My Auntie’s Confession

We were having brunch together at Cora’s in Richmond. It was right after I had told a joke about all four of us (my aunt, uncle and cousin) being third-born children and how we were pretty much better than our respective siblings. My aunt then looked up from her poached egg and toast and lightly touched my arm. “Ginger, I will be honest.”

That worried me a little bit, but she continued. The last time she sounded like that, she told me I was gaining a lot of weight and that I had to work out more.

There was some hesitation in her voice, as it was obvious that she was trying to find the right words. “You are very different now from when you were at Emily Carr.”

“Now I think, ah, I think you are more… mature.”

Guys, I can’t even explain how big this moment was for me.

In the midst of forks and knives clattering on plates and servers whizzing by with coffee pots, my aunt had basically just told me that I wasn’t a little piece of shit anymore.

And before going any further, I will make it clear. I have no excuse for it, and neither do I want to deny it as a truth. I really was a little piece of shit. Particularly when I was in Emily Carr.

I don’t know what it is about being that age. Right about the time I got out of high school, it was as if a monkey had immediately strapped itself to my back and suddenly the world shifted. After a flash and a bang, I was out to prove something. I didn’t know what the fuck it was I wanted to prove, but the push was there—this weird motivated restlessness to be the biggest asshole in the world.

I picked fights with my mom and never listened to her advice. I refused to willingly take part in any family outing with my aunt and my cousins. I never called home and always kept it short and quick when my parents would phone me. I knew they missed me, but I didn’t care.

I suppose it was just being around other kids who had so much independence at Emily Carr. You try to find yourself in the midst of it all, being alone in an unfamiliar city with a totally different culture. It was exciting and fresh, and I didn’t want the trappings of my sheltered Filipino-Chinese upbringing to hold me back.

I kept wanting to go at it alone. I refused to ask for help for anything, constantly turning to people who didn’t know me very well, and probably cared about me even less. It wasn’t so much as a warpath I was on, but a refusal to acknowledge the idea of family.

I thought I was smarter and better than everyone I knew.

AND IT WAS SO NOT TRUE. ;_;

I’m sure it hurt a lot of people, and when I look back at it, I always feel a phantom bruise being pressed. It makes me physically gag and I get embarrassed all by myself. It’s terrible. Along with the clothes I used to wear, particularly when I discovered the Salvation Army and Value Village. Oh God, I looked like a fucking hobo. I was a shitty, bratty Asian girl who looked like she was homeless and hung out with people who smelled like the underside of a couch.

And so sitting there, with those words hanging in the air, I felt a huge rush of awkwardness and gratitude. Gratitude for them noticing the effort to change as well as the change itself. I’m not a parent, and I don’t have a lot of experiences with young teenagers. Just imagining myself in their shoes at the time, having to deal with this shitty kid, really puts things into perspective.

My excellent mother passing away was the unfortunate catalyst for this change and I know it. I have so many regrets when I think about my mom, and I’ve always sort of beaten myself up for it. And rightly so. It isn’t so much a call for pity, but more of a statement or suggestion. It’s said over and over, but it’s so different when it actually happens.

Guys, real talk. I know it may not be the same for all of us, but if you even have even the tiniest suspicion that your parents kind of love you, my God, don’t waste any of it.

I’m glad to be able to sort of make amends now, and to be able to talk like normal people. Normal adults. I feel like I’ve been allowed to stand up to my full height, and they are now able to see me at my full posture. I don’t have anything to hide from them anymore, and that feels really wonderful.

Now I look at people differently. I look at family differently. I don’t want the same regrets to apply to anyone else, if I can help it. When that happened, another flash and a bang went off, and this monkey loosened its grip and fucked off as quickly as it showed up. My selfish endeavours immediately dissipated, and all that was left was this want to be a better person. I just kind of wish that it didn’t have to happen with such circumstances. But then again, sometimes you don’t know that you’re on the wrong path until you’re halfway in thick of it. You just have to suck it up and find the strength to go back to the beginning.

Quick Draw McGraw

Recently, I had a conversation with Ben about how I’m doing at Mainsocial. It’s a yearly thing we’ve been doing, which is a great way to reset and kick off the year. Mostly it’s about things to improve, things to continue, and then some small talk about our cats.

One of the main things we talked about is something I’d like to share with everyone because I find that there are lots of people like me when it comes to this area.

I really have to be better at not jumping guns.

I’m already terrible at physically jumping, so this is something that I believe needs some attention when it comes to aspects of my life and work.

It happens often, and it doesn’t just usually get me into trouble, but always gets me into trouble. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s this awful need to address everything right away and ship it off as soon as possible.

What happens to me is that I will get an email about some issue, and something within my brain kicks in and takes over. I need to address this NOWNOWNOW. Fuck everything, this has to be finished A.S.A.P. And in a semi-blind rage of panic, I work on this and send it back out in record time.

As soon as that’s sorted, I breathe a bit looser and lean back against my chair, semi-relieved that I was able to get all of that sorted. Time to make a sandwich.

And that’s when the shit starts hitting the fan. Like, right around the time I am smearing mustard on my bread, the shit hits the fan.

The font size is wrong. It doesn’t work in Internet Explorer. The spacing got fucked when I changed that one property in the CSS. I added an extra file when I deployed to git. I forgot to pull the master branch before pushing my changes. Everyone hates me because I broke the internet. The cat is sleeping and won’t give me advice. My toast is burnt. The mustard is expired. My mother never loved me. No wait she actually did but just never said the words…

When it comes to work tasks, I am Quick Draw McGraw and that is a McGraw-ful thing to be.

It’s definitely a very difficult thing for me to deal with, but I know others experience the same thing. You just want to get it done. The tough thing is that while I just want to get it done, it has to be done right. I’m always missing that last part.

And so I’ve started to just be more aware of my tasks and have put a few mind-flags in place.

Let emails stay unread for a few minutes

I don’t need to read all the emails as soon as it gets into my inbox. I can finish what I’m doing first, and then move to the next thing. That nagging inbox count number does not have to be at 0 all the time.

Related: let emails stay unanswered for a few more

This one is a major one. I can’t count how many times I have sent a terrible email response simply by not letting the info sink in. Most emails don’t need to be addressed 0.5 seconds after it is received.

I’ve now taken it upon myself to read an email twice, let it stew for a while, and then have myself compose a proper draft without distractions. Then I’ll wait a few more minutes, read it again, and then finally send it out.

I didn’t realize it, but just taking a few extra minutes to collect my thoughts has really changed the way I communicate with people. It’s far from excellent right now, but I do see myself improving with this.

I’m sending less emails in a day. This is definitely a good thing, because before that, 40% of those said emails started with, “Sorry, please disregard that previous email…”

Make tasks separate by taking small breaks in between

Each time I finish a task, I bookmark it by standing up and walking around my apartment. I’ll make a cup of coffee or hang out with the cat for a couple of minutes. It’s a good indication for me that I’ve completed a task, as well as a way to not make me feel like I’m strapped to my chair all day.

Unless they think you’re dead, nobody will freak out

The thing is, whoever I’m doing the task for is probably not just sitting around waiting for me to send something back. We all have shit to do, and we all have different priorities to deal with.

I think this is another major one to keep in mind. In most cases, people actually know that I’m not a machine. There is only so much a person can do in a day, and also, there are only so many hours in a day. Assuming that someone is willing to disregard that is very dangerous, both for you and that other person.

You then start treading the line of how much that person respects your time and your work process, and setting this precedent leads to really awful outcomes.

So there

Those are the few things I’m actively trying to change about myself this year. Still a long ways to go, but definitely seeing some signs of progress. Maybe by next year’s review I’d have a much better grasp at this “communicating with people” thing.

My Plans for the New Year

Trung recently asked me what I intended to do in the upcoming year. A few things are already underway, and others I’ve already decided on. But as is the time of reflection and resolutions, I suppose it’s appropriate to make yet another list.


JavaScript—the Reckoning!

I fully intend to create a working app by the end of 2014. Well, really, by mid-2014 would be great.

Getting over humps and bumps of resistance for this will require a lot of patience and discipline, and it’s going to be awesome.

Right now I am thinking of making this knit-centric. Like a simple gauge calculator that I can use to help me make sense of the math for when I want to swap out a different yarn for a specific project. If anything, it will also really help me with my math skills. Because I have none.


Homelifes, Decorating, Furniture

After three and a half years, I suppose it’s time to come clean. I have really come to dislike my furniture.

I’ve inherited most of this furniture from the original owners of my current apartment. And while I’m grateful, I think it’s time to take that step up and finally make decisions based on what I would like, rather than what is convenient.

Last year, I found myself getting rid of my university furniture, shedding off memories of being dumb and young. Well now I’m just dumb, really, but I like to think I was a little bit dumber back then. Items that will ring truth in every young twenty-somethings’ ears: futon, Ikea, cheap computer table, Ikea, folding couch, etc.

Speaking of Ikea, I’ve just traded my last vestige of cheap university life for a more solid structure. Still Ikea, but like, one step up from “that table” that everyone knows:

This year, I’d like to look forward to pieces that have a bit more of a story and effort from me.

I have 2 simple projects lined up:

A wooden bench piece with hairpin legs.

And this bitchin’ daybed that my buddy Ben and I are going to be building together.

The daybed will be more work, obviously, but the possibility of creating a custom piece that I can control sounds so amazing to me. It will come in two pieces that come apart, and we have plans to build it out of pine kill lumber, which I think is a beautiful wood.


More Crafting!

I’ve gone on a full knitting rage these last few months, and I don’t intend to stop there. Fiona and Amanda have totally inspired me to test more waters, and I will be pushing through with more sewing projects as well.

This book will come out of the woodwork (I purchased it a few months ago) and I will be working hard to make some really awesome garments and homewares.

 

As a side note as well, I’ve made a resolution to stop buying yarn and finish off this giant stash that I have somehow accumulated over the course of a few months. Seriously. My yarn drawer is barfing yarn right now.

I think these three major things will be a great start to the year. I’m looking forward to 2014!

I’ve Devised A Cunning Plan

So basically Trung has concluded that I am fucking insane. I think he might leave me before the new year.

He came over and saw me working on this:

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 2.39.32 PM

“What’s that?” he asked. He thought I was working on some prints or more greeting cards.

I turned to him slowly and awkwardly smiled. “Um. I…”

And then he came closer, looking over my shoulder. “Is that…?”

Yes, Trung. I made an Illustrator file of my apartment and all the furniture inside so that I can move things around like a crazy woman without actually physically moving them.

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 2.41.52 PM

I’ve set up various artboards to see where the fucking sectional can go, and if it would make sense to put the dining table back into what was originally the dining room. I was up until 3am moving things around and adjusting measurements.

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 2.48.07 PM

Look, I don’t know what the big deal is. I think it’s FUN.

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 2.45.52 PM

Ladies Learning Code (Um, Yes, We Had Sandwiches)

I did a really cool thing last weekend.

Jane and I went to a Ladies Learning Code Workshop; an introduction to JavaScript, led by Angelina Fabbro.

I don’t usually sign up for workshops or gatherings or meet-ups or things like this. I get kind of anxious going by myself and I turn into the weird wallflowery person with a juice in their hands. The fact that Jane was with me was great. I was thinking we could at least hold the juices in our hands together and talk about knitting instead, if it didn’t work out.

Held in the lunch room at the Hootsuite offices in Vancouver, the workshop started out in a very casual way. Meredith, who I had assumed was the organizer, flashed us a bright smile, swung the door open and in we went, out of the rainy weather and into a toasty room that totally looked like Yogi Bear’s house but with beer taps.

There were no forced name-tags, no registration bars to scan, or any type of weird, “What are you doing here?” sort of situations. Thank God. People just walked in and set up shop. Just the way I liked my gatherings. I fucking hate small talk. I hate when people ask me what’s up or how my weekend went. Anyway, let’s not get into that.

This workshop was for people who had zero knowledge of JavaScript. And the thing is, I’ve tried to learn this time and time again.

I know Ben had been ready to punch me in the mouth for the way I’d been going about this, but there had just been this inexplicable force of resistance on my part to get things going.

The cool thing was that for me, it all kind of came together on this day. It was like Ben actually came up out of nowhere and physically punched me in the mouth. (He didn’t.)

I’ve been trying to figure out why I couldn’t get into JavaScript as much as HTML/CSS. It was weird, but each time I would open up these Sportsbutter .js files, something inside of me would sort of deflate and I would just start doing my laundry instead. I could sort of understand the basics of what was going on, and I was okay when it came to jQuery elements. I could make things slide and fade and shit, but that was kind of it.

But for me to actually get started and build a structure or an app out of JavaScript… I don’t know.

It was around the time Angelina was sharing her experiences about being a lady-programmer that it hit me.

She spoke about how she had turned down her first opportunity to lead a lecture about it because she instinctively felt like she wasn’t good enough.

I kind of sat there, holding a wonderful curried chicken wrap in my hands (instead of a juice), and let that story sink in. It definitely resonated with me. It wasn’t about being humble or not knowing what to do, really, but essentially, I came to realize that I couldn’t get started mainly because I felt exactly the same way.

The fact that I categorized myself as someone who knew absolutely nothing about JavaScript even though I’ve been with Mainsocial for over two years said something.

I didn’t think I was good enough to get this JavaScript shit.

When I work with Ben, it just always looked like magic to me. I would mention something that was broken, and I’d try to fix it, but would ultimately end up spinning my wheels. But when Ben would deal with it, it almost always usually gets fixed in a day. One time he fixed a bug in the time it took me to get a glass of water.

Of course B-ballz would be gracious about it, and he has taken great (great) pains to teach and mentor me. And I am definitely not saying that he is the reason I was so dumb about it, but I guess it’s just difficult to not be intimidated in this kind of situation.

What changed for me during this workshop was the context of my own experience. I honestly thought that I was going into a workshop with zero knowledge, just like everyone else.

But as soon as Angelina started talking through the slides and discussing basic things like variables and while loops, I found myself looking around and seeing that… erm, I kind of know this shit, too.

So a second wave of realization came upon me, and that was that… there was no secret sauce behind JavaScript.

The code presented to us was of course a hundred times simpler than what I would see in our Butterpool apps, but as Angelina walked us through it, I found the basic patterns and principles behind it.

It was like looking at a really big complicated robot machine powered by a Flux-Capacitor that writes out your grocery lists automatically for you and realizing that you can achieve the same results by using a pencil and paper.

The workshop had me building from the bottom up.

I think in my experience, I was introduced to JavaScript from the top down. The app was already working, and my job was to go in there with a wrench and hit stuff inside the big complicated robot machine powered by a Flux-Capacitor. And I didn’t know where Ben kept the pencils. And I couldn’t ask because I didn’t know that all I needed was to know where the pencils were. I didn’t know what I knew and if I didn’t know, then I didn’t know what I didn’t know either.

Are you following me?

And so as the day went on, I found myself talking through things with Jane. The quick exercises proved very useful to both of us because on one end Jane was getting a great intro from Angelina, and on the other, I was gaining an opportunity to test myself in talking it out with her.

It felt like I was putting polyfill into these odd cracks and crevices in my brain, and smoothing it out with a spackle knife. It was empowering.

I guess I just didn’t realize how much I knew until a bigger and more complete picture was laid out before me.

It’s like that story about a bunch of blind guys touching an elephant and talking about trees and horns and shit. I was one of the blind guys, and I think I just had my hand in the elephant’s balls the whole time thinking it was a jaguar’s mouth, afraid that it would bite me if I moved.

Just like my past weirdness about people trusting my skills, I think I had another set of issues about my own confidence in them.

Mainly because I’ve come across web development from a self-taught angle, rather than “having gone to school for it”, I think I just got used to thinking that I was a little bit less talented than those with actual formal training, or people who have been coding websites since they were nine years old. It’s also quite a big thing to be working in a vacuum for so long, and not really knowing your place within an industry.

With design shit, I feel fine. I recognize my peers and colleagues, and I know what they’re up to because I grew out of the same seeds of community. I may not necessarily know who the director of Burnkit is, and I may make a total ass out of myself in front of him and his ladyfriend during a birthday BBQ in a park. But I like to think that I can hold my own with fellow designers.

When it comes to web development, though, it’s completely different for me. I don’t have the same connections or the same experiences with people who I should consider my peers. Because I have no fucking clue who they are.

But now, armed with this knowledge and a new perspective, I’m pretty keen on changing that.

I came back super excited about what I can do with JavaScript, and immediately started plans for an awesome knitting app. This has since grown into a monsterish idea and now needs to be pruned and trimmed.

It goes back to my wallflowery personality, for sure. But if anything, I’m just glad that I was able to attend something like Ladies Learning Code. I feel like I got way more out of it that I expected. Jane even suggested that I try and be one of the mentors for the next event. We’ll see if I can gather up the courage for that…