On Friendships | Thanksgiving Edition


It’s somehow Thanksgiving time again, and I’m finally taking a moment to pause, breathe, reflect on the last three months. This fall has been one of the the most confusing, heartbreaking, difficult seasons that I have ever had in my life, and yet I’m coming out of it still somehow in one piece.

I say “somehow,” but really, I know how: in the last three months, I have been reminded again and again of the incredible support system around me. And so today, on this day of thanks, when the world feels a little less whole and a little less right and yet the sun is still beaming outside – I have to take a moment and just be in awe at the different friendships that I’m lucky to call mine.

– Friendships of growth, ones that challenge me in so many different ways to think differently, to be better. They’re friends who care enough about me to speak the truth, even if that’s not what I want; friends who remind me not to be so hard on myself, that it’s okay to take a moment to feel the feels; friends who are passionate about causes and ideas I’d never even considered. Through these friends, I’ve realized that you can be a “lifelong learner” without even picking up a book.

– Friendships of hospitality, my friends who have opened their homes to me, without hesitation, offering me refuge even before I would admit I needed it. I’m thankful for the food, of course – homecooked meals of Chinese food and pancakes and cookies – but more thankful for the safe comfort of warm spaces to have conversations on anything and everything.

– Friendships of distance, and at the shared times that grounded these friendships so deeply that they could survive the distance. Not even just “survive” – they’re friendships that continue to thrive despite the distance, whether it’s across the country or across the globe. I’m thankful for these friends who can so easily put a smile on my face through just a text or a call, reminding me that maybe the world isn’t quite as big as I thought after all, reminding me that I am never alone.

– Friendships of circumstance, a circumstance we never wanted. And yet here we are, so easily settling into this pattern of texting each other when we’d really only tangentially known each other in years past. It has been so easy to love each other because of how much we love her, and it is in turn so easy to see why she loved every one of you.

– Friendships of forever – I’m talking about you, Meg. And you, Nirmam. I am learning day by day that I have not lost you, I will not ever lose you, because your words, your actions, your friendship lives on in so many things I do or aspire to do. And while of course I wish more than anything that I could actually talk to you, I’m taking a step back today to just be so damn thankful of the laughs we shared, the words you spoke, the unforgettable way in which you’ve touched my heart.

I could go on with more friendships I’m thankful for – new ones, rekindled ones, everyday ones, not to mention family (does family count as friends?) – but for once in my life I’m not too concerned with accidentally leaving out a person or a category. I think that’s what gratitude helps you do: you focus on what you have, and how amazing that makes you feel, and just soak in that moment without worry for anything else.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone – my heart is feeling more full right now than it has in a really long time, and my stomach is hoping to follow suit very soon. I’m so thankful for all of you!


On Opinions


It’s already Thanksgiving 2016, which is unbelievable. I know we all say this every winter, but the year has seriously blown by. The holidays are here once again, and as per tradition, we stop to think about those things that we’re thankful for: family, friends, and loved ones. Our homes, our jobs, our food on the table. The world we live in today, with the internet, with cell phones, with planes that make traveling easier than ever.

As I think about this year, I’m also thankful for one more thing in my life: opinions, both mine and those of people around me. Opinions, and the freedom to express them.

I used to have this shirt when I was in 7th grade that said, “I’m not opinionated. I’m just always right.” It had this cute monkey on it and my preteen-self was proud to display her “sassy” attitude. My now-self, of course, can’t stop cringing at this memory – but it certainly reminds me how much I valued my own opinions, even when I was too young to have thoughts about more substantive topics.

It’s been more than a decade since my preteen years, and this has been an interesting year to say the least. I spent the first half of this year in Hong Kong and the second half in Chicago, with trips to other cities sprinkled throughout. A few key events in 2016 really provoked me to think about opinions:

  • The “Fishball Revolution” in Hong Kong. In February, the streets of Mongkok experienced chaos as underlying tension between Hong Kongers and mainland China continued to bubble over. I heard anti-Chinese opinions around me all the time, and I was uncomfortable with the overt disdain the HKers held for Mainlanders. I had just spent an awesome 9 months living in Shanghai, and I loved my Chinese friends and coworkers. I also deeply love my extended family – nearly all of whom live in Mainland China – and my parents are from there as well. Despite feeling personally offended by anti-China opinions, I felt subjected to them more openly because people considered me “American,” not Chinese. I halfheartedly tried to defend my Mainland family and friends, but I ultimately gave up and kept quiet instead.
  • The passing of the King of ThailandI visited Thailand for the first time in March of 2016, prior to the late King’s passing. I feel extremely lucky to have seen firsthand the reverence and love the people of Thailand have for the late King, to the extent where it was punishable by law to speak of him in a negative manner. I didn’t know enough about the King to speak of him at all, much less negatively, so this wasn’t a concern for me. Regardless, it was fascinating to learn about a society that so loved its Monarch that a pervasive opinion was decreed to be the norm (although the decree itself is controversial). Now that the King has passed away, I have no idea how the Thai people are feeling about this law. All I know is that I’d never before spent time in a country where it was literally illegal to have a negative opinion about its Monarch.
  • The 2016 U.S. Presidential ElectionThere’s no way I could leave the election out on a post about opinions in 2016. One of the things I did this election cycle was click on comments and articles shared by Trump-supporters on my Facebook newsfeed. Given my newsfeed was pervasively pro-Bernie and later pro-Hillary, it was interesting and quite honestly refreshing to learn about opinions from “the other side” – even if I disagreed. My brain ping ponged between arguments from both parties, and as a result I was left with a lot of confusion. One thing that stood out to me was how emotional and personal all the opinions were regarding this election – Facebook became a scary place full of attacks and anger, a place filled with arguments between friends and strangers alike.

To be honest, all of these events have made me think twice about sharing my own opinion. It’s made me less confident in my own thoughts, and the strength of the dissonance between parties has driven me to shy away from forming an opinion at all, cowardly as that may be. In retrospect, I’m so aware of how blessed I am to have lived in places where, even in sharing my opinions, the only things at stake were my personal feelings. I’ve never had to fear being jailed for my thoughts, and my cop-out avoidance of forming a real opinion is an insult to those who are persecuted for expressing their beliefs.

In a year where I’ve seen so many different opinions, I’m thankful for all of them. For the ones that are the same as mine, and for ones that are different. For the people who challenge me to try and think another way. For the rights I have today to express my thoughts and feelings, even if I’m too scared to. I want to try and be thankful to have arguments about different opinions, because there are people around the world who can’t openly have these arguments. I hope that I stop taking these rights for granted, and start recognizing how privileged I am to live in one of the most progressive societies in the world.

I’m thankful this year for opinions, and the freedom I have to express them.

On Discouraging Times


Time flies when you’re having fun, right? I’m quickly approaching nearly four months of “funemployment,” and most of it has indeed (surprisingly) been fun. I’ve gotten to spend a ton of time with family and friends in Chicago; experiment with random concoctions in the kitchen; travel to new places like the UP, Michigan; Montreal, Quebec; and Boulder, Colorado. Perhaps most importantly of all, I’ve spent significant time thinking about my next career move: from talking to strangers over the phone/coffee to brainstorming with my closest friends, I’ve been able to give some serious thought to my “next steps.”

Overall, I was doing pretty well – until this week. This week, for the first time since I’d quit my job in July, I felt fed up with the job search. I felt frustrated at the endless applications that went unanswered; discouraged by the drawn-out interview processes that thus far have failed to result in a job offer. People around me would tell me, “You have such a great resume; I know you’ll have no problem finding a job” – but the reality is, it hasn’t been that easy.

There have been positives, of course. Despite the fact that many of my applications do go ignored, I’ve been averaging at least either a phone or in-person interview almost every week for the past couple of months – sometimes different rounds for the same company, but I know I’ve been a lot luckier than other job seekers who struggle to even score an interview. I’ve visited downtown Chicago more times in the past few months than I ever did through high school – and usually, before or after my interviews, I’ve been able to meet up with friends in the beautiful city I never got to know.

But this week, I just felt frustrated. It’s definitely difficult not to get my hopes up after later-stage interviews, and my tendency to be optimistic unfortunately makes the fall a bit harder when it happens. I’ve seen my share of rejections over the past few months, but none of them had really bothered me. This week, probably due to a combination of multiple drawn-out interview processes (one of them has literally been ongoing for three months), I just felt so stinking discouraged. I know, cognitively, that there’s no way I’ll be unemployed forever – yet today was definitely a day where I felt like that “unemployed loser” I feared becoming. Luckily for me, most days have not been like today.

As always, my friends came to my rescue. One of the best parts of being unemployed is being able to spend time on Gchat, Slack, and Facebook messenger – chatting with friends as they go through their own workdays, albeit with slower responses from their end, of course. But despite their own stressful workloads, their office drama, their startup woes, their wedding plannings, their recent engagements – despite their own lives, my friends have been there to talk to me, to encourage me, to nudge me back onto the path of positivity. Even when times are tough. Especially when times are tough. So thanks to them, I kept going today. I let myself mope for a few hours, and then picked myself up and kept right going.

The job search finally got to me this week, but luckily for me, it was fleeting. I’m back on my feet and ready to go again, thanks to my awesome, supportive friends. My unemployment experience would have been so different without them – and I know everyone says this, but seriously…I have the best friends in the world.

On Vacation


About a week ago, I was just wrapping up a five-day vacation in Cancun. I was lucky to have a friend getting married there (and I got to be one of her bridesmaids!), which of course gave us all an excuse to go on vacation at a beautiful resort.

I wanted to blog almost immediately after coming back, but I forced myself to give it a week or so to digest the thoughts that overwhelmed my mind. Everyone kept asking, “How was Cancun?” and it was easy to give the generic answer: “It was awesome. It was so beautiful. It was relaxing. It was amazing.” But the thing is, this vacation was so much more than that, and so much more than I had expected. I came back not only physically and mentally refreshed; I also came back with my heart overwhelmed by gratitude for my life.

That might sound kind of dramatic (consistent with my personality), but let me explain. While we were at the all-inclusive resort, our every need and want was catered to and waited on. The people of Mexico were kind, cheerful and so hospitable during our stay there, whether it was at the hotel itself or on a tour bus to the Chichen Itza. For all the great service we had during our time there, however, there was also a nagging thought at the back of my mind: B and I were totally conscious of the fact that the standard of living for some of the people there was so far in contrast to the luxury we were enjoying during our all-inclusive vacation. We saw it in the men, women, and children walking up and down the beaches trying to sell us purses and bracelets; we saw it in the tour guides and performers who hoped graciously for tips; we saw it in the street vendor at Chichen Itza who had so much competition and was desperate for a sale.

It tugged on my heartstrings a little bit and almost made me uneasy – I felt guilty bargaining with the street vendor when a $5 difference probably meant much more to him than to me. But I was humbled to see the cheerful spirits of most people we came across; for all my worries about a “lacking” standard of living, my arrogant pity at seeing the tour guide change into a frayed shirt after his job – I realized that these people shone with positive attitudes, embodied on happier faces than many I see in my day-to-day life in New York City.

Even though I don’t know whether or not these people were actually happy – for all I know, maybe they were just really good at putting on a positive front – the happiness of those who I perceived to have “less” than me, in turn, made me so grateful for what I have in my life today.

So that’s what I came back with: renewed gratitude for what I have in my life, as it is now. Too often, I’m complaining. I’m dissatisfied, I’m annoyed, I’m jealous. I’m all these negative feelings that are completely unwarranted. They say that one habit of people who are happy is that they remember to be thankful, and I think that’s the reason I’ve felt so refreshed and genuinely happy after my Cancun vacation: it reminded me to be thankful. I’m thankful for my family and my friends, for the love that they give me even when I’m at my worst. I’m thankful for my education, my job and the opportunities that have come with both. I’m thankful to be living in such a cool city, one that people come from all over the world to visit. I’m thankful for my hobbies, my upbringing, my life.

I would say this is the best souvenir I could have brought back. Thankful for this vacation and especially thankful for my friends Chrissy and John, whose beautiful wedding and steadfast love just filled my heart with so much happiness!