The Power of Names

I am rarely someone who puts my opinion online or offer my opinion publicly when events are in motion, unless it’s with the very closest of friends. Oftentimes, I broach the topic to hear others’ opinions… because I never felt like I had much to offer or anything new to add. But this summer has got me thinking a lot about something that may seem minute but it has taken ahold of me and I’ve only now recognized how important it is to me: my name.

My name is, first and foremost, 김다은. That’s in the Korean language. It’s the name gifted to me from my grandmother, meaning “warmthful love.” Coming to America at the age of 10 months old, not even a year old, my parents attempted to romanize my name, which brings us to Da Eun Kim. Of course when I was younger, I was not self-conscious about my name, and when I was living in Texas, I was surrounded by a community of family friends who were also all Korean. So there was never any trouble in saying my name. But after I moved to New York and started going through elementary school, I began to realize that my name was difficult to pronounce. In the hope of not attracting too much attention to myself, I went ahead and manipulated the way I pronounced my name to DAH-OON so that it was easier to roll off the tongue for people who spoke English. Not only that, but I couldn’t bear to have people stare at me in confusion and contempt when I tried to introduce myself. And in my new New York school, there were 2 other Asian Americans and they were also Korean. But the biggest difference between me and them was that they were born in America and given English names as well as Korean names from birth. I was left with just Da Eun.

Needless to say, I spent much of my childhood pouring myself over books and reading about the Mirandas and Sarahs and Lucilles and just wishing for myself that I could have an English name. And the most dreaded question to this day for me is: “What’s your name?” In elementary school, I got a myriad of responses similar to this:

“What’s your name?”

“Da Eun.”

“…uh what?”

“Da Eun.”

“…how do you spell that?”

I get this response still, even after trial and error of me trying to figure out the best way to say my name without departing too much from the actual name while desperately hoping that people can pronounce this romanized name in one try. As I have gotten older, it has definitely gotten better to an extent. I don’t get looks of disgust and confusion, and I’ve grown a thicker skin in braving through those conversations where I’m asked to repeat my name 5 times.

But it really doesn’t just end here.

In high school, I was incredibly fond of the teachers I had, especially in the STEM field. While English and history were not my strong suits and I for the most part dreaded writing coherent papers, math and chemistry and science were solvable in my book. I never hesitated to raise my hand to ask questions and participate. Those were also spaces where I found myself getting courage to speak up and occasionally question the answers and explanations teachers gave me. I thought I felt mutual respect.

One day in the middle of May, less than a month away from the end of the school year, I was doing my work in one of my science classes, taught by one of my favorite teachers. I’ve gone on errands for her and I have been able to talk to her about things other than school. That day, she looked up at me, looking a little confused, and said “Da Eun, can you bring me that book at the back of the room?” Everything about this question was normal, except for my name. DAY-OON, she said. For a split second, I was shocked. How could my favorite teacher, who I talk to every single day, in the classroom where I talk to my friends all the time and they say my name… miss my name? At the end of the school year? She’s pronounced it fine this entire time, why now? For the rest of year, I kept mental note of how many times she would call my name. She said my name only two more times, but both times it was DAY-OON. I wasn’t necessarily frustrated or angry, I was just flustered because this was the first time anything like this had happened. It was a situation where you would think you’ve gotten past this big obstacle of introducing yourself with a name that should be romanized enough to be pronounced that you can move on and nurture that relationship further… but I felt like I was back at square 1, except I had already had this connection with this person FOR A YEAR. I didn’t do much about it, but as you can see, I still have that memory to this day, 7 years later.

NOTE: By high school, I had moved to California and I went to a school that was predominantly white, but there was a good percentage of Asian students. I actually lived in a neighborhood of all Korean families, and many of the girls were in my year. The common narrative I would hear from those girls was how they would be talking to a classmate and they would mention me, but the classmate would have no idea who they were talking about, something like:

“Yeah, I think 다은 is taking this class!”

“Who?”

“DAH-OON”

“Oh! Cool!”

Luckily, these girls had caught on that I completely mispronounce my name just to make it remotely easier for non-Koreans to pronounce my name, and they would readjust immediately depending on who they talked to, but it also gave me this pretense that oh, only Koreans will ever be able to pronounce my name correctly or care to.

Now comes college. I still went through this motion of introducing myself as DAH-OON and it for the most part went off without a hitch. Winter quarter of freshmen year, I was mainly hanging out with 3 guys in my freshmen dorm. Jokes were always being had, and it was overall a group that I genuinely had a lot of fun with. One day, I came back from class and met up with the 3 guys, and one of them looked at me really seriously and said,

Can you teach me how to pronounce your name correctly? I know that you must be saying it wrong so that it’s easier for me to say it, but I genuinely want to learn the correct way.

I originally brushed it away, saying “oh no, it’s totally fine, I don’t mind at all.” But then the other two hopped in, saying that they wanted to learn. After maybe 5 minutes of repeating my name over and over again, I thought to myself “It’s whatever, they’ll probably forget how to say it, and that’s still fine.”

To my surprise, for the next three weeks, each one of them would stop me when they’d see me down the hall, and they’d repeat my name multiple times and wouldn’t stop until I told them that was the right pronunciation. And to this day, those 3 guys now say my name. My true name. 다은. And while I couldn’t have said it then, I can say now how I want to thank them for taking my name seriously.

Fast forward to this summer when I was interning. I still haven’t gotten rid of the habit of calling myself DAH-OON but again, for the most part, people are able to say this fine. I felt mostly supported, especially as a woman in tech, and I know that’s not what many people get to say. Halfway through my internship, I found myself in a biweekly meeting and by this time, all of the interns’ names had been added to the agenda for the part of the meeting where we go around the room talking about our upcoming tasks. The meeting is led by the person who usually reviews my code after my host, so I would say that a relationship had been established by this point where I could ask him for help and we could make small talk. But when it came time for the interns to speak, he said, “Okay DAY-YOON, what are you up to this week?” A jolt ran through me, kind of like deja vu, because this was so similar to what had happened to me years ago in the science classroom. Like…really? Again? After the meeting, I sort of sat in my chair in a daze, replaying that moment. It might seem like a small little detail, but what was eating away at me was that this summer, I had come in with the mindset of wanting to do my contribution of creating a more inclusive workspace. I made it a challenge for myself of where if I saw or heard any sort of microaggression toward coworkers, I wanted to say something for them if they couldn’t say anything themselves. I had been thinking along the lines of racial or gender-related microaggressions that I always read about in those Medium articles. But here I was, dazed and upset with myself for not being able to stop the meeting lead for a second and say, “it’s pronounced 다은.” And you know why I couldn’t bring myself to say that? Because I was afraid that I would be rude to interrupt the meeting to correct him. I can’t even begin to explain how much that ate away at me for the rest of the summer, every time he said my name in that biweekly meeting, completely butchered.

And you know what sucks even more? The fact that I thought I was right for thinking it would be rude of me to correct him. I didn’t fully realize how harmful that mindset was for myself until I grabbed lunch with a coworker for the first time near the end of my internship, and the first thing he said to me was, “I’m sorry, but am I saying your name correctly?” My immediate reaction was relief. Relief that it wasn’t so crazy for me to hope that people would want to pronounce my name correctly. And when I say correctly, I mean the way I had romanized my name to DAH-OON, so NOT EVEN THE REAL TRUE PRONUNCIATION 다은.

Okay but what is the whole point of all of this?

I’m not saying I expect people to pronounce 다은 correctly. It’s a hard name to pronounce and it does not even come from the English language. I’m not saying I expect people to all act like my 3 friends from freshmen year who spent time in their day to pronounce it correctly. I’m not.

But I want to shed light that something as simple as your name… can hold so much power and influence over the person, and it is in fact an issue that many immigrants and minorities face. We are now in a time where we talk about recognizing gender pronouns and slowly institutions are following suit, where people make memes about Starbucks baristas not being able to spell “Katie” correctly (okay but seriously, imagine my name with 3 consecutive vowels and a space in between. I can’t even begin to tell you how many emails I get that say “Da” even if I make sure to leave the Middle Name field blank on forms). And I guess on top of that, I just find that something I’ve been missing and something I wish someone said to me was that “Your name is valuable and it is literally your identity. It is LITERALLY how you present yourself.” It’s an experience that so many marginalized groups have, of training themselves to mispronounce their own names enough just for teachers and peers who are not bilingual to not look down at their names and think they’re weird. It’s an experience that many people in this country have where no matter how many different ways they try to say their name, people still mispronounce it no matter what and will never bother to ask again how to pronounce your name correctly, or worse, they make jokes about your name. It’s an experience where many people must second-guess themselves and their true pronunciation, because they’re afraid of coming off as too sensitive about their name or too pretentious. But why should they be?! It’s their name! It is their identity! It is the name that their loving parents and grandparents have given them at birth, and it is the name that in many ways holds centuries of heritage and history from the land that they left to have better lives in “the land of opportunity.” They should not feel shameful for having a non-Anglo Saxon name and for not “conforming” to Western standards of names. They should not have to second guess themselves and be flooded with the internal monologue of “how should I pronounce my name this time?” every time they have to make an introduction. If you have not felt these feelings or sentiments, that probably means you have a privilege that truthfully thousands of Americans do not have.

But wait, hold up. This isn’t meant to be a message of “make sure you’re saying all of your friends’ names right and ask them repeatedly!” I think at the very least, be respectful if someone corrects you on their name and remember that a name, being just a few scribbles on paper, is still a name and their identity.

I would tell my younger self “Don’t be ashamed of your name. In fact, this should push you to learn more about your heritage and the beautiful history and background that you come from. Be proud that you are Asian American, Korean American. Be proud that you’re Da Eun Kim.”

And if you do have a friend who has a “foreign”/”non-Anglo Saxon” name, maybe one day try asking them what their name means. You may learn something new about your friend.

*Don’t even get me started on the discrimination/stereotyping that happens with a “foreign” name. I have been assumed to be an international student (I am a US citizen), I have been assumed to not know English, and the list can go on…and I am even lucky to have only faced this. This conversation is for a later time, but for now this video does a good job of putting everything in context.

*I can only speak to my personal experience and I do not mean to speak on behalf of any group I do not identify with.

*If you have similar stories like this, please share with me! I would love to hear your narrative and how you’ve tried to overcome this obstacle.

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The Power of Names

Detangling the experience “college”

2017 has been a bit of a whirlwind, and honestly I didn’t think it was going to happen so quickly. June 18 happened, graduation happened, and the events blur–getting my diploma, rushing into my parents’ car to move out of my dorm, all just to haphazardly/sort of mentally prepare myself for another software engineering internship the very next day. Needless to say, I have not had a chance to fully decompress and reflect on the past 4 years, the years my frosh self said would be “the very best years of my life.” Even now, I am on a time crunch where I get this weekend to relax, but I’m immediately getting on a plane on Monday to blaze through interviews for full-time. But life never stops, and I better jot down my thoughts before my memory fails me.

Don’t get me wrong, Stanford was amazing and I would not have traded it for anything else. The people and the wisdom I encountered in these four years were so invaluable and everyone has had an incredible impact on my life and on the person I have grown to be. But it definitely wasn’t without its dips and turns, and there are some lessons I’ve taken away from this that I’d like to hold to heart moving forward. I don’t think I’d want to necessarily tell my frosh self this, because I have only learned these things through trial and error. But I can at least hope this is potentially helpful for other 18-year-olds who are about to enter an incredible chapter of their lives.

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(Me as a wee little freshman moving in)

  1. There are so many great opportunities on campus, and you’re most of the time trying to choose between wonderful options. Don’t sweat it. College is in many ways a portal to new activities and opportunities that you have never even known about. And college is really a chance to try new things! Do you want to learn how to ballroom dance? Great, because no one here knows yet that you have two left feet. Want to work on a side engineering project? Cool, put yourself out there and make new friends who are interested in this! Want to be low key and focus on yourself for your first year? That’s totally fine too. It is so easy to see how amazing everyone is and all of the cool activities they are doing. But let’s be real: you’re not a superhuman. You can’t do every single thing on campus without sacrificing your health, and your health is arguably of most importance. And all these people who are doing great things have made sacrifices of their own. So take advantage of these opportunities, but make sure you’re able to balance it with personal goals.
  2. Surround yourself with a community, a community that uplifts you, challenges you, and motivates you to be the person you hope to be proud of in 4 years. No matter what people say about the importance of classroom learning and career development, it’s also important for you to be grounded in yourself, and the best way I’ve been able to feel comfortable and assured is through the wonderful community I have found much support from. Being in a community empowers you to perhaps do something for that community, and the people in it encourage you through your endeavors. But at the same time, be sure to recognize when communities are toxic to you. I don’t mean that communities are right and wrong universally; it just means that maybe this community does not make you feel the best and discourages you. If so, it’s important to always step back and think about why am I in this community? Is there worth in me being part of this community?
  3. …But surround yourself with a plethora of perspectives as well. College is one of the first places you get to be going to class and living in dorms with people who come from wildly different backgrounds from you. Echochambers are a real thing. It can be so easy to get swept up in the midst of events and to agree with everyone. But it never hurts to try to stop and question for a moment, to try to understand the other perspective a bit better. ASK QUESTIONS!
  4. Take your education seriously. I was definitely very much into this idea of college being a transformative experience where my social circle explodes and I learn to be a social butterfly and break out of all my awkwardness from high school. But an analogy my friend has given me has stuck by me all these years:

    Going to college while not going to any of your classes is like paying to stay in a 5-star hotel and choosing to sleep on the streets.

    Be sure to remember why you are getting an education. Another quote:

    If you are getting an amazing education such as that at Stanford, you better be chasing your passion, if not searching for it, because there are so many others who are dying to be in your position, and you have all the privilege of the prestigious education to help your family, your communities, and yourself.

  5. You never know until you try. What I mean by this is: you can seek advice from upperclassmen and friends all you want, but ultimately you may need to try it yourself to decide for yourself whether this opportunity is worth your time or not. My biggest regrets throughout college all start with the statement “I regret that I didn’t try to____.” Try to apply, try out a class, try auditioning. So be sure to satisfy your curiosities, take opportunities to widen your perspectives.
  6. It’s okay to say no. You’re not disappointing anyone, and you don’t owe anyone anything.
Detangling the experience “college”

Reminiscing on 4 Years at Stanford: Letter to Roommate

Can confirm this was pretty accurate 🙂

Dear Roommate,

The next four years will be our journey of getting to know each other, as we spend literally every moment of the day together. One question I must ask: do you like peaches? Because I love them! You may agree that not only are they delish, but they’re also very healthy, with lots of fibers to clean your digestive system, plenty of vitamin A to improve night vision, and water essential to living!

Why am I talking about peaches? Well, the peach is nature’s work, and nature is not perfect all the time. You never know how the peach will taste until you take the first bite. Even with the first bite, the next bites are drastically different and unique. A general idea of the peach from touch and smell is not enough to determine the succulence of the peach until you actually taste it. Similarly, you can watch me from afar and make small talk with me, but you’ll be quite surprised by your second, third, and even fourth impressions of me. On the outside, I appear timid and passive; in reality, I’m not afraid to raise my voice. I’m in love with my violin, but if you’re annoyed at my practicing at 1 o’clock in the morning—like when you take that sour bite—I’ll respect your need for sleep and stop. I myself am a really deep sleeper who rustles in her blanket, but if at dawn you whisper to me that you want to go running on campus, I will be out of my bed and changed in no time; you’ll be as surprised as when juice from the seemingly dry peach starts to run down your chin. Surely, these will be the sudden jerks and turns in your otherwise smooth journey of getting to know me, like a peach tasting sweet in the first bite but bitter in the second. In order to get a better sense of the peach’s taste, continue to “take a bite or two” into my character. Like peach fuzz, I will take every effort to make you feel homely and embrace our companionship. I look forward to an adventurous four years.

Fondly,

Da Eun Kim

Reminiscing on 4 Years at Stanford: Letter to Roommate

Roll Sound, Roll Camera, Action

I should start off by saying that filmmaking was never something I gave a thought. I never even really thought of filmmaking as a career through high school and beginning of college. And then when I would people with their super fancy cameras, I just thought it was like violin: an incredibly expensive art. How could I ever try this out?

I would say that throughout high school, YouTube began to have an increasingly prominent influence in my life. It starts in 7th grade with Nigahiga when he uploaded his first 4 initial videos. They were so silly and looking back at them, the quality was definitely no good; but they were engaging. Then comes the era of Wong Fu. Watching Strangers, Again and How We Never Met helped this high schooler in puberty and the feels. I will always remember how relatable these videos felt (even though I had never been in a relationship at the time) and it won’t be until much later that I realize why Wong Fu was so attractive: I was seeing people like me, Asian American, on the screen. Something that had never happened in mainstream Hollywood movies in 2009.

This influence will only continue to grow as I go through college. Starting senior year of high school, I started watching beauty guru videos. This started from exploring Frmheadtotoe’s channel after seeing her star in Wong Fu’s Away We Happened series. As someone who was always told only “stupid” girls and girls who didn’t take school seriously would wear makeup, makeup was an unexplored domain and little did I know that even if I wanted to wear makeup, my monolids made it difficult to follow current beauty trends. Frmheadtotoe showed me that door, always giving tricks on how to use monolids to our advantage and promoting self-confidence and self-care. Several years past, I’m now watching channels like clothesencounters, ilikeweylie, Tina Yong, and meejmuse. I’ve expanded my repertoire of Asian beauty gurus, no doubt, but I find myself now watching less of their makeup tutorials; I’m watching their Q&As, their vlogs, their motivational talks and the reason these are so attractive to me is because I am more confident that I’m hearing from people who have more similar identities and backgrounds to me.

Along the way, I’m seeing the YouTube community surface, and these content creators will oftentimes reference their subscribers and their fans. YouTube allows them to connect with their subscribers and develop a more intimate relationship with them unlike the mainstream “celebrities” that would always be surrounded by security and paparazzi. As I see more collabs between creators happening, I can’t help but yearn for a very similar supportive community around me, and it’s amazing that so many Asian American YouTubers are coming together to put on more big-scale projects and to increase the exposure of Asian Americans on media. I mean, I first saw Randall Park in Wong Fu’s Too Fast short and now he’s the lead actor in Fresh Off the Boat! So much advancement and exposure has been achieved in the API community, and I really do believe that YouTube has played an integral role.

In 2015, two friends and I took a spontaneous trip down to LA to attend the Jubilee Project conference. I’ve always admired Jubilee Project in their heartfelt and sometimes heart-wrenching videos (recently they partnered with NBC Asian America to make videos surrounding the Asian American identity). Jubilee Project and film has nothing to do with what I’m studying or doing in academics, which is engineering. But something about the community and the life lessons I could learn from them urged me to go (I very much believe this was God’s doing, and experiences like these continue to tie me to my faith). I already have a post on this entire event, and it continues to be an influence on my life. I’ve even put up the pamphlet from the event on my wall next to my Hamilton playbill.

But I left the event with some nostalgia, yearning for that specific Asian American YouTube community. As I delved deeper into the Asian American community at Stanford, I became engrossed in learning about Asian American issues such as representation in media, and the need to have greater cross cultural, inter group communication. This comes side by side with the greater awareness of politics and current events around me. Before I knew it, I started adapting a more political, activist attitude. AND at the same time, I was starting to see the YouTube community open up even more about touchy subjects like these. Here is when BuzzFeed comes into the picture. They aim to have viral videos, and they post a ridiculous number of videos everyday on YouTube. And from the hundreds of videos I’ve seen, I’ve noticed that a good number of them have involved in encouraging self-confidence and looking inwards at one’s own identity, whether it be regarding race, body image, gender, sexuality, etc. I’m sure that BuzzFeed videos will often leave their viewers empowered to be loving and accepting of the diversity of identities. This, on top of stellar animated movies such as Inside Out and Zootopia that are so timely and culturally nuanced, makes me really believe in media’s power in our society, especially film.

After the Jubilee Project conference, I realized it was high time for me to just dabble in filmmaking. I took a film production class fall 2015, and it was amazing! Six assignments, and not all of them necessarily had us pulling out a camera to film, but the ones that did, I was very proud of how they turned out. (Though I must say, my repertoire in KDramas is helping me greatly in finding good instrumentals to play in the background of films).

This film production class was just a taste of what I find enjoyable. I kept pushing off the thought of doing filmmaking because 1) I’ve never even talked about filmmaking with anyone, especially my family and I had no idea what my family would think, 2) I thought I just liked filmmaking for the community I saw on YouTube, and surely I can find that elsewhere, and 3) I never get a break all year long, going from school to internships, back to school. But little did I know what would happen in 2017.

Fall 2016, I applied to a d.school class called Movie Design as a means of wanting to revisit the experience I had in the film production class, as well as to have a quick fun class in my schedule. However, at the first day of class, within 30 minutes I felt overwhelmed. This class was often referred to as a sprint (also think of red bold italic), only running for 4 days, but guaranteed to be hella intense. Even while I was going to school, I was so anxious about these impending four days where I’d just be filming and editing, editing, editing.

But it happened! Let me tell you, I was dead exhausted, but I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. While filming, I found myself bursting with ideas of what sort of dynamic and body language the actresses should use when confronting each other. When editing, part of me so wanted to take a break and let other members of my team take over, but the other part of me was exhilarated. I felt my creative juices flowing, as if they had been plugged up in the time I was coding my systems assignment the week before. I would say it was a very similar happy high that I would get in my rehearsals when Echappe Quartet was still a thing. I definitely feel that I have been trying for so long to find something collaborative and creative, from musicals to UI/UX design, but maybe it’s filmmaking that has hit the sweet spot. Even on top of that, this short sprint of a class…it’s like it kept telling me “filmmaking shouldn’t be hard. Anyone should be able to be creative and make compelling films that evoke strong personal messages to all of us.” The limit shouldn’t be the equipment you have or that Final Cut Pro software you can’t afford; the limit should be your will.

Usually, I can be critical of classes and the way that they’re taught, but the ending of the class left me on cloud 9. As director/editor, I found that even with lack of experience in filmmaking, there was a general respect from the teaching staff and the peers of everyone’s opinions. When I look back, I also felt this way in my film production class. And this really isn’t something to be taken lightly! My professor last year had a film that was nominated for an Oscar, and from Movie Design, we had a double Oscar-winning producer and the designer of the d.school space! When I think about how our teaching staff came to our shooting location and gave us hands-on tips, I can’t help but feel so grateful. Oftentimes in movies, we just think about the people on the screen, and we take for granted the people who come up with the storyline as well as give the film its ambience and vibe through edits and angled shots. I find this mutual respect rare and precious. I also find myself feeling so proud and happy with the work that is produced, and I’m so proud of everyone who was in this class and spent hours at night filming and changing the storyline of their plots. Okay, CS makes me want to pull my hair out and while there’s a huge sense of relief and accomplishment when a program is finally fleshed out, it’s so different form filmmaking where I feel that I can really admire each inch, each nook and cranny of the final product. It’s honestly really disappointing to think about how technical and creative sides of products stand so separately. For me, it’s always been a dream to work at Pixar. But being a software engineer at Pixar isn’t going to mean I have any say in the story aspect nor is it going to mean I get to let my creative juices out in that way. As a result, I am experiencing dissonance between the work I challenge myself to do with the work I’ve found myself dabbling in and enjoying. But, I digress. Anyone at Stanford who is looking into filmmaking even as a fun class (nothing to do with pursuit of career), I would so highly recommend FILMPROD 106 & ME 207.

After I showed someone my final product from the d.school class, she immediately asked me, “Is filmmaking something you’re interested in pursuing?” As of right now, I can’t give her a sure “yes.” It’s such a new idea that my mind is entertaining, but my interest has been piqued for sure. Even to the point where I’m considering applying for the JP Fellowship over the summer. It’ll conflict with my internship but we’ll see what happens if this does pan out 🙂

So what is the point of this post? I think if anything, I want this to be a reminder of how the sweat blood and tears of filmmaking… I found to be worth in the past few times I’ve gotten to do so. I’ll keep thinking about media and its impact, and I’ll keep thinking about what media technology can do for the good of society. I hope I can be critical of film and media and its emerging technologies such as VR/AR (getting a taste of this in my communications VR class as well as watching Black Mirror eep!). But in the meantime, here’s the result of those blood, sweat, and tears from a few weeks ago!

Roll Sound, Roll Camera, Action

#NewYearsFears

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-11-53-42-pmNew Year. 2017. As if it’s something we never experience. New Year’s resolutions were never my thing, but I’ve been in a place where I am trying so hard to reflect but nothing is coming out of it. I’ve wondered, is this just me being complacent and being too comfortable with life passing by? Does this mean I’m not being ambitious anymore, or am I stuck in fear?

I’ve always been an avid follower of Wong Fu, and I even had the pleasure of meeting them when they came to Stanford a year and a half ago for the screening of their movie Everything Before Us. Phil Wang has also been an inspiration to me in the way that he is so thoughtful, both figuratively and literally. He is thoughtful in the sense that he is very kind and thinks of others, but he is literally full of thoughts. I dunno, is it too crazy of me to think that there are moments in life when you find yourself resonating with someone you have very little to no connection with?

Anyway, Phil just uploaded this video about New Year’s Resolutions. He presents the challenge of actually writing down our fears and looking back on them at the end of 2017 to see how those fears panned out. Honestly, I think this is a brilliant idea because the hope is that we can look back on those 12 months and find ourselves empowered in having been able to move past those fears. He said it’s a personal thing and we don’t need to publicize, but I see this as a time to be brutally honest with myself about my fears. Man, they have never been consolidated all into a list, so here goes nothing:

My 2017 Fears

  1. I’m scared that CS 110 will destroy me/make me feel insecure about my abilities to be a competent software engineer (much like CS 107 made me feel). I still find myself oftentimes paralyzed from starting CS assignments because they seem so daunting. It’s never much of a problem once I get knee-deep in, but the feet have to go in first. It’s also not a pleasant feeling for the deadline to be like a flame under your bottom.
  2. I’m really excited for 2 of my classes for the winter, a filmmaking class and a UX design class. These are areas I am semi-serious about pursuing, and there is a fear that they won’t pan out to be what I expect and I’ll be back in square 1 of “what the hell am I doing with my life?”
  3. I’m scared I won’t be in an important position for an organization I’m involved in, and I’m scared that if I am in that position, that I won’t meet my goals and get a lot of hate for it.
  4. I’m scared that my family will continue to adamantly refuse my relationship. I’m telling myself to give it time, but it’s brought a lot of tears and heartaches tbh… I’m tearing up right now even writing that. I wish they could see the potential of good and happiness it brings into my life rather than the list of differences in background that amount to how communication will be terrible in the long run.
  5. I’m scared that I have too high of expectations for my internship this summer after having had an amazing experience in NYC summer 2016.
  6. I’m scared that I will continue to body shame myself. On top of that, I’m scared that I will be motivated for vanity reasons rather than longevity and health reasons.
  7. I’m scared that as a grad student in the fall, I will feel lonelier than ever.
  8. I’m scared that I will fail at managing money lol.
  9. I’m scared that I will never feel comfortable enough to voice my own political opinions on social media for fear of being not well-read enough.
  10. Along the same lines, I’m scared that I will continue to be unable to stand up for my beliefs and opinions, especially the unpopular ones.

That’s it for now 🙂

#NewYearsFears

Lulls in Life

As I have been bouncing through senior year, I’ve done one significant thing differently: I have not been journaling. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing, because I’m not storing precious memories and am not proactively reflecting. But I would at least like to take the chance to reflect right now because I feel like I have miles and miles of unsearched territory in life all around me, and I’m not moving in any direction.

It’s shocking to think that once school starts, it’s so easy to get into the groove. The groove, I’ve found, can mean one of two things: either you got your shit together and feel hella productive, or you’re blindly going through meaningless motions. I find myself in the latter pool at the moment.

The core questions I always go back to:

  1. Why am I here? Why am I at Stanford, and why am I on this Earth?
  2. Why am I taking these classes? What’s the point of these classes and how important are they to my life?
  3. Do I find myself feeling fulfilled from my day to day life?
  4. Why do I always feel so tired and low in energy when I have so much life to live?

I will leave this [incomplete].

Lulls in Life

Precious Summer Thoughts

September 2 notes the conclusion of the internship.

September 3 notes the flight over that other coast on the west.

Let this post be an attempt to disentangle the cobweb in my brain that are my thoughts from this summer. Let’s go.

When in NY…

Undeniably summer 2016 will be remembered as the summer I ventured outside of my bubble at Stanford and the Bay into NYC. Far away from many friends and family that could have supported me at any point. Honestly, it was liberating. Can you imagine the fun and games two girls can have living all by themselves in the middle of Manhattan? The weekends were ours to plan, without any sort of obligation like family outings and appointments to attend. There were the occasional visits from friends, but those weren’t seen as duties, more like opportunities to explore cool places in New York that we ourselves haven’t been to!

But of course, there are the not-so-great parts. Like, how NYC is indeed so cramped that garbage bags lie in heaps stacked on top of each other, awaiting their ride to the dumpster. It’s a foul smell, as you can imagine. Or like, how Times Square would really be a lovely place with its lights and all if it didn’t take more than a few minutes to cross one simple intersection. Pedestrians (cough cough, tourists) need to have their own transportation system over there. Or like how, the city is small enough to be walked around in, but there’s this thing called humidity, very foreign to a Californian like me (tbh, didn’t ever really think of myself as Californian, but the humidity was a deterrence to many opportunities to exploring the city). You literally cannot walk for more than 5 minutes without breaking a sweat. How there are people walking around in suits and heels, I shall never know.

Honestly, though? I absolutely fell in love with New York City. It had become a bit of a fond childhood memory for me, for the times I would drive down with my family to stand in line in front of the Coca-Cola advertisement for a Broadway ticket. To come back now and explore at my will and actually want to learn more about the city and its history…is an opportunity that I am incredibly thankful for. Of course, not to mention I paid 10 dollars to watch Hamilton from the front row. Now, that’s a kicker.

Return to Google

Many of my friends know that this is my second summer interning at Google. Last summer, I was an Engineering Practicum intern based in the Mountain View office. As a 19-year-old who had just decided on a major, that summer was, needless to say, overwhelming. I left in September, with the image of tech companies being too daunting and complex to navigate. I left feeling shaky and incredibly insecure about my seemingly rash decision to join the CS pipeline and go into tech. Exactly a year later, I walked out of the Google NYC office, feeling so sad and so appreciative of everything that I had learned, and knowing that one day I want to come back.

Software Engineering Woes

My transition into college definitely took an unexpected turn. I came in, thinking I wanted to become a doctor, having excelled in math and chemistry. In sophomore year, I was unsure if I was considering CS for the sake of doing CS like everyone else, and in order to be the odd one out, I decided to major in Symbolic Systems. As I took more psychology, linguistics, and philosophy courses over the years, I’ve come to really embrace the humanities and love them. As for the technical side, well…numbers became to scare me. I had lost that fire of wanting to work through problems endlessly. And as last summer came to the end, I was eager to make a transition into product management, anything other than coding. To cut a long story short, many conversations with my wonderful recruiter about my future steps led to this open email I sent her:

I think I realized a lot of things when I was talking to you today. The inherent question was never really which place to go work at; it was PM or SWE. I like to go about things logically, and so I thought “I did SWE last year, and I need a diversity of experience. So I should do PM.” That’s what I said to you today. PM was always so intriguing to me, and the idea of PM for a summer felt like an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I also thought on the flip side, I wasn’t choosing Google for the right reasons, the reasons ranging from the repercussions to the familiarity when I’m someone who advocates for pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. When I signed Google a month ago, I don’t think I had really been convinced; I think it was mainly out of fear and a feeble statement of “I should go and give it another chance since it wasn’t the best last summer.” But what you hinted at today actually gave me clarity on what my true fear was: that my technical foundation isn’t strong. The truth is, I think design questions are so exciting and the idea of owning a product is so grandiose and almost dreamy for an internship. Yet I have definitely been insecure about my technical abilities, and it hasn’t been easy admitting that. I usually would attribute it to how I’m just not nearly as interested in it as product management, but that really is a cop-out reason. Because I know that…as a PM, you have to love your engineers and you have to still have the vigor and enthusiasm for tech problems like an engineer. Today, I think I’m better able to realize why I should and am going to Google next summer: it’s to challenge my insecurities and fears, to get outside of my comfort zone of having the flexibility of shying away from software engineering whenever possible.

As this summer came closer, I was really anticipating whether I would disappoint as much as I felt that I had before. Would I be properly prepared for these twelve weeks? What if I didn’t really know as much as I believed myself to?

The thing is, with CS…it’s so unpredictable how long it will take to solve the problems. You try your best, but for all you know, one bug could take an hour or it could take a week. Sometimes, that bug ends up being a one-line fix. Not exactly the most satisfaction one can find. With CS, you have to be patient. Because ultimately, the beauty of computer science is that computer science was completely man-made. That means no matter how flawed it can be, there is always a solution. We can bend CS to our will and we can utilize it to create fantastic and useful products. With CS, you can basically be a wizard.

I’ve regained my confidence in my abilities to be an engineer. I know that if I set my mind on doing solving a problem, I will be able to solve it. Software engineering is a path that I can definitely see myself taking, and that puts my heart at ease.

Don’t underestimate the team.

Freshmen year, my friends dubbed me the social butterfly. I loved meeting new people and hearing their life journeys. I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by wonderful people who uplift me and motivate me to be the most compassionate and loving person that I can be. Navigating the workplace was a new challenge. I would rarely speak up last year, and due to my wariness of my technical abilities, I was hesitant to ask questions. I really had no commonalities to share with my team and they were a quiet bunch, too.

During that summer, I would go to these organized chats with women employees at Google. Each time, they would emphasize that their top priority when choosing a place to work is the team. I honestly couldn’t understand why the team was more important than the work or the product. And of course comes this summer. I found myself surrounded by a different lot than my previous internship. Young, many married with babies, mostly men, mostly white. You would think I would feel even more alienated, but I was much more comfortable being around them. I loved listening to the jokes about gaming and parenting being tossed around, and I was always greeted with friendly smiles at the office. My team definitely knew how to work really hard and have a good time. I bothered the heck out of my host with questions, but he never complained; he would always jump at the opportunity to help me out, and forever I will be thankful! I hope that later on, I can foster that community wherever I go.

But I still care about the product.

UGH, the product I worked on this summer was so fantastic and enjoyable to tinker with. I so wish I could talk more about it, but alas, as it is unreleased currently, I must restrain myself. But it’s a bit of a tickle and a giggle, to know that I have an itching secret. This experience was much more visual and interactive than others I have worked on, and that was pretty exhilarating in and of itself. To be able to make the slightest change in code, and to see it happen and change in front of you. Sighs, it totally reaffirms my want to be involved in a product’s decision-making and usability.

Moving forward, the question still remains: software engineering? Product management? User experience? I see all three of these options to still be very viable. I need to do much more exploration. Whenever I think it’s too late for me to explore a new avenue, I need to remind myself that realistically I will only regret not trying and it’s never too late.

~

This is the majority of what I have to say for now. Summer 2016  will always be near and dear to my heart. It was everything I could have asked for, even more than everything.

Precious Summer Thoughts