Saturday, November 22, 2014


Not too long ago, I saw an interview with Rashida Jones where she stated that in her teens, she wanted to be around people she thought were cool, in her twenties, she wanted to be around people she thought were smart and in her thirties, it’s been about wanting to around people with heart. Even though I just turned 28, I’m beginning to see how the part about wanting to be around people with “heart” is so true, at least for me, anyway. But, I do think I am lacking in kindness and empathy myself. Growing up in a household where “tough love” and “stoicism” were signs of strength, I find it difficult to express myself emotionally at times. I mostly feel that I’m too concerned with being “smart” or “clever” when I really should just work on my empathy and being a little more earnest.

For the past few months, I have been feeling pretty down on myself about being lost about my career choices, but I haven't been acting in any sort of way that would make it apparent to most people. The people who know me best, however, can see I'm somewhat affected. My mother has been pretty much at a loss on how to treat me during this time, so she mostly avoids me. My friends and sister have tried to be helpful by giving me advice and direction. With these polarizing responses, I constantly felt unsure about how to be normal/OK again.

A week following my 28th birthday, my dad took Thao, his girlfriend and I out to dinner to celebrate. During dinner, he asked me how I was doing. I have a strained relationship with my dad, so under normal circumstances, I would have just lied and said “fine” and tried my best to steer the conversation away from anything personal and talk about how the Falcons are doing instead. This time, for some reason, I decided to be honest and replied, “Not that well.” He patted my back and told me it was OK. It was simple enough response, but the sincerity and kindness in his voice and gesture was so overwhelming, I found myself unable to speak. I just nodded and tried to smile. 

It takes so much more to try to be “clever,” but the effect is short-lived. Kindness, on the other hand, can be a simple act and it will leave such a lasting impression. In that moment, after years of feeling one way about my dad, I suddenly felt differently. I will always admire and respect people like my mom for being hard workers with keen minds, but now, I also admire my dad and others like him, for their heart. I can’t say the brief exchange has fixed everything, but I feel a lot better than before.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Video killed the photograph star

A little over a year ago, I decided to start making videos of various trips and activities to put on YouTube to be enjoyed myself, friends and family. I found that this was a lot better than taking a crap-ton of pictures. I was known as the paparazzi friend because I was THAT girl that flooded your wall with photos after every birthday, wedding, holiday, etc. I used to take so many photos and spend all night editing them, uploading them onto facebook and tagging everyone. Now, it takes DAYS (I'm trying to get better at this!) for me to edit my video before I upload it onto YouTube for everyone to see. This is more difficult process for me because I'm so new at this, but the end product is far more enjoyable. 

I think it's more entertaining to watch of a particular event or activity with some music added to it than to mindlessly click through 100+ pictures. I mean, everyone is really just looking for themselves, right? Anyway, here's my first ever video. It's my trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras 2013. It's rough, but I hope you like it.

More are on my youtube channel here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tired of saying 'I'm tired'

Ah, I'm so bummed that I let a whole month go without writing a lil' sum' sum' on here. I've been pretty busy with work, trying to crush my FitBit and just being a social butterfly every weekend. All of it always leaves me pretty tired by the end of the day...

BUT, no more! No more saying how tired I am, that is. I once read on (Love this blog) that telling people how tired you are, true or not, is really annoying. EVERYONE gets tired and no one wants to hear about how tired you are, specifically. After reading this bit of advice, I started to notice just how much I'm always saying "I'm soo tired" to my friends and family, which is all of the damn time. Kind of a buzzkill, really.

I've been trying my best to replace "I'm tired" with other things to talk about and I can honestly say, it really makes for more sparkling conversation. When I want to start talking about how tired I am, I instead ask the person I'm talking to questions about their day, what was the last movie they saw, etc. Or, I'll talk about all the things I'll do once I leave work or get home to relax. It's a small change, but way better than sounding exasperated and exclaiming to everyone how "tired" I am. Speaking of which, I can't wait to get home to make a smoothie, listen to the rainstorm for a while and then catch up on some Walking Dead. ;)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Big 1-0.

(Left: 2004, working as stagehands for the Clayton Co. production of "Wizard of Oz." Right: 2014, getting amped up for Jimmy Fallon at the Cobb Energy Centre)

Today is me and Max's ten year anniversary! The day we got together feels like a million years ago and just yesterday at the same time. It's really insane how time really does just fly by.

Here's a list of some fun things regarding the early days of our ten-year courtship:
  1. We used to talk to each other on landlines! His mom would occasionally pick up on another line in the middle of our conversations to ask Max a quick question about dinner. This was hilarious to me, but it infuriated him to no end.
  2. Max had just turned 16 and gotten his driver's license and I was just two months shy of my 18th birthday. We were babies, essentially.
  3. Max was working at the Barnes and Nobles on Mt. Zion Rd. He had originally applied for the job because he heard somewhere once that I liked going in there to just read and sniff the books. 
  4. We both wore bootcut-style jeans. *Shudders.*
  5. I remember us being super excited for the premiere of "Batman Begins" the following summer. I mean, just WHO is this Christian Bale character that's about to play our favorite comic book hero of all time?!
  6. We did not go on a date with just the two of us until about six months after we became "official" on Valentine's Day, 2005. My mom was really strict and insisted that either my sister or our friend, Sean, be around us at all times.
  7. Neither of us had a facebook account when we first got together.
  8. But, we did both have LiveJournal accounts!
  9. Max drove a giant, blue minivan that smelled terrible because his mom once left a gallon of milk in it and the container exploded under the hot, Georgia sun. Also, as a stroke of bad luck, the passenger side window (where I sat) would not roll down.
  10. Taco Bell was our JAM; we'd go after school, after movie dates at AMC 24, after tennis games at Atlanta Beach, etc. Now, we just drive by each location with mixed feelings of nausea and nostalgia. 
Cheers to ten more years laughing until I can't breathe, competing celebrity impressions and accents, and straight up good lovin'. Here's to the next ten!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Theory of Everything

With the release of The Theory of Everything trailer and the sudden burst of popularity of the ice-bucket challenge to raise awareness for ALS, I've been thinking a lot about what may happen to me when I grow older. Both sets of grandparents on my mom and dad's side died relatively young; no one lived to see past the age of 65. I feel fairly confident I will live to be much older. I lead a pretty healthy lifestyle; I go to the gym and run regularly and avoid eating at Cook-Out more than once every four months. So, I often think that when it is my time to go, it'll either be because of a freak automobile accident or from some horrible, debilitating autoimmune disease, much like ALS. I'm not really certain why I think about things like this often. It's probably because something went wrong with me too long ago for me to remember.

The other day, while fidgeting around, reluctantly snuggling on the couch with Max (I am also uncertain about why I don't like to snuggle, cuddle, etc.), I asked him if he's seen the Stephen Hawking movie trailer yet. Because I am a fucked-up person, I began to taunt him about how I may one day have ALS. He gets sad when I talk about getting sick or dying. He gets even more upset when I joke about it. Rightfully so, because all in all, it's a really depressing and morbid subject. I asked him if he would stay with me if I had ALS. To emphasize the gravity of having to stay with a person afflicted with such an illness (but mostly because I am a fucked-up person), I screwed up my face and slumped over, à la Stephen Hawking.

Max responded that he would stay with me. He said that he wouldn't care about my condition and would pretend that I didn't have anything wrong with me at all. He said he'd talk to me daily, despite my inability to respond. He said every morning, he'll say, "Hey Juju," and stroke my hair gently, as if I was baby bird. Normally, I'd laugh and call him a complete corn-ball. Instead, I just cried. As fucked up as I am, I knew that he meant everything he said. After, I stopped fidgeting around on the couch long enough to let him hold me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


There's not really much to say about the death of the great Robin Williams, other than I was a huge fan and now I am just really, really sad. Sometimes I wonder about how the rest of us mouth-breathers will make it.

RIP, Robin Williams.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

You so Fit, Bit.

Me, at Piedmont Park goin' HAM on my Fitbit

A month ago, after receiving rave reviews from some friends, I decided to purchase a Fitbit Flex from Ebay. After I received it in the mail, I became instantly addicted. The Fibit Flex is a device that is worn on your wrist and it tracks steps taken daily along with mileage, calories burned, sleep patterns, etc. all whiling syncing wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet. It’s a pretty useful tool to help you keep track of just how active you are on a daily basis, but in my opinion, the most fun and obsessive feature is that you can see where you stack up amongst your friends who also use Fitbit. Essentially, the Fibit Flex is just another way for me to feed my mildly aggressive, competitive tendencies.

I grew up in a family where every member is intensely competitive. Any and every activity couldn’t be done simply for the sake of fun; there had to be loser and winner element to it. We couldn’t just go to the swimming pool to splash around and play with water toys; we had to have relay races from sun up to sundown. “Sock ‘em Bopppers” were used for death matches. I once played charades so furiously, I slipped and tore my ACL. At my cousin’s baby shower, we filled up several baby bottles with milk and raced to see who could finish chugging it the quickest. At another cousin’s wedding reception in Vegas, each dinner table tried to out-laugh and out-toast the other tables. Puns and jokes and thrown back and forth to one-up each other, not for laughing. Once, we made someone cry while playing “Limbo.” As you can tell, the Nguyens are “that” family, especially when we are all together. In recent years, because a lot of my cousins went to medical school, we’re all separated and these big, family get-togethers became few and far between, along with opportunities to be compete with one another. It became difficult to indulge in this side of personality until the Fitbit came along.

When I use Fibit, I am in a fierce competition with my other friends. I constantly find excuses to get up and moving; I straighten things up around the office and the house, I take out the garbage, take Thao’s demon shih-tzu for walks, etc. I pretty much just pick up a lot of activities I would normally never do. A new regular part of my bedtime ritual is to jog in place for as long as I can to hit my daily goal of 10,000 steps before I go to sleep. All of this done in complete silence; no one is aware that I am secretly trying to out-step everyone on a daily basis. No one is aware that whenever I pass someone on the rankings list, I exult “YES” and tell them to “EAT IT!” Although thrilling, these small victories are not difficult to achieve because I don’t have many Fitbit friends to begin with. I have seven “friends”, three of which who are either completely sedentary or are not wearing their trackers constantly. At first it didn’t really matter to me that the Fibit competition pool was so limited, but now I can’t help but feel that it is just not enough. I bought Max a Fibit for his birthday and have been encouraging everyone else to get one as well.

I sometimes wonder whether this obsession of always wanting to see where I stack up against others or always having to “win” is healthy. It probably isn’t, but guess what, hitting 10,000 steps a day is healthy as hell, so yeah, EAT IT!

Friday, August 8, 2014

First-generation guilt

This past weekend Max and I drove up to downtown Athens with some friends to celebrate Max's 26th birthday. I once heard from someone that Athens has more bars per square feet than in any other place in the world. I'm not sure whether this is true, but I'm pretty sure there are more drunk people there per square foot in the world on any given weekend. If you need any further explanation on just what sort of place Athens is, please hit up Patton Oswalt for more info.

The goal for the evening and night was to go to as many new (for me and Max) bars as possible. But, the primary objective was our usual one: To drink to the point where, the next day, we would start to think the Prohibition Act might have been a pretty good idea. Somewhere along the night, between dancing at a 90s-themed bar filled with more crappy, white, co-ed dancers than you would ever want to see, ordering a round of "buttery nipples" for a group of girls who obviously don't know how to drink, and just being drunk-yelling at strangers, we settled at Walker's. It's a mostly unremarkable bar, but it wasn't jam-packed with idiots, so were definitely feeling it. I listened to my friend talk about his recent trip to Chicago. I visited Chicago with Thao back in 2011 and I remember thinking that it was my favorite city to visit so far. He told me he had plans to move there or somewhere else outside of Georgia in the next few years. He said he was ready to just "get out" and "see what else is out there." Many of my friends have said things like this, and usually only a few have actually put their money where their mouth is and gotten the hell out of dodge. I commend these brave few, but mostly I am jealous. As someone who has travelled a lot within the past decade,  the whole thing got me thinking about what is really holding me back from packing up and leaving myself.

The biggest reason I can think of for not leaving is being afraid to leave my single mother alone. She is perfectly capable, physically and financially, and currently lives with her closest sister, my aunt, Di Son. There is no real reason to be worried about leaving her behind, except that I don't know what it would say about me as a daughter. When my mother was around 13 years old, she and her siblings left Communist Vietnam to live in the US. The details about how treacherous her trip was (they sailed by boat) or how crappy it was for her and everyone else to find their footing in a brand new country where they didn't know anyone or speak the language is for another time. This is mostly because I haven't had the courage to ask my mother a lot about it because it hearing it just makes me extremely sad. The most important thing here I'll discuss is that when she left Vietnam, it was the last time she would ever see her own mother. Shortly after my mother and everyone else made it to the US and attempted to settle in, my grandmother died. She told me once that she has never gotten over the feeling of being apart from her mother and is certain it is something she'll never get used to.

I was not always very close to my mother; I was a "daddy's girl" pretty much until I was 16 or so. It's been a long, hard road to achieve the relationship that we have now. We're not best friends who can speak candidly to one another without about our hopes, dreams and fears, but we can joke around once in a while and hang out for extended periods of time without wanting to kill each other. This may sound like a run-of-the-mill mother-daughter relationship for most Americans, but for immigrant parents and their American-born kids, we might as well be the Gilmore Girls. After all of the efforts spent by both my mother and I to become as close as we are now, I think it'd be a shame to leave it all behind. Mostly, though, I think it'd be sad. My mother did not have a choice when she left her mother in Vietnam all those years ago, and the idea that I would voluntarily leave my own mother leave her just to fulfill some inexplicable desire to "get out" is something I've been having difficulty reconciling with.

I realize all of this is a product of my own thoughts and feeling, rather than that of my mother's. I suppose it's some first-generation guilt I just need to work through over time. Is the need to live away from home unique to the young only? I wonder about this because I'm often concerned about making major life decisions when I'm in my 20s, only to regret them in my 30s, 40s, etc. Because really, don't we all just end up where we started? Back at home? Maybe I should stop thinking about where I end up and focus on how I'll eventually get there. In the meantime, I'll plan a trip or two with my Thao so we can "get out" and "see what's out there," even if it's just for a glimpse.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hello again.

Wow, it's been a hot minute since I’ve put anything on here. Not really sure why I'm bothering to pick this back up. Actually, I do know why. It's because the right side of my brain is dead/dying and I am desperate to revive it.

Ever heard of right brain versus left brain dominance theory? It’s generally been held that the way people behave and think is based on the dominance of either the left or the right side of their brain. People who are most influenced by the left side are considered to be very logical, critical thinkers. Left-brained thinkers are adept with tasks that require analytical reasoning. Right-brained thinkers are much more expressive, emotional and are best with tasks that require creativity. I have always felt that I was pretty evenly split between being a left-brained and right-brained thinker, with maybe just a slight tendency to swing to the right. Either way, I have always found a way to indulge both of these dueling sides of myself.  However, in the past seven years or so during my undergrad and law school years, the left brain has straight up hijacked the way I approach every aspect of my life. I am pretty certain this has been a pretty significant source of my unhappiness for some time now. 

As an undergrad at Georgia State, I started out as a biology major on the pre-med track. I had convinced myself that becoming a doctor was something I wanted to do and in no way was I pursuing this goal because my parents pretty much threatened to completely abandon any familial association with me if I chose to do anything else. But, I would say that the most criminal thing about me being scared into trying to be a doctor was thinking that I could actually become one. Yes, I've heard the saying: "Work hard enough and you can be whatever you want to be!" I am not cynical enough to think that such a mantra is complete crap, but I'm pretty sure it could not possibly apply to me in my undergrad situation: "Work hard enough towards being something you've never had any interest or skill in because you're afraid of what your friends and family will think and you can become..." Become what, exactly? 

It took me two semesters to realize that I did not want to stick around long enough to find out, so I gathered the balls to tell my mom that I was not going go the pre-med route anymore. The heart-breaking dream of my immigrant mother of having a successful doctor-daughter was completely shattered in an instant. She did not even hold out for the hope that I might change my mind one day. While my mom might not have known that I truly did not want to ever be a doctor, she knew me well enough to know when my mind's been made. I remember feeling beyond ashamed, but at the same time, I couldn't help but feel that in some small way, it was a win for me; I was starting to think for myself and making my own decisions independent of criticism. Or so I thought. 

Shortly after my little epiphany, I decided I would become the next best thing to lessen the blow of disappointment I had dealt my parents. I would become a lawyer. The left side of my brain told me that this was a logical decision. Becoming a woman of the law involved just the right amount of prestige and flashiness for my parents to brag to others about without me having to do another chemistry problem, lab report, or anything else that I couldn't stand when I was pre-med. At the time, I felt that it was a reasonable compromise. For the remaining two years of undergrad, I completely loaded up my class schedules and studied furiously 24/7 so that I could still graduate within four years. I managed to do this within four years and a semester, which isn't too bad for having switched up majors halfway in.

After graduating, I took the LSAT and got into John Marshall Law School and began my journey to become a J.D.  In retrospect, I was in quite the hurry to jump into another field that I didn't really care about; once again, I was pursuing a career based on an attempt to prevent my parents from further embarrassment from me. Unfortunately, this time it took me three years and a student loan debt that would make you shit your pants to make me realize that I was still the same person from undergrad; I was still fooling myself into thinking I doing something without fear of repercussion from my family. Once again, I had allowed the desire for approval from others determine how I would live my life.

Presently, I am helping my mom run her property management company and I also go to court regularly to attend dispossessory hearings with delinquent tenants. Simply put: I negotiate/argue with tenants who are not paying rent for hours at a time. It's not the worst thing in the world, but day in and day out, I am only using the left-side of my brain to get through work and it often leaves me feeling drained. I have accepted that a large part of my inability to feel content about anything I've tried to do so far is because I have not yet found what it is exactly I want to do with my life. I am in dire need of changing the way I think and feel about making decisions; I need to trust the right side of my brain for once to help lead me in the right direction. As corny as it sounds, if I just go with my gut, listen to my heart, etc., I figure I will eventually find out just what it is I'm going to do with myself, right? 

I know not everyone is meant to find a job or career that gives them a boner every morning. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do to pay the mortgage, I get it. I'm just going to make a conscious effort to not neglect the side of me that is imaginative, thoughtful and innovative. I'm not going to let worrying about work and money prevent me from engaging in something that stimulates me just for the hell of it. So, I'm going to commit to writing/blogging regularly, among other “expressive” endeavors, to try to get my "creative" juices flowing again. The hope is that by getting in touch with my inner thoughts and outwardly expressing them by some medium or another, I may be able to get back in touch with what truly gets me going; what truly makes me happy, whatever the hell that is. In an effort to switch things up, I'm going to try to post more content in each of my entries than I did previously when I started this blog. I'm also going to include more personal posts along with the random, observational ones. So long as I'm writing something other than demand letters once in a while, I think I'm good.  

Here's to letting the right side of the brain take the reins and seeing where it takes me.