Hey there, happy new year!

I’m quite late to this new year greeting as it’s already the end of January. The month flew by. Work has been busy so I haven’t really checked the calendar during off-work hours. As I haven’t been paying attention, the days have been dissipating.

2019 is a special year for me. In Chinese culture, each year is assigned an animal zodiac and there are 12 of them in total. Not only is 2019 my Chinese zodiac sign, it will be pretty much three years since my college graduation. I’d felt it at the later half of 2018, I, as a person, am changing rapidly. Some things that had been murky are starting to clear; for example values and boundaries.

Similar to 2018, I will not be doing a new year resolution as I don’t believe in them. Instead I will list the goals and projects I want to work on this year. They are not in any particular orders:

  1. Really work on my Etsy shop; this means really figuring out my specialties and how I want to add to the community.
  2. Make a portfolio and do some freelance work; I’ve toyed around with the idea of becoming an UX designer for so long, I need to make a step towards this goal.
  3. Work on digital illustration, specifically Adobe Illustrator and Procreate; the lifestyle instagram I started with this blog is now officially an art ig (the handle is now @ry.dwg, I’d really appreciate it if you check it out) and I’m committing to it.
  4. Read more; I signed up for a library card summer of ’18 and I want to use it to its full capacity this year. As of now I’ve read three books, which is a lot for me as I don’t read at all. I am in a non-fiction phase, so the three books that I read are  a compilation of essays , a memoir and a commencement speech.
  5. Get back into bullet journal; I’d done this on and off during college (switching to planners in between) to keep track of all the work and due dates. Now I just use Google Calendar for everything so there hasn’t been a need to use a physical journal. Bullet journals, in particular, are so versatile and is able to cater to all kinds of work. This time, I’ll be using the system in a different way. I haven’t solidified what I want to do with it yet, but here are some spreads I’ve done so far for the year:

The list doesn’t seem too extensive, but in order to really get through them I need to break them out to tiny pieces. I really don’t work to give up half way due to burn out.

To end this post, here’s a quote I’d come upon the other day that resonated and I want to live 2019 by:

to be genuine means to be actual, to be true, to be sincere and honest

– Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

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Two more hours and 2018 will finally come to a close. This has been the first time in a long while where I couldn’t wait till the year is over. Everyone is being reflective on this last day, a quick scroll through Instagram will prove that, but I want to use this post to bring the year to a closure.

2018 has been a challenging and difficult year for me mentally, but with challenges comes growth. If you had asked me if I had changed since high school a year ago, I probably would have said no. Other than an accumulation of experiences, I had felt I stayed pretty much the same since I had been a teenager. Although the shell had slowly been cracking, but 2018 really shattered it.

Growing and changing has been a very scary process, especially when I am hyperaware of the change. But it has been the thing that solidified my values. I now know exactly what is my bottom line for any human relationship. I’ve come to fully embrace wearing my heart on my sleeve. Being vulnerable is still very scary, but I’m working on connecting with others on a deeper level. Most importantly, I’m facing my insecurities and working on accepting myself. This self discovery journey felt like I had been in a maze up until half a year ago, then all of a sudden I’m on an expressway. But because of this, I am looking forward to what 2019 will bring.

As Ariana Grande’s song Thank U, Next put it, here are a list of things (not in any order) I’m thankful for in 2018:

  1. The friendships that have withheld through time and the friendships that allow the authentic me.
  2. Cutting off friendships
  3. All the music, poems, articles, books, and words that spoke to me
  4. Taking the leap and connecting with strangers through social media
  5. Taking the leap and learning how to work with Adobe Illustrator
  6. Purchased an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to work on my illustration skills
  7. Opening up an Etsy shop and posting my work on Redbubble
  8. Nourishing and exploring my interests
  9. Understanding my unconsciouses biases
  10. Learning about humans through podcasts and Ted talks
  11. Learning in general
  12. Being ok with missing out on things friends are doing
  13. Finally visiting sunny California
  14. Visiting Portland, MA, Montreal and Quebec City
  15. Getting my driver’s license
  16. Deleting snapchat and facebook mobile app to focus more on real life
  17. Getting a library card and read more books
  18. Committing to this blog

Thank you sticking with me this year. I will see you in the next. Happy new year!

xo,

Jenn

Winter has been hitting New York City in its full force. Although we haven’t yet experience any blizzards yet, fingers crossed for a mild winter, the temperature has been dropping and the wind speed picking up. When it becomes a little too cold to handle, I look through the photos I took at sunny Los Angelos.

This was my first visit to California and of course I was beyond excited, especially for all the palm trees and other desert plants. It’s embarrassing how many shitty palm tree and giant cactus photos I now have. 

The palms trees, the ocean, the open music and the general vibes made me very happy. I adored west L.A, specifically Santa Monica Pier. We came upon a roller dance gather by the beach and I was memorized. I really think I could’ve just stayed on the beach for a long long time just to people watch. I also got the chance to ride a Bird; it was definitely an experience. I got a huge bruise on my right calf because I couldn’t properly control the electric scooter. I was either going at 0 mph or 20 mph; you can easily see how that was not the way to go. But with a change of the newer model for the older model, I was able to ride the scooter. It is definitely my favorite mode of transportation, although I would not ride one in New York due to safety reasons (i.e. aggressive drivers). 

The sights were not as impressive as I’d imagined. I loved how spacious everything is, definitely a suburb except the couple downtown streets, but there wasn’t much to see. Hollywood was just meh, reminds me of a more run-down Times Square. The Getty museum was beautiful, but it was huge.  I had to Uber/Lyft everywhere; I guess in a sense I had to get over my fear of riding in a stranger’s car by myself. On the other hand, it was definitely convenient. I could get use to it, but my wallet says not so much.  

What really stole my heart, other than the palms trees, cactus and ocean (I really hope you see a theme here) was the food. There was SO MUCH FOOD. The portions were big, there’re a huge selection of Asian food, and they were cheap, what more can I ask for. I had a food coma and was in bliss after every single meal. 

Honestly, if I could drive better, I would move to L.A. The weather is just way too enticing. For those of us who are braving the cold winter, here’s a final (great looking) palm trees to help get through the day. 

Recently I purchased an Away suitcase after debating between it and Muji’s carry-on for a while. I decided on Away for several reasons, the main one being the ejectable battery, but that’s for another post.

Funny story about luggage, the last two pieces of suitcases I bought were all due to me having too much stuff while moving. Previously, I was moving back from Chicago after my 8-month stay there and got the Rimowa Salsa Deluxe 22-inch mainly because a lack of options (I procrastinated packing till the day before my return flight). This time I was moving back home from the city. I ended up buying the regular Carry-On in black after visiting Away’s NYC store and had a decision paralysis with all the colors available. With my Los Angeles trip that was coming up, I was super excited about testing out this new piece of luggage. The popularity of Away’s suitcases is definitely increasing, I saw more than a handful of people with the same luggage while I was in the airport this week.

After traveling with it, here are my thoughts regarding this carry-on, especially comparing it to the more luxury Rimowa piece that I’ve travelled with for a couple of years now.

Away

Here are the of things I really enjoyed about Away:

  1. Like I mentioned before, the ejectable battery. I also used it as a portable battery while touring around the city. During my flight back to New York, one of the flight attendant did ask me to remove the battery while on the flight. The process was very simple and fast, the only part that took a little time is opening the flip cap that was a bit tight. The battery charger the suitcase came with is also great because it contains a change of plug adaptors for the different countries. Not to mention the plugs and pouch are very chic and cute.
  2. The hidden laundry bag. It’s probably one of the most under-rated traveling item that does not get mentioned very much. Away’s website says this laundry bag can even hold wet swim suits, I didn’t have any wet item during the trip so I can’t comment on that. Otherwise, there’s a little built-in pouch on the bottom of the luggage that hides away the bag when not in use. It’s very convenient and keeps the inside of the suitcase clean for future uses.
  3. The size of this carry-on fits just under the domestic restriction and it is still very spacious. I had fitted in 4-days of clothes with a pair of slides and skin-care/makeup pouches while still have a ton of room left. The reason why I chose the regular carry-on instead of their “the Bigger Carry-On” is because my Rimowa is of an awkward size. It’s a bit shorter but thicker than the common carry-on size, thus some domestic flights wouldn’t take it as a carry-on since it doesn’t fit into the luggage checker. I didn’t want to run into the same problem with the Bigger Carry-On, so I got the regular one.

Rimowa

Now moving on to where I think Rimowa is better comparatively:

  1. The handles. Hands down the handles. If there’s one major problem with Away’s suitcase, it’d be the handles. It’s very wobbly. Although there’re three height adjustments, the middle one never seem to click properly. So I get stuck with the other two, which are not very comfortable. In contrast, Rimowa’s handle is very solid and stable, all the height levels click where they suppose to. I have not had any problems with the handles thus far.
  2. The wheels. Don’t get me wrong, the Away wheels are fine. They are probably even better than the wheels of the Samsonite carry-on my family has. However, while I was moving, I noticed that with heavier load, the Rimowa wheels are much easier to roll compared to Away. That being said, unless you’re moving or traveling with really heavy items (you probably can’t even bring it as a carry on at that point during weight limit), I don’t think there are any problems with the wheels.
  3.  The shell of Away is not as hard as the Rimowa, and it get dirty much easier (I think this might be because of Away’s semi-rough shell surface). This doesn’t really bother me much, but for some people it might be a deal breaker so I will mention it.

In conclusion, I think the Away Carry-On is a solid purchase. Other than the handle, I’ve been happy with everything else. Both suitcases come with a TSA approved lock which is very handy. Although I still love my Rimowa a bit more (but it is also more than two times the price of Away), I will be traveling quite a bit with Away especially for domestic trips.

You know those stories about how life is a circle? Well this is one of them…

People journal for different reasons, for me it’s a dumpster for my thoughts especially when I feel bad. I’ve spewed these thoughts out in many notebooks over the years, some contain a lot more than others. While cleaning a couple of weeks ago, I found my childhood/teenage journal, I dug it out today to discard the events that happened earlier.

After frantically scribbling for five pages straight to get everything onto paper, I flipped through my older entries. There was a clear transition of when I started thinking in English instead of my mother tongue Chinese. It was in June 2008 when my entry switched over from mainly Chinese to full English with two Chinese characters. The last time I’d written in the book was June 10th, 2013, the last day of official class in high school. All the crushes I had over the years had all been documented. I’ve been writing letters to these boys way before a series of love letters and definitely before Lara Jean made it mainstream on All the Boy’s I’ve Loved Before (it’s such an adorable rom-com, highly recommend).

Now this isn’t about journaling by any means, although I definitely should do it more to clear my head. This is about the funny thing called life.

One of the things I noted down in the “Important Dates” section I’d made at the end of the book was June 24th, 2009. The entry read, “graduation of 8th grade (gonna be in Stuy next year! I’m so sad I’m gonna miss everyone and [name of the boy I had a crush on then]).” When I saw this I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. I’d been so sad about not seeing him on a daily basis since we were going to different high schools. Now after college graduation and almost a decade later, I see him every single day during my morning work commute as we take the same bus to the city. It’s unbelievably funny how life works like this. If I hadn’t read my journal, I wouldn’t have known how I felt then, and seeing him every morning wouldn’t be as ironic.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that things change and it might not be as bad as I imagine. Being in the midst of so many uncertainties right now, I need to embrace this message more than ever. I’ve read so many people’s stories about how life is a circle and trust it to do its thing, but nothing is more convincing than seeing it happen with your own story. But really, I should journal more because it’s essentially a time machine. If I don’t pen down the piece now, I won’t have a then to reflect upon in the future.

End of August.

Summer is showing last of its rays.

Winter and the cold seem like distant memories as I brave through the blazing heat New York has been experiencing recently. It’s hard to imagine the majority of the year has already gone by. As the season changes, I’m also one year older. It’s quite poetic tying the change of time to aging, actual changes are anything but. Usually it’s hard for me gain awareness of the changes while they are happening, but this time it’s been startlingly easy when i reflect back.

I did not to host any birthday gatherings this year. Partially because I couldn’t be bothered with figuring out who to invite, where to go, but more importantly I simply don’t enjoy parties. I much prefer intimate settings where I can actually catch up with the other person and build on our connection. Meeting up with friends have given me great joy, especially those I haven’t seen for years. I’m grateful for these friendships that have weathered time and growth. Change #1: slowly embracing all my thoughts and quirks as part of who I am, particularly the ones I used to validate through excuses or self-proclaimed responsibilities.

For a couple weeks this year, I tried guided meditation with the app Headspace. Even though I only spent an average of ten minutes on meditation, i feel a lot calmer afterwards, as if my thoughts all decided to slow down. Mental health has been a big topic I’m trying to work on. Journaling is one thing I’ve been meaning to try. Dumping all these thoughts out somewhere seems to be a great way to clear some space up there. I’ve also toyed with the idea of going to therapy. Through several deep dives, I’ve mapped how my issues connect with one another on a big picture scale, but I want an outsider’s opinion. I started sharing with people, even just a little, these issues I’ve held in the darkness. Change #2: Accepting that there are mental health problems I have to work on, and being ok with talking about them.

I couldn’t help but notice there’s a fear of being old, through self-deprecating jokes, complains and phrases in general, as if we’ve already reached our prime age and everything moving forward is a downhill ride. This mentality seems really sad to me, so I’ve made an effort to not comment on being old. It’s been difficult to change my semi-reflex answer of “ugh I’m getting so old” to every age related questions and comment. Change #3: Appreciating what time has brought and what it has in store.

There are other changes happening, some more controversial (embracing my sexuality) and some less (needing to read more books), it’s impractical to document each and every one of them. I wanted to record the few that has been the bigger milestones of changes I’ve embarked on. Next time I reflect back, I can see how much more I’ve grew.

Summer vacations have been a constant for the last 16 years. No matter how long and shitty school was, there was always three warm months (at least in college) to look forward to. Although as I moved up the education system, days that I idle around decreased exponentially. When I had to take paid-time-off (PTO) hours to go away this year, it was the most unnatural thing and I couldn’t help but miss school just a tiny bit.

Honestly, I can’t even remember when was the last time I went on a family vacation in the summer. I think it was seven years ago when we visited the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee. The family trip this year had been a drastic change in pace; and as my mom had put it, “this is probably the last time we will have a family trip.” Although I doubt that to be true, it still sounded bittersweet.

The initial itinerary only included Montreal, but after watching the Korean Drama Goblins I had to make the trip to Quebec City.  As we looked around the driving route between New York City, Montreal and Quebec City, I suggested that we add Portland, Maine to the trip since it’s around the midpoint between Quebec City and New York City.

Montreal was full of young people due to McGill’s location. There are lots of hip restaurants and cute cafes. My favorite was Mamie Clafoutis located in a residential neighborhood. Not only was the pastries delicious, I had the best chocolate croissant there, the space was also beautifully decorated. If I had gone to college at McGill, I could see myself being a regular at the cafe.

 

Quebec city is divided into Old Quebec, which is near the delta of the river, and rest of the city. We spent most of our time in Old Quebec since it was where all the touristy places were. The European vibe was all around the city; the cobblestone roads, three-story townhouses, and also French that was used everywhere. I could have easily forgotten I was still in Northern America.

Portland was the last place added to the itinerary, but it was my favorite out of the three. Time seemed to slow down while I was there. The ocean, the breeze, the trees and the people made it feel like a quintessential American summer. I’d love to spend some time there every summer just to enjoy the view. I can now confidently say that my happy place is the ocean and lighthouses! 

Summer vacation was something I had taken for granted until this year and will probably continue to miss for a long while. I’m sure there are other aspects of my current life that I also take for granted till later. I will strive to be more content everyday and enjoy each moment as it comes. How have your summer been?

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