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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“Is… someone here? Hello?” I called out as I opened the door to our AirBnB.

The studio was warm and steamy, as though someone had just taken a shower; on the bed, rumpled sheets and blankets were heaped into a pile. No one answered. I gingerly walked into the space, peeking into the bathroom. Aside from a hamper full of dirty towels, there were no indications of life. It looked as though someone had just left the apartment, mere minutes ago. “This is weird.”

KT and I glanced at each other, laughing nervously. After quickly texting our host, we passed out (as loathe as I am to admit this) on a corner of the unmade bed, laying my scarf down on the pillows to feel slightly more hygienic. What can I say? We’d stayed up all night to catch a 4am flight, and were in desperate need of a nap ten hours later.

Despite a rocky start to the trip, our time in Chicago was pretty lovely. We were there for KT’s college friend’s wedding, so we spent each night at open bars. (Can I also just say that, should I get married, my top priority will be free-flowing alcohol? How else am I supposed to make family togetherness and lifelong commitment bearable, am.I.right?)

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Valentine’s vegan samosa shepherd’s pie

This year, my Valentine (🚨!!!) and I booked a retreat in the piney woods of Crockett, Texas.

A few weeks earlier, I’d gotten it into my head that I needed to stay at a DIY cabin — you know the kind, with repurposed wood countertops and galvanized tub sinks. As luck would have it, we found just the one in a small town, two hours north of Houston.

To get there, KT and I drove through the winding countryside, following mysterious instructions (“pass the church and the fire department and look for the dirt road with the mailboxes”) until we found our sweet little property. There was a miniature horse and donkey grazing out front, and a babbling creek tucked behind the house. Our AirBnB hosts lived in a geodesic dome compound a few yards away. For two city kids, this was really, really exciting.

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Two weeks ago, I proudly marched into my local polling station, handed over my voter’s ballot — and then realized that I’d forgotten my government ID. … Thirty minutes later, having returned home to grab my passport (just in case my California ID didn’t fit the bill in Texas), I cast my ballot.

I began writing this post early on election day, optimistically. I wanted to write about how meaningful it was for me to be part of the electorate, especially at this point in time. Up until now, I’d largely taken for granted my right to vote in this country; I didn’t think twice when I turned eighteen and sent in my voter registration form. This year, however, the privilege felt indescribably important.

Moments after leaving the polling station, I called my mom and asked her if she considered herself an immigrant or refugee. “Refugee,” my mom responded matter-of-factly, without a moment’s hesitation. I barely held back tears. My parents had fled a war-torn country, faced immeasurable danger on the open seas, and struggled to establish themselves in a foreign land, so that their children could grow up in a safe, privileged, democratic nation. They persevered so that I could, in a devastatingly effortless fashion, walk across the street and punch a few buttons into a polling machine.

In the weeks leading up to the election, waves of emotion would spontaneously overcome me. What an honor to play my part in electing, in 2008, our first black president — and now our first female head of state. I will be able to look back and say that I helped, in my infinitesimally small way, move our nation towards progress. I can advocate for my people (women, people of color, immigrants) and for those I love from marginalized communities.  Perhaps it was self-congratulatory and self-inflated, but I felt sincerely proud — not necessarily of myself, but of my family and my country (truly, my country) for empowering me, for making all of this possible.

Let’s be clear, though. Even if I felt positively about my heritage and my role in this democratic process, this was still a dirty, demoralizing race. It called into question many aspects of the political machine in DC and bred polarizing hatred in the constituency. On election night, having done my part, I was more than ready to disconnect and put this whole ugly mess behind me. I ran a bath, put on calming music, and was all set to decompress — when my phone started going off with distressed texts. I was taken aback by what my friends were saying, but tried to put it out of my mind as I soaked. There was always the West Coast, right?

As we know by now, things never got better.

Later that night, I laid limp in bed; in the morning, I woke up and felt, for the first time, that I was living in a nightmare. I walked to work and looked at all the strange, blurred faces on the street. I wondered: who had voted against the rights of my loved ones? who didn’t consider themselves a racist or misogynist, yet put a cruel man in the Oval Office? who had prioritized their pocketbooks or prayers over their sense of humanity? I felt traumatized, as though my personhood, my legitimate membership in this society, had been directly attacked.

(I’ve thought a lot about writing about my ideology. I can try to feign political neutrality, but it’d be almost insulting to one’s intelligence: I am too much a bleeding heart liberal. I never mean to be offensive or accusatory, but I’d be doing myself a disservice if I was dishonest about my beliefs. I want to be diplomatic without being disingenuous. People much less emotional than me were also powerfully moved by this election. So much was at stake.)

Incredibly, life has gone on. I went to class, sobbing while watching Hillary’s concession speech with my beloved professors and classmates. I conducted research, commiserating with interviewees before starting the session. I went to parties, donating money to nonprofits in honor of the birthday hosts. In short: I’ve talked this election to death, taken action, grieved and processed it the best I could. And now, I memorialize this moment in time — so pivotal in my life and others’ — so that I can make sense of, and make peace with, it.

Finally: I don’t think I’ll ever regain that sense of pride and patriotism (and naivete?) I felt on election day… but I do take some comfort in knowing that I have my community. Now, more than ever, I am so grateful to be surrounded by like-minded, compassionate, and radically fierce people. This Thanksgiving, I do give thanks.