Birthday Blogpost: 10 Lessons (or Thoughts) Collected This Year


A list of lessons learned in my 29th year: [See also: 28th / 27th / 26th ]

1. To take a good picture: first, take notice. Second, take your time. Then, capture the moment. Finally, take pride. 

2. To cope with stress: practice short term memory. I believe others call it optimism.

3. When you're lost: ask for direction.

4. When you've lived up to your potential, explore what else you may be capable of (or barely capable of... or capable of with a bit more time and practice), including tangential interests.

5. You aren't exercising patience until you're aware that you are. Then, exercise patience.

6. The right pairing of chocolate and wine is the true embodiment of a sum being greater than its parts. 

7. Learning about history is more interesting when it falls into one of these categories: 1) it pertains to your heritage or an aspect of your self-identity, 2) you are walking the streets on which it took place, 3) it is a raunchy BBC drama, or 4) it is a hit, hip hop Broadway musical.

8. Neither music, nor art, nor writing require an audience; its right to exist is self-evident.

9. When you're not sure where to begin: begin in the middle. Then, work in frantic-yet-methodological circles and spirals and squiggles and doodles. Then, work on a second draft. The very beginning of anything is always the most elusive.

10. The term "hipster" arguably once implied counter-culture or fresh or young or even nothing at all except something to deny when called as such, yet it's become synonymous with 'overplayed', 'cliché', and even 'bastardized'. I fear that every corner of my life as an (albeit, late-) 20-something has been gentrified with a culture that wasn't supposed to be mine, like I've stolen a trite millennial idea of a trophy life and haven't stopped running. How can I not feel this way when I make burgers out of brown rice and zucchini instead of pork sinigang with extra rice and escape the country for a Insta-worthy rendezvous for Thanksgiving instead of attending a loud Filipino family party? One day I will look back at the 2010s decade and insist to my kids that my millennial hipster life was lit whilst wondering what what type of culture to pass on to them, but until then: fellow millennials, does hipster life continue on into your 30s?

Maybe the targeted advertising algorithm and echo chamber of shared interests (and increasingly small world) has unjustly caused me to believe my life is the worst iteration of "hipster". In truth, I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by friends and family who introduce me to new experiences and fan the flames of interest in hobbies I would have otherwise never thought possible for myself.



I'm not sure what to put a cap on. Number 29 was neither quite a beginning nor an end. It was the meaty middle of a life that I've long known to be spinning out and away of any semblance of Life Expected. 

I'm past huffing and puffing and stumbling and wheezing. I'm past the runner's high, the chirping birds and buzzing bees, and seeing the neighborhood with a different perspective á la endorphins e adrenaline. I'm at a fuzzy mile-15-18. I'm lost in thought while letting thoughts run through me and past me.

I have a million and a half things to be thankful for... yet the numbness required to cope with overwork and vicarious trauma too often turns into unsolicited short-term memory. So instead of getting on my knees, I march on. The eternal sunshine of my spotless heart is groggily coming to after a year of an emotional coma.

I barely remember what happened in this past year... at least, not as fully and deeply as I would like. As with previous years, airline miles were my recreational drug of choice. Here is a list of mile-markers throughout the year:
  • Baltimore: Nostalgia meets wonder, pride, and beauty in a summer reunion with my other-life sister. 
  • NYC: The sixth sense proves triumphant in the birthday surprise that was not a surprise; the gang is reunited for a we-could-be-anywhere night and day out on the town for hipster eats, copious glasses of wine, cupcakes, and NYC-living.
  • Athens: Activity-packed; mile after mile of history and architectural mystery. And graffiti.  
  • Santorini: The site of this year's annual summer solo-travel commencement. Luxurious laziness settles; coastal views stretch for miles. As the hours, minutes, and days mount, so too the inner quiet I hadn't realized I'd been seeking.
  • Venice: On first arrival at 10 o'clock at night, as the motor of the water bus roars and romantic cafe patrons dine along canals, I am overcome with happiness for my 16-year-old self. Adolescent me knew nothing about travel--yet I dreamed of striped gondola drivers, accordion music notes dotting the night sky, and delicate canal bridges. Our arrival in this archipelago town signifies my own arrival. I'm surprised at the peace I feel with the realization that I've come to the end of teenaged-April's Life Goals List. Nowhere left to grow? No, but everything hereafter is unplanned icing on the cake.
  • Rome: My co-captain and I squeeze two lives in the time of one. Who says you can't work full time and play full time?
  • Turin (and around): An introduction to Italian life. Food, food, food, food, and food. 
  • The Grand Traversata della Alpi (The Italian Alps): Views so stunning, they rob purpose from the dreamworld. 
  • Pacific Crest Trail (50 miles of desert): I didn't know that my partaking in this trip was a simple question I was asking myself: can I? Answer: Yes, barely.
  • Irvine: Food, food, food, food, and food.
  • San Diego: Marathon #5, valuable family time, and skydiving (aka the biggest, most nauseating, adrenaline rush I've ever known and would whole-heartedly do again, 15 times out of 10), 2 NFL games, a devastating loss in the family, birthday celebrations, brewery crawl, and cherished times with even more highly cherished high school friends. 
  • South Bay trips (Halloween, ramen again and again): Will you be craving ramen 3 hours from now? Let's go! And once, the same ramen spot a mere 5 days later.
  • Santa Rosa: Countryside views and free glasses of wine--I don't recognize myself anymore either.
  • Banff: Sister time and Aurora Borealis sighting #3 (unique every time). Plenty of hiking, wild-animal-run-ins, and no sleep for 3 days.
  • Alaska: A full, unplugged, deep-dive week of adventure and relaxation. Aurora Borealis sighting #2.
  • Hawaii: Happy Retirement, Dad! 30 years of hard labor, stress, and sacrifice for your family and fellow servicemen. Untold stories finally come to light, leading only to more pride.
  • Arizona (twice): Desertscapes, snowy, alabaster foggy canyonscapes, red rock, and Sonoran Mexican food.
  • Tahoe: 6 hour slow trek through a blizzard and worth-it Christmas morning views.
  • Nashville: The gang's all here; nature walks, dead deer, city walks, Thanksgiving feasts... everyday for a week... and a surprising feast of Jazz music to boot. 
  • Santa Cruz: Tinyhouse in the woods, complete with outdoor bathtub and compost toilet. Brazilian brunch, roadtrip, and beach walks without beach weather.
  • Joshua Tree: Hiking + clement weather + friends + California Super Bloom
  • Oakland, hosting the Aba-bros: Ice cream, food, ice cream, food, food, followed by ice cream. Repeat for 3 days (or something to that effect).
  • Oakland, hosting Tita Lloyd: another childhood dream come true, this time of having family from the Philippines in the U.S. Ice cream (of course) and SF tourist things.
  • Oakland, hosting Ayumi and Andy: Proof that true friendships stand not only the test of time, but of geography. 
As for me, what did I do with/for/by myself this year? I finished my 3rd year of teaching in Oakland. I nurtured the hell out of the most important relationships in my life. I worked way too much. I let go of the past. I intravenously overdosed on movies, documentaries, books, podcasts, and social media. I felt guilty about not exercising enough. 

Cheers to 29 years of a curvy paths, jagged peaks, and desert plateaus. I predict next year to be a formulaic sequel of subplot drama, high-def 4K clips of mouth-watering food, and that "I refuse to explain or defend myself" comfort feeling you get when you re-watch episodes of Friends or Gilmore Girls. Despite the expected reprise, again I line up at midnight with anticipation, promise to devour the v10.0.1 as though it's brand new, and hope to walk away appreciating the soundtrack and other-worldly scenery.