My top nine photos of 2019

My photos and journey, top photos around the world, tracking our faces, and implicit bias

Hi friend!

It’s the beginning of December and you know what that means: prepare for the influx of the Year in Reviews. The most popular recent ones are Spotify Wrapped and Instagram’s top nine photos.

These nine photos perfectly capture the essence of my self-discovery journey this year, but the top 3 photos really stand out as moments that changed my life.

#3: Moving Out of San Francisco

In San Francisco, I had all of the superficial things that one could have - good money, a great career, incredible body, beautiful friends, and a bustling nightlife personality… but it was never enough. It wasn’t until my body had collapsed that I was able to really assess where I was headed towards.

It wasn’t until I left it all that I started to truly find myself, including prestigious job offers at top companies that I had worked so hard for my entire career.

#2: Announcing My Journey

As a part of my journey, I left everything to meditate around the world. Except, when I first started, I didn’t know how to navigate the world of social media.

2019 was my first true foray into becoming a content creator.

When I was starting out, I was trying so hard to create the curated Instagram feed, color-grading all of my photos, creating a perfect layout, and following all of the social media advice I could find. Some of it worked (#8: Smiling on the Miami Shores and #5: Posing with a Bear), and some of it didn’t (my YouTube vlogs documented me shopping, eating, thinking… yeah.)

Ultimately, this was not fulfilling. Over time, my Instagram feed evolved into an unconventional written blog. Before this, I never took myself to be a writer. But in this journey, I’ve also found a love for words in expressing myself.

A bit funny for someone who learned English as a third language. Japanese was my first and Mandarin was my second.

#1: Hospital life

This moment changed my life forever. (Or the culmination of my hospital visits)

After working too hard, playing too hard, exercising too much, and eating too much, my body just gave out. My last trip to burning man in 2017 really sent my body over the edge and my entire digestive system collapsed. I was in and out of the hospital for months unable to digest food and I barely remember any of my visits, because I was under heavy anesthesia for most of my time in the hospital.

I lost a lot of weight, including most of my muscle mass, during this process. Watching myself slowly wither away, unable to do anything about it, was one of the scariest experiences of my life. (Even during recovery, my body consciousness was still extremely hard to face, and I share some of it in #6: Body Positivity at Burning Man)

As a part of my healing, I changed my lifestyle, revamped my diet, and became completely sober (also shared about in #7: First Time Back to Burning Man). I worked with an amazing woman in the bay area that healed my body through holistic means.

Ultimately this experience pushed me to take the journey I did this year, traveling around the world and meditating in six different destinations and sitting in silence for almost two months. (One of the destinations in France was #9: Organic Farming at Plum Village)

In this process, I also had a huge shift in the community around me. During my illness and recovery, most of my friends had parted ways with me. As my perspectives and priorities changed, we no longer saw eye-to-eye with many things, especially with sobriety. A huge part of my work today is creating the community that I wish I had in this process. My mission and content are now dedicated to supporting others who are going on a very similar journey of finding mindfulness, spirituality, and self-identity.


A year in photos

From presidential mishaps to legalization of same-sex partnerships in Taiwan, these photos from CNN capture the intensity of emotions of 2019.

Other notable collections:

Digital intrusion

As China rapidly evolves its technological offerings, they make facial tracking a mandatory feature for anyone registering a new mobile phone number.

Implicit bias

I heard about Harvard’s extensive quizzes measuring our implicit bias from a talk I attended recently. The results are quite eye-opening.

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

Anything else? You can always hit "reply" to email me directly. 💌

Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),
Steven

Yellow Glitter Podcast | IG | YT | FB | TW | StevenWakabayashi.com

Forgiving those that have hurt us

Finding love for those who have hurt us, discovering purpose, being queer in Japan, how to be respected, and how to love

Hi friend!

I hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving.

While I am a bit torn on how to celebrate Thanksgiving because of its problematic roots, I acknowledge that this is also a time when many of us spend this time with our loved ones. Currently, I’m writing to you from Los Angeles, visiting my mom and aunt.

It’s been difficult coming out to a conservative family, and over time, I’ve also realized that I haven’t made it easy for myself either. What I was given was never enough, and I was envious of the lives around me.

“I wish my family was like other accepting families.”

“I wish I had a partner whose family will see me the way I wish my family saw me”

“I wish I wasn’t Asian.”

As I was coming to terms with my sexuality, I distanced myself from my family and culture, and sought out a chosen “family" of friends to give me the support I desperately craved.

Except, this family was never equipped with the tools or life experience to be the caregiver of a child they just inherited. Over the years, my friendships suffered because of the heavy expectations I also put on them.

I spent the majority of this year abroad and alone, processing these difficult experiences. In working through these emotional kinks, I made a fascinating discovery. My struggles were from the blurring of two completely separate entities: people and their behaviors. I was judging people based on their ever-changing behaviors, bound by the expectations only I could see.

As I relinquished my expectations and pulled apart people from their behaviors, I found forgiveness within the space that was created. And in loving the people themselves, I discovered a lightness in the way I interacted.

During this holiday season, perhaps we can all share a similar revelation, especially as we spend time with our families we may not see eye-to-eye with.

Release the expectations. It is a yearning for a reality that doesn’t exist.

Stop searching for permanent convictions on temporary behaviors.

Find love for people. We are all imperfect, trying our best, with limited time here on earth.

This week, I made a podcast about some advice and techniques to forgive our parents and caregivers. Check it out and let me know what you think.

You can also find it on Google Podcast, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Overcast, and TuneIn.


How to find motivation

I’ve read countless books and articles on procrastination and this is one of the simplest and effective charts to address procrastination.

How to discover queer life Japan

Ellen Page goes on a “gaycation” trip with her gay BFF, and stops by Tokyo to better understand the queer culture of Japan. Overall, the show does a great job of highlighting the queer Japanese culture and its various sub-cultures within.

Though I will caveat that there are a few questionable scenes that could have been done better, like the coming out scene. But I will say that this is a huge improvement over Queer Eye Japan. (Not to mention, this episode came out in 2016)

How to be respected

A beautiful guide I stumbled on from Reddit: how to get people to treat you with more respect. (TLDR: it comes from within!)

How to love

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” -Antoine De Saint-Exupery

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

Anything else? You can always hit "reply" to email me directly. 💌

Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),
Steven

Yellow Glitter Podcast | IG | YT | FB | TW | StevenWakabayashi.com

Lessons from my viral article on cultural ignorance

What are we giving up and why racism is still rampant, when the body says no, Oprah and Lady Gaga, and debunking our low attention spans.

Hi friend!

If you are a new subscriber - welcome! I’m so excited to have you join me on this journey of mindfulness and life.

Just last week, I published an article on the cultural insensitivities of the latest season of Queer Eye. In four days, it had more than 100K views.

Photo from Instagram.

My Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Reddit, and LinkedIn (surprise!) was flooded with messages from people all around the world. When I looked at where this article was shared, there were sometimes hundreds of comments discussing this piece. It was quite the conversation-starter.

Many of the comments were incredibly heart-warming.

Countless people reached out to echo the very sentiments that I wrote about, revealing the same hurt and shock I experienced while watching the show. To my surprise and delight, many Academics mentioned that they included my article in their curriculum on racial inequalities, cultural imperialism, and queering ESOL. The connections, discussions, and education that this article has fostered have moved me every single day.

But along with the kind comments came a swarm of nasty replies.

My inboxes were inundated with hateful remarks from the show’s fans. Many of whom discredit my article by questioning my identity.

“You’re just an American.”
“You’re not Japanese enough.”
“Have you lived in Japan?”

This denial of my identity is something that I am far too familiar with as an Asian-American. Somehow, by being born in a foreign country to immigrant parents, I become an alien to this world. My birthplace is not my own because my skin color doesn’t match the majority, and my racial identity is stuck overseas, unable to cross international waters.

Unfortunately for them, my identity was never theirs to define.

What ultimately pushed me to write this article was after watching the second episode, where the Fab 5 advises a queer Japanese man on how to live a happier life using Western ideologies.

Ever since I realized I was gay, for more than 22 years, I’ve followed these Western methodologies to chase after this “happiness”. I buried myself in American self-help books, media, and forums to find liberation as a queer Asian-American born to conservative immigrant parents.

“Love yourself more.”
“Find a new family.”
“Focus on yourself.”

(Almost all coming out books are by white authors)

I tried to shed “what was not serving me” for more than two decades. I dug deep within myself to rip out my heritage, my cultural roots, my family, and my skin to taste salvation. As I tore apart my racial identity, the taste of grief still lingered. Unknowingly, I had lost what anchored me before. I stumbled into dark moments of my life, blindly wandering and piecing together an image of myself with whatever I could find in a foreign land I called home.

It took me years of self-work and therapy to address the damage caused by this one-sided advice. Just because a lifestyle works in one culture doesn’t necessarily mean it will work within another. To believe otherwise is blind, ignorant, and dangerous.

In giving advice, especially from another culture, we need to caveat: “what are we giving up in doing this?”

In choosing to love myself using Western ideologies, what was I giving up?
In finding a new family, what was I giving up?
In focusing only on myself, what was I giving up?

And in challenging Japanese people with Western advice on Queer Eye Japan, what were they giving up in doing this?

Ironically, if the show’s advice were to have more self-love, it should have included finding love for the racial identity that cannot be separated.

No matter how we feel on the inside, our racial identity is forever imprinted on our skin. It will cover us, protect us, hurt us, and identify us for the rest of our lives.

In writing this piece, three lessons kept coming up:

This conversation will never be perfect.

I received many messages with corrections — to make the article more accurate and inclusive. Though I had initially thought that this piece was going to be read mostly by my friends, there is never an excuse for why I cannot be more conscious with my writing.

Thank you to everyone who pointed out grammatical errors, spelling mishaps, wrong pronouns, and exclusive language.

I am humbled that people would take the opportunity to help educate me and grateful for the time to do so. I acknowledge that my writing is never perfect, but all I can do is try my best, learn from my experience, and be more mindful every day.

There may never be a perfect piece, but it doesn’t mean we should stay silent.

Self-doubt is real, but false.

I initially finished this article just two days after the show launched on Netflix. I sat on it for two weeks, doubting myself, questioning whether my thoughts were valid.

If it were never published, hundreds of thousands of conversations regarding cultural insensitivity would never have happened. And the thousands of people that have reached out to me personally would have never been heard.

Although it’s tough to disagree with something publicly, we have the right to our own experiences. We are all unique — different education, families, genetic makeup, birthplaces, likes, dislikes, hobbies, and careers that lead us to have our unique perspective in the world. Though it might not always align with what has the most visibility at the time, there might be others who think similarly in a world with 7.7 billion people.

When we hide our truths from the world, we suppress what may be crucial conversations that can move us towards equality, inclusion, and representation.

Racism and intolerance is still a very real thing.

The fact that this has prompted so many conversations in over a week signifies that cultural awareness is an important topic that we need to continue talking about. All of the negative responses to this article validates the work that has yet to be done.

When someone hurts, we must listen to them. Regardless of whether we agree or disagree, we listen because we respect and care for them. Especially as we become more interconnected with each other globally, it is critical that we continue to uphold empathy and humanity to create space for different types of people and thoughts.

Challenge ideas, but welcome diversity.
Critique actions, but embrace people.

I wrote this article as advice I wish I had gotten growing up: finding true happiness comes from the unconditional love of self, including the cultural and racial identities that may come with difficulties.

I am queer.
I am Japanese.
I am Taiwanese.
I am American.

The path to happiness is found in the shape of our identities.

(When I was ~seven years old)

Read this post on Medium

After publishing this article, a lot of people have reached out to me regarding new opportunities and partnerships. So excited to see where all of this will go in the next few months! Stay tuned.


When the body says no

One of the most insightful books I’ve read this year. Dr. Gabor Mate shares his take on the true causes of cancer, auto-immune disorders, digestive issues, and other diseases in his book, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress. (TLDR: when we refuse to listen to our body, it creates diseases to make us listen.)

Oprah meets Lady Gaga

On her latest episode of Super Soul Sunday, Oprah interviews Lady Gaga to talk about staying kind, battling suicide, “tell me, don’t show me”, and more.

Low attention span

An article recently posted by BBC busts the myth that our attention span is decreasing:

In the always-connected world of social media, smartphones and hyperlinks in the middle of everything you read, it can feel that much harder to stay focused.

And there are statistics too. They say that the average attention span is down from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds now…

But the sources are infuriatingly vague… And when I contact the listed sources - the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the US National Library of Medicine, and the Associated Press - neither can find any record of research that backs up the stats. My attempts to contact Statistic Brain came to nothing too. I have spoken to various people who dedicate their working lives to studying human attention and they have no idea where the numbers come from either.

In fact, they think the idea that attention spans are getting shorter is plain wrong.

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

Anything else? You can always hit "reply" to email me directly. 💌

Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),
Steven

Yellow Glitter Podcast | IG | YT | FB | TW | StevenWakabayashi.com

I am going viral...

Addressing cultural insensitivities of Queer Eye, advice to my former self, queer media on the rise, programmed bias, and a podcast on happiness

Hi friend!

It’s been one week in my new apartment, a few weeks into finding a freelance role, and a little over a month here in NYC. Everything is slowly coming together as I start to situate myself here in the city.

First, I want to share with you something urgent that could use all the support I can get.

I recently published an article on Medium addressing the cultural insensitivities of the latest season of Queer Eye Japan. Highly encourage you to read it, and if you are compelled to share, please do. Together we can create the social velocity and get this content in front of Netflix, Queer Eye, and the cast.

I share on my Instagram why I created this article. In short, I wish this was the advice I got coming out. For the longest time, I shunned my conservative Asian roots to find the queer liberation I dreamed of. But in that, I developed a lot of internalized racism and self-hate.

Culture and identity is not something to "fix". Rather, they are paradoxes to navigate through. Liberation is not a destination, but the journey itself.⁣⁣

And lastly, I published my latest episode of Yellow Glitter - Defying filial piety and Asian parental expectations in career and in life. Lots of insights from my life journey, ditching my career to be a doctor, and the dire consequences of not following our heart’s calling. (Also on Google PodcastSpotifyiHeartRadioStitcherOvercast, and TuneIn)


Queer media on the rise

GLAAD called the TV industry to do a better job with LGBTQ+ representation and called for 10% by 2020. Yesterday, it released a report saying the industry delivered with 10.2%. Intersectional content is great for diversity, and it also performs well too.

When we lack diversity

David Heinemeier Hansson opened up an Apple Card with his wife using the same information from their joint accounts and got 20x the credit limit. Steve Wozniak - 10x the limit of his wife. One of the reasons? Bias developed into the programmatic logic.

When we hire people that look exactly like ourselves, we risk building products that amplify our invisible biases. Not only is this with the Apple Card, but it’s also a part of the social media platforms we use every day. It's time to do better.

The happiness podcast

Dr. Laurie Santos, a Yale professor who teaches the popular The Science of Well Being course, just recently launched a podcast called The Happiness Lab. Each episode, she dives into an aspect of our emotional psyche and shares insightful stories and science related to the episode's theme. It’s so well-produced and I binged on the entire season episodes this past week.

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

Anything else? You can always hit "reply" to email me directly. 💌

Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),
Steven

Yellow Glitter Podcast | IG | YT | FB | TW | StevenWakabayashi.com

Giving up perfectionism (and my new monthly support group)

Launching a support group for gaysians, putting our ideas out, breaking time, four-hour workweeks, what makes us human, and what is defeat?

Hi friends!

By the end of this week, I’ll be in my new place in the financial district of New York City. We’re almost there! New furniture. New mattress. The final stretch.

I threw myself back into freelance design opportunities a few weeks ago and fingers crossed for some great work to align. (Also, redesigned my website)

As a part of my hunt, I’ve been going to various meet-ups and networking events for designers here in New York City, and one of them really caught my attention. It was a group-therapy-like meet-up for designers, with people coming together and sharing daily struggles of work and in the industry. After just one session, I felt so seen by my community.

And so as an extension of my gaysian podcast and to be present with the gaysian community, I created Yellow Glitter Sparkles, a free monthly support group for queer Asians to come together and share stories, struggles, and sparkles. Each session will start with a mindfulness exercise and get into the theme of the month. December’s theme: “endings”. As the year comes to a close, what’s on your mind?

If you are interested, RSVP early via Eventbrite. And if you have any queer Asian friends in NYC that would love this, please send it to them. I would really appreciate it!

Can you believe that 2019 is coming to a close in just seven weeks? What were your 2019 resolutions? What did you hope to accomplish?

For many years, I put off all of my projects because of my perfectionism. My blog gathered dust for years because I needed my writing to be perfect. My podcast was never launched because I couldn’t find a co-host. My ideas never came to life because it was never perfect enough in my mind.

But you know what? It’s time to forgive ourselves, let go, and allow ourselves to just try our best. It’s time to put something out there, at least for ourselves to know that we did it.

When it comes to goals that collect dust, break it down into something smaller. What is the next actionable step you can take that can be done in an hour? How can you surrender your calendar to accommodate this?

Life is too short to be greedy with our ideas. The world deserves to see it.


We broke time

A fascinating read by Buzzfeed on how we have all lost our sense of time over the past decade. So many things that relied on time is no longer - social media feeds, tv shows, always-on news.

The photos I see in my social media feeds are sometimes from a week ago. Memes keep reviving, but as if it was just discovered. And what’s scary is that THIS is the norm for all of the children born into corrupt technology.

"This is why algorithmic time is so disorienting and why it bends your mind. Everything good, bad, and complicated flows through our phones, and for those not living some hippie Walden trip, we operate inside a technological experience that moves forward and back, and pulls you with it. "

Four-day workweeks

In August, Microsoft Japan tested a program where it closed its offices on Fridays and gave its employees three-day weekends and limited meetings to 30 minutes. The result? Productivity boosted by 40%, the number of printed pages dropped by 59%, electricity consumption dropped 23%, and 94% of employees approved of the program. (Washington Post, NPR)

In a time of overwork and especially in Japan, this experiment reminds us that we don't need to work longer hours to get more accomplished.

What makes us human?

This documentary was such an incredible piece. Here’s the description of it from youtube:

“What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery? Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand spent three years collecting real-life stories from 2,000 women and men in 60 countries. Working with a dedicated team of translators, journalists and cameramen, Yann captures deeply personal and emotional accounts of topics that unite us all….”

Quote I love

“What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first steps to something better.” -Wendell Phillips

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

Anything else? You can always hit "reply" to email me directly. 💌

Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),
Steven

Yellow Glitter Podcast | IG | YT | FB | TW | StevenWakabayashi.com

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