Hi, I'm Tina. Welcome to my blog.

17 Aug '18  — mental holograms

How do I find myself fixating on a person so easily?

After watching John Wick 1 and 2, I read an article about Keanu Reeves. He met someone at a dinner party and began a collaboration to publish art books. ‘Keanu goes to dinner parties? I wonder if people fawn over him like fans on the street. How would he introduce himself to other guests?’

‘How can I be a person who gets to invite Keanu to dinner?’

My thoughts go on. He’s just a person, like any other human on this planet. He just happens to have a public story that’s interesting to me.

It’s fascinating how easy it is to fixate.

I’ve fixated on others but I’m perplexed by how a person can appear so much more than they are: a human being.

Now it’s gotten to the point that it’s professionally responsible to get others to fixate. Get people to buy into ideas, merch, movies, music and books. Charm people into thinking you’re more than regular.

It’s not their fault if I end up wasting time fixating. I’m the one in imaginary land–I’m the one who relinquished control. There may be people who SEEM better than most, but it’s up to me to continue the train of thought and convince myself that’s the case.

Although a part of me acknowledges that it’s not true, no human can be better than another–I’m still enthralled by those who seem to be.

How do I curb my enthusiasm? Do I simply just ignore my excitement?

It’s kind of fun to marvel at the illusion–a person’s extra-ness feels so substantial but at the same time, it can’t be.


16 Aug '18  — forced to keep me alive

Ever since I was little, my dad would tell me how he had to give up his artistic ambitions because he had to feed his children.

Whenever there’s a story about a guy getting fired, if the the story is meant to get sappier, a mention of how he’s got ‘little ones to feed’ shows up.

My dad loves to get sappy about his role in the world. Overtime, I learned that he loves identifying as a hard working dad who gave up something to feed his family. But at the same time, he’d rather do what he does, the work he ‘has to do’.

He may have not given up his dreams but he wants to be known as someone who did. It was his choice in the first place to have children.

Of course I’ve spent years feeling guilty. As a child, I believed I magically showed up in my parents home. It was an unfortunate event–they were unlucky to have been presented a child that they were forced to keep alive.

That was the only scenario that the story made sense.

As I grew older, the interpretation changed.

I saw my dad as someone who sacrificed for me. ‘His dreams! Of becoming an artist!’ When you think of someone sacrificing something for you, you end up feeling god-like. Chosen and special.

This is when I started believing others would sacrifice for me. By understanding that my parents sacrificed their dreams for me (for no reason), I started to believe that others would as well (for no reason). When I met people who seemed nice, I thought, ‘they must all be in favor of making my life go the right way. They must also be interested in sacrificing for my cause.’

I thought that was the reason they were helping me. Later, I understood that they had ulterior motives that were aimed to make use of me rather than to help. But understanding that someone sacrificed? Made me think too highly of myself.

In either case, I read too far into the idea that my dad ‘gave up’ his dreams.

He just wants to be identified as someone who had, but at the same time, he would prefer to live the life he’s always lived, one where he’s doing the work he does, which isn’t art.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking such statements people make are about me, when they’re anything but.


15 Aug '18  — a fear no one recommends facing

I fear people taking advantage of me–more than most things in the world.

Whether it’s purchasing something or meeting up with a person socially, I’m afraid that the others involved may get more from me than they are willing to give.

I’m so cautious that I’m unwilling to provide anyone with more value.

Have you ever felt like a pushover? In the past, some friends always requested me to go over to their place. Despite showing up repeatedly, they’d never meet me at my place or even halfway. Maybe I’m just not that special…but I get it. Perhaps they’re even more paranoid about giving at all until they receive a disproportionate amount–maybe they’ve been taken advantage of.

Of course, not all friends are like this. There are friends who actually enjoy my presence where meeting halfway isn’t an issue. I’d go far to meet them but they’d have to be the first to show a willingness to do so for me first. Which makes me think: I might have missed out on a lot of friendships. I bet there are plenty of people just like me, afraid to be taken advantage of.

Outside of friendship, I get worked up about getting a good deal. When buying something, I don’t want to get ripped off. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been ripped off before. I don’t want to feel like a pushover.

This fear, to not be taken advantage of–is dreadful. It leads to constant anxiety.

‘Should I have purchased that from them?’

‘I don’t think they’re willing to do the same for me…’

‘Am I being used?’

None of these questions can definitively be answered, even if it appears that I was being taken advantage of.

Instead, I should be more focused on what I’m getting out of these transactions. Regardless of what these other people are doing, whether it is ripping me off or giving me a deal, am I enjoying my time, am I enjoying what I’ve received?

Why does it have to be about them?

I have a problem and I don’t know how I’m going to fix it.


14 Aug '18  — turning dread into a vitamin

Having fun takes a lot of work. I’m anxious when making plans for vacation. ‘Will we be able to have a good place to stay?’ ‘Will our flight leave at the right time so we can check in before our bed and breakfast closes?’ ‘How do I make sure I don’t get robbed?’

There are so many things to worry about that I often just wish I could plan in one sweeping go–make all the decisions fast and get it over with. Just rip off the band aid.

‘I’m already enjoying my life. Why do I have to plan to escape it?’ That’s the first thought I have each time I have to do vacay planning.

I have to go because every time I go, I come back with a fresh perspective. I see the world differently and it takes a change in environment and habits to see that. My mind doesn’t easily change being surrounded by what’s familiar.

This isn’t about being able to afford a vacation–we’re going camping this year. It can be as simple as spending time in a place you hardly go.

Vacations hold an expectation: ‘You have to have fun!!!’ It is so much pressure, but no matter what happens, even if I do get robbed, even if my plane is delayed for two hours, I find a life altering experience once I find myself in a different place. I should think of vacations as a way to get out of my mold–and not necessarily to have fun.

When I consider taking time off in such a way, like taking a vitamin, I’m excited to plan. It’s not enjoyable but it’s necessary, like exercise–it’s good for me.

The dread from vacation planning comes from thinking of it as a pleasure seeking experience (that’s what it’s often sold as). I realize I don’t have to think of it in such an unappealing way–there’d no point–I’d rather not do it and I can’t stand planning to have fun–it’s just too much work.


07 Aug '18  — a place designed for people to get out

My husband and I live in an apartment in an area with a ton of apartment complexes. We’re located near the center of the town where there are shops and restaurants for us to walk to.

The place is impersonal. There are new apartment buildings coming up on every block. The newest ones look ‘hip’ with floor to ceiling glass, but they seem out of place. Located across a early 2000’s strip mall, the location is the last place to be hip or modern.

Everyone is getting started, everyone’s looking to leave.

There’s a mall in the center with Victoria’s Secret and Claire’s.

It seems demoralizing. But to me, it’s like I showed up in a frontier development–in the wild wild west.

People traveled thousands of miles to be here to start their lives. There are many couples our age and many immigrant families. I would never have thought this is where people like me go after living in the city. There’s not much talk about this stage of life (probably because it’s not glamorous).

The place is no where near the life I envision. It provides just enough. Like a frontier town, there are provisions (Costco), there are opportunities–perhaps not a gold rush, but many schemes to strike it rich. It’s not uncommon to hear a conversation about a tech startup.

‘How did I end up here? How could I stand such a place?’ I’ve asked myself so many times unclear how okay the place seems yet, in principle, it’s nothing I would ever want.

The only thing that makes sense is to see the place as the wild wild west.


07 Aug '18  — the plans are included

I just started sewing clothes and I’ve come to realize how the plans for clothing are embedded in the final product. You can take apart a shirt and see how it is constructed. You can use any shirt to make another in any color or cloth. A shirt is not just a shirt but a whole blueprint for producing more.

A can of coca cola doesn’t allow me to make coke. When I look at my coffee beans, I have no clue on how many minutes or at what temperature they were roasted. But clothing gives me precise directions.

There are other items that reveal plans–furniture, a car engine, a website. But I hadn’t been able to appreciate this attribute before. Of the things I typically make, bread and desserts, none have plans revealed in the final product.


05 Aug '18  — something that isn't talked about often

In my past life, I graduated from a competitive MBA program. One where some students paid $10,000 for consultants to get them in. It’s still tied as the number one business school in the US.

It took me six years to get over the shame.

Maybe it was because I had listened to too many people making fun of MBA’s? Maybe because I was uninspired with my experience there? I’m not sure why I disowned that part out of my life. Only recently have I started to accept that I went to business school and it’s okay.

Before going to business school, I came across many women who also had similar ambitions. There was a sense of incompleteness as a working woman without an MBA. You’re no different than all other women. An MBA allowed others to take you more seriously, it promised more responsibility and confidence.

I didn’t want the opportunities that came with the degree (consulting and finance jobs), I just wanted to keep working but have an MBA. Like carrying a designer bag, I just wanted something flashy.

At the job I had right before entering school, I worked with a young woman who was studying for her GMAT, the test you need to get in. She was dating a guy who went to Stanford Business School. One weekend, she went to visit him in California and got to sit in on a few classes. She took a lot of notes and was so excited to talk about what she learned. She found the school to be perfect for her but it was highly unlikely she’d get in.

At the time, I didn’t tell her or anyone at work that I had submitted my application. We all humored the young woman–she was the future MBA of our group, the go getter.

Then I got into the program and had to let everyone know. I remember explaining to my coworker that I wasn’t trying to hide the situation because I wasn’t sure whether I’d be going. Regardless, she felt embarrassed by the ‘future female business leader’ role she played at work.

‘I’m going to attend next year.’

Right before school started, I met up with other students for drinks. One guy brought his girlfriend. The second after I shook the woman’s hand, she explained “He’s going this year in your class, but I’ll be joining next year.”

Applications weren’t open for next year but there was an urgency to explain. ‘I’m not less worthy! I’m going next year to get my MBA! I’m not a slacker!’

I empathized. If I were in her shoes, I’d feel the same. She was there to network with other MBA’s because she had ambitions to become one.

There are plenty more women who feel incomplete without an MBA. But that incompleteness shouldn’t have been the reason why I got it in the first place.

It happened. Now I know.


05 Aug '18  — a fictional place people constantly talk about

I came across an inspirational quote encouraging people to get out of their comfort zone.

‘Comfort zone…how can I get there?’ Everything I experience is so uncomfortable. I’ve never encountered a period of time or situation that was comfortable enough to make me want to stay. Discomfort always finds me.

When I went camping, I was relieved to get better sleep. Being outdoors all day and having to wake at dawn, I slept so easily. But the bathroom situation took getting used to. After returning home, I didn’t sleep as well. Having my own bathroom, however, was superb.

There’s hardly an instance where I think ‘if only things could stay the same.’ There are always pros and cons.

So for people who have the choice to stay within a zone of comfort–they’ve achieved something great. Why not stay?


04 Aug '18  — moral character in Mexican food

One evening in Chicago, I was invited to someone’s house for dinner. This person was a friend of a friend. He was Mexican and we had mutual acquaintances. Everyone described this guy as the stereotypical latin–passionate, adventurous, caring.

He had a son very early in life. My friend confided in him on emotional matters. He was on probation at the school he taught at for being too involved in his student’s lives (what he claimed). There was talk he had an affair with a woman who recently broke up with a close friend of his. Despite the anecdote, he was known to be a passionate and caring.

Now, Mexican food made by someone who grew up in a Mexican household–I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity!

When I arrived, I saw so many fresh ingredients in the kitchen. Two types of salsa, beans, rice. I asked how each dish was made. He went in depth on how he prepared the tomatoes for the salsa, the slow cooking of the beans, the process of roasting peppers for the second salsa.

I literally took notes. I wanted to cook delicious Mexican at home. He had so much knowledge to share.

When we sat down to eat, I was more than ready to taste everything and experience the flavors of the ingredients he mentioned.


The food was bland.

‘Maybe it’s bland because it’s homemade?’

When my mom recreates a dish, she doesn’t put as much butter or salt. At the dinner I put more salt but no distinct flavors showed up. I could have tasted the same beans from opening a can of beans.

‘Maybe I’m so unaccustomed to real Mexican food that I hadn’t developed receptors for the flavors?’

It was startling how different reality was from the one described by the host.

Chicago is full of Mexican restaurants run by Mexicans. I’ve always been able to taste the flavors.

‘Maybe he’s from a different part of Mexico? Where the same foods don’t taste like anything?’

I was very disappointed but I told him the food was good.

Later on, I got to know him more as I ran into him on many other occasions. I caught him cheating on his girlfriend, a woman I met at the same dinner. I started to see more and more how far he was from who he claimed to be.

Some people are unlike anything they portray themselves to be.

The food was telling me the entire time ‘this person is not who he seems…’


03 Aug '18  — If you knew, would you laugh?

When I watch a video on Youtube, I’m bombarded afterwards with similar videos. If I watch a comedian, a list of videos with the comic will autoplay after. If I watch a talk featuring a public intellectual, the same thing.

While it is annoying, Youtube opened a different understanding of stories and ideas.

Now it’s common to see the same comedian telling the same story in exactly the same way to another audience. Public intellectuals often go through the same steps, same examples to make a case on their ‘unique perspective’ years after they originally made their point.

When I’m into the perspective of the joke or the intellectual conversation, I don’t mind. ‘More people need to hear this!’ I agree with their repetition. I don’t judge them for being stuck in a particular time in their life.

But I’m beginning to question their ‘professionalism’. A lot of pre-rehearsing is required to deliver messages in a way that engages an audience.

I’m choosing to listen to ‘professional’ stories and ideas over non-professional perspectives. It’s easier to absorb an idea when it’s delivered in a way that keeps me awake. But I’m missing out on stories that are delivered in a genuine manner–those spoken from mediocre storytellers who, like most real people, are inconsistent and paradoxical.

While the art of telling a story or deducting theory takes skill, it lacks the authentic quality of imperfection. The intellectuals who talk about things over and over again seem to be the least intellectually curious having ironed out their ideas. Could you empathize with a story told by a comedian who rehearsed his facial expression in the mirror?

With this ‘Youtube awareness’, things might be changing. Maybe it’s time for imperfect stories with no definitive answers, no focus, no takeaways, and no ulterior motives.