Cost

Pc: Ryan G Lim

What do you want in life?

Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 years?

What is the definition of success? Is it to gain riches, live a cushy lifestyle, health, family, career etc?

Maybe something entirely different, inner happiness? Spirituality? Surviving?

What we want will never come costless. Whether it is new camera equipment to take better photos, losing sleep over working tirelessly at your other job to fund your real passion, taking time off to travel for inspiration, or simply choosing one thing over another… there is always going to be a trade off.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that it is important not to lose sight of your ambitions and creativity despite millions of beautifully curated editorials all over social media. It is hard, because sometimes all you see is that, and ads, and it is all marketing and dollar signs that get noticed. That, and clicks, monetization, etc. There is no end to it, really.

What happened to creating wholesome content that moves you, and not to industries that just want to sell more products? Grassroots, organic content that lifts our souls and spirits?

Does it still exist somewhere?

I take a lot of photos kind of randomly without an objective or goal, then work backwards to see what I can make of it and decide on a whim if I want to share it.

And a photo is just that – a photo. It is a moment in time of one click in an endless amount of moments throughout the day.

15

15 years ago I was plodding through wet puddles trying to find my way to my dad's old minivan. I could still remember the way the rain hit my face as I breathed in the afternoon air. The smell of fragrant jasmine permeated the school grounds. It was late afternoon and I was going home.

I still wasn't used to our new home, only a few miles outside of the gated community we lived in. We moved into a bigger house, on a more secluded street. It was a cold day in early February, and I could still remember my teeth clattering from the unseasonably cold LA winter, a stark contrast to the desert climate I was used to.

That afternoon, I started writing poems about objects in nature, the avocados that fell from the neighbors yard, the lone orange cat that came by to visit, my dad's rusty minivan in the driveway.

It all started with the rain.

I look back to the girl I was 15 years ago. A girl with wonderment and curiosity for the world, determined to do something different than what I knew from example.

Fast forward to now. My fingerprints are tainted on a cup I drink out of, my eyes are a bit heavier though i can still feel the rain on my skin.

I think part of oneself can change dramatically if there is a dynamic shift in your perspective. You are not defined in one sort of behavior or another – you can be a person of many wholes, not limited to one identity. It is with that knowledge you can be the dreamer tasting the ambition of your spirit, like the wild rush of an ocean wave.

When you walk through life as a young person discovering the nuances of the world, you imagine yourself in hypothetical scenarios like living a blissful life doing the things you love, making our parents proud, living life alongside a lifetime companion who shares our hopes and dreams. The eagerness of youth seems to fade as you age and reach a plateau, and you find yourself feeling trapped and more cynical. Giving up on your ambitions like as if tomorrow may not come.

That disparity is a common theme I see today. When you reach a certain phase in life, and not feel good about yourself because you have all these reasons to define why you're such a failure. Your ego, your sense of pride, really really deludes your judgement. And it isn't until you realize that you may not know this now or even in a year or two… but as the days go on, you have many tomorrows to look forward to and destroying a new day for all the yesterdays just doesn't make sense.

Whenever I have that fledgling moment of self doubt, from time to time, I think back to the girl I was 15 years ago. She wouldn't like it at all.

My days are still filled with various victories and defeats. Some bad, a lot good but still ounces of ambition. It's not over yet, not even close.

Quantify 

Jennifer ngan photography
To you, love was a number.
To me, love was boundless.

I love you I'd say.

How much, you'd ask. 

This is what I would tell you.

If I could drain the ocean floor and count every grain of sand; sum up every breath that echoed since the dawn of our becoming; unveil the sheets that blankets our sky; 

In utter darkness, only to reveal

The frightening multitude of the stars beneath. 

If only you let me, this is how much I could have loved you. 

                               - Jen Ngan –

You Are the Universe

Jennifer ngan photography
You are everything. Yes, you. 

It wasn’t until I met the most chronically unpleasant person in my life that I realized this even more so. Clear as a blue summer’s sky. 

What started out as a seemingly normal month for me has turned out to be quite the opposite. While I am no stranger to dealing with sometimes difficult people, when difficult people reside at the workplace, where you should feel safest, what can/should you do…?

And if you’re anything like me, you might try to break down the psychology of why someone is the way they are. Not that this will excuse their behavior but perhaps maybe understand where their thoughts stem from? And working backwards from there? I can tell you now, reverse engineering on a bully is not worth your time. 

I am keeping to myself mostly, dealing with this the best one could, though not without endless support. In my whole adult life, after meeting this person, this was the first time that I felt truly bullied. Like it is this person’s whole existence to make sure I knew my place in the organization. That I am a worthless bottom feeder, and my words/opinions bear no weight in the greater context of All Things Important. 

I am to obey their militant orders, every command. If I do not, it would be a condescending conversation through email and a series of harassing text messages in the middle of the night in which nothing gets done and all that is left is a trail of unnecessary bitterness. 

And you know what? It bothered me at one point, like how could this person be….so…mean…?! Absolutely the most unprofessional person I have ever met. Because of their dedication to the Big Boss, this person created a monster. A monster who, at some point, I wish will have an awakening. That this world does not revolve around you. 

Then I came to the conclusion that I felt sad for this person. This angry, small minded, unworldly person who sees nothing beyond the “important” responsibilities they created. At first I felt angry at myself, that I let myself be bullied by them. By allowing it, and giving them the a-okay to the point where upholding my professional standards seemed questionable. While I am still working on it, and trying to understanding it, it is getting hard to see past the blur, as I am drowning in their unrealistic expectations and petty checklists. I keep thinking, how sad. How can this person show so much anger toward others? What happened to them? (Then I tell myself again, not relevant. Pointless to deconstruct). 

Whether or not this person truly is convinced that I am less than them, it might be worthy to note that I am perhaps less than them. Less than them in the sense where I won’t separate people from people. Because why? You are in turn a reflection of the way you treat others. And maybe to say that isn’t far from the truth. What would I know though? Just a thought. 

I can’t say much has changed yet, but everyday I am a growing to be tougher person because of it, while still preserving my compassion for others. 

And because of this, I realize that I want to be the kind of person who chooses love over hate, compassion over a business transaction, real connections over contrived ones. I realize that greed is the moving force of our nation and driving capitalism to and from the most powerful corporations/people/groups is socially acceptable and in rare cases, some for the greater good, but mostly for personal gain and comparing dick sizes. So yeah, I find that quite compulsive in more ways than I can count but it is a fact of reality in this day and age. 

And that, is what made me realize what I wrote before is the opposite – that Less is actually More. The world is important; there is a bounty of things outside this bubble to be grateful for. To appreciate our inner workings of existence, us as a whole, a small part of something bigger. Life is beyond just four walls and a sense of security. 

Here is mantra of sorts that I remind myself of when things get lame:

  • Be nice. Be reasonable. Be kind. Everyone around you is important and an integral part of the human experience.
  • Don’t be fucking petty. Don’t ask rhetorical q’s, don’t put people down because you don’t get what you want. 
  • Don’t correct the use of the Oxford comma. 
  • Choose yourself. Don’t let a job title define you. Don’t let someone else define you. 
  • You are good enough 
  • You are good enough
  • You are good enough 

So yeah. A gentle reminder to forgive yourself, wherever you are in life. And I will, however hard, forgive the other person; their shortcomings are not my defeat. 

Seasons 


Winter in California on a rainy day is a rare mix of nostalgia and flowers, a welcome rainshower of change and clarity. 

As the season changes, we will have. It will be cold now, for you are a distant frozen memory like all good things are. And as I frolick in the pier, a bottle in hand, with a little note that is ready to travel, a part of me has lifted. And changed. Where will the bottle go? 

The message is a message of our time, seasonal leaves in gold and orange colors, frozen in time and trapped in the bottle. 

After the storm, feelings will have changed. The sun is gone, the clothes left dripping. In a city of millions, the streets are quiet and mellow. Like an apocalypse. 

My aching chest, it hurts. I try to read, but my eyes are tired. I am in bed, thinking of the letter in the bottle. I listen as my cat mutters in her sleep, though I, I am wounded but a warrior no less. 

The seasons will change again. A new brightness will evolve, and I’ll remember you as a memory of my past, walking along the equinox rain.

Living Carefree vs Living with Intention: Can You Achieve Both?

It is often a question that contradicts its purpose. 

The definition of the two seem completely at odds with each other, though one cannot exist without the other. 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve internalized this question for what seemed like decades. Everyone has a different interpretation of it, and in every life stage a different circumstance of what it/this means. 

Do you know what kind of person you want to be? I didn’t. But my parents did. After many years of following a “timeline”, I thought I did too. 

Until I didn’t. It wasn’t until I started earning my own living that I became more socially aware, and awake, in a sense. I realized I knew nothing when I opened my eyes. They were bleary at best, and hazy for too long. Trying to see the big picture but in fact, it wasn’t the big picture that was important but rather the current picture. The details of the here and now. 

A few months back, I took a trip with my family to China, to see my father’s side of the family. They lived in a somewhat remote village in southwestern Guangdong. Going there was like going back in time. Even with modern luxuries, they lived like it was 1935. Seeing the family for the first time in my adult life was a refreshing welcome from the daily grind of life. 

After 20 minutes of trying to explain what I did for a living to them, it became obvious that everything I was saying was in the outrageous zone. To them, a way of life is defined almost the opposite of what I’m used to. Priorities are different, and vastly so. For instance, the importance of an ambitious life is overshadowed by tradition. It was sad, because I’d just wanted them to understand the importance of independence and the ambitions I had. The future. Equally sad, that I identifed with it so much that it practically defined me. 

Id woken up that night in a disarray of panic (and maybe jet lag) wondering what I’d done to myself. For the first time in my life, I realized my deepest fears, desires, and dreams. They were not aligned. Not in the sense where you feel completely and fully at ease. Part of me felt like pouring out my frustrations onto a journal to process these thoughts. And write until no words could come out. It was then that the question of living carefreely or with intention came up again. What does it mean? 

In many ways, these cultural differences with my family is simply that – differences. I mean, part of me questioned why I thought being ambitious was the most important. Why isn’t it to them? Maybe it isn’t just ambitions for yourself, as that would be selfish, but rather ambitions that move everyone forward so we are the same. 

When society influences us on how to be fulfilled, we tend to believe it is the only way. In fact there is no right or wrong way to exist. You live how you live while life unfolds. That is the end goal. It is how you interpret your life that sets you apart from your ego, your happiness and society. 

I was writing idly until I allowed myself to feel, to really capture the essence and swirl and feelings of the words. But more importantly, to loosely set goals of living without judgment, carefreely. As in, living without putting restraint on one’s mind. 

I went on a mission with one goal in mind: to live presently. To not get worked up over a future that has not yet come. And not yet guaranteed. At the same time, appreciating day to day like it is your last. 

Choose For Yourself 

Carefree doesn’t mean careless. I want to choose to fill my life with happiness and goals. Spend each moment of my day knowing how I’ve mindfully chosen something to exert my energy to, whether it be photography or writing, nourishing the body with whole foods, or people I meet. Those energies will create your feelings. These feelings, in turn, create contentment that all is well and okay. That you are just where you need to be. 

Dream, and be okay with it. But dream presently. 

If you only look to the future, you are not really living. Let your mind wander, and let go of resistance and opinions of others. Let your ideas of the world be set aside. It is not important. What is important is to identify your dreams and find ways to fulfill them, even if it is baby steps. I enjoy writing, and photography but rarely do I have time these days with work but make it a short term goal to reach little milestones. Soon, your dream will in full motion and you’ll be fulfilled from that. 

Development 

I often seek personal and professional development. I thrive on human connection and the ability to be a better version of me day after day. I set aside time to work on passion projects but I need a better system in ensuring I don’t forget about it when life gets busy. Like my relatives in China, another goal would be not to self-identify as we would ultimately leave this earth. That is not to say identity is unimportant, but rather understand that it is temporary, as all things in life are.

Live with active intention to be the best you can be but also live carefreely as you did when you were a child – seeing everything as if for the first time. Cultivating imagination, finding contentment in small details, and seeing the best in everyone. 🙂

So yes, is it doable to live carefreely while living with intent? Absolutely. 

Days Upon the Ocean

If I could bottle up the sea breeze, I would run my hands through the salted air, and capture the dewy sweet fragrance from the flowers that bloom in the Spring.

I would take it to your house and open up the bottle, pour it loose on your mantle, like sand from the ocean, warmed by the life-giving sun.

Light rays would burst through your window panes, like boats pushing past the docks.

We could run in the water.

Empty out sand out from our pockets.

Get swept up by where the sun meets the ocean.

We could live like that, in the sun drenched haze of your white window panes.

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Minimal

Jennifer Ngan photography
Jennifer Ngan photography
Perhaps one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life thus far is that wisdom comes through things we’ve learned either through nature, nurture, circumstance or failure. It can take one or all of those to happen before you see, really see, that everything on a surface level is really all that it is: the surface.

I recently started reading more about simplification and realize it is a thought provoking exploration into our lives and mindsets of today. Simplicity in the way our minds work; in the greatest sense, to be free from clutter. Now whether literally or figuratively, that is different for everyone.