blog, life updates

deep in the arena / sept 2019

it’s already been a month since my last conversation with my work best friend Ilya. september was quick yet i learned many key lessons. i am progressing quickly because of the people i’ve met, bootcamp i started, and the experiences i’ve had this month. thus, it is time for another inventory check.

tl;dr headspace: “i am in the game. i built my character. chose my arena. now i am deep in it. past lvl 1: getting used to the flow, the controls. seeing who the key players are. now i am figuring out how to play the game while also building my arsenal of weapons + potions. bring it on.”

taking inventory


challenge: learning to be with a partner again

my relationship with my significant other has been unfolding beautifully and organically. our thoughts, actions, and emotions mirror and complement each other in a way that makes things easy. there can be strong enthusiasm and passion, but also a comforting silence when we are together. the support and insight we provide for each other propels our individual goals symbiotically. it still baffles me that this huge shift in my life stemmed from a simple dinner party back in july. i am learning more about various cultures, worldly knowledge, and new ways of thinking by being with him – just what i needed as i was embarking in a new chapter in my career.


challenge: learning to balance a day job and a bootcamp that requires 20+ hours a week

my day job has become a back burner initiative as i started my bootcamp. i experimented this month to define the lowest energy output i can give also providing a net positive value. today i found the answer and will start using that as a boundary for how much energy i exert at work. my current job will always be easier than the startup job that started my career. the difficult part is balancing this job amongst my higher priorities, but i believe i am on course towards perfecting this code.


challenge: lowering contact frequency while also ensuring that i showed my love

i didn’t get to see my immediate family this month, since Paris, but i’ve kept up with the weekly texts, phone calls, and facetimes. my brothers are growing, and i feel the urge to guide them. however, i’ve taken the backseat approach and wait for them to come to me for help. it’s fascinating to see what conclusions they draw and what experiments they perform as they navigate their worlds.

other family: my cousin Patrick moved up to SF, and i couldn’t be happier. i grew up very closely with Patrick as we went to the same schools, played together, and shared birthday parties. my significant other and i went on a double date with Patrick and his girlfriend Sophia – the first time i’ve brought anyone “home” since Mike. i am so grateful for how well everyone got along. Patrick agreed to have a joint-birthday party like old times. we’ll find out next month how well it turns out.

i’ve also kept up with my cousin Jaime who i used to work with. i love hearing updates on her growing business and baby Mila. next month is also her birthday month (like Patrick and me). time moves quickly when you’re on your grind, but it’s always nice to take a breath and reconnect with the ones who’ve helped you on your journey.


challenge: lowering contact frequency of play while also building / improving quality of relationships

my dream of having a local, solid friend group is coming true. i’ve gotten closer to some people i box with who live very close to me. i spend last sunday night exploring a neighborhood soba spot and brewery with them, then spent the next night eating a home-cooked meal (an eel they caught while fishing!) in a starry-lit backyard. we planned a trip to Half Moon Bay to go poke pulling in November. they’re helping me renovate my backyard for this CRAZY RAGER (just kidding, just a kickback) i am throwing for my birthday.

this birthday party has been a long-lived dream of mine: all my favorite people in one place, people who represent different sides of me / different chapters of my life, all meeting and enjoying each other’s company. i’ve always been hushed about my birthday, but this year i have a place, i have solid friends from all over – why not live it up? i cannot wait.

another friend group i’m getting close with is my significant other’s close friends. i went on a Big Sur camping trip with them: driving along the coast, relaxing at this obscure hot spring at 2 AM, and inebriated around a campfire, eating the blandest meal i have ever eaten. it was SURreal (ah ha ha). they are the ones i mentioned last month – the ones i said would help me level up.

i know who my friends are. opting out social media always emphasizes who i should invest in. i like that i can go super deep with all of my friends, sharing my most personal problems with great ease and trust. many of my friends have helped me scheme which i find incredibly valuable at this stage in my life. i know who my tribe is, and i try to make it as apparent as possible my affections for them.


mental health: 

challenge: lowering anxiety / overwhelm / reactiveness

i was definitely tested this month while juggling the demands of a full-time job and bootcamp. i relinquished self-imposed pressure and adopted / experimented with new models of productivity. i am still tweaking this area, but i can confidently say that my mental health has significantly improved this past month.

why? the social media tick has completely left my system, leaving me with more headspace to focus on more valuable ideas. also, i hit my three-plus week mark for my meditation habit. i’ve been on and off with meditation for years – previously having a multi-month habit that later slipped when i ended my Headspace subscription. nonetheless, i am back on it, meditating multiple times a day, and boy does it make a difference. i am sharper. i am calmer. i am happier. i am more proactive versus reactive to my environment. i am juiced to see its compound effect over the next couple of weeks.

physical health:

challenge: getting back into the shape before Paris, maintaining physique and overall health with less commitment and time = basically, more efficiency

this has been put on the backburner, but i still have maintained my shape. i lowered my frequency at the gym from four to a minimum of two. at the beginning of the month, i knew that i had to bring fitness down a few notches as i added more study time. i’m taking it well, but i still am very aware of my muscle loss.

after a long-winded internal debate, i decided to continue my gym pass. 1) boxing will keep my sharp, grounded, and empowered. 2) i realized that the community i’ve built there has a great positive impact on my mental and emotional health. and 3) i realized that fitness, particularly boxing, is a part of my identity. though i am diverting my time more to this bootcamp, i realized that i cannot CANNOT lose my sense of self throughout this process. my things that contribute to my identity is paramount and must continue to be nurtured. i am NOT trying to go insane any time soon.

emotional health: 

challenge: asking for help, managing my emotions independently, acting less impulsively so i can be more mentally focused

i have been training myself to reach out for help more often, as it is a weakness of mine (which stems from my immigrant childhood). most of the times i had a problem i was trying to work out, or there was a concept i couldn’t quite wrap my head around, i asked those around to teach me, brainstorm with me, or share their tips and experiences. examples include: context on cultural differences, optimizing my weekly calendar, renovating my backyard, and strategizing next career moves. i was inspired to adopt this method of sharing brains from my best friend Wally, and it is working wonders. not only does it save me from a preventable failure, but it also strengthens the bonds i have with my friends and family.

experiments conducted this month:

love challenge: learning to have a partner again

  • communicating more frequently and in real time – voicing my thoughts even when they were not finalized / polished and even when i don’t feel like sharing

career challenge: learning to balance a day job and a bootcamp that requires 20+ hours a week

  • energy conservation: finding the sweet spot between lowest viable input and positive net value to conserve energy for bootcamp
  • timing: arriving + leaving work / sleeping + waking up at the same time every day
  • procrastination: time-boxing difficult / less interesting projects, using my calendar religiously

family challenge: lowering contact frequency of play while also building / improving quality of relationships

  • frequently communicating my thinking, challenges, and priorities during check-ins

friends challenge: lowering contact frequency of play while also building / improving quality of relationships

  • respond quicker to text messages
  • organize hangouts right away in the moment so there are less residual thoughts / interactions for planning and so it is based on my timeline
  • saying no explicitly and in the moment
  • being more present / focused on others during hangouts

mental health challenge: lowering anxiety / overwhelm / reactiveness

  • tea as an afternoon pick-me-up / stress reliever instead of coffee
  • headspace meditation habit: at least once a day
  • acting less from a need to explain myself and feel understood, focusing more on fueling the idea that only those who matter will try to understand you
  • bravery practice: focusing more on sharing unfinished thoughts in real time

physical health challenge: getting back into the shape before Paris, maintaining physique and overall health with less commitment and time

  • de-prioritizing gym from my top three priorities which deflated the pressure i placed on myself
  • eating high-nutrient food less frequently, in smaller quantities
  • cooking from a cookbook and using grocery shopping as a reward to keep myself motivated to fill my body with the right energy

emotional challenge: asking for help, managing my emotions independently, acting less impulsively so i can be more mentally focused

  • asking for help as often as possible
  • being more expressive of my woes with trusted souls
  • meditation helps with impulse and emotional control
  • integrating a consistent “save for later” list for thoughts, links, media


i am more efficient and realistic with managing time and responsibilities. i am more action-oriented as it also saves time. i manage my thoughts and emotions more effectively because of my improved habits around sleep, meditation, and food/media consumption.

overall, i am much more balanced, thus my capacity for workload volume and complexity has improve. perfect as it is on track for my vision for myself at the end of 2019.

next steps

more disciplined studying hours, deep work, and timeboxing

last quarter. let’s kick it in.

blog, personal development

semi-annual review: 2019 so far

i have poked and prodded, and now they are all out. the repetitive, unnecessary thought patterns are flushed from my system (for the most part), and i am mentally and emotionally cleansed. the people who are meant to be in my life are here, along for the ride. now it is time to embark on a new journey.

it is june now. half of 2019 is nearly complete. i am both excitedly and anxiously forecasting what is going to happen from now until 2020. life is moving incredibly fast. i’ve become stable enough to not only catch up but also think more proactively about what’s to come. the key lessons that i’ve learned this year so far are as follows:

  • you control how people view you and treat you.
  • if you want something, speak up. if you don’t want something, also speak up.
  • high risk, high reward.
  • most times, there will be another chance. don’t think, decide, or act out of scarcity.
  • noise is everywhere. noisy environments, noisy content, noisy people. constantly reflect, filter, and nurture to get to the good stuff.
  • scheduling regular time to yourself is non-negotiable for a healthy mind.
  • convince your mind of who you are and your capabilities by doing. do consistently.
  • the universe doesn’t say “no”. it says “yes, but wait. i have something better”.

one year ago, i was only entertaining the idea of leaving my startup job and moving to the Bay. one year later, i’m here with a new job, new lifestyle, new social circles, new interests / ideas / habits / dreams, etc.

2019 habits

key habits of 2019

i have big dreams, and i always have. from june to december, i am focusing my time on my next career move. i plan on moving into design, particularly towards a product or interaction design role in a tech company. my headspace is scattered as i am gathering the details of what spaces i want to occupy, what problems i want to solve, what education i need to gain, and who i should bounce ideas with. i am also dedicating time to learning French to give myself geographical flexibility (potentially move to the country of my dreams). this is a multi-year plan. the age stamp i decided on is 27, but it will be achieved sooner rather than later. i am also trying my best to smell the roses and stay grounded in this affluent, cosmopolitan reality of San Francisco.

at the beginning of this year, i created a “vision of myself at the end of 2019”.

2019 vision.jpg

i can confidently say that i have nailed a couple of these items, however there is still a lot of work to do (understatement). i’ve become better at taking matters one step at a time. old caroline would overwhelm herself and drown in an endless to-do list. new caroline is more efficient and can separate herself when her sanity is at stake.

points of focus this month: deep dive into creating a roadmap to a career in design, read more regularly, and plan for my upcoming trip to Paris.

let’s make the next six months as eventful as the last. let’s make it exponential.

cheers to growth.

blog, on being, personal development

When you decide your life is your own

“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours. It is an amazing journey, and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.”
– Bob Moawad

When you choose to uphold your independence, you begin to live a different life. You begin to feel more powerful as you make decisions on your behalf for your own welfare. You enjoy your own presence, look forward to alone time, and possibly prefer it most nights. You do whatever you want without supervision and craft your own life.

Independence includes externally from parents, partners, and toxic relationships. It also means internally from your inner demons.

Once you own your worth, you become free to live to the fullest at the highest frequency.

blog, on being, personal development

Only you can fully understand you

Only you can fully understand you.

There is simultaneous melancholy and joy in this statement.

Melancholy because you will never be entirely understood. No one will know all parts of you. Even if you try to expose someone to the various facets of your life, only you will fully experience the life you live. On that vein, expecting someone else to fully understand you is ludicrous.

But there is also great joy in knowing that you are your own. Joy in the sense that you have complete independence. You are the owner, the driver, and the purveyor of your own happiness. Hold this with a sense of pride.

blog, on being, personal development

Art is letting out your inner child

Art is not meant to be filtered, unless you’re editing.
However, many people don’t get that far.
Their inner critic hinders their creativity so they don’t create at all.

When I create, I think of a quote by Ernest Hemingway.

Write drunk. Edit sober.

Tapping into your creativity is you allowing yourself to be a child again, allow yourself to play and throw colors on the canvas. Children often don’t have a filter. They are simply free to be.

Allow yourself to be that child. Worry about filtering when it’s time to clean and polish.