dreamLAnd (San Diego, LA & Santa Monica, Feb 2019)

Had to have high, high hopes for a living
Shooting for the stars when I couldn’t make a killing
Didn’t have a dime but I always had a vision
Always had high, high hopes

– High Hopes, by Panic! At the Disco

Coming back to LA has always been on my list, especially after watching La La Land, crying my heart out (quietly) in the cinema. Any city with big dreams draws me in. I even had the best excuse for this trip – business conference.

Unlevelled ocean shot on Pacific Surfliner Train

I took a risk. Huge. Late January, I decided that I’d devote myself to UX design. This call didn’t come after a night out, but rather, months after months of hesitation and painful justification. I never thought I’d be good enough for this since I started late, and I didn’t study anything related to this field (except HCI). Not long ago, I finally, successfully, persuaded myself that I can be enough, with my keen learning attitude and quick speed to pick things up.

IF you are so successful, why do you feel like a fake?

I started learning about UX when I was still in London, from online courses and UCL’s amazing HCI prof, who gave me an opportunity to be a learning partner for that class. Aside from that, I also learned about UX through a friend’s eyes. He’s passionate about design, open to different styles, and appreciates beautiful things around him. We didn’t talk much, but when he talks about what he does, or when he sees something that really catches his eyes, his face would light up. If you could imagine a little kid spotting an ice cream shop during hot summer days, you know what I’m talking about.

Legendary eggslut.

While design attracted me so much, I was also concerned about a lot, lot more of different things: what if I couldn’t find a job? what if I wouldn’t earn enough to make a living? what if I don’t have the eye of design?

What if I’m not as good as him?

What if I’m never good enough to be in this field?

I thought I had a lot to lose. The truth is, looking back, I didn’t have anything at all, so there was definitely nothing to lose.

Money can do so much.

Instead of digging into UX right away after graduation, I went for a safer option: marketing & events. Sure, things I’m familiar and comfortable with. And I chose a position where I could grow fast. I did learn an enormous amount of things, about business, about marketing, about community engagement (and management), and about working with others while taking care of myself. I was burnt out and can be easily spat out, let’s put it that way.

That’s actually a good thing – since that led me to think about who I really wanna be.

I want to learn more, to continuously grow, to see little achievements every day. 

Had to have high, high hopes for a living
Didn’t know how but I always had a feeling
I was gonna be that one in a million
Always had high, high hopes
But just hope is not good enough. I need to take actions. I’ve done my research on resources in Vancouver, and I feel like I need much more than what Van could offer.
Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) Conference is a leading research group in UX, and they delivered the best UX training around the globe.

Late in January, I did some math, I looked at the NN/g calendar, and I decided, that I’m gonna go to that conference in LA.

I had an emotional phone call with my dad. The first time ever, I felt my decision was supported by him, even though it was a risky one.

Soon enough, my good friend Timothy, who has been the most supportive on my route to pursuing UX (and so similar to me in many ways: tech, psych, food, etc.) decided to go to the LA conference as well! He’s pursuing his UX Master certificate, and he gave me a lot of recommendations & suggestions on the workshops. We had a lot of fun during the conference while meeting amazing people.

 

The Saturday before NN/g LA began, I went to visit Yvette in San Diego. Thinking about it, it felt surreal even now. After our time in London, we hadn’t seen each other for one year and a half. We talk, we chat, we sometimes share life insight with each other. However, all those couldn’t compete with a day of being together, going to different places while chatting.

 

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I love London. And with Yvette, we talk a lot about our friend groups and London. I’ve come to realize that Egg is always gonna be a part of my London experience, and friends would ask me about that to remind me what a sappy pathetic little person I was. Somehow I need the reminder. And now it’s safe to say that I’m okay to talk about that.

I only wanted you ’cause I couldn’t have you
Now that I know (now that I know)
That wasn’t love, that wasn’t love, that was just hope

– Hope, by the Chainsmokers and Winona Oak

San Diego is gorgeous. It’s someplace I’d come back for another vacation. Yvette, Wai Chuk and Fateen (UCSD represents) have made it even more special. I walked a lot, and I ate a ton. It was a good day catching the train, the sunrise, and the sunset.

 

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The conference week went by like a flash, I felt at home from the very first day. Super luck to meet a group of kind-hearted people, from all walks of life.

 

After many good meals, many adventures, and drinks, I was finally myself. I don’t know how to explain that, but I’m myself now.

Tell me
did you fall from a shooting star
One without a permanent scar
And did you miss me while you were
looking for yourself out there?
– Drops of Jupiter, by Train
That Friday night, after going all the way up to 76th floor and seeing the best LA skyline, I did my last exam and became certified.

Phil was already in town, so Timothy, Phil and I went out for sea urchin udon in Little Tokyo, Tim is a very humble person, so he’d like to ask for other people’s opinions. Phil and Tim clicked right away on being introverts (I KNOW). The noodle was alright but I ended up not speaking at all on the table, given their heated convo (lol!). Later, we went to find Tiki bars, something on Phil’s list (later I knew that was the only thing on his list). Tiki-Ti had a huge lineup, and that was where we met Maddy and Flameboi. That’s right, I forgot the guy’s name, and Flameboi is the only thing I could remember of him. They guided us to Good Luck Bar. My eyes were wild open when I stepped in! After all, it was my first Tiki bar experience. Maddy and Flameboi asked me who I wanted to be.

“JLo! Look at my phone screen!” I showed them my JLo wallpaper, and Maddy screamed,

“Then I wanna be Lady Gaga!” Her phone screen said it all.

Later they disappeared like they’d never been in our life.

 

Surprisingly, it rained that weekend. After an eggslut goodbye with Tim, we went to the Getty and headed off to Santa Monica.

No filter

Our original plan was to drive all the way along the coast to Malibu, because we both had a fantasy for Malibu, from different songs. It was the best road trip that never happened.

There were so many memorable things in Santa Monica. For example, this amazing AirBnB, where we got locked out at 10pm like two boarding schoolers who missed their curfew.

 

And long walks to the pier so I could take a nostalgic photo.

Santa Monica Pier

I know I’m looking into my future. It might take a long while before I get there. But all I have is time. Even though I don’t have enough of that.

Walk these streets with me
I’m doing decently
Just glad that I can breathe, yeah
– comethru, by Jeremy Zucker

IMG_9976

It’s amazing how I felt at home in another country, in another state, with some of the most amazing people on earth. And for the first time in my life, I felt the importance of having meals with people you care about. Good company is hard to find.

 

Updates about life now:

Vancouver. Switched to PT and doing projects. Passed my citizenship test. Sitting in a coffee shop and putting this together.

Meanwhile, I feel like a sunflower waiting for the best to come 🙂

That flash in the museum

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