The Answer to This Quote Right Now

It’s Sunday evening and our 3-day weekend is now just tapering off. It was a wonderful weekend spent with friends, going out to lunch and dinner multiple times throughout the break. It didn’t start off as well as I wanted because a lot of people I know were out of town and there was nobody to see the fireworks with, but I ended up seeing a glimpse of two fireworks shows from the convenience of my apartment. It was a pleasant surprise. If I had gone to Navy Pier to see the city’s official display of fireworks, I probably would’ve been inconvenienced by the crowd of people that events like this attract, and I would’ve only seen that one fireworks show that I see almost every year. But I saw TWO fireworks show, both of which I haven’t seen before since I always go to Navy Pier.

Sometimes the universe surprises you with more pleasant things than what you’d originally asked for.

I’m at Starbucks and I will be writing my analysis paper on General Electric’s marketing strategy for my independent study class. However, before I do so, I’m basking in this nice evening by the window, sipping a lovely serving of chai.

While I’m here, for some reason the image below recurred in my mind throughout the weekend:

If you are to ask me what I think is the answer to the question where my mind wanders, I think I know what the answer is right now. Previously, I had a feeling I knew what it was but wasn’t too sure. But now I have a better sense of certainty, even if it’s not 100% yet.

It’s this: traveling, writing stories, doing yoga and meditating/praying. All of which are rooted in connection and inspiration, both of which I seek for myself, and I want to create for others.

I feel so much more empowered to pursue my dream of living abroad. All I see is opportunity. I know it will be a big change, and perhaps a challenging move, but my gut this telling me there is no better time, and that I have enough resolve to make it happen. I must make it happen.

I just need to plan certain things, like create a plan on what I want to do, what my goals are, the time duration, line up financial resources. And I know I can make it happen. This is a promise to myself: I will do my best to make this happen, no matter how hard, especially when it’s hard.


Remarkable Experiences of 2013

The year started off filled with building excitement for travel and marveling at art. I went to a travel expo where I not only sampled foods from all over the world, but also experienced cultural shows in the form of dance (Mexico) and music (Ireland).

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Chicago’s Chinatown and walking around in search of mooncakes (my fave!), rose tea and almond cookies. It’s also a year of baking when I can. I don’t do it much, but when I do, it’s always a delight. Making homemade biscotti in February with my aunt in Rogers Park was exciting, as making chocolate chip cookies and lemon cupcakes in December.

The beginning of the year was about anticipating the Art Institute’s Picasso exhibit. When I finally saw the exhibit, I understood the genius behind his work, which I once upon a time resisted. I was skeptical of his many works that carried the theme of a “woman’s profile,” because I did not see how elemental lines put together in a seeming disorder can depict the women he featured in his work, among other creatures. I saw the light on my first visit, and I returned 4 times more. I was amazed at the breadth of work this artist had created over the course of his life. And it compelled me to pay more attention to his public art installations all over the city of Chicago. I love understanding art, despite the struggle, especially comprehending what the artists is communicating through his work. Beyond Picasso, this year was also marked with multiple trips to this art museum, where I basked in Chagall’s windows many times over and drunk copious amounts of hot chocolate.

Studying on the go was one of the main activities in 2013. I read textbooks on the bus, highlighted academic papers while sipping coffee, studied presentations while eating lunch. In the bleakness of the winter, it was hard to do any other activity. It was a struggle to find joy, especially when your plate is packed with work, school and the minutiae of everyday life… and your environment is devoid of sunshine. Being someone who thrived in the sun, there were times in the winter when I couldn’t recognize myself. Nonetheless, I searched for beauty and found it.

In between the winter and spring quarters, I flew to Texas to lead a team in a social media competition, and we won second place!

Aside from museum trips, I also made sure to party like they do in advertising!

Friends and I celebrated July 4th this year with a delicious barbecue. Celebrating holidays and friendships more deliberately seemed like a recurring theme in the mid-year. I flew to San Francisco to find adventures in the city with my bestfriend Aiza and good friend Tracy.

And I was invited to speak at Stanford GSB to share my career journey and inspire college students!

When I got back to Chicago from SF, I visited my family in the suburbs for our family clan reunion, to meet with family who flew in from the East and West coasts (and Texas)!

And again, parties cannot be avoided when you work in advertising, and I made it to a Lollapalooza pre-bash with Rolling Stone magazine at Paris Club. Oh, and I also saw Janelle Monae (who always puts on a great show!) at The Vic in Lakeview.

2013 Collage 1

2013 has been good for my traveling spirit. I was one of the organizers of a class trip to bring 25 master’s students and 2 professors to Asia. We went around Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo, met with top companies and their marketing executives, and connected with alumni in the region. I stayed in Asia for a week more and went to Singapore and Manila, where I networked with new acquaintances and spent time with family and friends. Perhaps one of the biggest gifts this trip brought me was helping me find, challenged me to redefine and learn how to assert my multifaceted identity (Asian, Southeast Asian, Filipino, American).

A huge thing I did this year was to apply for a Fulbright scholarship to Singapore. It was a grueling process and my application is now in review- a lengthy time period and I’m sure other applications are biting their nails anxiously for the decision as we speak. I’m still keeping ALL my fingers crossed for a positive outcome for this one. My research topic of focus is how media influences identity and how this identity can be turned into power, in the Southeast Asian context.

We welcomed fall 2013 with a homecoming party in Evanston to show our Wildcat school spirit. Also, I played tennis this year, and I wished I went to the gym more but I just couldn’t find the time and energy. I will change this in 2014.

2013 Collage 2

In addition to connect with art through museums, I was invited to go to an art charity event which the Chicago advertising/creative community sponsored. I can say that I have been spoiled by the art gods in 2013. One of the best books I’ve read is Milan Kundera’s identity, which was apropos especially since this topic was a key one to me in 2013.

I had my fair share of networking events, and some of the notable ones include: Emerging Markets Summit at Chicago Booth, Chicago Ideas Week, Design Research Conference, IMC TalentQ event.

I spent the holidays in L.A. with the family and we spent time in Palm Springs, as well as the beaches and Hollywood. I love being at home. My sister and I are currently making plans for 2014, which we’re gonna make sure will even be more spectacular than this year!

Very much looking forward to ringing in the new year! 2014, here I come!

To my 27th year

I turned 27 last month. It feels odd writing that age down, as it sounds old. I really don’t have an idea of what 27 is like, since really, as a kid all I wanted was to be 16 like Cher on Clueless. Anything beyond that, there are no expectations.

There are two important realizations I had as I turned 27: I own myself and my actions, and I am a role model for others. The former gives me confidence in exploring life, since I know I can create the life I envisioned for myself. The outcome of this is the latter. This second realization makes me slightly nervous, but motivates me to be responsible for my actions, decisions and how I present myself because I am seen by others as an inspiration. This feeds back to the first realization. What a virtuous cycle, which I hope it continues to be so!

To my 27th year, that I may continue to have faith, to reach the dreams I set out for this point in my life, and to continuing becoming a woman of confidence, courage and candor. I expect success and I am determined that I am going to achieve it. No complaints, just hard work πŸ™‚


Chicago Ideas Week: “Lesson is Yours” Event

I was fortunate to score tickets for this event tonight at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. It featured a few notable speakers, including Brad Keywell (prominent VC), Ben Rattray (Founder of and Malcolm Gladwell (bestselling author of Outliers). The speakers shared the lessons they learned through personal experiences or stories they’ve heard. I left the event feeling wiser and inspired to use the privileges I have as I seek my dreams.

I’m glad the organizers of CIW conceived this idea of bringing a week-long series of events in Chicago around big, inspiring ideas a la Ted Talks. See the full lineup here. Events like this have a way of pulling us from the drudgery of reality and introduce us to possibilities that can be had if we stop to dream. The speakers were all successful in their own right and being in the midst of their talent and thought processes invites us to soar high with them, collecting burst of ideas along the way. I only hope to keep this same spirit and motivation as I go through everyday, in spite of setbacks and barriers both perceived and real, and believe that my dreams has a place in reality too, as the speakers have proven theirs do.

Hard-won Strength and the Pain of Sacrifice

There’s a mantra that has been stuck in my head since my mother’s birthday this year: I am made up of strong women that came before me; their courage and strength have brought me to where I am today.

I come from an immigrant family, and as with all families that have been uprooted from their place of origin and transplanted into a new environment, struggles and sacrifices have all been part of the experience. I don’t know if there are other situations that can compare to the immigrant experience– it’s a rollercoaster ride of extremes, of starting from scratch for a non-guaranteed reward of abundance, of leaving everything you know but also holding on tight to who you are, of being open to change but making sure assimilation does not carry you away, of the desire to make new friends but also getting accustomed to rejection.

Even before we became a family, my mother and father had their individual dreams that led them both to a point where their lives intersected. We heard their stories as independent beings driven by ambition that had taken them to different parts of the world. They would retell stories of their shared dreams for the benefit of our family. We experienced the pain of distance, and saw how that fueled their drive to persist even higher. Sometimes when I think about my parents’ journey, I cannot even fathom the kind of courage required to get through to leap to the levels they have achieved. I sometimes doubt that I have the same courage within me to match the leaps they have made.

Growing up, I experienced my own small sacrifices, such as the customary requirement to bring good grades from school: it is an almost unbearable feeling to push oneself towards the A all the time. While this seems innocuous now, those moments were very difficult times, moments that we wished would have gone away. But looking back, I understand now that all that pain was due to the unawareness of the meaning of the work.

Then came adulthood. Moments of growth– of something out of one’s comfort zone– were not without blood, sweat and tears. There were plenty of tears: buckets, really. Sometimes I wonder if other people had these moments, too. And I think life is a continuous period of growing up; I don’t think the hard moments have stopped or will ever stop completely. That’s part of the process. What 10 years ago was all about the anxiety of cracking math books open to finish algebra drills, is now all about opening up decks to review presentations over and over again. Sometimes I still ask about the meaning of all of this, like a child who would rather not do any of the boring work so she can play outside. But before I continue on to that kind of thinking, I always remind myself that the point was exactly where I was at that moment, with a ton of papers to go through and revisions to make. The point was exactly the fact that I’m sitting in a desk with the deafeaning silence, and staying put to carry on to the next slide. The point is to stay the course, even when it’s not fun, because the pain now will translate into benefits later that will be exponential.

This is where I derive all my strength. This is why I have to learn how to stand up straight in the midst of experiencing the world’s negativity. It is hard, and it is easier to buckle down from the pressure. But I remember this mantra and I am reminded that this is how I am able to brush away the tears when it gets really, really difficult. All because I am made up of strong women and I will do everything I can to do justice to the greater sacrifices they had offered in order to give me the opportunity I have now. There is a well of courage to tap into, and everyday is a step toward seeking that well and drawing the abundance of strength contained therein.

Zen & the Midterm

It’s midterms weekend and like in the previous quarter, I find myself in the library trying to finish up my reviewer before I start the test. This week is filled with anxiety for the whole class, and I am not spared from this feeling. I, too, feel anxious about the test itself, but I was able to successfully employ a few tactics to manage this stress. I am much more calmer, alert and ready to take on this test.

Today I made time for yoga despite the yoga studio being out of the way from my routine earlier. An hour and a half is that in-between time that is not sufficient to start a camp in the library, but at the same time, every time I get to study for this test is precious and I did not want to waste that on waiting before yoga class. I went to church in River North, and since I had an hour and a half of free time after church and before my yoga class, I headed back to Lincoln Park where the gym is located and stayed at the coffee shop next door to do 1.5 hours worth of reading. Even if I spent money on expensive coffee and only staying there an hour (I don’t mind spending on great coffee especially if I camp out in the cafe for more than 2 hours), I think it the time and money invested was all well spent. I was able to focus and digest what I was reading. Caffeine must’ve helped, along with my determination to go through my notes in under two hours.

Following that coffee break, I went to yoga class. The 4 pm yoga class at Equinox-Lincoln Park is a new addition which I gladly welcomed, especially since it accommodates busy Sundays when I couldn’t make it to the morning yoga classes. The instructor was especially fantastic, who really helped us push our practice by challenging us to make small tweaks to regular poses. We didn’t learn a new pose but I felt that we improved on the poses that we do know already. After the class, I felt a sense of focus, calmness and strength that I felt cannot be shaken. Breathing, striving to get a challenging pose right, patience, approaching this with ease, and quieting the mind all help bring about this calmness.

The main thing I learned in today’s yoga class is: Allowing ourselves to let go of negative things, things that does not serve us and that add to our burden, on the mat. As we awoken from shavasana, we can leave all negative things on the mat and begin the remainder of the day with renewed spirit. What a powerful message.

She shared with us this quote:

β€œMan, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”

She encouraged us to create space for mental, spiritual and physical nourishment through our practice. It is true that amid hectic schedules and urgent deadlines, an hour’s worth of yoga helps me make it a point to save some time for myself too, and it’s an activity that doesn’t only help me take a break but also inspires me to slow down and live in the present.

The artist within us

There are people who like art because of the status that liking art brings, and there are those who feel a connection to the artistic process by some past influence or experience with a piece of artwork. I am taken and humbled by my own observation of art, how it redefines my experience of the world, how it can set the tone for the day or leave us with a nagging thought that we could carry for several days.

I realize that art doesn’t have to be lofty or ostentatious. It serves more important purposes other than to merely build status. Art is about leaving an impression, a mark on the individual that cannot be imprinted by anything else.

Stones organized in a clean, uniform, linear fashion

There is always art in everyday. The reflection of light on concrete evokes a feeling of warmth, a snapshot unleashing a summers’ worth of memories. A leaf on the ground hints at discovering what is, at once, both natural and unexpected. Anything and everything can inspire art, or can even be imagined as something that comprise art. Where is the art in your everyday?

These stones actually have irregular shapes and convey the opposite of its minimalistic portrayal in the previous photo

Art pushes boundaries

There are some works of art makes us feel uncomfortable. It can provoke an emotion, whether negative or positive, real or imagined. Some delight us, while others puzzles us. The art that I am most intrigued by is the one that irreverent and pushes the convention of its time. In order for something to be revolutionary, it has to invite questions and incite doubts.

Art promotes well-being

My experience of art is akin to yoga and meditation. Art helps clear my mind and cleanse my spirit. It is a great stress reliever. It helps me escape, through the concepts an art work symbolizes, and it grounds me as I experience the physical installation– visually and sometimes through tactile experiences. It helps develop ideas

Art illustrates human capabilities through skill and intelligence

Perhaps more than any other purpose that art serves for me, it is its illustration of what humans are capable of that tops the list. To realize that human beings are so gifted as to have the capability to create.— I am filled with gratitude whenever this realization visits my mind.