Category Archives: Chautauqua

Chautauqua

Putting My Journalism Career Into Perspective

A Chinese woman with black medium-length hair sits on a plastic round bubble chair with pillows. She's wearing a flower bomber jacket and burgundy pants. The background has pink polka dots and shows a giant picture of Bliss skin care.

#DailyWings: “It takes courage to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.” — Brené Brown

Wow. It feels so surreal to be writing for my blog again, but here I am.

My life is vastly different now than it was a year ago. I started a new position as a video producer at HuffPost back in October — my first full-time journalism job ever — so a lot has shifted over the last few months. I’m learning an entirely new skill set, I’m navigating a different company culture, and I’m working harder than ever before. I have to pinch myself every day to remember that all of this is real.

Although I have been extremely busy, the reason for my lack of blogging goes beyond just that. For the better half of two years, I’ve been avoiding any sort of what I’d like to call personal writing (as opposed to journalism or professional writing). That includes writing in my daily journal, my memoir and my blog. I daydream about personal writing every single day, but every time I sit down and try to write something, I feel so guilty for doing something that’s not related to work — or the pressure to write something perfect (even if it is for myself) is so great that I end up not writing anything at all.

I am paralyzed by the blank page, but even more so, I’m paralyzed by the thought of confronting myself as well as all of the events and incremental moments that have led me to where I am now.

It took me more than two years to find a journalism job. During those months, I took up an editing gig at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and freelanced on the side. Even though I didn’t talk much about Planned Parenthood on social media, the year and a half I spent there was transformative. I am forever grateful for the people I met, many of whom remain close friends of mine. They are some of the kindest, bravest, and most genuine people in my life. They inspired me to be a better editor, a better writer, a better activist, and a better person. They gave me courage and taught me how to stand up for myself, and they supported me in being myself — just as I am.

A young Chinese woman with a trach tube is wearing a black moto jacket, red lipstick, and silver hoop earrings. She's holding a piece of paper up that says: "I BELIEVE DR. BLASEY FORD" with the hashtag #BELIEVESURVIVORS at the bottom. She's outside, standing in front of a glass window.

While I was at Planned Parenthood, I continued to write stories for The New York Times, Teen Vogue, Bustle, and others. I wrote about mental health in Asian American communities, the impact of #MeToo on teenagers, the much-needed cure for ableism, and more. Looking back, I don’t know how I managed to work a full-time job and keep up a separate journalism career while also speaking at conferences, schools, etc. I’m extremely proud of the work I did during that time period — but the truth is that it wasn’t as easy as I’ve let on.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who puts up a front and only shares the accomplishments and the good moments without also sharing some of the pain and hardship. In an online world where we’re inundated with social media filters, this is my attempt at being more open and vulnerable. It’s also important for me to acknowledge that I am extremely privileged for being able to work and live my dream here in New York. But there needs to be space for appreciating all the good things in life while also wanting to strive for something better. I told a friend once that I sometimes worry about not being grateful enough for what this city has given me, both the good and the bad. She shook her head. You don’t owe the city anything, she said. Everything you’re feeling is valid.

Before I landed my current position, I was a freelance writer who covered stories about gender, politics, disability and culture — but mainly disability. My audience grew, and I started receiving requests to join panels, speak on podcasts, and teach reporting/journalism career workshops at the university and professional level. I discovered the world of public speaking. Somehow, I’d been given this incredible platform to share my perspectives, and I wanted to use these opportunities for good.

At some point, I developed impostor syndrome and started experiencing a lot of anxiety, especially whenever I had to speak in front of a crowd. Who was I to tell other reporters how to do their job? What expectations did journalism students have of me, and what if I failed miserably to meet them? What if I messed up and ended up speaking for a community instead of lifting it up? What if I gave a terrible presentation or couldn’t answer any questions from the audience, and the institution hosting me decided they’d made a mistake and wanted a refund? It’s taken a while for me to build enough confidence and trust in myself.

A Chinese woman with a trach tube is speaking on a panel about her journalism career with four other women. She's in front of a presentation titled, "How To Kill It As A Freelancer," one of many during the Her Campus Conference of 2018. Several audience members are sitting in the foreground.

At the same time, I was applying for dozens of positions that would pay me to be a reporter full-time, and I received dozens of rejections back. It was frustrating because I seemed to be qualified enough to get paid for speaking on panels, teaching classes, and serving as an expert in my field — and yet, for a long time, it apparently wasn’t enough to land an actual job and advance in my journalism career.

A lot of roles just weren’t the right fit. But I also received so many no’s for all the wrong reasons. For many jobs, I later discovered that other people — who were usually white and had less experience — had received the offers. And during one job interview, the employer asked if the winter weather made it hard for me to work, implying that my disability affected me on the job. (It doesn’t.) That’s the kind of ableism that people with disabilities deal with on a daily basis.

Finally, being a journalist with a somewhat visible platform was (and still is) just hard in general. Here are a few reasons why, in no particular order:

1) Having to deal with an ableist troll or two is fine, even mildly amusing, but dealing with swarms of them all at once is something else.

2) A 2017 story of mine that was incredibly well-received was, in fact, the silver lining of a traumatizing experience that hundreds of freelancers endure every day: My editor for that story ghosted me right after the story was published and refused to pay me for months.

3) Receiving emails from people who say they love my writing and look up to me as a disability activist is amazing, but it makes me feel like I always need to be positive and have my sh*t together.

Even now, I’m learning a lot and working through all of the kinks that come with a new job, even if it’s one that I absolutely love. I’ve realized that being a perfectionist is impossible when you’re a journalist. It’s important to be kind to ourselves and understand that we’re all just doing the best we can to survive in this industry. If we’re willing to continue telling our stories, and if we’re choosing to be journalists despite all of challenges that are unique to our field, that means something. It matters.

So to all of the journalists and creators out there who are struggling, thriving, or both, I see you. We’re in this together.

Why I Stopped Blogging For Two Years

journalism, New York Times, why I stopped blogging

#DailyWings: “Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and seeing what happens.”
-Louise L. Hay

Hi everyone. It’s taken a long time for me to come back to this website and have the courage to hit “publish” on this blog post. I’ve missed writing here. A lot has happened since I last blogged in 2015, and I feel like I owe you all — my readers — an explanation for why I stopped blogging, which was once a sacred part of my life as a writer.

Those of you who’ve been around for a while know that I started a blog for the first time on Blogspot in January 2010. It was my safe haven for many years, with a short break in the middle so that I could migrate to a new location — this website. Back then, I didn’t know things like SEO existed that could drive or inform my editorial content. My blog was simply a creative outlet for me to share my writing journey and my hobbies outside of journalism with the outside world. That was it.
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The Columbia Journo Diaries: Journalism Bootcamp, My First 2 Weeks in NYC

Columbia Journalism School

#DailyWings“One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” -Tom Wolfe

The Columbia Journo Diaries is a series on my blog where I share my accounts of what it’s like to be a journalism master’s student at Columbia University in the City of New York during a time when the media landscape is relying on digital innovation to survive. 

It’s Friday night, and I’m raising a solo cup filled with red wine in my right hand. Someone sitting a few feet away whistles to get everyone’s attention.

“We made it through the first two weeks! Cheers!”

“Cheers!” I place the cup between my lips. The wine warms me from head to toe.

It’s the first night I’ve actually gone out with friends – mainly, other journalism students at Columbia who decided it would be a good idea to celebrate the end of our second week of reporting bootcamp. We have a picnic set up in Riverside Park right by the Henry Hudson Parkway, barely five minutes away from my apartment. I’ve been living here since the end of July, and not once did I notice before how beautiful the sun is when it sets over the skyline. I remind myself to do this more often. No matter how stressful journalism school gets or how many times you fail, I say to myself, never forget to appreciate what’s right in front of you.
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What It’s Like to Turn 23 When You Still Look 15

birthday peach bellini

#DailyWings: “We lived our lives as if life was forever. To live one’s life without a sense of time is to squander it.” – Diana Trilling

Most of this blog post was written on June 22, the day of my birthday, but I haven’t been able to post it until today. As I wrap things up with my current marketing role, I will be able to blog more and more. Huge thanks to everyone who sent me well wishes after my career announcement!

It’s 12 o’clock in the morning, and even though I technically don’t turn 23 years old until 9:15 a.m, my birthday is officially here and I’m starting to feel nostalgic – which is pretty typical when you’re about to start a new year of living. I’m about to be 23, and yet I’m still very much happy, free, confused and lonely. Those feelings haven’t gone anywhere; if anything, they’ve intensified.

To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to my birthday this year. In fact, I was dreading it. As someone who grew up absolutely loving surprise parties and sheet cakes and party favors and the special meaning behind birthdays, I can tell you this isn’t normal. Everyone tells me that when you pass all the exciting ages (meaning ages 13, 16, 18 and 21), the magic behind birthdays disappears and you just feel, well, old. When birthdays lose their charm, it means you’ve “grown up.”
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I’m Moving to New York City to Live (Not Chase) My Dreams

#DailyWings: “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” -William Faulkner

Happy June, writers and friends! Wow, has it really been a month (and some change) since my last blog post? A part of me is appalled that I took a month-long hiatus from writing, but the other part of me wants to remind myself that there is a very good reason why I haven’t been around.

Four days ago, I was finally able to make an announcement that I’ve been waiting to make for months. It’s the kind of announcement that is usually made right after a college graduation, when people are moving to new places, taking on summer internships and full-time jobs, and traveling to other countries. Honestly, it was hard for me to keep blogging without being able to share this announcement with you; I felt like keeping it inside was more difficult than not blogging at all.

Thankfully, I’m finally in a good place both emotionally and professionally now where I can share this publicly with you and my friends here on social media.
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April A to Z Blogging Challenge: IJKL is for I Just Knew Labels

#DailyWings: “We don’t need you to fit into the system. The system is full. We need you to escape it & then show us how it’s done.” -Jon Acuff

Blogging From A to Z is an annual month-long challenge in which bloggers around the world are invited to write a blog post every week day for the month of April, with each day corresponding to a letter in the alphabet (26 week days = 26 letters). For this year’s A to Z challenge, my theme is personal anecdotes, or “childhood memories.”

ijkl

It finally happened, y’all. I was doing so well, blogging every day for April A to Z, and then it happened: I fell behind and missed a few days. Gah! Oh well…I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, seeing as this is my first year doing the challenge. Anywho, what counts isn’t that I tripped – it’s how I pick myself back up, right?
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April A to Z Blogging Challenge: H is for Heroines from My Childhood

Superwoman at work

#DailyWings: “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” -Christopher Reeve

Blogging From A to Z is an annual month-long challenge in which bloggers around the world are invited to write a blog post every week day for the month of April, with each day corresponding to a letter in the alphabet (26 week days = 26 letters). For this year’s A to Z challenge, my theme is personal anecdotes, or “childhood memories.”

If there’s anything you should know about me, it’s that I’m obsessed with Superman. I collect the comics. When I was little, I stared at the television screen every day after school with a bowl of dumplings my grandmother made me as a snack, watching “Superman: The Animated Series.” I handmade two DC costumes: one Superwoman costume, one Zatanna costume.

I grew up watching “Smallville,” a show on CW that ran from 2001 to 2011, chronicling Clark Kent’s childhood and how he eventually became the superhero we all know and love. I followed that show religiously for all 10 years, and it’s safe to say that that show — and those characters on that show — helped make me the person I am.

But…I’m not here to talk about Superman today. Or Clark Kent. (Yes, there’s a difference.)
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April A to Z Blogging Challenge: G is for Giveaway (surprise included!)

#DailyWings: “Things never go the way you expect them to. That’s both the joy and frustration in life. I’m finding as I get older that I don’t mind, though. It’s the surprises that tickle me the most, the things you don’t see coming.”
-Michael Stuhlbarg

Blogging From A to Z is an annual month-long challenge in which bloggers around the world are invited to write a blog post every week day for the month of April, with each day corresponding to a letter in the alphabet (26 week days = 26 letters). For this year’s A to Z challenge, my theme is personal anecdotes, or “childhood memories.”

The great thing about having a big sister when you’re really young is that you get to meet all of her popular, older friends – and because you’ve got the squishy cheeks, the kiddie dimples and a habit of trying to copy what they do, they love you. (It’s also pretty awesome when your big sister doesn’t mind you getting all of this attention.)

It was the year 2000. I was seven years old when I attended my sister’s friend’s bat mitzvah. It was hosted at some party venue in Boston, and I can still remember looking down from the second floor and seeing all of the boys and girls on the dance floor. There must have been a disco ball, because the whole room was shrouded in colorful party lights – purples and blues and pinks.
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April A to Z Blogging Challenge: E is for Eyes

#DailyWings: “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”
-Jonathan Swift

Blogging From A to Z is an annual month-long challenge in which bloggers around the world are invited to write a blog post every week day for the month of April, with each day corresponding to a letter in the alphabet (26 week days = 26 letters). For this year’s A to Z challenge, my theme is personal anecdotes, or “childhood memories.”

I started having vision problems toward the end of fifth grade when it became too difficult to read the dry erase board in Mrs. Garcia’s math class. The equations were fuzzy and, more often than not, I had to squint my eyes to clearly see anything that was far away.

It wasn’t until I took that routine eye exam at school – the one where you have to read letters with one eye open and move a step back after every reading – and realized my vision was no longer excellent that I admitted to my parents that maybe it was time for me to see an optometrist.

My first pair of glasses had thin, pink frames that were oval, like my eyes. I picked them out for myself because I thought they looked sweet, feminine and innocent – all adjectives I wanted to be (or at least appear to be) back in sixth grade. In some ways, I prided on being a kid with glasses because I felt like they made me look smarter, or at least well-read. I did – and still do – attribute my sub-par vision to late nights spent under the covers with a flashlight and good book (sometimes, I’d hide away in my closet).
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April A to Z Blogging Challenge: D is for Drexel

#DailyWings: “Happiness . Not in another place, but in this place…not for another hour, but this hour.” -Walt Whitman

Blogging From A to Z is an annual month-long challenge in which bloggers around the world are invited to write a blog post every week day for the month of April, with each day corresponding to a letter in the alphabet (26 week days = 26 letters). For this year’s A to Z challenge, my theme is personal anecdotes, or “childhood memories.”

Some of my earliest memories take place at the preschool I went to in Boston called Drexel. I don’t remember what the school looked like from the outside, but my teachers were named Barry and Betsy and they were the kind of lovely, patient and kind human beings you’d imagine would make good preschool teachers.As a preschooler at Drexel, I must have been around five or six years old, if not younger. The golden gates of childhood had only just begun to open, and I was starting to learn how to develop friendships with children my age rather than with nurses or my sister’s friends.
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