The One Where She Went to California (Part 1)

Monday, July 6, 2015 / 1:16 PM

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.)

I packed everything into one backpack and one ukulele case for my 10-day trip! Multiple outfits, three pairs of shoes, two purses, etc...I'm impressed with myself.

First stop: V3 Con, hosted by AAJA-LA! Also known as: where Internet friends meet IRL! It was great getting to see some awesome *mavens* in person and laugh and talk with them. I met Alton for the first time in person at the WHIAAPI Summit in May, and it was fun seeing him on the West Coast this time.

I first met Joz a year ago via phone when I was working on my first piece for NBC Asian America before we officially launched. We talked about Fresh Off the Boat and YouTube and Asian Americans in media, and she's been an amazing person to learn from. What an honor to meet her in person finally!

Joz, taking a photo of the V3 crowd!

I first met Keith through his blog, The Nerds of Color, last year, and have been obsessed with the site's commentary since. It's been great to get him on msnbc, and I can't wait for more opportunities to book him and the rest of the mavens who deserve a TV platform!

First selfie with Monica! xoxo

Another photo with Joz! Thanks for the hugs and inspiring words!

He's OK.

Because Greg and Charles know me better than most, they took me to get pie before dinner and I was the happiest clam.

And then we found art! Art? Art.

I've known Amanda since our second year of college! I miss our lazy weekends and grandma dates in UTC. Being loved by this girl is one of the warmest hugs you could ever receive in the world.

I went off to Santa Barbara after my first leg in LA! Not only did I get to spend time with Alan and Thomas, but I got to see Andrea too! Andrea and I lived together for four years and I love that we've "grown up" together since the dorm days.

Alan had to work a couple of the days I was in town, so Thomas and I got to hang out and enjoy the beautiful weather! He took me on a tour of UCSB--here's a replica model of the campus in one of the libraries.

I got to meet Alan and Thomas' cat for the first time! And even though he spent half of my visit hiding in a cupboard, he was fluffy and adorable and I wanted to sneak him into my backpack.


Among the fun things Thomas and I did, one of the most exciting ones was the discovery of all the uses of a food processor! We made a pie! (We also got the lid of the food processor stuck and spent a good part of one day trying to fix it... and then we made almond butter! Who knew it was so easy??)

I also learned how to play Munchkin, which was fun!

And Rummikub!

On the last night, we got clam chowder by the water, and it was delicious. I always forget how amazing bread bowls are until they're sitting right in front of me. Everything about this bowl of chowder was fresh and lovely.

Let me tell you 'bout my beeeest friiiiiiend... Alan and I have been besties since freshman year of college, and I can't even begin to describe how much I love our friendship. Even if we don't get the chance to talk and catch up for a month, we can always pick up like no time has passed. I've had the honor of watching him grow and learn and become this amazing person he is today, and I'm so proud of all he's done.

Back to LA and to Torrance to see my Auntie Karen! She took me to visit with other family members, and then we got to catch up and eat and "window shop" for nail polish. We're a lot alike :)

We stopped to visit my Auntie Connie and my grandma in the San Gabriel Valley. This photo kind of encompasses the best of my family: almost instantly when I arrived, my grandma pulled out every fruit and carb she could find to try and feed me. We don't speak the same verbal language, but that's not the most important thing in life; I love my family because they have always taught me one of the most things you can do in life: show up.

In the end, that's what matters.

Back to DTLA and to more food adventures... before I left for California, my control room buddies told me to go to Eggslut, and I wasn't sure I would have the time...but I'm glad I did because it was delicious. I got a cheeseburger with egg, and I forgot to take a photo of it because I was so hungry.

We went to the Last Bookstore next, which has kind of become an Instagram hotspot (still, an awesome bookstore!). I was mesmerized by this organization by colors.

Tall enough for wings.

Kristen and I then headed to Glendale and found a Sprinkles ATM which both of us had surprisingly never gotten cupcakes from. So we got cupcakes and it was awesome.

Din Tai Fung!

We made several orders, one after another. NO SHAME.

It was fun getting to see David back in California! I feel like every time we hang out, we're eating soup dumplings. Which I have no problem with.

Meeting Princess Penny!

Obligatory mirror selfie for our girl's night out! I haven't been with these three together since senior year of college. We might not talk all the time, but these ladies are my soulmates and I know I can always count on them when I need them. It was great catching up, laughing, and learning I'm not a spider (thanks, Gilliane!)

Another (and a better!) selfie with this lovely lady.

Greg and Charles crashed our girl's night!

I don't even remember where we were or why we took this photo at this moment, but we did and it makes me smile.

Gilliane tweeted this photo, and it makes me laugh because it sums up everything about the night: Monica taking random and hilarious photos/Snapchats (most of the photos in this blog from that night are from her) and us laughing at her.

My favorite thing about Gilliane is her laugh. She's got this sarcastic, dry sense of humor and this infectious smile. She's smart and fierce and I've always been in love with her love of life. She doesn't know it, but I stalk her on social media every day ;)

Kristen inspires me, motivates me, and makes me feel like the world is not too impossible to exist in. She laughs with me, lets me be upset when I'm upset, and has a purer heart than I could ever hope to have.

Four years later, still in love. People say you should choose your friends carefully. I'm glad these girls chose me.

One of my favorite things to do is visit my friends at work! Seeing them grow and flourish in new environments makes me so happy. Here's the Long Beach Press-Telegram "mascot" P.T. at the front of Greg's newsroom!

Kristen and I may have eaten more food in a few days than I've eaten all year. It's one of my favorite things to do in California, honestly, because there's a lot of great food in the Golden State you can't really get (at least, you can't get well) in the East Coast. Hawaiian food is currently at the top of that list.

Caffeinating in order to continue the day...

I loved catching up with newspaper friends, and am grateful so many of them drove out to Long Beach to say "hi"! I've actually known Nikki since freshman year because we worked at the School of the Arts together, and it was great moving through college beside her in various classes and then at the New U. I love hearing about all she's doing in LA and it's been inspiring to watch her work from a distance!

This looks like a serious photo, but Priya and I were more than likely laughing about some of the stupider boy drama we've encountered over the last couple of years :)

Greg took this and it makes me laugh because I was so tired and hungry, and was actually snapping at him to not take a photo--at least it looks like I'm smiling!

The next day, Greg took me to lunch in between reporting on a murder scene and making phone calls to various cops. We went down to the port and had seafood by the water, and I love this photo particularly because he was carrying his reporter's notebook the whole time and I always joke that Greg will be the last print reporter in the world. He's like a brother to me, and I love his dedication to journalism. He's always been one of the best reporters I've had the honor to work with, and one of the best friends I've been lucky to know. A couple years ago when he was in New Mexico and I was feeling down in New York, I remember sitting in Washington Square Park near midnight and talking on the phone with him about not knowing what to do next in life, and even though it didn't solve all of the problems at the time, it made me feel better knowing I had someone to talk to who understood what I was going through.

I'm sure Charles thought I was crazy because I was so excited to go to Trader Joe's and not feel stressed out (if you've ever been to a TJ's in NYC, you get it). We also bought avocados for guacamole!

Post-Fourth of July. I woke up early and was sleepy and hungry, but boys like to sleep in and are impossible to wake up when they don't want to wake up. So I left a note and waffled to a coffee shop a few blocks away. I also got yelled at by a Long Beach cop for jaywalking. Hmph!

Guess who drove out to Long Beach for brunch! I haven't seen Natasha since I graduated. It was awesome hearing about the cool things she's been up to in LA. What a lovely surprise!

Lobster roll! This is what I wish the lobster rolls in Boston were like, but the rolls Minerva and I got while we were there in May were not quite up to par. This lobster roll, however, was delicious.

I wish I'd taken more photos with every single person I saw and hugged and laughed with. By the end of it, I felt a little more whole than when I started the (short) trip. There were highs and lows and in-betweens, and there were people I wish I could've seen that I missed, and places I wish I could've gone if I had more time. But ultimately, it was exactly what I needed. I hope California doesn't forget about me too soon.

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