Some scattered thoughts as we roll into 2020…

This year, I missed my annual tradition of reflecting on personal growth and goals around the week of my birthday and/or Thanksgiving. We were so preoccupied with the move, and our baby also contracted a viral infection that lasted over a week. Ordinarily, this sort of thing would bother me, but I didn’t even think about it until today. I am learning more and more to accept that things may not happen or get done when you want, and sometimes it’s not worth the effort to fight to make them happen.

My coworker reminded me that, this time twenty years ago, we were all anxious about our electronic devices failing and bringing on the apocalypse. Remember being instructed to shut them off before midnight? How laughable Y2K sounds now. We have made such incredible technological advances since. Yet we also have scarily growing populations rejecting reason and science—so progress is, as usual, some steps forward and some steps back.

Ten years ago, I was studying abroad in Europe. I don’t remember how I spent New Year’s Eve, but I know my winter break was in Italy. It feels like a separate life, someone else’s memories. I don’t have many photographs from that time. For years, I hated appearing in photos, especially with other people. I feared that they would look back on them and be annoyed at my presence, ruining the shot.

Each of my life stages feels like a different person’s life. The nerdy, lost, gloomy student. The awkward entry-level professional, still lost and trying too hard. The sloppy, alcoholic party animal. And then no longer caring or trying so hard, settling into my skin and onto a path, developing into what I finally feel comfortable calling my true self.

I can’t believe how much of my life was spent being fearful and self-deprecating. I can’t go back in time and tell my younger self to live free and bold (or my 25-year-old self to be a little less free and bold), but I can try to tell it to my kid as he grows up.

2019 was obviously a tremendous year for us with the arrival of our beautiful baby. There’s been so much learning: about raising a tiny human, lactating, resuming full-time work as a parent, and still making time for friends and each other among it all. Now that we have an eleven-month-old who loves to eat and laugh and roll everywhere, I can’t help but marvel at the veracity of the corny adage, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

Sometimes I wonder if it was right to bring a child into this world. I worry about climate change, running out of energy sources, a nuclear apocalypse, totalitarian regimes, and more. I imagine him having to fend for himself in the desolate ruins of a decimated society and feel guilty. But only sometimes.

I can’t wait to watch our baby continue to grow in the coming year. At work, we are expecting an acquisition to close, and then I’ll be employed by one of the most famous companies in the world. We are planning our first family vacation. What else might happen in our social circles, technology, literature, entertainment, politics, and the rest? I think we have a big year ahead. I’m also looking forward to the 2020s being bigger and better than the 2010s. There’s a lot one could worry about, but I am really excited, too. Happy New Year!


I’ll Miss You, Rahway

We have moved. Earlier today, we closed on a townhouse, and this is where we live now. The process kicked off months ago—and I began drafting this post weeks ago—but it felt like a distant hypothetical all the way until tonight. This is our first night here, and I’ll be trying to sleep on the highest of multiple floors composing our space, without the usual soundtrack of train horns and yelling passersby.

I purchased our old condo over six and a half years ago. I chose Rahway primarily for its reasonable commute time to Jersey City and New York, proximity to my hometown, and ease of getting to the casino outside Philadelphia where I used to play an Omaha/stud game. Yes, it was important to me at the time to be able to get on Route 1 quickly and gamble. I also liked that Rahway had affordable homes within walking distance of the train station, unlike other towns farther west on the Northeast Corridor.

Growing up in Edison, you might think of Rahway as a shady place. Other people say, “Isn’t that where the prison is?” But I didn’t care about that stuff. I learned from my realtor that the downtown area had an up-and-coming arts scene, which was good enough for me. I did look up crime statistics: robbery and vehicular theft were high, but assault and murder were low. So I thought, well, at least no one is going to hurt or kill me.

I didn’t expect to fall in love with Rahway. Shortly after moving in, I got a gym membership, my first ever, at the YMCA. The pool was mostly empty on evenings and weekends, allowing me to rediscover the joyful Zen of swimming. The weight room was well maintained. The staff was all so friendly. I felt accepted into the community right away.

The YMCA is located downtown, a five-minute walk from our apartment, sandwiched between a Mexican restaurant and a Peruvian one. Both have incredible food and super nice people. I discovered these early on, along with a dive-y rock-and-roll bar (that has since changed management and become classier and more expensive, but still holds a special place in my heart), a pizzeria right around the block (that takes online orders for pick-up, which was clutch during innumerable weekend hangovers), a cute Italian restaurant, and a fried-chicken place that also serves chicken and lamb rice platters and the best cheesesteaks.

I took up running while living in Rahway, and spent a year jogging all over the city. I found a mom-and-pop grocery store with great produce at low prices, where I shopped almost every week until having the baby earlier this year. I found parks: a really big, beautiful one with a lake and a community center, and lots of smaller ones tucked away in random neighborhoods. I found a large cemetery, which I later learned through a Halloween tour contains hundreds of soldiers from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. I found a surprising number of churches for such a small city, and even made an Instagram hashtag for them, #churchesofrahway. Whenever I travel, I like to dedicate at least one day just to walking around semi-aimlessly; it’s the best way to stumble upon cool things on your own and get a feel for the local vibe. All my jogs combined have given me that same feeling, magnified hundredfold.

When I started dating my now husband, he was wary of coming over to see me in Rahway. He soon learned to like it, too, and together we made new discoveries. Next to the grocery store, there is a better pizza shop, still one of my favorite slices to date, than the one I’d been picking up from before. We found another Mexican restaurant with greasier, slightly more flavorful tacos (though, after a phase of frequenting this one, we eventually reverted to my original spot). We had a few dinners at the underground pizza parlor I’d been wanting to try. So many new businesses came to town, too. We did trivia nights at a pub that specializes in meatballs. We took visitors to a trendy pizzeria (yes, another one). We tried both new cafes that opened on the same block. The brewery became one of our favorite haunts. And most weekends, we would get breakfast sandwiches and doughnuts from the shop down the street, the best we’ve ever had. The downtown area is up-and-coming, as my realtor had promised.

Then we got mugged at gunpoint.

I recovered, but my husband didn’t. And who could blame him? He hadn’t spent years here, hadn’t fallen in love with the city the way I had. I chose Rahway; my husband didn’t. He was only here for me. After having the baby, other issues started piling up. He would never feel safe letting our child play outside. His commute was too long and full of traffic. The condo was too small if we were to have another kid. The school district isn’t good enough. So here we are.

Our new town is supposed to have an excellent food scene, too. We live a few minutes’ walk from an enormous park, bigger than the one in Rahway with the lake. My husband’s commute is significantly shorter, which also means our baby spends less time confined to a car seat going to and from daycare. The school district is better. In almost every possible way, this is an amazing move for our family. Yet I can’t help feeling sad and heavy-hearted. There is so much I will miss about Rahway. No matter how many beautiful new memories we create here, Rahway will always be important to me as the first place I chose to live as a Real Grown-up, where I was living when I became a gym rat, partied the hell out of my mid-twenties, started working in the big city, met my husband, and took my baby home from the hospital. Rahway, I love you.


At our baby shower, my husband and I received over forty children’s books. To prepare for the baby’s arrival, I relegated my own volumes to the lower shelves of our cabinet, and carefully arranged his new ones alphabetically by author on the higher, more accessible shelves. This was my first act of putting the baby before myself. And I thought, This is the beginning.

As parents, we instinctively put our children’s needs before our own. We feed them before ourselves, unless we are about to faint. When they are upset, we cast aside any discomfort we may be feeling to focus on making them feel better. We keep them entertained during their awake windows and postpone all else—chores, hobbies, bonding time as a couple, our own rest—until they are asleep.

On weekdays, I leave the office at 5:00 pm, but don’t get to unwind until three to four hours later—after I’ve commuted home, whipped up and scarfed down dinner, played with the baby, fed him, bathed him, administered remedies for his eczema, read him a couple stories, bid him good night, turned off the light in his room, thrown in a load of laundry, eaten dinner, and washed the dishes. Generally in that order, although it isn’t uncommon for my dinner to wait until after lights-out. My calendar indicates I lose an hour a day to pumping, but let’s be realistic: it’s more than that. Minutes seep through the cracks of context switching, and pre- and post-meeting intervals when there isn’t enough time to dive into a more complex effort. I often wind up working one to three additional hours in the evenings to make up the time. It’s also because I don’t want anyone, least of all myself, thinking people become less dedicated to work once they become mothers.

That leaves me with maybe one hour, on average, to relax with my husband before we have to go to sleep and do it all again.

It helps to work from home twice a week. I save two hours from my commute and get some time alone. But it is still so damn hard. As much as I find everything about my baby the cutest and the best—as much as I love watching him eat, giggle at our interactions, splash in the bath, and discover the world around him—the weekdays really wear me down. I have to keep reminding myself that it is only temporary. Only five nights in a week, and then we get two whole days to go out and play. In a few more weeks, the baby will feed himself better (hopefully). In a few more months, I will stop pumping, and work will be easier (also hopefully). In a few years, the kid’s bedtime will be later, and we will be able to do more together in the evenings.

The last real fun I had was in mid-September, when I went on a work trip to California. I didn’t have part of my brain constantly counting the minutes I had to make it to the station for a train that would get me home by a certain time. Instead of hurrying home after work for the bedtime routine, I could socialize with fellow adults. Best of all, when I went to bed, I didn’t worry that the baby might wake up and cry in the middle of the night. The last night of the trip, we had dinner, S’mores, and an open bar out on the beach. The party then continued in the hotel hot tub and at the bar. It reminded me of earlier, carefree, spontaneous days. Maybe it’s sad that it happened on a work trip, but I felt warmer and fuzzier than I had in a long time. Without a baby to hold or watch, or a babysitter to relieve, I could almost fully enjoy myself.

I think it’s telling, though, that I haven’t for a moment regretted such a lifestyle upheaval. I do have periods of uncertainty, stress, and feeling overwhelmed. But other than that, I only find myself looking forward to when my baby will be just a little older, so he can enjoy things like S’mores on the beach with us. It is so rewarding to see how much he’s developed and learned in only nine months, and exciting to imagine all the years he has ahead.

These tough parts are only temporary.


My entire adult life, I’ve loved being in the water.

I wasn’t always so fond of it. I learned to swim early, and spent several childhood years on the local swim team. We had practice two or three times a week, swimming endless laps during which we had to breathe as little as possible—ideally, we’d make it from one end of the pool to the other on a single breath. We were two, three, four swimmers to a lane, chasing each other like links of a roller chain, compelling each other to keep pace lest one slow down the whole system. It was stressful and exhausting. I actually fared well at meets, but I wasn’t competitive then. I don’t think I fully grasped what I was doing there, so the rewards for my efforts meant little.

When swimming “for fun,” I didn’t like the way the water clutched at my body, dragging down my limbs as I fought to wade around. Since it seemed taboo to wear “serious” gear like goggles, I would compulsively and frustratedly wipe my eyes any time a bit of water splashed on my face. The ocean was even worse for its unruliness. The constant waves and currents would chop up my straight, smooth strokes. When I ventured far enough for the sand to disappear from beneath my feet, my heart would drop in a flash of fear. In a pool, if you couldn’t reach the floor, you at least knew how many feet away it was, could mark the finiteness of its distance. In an ocean, who could tell?

It wasn’t until college that I was able to let go and enjoy myself in water. Then, in my mid-twenties, a switch seemed to flip in my mind. I suddenly wanted to start swimming regularly again. Maybe I needed to be free of coaches blowing whistles and parents pushing for ribbons. Maybe, since I had just moved into my own home and was living alone like a Real Grown-up, I craved the womb-like sensory experience. Maybe this was part of a bigger movement of reclaiming and refining the self.

Now it feels like a second home. Swimming feels easy and natural in a way that other exercises like running or cycling never have. And I view it as a way to escape, a way to lose myself in muffled weightlessness, freedom of movement, and repetition. My laps are almost meditative. Sometimes, the pool lane opens a channel for creativity as I work on my next blog topic or story concept. Other times, I work through something that’s been bothering me lately. Every stretch, I try to unlock a little more understanding, acknowledge a little more truth, and release a little more stress. This has become doubly cathartic since having a baby. Not only do I have more stress in my life, but I also hardly ever get time alone.

On land, at work or at home or even in the wilderness, we are surrounded by countless things we can touch and squeeze and throw. In the swimming pool, my body is isolated, the water acting as a buffer that makes everything else seem farther away. My body is liberated from everyday gravity, and my mind is free to be itself.


At 7:41 pm on a Saturday, I was watching my baby entertain himself in his activity gym. He went from kicking at a musical light-up toy to pulling down overhanging toys and gnawing on them. His first tooth had very recently breached the gum line, and he was discovering he could use it to clamp onto things more strongly than before.

It occurred to me that the only agenda item left for the day was to put him to sleep in the next twenty minutes. What a strange feeling, to have just this one small to-do item while the sun was still up, and nothing after it set. This time two years ago, I might have been getting ready to board a train for a party in the city and not return home for five to fifteen hours. A couple years before that, I went through a months-long phase of being out every single night, when plans had to be entered into my busy calendar weeks in advance.

I look back on those times and have trouble believing that was my own life. Like a clichéd elderly person, I now shake my head and marvel at the stamina of youth. My 26-year-old self would have found it inconceivable and laughable that, at 30, I would be spending my prime weekend time with a baby—my baby. Hell, even my 28-year-old self, who was at least in a serious relationship, would have been skeptical.

It now feels like ages since I’ve been able to stay out and have fun without worrying about the possible repercussions on a tiny human being. In the past three weeks, we attended two weddings, one with the baby and one without. We left the first one early because we didn’t want to push too late past his bedtime, and the second because we didn’t want to keep the babysitter too long. Both nights, I really, really wanted to stay out longer. I wanted to chat with more friends, hit the dance floor, enjoy some cake and more wine. But then the deviations from our bedtime routine disrupted our baby’s ability to sleep through the night. He still hasn’t recovered, and I feel as if I am being punished for trying to have a social life.

For the most part, though, I don’t regret this lifestyle upheaval. I don’t have too much of that dreaded Fear Of Missing Out. I’ve been fortunate to seize many a day in my twenties, and gotten a lot of that itch out of my system. After a while, it’s only natural to outgrow certain scenes. You get tired of the “crazy” nights you can’t remember, the crowds, the hangovers, the swings in mood and appetite, the foggy and interminable stumble home with your dried-up contact lenses after crashing on a friend’s couch for the night.

This is my next big adventure for the rest of my life. After six months, we’ve already observed so much growth and change in our baby. Every day, I experience a moment of disbelief that we created this whole other human ourselves, that I nourished—am still nourishing—him with my own body. Most of my FOMO now is around milestones: that his first crawl, first (real) word, and so on might take place at daycare rather than at home with us. Even that fear has diminished lately, too. It’s not realistic to expect to be present for every hypothetical moment we designate as special. Instead, what we can control is what we choose to mark as a special moment as it’s happening in front of us.


Here’s a sentiment I never thought I’d have: I love breastfeeding.

When I was younger, I didn’t expect ever to have kids. I also hated having female anatomy for quite a long time, so breastfeeding seemed uncomfortable and absurd.

Once I got pregnant, however, it became unquestionable in my mind that I would breastfeed. My husband and I took a free class at a local hospital and knew it would not be easy, that there would be a learning curve for both mother and infant.

Indeed, the beginning was excruciating. One of my nipples has a sort of split in the middle, so it was difficult for our baby to latch onto it correctly. It started bleeding on the second day. I tried to get him to feed more on the other side to let this one heal, but that made the other one very sore very quickly. Each time, I struggled to get the positioning just so with piles of pillows surrounding me. On day three, I caved and purchased a $30 specially shaped nursing cushion, on which I would rely heavily for the next two weeks. Even with the cushion—a product called My Brest Friend—and generous amounts of nipple balm, we had numerous evenings when the baby would keep crying for more food and I would break down sobbing because it hurt so damn much and I didn’t think I could handle any more.

Yet I powered through, because I really, really wanted to make it work. It wasn’t that I had bought into the claims that breastfeeding would give our child more IQ points or make him love me more. I just didn’t want to spend money on formula when I was supposed to be the ultimate natural, nutritional food source (though breastfeeding comes with its own costs, such as lactation consultants, nursing attire, and of course, My Brest Friend). And I figured I should have been able to do it since my mother did, as did generations of mothers before her.

My perseverance paid off. By the three-week mark, it didn’t hurt nearly as much anymore. A week or two after that, it stopped hurting entirely. We only ever resorted to feeding him formula two or three times. To put that in perspective, newborns eat eight to twelve times a day, often more when experiencing a growth spurt. This isn’t to say it’s been smooth sailing, though. I’ve had to be the one to get up and take care of him most of the times when he’s woken up in the middle of the night, since those wake-ups are often due to hunger. I get clogged milk ducts from time to time, which hurt. I have to avoid dairy and eggs because his digestive system is sensitive to them. But I’m happy to deal with all that to keep him happy and satisfied.

Now that I’m back at work full-time, on weekdays I only get to nurse our baby once in the morning and once in the evening. I genuinely love these moments. I love the way his little mouth wiggles as he draws out the milk. How his tiny fist clenches my shirt, his hand strokes my boob, or he inadvertently flips me off. The way he looks up at me with wide, luminous, adoring eyes like an anime character’s. How his sniffles die down when he is placed on the breast, if he was upset before. The times when he lets go just to smile or try to tell me something. The fact that he has gained eight pounds so far in three and a half months from my milk alone. Turns out I can be nurturing after all, in more ways than one. It is incredible and empowering in a way I never anticipated.


A reminder to myself when I feel stuck:

There will be time for yourself in just a few years. You are not immune to regret or the fear of missing out just because you have had plenty of partying and adventure. There are more flavors of yearning, other cravings to be had. You can still feel an itch to go to the gym regularly, a pang from a performance opportunity, a burning to write a novel by some age you’ve set as magic in your mind. And there isn’t nearly enough time these days. When everything feels static as photography, it is easy to fixate on the negatives. But there is plenty of time, I promise. Your child is only so dependent on you for two, maybe three years. Slowly, day by day and month by month, as they learn to amuse and take care of themselves, you will get back time to yourself. You will get to rebuild your muscles, lose that squishy belly, cook that complicated recipe, visit that hip new bar or fancy restaurant, rejoin the band, work through your reading list, and write—later. Even if you have another child or more, there will be time afterward. Our lives are so long now, our communities strong, our options abundant. Don’t let yourself get caught up in all the ways you could be more “productive” now. You have always put so much pressure on yourself, more than anyone else did. No one else is going to care how much you squat today, or that you hastened to churn out a soporific story at thirty just to say you did. If one trendy restaurant closes down, another will replace it soon enough. Don’t feel guilty or weak about cuddling your husband and baby a little while longer. Everything else can wait.


Today, our baby started daycare. On the door to the infants’ room, there was a large, colorful welcome sign with his name. This was sure to be an emotional day for me, but I didn’t expect to tear up at such a simple gesture. After I kissed him goodbye, he watched curiously as we walked out of the room and closed the door behind us, not seeming remotely as sad as I was.

I know the staff will do their best to take good care of him. I know he will behave, because he is an easygoing and happy kid. I was only nervous about whether he would eat (he refused bottles from us for weeks) and sleep (at home, he often needs to be rocked, and sometimes only wants to nap on us)—but thankfully, he did both. Not much, but he will learn and adapt.

This was the first day in almost twelve weeks that I was away from the baby for more than three hours. Throughout my leave, I have sought out simple activities to feel more like a “normal person” and less like a mommy robot: reading, writing, hitting the gym, walking around town, having friends over to visit, and going out to malls and restaurants. Physically, I’m almost back to my pre-pregnancy self; I’ve lost 40 of 46 pounds, gotten my mile time under eleven minutes (I was never very fast, anyway), and steadily lifted more weight. Yet I was always glancing at the baby every few minutes if he was in sight, or listening for a cry or panicked phone call if he wasn’t. I have spent so much time researching baby behavior and reading baby articles and chatting with other moms of newborns that I fear I no longer have anything to say about other matters. Today gave me the first glimmer of hope that I could have non-baby thoughts and be my own person again.

On Monday, I will be heading back to my office in the city. The restoration to my “regular life” will be complete, with minor adjustments. I will need to put work on pause three times a day to produce sustenance for our child. I will be working from home twice a week to manage miscellaneous chores and errands, have some alone time, and maybe pick up the baby early if I get all my work done quickly. Every weeknight, we will need to prepare bottles and pack a bag for daycare. But I will be working full-time again, and I am really looking forward to it. My company is incredible, and I am pretty darn good at my job.

Being a parent, I’ve learned, means being an interpreter, food safety expert, physical therapist, manicurist, personal shopper, and even (possibly—but hopefully it never becomes necessary for us) entomologist. It comes with plenty of mental and emotional challenges. I miss the types of challenges I would face at my job, though. I found them more interesting, and—much as I hate to admit it—I feel better equipped to handle them. Being a stay-at-home parent has worn me down more than I expected. Every day is fourteen solid hours of cycling through feeding, entertaining, diaper changing, and coercing into a nap. Going out adds variety and reduces loneliness, but I still feel so burnt out by the evening.

I think I would love the homemaker life once our child is old enough to talk and be less needy, because I do enjoy spending time with him, meal planning, cooking, cleaning, and so on. Part of me feels weak for not embracing that life today, for throwing him in daycare so I can run away to another state for eight and a half hours a day. At the same time, I know working will make me happier and saner—at least for now. Who knows if I will still feel this way five or ten years down the line? As little as one year ago, I never would have imagined I would be having these thoughts or living this life. We learn and adapt.


Dear D,

As I watch you sleep, I wonder how you will grow and change in the years to come. I hope you turn out to be fun, outgoing, thoughtful, supportive, and analytical like your father. May you be creative, adventurous, organized, interested in cooking, and a bookworm like me.

Like any reasonable parent, I hope you do well in school and get a good job. Unlike the stereotypical Asian mom, though, I don’t care if you want to be a doctor, lawyer, tech bro, rapper, DMV clerk—as long as you can live happily by your own means. Oh, and as long as you don’t join a pyramid scheme, because then you would no longer be any child of mine.

More importantly, I hope you lead a life of fulfillment, be it from your job, relationships, hobbies, or something else. There should be something that makes you look forward to each new day. I hope you are proud and confident.

I know this means we have a lot of lines to tread carefully. As someone who grew up with a narcissistic parent, I occasionally find myself echoing certain harmful mindsets or behaviors on my own motherhood journey. I am still not done unpacking all the internalized toxicity, and I am trying to be cognizant of potentially passing it on.

So I hope I am always patient, kind, understanding, and generous with you. I hope I never make you feel bad for something outside your knowledge or control. I hope I show you the respect you deserve as your own unique person, even if you don’t turn out to be anything like us. Especially if you don’t. I hope to foster a bond with you that my parents never did with me.

I hope you perceive me as your cheerleader, not your ringleader. I hope you feel comfortable talking to us, your parents, about anything good or bad going on in your life. I hope you trust, respect, and value us. I hope you feel loved.

We have loved you so, so much since day one, and always will.

Maternity Leave

nine weeks since I last went to New York
and it only really hit me just now—
I miss walking up and down city streets, the energy
of all those busy people, the freedom
to go anywhere the night takes you, the sense
that anything could happen.

here, it was silent as nap time for several blocks.
you were the liveliest thing in sight, your little head and big eyes
swiveling urgently to drink in the face of every building and human,
this suburb more exciting to you than any city you had yet to see,
a new and different energy.

five weeks until I go back to work
(though it’ll never again feel like going to New York)—
and we won’t be able to do these daily strolls anymore.
like this golden hour, your memory of them will fade
and I can’t decide if the end of this leave
is the falling night or rising dawn.