year in review: 2018
Question: Is there really any non-cliché way to write New Year's blog posts?
I’m not so sure. I’ve written a “Year in Review” post as an annual tradition every year since I started writing this blog (now four years!), but I’ve never liked any of them enough to publish them. I always just realized that I wasn’t writing anything original or interesting; it was always the same sentiment, expressed in different words. Wow, what a year! So much has happened! I felt pressured to distill all of my insights and learnings from that year into a single post and to say something interesting about them.
But last year for my birthday blog post I wrote "24 Moments from 24," and found that I really loved going back through all of my memories. I loved rereading my past blog posts and looking through all of my pictures, some of which I’d forgotten about because a lot happens in year. So I’ve to write a Year in Review that’s less reflection, and more just appreciating all of the best parts of my year—things I did, things I ate, things I read, and things I loved.
Every Year in Review will have a theme. 2014’s was initiative. 2015, transformation. 2016, resilience. 2017, vulnerability. And 2018, relationships. Settling into my life in New York was a process of figuring out my relationships—with myself, with my loved ones, with my communities, with the world. It was a calculated decision to cultivate my relationships with people and to let others go, an analysis of myself and other peoples’ impressions of me, and an awareness of things that I could be doing better. At the end of 2018, I’ve gained a better understanding of other people and a better understanding of who I am as a person.
So here’s my 2018 in a nutshell.
things i did in 2018
survived my first new york winter
I mentioned this briefly in my last postcard, but I think it deserves recognition because I have literally never been in weather like this, much less in April. And Brooklyn is stunningly beautiful in the snow.
attended a free all-night philosophy lecture series
I went to “A Night of Philosophy and Ideas” for the first time—I recorded some of my takeaways here. I learned so much in just a couple of hours; it was such an amazing experience. I’m going to try to go every year.
started a new job & moved to the city
Moving to Manhattan feels like the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, the same kind of romantic fulfillment in the movies with a fresh-faced girl stepping off a Greyhound and bathing in the glow of city for the first time. I spent a full year in Brooklyn and as much as I adore it, I’m decidedly a city girl at heart. Brooklyn is new, hip, artsy; but Manhattan is a glittering gem of an old soul, the electrified heart of New York City that prompts starry-eyed artists to wax poetic about its skyscrapers, the frenetic pace that leaves even the most jaded wonderstruck. The unique charm of Manhattan is its energy; that aliveness that always leaves you a little bit breathless with awe, the hum of the city that stays with you long after you’ve retreated back to the warmth of your apartment. And when it snows everything is blanketed in silence and stillness and you revel in the surreal, serene quality of it all. I love it so much. I finally feel at home in this strange and wonderful city, a sense of calm in the quiet chaos of it all, and so grateful that I get to live here.
Edit: My mentor sent me this and it’s a lovely example of brands understanding the local essence.
I especially love walking around my neighborhood in the winter, when the stark geometry of the bare trees is crisp against the grey sky and the icy wind whips past your cheeks. It’s bitterly cold, but I love it still, even when it’s a little bit torturous to slip out from under the warm down blanket and into the frigid city air. My favorite route to take to work is a little street near my apartment home to some of the most beautiful architecture I’ve seen—apartment buildings with heavy glass doors decorated with wrought-iron lattice frames, French-Colonial-style apartments painted blue and green with their hexagonal windows, buildings with stone arches and sandy-colored stoops and wooden doors. The street is shaded by trees and the sidewalks have narrowed over time because the roots have outgrown everyone’s expectations. It feels hidden away and preserved in time, a little slice of Old New York in the midst of a bustling city. I like to think that people used to sit and read the paper on the stoops in the heat of the summer.
I have a new favorite bar in the city, which truly makes me feel like a local. It’s similarly invisible to anyone not paying attention, tucked between apartment buildings with a nondescript wooden door hidden under a stone staircase. I'd always passed it on my way home from work, admiring the candlelit glow through the frosted windowpanes. I like Sunday evenings because it’s typically empty, and it’s a nice, quiet place to savor a drink. The first time we went, our now-favorite bartender Orson made us customized drinks and a little “tonic shot,” a flambéed concoction made of honey liquor and lemon because Melissa mentioned she had a sore throat. But what I like most about it is the fact that it’s unnoticeable unless you know where it is; the kind of place you have to stumble upon when you’re just walking past, an unexpected haven of warmth and comfort on a cold night in the midst of the crowded city.
The one international trip I did take this year was to Copenhagen, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, and Kiel in August. It was nice to spend time with my whole family, and to revisit some of the places we’d been before. I discovered a fondness for borscht and a newfound appreciation for travel photographers.
One of the most exciting updates this year: I’m a cat mom now! When I told people I was getting a cat, the most common response was, “I’m surprised you don’t have one already.” But this is my little gem, Mia, and I’m absolutely obsessed with her.
She’s a petite little Bombay I adopted from Brooklyn Animal Action, and she’s hilarious. She’s very curious and a little weird, even for a cat; her foster dad says she’s the funniest cat he’s ever met. She’s extremely discerning, highly food-motivated (she’ll do just about anything for chicken and will leap up onto the counter and steal food out of the pan if I’m not careful), and pretends not to love affection but is actually secretly soft. So essentially she is me in cat form.
I specifically wanted a black cat, because I like their history as witches’ familiars and I just think they’re really beautiful, but also because they’re adopted a lot less frequently than other cats. Brooklyn Animal Action even has a program called “Little Panthers” which is dedicated to helping black cats get adopted—it’s how I found Mia! It’s just sad that a lot of people don’t like black cats because they’re “unlucky” or because they don’t think they’ll photograph well. Those people are wrong. A lot of people think Mia looks like a soot sprite from Spirited Away or Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon.
She was born in Brooklyn in the wild and was originally trapped and spayed with the intention of being released, but they saw potential in her for adoption so they kept her. She’s a smart cat. When she was a kitten, she was notoriously elusive—she would just go into the traps, carefully avoiding the triggers, take the food, and run way.
When I got her, she was very quiet. Her foster mom said that she didn’t really make noises, except a little “mrrrp!” sound when she played, which was unusual considering Bombays are normally very vocal. But as she’s become more comfortable, she’s started using her voice a lot more. A lot more. She talks all the time now—to let me know that she’s hungry or excited or annoyed. Sometimes she makes this strange noise, almost like a human cry. She’ll do it for like twenty minutes. It’s the funniest thing. Cats don’t really meow naturally; they do it to communicate with humans, so I’m still not sure what she’s trying to tell me. My theory is that she’s mimicking me saying “hello?” when I greet her, because of the inflection. But it’s probably more likely that she’s just figured out that she can talk and is just babbling, like a child.
She’s getting better about being petted—when I met her in foster care, I was one of only two people that were able to touch her. But lately, when she gets sleepy and more relaxed, I’ll put my hand under her chin and she’ll rest her tiny little head in my palm. It makes my heart absolutely melt. One of my favorite things is lying in bed and petting her squishy little cheeks. She’s made some great progress; I’m so proud of her and I’m excited to keep working with her.
tokimonsta x zhu
My friend Kai dragged me out to a warehouse concert in Brooklyn, and I agreed because a) he works so much that he never goes out and b) he guilted me into it so that he wouldn’t have to third-wheel his friend and his friend’s girlfriend. And ZHU is my sister’s boyfriend’s favorite artist so I’ve heard a lot about his shows, both from him and from my sister. And it was actually the most fun I’ve had at a show in a minute. Both artists were so good, and the bass was so loud I could feel my whole body vibrate when it dropped. I have never felt so tiny. TOKiMONSTA was super cute; I have great respect for her after learning she lost her hearing and had to relearn how to make music. And ZHU had the trippiest visuals—I was 100% sober but I was absolutely transfixed. He definitely knows how to perform. Apparently he does the same things at all of his shows, so Marisa and I have the same exact pictures from two completely different shows in two completely different cities.
When I read that Twitter x Chrissy Teigen were hosting something called #CRAVINGSFEST, I immediately bought a ticket, because I adore Chrissy and I love experiential events that involve food. I had planned on buying her second cookbook anyway, and this ticket came with entry to the event and a signed cookbook. Perfect.
There was lots of food, cooking demos by her mom and John Legend (he made his famous fried chicken, so six people got fried chicken personally prepared by John Legend), a Q&A with Chrissy and John, photobooths, an open bar, and a mini pop-up with all of her cookware from her Target collection (pretty much all of which is on my wish list).
Twitter was the perfect co-sponsor—we left with a #CRAVINGSFEST tote bag, a Twitter-branded apron, a signed copy of Cravings 2: Hungry For More, a BECCA x Chrissy Teigen compact that I actually quite liked, and a couple of other goodies. It was actually one of the best-executed events I’ve been to. There’s a lot of negative press about disastrous conventions (ever heard of BrunchCon?), but everything went smoothly and the food was actually really good, because they were recipes from her cookbook. I’ve followed Chrissy on Twitter for a while, so seeing all of her culinary endeavors come to life was especially exciting. She’s impossibly perfect-looking in real life. I don’t know if it was the highlighter or the fact that she had just given birth, but she was glowy AF. And Luna is adorable.
Kevin and I went to California for our friend Korinne’s wedding back in October. We actually did six cities in total: LA, Santa Barbara, Big Sur, Sonoma, San Francisco, and Morro Bay. I realized when I graduated college that I had never really explored much of California, so I was excited to finally see Big Sur and Morro Bay, which I’ve always seen in pictures.
First was LA—Kevin showed me around his hometown and we went to The Arboretum.
We stopped by Isla Vista for a quick minute, which still has the most picturesque sunsets I’ve ever seen. It was so strange being back, because visiting was like stepping into a beautiful, idyllic bubble hidden away from the rest of the world. Paradise in a snowglobe.
But we agreed that our favorite part of the trip was waking up in a cabin in Big Sur to muted sunlight filtering through the trees. It was completely quiet except for the sound of some birds and running water. We stepped outside and realized that the river was right behind cabin, just steps from the kitchen.
It was equally beautiful driving up the coast the next day. I made him pull over so I could take pictures, and it was completely worth it. It was an unreal kind of beauty, straight out of a postcard. I don’t think I’ve ever seen bluer water, except possibly in Hawaii. Standing on the cliff, overlooking the Bixby Bridge and feeling the California sun warm our skin and the wind skim past our faces, felt like a dream.
Then up to Sonoma and San Francisco.
The worst part of the entire trip was the six-hour drive from San Francisco to Morro Bay. Google Maps said three hours. It was awful. I think we both were completely dead after. But we made it! And the wedding was lovely, at sunset overlooking the water.
After a whole year and a half of living just four hours away from Gwendolyn, I finally visited her!
The last time I had visited D.C. was back in 2010. I can’t even remember exactly why we were there. I just remember we went to all of the memorials and museums—lots of museums. I remember learning about hidden cyanide capsules at the Spy Museum and the 9/11 exhibit that made me cry at the Newseum.
This time we went to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery to see Barack and Michelle’s portraits. It was amazing. Just a really pretty building; the high ceilings, wrought-iron railings, and beautiful tiled floors reminded me a lot of the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow.
We went to the gallery of all the presidential portraits, and that was a wild ride (starting with my favorite picture of George Washington, because he looks extremely exasperated). It was so strange to see all of these presidents painted (literally) in such a noble light, when we know now that they’ve contributed some truly awful things. Rather than read the portrait inscriptions and artist statements, we read this excellent Twitter thread dragging all the U.S. presidents while we walked around. “This was the best possible audio tour,” Gwendolyn remarked, and I 100% agreed.
When we got to Barack’s portrait, I was overwhelmed. Gwendolyn had told me that it was much better in person, and she was right—it was stunning. The colors, the sharpness of the lines, the expression on his face. It stood out so brightly that all the other portraits appeared to fade into the background. I love that he chose a black artist to paint the portrait that will hang in that gallery forever, and flowers that represented his heritage. It was thoughtful and meaningful—a perfect tribute to Obama himself as a person—and I adored everything about it.
It makes me sad that our current president’s portrait will someday be up there. At the very least, it’ll ruin the aesthetics. But I suppose that’s the point of this gallery—to show all of America’s history, even the ugliest parts.
We went to a house party, of all things. None of us knew the birthday person (I don’t even know if it was a guy’s or a girl’s). It was a very strange sensation, to be going to a college-style house party post-college, where everyone has a full-time job and pays taxes but still lives with roommates and is a little bit clueless about furnishing a home. That, plus the instruction to “wear turtlenecks and bring wine” gave the impression of kids masquerading as adults. We did have a lot of fun with the decorations though.
We finished the weekend with high tea at Brothers & Sisters at the LINE Hotel. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’m always looking for a reason to go for high tea, even if that occasion is simply that it’s Saturday. The hotel itself was beautiful—it’s right in the middle of a D.C. neighborhood but from its sandy-colored stone exterior, it looks like it could be a bank or a courthouse. The inside is even more gorgeous. It felt like stepping into a movie. It somehow looked simultaneously old-fashioned and modern, with zig-zag-paneled wooden floors, a spiky brass chandelier, and midnight blue velvet couches adorning the lobby.
This afternoon tea is the brainchild of Pichet Ong, a famous chef. It began with our server bringing us an assortment of teacups on a wooden tray, from which we could choose one, and followed with Asian-inspired small bites. Gwendolyn and I particularly liked the duck wontons and the tahini butter. I’d never had tahini before, but Molly Yeh, a food blogger that we both adore, mentions it often.
In other news, I’ve decided I aspire to someday own an eclectic collection of teacups and saucers. Do people still have china cabinets in their houses? More importantly, do people even own houses anymore?
attended two holiday parties, neither of which was mine
I had so much fun going to the holiday parties for my old agency and Kevin’s agency. Madwell’s was “Old Hollywood” themed, complete with classic movies playing in the background, tables full of popcorn, and everyone dressed up in fur stoles, elbow-length gloves, silks, faux pearls. It was at a place called Syndicated Brooklyn, which had one of the best burgers I’ve had in recent years. Sharon and I got drunk on frozen margaritas and wandered around the perimeter of the party, finally stumbling upon the food table. These little sliders were so good, and I think part of the reason is that I never order burgers at restaurants. I’m always content with fast food burgers like In-N-Out, so I see no reason to pay $20 for a burger at a restaurant. But these were amazing. That place has earned my patronage in the future, solely for that burger.
72andSunny’s was...something else. It was a whole spectacle, at Yamashiro Hollywood, which featured a full Japanese-style garden courtyard with actual koi ponds, acrobats and fire-eaters, small boatloads of sushi, and some casual molecular gastronomy.
It was future-themed (we didn’t know what this meant, so we dressed as future goths—a 21st-century Gomez and Morticia, if you will), which meant a lot of people wore glitter and light-up outfits and colorful wigs. But it was a lot of fun.
hung out in la (again)
Every time one of us visits, Kevin and I have a long list of things to do. It gives us an excuse to play tourist in our own cities.
So we went to see Love Actually at Street Food Cinema, which is one of the best Christmas rom-coms of all time in one of the best settings—we visited historical Victorian-style houses, drank hot chocolate, and watched Hugh Grant dance awkwardly. Great night.
Kevin wanted to celebrate his birthday by running a 5K, so we woke up at 5 am and drove to Long Beach so Kevin could run 1.3 miles and I could wait for 22.5 minutes in the freezing cold. No, I’m not bitter at all.
We went to Roscoe’s for chicken and waffles, and then to the Museum of Death. I was expecting something more like the Museum of Tolerance, which we visited a year ago and still haunts me to this day, but instead it was more like an exhibition of the grotesque. It reminded me a lot of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum or something like that. There were lots of gruesome photos, serial killer letters, and even an instructional video about how to dismantle a corpse. It was definitely a lot of death for one day. The one thing I did find fascinating were the Heaven’s Gate suicides. Definitely one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard. And it happened in my hometown, which is especially insane.
To round out his birthday, we went to The Wolves and Shoo Shoo Baby in DTLA, both of which were gorgeous and a lot of fun. The Wolves is a Parisian-style cocktail salon, which evoked all of the intricate hidden arcades of Paris; Shoo Shoo Baby is a hip post-WWII-style bar with creative cocktails (the “Croix Me A River” was excellent) and a feminine twist. I loved them both. And my sister and her boyfriend made it out to celebrate with us too! We ended the night with tacos, which, all in all, is a pretty good night out.
disneyland and california adventure
Kevin and I went to Disneyland with his family for the first time in a long time—I hadn’t been to Disneyland since before Singapore with my line, and California Adventure since 2007 when my band performed there (to this day, I cannot think of Paradise Pier without hearing “Calypso Carnival” in my head on a loop); Kevin hadn’t been to Disneyland for around five or six years.
One of the things that most impressed me was Cars Land, because the last time I’d been to California Adventure it was merely an idea. But it was amazing—it looked exactly like the Radiator Springs in the movie—I loved glow of the neon signage framed by twinkling Christmas lights and the commitment to the old-fashionedness of it all.
We were extremely efficient and got all of the good rides in—Guardians of the Galaxy, the Incredicoaster, Toy Story Midway Mania, Radiator Springs Racers, Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones—all in just one day. And it was decorated for Christmas, which was lovely. Disneyland is just one of those places that just makes you so feel carefree; you always feel that same excitement and sense of magic when you’re there, both nostalgic and familiar. It’s always fun wandering around the park and marveling at the new developments and returning excitedly to old favorites. It’s always a good time.
celebrated my 25th birthday with my whole family
Kevin and I have very different ideas of what celebrating a birthday means. I opted out of running any 5Ks; for me, my birthday is so close to Christmas Eve and Christmas that I’ve always celebrated it with my family, and this year was no different. My mom took the liberty of inviting 30 of my relatives over for a birthday brunch, so we ordered bagels and lox and had cake.
Of course, “brunch” with my family is never just brunch, and it ended up turning into an eight-hour-long affair, so by the time it was over I was exhausted; too exhausted to go for all-you-can-eat KBBQ like we’d planned. Instead, we made clam chowder (something I’ve been obsessed with ever since I developed what I’m convinced is the perfect recipe), curled up under blankets watching Ocean’s Eleven, and Postmate-d boba to our house. It was...the perfect way to celebrate a quarter century.
christmas eve + christmas
Like I said, there’s no such thing as a small affair when it comes to my family. December 23rd to the 25th is essentially just a long three-day family party, with lots and lots of food, games, and presents, and it’s madness. It’s actually gotten a lot tamer since the kids have grown up a little, so there isn’t as much actual running around the house or a flurry of wrapping paper everywhere during present time, but it’s still madness, and it’s what makes me feel like it truly is the holidays.
things i ate in 2018
black truffle xiao long bao from shanghai asian manor
These combined two of my obsessions: truffle and soup dumplings. And they were amazing. I still dream about these soup dumplings. They are well worth the wait.
spicy italian sausage rigatoni and truffle fries from ruby’s café
There are so many pastas and truffle fries in New York, and they’re all great, but these in particular were a standout. Melissa and I went for dinner when she was interviewing for her job in the city, and so Ruby’s holds a special place in both our hearts.
matcha latte from brooklyn ball factory
I’m very skeptical of trendy matcha places, because I think the popularity of matcha has downgraded the quality of it in food culture. I’ve had really good matcha, and the taste is noticeable (in my opinion, you shouldn’t ever take a place that claims to use ceremonial grade in lattes seriously). But the matcha here was delicious—the flavor was strong and I don’t mind the sweetness. This is the only one in the city I’ve found so far that didn’t taste like pure milk with a little matcha flavoring.
trader joe’s Cold Brew Latte Dessert Bars
I am absolutely obsessed with these—creamy cold brew with a hint of sweetness. They remind me of my very brief love affair with iced coffee in my junior year of high school, when I’d mix it with a ton of half and half and a little bit of Splenda. But I stopped drinking it because it made me too jittery and I added too many things, which to me didn’t count as liking coffee enough to make a habit of it, and I haven’t had it since. But now I always keep a box of these in my freezer. They’re the perfect treat for after dinner, even on the coldest nights, and they taste best when they’re savored very slowly.
trader joe’s butter toffee pretzels
These are exactly what they sound like, and they’re incredibly addicting.
Hand rolls from KazuNori
Chianna and I went here in LA because it’s supposedly very famous, and we were not disappointed. All of the hand rolls are made right in front of you and placed on your placemat, at a cozy little counter right next to Santa Monica Pier. They were all delicious, and surprisingly affordable.
ramen from momosan
This restaurant is from Masaharu Morimoto, and I’m always immediately suspicious of celebrity restaurants. I’ve heard mediocre reviews of celebrity restaurants, from lukewarm feelings about Bobby Flay’s to the scathing takedown of Guy Fieri’s restaurant, but my overall impression is always that although they might be great chefs themselves, it most likely doesn’t translate to the actual food being served.
But this was delicious! The broth was rich and flavorful and the noodles were cooked well. It was also served with a poke bowl on the side with a generous portion of fish for a side dish. And the whole thing was $17. I was pleasantly surprised.
chawanmushi from daikaya
Gwendolyn took me to this place when I visited her in D.C., and we ordered this at the bartender’s recommendation. And it was excellent. I can’t even really describe it. But it was lovely and savory and flavorful—here’s what the menu reads: “Steamed egg custard, silky & delicate, shiitake-truffle sauce, parmigiano reggiano. An ethereal dish of cheese, dashi, & mushrooms for the ultimate umami experience.” I can’t even begin to imagine what went into creating this dish, but it’s pure genius.
tacos from sonoratown
This is a little place in DTLA near Kevin’s apartment, so I think we went something like three times over the course of the two weeks I was there. Good tacos are so simple, but so delicious, and the cashier that we always ran into was always so sweet.
blue crab hand roll from seabutter
Britt and I tried this brand-new place when I was in LA, because we felt like treating ourselves. I ordered the hand roll and we both liked it so much we ordered a second round. Really good crab is such a luxury but it’s my luxury of choice.
Conrad and I went here for Thanksgiving dinner and it was so good, comparable to the KBBQs in LA. In New York I think I often feel choice paralysis when it comes to choosing a restaurant, so I always like to ask people to take me places, and I’m glad we went here. The pork belly was something else. Bonus: there’s a bar upstairs so you can drink and play games while you wait (Tom and I absolutely destroyed Conrad and Jack in beer pong, which was gratifying because I haven’t played since college).
things i read in 2018
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
Holy moly, I highly recommend this book; it reads like a fast-paced thriller and I promise you that however much you know about Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes, the reality of the whole scandal is much crazier than anything you could have imagined. It’s the breathless, real-life account of how a Stanford dropout hailed as “the next Steve Jobs” on track to become the world’s youngest billionaire ended up being wanted by the SEC for fraud. It’s absolutely insane, and essentially the Silicon Valley version of Fyre Festival. I could not stop reading this and finished the whole thing in three days. I was particularly impressed by Carreyrou’s spectacular reporting and storytelling—he interviewed over 300 people connected to the Theranos scandal and in fact was the first to break the story of Holmes’ deception, so he’s uniquely qualified to tell it. This is journalism at its finest. If that doesn’t convince you, the fact that Bill Gates is a fan should.
the seven husbsands of evelyn hugo by taylor jenkins reid
We read this at our agency for our book club, and I actually really enjoyed it. The ending was okay, but the rest of the plot was fast-paced and entertaining, and I was really fascinated by Evelyn herself—an older woman who was unapologetically proud of her sexual agency. I feel like as much as people like to write strong female characters (and this is a great thing), so many of them are 20-somethings, and not nearly enough attention is paid to either end of the age spectrum. Evelyn is a woman that knows what she wants, and her journey through the lens of romantic relationships is both sweet and heartbreaking.
The New York Times’ The 52 Places Traveler column
I obsessively read all of Jada Yuan’s columns on her journey around the world; she’s truly an amazing writer, and she manages to paint a complete picture of each of the 52 places, from Bhutan to Zambia. It’s a reminder that the world is not so big after all, which is a comforting thought in the midst of everything that’s happened in the past two years.
Okay, this one is kind of cheating because I read it in December when it was published, but it's too important not to read. It was like a punch in the gut. I still feel like we're feeling the shockwaves today, especially as more and more men are exposed, but pieces like this really highlight the fact that sexual harassment—which is often brushed off because it’s not rape, it’s “just a joke” and “not a bit deal”—can have very damaging, long-lasting consequences.
I don’t know why I find this so funny, but it’s hilarious and also quite insightful. I am absolutely a Faux Chaos Muppet at heart.
This perfectly explains the reigning aesthetic of the Instagram era and millennials as a generation, and it’s maddening:
The essence of premium mediocrity is being optimistically prepared for success by at least being in the right place at the right time, at least for a little while, even if you have no idea how to make anything happen during your window of opportunity. Even if you know nothing else, you know to move to San Francisco or New York and hoping something good happens there, rather than sitting around in some dying small town where you know nothing will ever happen and being curious about anything beyond the town is a cultural transgression. This is a strategy open to all.
This article was great. I’m a huge fan of Domino’s ever since its brand refresh; it used to be the gross cardboard-like pizza you got at other kids’ birthday parties, but now I think it’s legitimately one of the best fast-food pizzas out there, and that’s a hill I’m willing to die on. This look behind-the-scenes was truly fascinating, and really shows how far it’s come as a business. I also love that the article looks like the Domino’s Pizza Tracker. Just very well done overall.
A long but very fascinating look at how the waves of culture are not isolated phenomena but are almost always predictable, how communication has evolved, and how memes have become a modern form of both social signaling and shared commiseration (I recently attended a lecture by author An Xiao Mina discussing her book, Memes to Movements: How the World's Most Viral Media Is Changing Social Protest and Power and I have a lot of thoughts, so more on this later).
I like that this gives practical advice for being creative. So much advice in creative spaces is simply “let it happen!” but being creative also takes a lot of discipline. As much as I like the idea of organicism, it’s not an entirely pragmatic philosophy. This piece is about managing the same 24 hours in a day that everyone is given, and how to make the most of it.
This is not only a reminder of the importance of a F*ck Off Fund, but also an interesting look at how money = power and how that power can change your life. It’s easy enough to say “do what you love” or “you shouldn’t tolerate that,” but financial power is intrinsically tied to social power, and often times we forget that people who have less of it don’t have as much agency.
Negotiation is an art, one that intimidates me and I have yet to master. But this piece gives so much insight into the psychological process of negotiation, and it’s incredibly useful. Read it before your next interview, or when you’re considering asking for a raise.
Kudos to Britt for introducing me to this writer, Helena Fitzgerald, who writes a newsletter called Griefbacon (a nod to the German word kummerspeck, which means “weight gained from emotional over-eating”). She writes these amazing essays about everyday things, and I’m particularly enamored with the structure of her writing; she’ll phrase something so beautiful that it echoes in my mind for a month, or articulate something that I’ve always felt but could never quite think of the words for. Her free essays are infrequent, but serendipitous—I look forward to getting these in my inbox so I can think about them for the rest of the day.
bloomberg businessweek’s jealousy list
I found this just in time for the end of the year. Maybe it’s cheating to list it here, since it’s a series, but my god, every single one of these pieces is amazing and they all deserve to be read. Stories like this remind me why I love journalism.
God, this piece broke my heart. If you have to for some reason only read one thing on this list, read this.
I’ve followed Tiffany Zhong for a while—she started her career in venture capitalism by tweeting at VCs, dropped out of Berkeley to start her own social insights research firm, and is a great example of using emojis and still being taken seriously for her intellect. I love her.
Britt and I talked a lot about how this piece resonated with us; how these experiences are universal in the Asian community, especially as Asian girls that were raised in predominantly white areas. I hate that Asian women are always (consciously or unconsciously) thought of as quiet, submissive, or non-confrontational; that we are sexualized and fetishized and expected to be grateful because we are universally desired for some sick exoticization fantasy. I hate the surprise in peoples’ voices when they find out that I am not quiet, submissive, or non-confrontational. And I hate that we are so often told not to complain about it because it’s a “compliment,” because we are “the model minority,” because we “don’t have it as bad” as other races. It’s still a hell of a lot of emotions to grapple with, and a challenge uniquely ours.
A testament to how much our culture favors celebrities over survivors, told by a survivor of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Talent (or...whatever Chris Hardwick claims to do) is not an excuse for being a trash human being. It drives me absolutely me nuts to hear debates about whether Louis C.K. is or isn’t funny, because it doesn’t matter; he’s still a sexual harasser.
No one writes like Ta-Nehisi Coates. His eloquence and his articulations about race and identity are unparalleled. And this is a fascinating look at how Kanye West believes his status as a celebrity exempts him from a long legacy of discrimination against black people.
This is one of the best longreads I came across this year. I’ve realized that the best pieces I read always rekindle a longing to return to journalism—the chance to tell real human stories without selling anything, but rather to paint a better picture of their life, and in this case, her death. There are so many stories just like hers, the products of a broken system, that people will never know. It’s such a privilege to hear them, and I like that good journalism keeps people alive in some sense, so that their stories are not forgotten.
I mentioned this in my last Minute Thoughts; it is both extremely useful and proof that as out-of-touch as The New York Times has been lately, there is still someone there who gets us.
I still judge drug addicts, and I know it’s a mindset I need to work on changing. Because I know it’s not their fault, but the stigma runs deep. This was a great insight into how some people get into drugs and why they stay in the addiction cycle.
This piece was written by the subject of one of my absolute favorite stories last year, “The White Flight of Derek Black.” White nationalism is so fascinating to me, because I really can’t wrap my head around why people subscribe to it. But that’s the point. This TEDx Talk from a former neo-nazi is another great example. But it’s also so conflicting. As an Asian woman, I have a visceral reaction to white nationalists. And as someone who has experienced marginalization, it’s hard to be the one to reach across the aisle and be empathetic. And I don’t feel like that’s unreasonable. I know it’s not solving anything. But it’s unfair that it should be the job of the oppressed to reason with the oppressor.
Kudos to my friend Joel for showing this to me. I didn’t grow up with any of the Korean foods that the author describes, and yet there’s a surreal sense of connection I feel to her when she talks about feeling at home in a fluorescent-lit Korean grocery store, and articulates the beautiful idea of food as an expression of love. It’s so incredibly poignant it made my heart ache.
things i loved in 2018
I wore this all winter and it’s still one of my favorite coats because it’s both stylish and warm (a necessity in New York City). I just layer my Uniqlo Ultra-Light Down Compact Jacket (also another favorite, but I bought it in 2017) under it on especially cold days, and it keeps me nice and bundled up.
fenty beauty gloss bomb universal lip luminizer in fenty glow
I haven’t worn lip gloss since eighth grade but this one is so lovely I made an exception. It’s such a perfect, universally-flattering color and the scent is delicious...like sour strawberry candy. It also somehow leaves your lips actually moisturized as it absorbs; usually, the rule is that you only wear lip gloss on moisturized lips because it’ll dry them out, but this one leaves them feeling full and soft. It’s the only lip gloss in my extensive matte lipstick collection, and it holds its own.
I finally tossed my old pair of black boots that I wore for almost five years, so it was time for a new pair. And these are my new favorite ones. I wear them almost every day. They’re perfect for winter, with a thick rubber sole, but they’re also very cute and go with every outfit. They’re an essential in my closet.
hourglass vanish flash highlighting stick in champagne flash
This product is everything Glossier's Haloscope or MILK Makeup's Highlighter wishes it were. It's light, swipes on smoothly and melts into the skin, and blends flawlessly. It imparts this gorgeous, dewy, natural-looking shimmer without being sticky, and it actually has a velvety, powder finish to the touch once applied. This is what I would wear if I only had five minutes and was running out the door, and the packaging is convenient for that very reason. The "Champagne Flash" color isn't too warm, which makes it look like a true highlight, just a little bit of glisten. I prefer more dramatic highlighters, but occasionally I'll go natural and this is what I use. The foundation sticks are also amazing, if you can afford them.
C.O. Bigelow Panier Des Sens Hand Cream in Precious Jasmine
I've always hated lotion because it's greasy, slippery, and you can't do anything for about 30 minutes afterward without ruining everything you touch (also the reason I don't paint my nails anymore). But my first real winter necessitated some good hand cream, so I picked this up from the C.O. Bigelow Pharmacy in Greenwich Village, and it's amazing. It smells so delicious (especially if you like jasmine, but they have other scents too) and it's so rich and creamy from the 20% shea butter and absorbs into your skin almost instantly, leaving them smooth and soft without it just sitting on your hands. This is holy grail product status for me now. It’s an absolute lifesaver in winter months.
I haven’t been so excited about an eyeshadow palette since I first discovered the Kat Von D Shade + Light palette years ago. This one is beautiful. The colors are amazing and it’s so buttery-soft and crazy pigmented; one small touch is all you need to pick up a color. On the rare occasion I go out, this is my go-to.
This is the crown jewel in my kitchen collection. I have been absolutely obsessed with this mixer for years, ever since my mom got her own. I agonized over this purchase for a week after seeing it on sale at Target (and I’ve had it in my cart for the past three years), but I finally pulled the trigger. And I am in love. And it matches all of my spatulas and things. My goal is to have all accents in my kitchen be this color, and then I can live the food blogger life that I so desperately want to live. One of the creative directors at my old agency was talking to me about her passion for baking bread, and I thought “if only I had a bread hook” and now I do. And it is amazing. I never knew what the bread hook was for, but it basically makes it so that you don’t have to knead the dough, which cuts down on prep time and is so much more effective than doing it by hand. I made scallion pancake challah (recipe coming soon) and it was delicious and easier than I thought.
Of all the products in my routine, this is the one that makes an immediate difference. I apply it right after toner, and it instantly makes your skin feel smoother and more hydrated. It just makes your skin feel so much better and it makes it look better, right after application, which is wild.
I’ve tried so many different toners and I’ve felt fairly indifferent toward all of them except for this one. I love the scent, I love the cleansing feel of it, and I love that the pH is pretty low. I put it on with a cotton pad right after I step out of the shower.
I still have not found my perfect matte lip formula (transfer-proof, pigmented, non-bleeding, nice-fading, and comfortable), so I think it’s time to try out Stila, but I do really love these NARS Powermatte Lip Pigments. They’re unusual—very watery, extremely lightweight, and super pigmented. My only complaint is that they are definitely not 100% transfer-proof, and they oxidize a lot once you apply them, so keep in mind that they’ll always look darker on than in the tube. But overall, one of my favorite matte liquid formulas, and I always reach for them when I’m in the mood for something especially dramatic.
I love this sleeping mask—it’s a goopy, slippery texture that takes some getting used to, but it’s watermelon-scented and feels so good that it makes up for it. I got it as a sample in a little kit, and ended up liking it so much that I purchased the full size. It says “glowing radiance” on the packaging which is completely accurate, and every time I use it I wake up feeling like a glowy unicorn. It has both hyaluronic acid and an AHA so it removes any dryness and leaves your skin soft and supple when you wake up. I use this as the last step in my routine, in place of my final moisturizer, to kind of lock all of my other products in, and it works great. It says you can also use it as a wash-off mask, but it’s quite expensive, so I think it’s best used overnight for best and most economical results.
OKAY. I’m highly critical of moisturizing masks, for the sole reason that I don’t think they sit on your skin long enough to do any actual long-term good. There’s a reason that we apply moisturizer at night. But I got this one at Target because they had a “buy three mini products, get one free” deal and I’ve been super into Bliss ever since they changed their formulas to cruelty-free. I will admit that their science is a little pop science-y with all the talk of “removing toxins” but all of their stuff has worked beautifully for me so far, they don’t test on animals, and it’s a lot cheaper with the rebrand. This mask is amazing. It’s a really light, whipped texture, so it doesn’t feel like anything on your face, but when you wash it off after 20 minutes, your skin is silky smooth and soft. It’s pure witchcraft.
swisch sponge from moma design store
Literally nothing makes me feel older than saying this, but I f*cking love this sponge. I had actually invented it in my head prior, because I think traditional sponges are the grossest invention man has ever come up with, and silicon is a natural choice—it’s antibacterial, it can withstand a lot of wear and tear, and it’s flexible. So when I saw this in the MoMA Design Store, I immediately picked it up. And it’s worked beautifully. I think we’ve used it for five months now, and it’s awesome. We’ll just toss it in the dishwasher occasionally to clean it. And it’s in perfect condition. I will never buy a normal sponge ever again.
2018 was a year of tremendous growth; not simply moving forward, but also developing the richness of what already existed. And because of that I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished and grateful for the people who have grown with me. I am so very lucky. And always, I’m excited to see what happens next.
So, cheers to 2019, and may you find something meaningful this year for you.