15 Dreams That Came True in 2015

Sometimes, when you are running fast and hard, all you feel is the burn. You struggle to overcome the pain and keep going. You are so focused on going forward and meeting your goals. Sometimes when you are running fast and hard, you forget to appreciate how far you've come.

This is not a post about how I run. This is not about what horizon I am running to. I think we focus a little too much on those things-- not to say they are unimportant.

This is a post about where I have run.

See, I'm ambitious. I've got a healthy (some might argue a little too healthy) ego, and fortunately I am the kind of person who would prefer to achieve the things I need to in order to justify that ego-- which is, you know, better than just having a big ego made of nothing. I'm sure many of my readers are the same way as I am. #YoungScrappyandHungry

When you are ambitious though, it can make you hyper-focused on achievement and the-next-big-thing. I don't want to be the kind of person who puts in hours to cook herself a feast, only to forget to taste any of my victories. And so here I write 15 dreams, of varying sizes and seriousness, that came true for me this year. I hope that this encourages you all to stop running, and taste your victories.
  1. Graduated from W&M. Not only did I graduate from my dream school-- this also means that I'm done with my formal education, for good, unless I decide to change my mind and keep going. From now on, my education will be done on no one's terms but my own-- and that is an incredibly liberating feeling. 
  2. Saw The Wombats perform live. I got to see my favorite band, The Wombats, perform live! It was so great seeing them, and although it was somewhat bittersweet since my little brother I planned to take was sick that day, it was still a great performance. They are coming to the US more and more often, so hopefully he'll get the chance to go. (In lieu of the concert, I took him to the Charleston Aquarium :))
  3. Visited a Cat Cafe. So, this actually wasn't all sunshine and rainbows as I had previously expected before going to the Cafe. It turns out that I am allergic to cats, a fact that had either escaped my notice or not become a fact at all until that day. I thought I had an uncooperative contact lens, so naturally I rubbed my eyes in an attempt to get it to right itself. Big mistake. By the end of our trip to the Cat Cafe, I had to have my friend physically guide me home as I could barely open my swollen eyes. Still though, those kitties warmed my heart. 
  4. Went to the Philadelphia Flower Show. I like arranging schemes, but also arranging flowers. I went to one of the biggest/best floral shows in the US and I had a wonderful time looking at the floral art and shopping and even meeting Christina Milian.
  5. Visited Disneyland. I have officially been to two Disney Parks! Didn't get as much time there as I would have liked but it was a business trip so it really could not be expected. I hope I can go back to Disney Parks soon!
  6. Touched the Pacific Ocean. I have successfully touched two oceans! As an East Coast girl, I'd never been close enough to the Pacific to do it-- it's so cool though to know that I've touched another ocean! I've never done that before and a lot of people don't get the opportunity to do so, so I'm grateful!
  7. Moved to New York. I made it to the city, I got an apartment (albeit one that is very small) and started my life in the city I've wanted to live in for ages. I moved here without a job, without even any interviews lined up. It was so hard. But I am so happy with where I am now!
  8. Got a job at Disney. I've always wanted to work for Disney since I was a kid, and as I grew older that ambition only got stronger. I thought it would take me closer to 3 years out of school until I would make it happen, but I was so fortunate in that things really aligned so that I got this job that I absolutely love. It was not easy and sometimes I cried about my job hunt, but it really worked out for me in the end, and I think that it really drove home something important that I forget a lot: Just because it's out of your hands, does not mean things will turn out horribly. 
  9. Ate some really fancy ramen. Okay, so living in Northern Virginia most of my life, there has been no shortage of awesome Asian food, but most of it is Korean and Vietnamese. Until January of 2015, I had never had a nice, non-instant, bowl of ramen. Now I have had some real actual ramen and I loved it! My fave is Totto Ramen in NY. 
  10. Went to New York Comic Con. I am embarrassed to say that I was the only friend in my closest circle to not have ever attended of Con (or Ren Faire). (Is it embarrassing that I think that's embarrassing?) If it is not clear, I am a total geek, most of my friends are geeks, and we as geekdom, consider the Con to be a rite of passage. I have finally attended a Con, ya'll. It was awesome! (See recap video and haul video)
  11. Hit the Broadway Flea Market. I helped support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS by shopping at the Broadway Flea Market! I've always wanted to go ever since I got into musicals in a more serious, less-low-key way but since it happened during the school year I was never able to go til now. The Bway Flea is a great way to snag merch, meet Broadway stars, and support the fight against HIV/AIDS.
  12. Set up a 401(k). This is something I really have been looking forward to for a long time. Is it kind of... boring and adulty? Maybe, but I think that there is a lot to be said for making responsible financial decisions. When I was working at a financial services company, I learned that nowadays most people in their twenties and thirties put more emphasis on saving for their next vacation than they do on saving for their retirement. Combine that with social security running out, people living longer than ever, and having kids later or not at all, and you've set yourself up for a really hard retirement (if any retirement at all)! To be clear, as of right now, I don't think I want to have any kids, but the point being that the question arises that if the government can't help you in your old age, and your kids aren't able to help you (or don't exist all together to help you), then who can you depend on? It's gotta be past you. So, being that I am working hard to be an independent, self-actualized person on a high vibe, high plane of existence, it was really important to me to set up a 401(k) as early as possible. And I'm so happy I did!
  13. Collected every single Twyla doll and every Ginger Breadhouse doll. You may have noticed that I am a half and half split between being a mature, responsible person and an actual child. I am totally satisfied with that lifestyle. So far I own every iteration of my two favorite characters in the Monster High and Ever After High doll lines, and I am so happy about this. I am exhibiting a massive amount of restraint in not going nuts over all these dolls and I am so satisfied with the characters who are my favorites, and it really does give me a lot of satisfaction to own all of their dolls. 
  14. Did a presentation on Monster High's entertainment/merchandise business strategy. Combining my adult and child sides gives me so much joy, and for my final major project in the Business School I did a presentation on transmedia storytelling, and how Monster High uses this new model to totally rule the toy market and create a business that others should aspire to. Not only did I present this to my class, but also to Mia, a fellow geek girl and digital media business nerd. It was amazing, and I was so excited to go out with a bang on my time as a student in the Mason School of Business.
  15. Became a Disney VoluntEAR. Almost as long as I have wanted to work for Disney, I have wanted to be a part of their initiatives to give back to communities and spread some Disney magic into the real world. I successfully completed 14 hours of service in about two months of employment with Disney, and I have worked mostly to help children who are underprivileged, sick, or abused. I plan on continuing to donate my time to those in need through Disney, and I'm so happy to be a part of a company that not only allows me to do work I love, with people I love, but also encourages me to serve the community and connects me with opportunities to do so!
Those are my 15 Dreams that came true this year. What are some of yours?

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16 Things I am (Re-)Dedicating Myself to in 2016

2015 was a whopping big year for me, but it felt more like a transformation into adulthood than anything else. It was the end of childhood, school, and the beginning of "the rest of my life."

And so, with grades and summer vacations and internships melted away like a lingering snowdrift come April, I am finding new ways to move forward in meaningful ways in my adulthood, and set my own priorities and goals that do not revolve around my schedule as a student.

Here are sixteen things I am planning on dedicating, or re-dedicating, myself to in 2016.

1 - Knowing myself and forging my own path. In general, I pretty much know who I am, and that's lead me to be very confident and self-assured in most situations. I know what kinds of happiness matter most to me, and I have my priorities and needs mostly figured out. But that's also predicated fairly heavily on the routine set in me over the course of sixteen years of school, and being a kid. As I enter "real life" I am finding myself in more and more novel situations and my priorities have shifted to match the new concerns I have in my life (like bills), so I have to once again rededicate myself to continuously learning, negotiating, and experimenting with myself.

2 - Building healthy routines. There are a lot of things that honestly should probably be more routine by now, like taking my vitamins, dry brushing, flossing twice a day, etc. that really aren't routine for me yet. I think a lot about the amount of brain power I waste each day on this stuff, and how many opportunities I miss to make a healthy choice, and it really sucks! I want to suck less! Maybe I'll even get into that Miracle Morning routine that Mia is constantly raving about.

3 - Keeping up with doctor's appointments. Okay, you might be thinking, 'Harper, you complain about being at the doctor's office again with something or other like eight times a year, what the hell do you mean you aren't keeping up with doctor's appointments?' Well, let me tell you. When I get sick, I go to the doctor, because usually my big concerns are feeling terrible and not wanting to miss work. But, when I'm not feeling terrible, and I'd actually have to miss work to see a doctor, I typically forgo the hassle. I had my first dentist appointment in three years just before Thanksgiving. I used to rely on my mother to set up my yearly check-ups, and when she stopped, I just didn't make these things a priority. I have to take responsibility for these things.

4 - Organizing my life. This year, I've begun keeping a bullet journal-- a type of super flexible planner/journaling system that Mia told me about (if you don't already follow her you should-- we constantly share recommendations for great stuff). I'm trying to be more on top of my things than ever, and that even means planning and organizing for things in a far-off future now that I'm unbounded by academic years. I'll be posting about my bullet journaling here, as well as on instagram and youtube, so be sure to follow and subscribe.

5 - Getting fit. I decided that I am going to run the Disney Princess 10k in 2018. The problem is that I'm at level 0 when it comes to fitness. That's a problem I am hoping to overcome in the two years between then and now. I am absolutely sedentary and I have never really been in shape-- I've always been unathletic even when I was regularly active. While I don't think I'll ever become an athlete, I do want to put priority on becoming healthier, and more active. I don't want this stretch of future that lays ahead of me to be a steady slide into my coffin. I've recruited some friends to join me in my goal of running this 10k. I'm honestly terrified with the sheer scale of what I'm setting out to do, but I am glad that I have a plan, support, and even if I end up only running the 5k, I'll still have accomplished a lot!

6 - Witchcraft. This is a word that carries a ton of strings for most people. Depending on your upbringing and what you're exposed to growing up you might think magic is evil or just generally in opposition to whatever god(s) you believe in. Honestly magic is just an umbrella term for the set of thought + action + belief that people use to find harmony and peace with the world and help bring things into it. Prayer and rituals affiliated with any religion (or even the superstitions an athlete might carry) can qualify as magic or witchcraft. I find the practice of witchcraft and magic really inspiring and comforting. Whether one believes fully in magic, or thinks its a pleasant and helpful placebo, or something in between, I think it's worth exploring. I'm very excited to establish rituals, affirmations, etc. that will help me (whether magically or not) to feel more secure, empowered, and at peace with the world.

7 - Planning meals. There's honestly no other way to follow up witchcraft than with something incredibly mundane. The fact of the matter is, I spend way too much money on food. I either buy food that ends up going bad before I get to it, or I don't buy enough food and end up ordering food or eating out. I have never really been a meal planner, and I think this is because I have some romanticized view of food where it's like this great experience that I get to have 3 times a day and I should make it awesome and kind of spontaneous as if I have the skill and resources to "whip something up." The cold hard truth is that I share a refrigerator with three other people, I am not a fantastically skilled or creative cook, and I get really impatient and wimpy when it comes to my own hunger. I'm trying to improve my ability to buy appropriate groceries and manage my expectations surrounding dinner by planning my meals.

8 - Spanish. I feel like every year, I make a loose statement that I'm going to start studying Spanish again. When I was a kid, I was pretty good, and was even in a program where we did have the school day in English, and half in Spanish, until I got moved into a separate program for kids who tested into an accelerated course of study. This year, I think I'm really going to do it, and the reason why is because I'm finally not studying a bunch of other things on a much more urgent (read: graded) basis. I can finally say that I have the free time, and I probably have fewer obligations in my life now than I will in the future. I want to take advantage of this. I want to finally feel like I can conjugate my damn verbs with confidence!

9 - Ukulele. I have a ukulele, but I don't practice with it regularly. I want to become better at it, and be able to serenade people when they are feeling blue. I've got little baby hands, so ukulele is the perfect instrument for me!

10 - Building a great wardrobe. I have a real job, and that means that I should really start investing in my adult wardrobe. I'm slowly trying to amass all the pieces I need in adulthood. I can't do it all at once, but I definitely think that I can continue on my fashion journey to build the quirky-cute, colorful wardrobe of my dreams. My aesthetic is like, Mindy Lahiri meets Ginger Breadhouse.

11 - Using natural body care products. I want to get more into using body products that feel wholesome, whether that means buying them from businesses like Lush or making them myself at home. Your skin pretty much "eats" whatever you put on it over time, so I would like to try to move towards using more products that haven't been over processed or filled with chemicals that I couldn't safely consume.

12 - Creating awesome content on the regular. I know I've been pretty MIA on the blog from time to time, what with all the transitioning-to-real-life I did. I want to make sure I put out at least one great blog post a week for you all, and one video a week out on Youtube!

13 - Creative writing. I haven't really done much creative writing in years! It kind of hurts to know that I've let those creative muscles atrophy. I used to win writing contests, but now I definitely feel my skills are very rusty. I want to work on writing some creative things, whether it's a novel or just doing some writing exercises.

14 - Reading. I want to read more. Don't get me wrong, I read a lot, but most of my reading is on the internet through think pieces etc. I want to read more actual books. I have a list going and I'm hoping to crack some long neglected spines I already own.

15 - Save money. I am really trying to nail this whole responsible adult thing, and that means getting better about saving my money for emergencies and for other things down the road. As a freshly-minted real-life-adult I have a lot more expenses than ever before, and I am trying to be as responsible as possible (despite my occasional toy collecting and penchant for fancy orange sodas).

16 - VoluntEARing. In my first month-and-a-half as an official Disney Employee, I've done 14 hours of voluntEARing for the community, working mostly to serve underprivileged and/or sick children. I love being able to work with kids through the magic of Disney, and I love the level of flexibility the VoluntEARS program affords me. Giving back to the community is very important to me, and I think it's also good for my mental health. I can fall into depression if I am not careful about how I take care of myself, and serving others gives me a sense of purpose and connectedness to others that also helps me to remember that I am important, and worth taking care of.

What are you dedicating or re-dedicating yourself to in 2016?

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Harper Watched: Advantageous

Harper Watched is a recurring series where I talk about entertainment media I've seen and review it for you. From movies to musicals, TV to live theater, I cover it all and lay it out for you right here.

Today I'm talking about a movie that is a rarity not only in terms of story, but in terms of who created it. Advantageous is a sci-fi film written and lead by two Asian American women. Jennifer Phang teamed up with her lead actress Jacqueline Kim to write this expansion on a short film they had done together. You can watch Advantageous on Netflix.

Advantageous is the story of a single mother working toward a bright future for her daughter. The problem is, that in this future, while science and technology have progressed, women have moved backwards. This dystopia is built on a society where small-scale terror attacks are the norm, resources are dwindling, and breaking into the elite is seemingly the only way to build a better future. Societally it was deemed better for men to get the remaining jobs out there, since women are less likely to riot, and thus, the competition for girls to be better prepared, more talented, and more beautiful has become more difficult than ever. The stress this puts on women is apparently even breaking down their ability to reproduce, with pre-pubescent girls worrying about the state of their ova. But this movie is not about the dwindling fertility in young girls. It's the story of a mother and a daughter, and a mother's sacrifice for her child in a world that has pit itself against her.

The Story

Gwen Koh (played by the aforementioned Jacqueline Kim) is a single mother raising a daughter named Jules. Gwen works at a prestigious medical spa-- where technology, medicine, and lifestyle collide. She is their spokesperson, and is hoping to get a raise so that Jules can get into the right prep school, and ultimately achieve a happy life, in a world where young girls are going homeless, and even turn to prostitution at alarming rates. Jules is, by all standards, a very gifted child-- but there is no shortage of competition, and the sheer volume of need and the scarcity of resources makes things difficult, even for a smart girl like her.

Instead of getting a raise, Gwen is told that she is being fired, and will be replaced by a younger, more universally appealing spokesperson. That is, unless she agrees to try their new experimental procedure, through which she would become both expert and living testimonial for the Center's services-- by transferring herself into a new body.

This film is less about the science, or the effects, and more about this woman. All that she is, not just her motherhood, but especially her motherhood, as she undergoes a radical procedure for the sake of her child.

Getting Down To Business

This storytelling is a bit more subtle than other movies in the sci-fi vein. Most segments that capture the serious plights on society are short, and seem almost surreal due to the main characters' relative separation from the more desperate levels of society. The detachment from certain events like an airship crashing into a building somewhat resembles America's own detachment from certain issues like the gun violence problem-- as these attacks become more frequent, it becomes easier to react as though they are matters-of-fact in society. Because of this, certain details need to be paid attention in order to catch the gravity of the moment.

That said, this film is worth having that active attention process going during. It's beautifully told and really speaks to that mother-child/mother-daughter bond, and I think it is especially potent for those of us who are the children of immigrants, or are otherwise POC because we know exactly how much has been sacrificed for us and how terribly the odds were stacked against our parents and us, even though we may have been completely unaware in childhood.

I love how the mother is portrayed as at once both incredibly talented and smart, and also incredibly flawed and vulnerable. She is no angel, nor is she a villain, and I think women, especially mother-figures are depicted as one or the other. They are rarely allowed to be complicated people. This film does that in a way that is very authentic (if not a little far-fetched).

Some people may find the daughter's character to be too intellectual-- maybe overwhelmingly so. I don't think that that's a fair assessment given the fact that A- yes, the daughter is highly talented but also B- the level at which these children are educated and the ferocity of the competition they are thrust into.

This world, for all its beauty and comfort and high tech amenities is still one that is near hopeless in every sense. With the state of women and girls losing fertility at astounding rates, it seems that the entire human race is doomed. And yet one mother is determined to do everything she can to give her daughter a better life.

This movie is excellent and I highly recommend it. You'll want to call your mom (or mother figure) after.

Harper's Rating: 5/5

Great portrayal of women
Creative dystopia-- it's different from any other imagining I've seen, and has a rich cultural tapestry
Asian American women at the helm-- so rare and so important
Great acting, holy moly
Visual direction is on point, both for the mundane bits, as well as the special effects
Has a subtle-ish, slow-moving pace-- not an action adventure
This is not a movie you should be doing other things during-- sorry multitaskers
Conversations can be hard to follow if you're not paying attention
You'll probably cry

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Black Friday Haul 2015!

The time has come-- the time of Black Friday Hauls! Being an avid Black Friday shopper, I love this time of year because it means I got to grab stuff I normally can't, and it's a great time to prepare for the oncoming winter, as well as the year ahead!

Since now I'm on youtube, I've got a fancy video I'm embedding right here, but scroll down for photos and links to the stores I ordered from!

I have no idea why that pink box instead of a photo thing KEEPS. HAPPENING. Here are the photos that should have been in the video as well!

Where I shopped:

Nine West // Boots 50% off
Adidas // 25% off already reduced prices + $10 socks doorbuster
Loft // 60% off
Target // Sale cardigan + 40% off sports bras + clearance trousers + half price We Love Disney CD
Hot Topic // T-shirts all $10 + 25% off all other merchandise
Sugarbones // 25% off

PS-- If someone can tell me how to fix this pink box problem, I will be super-duper grateful!!

What did you score this Black Friday/Small Business Saturday?

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