So let’s talk about race 🏃‍♂️ ✊🏿 🧧

Dear Friend,

Hey there, how’s it going? Last time I mentioned how January felt like month 13 of the year 2020, and now I’m starting to think perhaps 2021 is shaping up to just be part 2 of 2020. This 2020-vibe, can we not?

Anyways, there’s been a lot of talk about the not-just-recent, but ongoing rise of anti-Asian hate crime happening in the US. People are justifiably outraged about these clips shown on air and via social media, about how the victims are all Asians, then about how the victims are all elderly, and inevitably people start noticing the perpetrators are… Black.

Inevitably at some point, someone will point out this fact and start asking why is the media not giving these terrible crime as much attention as the death of George Floyd. Even if they are, why aren’t they mentioning that these perpetrators are all Black? Why are people not showing up for us when we showed up for them. A lot of Us. A lot of Them. Ugh.

I don’t have a PHD on racism, I don’t have the perfect answer, and I’m not immune to any of this. I do, however, have some experiences in another type of race — so let’s talk about that for a moment.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have trained, ran, and finished a marathon in 2007, a half marathon in 2019, and a handful of 5 and 10Ks in-between. And in all of these cases, I don’t actually remember who were the first place runners of these races. I have zero idea. But I still vividly remember the weather on the day of these races, the sound of the cowbells people were cheering us with, and in one particular moment when I “hit a wall” just 3 miles away from the marathon finishing line — my running mate lent me her watch and said “You’ve got this!” right when I was so sure I wasn’t able to finish the race. (And I did.)

Point is, we’ve been taught since birth that there is only one winner in competition, in contests, in lottery drawings, and in life. If you’re not the winner, then by default you’re the loser. It’s so ingrained to us that it’s become our reflex to see everything in life this way. It can’t possibly be Britney ANDChristina, or Cardi AND Nicki — there must only be one.

But I would never think that in a marathon (or half or 10k) race. I wouldn’t not run the marathon just because Usain Bolt is also going to be in the race. While there’s only one “winner” in marathon, the rest of us is what makes the experience special. And in fact, I would argue that while I’m happy for the winner, I’m actually happier and prouder for everyone else for finishing the race. We’ve all endured the months long training to be there, freezing our butts off before the crack of dawn, just to put our bodies through hell in the goal of finishing the race. We cheered and clapped for each other, even though none of us were realistically going to be 1st place winners.

So, back to the headlines. What can we do? What can I do? First it’s important to unravel ourselves away from the sensational, knee-jerk feelings we may have at the moment. Take a breath and separate the justified outrage of the actual crime with any negative feelings we may have with any given communities. If the phrase “us” or “them” were mentioned at all in our bullet train of thoughts, take note of it and let’s actively work on turning a “winner takes all” into a “marathon race” mindset. Here’s my personal process (again, I am not perfect so your mileage may vary):

  1. Yes, these perpetrators in the videos are Black, but they’re not representative of the entire Black community. Thinking or saying something bad about the whole community is the definition of racism. This is a trap and the most important thing to unravel.
  2. Then, be mindful of the cogs that are so ingrained to us. Why are we reacting this way? Why is it so important for anyone to say “the perpetrators are all Black” when the actual hate crime already speak for themselves? (I’m also skeptical that there are no instances of hate crime done by non-Black perpetrators?) Does mentioning it help solve or reduce the series of hate crime? If so, how? (And if the potential solution is to apply that to an entire community, see point #1.)
  3. Also, as humans we instinctively apply our past experiences as learnings as a way to protect our current selves. Take inventory of media portrayal of Black communities and how it affects the way we see our world today. I also grew up in a Black-majority neighborhood and was often bullied as a kid and into high school. To this day, I can still fall into the trap of relating some of my fears, biases, and prejudices with the traumatic experiences I had in the past. But then I sit for a minute and do my best to unravel — these experiences were caused by specific people (again, not groups), many of whom are different today than they were back then. These experiences do not define them just as they do not define who I am today.
  4. Next, unravel from the mindset of ALL / None / Always / Never — because reality usually take place between all and none, and between always and never. It’s easy to think we NEVER get media coverage, or we’re ALWAYS the punchline to a joke, but that’s just as ridiculous to say ALL or NONE of the Black people are [insert blanket statement here]. A quick scroll on social media or Tumblr will also show plenty of outrage and coverage at things happening in Asia — the Hong Kong protest from 2019, the ongoing protests of Burmese civilians and Indian farmers today, and yes the not-just-recent wave of Asian-targeted hate crimes. (It’s finally gaining traction.) 
  5. Finally, fight discrimination with compassion. The Black voters in Georgia single-handedly gave America a fighting chance for a better future. My Black teachers, friends, and mentors who have loved, supported, and cared for me through the years. The never-ending list of art, food, music, culture, and joy Black people have given humanity. Other things that make me smile every time: Bowen Yang and Ego Nwodim. Black Joy. Black K-pop stans.

What it ultimately comes down to is simply that we can win together only by working together. And instead of thinking of us or them, as media and society LOVES to pin things against one another, we should really think of it as a race; we need to actively shift from “we need to win” to “we all need to finish”.

Geez, every time I write these letters I aim to keep it short, only to keep getting increasingly longer. I do think this was important for me to write it all out though, and hopefully it was helpful for you as well. Again I’m not an expert nor am I immune to any of this, and it does take a lot of active work to reflect and unravel these “What if…” and “How about…” thoughts. 

But through these mental exercises I do find myself landing in a lighter place afterwards — please reply let me know if you have thoughts on all this, even and especially if you disagree so we can all learn together. And please feel free to share this newsletter if you think other people can benefit from it! They can also subscribe to this and future newsletters below:

Love wins

How Time Flies (way too fast or not fast enough)!

Dear Friend,

Hey! How’s it going? The first month of the year is quickly moving along but in so many ways it just feels like we’re in month thirteen of 2020. Hopefully things will start improving once we have a more sane (and less criminal) person leading the country once again. Remember how we used to think that was a given?

So I’ve been thinking a lot about time recently. Specifically, I’ve been losing track of just how much time has past, milestone events I thought happened a mere year or two ago but in reality they took place much farther in the past.

It’s quite shocking to realize it’s almost been ten years since my time living in Los Angeles (before moving back around 2014), and a whopping twenty years ago since I studied at RIT.  This May will mark two years of my leaving IGN and working at Walmart. 

It’s no surprised why lately I’ve been feeling so distant from people I’ve always thought was close to me. Time can drift people apart naturally, but sheltering-in-place and the social media mass exodus can only expedite this process. I suppose this will take more work than ever to actively keep meaningful people close during this time and during this stage of my life.

“So what do you want to do in your career?”, now this is a question that has truly haunted me throughout my life. Whether it’s from college counselors or whenever I’ve reached a crossroad in my career, this question has come up time-and-time again and I’ve never been able to answer this question. Instead I’d stutter and would try to weasel my way out of it — I’ve even quit a job because of it! “Since things are moving so fast, what I’d like is to learn more about the different options before coming to a decision on whether a potential change is needed or right for me”… If that’s not the most non-committal, politician-like response you’ve ever heard, well do I have a bridge to sell you. 🙂

That’s not to say my life sucks, of course, far from it. The fact that I’m even asked this question (time and time again) means I’m given different opportunities, and that I am blessed and privileged. Since graduating from RIT, I’ve also icepicked away career options that are blatantly not for me — finance, design, sales — but what still remain is a vast ocean of opportunities.

Thanks to the many team restructures at Walmart from last year alone, I was recently asked with this #%&$ question. Once again I’ve got no answer, but this time around I’m also aware of the resources available to me. Never in my life do I have access to a mentor, life coach, AND a therapist at the same time — a bit ridiculous, actually! I have the privilege, opportunity AND the resources; what I don’t have is an excuse not to finally sort this out.

Lastly, in addition to a monthly status of my life, I also want to start sharing a couple things I came across in the past month with you. I hope you’ll find them helpful? Let me know and more importantly please share anything you find interesting to me as well!

  • My friend Bruce recently wrote an opinion piece on how witnessing the surge in COVID-denialists is eerily similar to the surge in AIDS-denialism during the height of the AIDS crisis.
  • Ian recently got me this cook book called Cool Beans and since then I’ve been really interested to incorporate more beans into my diet as a source of fiber protein.
  • You can find this and any past Dear Friend, emails here.

Please let me know what you’re up to by replying to this email or feel free to forward this email If you think others can benefit from it! (You can also ask them to subscribe directly below!)

Happy Holidays to you and yours! 🎅🏼 ❄️ 🎄

Dear Friend,

I can’t believe another month has passed, as it finally wraps up an overall miserable year of 2020. I also hope this newsletter has made it safely into your mailbox, as apparently they’re been landing in a lot of people’s junk mail folder instead. Sorry about that!

This year has affected so many people in so many ways, myself included. While I always try to find the bright side with every adversity, a lot of time energy were spent this year trying to combat my self-doubts, anxiety, and depression. I recently asked my therapist if I’m just overusing these terms, like I’m relying on them like a security blanket, and he verified that nothing from this year has been normal. “Plus, you’re anxious when you’re anxious!”

Even so, there have been some good amidst the bad. After my slump for a couple months with close to no exercises, my Apple Watch finally nagged me enough to finally into exercising more. I was able to spend time with my parents for much of this year, that is until last month when Ian and I finally moved in together!

Here’s another thing, for the past decade or so I’ve been attending the Great Dicken’s Christmas Fair — a bay area tradition where they turn a massive indoor arena (called Cow Palace) into a Charles Dicken’s stylized London. Fully decorated and filled to the brim with period actors, carol singers, and dancers and play performers, the Dicken’s Fair has always been a great way for us to escape reality for a couple hours. And what better way to set the mood for Christmas than to nom on some meat pies and haggis?

With COVID ravaging the country more than ever, the Dicken’s Fair sadly had to be cancelled this year. But because of that, they are posting a LOT of their amazing performances, recipes, story readings and more on their website for FREE. Check out this page to experiment a sample of the Dicken’s Fair I know and love. You can even shop for some goods and buy merch to support them and other local stores! I hope this page can bring some joy and holiday spirits to you and your loved ones.

Here’s to having a very safe, yet special Christmas and holiday break. Feel free to reply to this email and let me know what you’re up to. Let’s all stay safe and here’s to a much calmer, happier 2021!

Love wins

How was your Thanksgiving? 🦃🍁🥧

Dear Friend,

Hey! How’s it going? I hope you had a very safe, yet special, thanksgiving earlier this week. I spent Thanksgiving Day with my parents, and with a lot of Turkey leftovers Ian and I then spend much of yesterday making traditional sides for Thanksgiving part II!

So earlier in the month around my birthday, my high school friends and I opened up a time capsule we had sealed back in 2010. While I could remember some of the items I had put in — my original iPod touch, a meaningful book, and a copy of that day’s newspaper — I had completely forgotten we had also recorded a number of videos capturing the event, and that we had each written a letter for future, um… present us.

Upon watching the video and after reading the letter had me very sentimental, just to see where I was and the things I thought was important to me back then. It was also just a bit… foreign to see how genuinely excited I was about the future, while fully able to read behind that optimism to see the nervousness that is still so familiar today.

But there’s the thing: 2010 was a full year before working at IGN, a life-changing career where I ended up meeting some of the people I now call my dear friends. It was also half a decade before meeting Ian, who until then the thought of even having a boyfriend was something I always wanted but never truly believed could actually happen to me. As much as that 2010 version of Obama-era Winson had in optimism (something I can’t say I have much of nowadays), he also didn’t have a full decade of life-changing things, people, and experiences that shaped me to who I am today.

So, what I’m trying to say is that even though we’re living in what may seem like the darkest timeline right now, and that the smallest hope we’re holding on to today can look more like a delusion than a possibility, the time capsule was proof to me that things can indeed get better.

As tough as things are in 2020, what with the world literally torn between hurricanes and wildfires, authoritan ideologies and conspiracy theories, all topped with a global pandemic that is COVID-19, we also don’t know what the future can bring us.

Things can always get better or worse whether it’s politics, climate change, or family life, but It’s worth keeping an open mind (and outliving the chaos) to see how the next ten years unfold. Where were you ten years ago and what would you tell yourself in ten years? Feel free to reply to this email and let me know! I look forward to hearing what you’re up to.

Love wins

PS: Feel free to forward this email If you think others can benefit from it! Or you can ask them to subscribe directly below.