Maybe if I Just.

It has been a minute since the last update.

I am very a little disappointed in myself for not writing as much. This is my creative outlet and I know i haven’t been creating lately. Bleh. I made an awkward promise to myself today to not to neglect the writing. After all, you can’t nurture the craft if you don’t practice. And I should nurture this, because writing is the happy place. And I’ve no reason not to. Even if this turns into a personal headspace of random thoughts sans direction, it is, at the very least, an exercise in discipline. So here goes the promise.

Read on, lovelies.

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he was like a big dusty summertime thundershower with sheets of crisp refreshing rain

(Life update) apologies for the long pause.

My first 6 months in Asia have been a whirlwind of unique experiences. Summers in Southeast Asia are strange – always warm, like an uncomfortable hug from an old acquaintance.

Much of May and June were spent in varying degrees of happiness, sadness, and indifference. About life, about what to do next. Who I was with, not with. The what-ifs and buts of a path I couldn’t be sure about.

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Firsts

“It is such a mysterious place, the land of tears.”- the little prince

My heart is in my throat as I wake up from a pool of cold sweat. I dreamt of trying to find you when you wandered into the adjacent. The gravel beneath my feet feels like heavy sand, and the first stars are appearing in the valley. I stand at the end of the drive way in the time stopped stillness of the moment and take a deep breath as I realized I’ve gone to look for you at the wrong house.

Suddenly you appear. Everything happens at light speed.

We are shrieking with laughter and our bodies were shaking. We are at one point the same height in each other’s arms. Your neck smells like clean sweat, heavy with you. I hadn’t seen your face in over a year. I don’t really know what you look like anymore. You’re wearing a black hat, with bracelets at your wrists. We’re staring at each wide eyed and a little shell shocked, laughing with nerves.

You and me.

We were only ideas of us before. A teacher I met on Instagram who made me hold my breath late at night as I listened intently to his voice over my phone. I am a simple girl from California with a little camera and a penchant for words. These were moments of extreme lightness, the story of two people continents away.

You pulled my head into your reality. The voice on the phone telling me you enjoyed talking to me live rather than texting. I paced around the house trying to drop my voice just a pitch and a half because I was worried I’d wake the neighbors.

But I was afraid you’d be like my other dream, where you dissolved in the morning. The one where you wake up and half-remember. I am looking for you through a relentless search, except I couldn’t find you. Other men have appeared, I was drinking and lonely. Disoriented and scared. My mannerisms made me stammer my way through timezones and explanations of kumquats and the countryside life. I imagined you in my future life a little but I was a timid kitten in the woods and didn’t know the impact of the realization it had on you. I held still and waited, but you were already gone.

I had always wanted to love. I never craved for passionate kisses, presents or fancy dinners. I wanted to be the only one to have a key that could unlock someone, so that their soul came spilling out, perhaps someone as lost and spirited and wondering as I am.

A soulmate.

“You see, one loves the sunset when one is so sad.” 

Someone to pour my life into, to mold together with. We’d be the torrent river on the way to the wild sea. Full of rainwater and brightly colored pebbles all worn and smooth from the passing of time. Something the world had never seen before, and perhaps, maybe never see again.

But i was always wrong for you, while I worried that for you I had been far too much, or maybe far too little. The realization made me feel devoid of all else. My brightly colored version of love did not fill your empty spaces. Maybe for me it was a sad tale that happens to far too many – without nurturing you, you turned inward. I am always on the lookout for something meaningful to quench that aching thirst for connection. I prayed that i could be different, for you, though mostly I felt that my efforts had been a failure before it really began, that balmy May night. I couldn’t be sure that you’d turn the tides the other way and I thought maybe you’d fight a little harder for me. That you thought the exact same of me as I thought of you.

I think I knew more about you than you realized.

You never revealed anything. You were nowhere to be found. There were small clues along the way if I looked keenly enough. A hint that something was wrong; the vagueness of a certain June weekend. Something troubling you at a place where no one would catch sight of.

You were like some kind of fortress, your emotions indiscernible, your true feelings hidden just past where I could see them in the fall and rise of your chest.

It had been a secret pride of mine- the ability to read an emotional landscape like it was a vast expressionist painting, every stroke of the brush and where it came from visible to the eye.

But it wasn’t that way with you. Everything was carefully organized and tucked away. When I reached in your direction the space was grey and shrouded in certainty. Your face was unreadable. Your brown eyes huge and unfathomable. What you thought as you watched me fumble through making you tea and I lost track of what I could possibly say, it was all mystery. You were a mystery. You were made of walls. A maze of dark heavy stones that towered high above my head and out of sight. There were no doors, there were no windows. No signposts, no hints.

The only way in was to go in at the very start and work my way through to your brain, path by path right in the thick of the endless dead-ends. But at times the ground was very hard and if I looked very sharply in the dim light I could follow where you had once been, the mark of your shoes on the interior of your world. A world that you kept separate when there were others involved.

A girl and her many tattoos. A beautiful young woman with hair like the sun. Chasing you. Protecting you. Understanding you through the epic frontier of Alaska.

We were a relationship that hadn’t quite made it. As everyone bears a thorn in their heart at times, there was an idea of hope that fell to the ground in torn paper wings. A hurt that may take a long time to go away. I knew the feeling from both sides, especially when forever turns out to be a lot shorter than you thought it would. It wakes you up in the middle of the night while you blink back tears remembering the sweetness that turned bitter. Wasn’t this love? If it wasn’t, what did I do wrong? Why were you conflicted? How did we lose? 

Perhaps the love we had, you were cautious to begin. It was me, maybe. I was the girl everyone claimed was made of syrup, sunshine and smiles. The girl always reaching for your hands, laughing and laughing. My life, wholesome and bright, with the scent of toasted marshmallows.

That was how I lost you. In that long June night, I left my glasses on the bed post and began to cry, petrified at the sudden loss. A head rush of knowledge that this, the romance felt by strangers in Bangkok, was over.

Your river begins to flow. You’re free.

In a Sea of Spectators

When I first started this blog, my vision was to write and write and use this as a creative outlet. Then I’ve vanished from here not because I didn’t want to use it as an outlet but because I felt compelled to only share my best. And between my “best” and what I deem as acceptable, there is a lot of random writings and tangents that come about that isn’t glorious or even remotely interesting.

I want to set aside some new goals for 2018. To just write. To photograph things and to use this platform as a way to share my life, observation, travels and experiences. I’m not here for the clicks and algorithms. I’m here to be fully present. To find beauty in uncertainty; to write beautiful things, even if no one cares.

That’s where I’ve been. Seeking inspiration outside of my screens.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

In between Thoughts

Jennifer ngan photography
In just a short couple of weeks, I will be making my way to Alaska to explore the vast, and open land of rugged terrain, snow globe landscapes and wide expanses of space. Ominous, quiet tension of cold will be in the air, lurking about. Something about that cold will be different than anything I’ve ever experienced.

Mystery is enchanting. 

The grey skies, the gaseous rays of dancing lights, the sheets of stars that will be painted in the sky – a mystery in and of itself. I have always been moved by the unknown.

I’ve always been interested in cultures and communities, the human spirit. My desire to travel here was inspired by my curiosity to see a place in the most desolate of times. Trading comfort for less greener pastures, if only to see with my own eyes how small we are in this vast universe.