My personal Bad Place

What would The Bad Place™ look like for me? I have been thinking about this recently, and this is what I have decided:

  • The smell of weed. Everywhere.
  • Litter
  • Dense, polluted air
  • No sidewalks for pedesterians
  • My org HR manager’s voice
  • An endless stretch of listless young men on the streets, staring at you as you walk by
  • Everything is under construction and heavy scaffolding.
  • Large southern cockroaches
  • False fire alarms every night

The list goes on and on….


Things I look for in a new city

I continue to think about moving away from DC, for personal reasons. To help streamline my thought process, I am making a list of things that matter and do not matter in my search for a new city.

Very important

  • Walkability *
  • Ease and frequency of public transportation (rail is preferred, but buses are OK) *
  • Dog-friendliness
  • Ease of making new friends *
  • Politically progressive environment *
  • Emphasis on recycling, conserving energy, and cutting down on plastic consumption *

Moderately important

  • Affordable rent (I currently pay $1350 for my studio, and $1400 is probably my ceiling)
  • Tasty and diverse food scene
  • Trader Joe’s *
  • Low crime *
  • Green public spaces and parks *

Nice-to-have but not extremely important

  • Bike lanes and bike share *
  • Diverse demographics *
  • Museums *
  • Public talks, panels, and fora on various social issues *
  • An airport that’s easy to get to from the city *

Not important at all

  • Local sports teams
  • Music
  • Bars and clubs

God I sound like such a hipster. Ha ha ha.

Just for fun I put a red asterisk next to the features that DC does pretty well.

Little things I do to take care of muhself to mitigate anxiety

jeremy-thomas-75753Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

I’ve found that it’s easier to manage my anxiety by developing little habits, hobbies, or quirks to improve my mood, one piece at a time. Here’s a list of them.

  • Making my favorite Korean instant coffee in the morning–the one thing I do that is not great for the environment. Sorry!
  • Turning on NPR as soon as I get up in the morning and letting it play in the background, setting a rhythm to everything I do. I know the hosts’ names at this point: David Green and Rachel Martin of Morning Edition, Matt McCleskey of WAMU, and then Razia Iqbal of the BBC World Service at 9.
  • Making my bed in the morning, and just generally making sure everything in the apartment looks decent and presentable in case maintenance has to come in or something. That Konmari thing has really stuck.
  • Once I get to work, boiling water in the office kettle and making a cup of Tazo organic tea. All the flavors are amazing: peach, apricot, passion fruit. And the smell is so sweet, delicious, and soothing.
  • Taking about 15 minutes in the morning, after arriving at the office and answering any urgent emails, to check my WeChat, send a cheerful “good morning!” text or meme to my group chat with my parents, and go through my fashion/beauty/film/celeb gossip subscriptions to see if there are any interesting updates. Doing this while sipping that tea.
  • Wearing lipstick.
  • Taking a walk during lunchtime–sometimes to the waterfront if the weather’s not too bad, sometimes to the neighborhood Trader Joe’s to pick up some quick groceries or snacks.
  • ALL THE TV I am watching. The shows I watch that are currently on the air include: The Good Place, This Is Us, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Currently off the air, but eagerly anticipated: Better Call Saul, Veep, The Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld, Game of Thrones, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I also always watch new seasons of House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Black Mirror, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt regardless of how good or bad they are.
  • Making mantou, or steamed buns. The best part is beating the dough into submission and feeling it turn from wet sticky mush to a soft bouncy pillow in your hands.
  • Taking dumb quizzes on Buzzfeed. “How popular are your breakfast opinions?” That one’s a favorite.
  • Scrubbing myself from a rough sponge I got at my hotel in Seoul–especially rubbing the bottoms of my feet.
  • Doing some light–and I mean very light–yoga on a mat before I go to bed, while listening to a podcast. My favorite podcast is Reply All, but I’m also partial to My Favorite Murder, NPR Politics, and The Weeds. I like The Gist, but it’s too energetic and booming to do yoga to.

Shutdown, day 1

As of 12:01 am today, the United States government has shut down.

We are not in uncharted territory here. This is the second shutdown in less than five years: the last time we shut down, in October 2013, I was a government contractor. I don’t recall a ton about that time, except for the fact that we were not allowed to tweet from our client’s Twitter handle, and that there were a lot of jokes on the internet about furloughed Census Bureau statisticians willing to work for beer or whatever.

Oh, and I also remember this: back when the shutdown was still going on, I had to go to Baltimore to represent our client–a government program–at this very niche education conference, by sitting in a booth that we’d already paid for. (It was OK for me to go to this because I was a contractor.) I remember this attendee asking me, “Why’d they shut down the panda cams?” And I, being very wise, tried to explain the Washington Monument Syndrome, but somehow messed it up, and also had to rush to qualify that I did not speak for the government in that particular instance.

This time around, I work for a nonprofit that’s not funded by the U.S. government, so no furlough woes for us.

It’s kind of weird, now that I think about it. 2013 was the year I moved to DC. And this year – 2018 – will probably be the year I leave DC.

Capped at each end with a giant clusterfork. Nice one.

2017 in review

2017 was a really, truly busy and hectic year for me. I travelled like I’ve never travelled before, I experienced some major life milestones, and I made some progress in my attempt to become a better person. Here’s a brief recap of my year.

January: To get away from DC during the madness that was the inauguration, I logged a weekend trip to Montreal and a day trip to Quebec City. Canada was snowy but not terribly cold. I spent a lot of time walking around, taking pictures, and drinking hot cocoa. I also watched the finale of Goblin from my hotel room in Montreal, which was a very weird, surreal feeling, given that the show actually ended in Quebec.

February: Not much happened this month. To calm my anxiety about job searching, I went on a lot of walks and explored the Gallery of Art, the Renwick Gallery, and the National Zoo.

March: I spent a week in Colombia, doing field research for my capstone project. The Monday after I got back, I went to the courthouse in front of a judge and legally changed my name.

April: This month was–naturally–insane. I hustled to get all my final papers done, and my capstone presentation ready. I got awfully sick for about two weeks and cried while I was on the phone with my mom. She came up and took care of me for a couple of days. (And I cried again when she left.) I saw Matt Damon speak in person at a work event.

May: I graduated with my master’s degree, and my family came to DC. Commencement took place on the National Mall, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin was the speaker. Afterwards, we went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant.

June: We spent three busy weeks train-ing around Europe, hitting up the countries we hadn’t been to previously (Spain, Germany, and the UK), in addition to Paris. My favorite memories are looking at Neuschwanstein Castle from a bridge, and walking around the church in Stratford-upon-Avon where Shakespeare is buried. At the end of the trip, I got a phone call–with a job offer. I quickly began searching for a new apartment and landed the perfect one within two weeks. I saw Bernie speak in person, again.

July: I began learning the ropes at my new job. I visited two museums this month: Hillwood Gardens, and the Hirshhorn for its new Ai Weiwei exhibit.

August: After 4 years in DC, I moved back out into Virginia so that I could afford to rent my own nice little studio apartment. My mom came up for a few days to help me move. I got a trial Blue Apron box for a week but decided it wasn’t worth it. I got two plants from a cute little nursery in Capitol Hill–both of which are alive and well on my window sill to this day. Apparently all you have to do to keep plants alive is to water them when they look dry.

September: I continued to furnish my new apartment. I developed an interest in brewing coffee with a moka pot, but gave up after a few weeks because the coffees I made always sucked. I cooked a lot and got better at cooking as a result. I started Korean classes to prepare for my trip to Korea.

October: I voted for the first time in Virginia. I saw a lights show at the Freer Gallery’s re-opening that was so beautiful that I watched it twice. I worked Europe hours from DC for three days in a row, which absolutely wrecked me.

November: I spent a lovely Thanksgiving vacation in Asia. It was marred by the awful cold and allergies that the air pollution in Seoul inflicted on me, but ultimately saved by the sunny, lighthearted weather and amazing food in Taipei.

December: I amtrakked up to New York and spent three exhausting days working nonstop and taking an exam that lasted nearly 5 hours. I did have the best slice of NYC pizza, though, and some amazing doughnuts from a coffee shop, so I can’t complain too much. I spent Christmas with my family in Miami and then back home in Atlanta, which caused a lot of stress and unhappiness (that I managed to internalize until I went through security at the airport, and then I cried silently on-and-off until we were in the air).

It was a difficult way to end the year, but I felt much better when I woke up this morning. It was less than 20 degrees out, but I bundled up and went out to buy groceries, then came back and cleaned the entire apartment while listening to the new Chappelle special on Netflix. 2018 is going to be another life-changing milestone year. I can feel it.

On turning 26

jardin du luxembourg
People-watching at Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris this summer.

I recently turned 26. Thanks to Obamacare, we now have a modern definition of exactly what constitutes adulthood in America, and that is the day you are officially kicked off your parents’ health plan for good. This is why turning 26 feels a little special–I am, according to society, Someone Who Now Has Her Shit Together.

And I do, for the most part, thank God. I have a full-time job, a mid-level career at a nonprofit, working with civil society organizations across the world to further a meaningful cause. I graduated with a master’s degree earlier this year. I recently moved out of a group house and into my own studio apartment, which I keep clean and tidy on a daily basis. I brew my own lattes and mochas with a stovetop faux-espresso maker. I own two plants that I have managed to keep alive thus far.

But there’s a lot of uncertainty, too, things that keep me up at night. I have a massive amount of student loan debt–more than I make in a year, payments that leave me essentially breaking even after rent and groceries each month. I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now. Trying for the foreign service again? Living in a different country? Or feeling stuck? I am alone, and sometimes lonely. And then of course there’s the disastrous political insurgency that has crippled this country. The DC region has the highest concentration of anxiety and neurosis per capita I’ve ever seen–and that shit is contagious, yo.

One more thing I’ll mention about getting older: I am hungry all the time. Like all. The. Time. I am watching my calorie intake with an app, and I am exercising more, but still. How am I not 200 lbs yet?!


My new studio apartment


In August, I moved from a three-bedroom house to a studio apartment. My rent went up by $300 a month, but I have to say — so worth it. I’m now a 15-minute bus ride from work and a block from the metro. The building has a concierge that holds mail for you, so I no longer have to worry about packages being stolen off my porch. I can go in the kitchen and cook whenever I want, without having to share the counters or entertain small talk. There are cons, too, of course: just this Saturday, the entire building was evacuated twice, at 6pm and 1am, due to faulty fire alarms going off. I can sometimes hear my neighbor singing loudly at midnight. And when I cook, the smell permeates through the entire apartment. But overall I would say, again, WORTH IT.

I’ve finally finished decorating the apartment, so here are some pictures. Mad respect to people who take photos for house tours on Apartment Therapy. They make it look so easy, but it’s actually hard af trying to get everything to fit within the frame. Here goes. Continue reading