December Small Goals


Wowee, it has been a LONG time since I joined in on Nicole's Small Goals Round Up at Writes Like A Girl.  We talk about our little goals for the month and support each other. Be sure to check out everyone else's small goals and get some motivation to end the year strong!

Normally I'd do a recap of how last month's goals went, but since I haven't participated in a while, here's a little round of up things I'm really glad I accomplished in the past few months.

Started listening to audiobooks. Since reading-reading is hard for me to fit into my schedule due to my tendency to get motion sickness if I try to read during my commute, I have been investing in audiobooks with Audible. I'm super happy with this decision!

Got cracking on my professional site. It's still under construction, but I'm really happy with the progress I have made on my first ever professional portfolio site. It's definitely been a challenge since I don't do tons of visual-focused work.

Led a career and internship talk at my alma mater. It was super fulfilling to chat with college students of a similar background to me about how to tackle things like internships, networking, parental expectations, activism, and career. It was super informal and really fun-- especially since I got to team up with my brother. I hope to do more panels and the like!

Found a great therapist. This is something I've been meaning to do for a while and I'm really glad I did. I found a therapist who is a great fit and I'm excited to have help tackling tough stuff and support in growing as a person. I feel like everyone ought to do therapy since I think the world changes faster than ever and most of us grow up without having been taught how to process things fully. We're dealing with a world our parents never had to deal with and so we don't have strong models for coping with it. If you have had a hard time coping (and this world has been pretty unbearable these days) I really encourage you to look into getting therapy!

Got new furniture. We upgraded a lot of our pieces that were very "we are scraping by and need a $100 couch" kind of things in favor of more functional pieces that fit our space and needs better. I love IKEA. I'm still reorganizing in the aftermath of my new functional furniture pieces (so much more storage in my room!)

Went gluten-free. It's still a lot to deal with and it makes eating out a lot harder, but I have to say, I'm getting through this okay. It's only been a month though, so maybe I'm not through the worst of the transition yet.

I really have had a ton of stuff going on these past few months! I can't believe 2017 is almost over-- but also I'm super thankful because this has been a super challenging year. Personally, politically, and I guess even medically. Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish in the next month.

Write and send all my holiday cards. This is a yearly event for me! I started sending holiday cards the year I graduated from college and it's been a great way for me to stay connected to people, reflect on my relationships, and generally commemorate the passage of time. I like milestones and I feel like I get fewer of them since school ended, so I make an effort to make them on my own time. This year I put out a googleform so that people had to sign up to get one (which eliminated guesswork and new address hunting) which is a really great system and I think I will continue to use it in the future.

Continue on and complete my room cleaning. Ever since I got my new furniture I have been slowly but surely working my way through my room, cleaning out the crevices, reorganizing, and decluttering. I've sent out two big bags of clothes to donate! I've gotten rid of tons of too-old cosmetics! It's all happening, folks! I just need to make sure that by the end of the month it's all happened.

Prep my new planner for 2017. I've got my beautiful new planner for 2018-- an Ink & Volt planner in purple-- and I love using planners to get ready for the new year. Having a nice planner helps you do more than fill in key dates ahead of time-- it also helps you think through your goals for the year. This planner breaks down yearly, monthly, and weekly goals (and has 2 bookmarks so you can reference them easier) and I'm excited to have something that will keep me on track in terms of goals and intentions.

That's it for my goals this month! What are yours? Be sure to check out the link up at Writes Like A Girl and see other cool bloggers making plans for December!


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Going Gluten Free



As you may have read in an earlier update, I have been finding out some new stuff about myself medically. Pretty much all good news in that a lot of things I thought were just aging or my personality-- getting tired and weaker, for example-- were actually a very common and treatable disease. So it turns out, I've got to go gluten free for my health. I was incredibly upset when I found out because I love pastries and pasta. It's been a few weeks and I'm already seeing some positive results. But going gluten free has been pretty difficult.

Content Warning: I'm going to talk about my relationship with food and body so if anyone has a hard time with that, please read with care.

I've never been super connected to my body. There have been some genuine benefits to this! I don't have significant body image issues and while I'm not always comfortable in my body, it has never felt like a factor in how good I feel about my value as a person or my worthiness in the world. These are things I'm really grateful for, because it's really difficult to be a woman in the world without letting your value feel attached to what you look like. Especially if you're not a small woman, which I am not.

All that said, I'm a little too disconnected from my body. I tend to not worry about it, or care for it the way that I should. It's made my relationship with food one that is foremost about flavor and convenience, rather than nutrition or health. Food is comfort, rather than fuel. I think both of these things can happen in harmony but I'm a long way off from balance.

I don't have a disordered relationship with food, but I certainly don't have a good one. I love food, but I don't care about what it does to me, in large part. I need to change that about myself, because factually, food actually does things to people. Having to go gluten free is really forcing my to break out of my comfort routines about food-- many of which have been unhealthy. I have to do research now and be intentional and plan things.

I've always been more of a casual eater in every sense-- I eat what I want, when I want to. It's not a terrible way to be, but I've also been a huge emotional eater and stress eater, which means I wanted to eat the wrong things too often.

Due to my illness, gluten has likely been making me sad and tired... which has driven me to such gluten-filled delights such as donuts, pizza, and pasta. A vicious cycle of tasty treats.

Since I've stopped eating gluten, things have been tough-- I cried to my sister over the phone for an hour, mourning the loss of my ability to eat chicken nuggets, pastries, and pastas. She tough-loved me for an hour and didn't hang up (that's love) while I wailed. She cooked me gluten free things while I was home for Thanksgiving and told me all about how to be gluten free. I complained a lot. I still complain, but less now.

Since I've gone gluten free, my skin has started clearing up, I'm less lethargic, and my hair fall out a lot less. I'm still figuring things out, but things are looking up, despite now having to forgo croissants and muffins in most cases. Supposedly my skin will stop being as prone to dryness and my joint soreness will go away too-- y'all, I really thought I was just the worst and fastest at aging.

I'm really excited for what's to come. I am super sad about not being able to eat anything made with wheat or barley or soy sauce (although I can have tamari, which is gluten free soy sauce). But hopefully, I will be less sad in general.

Tell me if you have any gluten free recipes or resources you'd like to send my way, let me know! I need them.

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Recent Faves


It's been a while since I've done faves! I usually do them in a video but since I'm short on time with the holidays to prepare for, I'm going to tell you all my favorites here instead. Some of the links in here may be affiliate links which means that if you click or buy something through them, I might be compensated at no additional cost to you. It helps me continue to be able to blog here.

1. Fenty Matchstix Trio. Believe the hype, y'all. I'm obsessed with my set in Medium 200 and have bought additional Matchstix in Yacht Lyfe and Blonde. Each trio comes with a highlight, contour, and concealer and has a value of 3 for the price of 2. Crazy lightweight, buildable, and easy to use. I love the magnetic, hexagonal packaging as well.

2. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. This book was a lot of fun to listen to! I got the Audible audiobook and luckily for me, the great writing was complemented by great readers. It tells the story of Dimple and Rishi who are being set up by their very traditional Indian parents. Rishi is a dutiful son and is excited by the prospect of meeting a (potential) life partner. Dimple is not as aligned with her parents' traditional ideas and wants to focus on her career. This is why, when both families decide to send the two soon-to-be college students to the same summer program for web development to get to know each other, Rishi's parents tell him about his potential mate and Dimple's parents... do not. If you're looking for a fun read about two kids falling-in-love maybe and coming-of-age definitely-- and are really tired of only reading stories about white people-- check this book out.

3. Audible. Speaking of listening to books, I just started up with Audible and I love it. As someone who wants to read more but had trouble making space for it given my issues reading on trains (I get motion sick!) this has been a fantastic solution. I can read books while on the train, cleaning my apartment, or while drifting off to sleep. It's $15/mo and each month you get a credit for a book-- so as long as your book is $15+ on Audible, you've made your money back. You own the books so you can keep them in your library to re-listen to whenever and they also allow you to roll credits over to the next month or return books if you realize you're not that into them.

4. NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment. This is a new favorite formula and the chocolate brown Done It Again is definitely my Fall Look. Non-sticky, has great hold, highly pigmented, and on top of all that, it's not heavy at all. I might have to get more of these in different colors.

5. LUSH Montalbano Shampoo Bar. My cousin Caroline recommended this to me and I'm obsessed now. It's a citrusy, all natural, cruelty-free shampoo that I love. I'd never tried a shampoo bar but I have to say, I'm sold on it and I might never go back. My hair feels so clean and the scent energizes me!

6. Cellphone Rings. As a clumsy person with small hands who drops everything, this sucker has really changed the game for me. Stick it on your phone and you've got a ring to help you hold your phone or to stand it up on surfaces. I like the flower one a lot and I find them more useful than popsockets.

Tell me what stuff you're loving, especially books I oughta try on Audible!

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Zero Energy PSA


I've been away a while. Granted, I did literally go out of the country for a bit, but that's not the majority of why I haven't been posting. Frankly, I haven't had the mental capacity or energy. That's in part due to a hormone disorder I have called hypothyroidism. It started effecting me around 19 and while I improved a lot with treatment, it turns out I haven't actually geared up to the necessary dose I need. Basically my body doesn't have enough thyroid levels so I have to take synthetic versions to make up for what I lack, and apparently I'm not taking enough. Luckily, I have recently found this out, and plan on gearing up my dosage with my doctor so that I can function better.

Hypothyroidism causes a host of things including muscle and joint weakness and soreness, dry skin, lethargy, fatigue, memory loss, hair loss, slowed heart beat... basically it makes everything about you feel very slow. I used to think it was really normal to just want to be asleep all the time but apparently people genuinely enjoy being awake most of the time. Who knew! (Not me, obviously.) My condition was really severe in college so in comparison, I totally thought I had this handled, but this just goes to show that "better" is very relative. I'm really excited because this means that all that fatigue and depression that I have been dealing with will improve a lot just by taking a pill every day! And you know, all the other symptoms too, but the fatigue and depression are going to be the big game-changers for me.

I say all this to let you know a few things:

Firstly, if you are having these problems, too, go get tested for hypothyroidism-- it's a super simple blood test and it's very very treatable. It's especially common in women. I wonder how many of my peers have this disorder without knowing and haven't yet found ways to deal with their depression or general tiredness. (PS: Your depression might have multiple causes which could include this or a host of other things. It might not be just one thing and that's okay! Work with a doctor to figure out how you can manage your own unique stuff.) I bet a lot of us are totally ignoring our suspicions and/or blaming ourselves like I did for a while in college, thinking I was just useless. More recently I totally suspected a lot of my hair was falling out but I have so much hair (my ponytail is 3 times thicker than most people's) I thought "maybe this is just proportional." Turns out, nah. My initial "oh my god am I dying??" every time a wad of hair shed off me was... well obviously not completely warranted-- I'm a pretty dramatic person, let's be real-- but correct in my gut instinct that something was Not Right.

Secondly, I am totally going to continue blogging and hopefully making youtube content as well. It's just been super hard with all this going on, but I'm not giving up on this. I'm just really, really tired. Most notably from this, but there are other changes in the world of Harper that take precedence over this blog. Hopefully I will have more energy within the next few months and get back on schedule!

Thirdly, I will eventually get all my content up about my trip to Europe and other things. In the meantime however, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, which are much more manageable for me at the moment. I'm @harperyi on both.


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August Shopping Picks

This post contains affiliate links. That means clicking a link or purchasing something though the link may result in a small amount of money coming my way at no additional cost to you. My opinions are always my own. Thanks for helping this blog keep running!


This month I'm covering some things I've already bought alongside some things I wanna buy since it's been a while since I've done a wishlist post. It's just something it doesn't make sense to even think about when you are looking for work, you know? But now that I'm back on my feet, I must admit that I've been shopping with a bit of a vengeance. Here are my picks for this month!

1. Gold & Black Embroidered Reversible Bomber - One of the things I realized when I was working through Nicole's amazing workbook, Feel Good, Dress Better's first chapter is that I love bomber jackets-- they are super versatile, more put-together than hoodies (an adolescent fave), and they actually make me feel more confident in other outfits on days when I just wanna be a little more covered. I'm working toward getting them in all my main colors. So far I have baby pink/white, blush, burgundy, and black with pink and purple florals. This one is next up on my list! Black and gold, and it's reversible which really means it's two jackets in one.

2. Anastasia Beverly Hills' Subculture Palette - Look, I know I said the Two Faced palettes met most of my needs, which they do, and then I said I needed the Limited Edition Urban Decay Full Spectrum Palette for my intensely colorful looks, which is still very true, but this palette, I'm positive, is also going to be a very valuable add to my collection. It's got golden undertones which on a fairer person might be grungier, but on me, I'm thinking it won't be so grungy and will just come off looking very complementary to my tan, warm skin tone.

3. BASU Sound Grenade Personal Alarm - I'm a huge fan of safety, and personal alarms are a must-have in my book. Unlike weapons which can be difficult to obtain and can be turned against victims of crimes, personal alarms de-escalate dangerous situations by making loud noises that will send an attacker running the other way. This sound grenade is super compact, easy to attach to your keys or bag, and all you have to do to activate it is pull the colored part off the black pin. It emits a very loud alarm sound and doesn't shut up until you put it back together or it runs out of batteries. It's super easy to use and comes in a variety of colors. They also make great gifts! I bought the Sound Grenade+ which is larger but has 2 clippable ends (great for setting trip wires when camping or traveling), plus it's pink (always a plus in my book). I got a matching one for my sister and the compact one for my brother.

4. Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Aquacealer - I really like liquid concealers and Mia recommended this one! It works well and it's vegan and cruelty-free which is always a bonus. I'm currently using the Tarte Amazonian clay concealer but I'm frankly not a huge fan of the stick formulation (surprising because I'm a stick makeup person). At some point in the near future, I'm definitely switching over!

5. Studio 1 Short Sleeve Fit & Flare Dress in White & Coral - I'm a huge fan of coral and I've learned that I need more pieces I can wear for more social events. (Thanks again to Nicole's great workbook-- I'm really learning where the weaknesses of my closet are.) I'm really excited about this one because the colors make this a piece that can be worn day and evening to parties, brunches, dates, etc. The lines are super flattering and have a lot of bounce to them. I placed an order for a few dresses on JC Penney to take advantage of a sale and this was in the mix!

What are you lusting after this month?


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6 Tips for Getting Started with Snail Mail


Last week I talking about why I love sending snail mail as an act of self-care. Today I'm giving you tips on getting started as a letter writer and snail mailer.

1. Get your friends' mailing addresses. This is probably the most involved step but it's the first! Tell your friends you're making an effort to send letters and cards every once in a while and that you can get them in on it. The holidays make a nice occasion to ask for this info if you'd rather wait til you have a good excuse! If you don't wanna keep a physical address book you can sign up free with Postable (which I know is what Mia uses) to create an easy, secure, online address book for yourself.

2. Start small with postcards. One of my favorite things to do is buy postcards and send them to friends. Post cards are great because they are cool art pieces that also take the pressure off you to write a ton. Staring at a blank page can feel like a whole lot of responsibility, but with more postcards leaving about about the same amount of space as a post-it note, you'll probably be able to send someone a quick, nice thought. Pro tip: go to the post office and ask them for postcard stamps! They're about half the price of a forever stamp and will get your postcard where it needs to go without you overpaying.

3. Buy some nice stationery. Nothing wrong with the rustic nostalgia of sending a letter to a friend on loose leaf but getting to write a cute card or on a fun piece of Rilakkuma paper really adds a little oomph to the thing, doesn't it? It's a little more motivating and it also means whatever you write is that much more fun/interesting.

4. Send thank yous. There's very little that is as good for your brain and your heart as saying thank you to someone. You can thank someone for a gift or a dinner or recommendation letter, but you can also just thank someone for being a friend, teacher, or smiling face. I try to always have a stock of thank you cards at my disposal since they never stop being useful!

5. Keep things simple. I try to always start and end letters with a well-wish. Talk about something you have in common, an old memory you have with that person, something they recently posted on social media that you loved, or something you experienced recently that they would like. For some people it can feel kind of weird to "talk" to someone without having a conversation, but I'll put it like this: what do you wish someone would send you? It's probably not that complicated or long.

6. Make time for it. If you can put aside an hour a month, or maybe during the weekends to sit down with a coffee, listen to some music, and write something to someone, you're doing great. It doesn't have to be an intimidating production. Just put an hour aside to write something nice for your grandparents or a far-flung friend. One or two less episodes of a show during a Netflix binge won't kill you.

Those are my tips for making sending letters super easy and non-intimidating! What are your biggest hurdles or tips for sending mail?

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August Small Goals



I completely lost July. I have been so busy with work things and trying to figure out how to get groceries and have a social life and sleep, but I'm definitely back on track again so I'm here to jump back in on Nicole's Monthly Small Goals round up.

Last time I participated it was June, so first let's get old business out of the way and see how I did.

Wear sunscreen more. I am definitely doing better at this! I wear sunscreen almost every day I leave the house. Now my big problem is reapplying, but since most of my days I get sun in the morning and not much after that, so I'm ticking this one off as a win.

Edit my wardrobe. I'm working through Nicole's Feel Good Dress Better Workbook very slowly but I'm already learning a ton about where I've been going wrong with my closet. I sent a ton of stuff to ThredUp and hopefully I'll get some change out of it-- if not the items they don't sell will be responsibly recycled so I feel really good using them. (Get $10 credit through this referral link.)

Read two books. I'm definitely failing here, but I have been spending a good amount of time outside work being social and sleeping, which is not a bad thing! So many people are in town so I've definitely prioritized going out over staying in with a book, but I'm sure I'll get through these books eventually. It might just have to wait until the sun starts to fade.

Update my about and contact pages. I've updated my about-- but not my contact. That's a half a win, right?

Alright, now that that (very) old business is handled, let's get onto my goals for this month.

Be more active on Instagram. Twitter is where I spend most of my time but I feel like I'm missing out on a lot by not being on Instagram, especially since more of my IRL friends are on Instagram than on Twitter.

Pack my lunch. I recently booked a trip to London and Iceland for this fall so there has never been a better motivation for me to figure out how to make packing lunch part of my everyday life.

Go to the gym. I've honestly been telling myself that I've been getting out more (which is true and great) so I don't need to go to the gym, but a big part of my getting out more has also involved food that leans more toward "irresponsible choice" than "responsible choice." Frankly, I love eating foods for their enjoyment value and nutritional value takes a back seat-- but if I'm going to live like that, I really have to be less sedentary. I'm eating myself into a cycle of sluggishness. I know once I start going to the gym, I'll be better motivated to eat garbage food a little bit less since it's a lot more noticeable when you feel bad at than gym than when you are watching netflix.

What are your goals for the month?

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4 Ways Snail Mail is Good for Your Mental Health



College was a pretty hard time for me, mental health-wise. It's pretty common for your late teens and early 20s to hit you pretty hard between the drastic life changes (new environment, vastly different living situation, new people, changing relationships as you go from kid to some kind of adult) and the general still-not-fully-baked-ness of the brain. I struggled with anxiety, panic, and depression-- and still do on occasion. But luckily for all of us, mental health-- like most health-- is about managing and coping with whatever conditions we're born with and/or develop in whatever way works best for us. I put contacts in my eyes since I cannot naturally see things, take a synthetic hormone supplement for one my body doesn't make enough of, pop an allergy pill in case I go outside or encounter a cat, and a million other little things to keep myself happy and healthy. One of those things for me is sending letters and postcards to friends-- and maybe it could be one of those self-care things for your brain, too! Next week I'll talk about tips for how to get in the habit of sending mail, but for today, let's talk about the why.

1. Connecting to other people is a really good thing for your brain! We're social animals--isolating ourselves isn't healthy, but if you're depressed, anxious, or otherwise not feeling good, you're probably doing just that. You might be having thoughts that no one wants to talk to you or feel so ashamed or sad that you don't want to be around other people. Luckily for you, you don't need to be around anyone or even directly engage them over text or chat to send them a letter. It's a way of connecting to people without the pressure of responding immediately or making eye contact or any of the stuff that might be scaring you about interacting with people.

2. You're probably going to make someone's day-- and knowing that is a good feeling. When you get a piece of mail that's not junk, a bill, or a legal summons, it's a really great day. Most people rarely get mail, and whether it's a close friend or even a far flung one they aren't the tightest with but still care for, it's really great to know someone was thinking of them. Getting out of your own head to think about how someone else will feel is a positive thing when you are down in the dumps or just feeling "blah." It takes you out of your own sadness and gets you thinking about how you are a very small and manageable but also very real catalyst for good feelings in the world.

3. Writing letters without expecting reciprocity is an act of selflessness. Some people really believe that a letter must be reciprocated-- in some circles, that's just the etiquette. Personally, I don't like to follow that mindset, because it turns letter writing into something transactional. It's very easy nowadays to quantify everything, and while in many cases that can help us optimize our lives, it can also frame the way we see the world in terms of how much we give versus how much we get. And frankly, if you're anything like me (and in this way I think most people are) seeing the world in those terms makes you feel sad, unfulfilled, angry, and even cheated simply because you are noticing a lack of balance in numbers. We don't process everything we encounter or experience, and it's important to use that to our advantage. If you're focusing on a conversation with a friend at a coffee shop, you might not notice how many people come and go-- even if you saw those people somewhere in your field of vision-- because that brain energy is better spent going towards your goal of having a great conversation. In the same way, giving (or in this case, sending a letter) just for the sake of giving is a lot more fulfilling that giving in order to receive. Hanging on to an unnecessary expectation makes you sad or hurt or resentful, so why have one? Not only are you better off without it, but you start getting in the habit of choosing not to expect things in return and thus experience far fewer disappointments in life.

4. Snail mail changes how you perceive time and space for the better. Not to get all trippy on you, but time and space are very relative things. There are instances where a hundred miles is not too far to stay connected to someone, and others when a room apart feels like an ocean away.  There are times when a week feels like a day and when a minute has lasted for hours. Things are so instantaneous now, it's only natural that we've lost patience. I get frustrated if Amazon tells me my stuff will take more than a week to get to my apartment (I pay for Prime for a reason, dammit!). We spend a lot of perceived time waiting as seconds stretch between a sent text and a reply, minutes and hours become millennia as we watch our inboxes. We agonize over lengths of time that are actually very little compared to how we experience them. Writing and sending a letter changes the way you think about time and distance by making you feel closer and more present to people who are far away by sending them something physical and tangible, while at the same time dialing back your perception of time to remember that seconds and minutes don't have to be your primary frame of reference when it comes to time-- you can also think in days and weeks and still be totally okay. Maybe even better.

Basically, sending letters is really good for your brain-- especially when you are stressed, anxious, sad, or just finding that the pace of life is too burdensome. If you haven't done it in a while or ever, definitely give it a try! Next week I'll be giving tips on getting into letter writing because sometimes it's intimidating.

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Catching Up



It's been a while since I've posted and a lot has gone down. So let's catch up! In no particular order here are the big things I've got going on... it's a lot.

I started working at a new job! I think I've posted about this before, but it's both a big deal and a pretty big reason why I haven't been able to post as much. I started working at a really awesome company called Remezcla. We publish awesome content by, for, and about Millennial Latinxes. I work on the Revenue team and I love it but it's definitely pretty tiring between the occasional late night and the longer commute. I'm trying to get things sorted out in terms of how my routine runs. I've signed up for Amazon fresh, for example, so I can get groceries without having to go out and get them. Still nailing stuff down but I'm getting there, y'all!

I got started on Nicole's Feel Good Dress Better workbook. It's making me take a long hard look at my shopping choices! I've always loved fashion but I'm not most focused shopper-- I like pieces even if they don't always make sense for me or my wardrobe. This is helping me become a more focused shopper and I got rid of like 20% of my wardrobe for better pieces.

Booked tickets for my first trip to Europe. I've never travelled solo or abroad before so I'm both excited and anxious! I'll be meeting up with friends during the trip but the actual flights are gonna take forever. The farthest I've ever travelled before is Los Angeles. If anyone has tips or resources about traveling abroad, or more specifically to London or Reykjavik, send them my way!

What's new with you?

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Harper Watched: Bella: An American Tall Tale

photo c/o Playwrights Horizons by Joan Marcus

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.

Friday night, I went out with a college friend of mine to indulge in our mutual love of musical theater. As per usual, I was very excited to see the latest musical production at Playwright's Horizons-- Bella: An American Tale. As the show closes July 2, I'll tell you now to grab your tickets before it's too late. If you're under 35, you can sign up for a Young Membership (and students can sign up for a even further discounted Student Membership) for free to get discounted ticket access. This show is absolutely amazing and total #BlackGirlMagic which I am ALWAYS going to support. Right at the top, I'm letting you know this show is a 5/5 and you need to grab your tickets now.

This show is a Western of epic proportions by, for, and about black women. The writer, composer, lyricist Kirsten Childs is a damn revelation-- not many people do all three to begin with, and she does it all with immense skill, heart, and humor.


The Plot

Bella Patterson is on the run from the law and off to be with her sweetheart Aloysius T Hunnicut. Under the assumed name Bella Johnson, she heads west on a train to meet her betrothed, leaving behind her mother, auntie, and grandmother. Bella turns heads everywhere she goes with her big booty and warms hearts with her unrelenting sunshine. She goes on wild adventures, meets wild and amazing characters, and reclaims her story and her identity, over and over again.

Bella deals with a concept I'm a huge fan of as a storyteller and a Psych major-- the nature of our owned stories, and who gets to write and tell them. Bella is a girl with a big imagination, and she sees fit to imagine a world in which love wins out, she is the hero, and her dreams can all come true. Being a black woman, the world rarely sees fit to give her control of her own story, or to listen to what she has to say. History will not write her in. In the opening number she tells the audience that history is the tall tale we learn in school-- but there are so many other stories to be told. And this is Bella's.
photo c/o Playwrights Horizons by Joan Marcus
We grapple with autobiographical memory (our own stories) and historical memory in this exhilarating musical. Bella's grandmother struggles with dementia, but holds herself together best when talking about The Itty Bitty Gal-- their foremother who was forced into slavery but refused to be broken. Bella herself is a bit of an embellisher when it suits her-- and that's her own way of taking better control of her life. Throughout Bella, we see that creating a tall tale out of an ordinary one is not just a means of having fun, but of coping with hardship, finding bigger truths, and connecting with others in the present, past, and future.

Bella is unapologetically black, and unapologetically woman. It delves into complicated issues like the conflicted relationship black women can have with their bodies and how parts of it are seen in the world. It deals with lynching and the unpunished murder of black men and the immense struggle to find hope to go on. It deals with losing hope, losing love, losing dignity, and even losing your mind. But it offers hope in all these struggles; the kind of hope found in having courage, honoring those who came before you, and in owning your story-- if not daring to make it a little bit taller.

Getting Down To Business

Bella is an absolute masterpiece in #BlackGirlMagic. It is so sincere and honest in its experience of both unsinkable laughter and the deepest heartbreak. Kirsten Childs has put together a show that is jubilant and earth-shattering. This show doesn't pull any punches and through the music and the brilliant performances of the cast manages to balance the highs and lows with the audience on the edge of our seats. Childs manages to touch on some of the darkest parts of the experiences of black women and still bring it all back around to hope and finding happiness. 

I'm an Asian woman, and I'm not here to pontificate on the Black Woman Experience because that is just not my lane. But as a Woman of Color, I am 100% here to tell you that you need to support the work of marginalized people (which usually means going out of your way since the mainstream usually doesn't do much for marginalized people). I'm telling you that Bella is by, about, and for black women not to tell anyone to stay away, but rather to encourage you to see it. As a media consumer, you can change the world and yourself for the better by being more critical about what you consume and engaging with works by people outside your experience and moreover outside straight whiteness. This show is not watered down, it's not filtered down to make audiences more comfortable. Bella's story is Bella's story, and true to form, it will not be made small for anyone else's comfort.

photo c/o Playwrights Horizons by Joan Marcus
Bella deals with the really hard stuff so I'm going to throw a warning out there that this show is pretty real about the despair and violence that black women and their loved ones experience. The scene dealing with a woman whose husband was murdered by a crowd of white folk was gut-wrenching and I felt the song being sung by so many black women whose husbands, boyfriends, brothers, fathers and children (as well as wives, mothers, girlfriends, and sisters) have been murdered by people without getting any justice. As fantastic and tall as these tales are, they are so very real, and echo across time and history into our present in a way that is cathartic and validating as much as it is tragic. The song about Bella's mother's struggle with her grandmother's failing memory was just as heart-rending. The loss of a person, an identity, and their history is felt on both a human level and a historic one. It is heritage and history that keep her mind together in the fleeting moments she has it, highlighting the triumph in remembering where you came from and the blow felt when that is lost.

This show also dealt a lot with the difficulties one faces in their relationship with their body. Bella's behind is both celebrated and hated, sought-after and reviled. She deals with the tension of wanting to own her body-- its magic, its sexuality, its reality as part of her!-- while others outside her may choose to objectify her for it, humiliate her, or even attack her. This is told of course through Bella's relationship with her big booty and the spirit of her foremother The Spirit of the Booty aka The First Itty Bitty Gal. She goes through phases of loving her booty, hating how other people see her because of her booty, and of course, appreciating her booty once again not only as part of herself but as part of the legacy of those who came before her.

But don't let all that heavy stuff get you down because the jokes and the comedy are so well done in this show. From over-explain-y bad guys to well-timed looks and occasional 4th wall breaks, this is a hilarious show that will have you laughing and whooping as much as it's got you wiping tears. This is a beautiful, wonderful show. You've gotta see it.

Ashley D. Kelley, who plays the lead Bella, is so charming and comedically brilliant and her voice is the sweetest thing I've ever heard. I will watch her in anything. I've decided. Kenita Miller (Mama) and Brandon Gill (Nathaniel Beckworth) are also standout performers in a cast bursting with immense talent.

photo c/o Playwrights Horizons by Joan Marcus
My favorite ensemble character is definitely the Chinese American Oil Tycoon Cowboy, Tommie Haw. He hits on a lot of underrepresented parts of Asian American identity. The fact that we can "be from here" in that it's the 1800s and Tommie grew up in the US or the fact that Chinese workers built the Transcontinental railroad (often a footnote or a fact after which Asians disappear in the American history books up until Japanese internment-- if that's even covered). Or the fact that Chinese guys can be pretty damn hot. (Look, I hate "emasculation" as a concept because it's usually code for men not feeling superior/entitled to women, but I will admit that Asian guys are routinely under-appreciated.) It also helps that Haw is portrayed by my one true childhood prince charming, Paolo Montalban (he's actually Filipino) whom you may remember from the race-blind Cinderella that aired in the late nineties and taught you the meaning of true love. I got a chance to chat with him and grab his autograph after the show-- he is as wonderful as he seems. I'll put a slight caveat that Bella's portrayal of Mexicans, Indians, and Chinese people are not fully-enlightened, but the show is told from the point of view of Bella, a girl who learned about them through a book written in the 1800s, so I'll give her imagination a pass since the portrayals don't take themselves to seriously either.

Bella is unexpected, with many twists and turns and an ensemble that is as gifted in physical comedy and timing as they are in music. The staging is pretty brilliant too and I'm always in love with Playwright's Horizons ability to make a small theater into something so magical and transportive. If you are in the New York area, go see this show!

Harper's Rating: 5/5

Pros:
Brilliant writing, music, and lyrics by the incomparable Kirsten Childs
By, about, and for black women
Paolo Montalban 
The music is so fun and I NEED TO GET A CAST RECORDING THE SECOND IT'S AVAILABLE
Deft handling of some really heavy material balanced out by incisive humor
Fantastic exploration of narrative as a critical part of collective and individual humanity
Fantastic loved story (I love a love story, because I'm an emotional weenie)
Amazing portrayal of how we live in our stories, and reality is secondary (I'm obsessed with this)
Cons:
Bella's imagination has some pretty wild portrayals of Mexicans and the Chinese, but her ill-informedness is well-explained, and it feels more like a statement on her naivete than on how Mexican and Chinese people actually are in this universe.
I can't buy the cast recording immediately

I'll be going to see the show again on Tuesday night. Get your tickets and see this show while you can! I'm telling you, you'll regret missing out!

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june small goals



I'm back with another installment of small goals as part of Nicole from Writes Like a Girl's small goals link up! I did a lot of stuff in May, but very little of it was anything I posted in my last monthly goals. Frankly, I underestimated how much brain capacity my travel plans and job hunt would take away from remembering these littler things. I knew I should have picked only 3 tasks but I thought I was up to the challenge. Whoops! Anyway, before we get to this months goals, let me shame myself publicly.

Post a great Disneyworld vlog! I actually did this! I had a beautiful time with my best buds and I am so glad I got to spend that time with them. I didn't capture as much of it as I think I should have in terms of video content but I am fine with that since I only didn't capture it because I was too busy having a great time with them. You can watch the vlog here.

Post 3 blog posts. Well. This is awkward. I set the bar low, but I should have set it lower with my job hunt and not one but two trips out of town!

Make a more solid skincare routine. With all the travel I did-- via plane!-- I really wasn't able to pack, use, and solidify a routine with all the products I want to be a part of my routine. I should have seen this coming, frankly. 

Exercise during commercial breaks. Sometimes I'll do some squats, but with all the shows I watch breaking for the summer, I've not experienced pretty much any commercial breaks in my TV consumption. Honestly, I totally forgot that everything was season finale-ing!

Nail down the Major Arcana. I studied more for my interviews than for my Tarot practice. I can't really fault myself for that. 

So it turns out that I haven't done too badly this month-- I just picked bad goals. I didn't want to make goals about big things like job hunting-- this is a small goals round up after all! I also didn't want to make goals about my travel plans since the travel was scheduled and inevitable and therefore kind of already accomplished. This month I'm going to try to focus better on my small goals, and luckily I'll have much more stability to do so. 

Wear sunscreen more. I'm really diligent about this when I travel since I often go to sunny locations and spend much of the days outside on the street, but I'm not as good with this on an every day level. Generally this isn't too much of a problem since I'm fortunate to have fairly sun-resilient skin but I really should take better care of it and wear sunscreen more regularly at least in the summer months. I just invested in the NARS Velvet Matte Skin Tint with Broad Spectrum SPF 30 which will definitely help me up my sunscreen game since it'll just be part of my makeup routine. 

Edit my wardrobe. I'm really excited and nervous about this one. I got into a good place with a lot of my fall/winter wardrobe, but I need to get on top of my spring/summer wardrobe. Moreover, I'm no longer at my rad, super casual job and looking for a new one which might involve a more grown up approach to dressing. Despite previous purges, even now I realize I have a disproportionate amount of t-shirts that I don't wear out. It's good to have clothes for chilling at home or running errands, but I really ought to have fewer of those and more clothes I love wearing while I'm actually being seen! Luckily for me, Nicole's Feel Good, Dress Better workbook is out. I'm so ready!

Read two books. There are two books I'm in the middle of right now-- I love them while I'm reading them, but I'm still not used to making space for books anymore. I'm two years out of school but I haven't scraped that "reading is work" mentality off me. I'm going to try to make the space better because I really love these books! I realize I struggle a bit more when there's not a narrative story so I've gotta be more conscious about making time. I'm still reading a business biography called The Will to Win by Robert Herjavec (my favorite Shark Tank shark) and Her Eternal Moonlight by Steven Savage and Bonnie Walling which is all about the experiences of girls/women in North America whose lives were touched by Sailor Moon. 

Update my about and contact pages. I am really happy with how I re-did my fonts on the site last month (do you love it as much as I do?) and it's really inspiring me to spruce things up a bit! I've gotta update my about and contact pages and I'm really looking forward to it.

That's it for my goals this month! If you're looking for your own goal motivation, check out Nicole's link up and see what other people are trying to get done! You can also check out her rad workbook here if you also need to re-evaluate and change-up your closet. 

What are your goals for the month?


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may small goals



Lots of big life changes happening this month. I'm currently "between successes" but very excited about the opportunities I'm pursuing. I'm participating in Nicole at Writes Like A Girl's link up of small goals. Be sure to check that out and consider participating and linking up.

Before we get into this month's goals, let's check in on last month's goals:

Raise money for services for domestic violence and human trafficking victims. Granted, I only made it a little over half to my original goal, we did raise a decent sum of money that will help Sanctuary for Families, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. These issues disproportionately and deeply affect women who are poor, immigrants, and/or women of color. The money we raised will go towards providing legal aid, shelter, counseling, economic empowerment, childcare, and more. The current administration wants to cut funds for programs that help victims of gender violence so please consider sending a donation to Sanctuary for Families

Take a walk at least once a week. I actually did this! In part because I've been running errands further from home to save money, I've gotten out more for longer. I'm glad I'll be able to process vitamin D better with all that good good sunlight.

Learn some new recipes. I learned one new recipe, but I don't think that should count since the spirit was more along the lines of 3 - 5 recipes. 

Do wrist and arm exercises more. I'm doing stretches and push ups more. Probably not as much as I should, but I have made a marked improvement from not at all. 

Bring weekly link posts back. Well. Definitely did not cross this one off my list. 

Three out of five isn't great but it's not bad. The past month was definitely slightly encumbered by the impending graduation of my siblings, Mother's Day shopping, and of course my job hunt. I also managed to get a hair cut-- which is a big deal for me since I haven't gotten that done professionally in... years. 

There's a lot going on this month-- my sister graduating, my trip to Disneyworld with my brother and best bud Jasmin, and job hunting! But we're here to do small goals. So let's focus on that. 

Post a great Disneyworld vlog! I'm trash for Disney and I'm going with some of my favorite people whom I live REALLY far from so it should be a fantastic trip. I'm so excited. 

Post 3 blog posts. The time has come for the bar to be set heckin' low. The lack of structure in my life is definitely making it weirdly easy for me to not post on the blog even though I do want to keep up! What the heck! I just kinda forget about it and assume I have time later-- because I do, but that doesn't mean anything if I don't actually use it.

Make a more solid skincare routine. I think the time has come for me to treat my skin really well. I don't think I'm horrible to it (unless you count my diet) but I would say I'm not strict about it, and that's definitely something I should be more disciplined about. I should be using day and night cream regularly, using serums as a preventative measure, and doing masks 2-3 times a week! 

Exercise during commercial breaks. I watch a lot of TV and I really oughtta take advantage of commercials to do more than check twitter. 

Nail down the Major Arcana. I've been teaching myself tarot with Labyrinthos Academy which is a cool tarot tutorial app! I've gone through all the Major Arcana lessons multiple times over but I still don't think I have it totally nailed down. The Minor Arcana is a lot more difficult so I'm hoping to get a solid grip on the Major Arcana this month before I proceed into Minor Arcana.

What are your goals for the month?

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6 More Thoughtful Ways to Gift Money to Grads



My siblings are graduating this year! That's got me thinking a lot about graduation gifts. Money is a great and popular gift because frankly, most people could use more of it, and that's especially true when you're just starting out. Giving a cash gift for graduation is pretty common, and it's not seen as impersonal (like it might for a birthday). That said, there are a lot of thoughtful ways to gift someone money with a little more intention. Some things are just easier to spend money on than others, and those things aren't necessarily the most important things-- see: me ordering delivery food and then complaining about the cost of flatware. Sometimes it's a good idea to designate a purpose for funds!

Savings Bonds. If you're in the US, you can buy a savings bond for someone that will mature in a year and can earn interest the longer they sit. You can even buy them directly with your tax refund! Definitely do your research to see if this is a good option for you, but they especially make sense if you want to help your new grad think about the nebulous but important idea of investments and long-term money.

Gift cards for entertainment. Whether or not your recent grad has a job lined up post-grad, it might be hard for them to pay for some fun when they're just starting out. Handle it for them by gifting them a gift card for streaming services or movie theaters.
✨✨✨ Try gift cards for Netflix, Spotify Premium, Apple/iTunes, AMC, fandango, and Regal Theaters.

Gift cards for essentials. There are some places you just gotta shop when you are living your life. Gift cards to these places are always welcome and can make a hefty "starting the apartment" shopping trip a little less cardiac arrest inducing when they hit the register.
✨✨✨ Try gift cards for Amazon Prime, Target, Lowes, and IKEA.

Gift cards for dining out. Sometimes you just gotta treat yourself to a fancy latte or a dinner you didn't have to cook after a long day at work. And some gift givers like to give gifts that aren't 100% practical and necessary and are more fun and special-- an excuse to break from normal restrictions and live a little!
✨✨✨ Try gift cards for Starbucks, Chipotle, Darden Restaurants, Panera, IHOP, Coldstone Creamery, Dominos, etc. You can also get gift certificates for favorite local businesses if you know the grad is going to be living in a certain spot for a while. 

Gift cards for adult/professional clothes. Let's be real, the kids probably need new clothes for interviews and maybe even for their jobs if they're living the corporate lifestyle. But the other thing is that you probably should be picking them for them. So give them a gift card instead!
✨✨✨ Try gift cards for Nordstrom, Banana Republic, Gap, Torrid, JCPenney, Lord & Taylor, DSW, and Express.

Gift cards for travel. What better way to subtly hint that this bud better visit you than by giving them no excuse not to, am I right? But seriously, traveling is a ton of fun and often a key part of how we escape from the pressure of our regular lives whether for a summer getaway or just getting home for the holidays! Make it a little less burdensome for your recent grad with a gift card or two.  
✨✨✨ Try gift cards for Hotels.com and Southwest Airlines


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Say Goodbye to Complacency with Rain!


Hi all, sorry I haven't posted much lately-- been dealing with some crazy life stuff but I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things soon! In the mean time, my friend Rain from RainLeeFrancisco.com has got my back! She's a really kick-ass friend from LA and she blogs about all the good stuff from pop culture to her personal philosophies and today she's talking about kicking complacency's butt!


The biggest danger is complacency. Can we be continually great?

I do not believe in settling. Whether it’s settling for a job, love or even your next pair of shoes. Never settle. Because settling will leave you feeling empty inside, even if it’s slight. Or worse… REGRET. Now, I don’t believe in regrets either, but that’s a post for another day.

Life is too short to be complacent.

People who are successful and at the top of their game did not settle. The New England Patriots are the best NFL team ever, playing the most conference championships and now, with the most Super Bowl wins of any team in history. But that doesn’t come from settling. Tom Brady didn’t throw in the towel after winning his first Super Bowl (which is the most any player can be happy with), or his second, third or fourth.

Instead he went back to the field and trained harder and came back stronger. Same with Kobe Bryant. No matter what you keep fighting back strong against ALL odds. If you accept the fact that you’re #1, then there’s nothing that can stop you from being #1.

Seek new mountains.
Once you reach the mountain top, seek new mountains. There’s always a bigger and more challenging mountain waiting to be climbed. This will only make you stronger, more powerful and even better than you expected. But of course, with new mountains comes new challenges.

Do it again, but differently.
You’ve reached the highest point of success you dreamt of for a long time and may now be boasting to yourself about how you got there. Great. Now, if you’d like to do it again, make those tweaks and changes. Everything in life is constantly changing and evolving and we must do the same. To reach success, be #1 and reach a new height, we must be willing to do things differently and change. For a potentially better outcome awaits.

Repeat success.Success can be repeated and that can come in many forms. So you’ve got the highest grade on your Communication Law final. Repeat. Obviously not in that class, but in others. Or, perhaps you lost those last 5 pounds that seemed impossible to come off… Repeat success by keeping it off. Repeating success does not mean going out and doing the exact same thing, the same way and being successful, again! Ha, that does not happen. Why? Because you already did it.

Repeating success can come in many shapes, sizes and forms.

Recognize opportunities and seize them.
First and foremost, the most successful people are able to recognize opportunities, take them and run with them. The opportunity can be an innovating product or service, an investment, pursuing a dream career, whether it may be… it’s important to be open to the possibilities.

There are so many more opportunities! Don’t settle for anything less than what you know you deserve. Once you are given those seeds, continue to plant them even during a drought and hope they’ll blossom long term.

We can all bring out our inner Tom Brady or Beyoncé and let nothing stand in our way of being #1. Always strive for the best, nothing less than that is acceptable. Complacency is the enemy of success.

Later babes, xx Rain

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april small goals


I'm so excited because I'm turning 24 this month and that feels pretty awesome! I'm participating in Nicole at Writes Like A Girl's link up of small goals. Be sure to check that out and consider participating and linking up.

Before we get into this month's goals, let's check in on last month's goals:

Get on To-Doist. 
I immediately got on this and even sprung for premium. It's definitely helped me with the smaller and recurring tasks in my life. It's great for things like chores or incidental things that are important but not urgent. 

Finish a book-- maybe even two! I finished The Wangs vs. The World which I had on my plate forever. You can read my review here and follow me on Goodreads. I have not gotten onto a second book, but I'm glad I met my goal of wrapping one up!

Start Meal Planning again. Did not get to this... I have succeeded in trying out more recipes, but things have been a little too hectic to make time to fully meal plan. I'll try to do better this month!

Go to the gym twice a week. So, I had high hopes, but we were hit with a blizzard and the fact that it didn't warm up like I HOPED it would really put a damper on this. I think I need to generally get out more though. Last month had me so cooped up that I definitely need more sun and I don't think my gym (in a basement) is going to help with that so I'll definitely need to get some walks in the mix.

Blog more, get more videos up. I got a couple videos up and did some more blogging! I stopped putting pressure on myself to put videos up after Youtube's Restricted Mode started being really crappy to so many creators like LGBTQ vloggers and activists. I don't really feel great about the idea of putting up more videos while this is happening. As a bi person I don't know if it's a good decision to continue to create content for a platform that is screwing up so royally-- but on the other hand is it better to not let them stop me from creating? I don't know, but right now I'm leaning toward not putting stuff on Youtube until they fix it. I also got a couple more blog posts up. I feel good about it even though it doesn't feel like I'm fully in the swing of it. I think it will improve as the weather improves. 

Three out of five isn't so bad. That's kind of average for me so at least I'm not doing badly. Onto April's goals!

Raise money for services for domestic violence and human trafficking victims. I mentioned my birthday is coming up, but what I haven't mentioned is that I am using the occasion to raise money for Sanctuary for Families, my favorite non-profit organization in New York. Their mission is to end gender based violence, and work to address the complex problem in a thorough way, providing services ranging from shelter and child care to counseling (individual, group, family, and crisis), legal aid, economic empowerment, and educational advocacy. They work in over 30 languages with thousands of clients each year. This is incredibly dear to me as a child of immigrants and woman of color as immigrants and women of color and those living in poverty are especially at risk for gender-related violence. It's incredibly important with the current administration looking to cut federal funding for programs that fight domestic violence. If you've enjoyed my content over the years, please consider sending a donation their way

Take a walk at least once a week. Here's to hoping the weather makes this something I can actually enjoy. Granted it is also catcalling season but if I worried about that all the time, I'd literally never get anything done. 

Learn some new recipes. I think this will make meal planning more fun! Meal planning is kind of boring and I think learning new recipes will help make it easier to do. I'm frankly not the most disciplined person but my enthusiasm is so strong it usually compensates. I need to build my enthusiasm since trying to make this a chore is not helping me. 

Do wrist and arm exercises more. I am experiencing a lot more issues with my carpal tunnal and I think it's largely because I am mostly using them for repetitive tasks that strain them without actually strengthening or stretching them. I'm hoping to do a few more stretches for them every day and do more arm strength exercises. And maybe start practicing sword again since I am very interested and haven't done it in years. (Before you ask, I have always been a beginner.)

Bring weekly link posts back. I feel like I come across a lot of great content and I miss spotlighting stuff every week. I just want to recommend y'all stuff, and despite my original plan to share it all on Facebook, since making that decision, Facebook has changed a lot-- as both a platform and a culture.

That's it for me! Please consider donating to my fundraiser, and check out Sanctuary for Families-- their array of services is really amazing!


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1.5 Years Later



It's been a year and a half since I cut all ties with a long-time friend of mine. After over ten years of friendship, I think a lot of people would have a hard time dropping someone unless they did something catastrophic. Especially people who value Being a Good Friend. But Being A Good Friend doesn't make someone else be a good friend to you.

Some people think getting into your life early enough is all they need to do to be a life-long friend. Some people don't contact you unless they need something out of you. Some people don't know how to treat people with respect and don't care to learn. I'm not saying this as an indictment-- just fact.

This is a short post, but in the spirit of spring cleaning and new beginnings, I just wanted to remind you that you can get rid of pretty much anything you want if it is not helping you grow or be better. Just because you're used to something, or have put a lot of time and energy into something, doesn't mean that it is a good idea to keep moving forward with.


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Book Review: The Wangs vs. The World


As you may know, I'm trying to read more this year-- specifically books. I read a lot of articles and internet pieces but I genuinely haven't picked up many books since grade-school for non-academic purposes so I'm teaching myself to carve out time for that again. This month I told myself I had to finish the book I've been picking up and putting down for months.

I got a free copy of The Wangs vs. The World from Houghton Mifflin way back in October and finally got through it. Here's my take on it.

Centering on the fall of an immigrant family that "made it" and then suddenly found themselves "unmade" at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, The Wangs vs. The World centers on the family and their cross-country road trip to reunite and somehow reclaim their family's former glory-- once lost to the Communists, twice lost to America, where Charles had to start over, and now thrice lost to financial institutions.

This book is not "hilarious" but it does have some funny moments-- I would say the majority of the comedy is more in the absurdities of the improbabilities and indignities the family faces, which is a very common comedic sensibility in Asian immigrants and their descendants. The characters are well-written and multi-layered, each with their own quirks and absurd dreams which is also a hallmark of the first generation of Americans born to immigrants. The charm of those book lies largely in how very real the portrayal of the family dynamic is and the varying values of the different characters based on their generation, cultural upbringing, and social standing-- unique to each character despite their all being a family. 

My two main grievances with the book are these: First, I did not like the Charles, the patriarch, at all. He's the kind of man I have known very well in life and I find him insufferable. The story, though very much about everyone else as much as him is set in motion because of him. It begins with him and ends with him. To me he is the epitome of the idea of "loving your family, without liking them." He is the father that his children love, but don't really like. The story really did feel like, for all its expansion on the other characters, a universe built around him and his own ego and its results. Secondly, I did not get much closure from the book's end, which I will not detail, but I'd say I felt that only 60% of the emotional loose ends were tied up and the floor fell out below me on the last page. And not in a powerful way, just in a bewildering way that had me feeling like I should have read a version with about 30 more pages to wrap everything up.

Overall it's a decent read, and as someone who is trying to read more books by and about Asian Americans, it definitely represented the family dynamics in a robust and real way. It's a little crass, a little too-honest, and very much about humor in situations moreso than the turn-of-phrase in the narration. Perhaps it's just not for someone who is turned off by stories centered on a patriarch and how his mistakes affect everyone else. 

This review is also available on my goodreads account-- if you're a user too, feel free to connect with me there an recommend some books to me!

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