Wednesday, December 30, 2015

15 things about 2015.

Well. It's been a year. I already blogged about the things I loved this year, now here's the (annual) list of what I've learned...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

15 things I loved in 2015.

I'm still working on my annual "year-ender" blog post, but in the meantime, I wrote a list to help me procrastinate on my other list.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

letter to 2015.

Dear 2015,

I don't know what kind of letter this should be. A farewell note? A thank you? A "fuck you"? I'm leaning toward the last one a bit, to be honest, because despite all of the lovely things that did happen this year (a new job, fun travels, checking things off my bucket list), there was a lot of shit that I can't quite shake.

I entered the year recovering from a death, only to experience more of it sprinkled throughout the past 12 months, including additional moments where the reality of death comes closer than you'd like for it to come. In the process of all of the grief, I found myself pulling away from some people and heading toward others. In the heartache of it all, it was easier to drift from people who felt distant than to keep trying to connect because isn't it easier to be the one choosing to lose people than to watch them get taken away so unexpectedly?

No. Perhaps it's just as difficult.

Friday, November 20, 2015

what is 'success'?

It's official: I've been elected as Mayor of Procrastinationville. I meant to write this blog a month ago, and even crowdsourced responses to help write it. And then for a variety of reasons, I had to put blogging aside for a bit, but then I watched Hank Green's latest YouTube video and it spoke directly to what I've been wanting to write about.

Over the summer, at the annual Asian American Journalists Association National Convention, somebody asked me what my advice was in order to become successful.

That's an odd question to answer. We all have different definitions of success, and I honestly do not consider myself to be "a success." As cliche as it sounds, I'm a work in progress in every aspect of my life. I'm successful at some things, and not so successful at others.

But then that makes me sound like a humblebrag, right? I just genuinely don't know if there's one thing I could say that can help someone achieve the success they'd like. I have bits of advice in my heart and in my brain that can help someone on their journey through different situations. (Which, by the way, was the original direction of this blog: what's the best advice you've ever received?)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

I refuse to believe I know everything.

There's a tendency to be a know-it-all these days--or at least to think you know it all. The internet and our smart phones make it easy to Google any topic, and a cursory glance through the first few headlines on a search results page can trick us into thinking we "get" something.

It's something I know I'm guilty of, and I'd argue that most of us do it without even realizing it. "Oh yeah, I browsed a longread on that this morning," is what we're really thinking when we're saying out loud, "Yes, I read that and am knowledgeable enough to discuss it."

Sunday, October 25, 2015


A couple of weeks ago, a piece in the Washington Post nailed something I've been thinking a lot about lately. You can read it here before continuing on with this one.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

how to get away from losing your temper.

You know those moments where you can feel your blood boiling over something someone said? Or maybe it's something that happened that causes you to want to have an immediate reaction--a reaction that isn't positive at all.

If you have a short temper, you're probably familiar with that feeling. I know I am. I got my impatience from my father, who has the shortest temper of anyone I know. Having a short temper doesn't make you a bad person, but it can turn you into a negative one that nobody really wants to be around.

And that's not a great feeling, is it?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

here's a story.

My life, in real texts.
I'm really good at telling really bad stories.

Well, the stories aren't really bad. They're actually pretty good stories, I'm told. They usually all are somewhat embarrassing for yours truly, but I find myself better at telling you about something stupid that happened, rather than something good.

I think it's all those years of studying the art of a good narrative, which has taught me when to hit the right notes and the right punchline. Anything from falling flat on my face on the sidewalk to getting thrown a metaphorical curveball in the midst of a conversation can end up being something funny and shocking enough to warrant a laugh. (Have I told you about the time my laptop monitor burned out in college and the Genius Bar guy gave me a lollipop to stop me from hyperventilating? Or the one where this Fuck Boy soberly made a move and then followed it up fast with a basic "jk!" Or that one time I mixed up salt and sugar when trying to make a cheesecake?)

It's a defense mechanism of sorts. Rather than wallow about the awkward thing that happened, it's better to find something to laugh about. I don't know how healthy that is in the long run, but it keeps the sun shining high whenever something makes me want to dive under my covers and hibernate.

Or I just think I'm funnier than I actually am, which is probably, most likely, totally 100% true.

Monday, August 31, 2015

NaBloPoMo: goodbye.

Happy August 31st!!!

Happy end of National Blog Post Month--which, as I pointed out on day one, is every month if you want it to be.

First, the real talk: this was really exhausting. I had work! I did a lot of traveling! I had a lot of meetings! I wanted to sleep in on weekends! And yet, I was at my computer typing away--and yes! I did write every day. I only pre-scheduled one post because I was in DC without an internet-abled computer, but every post I either wrote the day of publishing, or I started writing the night before and finished it the next day when I published.

Or I woke up really fucking early (I'm talking 3 a.m.) to write. It was stressful. I mean...writing once a week is hard enough--not that I ever kept that schedule. If you know me and this blog (I write this as if I have all these avid readers and loyal fans, which isn't true so sorry for the weird sense of self-importance LOL), you know that I don't publish on a normal schedule.

But as exhausting as this whole thing was, it brings to my second point: I'm really glad I did this.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

leftovers: August. [NaBloPoMo 30]

I know, I know--August isn't exactly over yet. But two things: 1) I need a break after NaBloPoMo is over, and 2) this is the last month of "leftovers" before we hit repeat months! My first "leftovers" post was September 2014. So what happens after that? I don't know--I'll keep doing "leftovers" posts probably, but will now have to change the headlines to add years.

Anyways. Onto August! Here's what I'll say about August: August was exhausting. Because of these blogs--and I'll get to more of that in my "goodbye" post tomorrow. (Not that I didn't enjoy blogging every day...but, damn.)

This summer has felt very travel-heavy, which I think is actually pretty accurate. I posted a lot of photos from August on my social networks, so I don't have tons of leftovers--and there are tons of photos that others took of me (at AAJA, for instance) that I haven't seen yet, so I didn't even take that many photos on my own. Also, I've already posted photos for yesterday's post filled with #AnnaAndElsa I'm just rambling now. So here we go:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

the adventures of #AnnaAndElsa. [NaBloPoMo 29]

"Do you want to build a snowman?" ("But it's the summer!")
I was at the Hallmark store a few weeks ago buying cards when I noticed their Itty Bitty collection of Disney characters. Among the adorable sets: Anna and Elsa from Frozen. If you've seen the film, you'll understand why it was widely cheered as a story of sisterhood--and why I had to buy a set for my sister and me!

Because we live across the country from one another, we barely see each other. This year, though, we've seen each other quite often--and the last week and a half is the most time I think we've spent together in awhile!

After a week and a half of photographing our adventures from San Francisco to New York to DC, here's a quick snapshot of the fun we had (in video format so as not to overload the page with photos). There were some photos I left out (both Na and I were posting quite a few to our social media networks throughout the week already) because it's already a long video, but I'll probably upload the rest to Facebook at another time...

Shoutout to all the people who stared awkwardly at Na and me while we took these photos! The zoo was particularly entertaining as we made our way up to the front of Tian Tian's enclosure for our dolls.

See you again in a week, Na/Elsa!

Friday, August 28, 2015

measuring by moments. [NaBloPoMo 28]

Last year on my 25th birthday, I asked friends and family members to send me thoughts about turning/being 25, and what they would've liked to have known when reaching that milestone. That "quarter-life crisis," as it's known.

I took some quotes and thoughts from those letters and added them on a bulletin board in my room. Earlier this week, after a particularly crappy day, I went home after work and crawled into bed and was listening to a podcast when I looked up and focused in on this:

"There's no such thing as a quarter-life crisis. Just everyday life. We're always going to go through changes. We just believe this is our last chance to be the superstar we were always meant to be."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

TBT: survey says... [NaBloPoMo 27]

I deleted my Myspace years ago, but the memory of "all things Myspace" remain very much alive in my (and, let's face it, all of our) brain(s), from "Top 8" boxes to default songs. Thinking back to Myspace, the strangest thing was that massive message board/mailbox that let you shoot bulletins out to the world. I guess it was an early form of Facebook's news feed, but weird because it was formatted like an inbox and you had to click into posts to actually see them, which feels a little more personal than scrolling and occasionally pausing.

Those were the "early days" of oversharing, I suppose. Well--those and old email chain letters. Remember those in all their Comic Sans glory? The evolution of how we share things always fascinates me.

So in honor of Thursday and "throwback Thursday," I found an old Myspace survey online and decided to fill it out with answers from today:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

guest post: the lost art of following. [NaBloPoMo 26]

This is the second guest post on my blog...we're on a roll! I've known Cortney for about 12 years now and have had the pleasure of experiencing so many ups, downs, and in betweens with her since we met--from breakups to road trips to Shakespeare adventures and more. She's one of those people I could talk to every day for a week and not get tired of our conversations, or go a month without talking to her and then we'll end up on the phone talking about how social media can change the world and it will feel totally normal.

Cortney is also one of the most thoughtful, wonder-filled, and eloquent writers I know, so it's an honor to include her words on my blog. Take it away, Cortney...!

* * * * *

People tend to think of me as a bold and independent type. I ride horses, I dance on stage, I travel. I try new things with minimal hesitation and am not afraid to pick up and move across the country with a couple weeks’ notice, my pair of ex-racehorses in tow.

The thing is, none of the defining experiences or decisions in my life have ever been my own idea. Every “cool” thing I’ve done, every place I’ve been, every career interest and hobby and what-have-you that makes me me, down to the music I like, is something I picked up from someone else. My identity is a mish-mash resulting from the fact that I am always willing to entertain somebody else’s suggestion.

In other words, I am a follower.

In a society where we glorify the driven visionary, the true identity, the courage to stand by what you believe and relentlessly pursue your dreams, this realization was at first a shameful one. Be a leader, they say, not a follower. If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?

Maybe I would. Maybe they know something I don’t know.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Worst Case Scenario Girl. [NaBloPoMo 25]

I just read this lovely little book by Andrew Kaufman called All My Friends Are Superheroes. It's a world where everyone has a superpower (except for the protagonist, Tom) and are known by their superhero/heroine personas--and not all of them are exactly positive: there's The Sloth, who sits on his couch, "paralyzed by all the things he wasn't taking care of," and there's The Stress Bunny, who absorbs everyone's stress (which is why she's always invited to parties).

Or there are the superpowers you think might be great, like how The Seeker can find his way anywhere, even if he's never been there before. "But since this is his superpower and he defines himself through it, the Seeker gets quite upset and fidgety whenever he reaches a destination. He has to immediately turn around and head somewhere else."

Having a superpower, in Kaufman's book, isn't exactly about saving the world. I think if I had a superhero name, I'd be Worst Cast Scenario Girl.

Monday, August 24, 2015

memories. [NaBloPoMo 24]

Facebook's "On This Day" feature has provided both entertainment and a sharp sting. A bit of nostalgia to start each day can be OK, but there are some reminders that I'm not sure I care to see--that post from an ex-friend/boyfriend, that reminder of an event I pretended to enjoy, those statuses that make me cringe (remember when you had to complete the "[name] is..." format?).

Looking back on these posts, I can't help but think: if someone were to reconstruct a timeline of my life, would they base their assumptions on my Facebook timeline? Because...that would be somewhat worrisome. Take today, for instance:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

coffee shops. [NaBloPoMo 23]

I have half an hour to write. Probably less. That's how long the free wifi I'm using right now has given me because I forgot to get a two-hour wifi code from the coffee shop register and now the line is too long to make my way back. 

I could just be writing back in my apartment, which is literally across the street, but my room is a mess and there's laundry and dishes to do, and I prefer to write in coffee shops--hence the name of the blog. People have asked me regularly why my blog is called "notes from a coffee shop." I wish I had a more clever and meaningful answer aside from: I needed a blog name. I like writing in coffee shops.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

'slow down.' [NaBloPoMo 22]

There's this episode of Pepper Ann where she imagines the inside of her brain to be filled with mini Pepper Anns who all work different jobs: someone's a front desk secretary, others are workers filing papers away into folders and boxes. When she's stressed, it's chaos because all of the little Pepper Anns have become overworked and are just exhausted and burnt out.

That's how I think about my brain sometime: with tons of little worker bees racing around to make things work. Thinking about that helps remind me occasionally to allow myself to take a break. Because it isn't just me who's becoming exhausted; it's every part of my brain that controls my actions, thoughts, etc. Jason always used to tell me to "slow down" because I was trying to do too much all at once. I used to think, "I can slow down later! I need to work hard NOW!"

But there's value in slowing down--and it doesn't need to be such a negative thing, you know? "Slow down" doesn't mean "stop working" or "stop achieving." It means refreshing yourself. "Recharging your batteries," as the saying goes.

In college, I would "slow down" by doing my nails--a process I would drag out for an hour or more. When you are painting your nails, you literally cannot do much else but sit and wait for your nails to dry. It gave me the opportunity to watch a movie or show, or Skype with a friend I'd been meaning to catch up with. It was always nice, and I think that's when I started to realize that "slowing down" only had benefits: I was making time for myself. It's so easy these days to forget to do that.

Whether it's a home manicure or running or folding laundry, I think there's something we all can find that can help us "slow down" while still feeling productive and ultimately good about ourselves. That's a win-win, and I think the little versions of you running around your head will be thankful for it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

guest post: what they don’t tell you about Fuck Boys. [NaBloPoMo 21]

Today's NaBloPoMo post is a guest post by my friend Kristen! Kristen is fierce and one of the most interesting people I know. We share a love of food, writing, and Taylor Swift--among many other things. She's the person I trust to give advice to me straight and to not bullshit around the hard stuff. She also understands when I want to stay in on a Friday night, order takeout, and watch Netflix because there's a 90% chance she'll be doing the same. 

I'm lucky to have friends who are insightful, witty, and just damn good at putting words onto paper. So without further ado, the first guest post in this month's NaBloPoMo (and first guest post on my blog ever!)

* * * * *

In the age of dating apps like Tinder, we have become all too familiar with the term "Fuck Boy." For those of you who have opened another tab to Urban Dictionary it, let me save you the trouble by summarizing it for you like this: Fuck Boys are guys who seek relationships purely for self-gain and show no remorse for the trail of broken hearts they leave behind them. I wish I could sit here and ramble on about my past relationships (all two of them) and wow you with funny stories and infinite words of wisdom of having to deal with these types, but I can’t. It’s pretty dang hard to point them out sometimes. Like Taylor Swift said, “You realize the bad guy is not wearing a black cape and he's not easy to spot; he's really funny, and he makes you laugh, and he has perfect hair.”

Even at 25, I can still relate to wisdom imparted from 20sih-year-old Taylor Swift, which just goes to show you how dang confusing dating and relationships are. 40-year-olds can be as fickle as 15-year-olds. You might meet the one at 27, or you might meet them at 16 and have to wait a couple years. It’s all a great big beautiful mess.

So readers of TGL’s blog, I present to you what I believe to be the situations in which it is hardest to spot a Fuck Boy:

Thursday, August 20, 2015

step by step, stomp by stomp. [NaBloPoMo 20]

In New York City, you have to walk with purpose. Know where you're going, and head toward it with confidence--or at least be good at faking it. (Whenever I think about navigating the streets, I hear Miss Jay Alexander's voice in my head telling me to "stomp it out.")

Someone last week asked me how I was so sure of myself. I let her in on a not-so-secret secret: I'm not all that sure. Like any good millennial, I waver between confidence and anxiety. I slap myself on the wrist when I make mistakes. I feel guilty all too often when I theoretically have nothing to feel guilty about at all.

But sometimes I worry that saying all of that is a way of shrinking behind other taller violets because I don't feel like I quite measure up. Or perhaps you all think I'm fishing for compliments. I'm not. Just ask my closest friends and they'll tell you how often I stress out about...well, everything.

That doesn't mean I know I haven't worked hard. I know that it wasn't just luck that brought me where I am. But that also doesn't mean I don't question whether I'm heading (stomping?) in the right direction from time to time.

Again--no resolution here. I feel like these daily blog posts, while difficult, have been cathartic in some way for me to unleash all of my anxieties and freak outs so that when the autumn rolls around, I'll feel refreshed.

"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

LOOK UP! [NaBloPoMo 19]

The headline of this post isn't even meant as a metaphor for missing the world if you're not careful of it passing you by. I mean it quite literally, and I mean it for a specific group of people: those who text while walking.

The other day, I was on a narrow sidewalk and saw a Walking Texter coming right toward me. In order to avoid a collision, I had to step to the side and wait for her to pass. She barely looked up to acknowledge the inconvenience.

Belle would totally be a Walking Texter
And then in the same day, another Walking Texter barreled right into me despite my attempts to serpentine to avoid a crash. He snarled at me, "Watch it" and kept going.

So I'm strongly considering printing out this message below to hand to those who text while walking because I am sick of all of you.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

'squeaky wheel gets the oil.' [NaBloPoMo 18]

Serious question: how do you handle people in close quarters who are disrespectful? Whenever I hear someone talk down to someone else, it makes me uncomfortable--particularly when it's a man speaking down to a woman using vulgar language. Call me the "PC police," if you want, but I don't think a consistent stream of "fuck you" being muttered at anyone is really all that acceptable.

But I could be wrong.

Of the many discussions I participated in with colleagues and friends last week, I was most struck by the conversations around gender and race in the work environment, and the existence of privilege in some of the most basic workplace negotiations: in promotions, in raises, in generally having your voice heard.

And that's something I don't think is unique for many women in the workplace: do we ask to have our voice heard? Or do we demand? And if we demand, as we see others do so, will we be perceived negatively?

There are no concrete answers to any of these questions, but I still think the conversations are worth having. We need more environments where people can feel comfortable airing their grievances and sharing their experiences, and we need more allies who can help change the status quo.

Monday, August 17, 2015

'happiness can be cultivated.' [NaBloPoMo 17]

Dr. Vivek Murthy at Saturday's AAJA gala
I was really struck by something the Surgeon General spoke about at the AAJA gala Saturday night: "Happiness can be cultivated."

I won't lie and say I'm always a positive person. In fact, just ask me how I feel about the New York subway system, and I'll talk your ear off with complaints for an hour.

But something I've always believed is that happiness should not be tied to your circumstances. Because, often, external factors are just out of your control. Your work environment is terrible? Your living situation isn't ideal? If you let every little gust of wind shake your world and destroy your happiness, then you'll never really be happy. I say this having an avalanche of shit that's come my way over the years--disease, financial struggles, deaths.

But being a negative person only hurts you, after all, and just drives others from wanting to be around you.

It's a struggle to try and practice what's preached. I have trouble remembering this at least half a dozen times a day. The habits associated with having a quick temper don't disappear right away.

But I strongly believe what Dr. Murthy said on Saturday--that happiness is tied to longevity and health. I think about some of the perpetually negative people I know, and they always seem to be battling an illness of some sort or complaining about an oncoming illness. Don't we all need to find a way to balance out the negative energy? Life is already hard enough.

A final note before I get off my Soapbox of Ranting: embracing happiness is a choice. Have the agency and the bravery to commit to it.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

walk tall. [NaBloPoMo 16]

We all have a side of us reserved for the public. For me, and for those moments when I'm very much in public, the version of "Traci" that comes out is one who makes lots of hand gestures and uses bigger or buzzier words. I don't think it's deliberate--it's just something I'm used to doing when trying to present myself as an adult or as a professional.

And now I've gone and given away my secret! But have I ever pretended to 100% know what I'm talking about? I think I can speak confidently about certain things, but I'm always happy to be told if I'm not accurate in an assumption.

Which brings me to the past few days: I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with so many people that I was starting to get intimidated at one point! To sit on a panel with colleagues I've admired for years, and to meet fellow journalists who are all incredibly talented and intelligent was daunting, and all I could hope was that I came off as someone worth listening and/or talking to.

It was a lot of fun meeting new people and seeing old friends, but I could feel my feet and voice starting to get tired halfway through day two. It's always an honor to realize that the people lining up around you are actually all people who want to talk to you. And I'll be honest: it's very strange and surreal. That's not even a humblebrag. It's a genuine: what do I do with myself while you talk to me??

That having been said: I'm humbled and flattered and will only keep trying to do my best to talk with as many of you as I can while out in the public eye. Thank you to everyone for their kind words over the last few days, and I hope you don't unfollow me on Twitter once you realize how not-very-interesting I am!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

halfway there. [NaBloPoMo 15]

We made it, everyone! At least I (kind of) did. This is the halfway point for #NaBloPoMo, and so far, it's been successful--if not stressful, too.

As I started blogging earlier this month, I realized I wasn't following those prompts that BlogHer suggests in case you have writer's block. Not that I haven't had writer's block, because I definitely have...but I think I'm liking the challenge of having nothing but me, myself, and I to rely on when it comes to pouring out words onto this blog.

For so long with this blog, and even still to this day, I worry a lot about the idea of an "audience." Who's reading this? What if I say too much? What if what I say isn't "worth" anyone's time?

But the answer to all of that should be: who cares?

Friday, August 14, 2015

getting personal. [NaBloPoMo 14]

Between watching one-too-many rom-coms, reading Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance, and talking with my best girlfriends, I've come to the conclusion that I've never been on a proper date. As in: Boy meets girl. Boy asks girl on date. Boy plans more than just, "Let's meet up at happy hour."

Or however that's supposed to go.

But in all honesty--and this is going to be half-embarrassing to admit and mostly amusing--I think I can only pinpoint one "date" that ever felt truly planned, and I'm not sure it entirely counted because it was with an ex-boyfriend and it was an anniversary.

Well, there's another "date" a few years ago that might count, but it ended with me discovering he was kind of racist and then having to lie about having a boyfriend to stop him from stalking me around coffee shops.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

express yourself. [NaBloPoMo 13]

I used to be terrible with expressing my opinions. I originally wrote "I used to be terrible with having opinions," but that isn't true at all. I have opinions. I always have. But I was never too good at saying what they were, especially when I had the less popular opinion of a group. Like how people think vanilla is a boring ice cream flavor, but I actually really like vanilla. (Also, as Mallory and I learned on my last trip to DC, there's apparently a bajillion different kinds of vanilla in the freezer section.)

One of the many things I learned from being friends with Mengfei in college was learning how to speak my mind without being argumentative. It's not something I'm particularly great at, but it's something I've been working on. As long as my opinion isn't guided by factually incorrect information, why shouldn't I want to say what's on my mind?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

my first New York. [NaBloPoMo 12]

I literally waited 10 minutes for the train yesterday, only to take it one stop and realize I'd gone the wrong way. Which is something that's been happening more often than usual lately. I can't figure out if I'm not being very attentive, or if I'm just forgetful and can't remember where I'm going.

I remember the very first time I visited New York (it was at the end of 2011, a month before I moved here), all I could think to myself was "How do people get around??" There were so many subways and platform levels and everyone moved so fast, so confidently. There was almost no way I would be able to keep up if I lived here.

And then I moved here and had no choice but to figure it out. I was desperately terrified of getting lost or getting on the wrong line. The day I took the bus to New York felt like the fastest bus ride. I was dropped off at Port Authority with a suitcase and a backpack and got stuck in an elevator with a homeless man who asked me if his sign was spelled correctly.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

much ado about to-do lists. [NaBloPoMo 11]

I like making to-do lists. In college, Amanda and I used to tape paper to the wall and write out our individual lists: essays, editing, dishes, etc. It was satisfying crossing things off the list and seeing that we've accomplished something.

These days, my to-do lists tend to be on screens. I set reminders for myself on my phone and use my unread emails in my inbox as a way of saying, "Hey, Traci, don't forget about that!" But there something isn't as satisfying about digital to-do lists as there was about taping paper onto a wall and writing on it in brightly colored ink.

Perhaps it's because I spent my entire day staring at screens that the easiest way of reminding myself to do something is through technology. Or maybe I misplace paper more often these days. Does anyone still write physical to-do lists? I'm genuinely curious.

Monday, August 10, 2015

525,600 minutes. [NaBloPoMo 10]

There's a line from Rent at Angel's funeral where Maureen is giving her eulogy and she says, "You always used to say how lucky we were that we were friends, but it was us, baby, who were the lucky ones."

I've been thinking lately about the legacies we leave. What will people remember about me? I know what I wouldn't want them to say, but I think a lot about the footprints I'm making in the metaphorical beach of life. I'm not looking for immortality, but rather for significance--that I made a profound impact somewhere in the world. Isn't that all any of us want?

And yet that thought itself feels a little selfish. Who cares what people say about me when I'm gone? I won't be here to care.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

favorite feelings. [NaBloPoMo 9]

Inspired by this Hank Green vlog on "favorite feelings," I decided to really think about 15 of my favorite feelings...So, not an original concept for a blog, but original thoughts--by meeee--nonetheless...and in no particular order:

Saturday, August 8, 2015

'two kinds of ice cream.' [NaBloPoMo 8]

Sometimes when I'm down, I think about that "Happiness" song from You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown! that we learned in choir one year in grade school:

It's a simple song meant to encourage children to appreciate the little things in life: finding a pencil, two kinds of ice cream, five different crayons. Whether you find these things very happy or not is up for debate, but I like the reminder that small moments used to make us all smile as children.

Although--ice cream and pencils still make me happy, let's be honest. I don't think there's anything silly or immature about finding happiness in some of the things that made you happy as a kid. It doesn't mean you haven't grown up or you're in denial of the realities of life that can weigh you down.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

thank you for being a friend. [NaBloPoMo 7]

Hey dude. This feels weird writing something long to you because we were always rapid-fire texters/Gchatters/emailers/etc-ers. But I'm gonna try right now because I've got a lot in my heart and on my mind. I know I won't be able to get it all out, and there's a lot I'll probably forget, but it's not like this is the last time I'll ever get the chance to say something to you. I know we'll hang out again someday.

2010 New U banquet. You and Mengfei taught me how to class it up.

get ready with me! [NaBloPoMo 6]

Last year, I wrote a blog post in which I briefly discussed my personal issues with my face. You can read that here before continuing on...

As I was writing that, I was slowly building up points on my Sephora account to figure out what makeup could do for me. I used to equate a large makeup box with insecurities, but I've been learning that wearing makeup isn't about hiding who you are, but about bringing out your features (at least, when used correctly!)

Call it vain, if you will, but this is my blog so you're already in my head. (Welcome!)

Who said National Blog Post Month couldn't include videos too? :)

Also, if anyone can teach me how to use an eyelash curler, that'd be great. Thanks to a new medication I've been on, I've had the privilege to regain eyelashes and eyebrows, but because I've gone the last two decades of my life without these things, I don't know what to do about them. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

ambiverted. [NaBloPoMo 5]

I've always considered myself an introvert, although when I say that to people, they immediately push back. "I find that really hard to believe!" someone said to me recently. And while the intention was well-meaning, I can't help but wonder why people think it's not an entirely positive thing to be an introvert.

via The Oatmeal
Or perhaps no one really thinks that, but they assume me saying I'm an introvert is some way of putting myself down. Which isn't true--I think there are wonderful things about introverts and extroverts!

But recently I stumbled upon the term "ambivert," and I found myself drawn to its definition more and more.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

on joy and sadness. [NaBloPoMo 4]

I've been trying to understand this concept of "joy" for awhile now. I think my definition of "joy" for a long time was the same as superficial happiness. To be a joyful person, I believed, was to be optimistic and smiling and upbeat and "in love" with love life. For those of you've who've seen Inside Out, my definition of "joy" was literally character of Joy for the first half of the film.

But over the course of the last year or so, that shifted.

Warning: if you haven't seen Inside Out yet, you may not want to keep reading...

Monday, August 3, 2015

that ring of fire. [NaBloPoMo 3]

There's this scene from Walk the Line where Reese Witherspoon as June Carter has just emotionlessly told Johnny she flushed his pills, and she's in her car driving home when she stops and starts crying. "It burns," she cries softly to herself. "It burns."

I wonder how many people we sit next to each day on the subway in New York who feel defeated on the inside, yet remain stoic on the outside. How many of us feel our hearts breaking or our souls burning over the many million emotions that hit us with every turn. I'd be lying if I told you I never cried on the subway, and I've definitely handed a tissue to someone else crying on the subway too. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

leftovers: July. [NaBloPoMo 2]

It felt like I spent a lot of time on planes and trains in July. Most of my memory of the month comes from the start of it because that trip to California was too lovely to forget. Honestly, most of the photos on my phone this month were from that trip, and I already posted those on this blog.

Life felt like it sort of slowed down a lot halfway through the month. More on that later as I blog my way through August, but for now, enjoy the photos...

Friday, July 31, 2015

NaBloPoMo: hello.

Happy August! Happy my-attempt-to-start-another-project.

Inspired by VEDA ("Vlog Every Day in August"), I wanted to find a way to break out of the creative rut I've found myself in recently. Lately when I've sat down to write, I've gone through the usual process of word vomiting and then overthinking--and then doing nothing about whatever I've just written.

So let's try something else: every month is "National Blog Posting Month" with a different theme at BlogHer. Participation this month is partially a challenge to myself to do what I couldn't do last year, which was attempt to blog at least every other day. I've always struggled with the idea of "an audience," especially on a personal blog, and it would often lead me to waffle on hitting "publish" after writing a post. As I scroll through my drafts, I see so many half-completed thoughts that I never got around to finishing. There was always this need to make it just right before sharing with the world.

But that's silly, right?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

the one where she went to California (part 2).

Santa Barbara (2015)

About a month or so ago, I became utterly determined to write a letter. I wanted to get all these thoughts and emotions swirling around in the "angry" part of my brain out, or at least move them to the part of my brain reserved for "the past." That part of my brain doesn't harbor any resentment or anything; it's just a place where certain memories go that have nothing to do with the present, and while they may have been nice (or upsetting or whatever) at the time, they're just memories now that don't bring about any emotions necessarily.

Anyways, I sat down to write this letter and in the midst of writing it, I felt something shift inside of my brain. Those words that were pouring out of my pen were emptying from the part of my brain I didn't want to keep them in anymore. It felt freeing and lovely, and I never gave the person I was writing to the letter, but that was OK because it wasn't so much about the other person as it was about me needing to understand where I stood on everything that had happened between us.

Which is what this blog was supposed to be about, but now that I've had a bit more time to reflect and a handful of thoughts collected on the subject, I think I'm in a better place to write.

The first photo I took from my NYC living room in Jan. 2012

Monday, July 6, 2015

the one where she went to California (part 1).

I'm a terrible over-planner. I get anxious when I don't have things planned out, but of course life is a lesson in learning to let go of needing everything to always go "according to plan." For my trip around Southern California, I packed very light and figured out what city I would be in on each day, and then let things happen from there.

And it was daunting and stressful, and I always felt like I was letting someone down. I've never been the kind of person to hang out with just one group of friends. I've always floated, which has been both great and not-so-great--great because I love the diversity of the people in my life, and not-so-great because I've never felt like a permanent "fixture" of anyone's life.

But I digress. I began my trip in Los Angeles at a hotel, spent a couple days on a couch in Santa Barbara, came back to LA and spent time in Torrance, then more time in hotels and apartments in Long Beach to end the week. I got to see so many people, and I'm sad I didn't take pictures with every single one of them (Geneva, Christina, Jun, etc.) because I was just too happy to be around people who gave me so many reasons to smile--from friends to family to friends who are family.

I tried to make this just a "leftovers" post, and, for the most part, it is. You can see more of my adventures on Instagram (or on Facebook/Snapchat, if we're friends), but here are photos that didn't make it onto social media (plus a few that did) taken by yours truly and a handful of friends.

(For more June leftovers, see my previous post.)

leftovers: June.

To be honest, June rushed by in a bit of blur because I was just anticipating my Southern California trip at the end of the month (separate post on that here).

The year is half over, and it's weird because 2015 has not been the kindest so far. I've got a lot more to write soon on mid-year resolutions and all that, but I'll save that for a different post when I've had more time to reflect.

It's been a little more difficult to choose "leftover" photos because I've been using Snapchat more (if you're on it, add me @traciglee!), but there's a good number of photos that never made it onto Facebook or Instagram, so here we go...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

what's in your bag?

I'm an over-packer. I like being prepared, even if it means being impractical. Every time I travel, I think about every "worst case scenario" and try to prepare--just in case.

Which is what leads to the anxiety of trying to figure out how to put an umbrella, five different types of shoes, three books, and three purses into one carry-on, along with the other basics I actually need and will use.

I'm going to Southern California at the end of the month for a week and a half--not a long time, but long enough to need more than my PJs and a towel. But I'm also challenging myself to only bring two carry-ons on the plane with me: a backpack and my ukulele. The backpack--a regular, old school pack--will have to carry everything I'll need. It's partially out of necessity (I'm planning to hit several cities in a short period of time), but it's also a good exercise I started in January to stay focused on the important things in life.

I'm already having anxiety about this, to be honest. I need to challenge myself, though. Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

old diaries.

I was about to write a blog about nostalgia, but it's 11 o'clock at night and I have an early morning ahead. And, by coincidence, Dodie just uploaded this vlog and she says quite a bit of what's been rumbling around in my brain. TK.

Monday, June 1, 2015

leftovers: May.

May was a tough month, filled with some of the best and worst moments so far of 2015. Highlights range from covering the first-ever White House Summit on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in DC to visiting Boston for the first time with Minerva. The low points...well, those are other stories for other times--perhaps over a drink or two.

Now, we're officially in a new season, and I really do think there's a lot to look forward to (even with all this rain!)... Onward!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

two-way streets.

I've always hoped to be the kind of person who lived with her whole heart. But I think the natural part of ourselves that keeps even the smallest area of our hearts guarded is hard to overcome, no matter how whole we may sometimes feel. 

Lately, living with my whole heart lately seems to also mean living with a lot of rejection. It means reaching out into the darkness and hoping the person you're reaching out for still wants to make the effort to meet you halfway. And while there are some people who will take the time to follow up, there are often others who wait for you to reach out all the time. For me, it's the latter that I find myself hung up on too often. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

'good little Asian girls.'

It was recently told to me that "good little Asian girls" never rebel. That "good little Asian girls" are happy doing what their parents tell them, and that there's nothing wrong with that because that's just how they are.

That's just how, the speaker assumed, I am.

"That's an offensive stereotype," I protested, but was silenced by the man's reassurance that it was a stereotype for a reason. And, he emphasized, there's nothing wrong with it if that's what makes "good little Asian girls" happy.

I had to pause and ask myself if I should be offended by the ignorant assertion thrown at me. Perhaps this guy just misspoke, or he didn't mean exactly what he said.

And then I stopped myself from stopping myself from being offended and just let the anger bubble up. Why should I make excuses for others' casual racism? Why do I need to command myself to not be offended when I felt uncomfortable? Why should I let someone tell me how to feel about a label that's been placed on me?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

fill-in-the-blank (non) friday: lasts.

This is an old "Fill-in-the-Blank Friday" I've done before that isn't even happening on a Friday, but I'm watching David Letterman's last Late Show, and it feels fitting to blog a bit about "lasts"...
  1. The last thing I ate was  chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. 
  2. The last time I went to the beach was' s been awhile. Last time I filled this out, I had said it'd been over a year ago, and I don't think I've been to the beach since. 
  3. My last vacation was  February. I went back to California for Lunar New Year. 
  4. The last place I drove was  somewhere in Sacramento, when I was still living there. That's also an answer that hasn't changed since the last time I filled this out! 
  5. The last song I listened to was  Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande's cover of "Don't Dream It's Over". It's addictive. 
  6. The last thing I watched on TV was  I'm watching the Letterman finale now! 
  7. The last time I said "I love you" was  eight hours ago via text message. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

'do small things. on repeat.'

I wore yellow yesterday because I thought it would make me happier. But when the lights in the movie theater went down, it just made me sad. You can't see yellow in the dark--but you can't see much in the dark, anyways.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

what would you do if you weren't afraid?

I used to think I was the kind of person who would literally remove selected memories if she could. There were always moments attached to broken relationships, whether they were good or bad ones, that I found myself wishing I could forget. It was a reminder, in the moment, of how easy it was to tie your happiness to another person, and how easily that happiness could be taken away. Every heartbreak, every rejection is just another dent in your armor. 

There's a fear that I think is common among people: it's the fear of vulnerability, of lowering your shield for a moment to let new possibilities step close enough to touch you. It's safer to keep your guard up, but one day you'll get tired from pushing against the door someone else might be trying to open. I should know, I've done it all my life: pushed person after experience after risk away because it was easier to shut down. 

Recently, my friend Geneva posed this question on her blog that I've thought of often, but never had an answer for--until now: "What would you do if you weren't afraid?"

To answer that, I'd have to definitively tell you what I'm afraid of, though none of those fears would result in the action the question is intended to produce (spiders, serial-killer clowns, etc.). But the other fears--the ones I don't often articulate because even saying it aloud scares me--are the important ones in this context to reflect on: I'm scared of being forgotten; of never having made a difference to anyone, anywhere; of never living as authentically as we were all intended to.

What would I do if I weren't afraid? There's an Amy Poehler quote that speaks exactly the truth of my answer: "Continue to share your heart with people even if it's been broken." 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

leftovers: April.

I didn't even realize April was over until I was encoding videos yesterday at work and realized April 31st wasn't an actual thing.

Happy May! One of the best things about April was that the weather was clearly changing and we had our first truly "nice" days of the year. I love when the seasons change because it feels like an opportunity for renewal. I'm really trying to make an effort to commit to things in 2015, and the first thing I'm committing to this year? Rebuilding my life.

Anyways, onto the blog post! April, photo wise, was a bit of a "sharing month," so I don't have too many leftovers to include in this entry...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

don't you know you're valuable?

"I used to be self-conscious about how much space I was taking up."

When I heard Hye Yun Park say those words the other week at a film panel/discussion, I felt a sudden thwack in my heart. All my life, that's something I've written at the top of every metaphorical page of my life story: How much space are you taking up today? 

To me, it was a reminder to stay quiet, unnoticed--not because my parents or my family encouraged it, but because it was something I imposed on myself. I was insecure about my medical troubles and wanted to be invisible. I didn't think I was worth noticing, and that's something I carried with me all through high school and college despite the best efforts of those around me to try to encourage and lift me higher. There would be times I would feel confident that I was worth something; there were many other moments when the insecurities would take over and I'd end up locked in a room panicking about what I was doing.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

grow tall, sugarcane.

Dear Old Friends,

I feel like I'm constantly writing letters in my head to re-introduce myself to you all. You see, the person I was five, 10, 15 years ago is so different from who I am right now, and I have this need to let it be known because I think these changes are for the better. I've grown up. I'm still growing up.

I think there are a lot of things that can cause a person to change: fear, adversity, love, death. And simply living--that, too, is enough to transform a person. At least it should, right? There are times I'll say I wish I could have a do-over, and that I miss certain moments from the past and wish I could recreate them in the present. But what made those moments so gorgeous was the fact that they were fleeting. Moments like that can never really be infinite, can they? I wouldn't want them to be--how else would I have come to appreciate them for what they were?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

how does one not go insane in New York City?

Because my usual convenient subway line is down this weekend (of course, because why would the MTA even pretend like it's improving the system at this point?), I had to take the M11 bus back uptown today -- except that the driver blew past my stop (the second to the last one on his route) because he wanted to make it to the end of his route quickly. I called out to him to stop because I had pressed the "stop requested" button well in advance, and he argued that I didn't and yelled at me to sit down.

After writing a very angry email at MTA that I'm sure no one will read and even if they do, they won't care about it, I stomped the long way back home and back into my apartment to throw my sad, lukewarm groceries into the fridge, and then thought about how that wasn't even the most annoying part of my day. There are so many annoying things that can happen in one day in this city that make me want to scream into a pillow--although is that the most productive way to get past your anger?

I wish I had a more zen-like approach to daily irritants, but I inherited my father's short temper and quick outbursts of anger, so there's got to be another way. I've been here for over three years and I still don't have a surefire way to just "let it go." (I have, however, found superficial cures for being sad and being homesick.)

Any suggestions?

Friday, April 17, 2015

the way I see it: get your own coffee.

A few years ago during an internship, we were strongly encouraged to turn down requests we fetch coffee or run other errands for our managers. The reason, they said, was that we were there as interns to learn how to work in a national newsroom. Managers were encouraged to not use intern as errand-runners.

I can't speak for other interns, but I was never asked to do things like make or buy coffee. One of my managers said to me on the first day, "You're here to learn, so if there's down time, then don't be shy to ask us for something to do." The other manager said he remembered having to get coffee daily for the executives when he was an intern and he vowed not to do that to interns in the future if he was ever lucky enough to be in a position to have interns.

Once I went with another intern to help her get coffee for her department that did require her to do it as part of her internship, and it was time consuming (going to Starbucks at lunch hour in DC to pick up 15 coffee orders = at least 45 minutes) and took away time that could've been spent being useful in another work-related capacity. It was frustrating that that was what was expected of her. There were times they'd send her to get coffee during editorial meetings, and she would miss out on those meetings, which were important to production.

I've never been in favor of sending interns to get coffee, and an informal poll of a few colleagues and friends tells me that I'm not totally crazy for taking this stand. And I'm sure I'll ruffle the feathers of people who think that being sent on coffee runs is part of "paying your dues," but I don't think we should make people do the things we hated doing just because we were treated that way too. I reject the idea that "everyone's had to do it in their internship" is a valid reason to send an underpaid (or, in some cases, unpaid) student or new graduate for a Starbucks run. There are free coffee machines in the kitchen for a reason--quality, be damned. You can get your chai latte later yourself.