2018: a retrospective


New year, same survey!

2018 was… tough. The wind has left my sails repeatedly, but still I am buoyed by my wonderful community in Houston and beyond.

1. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Six years of the same two intentions and one year of a new one:

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choppy waters

I wrote this post on Thursday, planning to post it over the weekend. The next morning, I woke up to the news of Anthony Bourdain’s passing. This “celebrity death” hurt. (It feels weird to call him a “celebrity.” The words role model, teacher, and even friend feel truer.) I fear joining the chorus of people mourning his death — as though I am a bandwagoner — but, taking a page out of Tony’s life, there should be no shame in being sincere.

I’ve learned a lot from Tony. In college, binging on No Reservations, I traveled the world with him. He taught me that it was acceptable, and even preferable, to stand for irreverence and wit over opulence and formality. He advocated for all walks of life, reassuring me that I could find a place in the world as the child of refugees — that I didn’t have to adhere to strict standards of success. In his openness about his struggles, he demonstrated that honesty and vulnerability are not weaknesses. Even in his death, he continues to educate us. I’m reminded that everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle… even if they appear to have it all. In this moment, as I am fighting against very minor currents, his absence makes me look around, breathe deeply, and reconsider what makes me happy. In light of that, I think I’ll go have some noodles today.

Earlier this spring, I looked at a piece of paper with three very important signatures on it. After three years of research and one hour of presenting, these scribbles granted me my Master’s degree. Holding that form in my hand, it felt like those countless hours of interviewing, coding, writing, and thinking really, really hard work had paid off.

Two days later, I looked at an email that absolutely eviscerated the very work I’d just defended. The reviewers at a very prestigious journal had ripped apart my manuscript. More than that, they had hit me where it hurt the most. They questioned the value of my study: asking if I was truly helping the vulnerable populations I intended to serve.

In a span of only a few dozen hours, I went from utterly delighted to unbelievably demoralized. Some days, I win a few treasures (grants, awards, lines on my CV) — but, other days, all those things seem to sink to the bottom of the ocean. As my advisor says, “grad school is a safe place to fail.” It doesn’t make those failures any less deflating, but I’m sailing on, learning and adjusting my course as needed. These waves are wild, but I’m still here… treading water and trying to find meaning in the motion.

long distance dal

In keeping with my frazzled grad student ethos, I forgot to take a picture of my dal (all seven versions that I’ve made thus far). These pretty yellow buds will have to do. Reminiscent of turmeric, maybe?

Tragedy strikes!!!


I’d known for some time that KT would spend spring away as part of his work rotations — but I hadn’t expected to be quite so sad on the day of his departure. I woke up that morning and tried to cry as discreetly as possible. KT then asked if I’d be able to drive him to the airport through my tears. He reminded me that it’d be a little more than a week until I’d get to spend my entire spring break him. Yeah, okay, I get it, maybe I was being a bit melodramatic…

In any case, being apart from my partner has made me reflect a bit on some of my favorite parts of our relationship. To no one’s surprise, that includes food. Dating KT has opened me up to the big and beautiful world of Indian cooking. I’ve tried my hand at quite a few recipes for dal — a fragrant, lentil-based curry, served best ladled over basmati rice. This was, by far, our favorite variant. KT declared it my best version yet, at which point I immediately shared it with my fellow Instant-Pot-loving friends in California. Now, I share it here, in the hopes that we can all make it and feel a little closer.

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2017: a retrospective

Be not misled; my 2017 only looked like this for 24 hours.

I saw a lot of things this past year. A terrible man took over; the masses rose up. I survived a hurricane and a rare snow day. I leaned more deeply into my community and my loved one. I failed in some of my goals, but accomplished things I didn’t even know were within reach. I traveled across the state, country, and world, several times over. I was broken down and built up, and somehow found balance.

I’ve now been completing these annual surveys for a decade (!!) — so here is one for an utterly exhilarating and exhausting year.

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Hurricane Harvey

Act 1

“I won’t tell you what to do… but I’m really worried.”

I looked at KT with big, scared eyes. He had put on his Going Out Clothes, getting ready to meet his friends at a nearby bar to watch the Mayweather vs. MacGregor fight.

He looked back at me, and then out the window. In the darkness, the rain fell lightly and steadily. Last night, the first outer bands of Hurricane Harvey had hit our part of Houston, flooding the streets but draining away by sunrise. It seemed like any of the other storms that would frequently, uneventfully pass through our city. In the morning, the skies had looked clear enough that we even ventured outside to take a look at Buffalo Bayou, brimming with murky brown floodwater.

I wasn’t about to fall into a false sense of security, however, especially after repeatedly checking the news and seeing the same flashing headlines: the worst is yet to come… tonight!!! The days prior, we (mostly I) had stockpiled 15 gallons of water and nearly a dozen cans of food, adding rations to the complete emergency kit I’d brought with me from California. They sat in our utility closet, untouched and unneeded… for now. My neurotic self was still bracing for the true impact of Harvey.

KT sensed my tightly-wound, fried and frayed nerves, and softly relented. He changed into his pajamas.

While we settled in for a long night of video games, the flooding began.


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Thailand, twice

Our quest to find an infinity pool ended in success at Ao Nang Cliff Beach Resort, following a luxurious two-hour massage.

My last experience in Thailand overlapped with a surreal transitional ~life phase~ , serving as a high-key emotional goodbye to the life that I’d lived in California. This time, my time in this lovely country was much more mellow than it was melodrama (though I still definitely ugly-cried a few times).

My beloved K (not to be confused with my significant other KT, who unfortunately could not join me on this trip) met me during our layovers in Singapore. I’d just finished a frenzied half-day tour of the city and checked into an airport lounge. (Thanks to a credit card perk, I’ve discovered the beauty of airport lounges and not-so-secretly enjoy feeling like a part of the 1%. My. Goodness. To think that I was sitting in terminals for so many years, when I could’ve been going HAM at buffets…)

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore was not part of the free city-sponsored tour, but definitely worth the taxi fare!

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love and Lovett House

It is with great sadness and overwhelming relief that I announce my separation from one of the most formative relationships I’ve had here in Houston: my house.

When I first started house hunting, I wasn’t sure if I’d be coming solo or not. After a lot of searching, both on Craigslist and in my soul, the stars aligned. I broke up with my SO and SF, signed a lease, and moved into the cutest little Craftsman fourplex in Houston.

The year and a half that followed, I counted my blessings. My two roommates and I grew close. I counseled one through a serious break-up and watched the other one build a relationship from scratch. We hosted holiday gatherings and boozy parties, had lazy brunches and countless heart-to-hearts. One night, my roommate nearly fell through my ceiling while rummaging in the attic; another night, my neighbors banded together to help cut a tree fallen atop my car.

I grew my community within the walls of Lovett House, holding weekly Bachelor-watching sessions and wine & taco nights for my friends. Other evenings, I’d invite a slew of people over for our favorite kinds of games: board games, drinking games, and pre-gaming. In between big events, I would hang out on the couch and study with the light pouring through the windows and my roommate’s dog, Dexter, at my feet. It was so nice.

It was also in Lovett House that my heart healed and I ~learnd 2 luv~ again. I can still picture it clearly… The early morning light would filter in through the palm trees outside my window, casting soft shadows in my room. I’d walk into the kitchen and open the back door to see KT standing there in a daze from his overnight shift. I’d put a bowl of food in front of him and, when he was ready, we’d lay down and talk about how absolutely lost we were in our training programs. The two of us, from opposite sides of the country, spent countless sleepy afternoons trying to figure out our place on the Gulf Coast.

I made so many sweet memories in Lovett House… but it wasn’t always easy. I learned a few hard lessons, challenging my faith in humanity.

One night, my house was broken into while we were sleeping inside. At 3 am on a summer night, KT and I were startled awake by a light floating in the darkness. It immediately went dark when KT called out, prompting me to jump to the most obvious conclusion: the house was haunted. (Duh.)

As it turned out, an intruder had snuck into the house (!!!), removing his shoes to move more quietly across our creaky wood floors. He’d opened the door to my bedroom, shining his phone light into the room a few times. When we woke up, he ran out of the house and left his Vans behind. We called the police, notified the landlord, and had our locks changed immediately. I can only hope it was a crime of opportunity, given that the dude hadn’t taken a single thing in a house of three young women.

Notably, however, the greatest threat to the house came from within.

My roommate P and I went to the Beyonce concert together, hosted joint birthday parties, and bonded over our love for bike rides and boys… until she decided to AirBnB our apartment. When we called her out on breaking the ground rules we’d set, she refused to cancel the rental. After many cinematic screaming matches, my other roommate E went to the landlord. Shit hit the fan. P began harassing E: kicking her off the internet, parking in her space, telling her to get off of her couch, even getting her boyfriend in on the verbal abuse — to the point that E moved out and started paying two rents. I took refuge elsewhere until we could find people to take over the lease, after which point I kindly and clearly cut ties with P. I’d seen a dark side of her, and I wasn’t interested in being friends with such a mean and irrational person. Her response? An avalanche of nitpicking texts, capped by this email: “You might tell me I was wrong and petty and you might be right, but friends stick together… It’s insane and I don’t really get it but oh welllllll”. Right.

And so…

My time at Lovett House drew to an abrupt, but necessary, close. I thought I’d spend more time there than I did — but (as I have learned repeatedly, being in my 20s), things don’t always work out as expected. Still, I am grateful for all that I’ve experienced in our little duplex of three girls and a dog. Lovett House was lovely while it lasted.


I’m done with my second year of graduate school.

It’s insane to think how quickly time is flying by (and how poorly I am documenting all of this). Some neat things I’ve done:

I successfully proposed my master’s thesis, and am hopefully going to be able to defend it (and obtain two new letters after my name!) in the fall.

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twenty eight & Asheville

On the rainy weekend before my birthday, my friends and I went out to a lounge, built within the former home of an oil & gas tycoon, for late-night drinks and dancing. I ordered three Cucumber Irish Mules, requested one song (OBVIOUSLY), and took exactly zero pictures. It was so fun.

A few days later, KT & I were on a plane to North Carolina. Despite a number of travel mishaps (why are not all airport car rental kiosks 24 hours?!), we made it to Asheville, a charming little town tucked within the mountains. We stayed in an AirBnB branded the “zen cabin,” built by a monk-turned-playwright-turned-milkman and featuring a meditation corner, Buddhist library, and Tibetan singing bowl. On my actual birthday, we were visited by our host’s friendly golden retriever, Rosy, and later had Spanish tapas in a cozy, cavernous restaurant in the heart of the city. I was in heaven.

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