Another Trip Around the Sun

CW: death, mortality

2020 has been a roller coaster thus far, and I still hope it takes a chill pill because I don’t know if I can handle this much devastation and pain in one year. I celebrated my birthday this year at home while wildfire smoke fills the air and a pandemic continues ravaging the world.

This year might not seem so different as I often quietly celebrate my birthdays at home—eating dinner with my mom, and splurging on boba or small cakes/pastries. Since reaching some milestones like 21 and 25, I stopped counting my age too. My birthdays became like any other day, but with the added perk of stuffing my face with cake. 

Though maybe with all the events that have happened this year, I am reminded of our mortality. That one day we may be present, breathing, living, and the next moment, we reached the end/the period and we’re gone. I know death is inevitable; it’s part of the circle of life.

I guess that’s why I used to see birthdays as a reminder that my time is limited, that I am one step closer to my mortality. I know, such pessimism.

However, this year, I saw my birthday a little differently, and I have my friends and family to thank. Despite being stuck at home, I felt such immense love from them, and heck, even from my Animal Crossing neighbors. This outpour of love subdued the loneliness that I sometimes felt due to shelter-in-place, and I am so thankful. I wish I could properly express in words my gratitude, but I’ll share this gif that encapsulates my feelings right now:

My birthday this year became a moment of celebration for I have my health, my family, and friends. As some of my Animal Crossing villagers would say, I’ve made another trip around the sun. What a blessing that is!


Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream, you gotta protect it. When people can’t do something themselves, they’re gonna tell you that you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period.

Pursuit of Happyness

Growing up I had always wanted to be an artist. Unlike most immigrant parents, my mom supported my passion, and never pressured me to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. She firmly believed that there was no point in forcing your child to do something they have no passion in.

Fast forward to the present, and I am a UX designer in the tech industry. I’m still trying to teach her the difference between an “artist” and a “designer,” and what it means to be a “user experience designer.” I confide in my mom about work and my doubts as a designer. My mom, well intentioned, often questions my occupation.

“Why are you doing this to yourself?”
“What’s the point in all this if you aren’t happy?”
“[Your job/occupation] sounds too difficult. Why don’t you look for something easier?”

She always follows it up with a “All I want for you is to be happy… it hurts me to see you miserable.” I’m paraphrasing and loosely translating, but the sentiment is still there. Like I said, she’s well-intentioned, but at the same time it disappoints me that she wants me to hold myself back and not take a risk. When she started questioning my profession, I immediately recalled the scene from Pursuit of Happyness where Chris Gardner, played by Will Smith, tells his son who is attempting to shoot hoops that he should give up. Dejected, his son, played by Jaden Smith, throws the ball aside and slumps to his father’s side. Chris encourages his son to always pursue his dream even if everybody else tells him he can’t.

“Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Not even me.”

Although those closest to you can unintentionally—or worse, intentionally—degrade your worth and confidence, remember that what they say shouldn’t consume you, and leave you doubting your abilities.

It’s sometimes difficult for me because these external voices feed into my biggest adversary of all: myself, particularly that voice in my head that spews doubts or lies about my “flaws.”

I’m still working on overcoming and conquering this opponent, but whenever I feel insecure and begin doubting whether I’m good enough, I blast a song called NEVER MIND by International KPOP sensation sunshine rainbow traditional transfer USB hub shrimp BTS (if you didn’t get that reference, I recommend watching Bon Voyage Season 2). Min Yoongi, aka SUGA, proclaims in NEVER MIND to continue pushing forward through your mistakes and to never give up on your dreams. As Yoongi says, engrave NEVER MIND on your chest.

This is gonna sound preachy, but if you’re struggling with people questioning you or even if you’re doubting yourself, continue to push forward and go achieve whatever goals or dreams you have. “NEVER MIND” the doubts, the haters, and the fears that may hold you back. You have the capability and power to be to the best you. You can do it 👊



Uh, h-hello. Aside from my post about the documentary Whose Streets?, it has been more than a year since I have properly written on this blog.

I just woke up one day not knowing what to write anymore. Mind-numbing activities took precedence because they didn’t involve a lot of brain power and they felt good in the moment, like eating a candy bar you know will make you feel sick the minute you gulp down the last bite. Whenever I came home from work, I wanted to shut off my brain. I was mindlessly browsing the Internet with no real destination or purpose; it was like a drug. It’s funny how we have so much information within our reach, but it sometimes blinds you from what’s really important.

I wanted to find a sweet escape from reality and avoid the looming burden of adulthood. Unfortunately adulthood is unavoidable, and I’m still barely waddling along the currents. It is difficult to prioritize my goals—which to be honest, I don’t even know anymore—and figure out how to reach them as obstacles slam into me in waves. I guess you can say I can’t find the North Star, and I’ve been struggling with this for the past year.

I have countless drafts and ideas, but no motivation to move them forward. I want to say it is fear that’s stopping me from pursuing these ideas. Not because I’m afraid of what others will think, but rather afraid of how am I going to sustain whatever it is I’m doing once the task is completed. It’s a silly fear, I know, but I guess I would rather have a filled to-do list rather than an empty one. I know, I know, ideas are just ideas, and there isn’t THE PERFECT ONE, and new ones will come along, but I think it’s that waiting period between a completion/following-through on an idea and acting upon a new idea that frightens me. It’s irrational, I know.

So that is what’s been going on with me in a nutshell. That and life events that occupied my time and made me put my career and relationships on hold. The past year I focused on buying a house with my family. This one major life event is a blessing and a curse. It made me feel so numb at one point, the feeling still haunts me today. I may write about it to reflect on the whole experience in a future post. Recently, my family has been blessed with a new family member: a cute 3-year-old cairn terrier mix named Waffles. I spam my friends on twitter with his photos.

I also reflected back on my previous posts and drafts, and started to wonder what I’m trying to say. I started out this blog just for kicks in reviewing what I’ve watched, read, or eaten. However, I came to realize I wasn’t writing anything meaningful and even I, myself, found myself wondering why were the things I saying of any value. So what? It hit me that I “say” rather than “explain,” and so I decided that I want to focus on developing my analytical skills in future posts, and bring a more meaningful conversation to the table.

I also want to sprinkle a bit of what’s been going on in my life and the garble of thoughts running through my mind… but part of me is hesitant because I keep asking myself how personal is too personal. TMI, you know? At the same time, I want to be as authentic as possible because I want you, fellow stranger whom I never met, to know the person behind the words you’re reading on your screen, and I hope my stories of my personal struggles resonate with you in some way.

For those who’ve stuck around, thank you. If you’re just passing through, please say hello or give a 👋

photo credit: Hoyin Chan. He always makes me look fabulous with his amazing photography skills. Check out his instagram.

Adventure is out there


I am the type of person who prefers to stay indoors. The comfort of a book, tv drama, or the Internet can satisfy me. However, reality often slaps me in the face and begs for attention. I often forget that in my twenty+ years living in this beautiful state called California, I have yet to explore many parts of Northern California. I don’t think it’s FOMO, fear of missing out, but rather everyday is a missed opportunity to take advantage what is right around the neighborhood.

So once you’re done reading this post, I urge you to hit up a friend (or not because sometimes the best company is your thoughts), turn off your laptop, and go on an adventure. It can be to the park or to the closest cafe. My point is you don’t need to go somewhere fancy to have fun and you should try to go somewhere you’ve never been.

Think of going out as if you’re exploring the city for the first time. Possibly there may not be much but I think you can find beauty in the mundane.

eBay and StubHub: Marketplace Panel


One of the last events of #SFDW was eBay and StubHub’s Marketplace Panel (and After Party). On Thursday, I left work around 2:15 to catch the 2:55 Caltrain in Sunnyvale. I arrived at SF Caltrain station around 4, met up with my friend, and we walked to StubHub’s HQ.

Left to right: Bradford Shellhammer (moderator), Christine Fernandez, Dave Lippman, Katie Dill, Karlyn Neel
Left to right: Bradford Shellhammer (moderator), Christine Fernandez, Dave Lippman, Katie Dill, Karlyn Neel

The panel featured Katie Dill, Head of Experience Design at Airbnb; Christine Fernandez, Sr. Design Manager for Global Expansion Products at Uber; Dave Lippman, VP / Executive Creative Director at eBay; and Karlyn Neel, Director of UX Design at StubHub.

The topics they covered included how their companies build trust, diversity, what they look for in designers, and leading a design team.

Some key takeaways:

  1. Transparency builds trust. Have a reputation system and a way for people to communicate who/where they are to set expectations before transactions. People tend to embrace those who are like themselves.
  2. Diversity optimizes design because it brings many different perspectives.
  3. Selling an experience vs. selling a product: selling an experience takes in consideration human-centered problems and the end to end experience (i.e. everything is interconnected and happens at multiple touchpoints)

Design Sprint Workshop with Google


As part of SF Design Week (#SFDW), a couple friends and I decided to attend Google Sprint Workshop Tuesday evening. Unfortunately, my friend and I were late due to rush hour traffic, so we missed the ice breaker and food.

Anyway, this workshop was an opportunity to learn and experience what a sprint is like at Google. The challenge was to design an app to connect designers to non-profits. We learned methods like “How Might We” and Crazy 8’s. “How Might We” questions reframe insights and allow room for trial-and-error (i.e. not restricting team to one solution immediately). Crazy 8’s is a method where you fold a paper into 8 rectangles and sketch an idea in each rectangle within 8 minutes.

They were promoting Sprint, written by Jake Knapp with the help of Braden Kowitz and John Zeratsky, which discusses these methods. You can learn more about the book here and here. 


It was an enjoyable time collaborating and brainstorming with designers from around the area, and a pleasant surprise bumping into many of my former classmates. #roughcut2015

ZURB Soapbox – Katie Dill


Yesterday my coworker, friends, and I attended ZURB Soapbox to hear Katie Dill, Head of Experience Design at Airbnb, share her experience working at a consultancy and in-house, and how designers can improve the experiences of their audience.

Some key takeaways:

  1. Watch Making the shopping cart video
  2. Triforce: Product, Design, and Engineering. If these three have equal power, then the experience of the product will be great.
  3. Designers should inherently be good communicators.
  4. Storyboarding supports your voice because it brings an emotional reaction when you can visually see the human interactions. It helps us understand what’s happening in that moment (context, environment, etc).
  5. Watch Joe Gebbia’s TED talk on trust
  6. Users traverse between the on and offline world. Experience Design is different from Product Design because it considers the offline component.