didn’t make a daily conscious effort to meet people and learn new material, I would never move forward.
It’s easy getting comfortable in suburban Los Angeles. For the last four years, every time I flew back, I had the same routine, met up with the same people and did the exact same activities. Over and over again. It was an endless loop of comfort but I was fine with it because I was living under the timeline of college and under the wings of a very comfortable relationship.
But the reality is that life doesn’t operate on a college break schedule. And, as I had to learn the very hard way, things don’t always work out according to plan.
So ever since I’ve moved back, I’ve made it a personal goal to get out, meet as many people as I can and take up as many opportunities as possible to learn. As someone who was in a “couple” for three, going on four years, independence was initially a tricky thing to embrace. I dreaded not having a go-to person for places I wanted to check out, a default to call up when I was going through rough patches. Who could I turn to when something horrible happened? Or something great that I wanted to share? And if I got sick of my own house, where could I hang out? What was I supposed to do during weekends in Los Angeles now?
But when viewed in the right perspective, this independence turned out to be an amazing gift.
So in the spirit of my new life philosophy, I started planning dates with myself. Things I always wanted to do but never had a chance to, or was too lazy to, or just didn’t do because no one else wanted to do it with me.
Even if it meant doing it alone…because the truth is, you’re never really alone.
Hear me out on this.
Whether it was random dinners from meetup.com (oh my god, I know it sounds weird, but pick the right group), cooking classes or even just networking with mutual friends online — I always ended up meeting new people.
Alright, I know there’s a stigma to online groups. But for reals, pick your groups wisely and start off with an event with a fairly large number of people. My first one was a dinner at Feng Mao 2, a great Korean/Chinese skewer joint in Koreatown. There were about 30 people in attendance and mostly everyone was in the same situation: “All my friends are not in Los Angeles anymore.” “I just moved here.” “I just moved back.” “I finally have time to meet people now.”
And hey, two pitchers of beer later and we all liked each other enough to be down for dessert next door. (+ Our particular table just clicked.)
Restaurant: Feng Mao 2
Address: 414 Suite E S Western Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90020
Phone Number: (213) 388-9299
Restaurant: Haus Dessert Boutique
Address: 3826 W 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90020
Phone Number: (213) 388-5311
1) Foodstory Japan: Takoyaki Cooking Class
I heard about Yoko’s classes via Twitter (oh social media). But I was drawn to it not only because of the food, but because of her approach towards food: “She is a Japanese Food Storyteller and producer of a variety of Japanese cooking classes and workshops. She focuses on cultural aspects of Japan’s rich food history and etiquettes.”
Though takoyaki-making was the highlight of the course, we also learned other traditional dishes (akashiyaki, daikon salad and pork miso soup) that can’t typically be found at your local Japanese restaurant. The three hour class was great and extremely informative in terms of ingredients and culture. Even though I was the youngest (as I usually am these days) of the group, all eight of us shared amazing conversation over hot takoyaki balls.
Plus, it’s easy for people passionate about food to bond over food.
In LA, you gotta fill up that car with gas and move. To experience it, you have to make the effort. Sometimes that means going completely out of your comfort zone.
I have to admit, sometimes I’m tempted to cancel last minute. It’s so much easier staying at home, curled up in bed with a good movie. Plus, it’s not like I don’t have any friends and I honestly do enjoy the company of my great family. But every time, I muster enough will to force myself to get out of the door and into my car.
Trust me. Once you put yourself as a priority, an amazing thing happens. You end up with so much more because you enter these situations with an unbelievably open mind.
Because you’re not doing it for anyone else but yourself. You have nothing to lose and no one to disappoint but yourself. And because you made such a large effort to do something 100% for yourself, you put 100% in getting the most out of the experience.
Now dating yourself can be daunting.
Driving alone in Koreatown and walking into a restaurant with absolutely no expectations of who will be there can be a nerve-wrecking experience. Parking in a sketchy downtown LA lot for an evening cooking class hopefully somewhere down the block is potentially frightening. Especially when there are very few people walking around.
But I assure you the fear is temporary because at the end of the each evening, there were always people there to walk me back to my car.
What about you guys? Any other self-dating tips? Things to do, groups to join?
“Thought severing. When you go into a loop a repeat loop — it’s just bam. Stop it.”
There’s a weird phenomenon that happens when people feel sorry for you. You get a lot of advice. Friends, family, colleagues, bartenders, editors. This was from an editor.
On chat, I agreed with her wholeheartedly. In my mind, I had no idea what she was talking about.
We were sitting in a cafe inside the ancient city of Shuhe in Lijiang. A man was strumming on his guitar, belting out ballads. My mom ordered a cup of Yunnan coffee for the three of us and a cheesecake to share. I didn’t talk much. Everything reminded me of the past. The cutesy coffee shops of Lijiang was eerily similar to the ones I spent my summer with him in at Gulangyu.
The winding cobblestone streets and shops, the exotic food vendors. These were all too familiar.
Like in Thailand, I dragged myself through the experiences. We toured the mountain range via ponies, sat through a Naxi tea ceremony and ate fried fish off of a river boat. There was even a museum of food-shaped stones, which, in normal circumstances would have delighted me. But in actuality, I snapped a couple of photos and was done with it.
The thoughts replayed in my head over and over again. The conversations, the last time I saw him, the emails he never responded to. The begging, the crying, the screaming. (Unfortunately, it was all very dramatic.) I got headaches because of the continuous loops. At my worst, I’d wake up in the middle of the night screaming. After a while, the only time I had relief from it all was in my dreams. Even my subconscious was getting sick of thinking of my ex. I had glimpses of relief, moments where I was actually happy and not pretending, but it would all crumble by the end of the day.
My parents would sigh in annoyance when they saw me tear up. And though she didn’t say it, I could tell my best friend of 19 years was getting tired of me.
Where had I gone?
One cold night in a freezing hotel at Lugu Lake, instead of playing victim to my consuming thoughts, I started looking at job openings. I forced myself to think of the future, something I had stopped doing. The extremely clichè tidbits advice I had tossed in the back of my mind came flooding back:
“Take it one week at a day.” “Focus on yourself.” “You’re so young.” “There’s plenty of fish in the sea.”
And the most painful of them all:
And then something happened. I didn’t know how to move on. But I knew how to move. That concept broke the exhausting mental pattern of obsessing over the past.
So I did what I could: I packed my bags, started pitching more stories and cut my trip short. It wasn’t much, but it marked the beginning of the healing process. For the first time in months, I stopped crying. However minimally, I had shifted the focus to myself.
“You need to stop picking at the wound for it to heal.”
Alright cliches, I get the point.