The Kuleshov Effect of Traveling

Movie-watching is far from a passive activity; movies are images in sequence that engage viewers in inferring causation between individual elements.

One of the most important principles in filmmaking is the Kuleshov effect. Filmmaker Lev Kuleshov once edited a short film in which a shot of the expressionless face of man was alternated with various other shots, including a girl in a coffin, a bowl of soup, and a woman on a divan. Although the audience believed that the man’s expression was different each time, the footage of the man was the same each time.

Kuleshov used the experiment to indicate the effectiveness of film editing: not only did viewers impose their own emotional reactions onto this sequence of images, but they also imposed those reactions to the man in the footage. Today, I’d like to explain how this “Kuleshov effect” has not only manifested in the movies I watch, but also in my daily life. To do so, I’d like to tell you a story about flying from Stockholm to Budapest with a desperately stretched bladder.

With one final heave, I lug my stubborn luggage to the edge of the airstairs. As I trudged up the stairs to the plane, I started to regret chugging a liter of water at security. Getting through to Sweden’s Skavsta airport had been tough; my boarding pass proved that I had checked in a week in advance, but the airport computer systems couldn’t recognize my boarding pass, so I suffered the shaky wifi to redownload the WizzAir app in hopes that I’d find my updated boarding pass. When I finally had my boarding card in hand, I sprinted to the security line, pulled out my liter-bottle of water, and, seeing that the line was quite short and that I did not have time to finish drinking the water, I started dumping the remaining water into the trashcan. As soon as the first drops of water splashed into the trashcan, everyone in line turned to stare at me, this rude, ignorant, and tactless American. I was way too exhausted to figure out where I could properly dispose of my water, so to the horror of everyone (my bladder included), I chugged the entire liter. I stumbled through security victoriously, but felt dizzy and desperate to board the plane and use the lavatory ASAP.


Aboard the plane, with my bladder stretched to its limits, I had to face yet another set of challenges: finding my seat, freeing my arm of my luggage, and then maneuvering to the back of the plane to use the lavatory. To my relief, because I was one of the last to board the plane, everyone was already seated, and I was close to the back of the airplane. As I asked the couple in my row to help me shove my luggage into the overhead bin, I eyed the back of the plane. No line. Success was imminent.


I turned to the couple, who stood between me and the lavatory to help me put my luggage in the overhead cabin, and I quickly sputtered “thank you for helping me put up my luggage; I’m going to the lavatory really quickly so it’s up to you whether you want to sit down now or stay in the aisle so you don’t have to sit down and then get up again after 2 minutes.”


The woman was well-dressed, and her piercing blue eyes glared judgmentally at me as she slowly but curtly insisted — no, you can’t go there. Sit down.

As this unbudging barrier blocked my way to the lavatory, my bladder died a little more. I had no idea why this was such a big deal to her — why this inconvenience was such a big ask, why she didn’t even want to consider it. I concealed my frustration as I sat down facing my window, not wanting to make eye contact with the pretentious lady who would be the cause of my suffering throughout the flight. And given my pride, I would surely rather suffer a screaming bladder than to ask again to use the lavatory.


As my bladder literally seeped itself in anger, I tried to do work and sleep a little. However, all I could think about was the liter of water that begged to be released, and wasn’t released. Because of her.


Sometime during my half-hearted nap, I awoke because the couple was stirring and the man got up to use the lavatory. I immediately followed suit. But when I returned to my seat and scuffled back into my window seat, the well-dressed woman, whose piercing blue eyes once glared judgmentally at me, reached out her hand and said: “So sorry about earlier, my English no good, and this my first time on airplane, didn’t know somebody could be outside of their seat.”


“My English no good. First time on airplane. Didn’t know somebody could be outside their seat.” As I heard these words, my anger melted. She proceeded to chatter about how these plane tickets were a Christmas gift from her parents, about how she’s anxious to leave her darling children at home for the first time, about how she finally has an opportunity to wear her favorite coat… all while being completely oblivious to how paradigm-shifting this moment was for me. Still stunned about all the uncharitable and untenable qualities I had so briskly projected onto her, I smiled at this well-dressed woman, whose glimmering blue eyes expressed all the excitement I’ve ever seen about traveling.


If my experience of the flight was like a film, the shot of her refusing to let me go to the bathroom was now placed beside the shot in which I learned that it was her first time traveling. This new sequence of images completely changed my interpretation of her refusal: instead of interpreting her refusal as rude, I understood it to be an honest mistake; instead of attributing haughty impatience to her brief reply, I understood that it could much more generously and accurately be attributed to her nervousness in speaking English.


Travelling places you side by side with people whose life situations and perspectives you may never otherwise encounter. Travel thus helps you nurture empathy: it edits the film of your internal reactions to incorporate and be influenced by different ways of seeing the world.




The Kuleshov Effect of Traveling

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.


Da Eun Kim

Reminiscing on 4 Years at Stanford: Letter to Roommate

why I’m still a Christian

While others’ struggles with faith have originated from their doubts about theology or the historicity of the Bible, my struggles with faith center around my efforts to understand why pursuing God should be of central importance in my life. Thus, the most important moments in my faith journey are moments when I realize something new about why God is worth pursuing. I’ve approached this question by asking two other questions:

How can an understanding of God’s love address personal suffering?


This answer to this question informs my approach to the second question:

What is truly unique about how the Christian faith motivates people to live the life I strive to live, which is a life full of integrity, kindness, and service?

Throughout my life, I’ve come to realize that my failure — to understand God’s deeply personal and limitless love — insidiously governs my reactions and actions, and that this failure results in self-imposed suffering which, without God, I cannot absolve myself.

I suffer because I rely on outward affirmation for inward validation and peace. My striving for others’ attention and approval leads me to engage in an exhausting and endless audition to be known, acknowledged, and deserving of others’ love. This striving stems from a belief that it is the intelligent and capable people around me whose opinions about me can create opportunities I believe to be integral to a meaningful, happy life. Thus, I absolutely fear being unseen and unappreciated, and often feel insurmountably jealous when people choose others over me. I experience this jealousy because I know that humans’ love is a zero-sum game: people are all limited in their time and capacity to love. When Person A spends time with Person B, A isn’t giving me the attention and affirmation that Person B is receiving. I also incorrectly project this onto my understanding of God’s love — I often resent seeing God “love” and “bless” others more than he “loves” and “blesses” me.

Not only does this striving for outward affirmation hurt myself, but it also strains my friendships with people whom I want to love dearly. I become jealous of the people who ARE acknowledged and well-liked, and refuse to wholeheartedly love my friends when I am consumed by my jealousy of them. And what’s worst is that I can’t stop myself from being jealous of people even though I know that my jealousy is destroying my relationships with them.

The suffering I’ve described results from two things: 1) my belief that others’ approval can provide for me emotionally and be the ultimate provider of meaningful opportunities to actualize my passions, and 2) my not internalizing the personal and limitless love offered by God.

So what have I learned about God’s love this year, and how has that changed my reliance on others’ approval?

God’s love is deeply personalized: 

  • When reading the Bible, I’ve received comfort and guidance that is very specific to how I receive love and affirmation. This has enabled me to trust that God knows my innermost thoughts and cares to speak to me in a way that helps me understand Him. Not only does God know my innermost thoughts, but he also most thoroughly knows my abilities, effort, and passions, and He desires for me to have opportunities to actualize them fully.
  • The realization that God’s love is personal helps to absolve me of my dependence on others to affirm me and provide for my future: I feel so much less anxiety knowing that my life is in the control of an all-knowing and all-powerful God, and is not solely dependent on the opinions of those around me.

God’s love is limitless

  • God’s love is NOT like humans’ love — his love for __ or __ or __ does not detract from his love for me. God loves me in the unique ways in which He knows I need to be loved, and this is absolves me of the anxiety and jealousy I suffer when I look around and see all the different ways in which God is blessing those around me. Furthermore, not only does it enable me to not resent God when he blesses others, but it also motivates me to participate in His work of extending His love towards everyone.

Before understanding God’s deeply personal and limitless love, I strived desperately towards other sources of affirmation and provision and found them to be insufficient. My belief in this love has begun to heal me from my oppressive obsession with others’ opinions of me and the jealousy that can arise from seeing others be more “loved” and more “blessed” than I am.

This healing has also informs how I tackle the next question: What is truly unique about the Christian faith in terms of its teachings and how it motivates people to live moral, admirable lives?

I think that most religions tackle the big questions in life: who are we? How do we relate to a higher being? What is a good life? Although many different religions can inspire similar actions and values, I think what is most distinct about Christianity, and what gives Christianity the most power in compelling one to live morally, is what Christianity claims to be the fundamental intrinsic motivation for those actions.

Christianity claims our complete inability to earn God’s favor, and that God’s love for us is not predicated upon our ability to do so. The more I understand about His omniscience — especially despite the parts of me that are so unlikable — the more I am absolutely floored by the fact that the one who sees the depths of my wrongdoing still chose, chooses, and will continue to choose to love me. I believe that Christian “rules” are not arbitrary restrictions but are manifestations of His love, and Christian “rules” are derived from His intimate understanding of our weaknesses and His desire to protect us and guide us to live maximally fulfilling lives.

Thus, God desires for our obedience to be a natural response to the love that he shows us. While other religions preach that one must continue behaving well to continually earn God’s favor, Christianity 1) centers around a God who wants to love us in all the ways we hope to be loved, and Christianity 2) hopes that our knowledge of Him compels an intrinsic desire to live a life full of integrity, kindness, and service, as enabled by his commands.

So, in conclusion, I am still a Christian because I’ve come to more fully realize two things:

1) God’s love powerfully addresses my personal suffering. Thus, I want and need to internalize it so deeply that it governs all my reactions and actions.

2) The Christian faith provides the most compelling motivation to live a morally upright life because it teaches that abiding by God’s commands is a natural response to God’s love, a love that I’ve only begun to understand, and will strive to better understand throughout the rest of my life.

why I’m still a Christian

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 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 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 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

on parenting, future, and romantic relationships

I’ve disappointed myself with how I’ve spent my break. Although I

  • went to SLO with family friends,
  • arranged a Beauty and the Beast medley for @sleightlymusical and my a cappella group’s ICCA set,
  • learned my junior recital rep,
  • had long conversations with parents about ~future~,
  • read 4 books,
  • finished my CS personal project,
  • saw lotss of friends, and
  • binge-watched some TV I’ve always wanted to watch,

I think I feel largely unfulfilled because I haven’t taken the time to thoughtfully organize all that has transpired since that last time I blogged so intently (last winter break).

But let me begin the processing now.

Parental Investment 

This break, I spent a lot of time and energy practicing piano with my sister, reading with her, watching “wholesome” movies with her, cooking with her… essentially making sure that she doesn’t bum around at home. At the same time, my 18-year-old brother, who will never experience the other- and self-imposed familial obligations that I’ve perceived since my single-digit years, wakes up at noon and makes her ramen and encourages my dad to buy her Yogurtland. Sigh…at least he’s no longer bullying her…right? #emotionallabor

Practicing piano with my sister is rough. She’s pretty good for a 3rd grader, but I drill her pretty intensely on technique and I’m quite impatient and unkind. But in my defense, I treat her like I wanted to be treated as a 3rd grader — seriously, with respect to my ~*potential*~, and with confidence that I will succeed with hard work. However, I’ve been impressed with how well my sister responds. She puts up with my drills, my ridiculous illustrations, my effort to help her see more of the music than what’s on the page.

The rest of the day goes like this: we look up recipes, she makes a shopping list, and we go to Safeway to buy what we need to make a new dish. I treat her like a serious sous-chef (because many child psychologists affirm the importance not underestimating the capacity of children to mimic speech and actions so it’s v important to speak maturely and properly to them!! and yes I am the kind of person who would read these studies lol). Then, we drive to the library, where she picks out a couple books, and we head to a cafe and read together for an hour.

After taking care of her for a few days, it amuses me — and scares me — to think about what kind of mother I’d be. I think I’ve certainly experienced a very realistic lifestyle as a caretaker who is and whose child is subject to the immense pressures of the South Bay. Here, children’s academic achievements as elementary school students are just the beginning of  a lifelong striving for well-rounded intellectual, extracurricular (musical, athletic, etc) and social achievements.

I’m absolutely going to be a tiger mom. I, admittedly, veryy easily fall prey to the glories and shininess of the achievements I was able to attain before college, and I even remember resenting my parents for not pushing me harder. I see what people are able to achieve with effort, even if they lack raw ability (aka me in every academic area). And although I can question Bay Area’s hypercompetitive, narrow, and anxiety-inducing value system from afar, coming home to the rush of the packed Chinese school parking lot and to the madness of college application season (which I sense from my mom’s – church friend’s – family friend’s daughter), makes me fall into the unquestioned frenzy of ensuring that one’s children are provided with every sort of advantage, from birth until… when? An afternoon of gossip from my piano teacher forces me to confront the reality of the finesse required for parents to “perfectly” orchestrate opportunities and curate consistent happiness for their child/children, from the instruments they’re able to master to the private high schools they will attend to the scores they will receive and the perfectly polished college application they send out to the major they select and internships they attain to their eventual significant other and how successful their children will be. And time and time again, I’ve seen that when parents control too much, the relationship between parent/child(ren) thins dangerously, but if parents don’t control enough, they may be knowingly letting their child(ren) miss out on ~*some opportunity*~?!

Let’s talk about these opportunities. Although I’m very grateful for the opportunities and privileges I’ve experienced throughout my life, I’ve also become critical in reflecting on which opportunities have actually proven to be inspiring, important, influential, pivotal, and lasting.

If you want to think about the instrumental value of these opportunities (i.e. evaluating the worth of these opportunities based on the types of pre-professional success they can help one gain), I can easily say that plenty of people who have not experienced a comparable wealth of opportunities (in terms of, for example, musical opportunity) have ended up at Pomona College, are able to intern at the places I’ve worked, etc. And similarly, many people who have had greater opportunities have also not been able to get into Pomona College, intern at the places I’ve interned, etc.

But I would obviously be severely cheapening the value of these opportunities by simply assessing whether they’ve been able to help me get into Pomona or intern here or there. They’ve built my self-confidence, expanded my capacity to appreciate culture, and just enhanced my emotional and social well-being in ways that a college acceptance letter and internship offer could never measure.

But again, let’s circle back to these opportunities that parents so eagerly try to provide for their children, and the perspective that I’d like to have about the opportunities I might want to ensure for my children in the future. I don’t have too many thoughts on this, but all I can say is that I hope I’m not the kind of parent who just shoves myself into a ton of extracurriculars with the false hope that each will be very beneficial for my child. I hope that I will see intellectual/extracurricular/social opportunities as a means by which my child learns discipline and grit. And I hope that these opportunities allow them to experience the joy at working diligently with their God-given abilities.


No break is complete without the “so…what are you doing with your life? What are you working towards?” question. Ever since I decided not to major in Computer Science, I’ve felt quite liberated, but also insecure. So when dad 1) brought up grad school, 2) asked me to explain the strategic significance of signing an management consulting internship offer, and 3) asked me how dating fits into all of this, I low-key flipped.

The advice my dad gently provided was completely reasonable. He asked what older Cognitive Science major students did with their degrees, whether I was interested in grad school, whether I would want to do management consulting after graduation, and where I wanted to live. Completely reasonable questions. But, in a frenzy of internalized doubt and frustration that I’ve never adequately explained to anyone, I completely twisted his gentle and good intentions and projected my fears onto what he was asking me to think more about. His questions exacerbated my confusion, confusion that stemmed from insecurity that has been accumulating since my first semester of college. I thought my dad was 1) disapproving my interest in trying out management consulting for 2 months, 2) doubtful of the viable future of learning cognitive science, 3) afraid that I would not be taken seriously for not having a CS degree while potentially living in the bay, 4) hesitant to allow me to try things that don’t clearly correspond to/contribute to a path towards…something (anything!), 5) critical that I hadn’t spent more time this break contacting alumni and doing research on future opportunities.

But my dad wasn’t saying any of this.

These are evolving worries that have pressed on me since I first entered college.

I’ve always worried that “following my heart” was only something that “worked” and was “practically advantageous” when distinguishing myself on a college application. As college unfolded and I saw friends on set paths achieve more visible / universally recognizable / acknowledgeable opportunities that aligned with their interests, I panicked. Sure that I could never compete with *those* people, I strived to distinguish myself through what I’ve always done best: splitting up my time and trying to be good at everything and hoping to the liberal arts gods that this all “pays off” and that some employer will see the value in my motley combination of interests and experiences. But this was only a weak attempt at addressing the overall fear that everyone knows what they want and is actively, and successfully, working towards their respective goals.

I’m scared to apply to grad school, because although I love love love Cognitive Science, I can much more convincingly engage a job interviewer and show off my random professional skills than woo and wow an admissions officer with my transcript and GRE. I want to go to grad school because I think I was much more suited for a Masters in HCI/CogSci than an undergrad degree in CogSci/CompSci. And while I do really like research, I’ve been disappointed with some research experiences, and PhD’s take forever and I know you have to be really confident that you want it for the sake of wanting it before starting a PhD program. Another concern is that I wouldn’t want to spend my first 5 years as a “young professional” in school whereas I think I could learn more from the social and professional interactions afforded by an industry job.

My life felt like a mess after my dad talked to me — he’s right in that while a Cognitive Science degree allows me to make the most of my opportunities at a liberal arts college, it’s a really useless degree without higher education. He’s right in that I might one day be confused at why I didn’t try to get a CS degree while 1) I’m sort of interested in it and 2) could persevere through 4 more rough classes. And he’s probably right that I should take advantage of the fact that I received such a good education at a liberal arts college, and that it might be harder to go to grad school after working for a while, even though I want to work to understand what sort of a degree would complement my overall goals. As confident and excited I am by the decision to not major in CS, I looked at my transcript and felt like a completely discombobulated mess, even though with some work, I could spin all my experiences into a hopefully unconventional, but strong application for grad school, if I ever decide that I want to do it.

Romantic Relationships

I binge-watched Wongfu’s “Single by 30” (which says a lot, because I’m rarely captivated by TV/movies), and really appreciated its exploration of the complexity of intertwining friendships and romantic relationships as people get older and dating becomes more serious. It was also very refreshing to watch some of my favorite Asians / Asian Americans in the entertainment industry take the stage.

As I observe how my parents get along and reflect on how my friends’ dating relationships that have both thrived and suffered, here are some thoughts:

>> Habits in communication are important

I realize that my mom and I are both quite passive aggressive. We keep our observations and frustrations to ourselves, perhaps in attempt to save face in a certain moment or because we’ve always been told to be quick to forgive (so what’s the point of bringing something up if we feel like it’s “small” enough that we ought to “get over” it ASAP anyways?). And we never voluntarily openly apologize. We just try to slip our guilt in through a softened tone of voice or downcast look.

I’m not saying that my parents are uncommunicative about making decisions, but we as a family have just learned to let what we perceive as the “little things” in the moment slide. But as I’ve carried that habit over to some of my friendships, I’m disappointed to realize that many of my friendships have soured because of my desires to 1) not make a fuss and to 2) forgive quickly, which sometimes isn’t possible because the little things add up and by the time they’re serious, I feel awkward for being mad because the other person has no idea that I’ve been mad about for the past who knows how many months and I feel bad for being mad at them and for not addressing anything because how could they have known that I am angry? And have been angry??

Anyways — complete, open, loving honesty. I need to start practicing that in my home, with people who will 100% love me and want to make sure I become a better communicator. Complete, open, loving honesty. That’s what I’m striving to practice with friends, before I screw it up with a potential significant other.

>> You have to know what you want

In “Single by 30,” the protagonist’s mother advises him to date a girl who wants what he wants in terms of lifestyle, location, etc. It’s much more convenient to commit to a relationship between two people whose goals in terms of career/location/etc already align. This is something that mom and dad have been telling me too… of course, I’d hope that a mutual love / admiration with my significant other can be a starting point for negotiating differences, but it’s undeniable that many logistics of the relationship are easier to deal with, and that some conflict can be avoided, if both people have thought thoroughly about the negotiable and non-negotiable aspects lives they’d want to lead.



on parenting, future, and romantic relationships


This is brilliant and a healthy way for me to sort out all the gripping fears that have unfolded through some continued reflections this break.

  1. I fear that I will again find my summer internship unfulfilling…I fear that it will be yet another disappointing experience where I am unable to contribute uniquely, meaningfully, and consistently.
  2. I fear allowing busyness, avoidance, and neglect for self-reflection to cause my ability to articulate my own feelings atrophy.
  3. I fear allowing jealousy and/or passive aggressiveness to tarnish yet another friendship.
  4. I fear going into senior year with regrets.
  5. I fear caring a ton for certain people, then being deeply hurt by them and regretting the energy and time I extended towards them.
  6. I fear romantic loneliness.
  7. I fear becoming close with someone I later realize I shouldn’t have trusted.
  8. I fear losing out on an important post-grad opportunity because of a decision I consciously made (for example, my decision to not major in CS).
  9. I fear getting bad grades (lol gotta be honest!!)
  10. I feel becoming more complacent and doubtful of my faith.
  11. I fear losing unique & beautiful parts of myself to stress and pressure from those who don’t care deeply about me.


I’d also like to add something else, though!! Fears that I conquered in 2016/things that I’m proud of.

  1. Did my first technical interview and learned how to sell myself at an intimidating job fair.
  2. Made my own CS personal project!!
  3. Traveled to China and Taiwan
  4. Created a sound blog, food blog, and personal website (with links to my arrangements!)
  5. Went skydiving~



Will continue these lists as I think of more.



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 🙂