In passing, an insight to embrace

Insights from a recent passing, secret messages, kitchen confidential, and simple living

Hi friend,

It’s been quite a tumultuous while. A week ago, I found myself commuting to a funeral on Staten Island, visiting a passed Burning Man campmate. Throughout my life, I’ve attended far more funerals than weddings, and with each, deep introspection on the concept of life and death.

This is what came up for me this time around:

We are all made finite the moment we are born, yet it takes us a lifetime to begin living out our lives as such. From the incessant nagging for more to the petulant comparisons we make, these looping, self-centered narratives lead us toward a life of misery for the sake of perceived future happiness.

The present is plagued with stories of never having enough, never being satisfied, and never being surrounded by perfect people. The time never seems to be “the now”, but rather, “someday”, “in the future”, or more ambiguously, “one day”.

Why?

Through fairytales, we have been promised a perfect future. That “someday”, everything will work out. As long as we fulfill our roles as the protagonist, that our dreams will undeniably fall into place.

Through advertising, we have been trained to believe that we’re never enough. That “in the future”, our perfect selves will be finally complete… after we swipe our credit card.

Through social security, retirement plans, and pensions, we have been taught that our best years are saved for last. That “one day”, our devotion to institutions will reward us handsomely.

The average life expectancy in the US is 78.54 years (according to World Bank), which leaves us with 13.54 years to live out our best lives in requirement after 65+. It baffles me that we have a society reinforcing labor for 47 years (18 - 65) to only get 13 years of finally relaxing or chasing after what we’ve always dreamed of doing.

Since COVID, I threw myself deep into my work, and frankly, I’ve been struggling to find a balance with it these past few months (as you can see with the sporadic emails). Especially within philanthropy, it’s been quite difficult setting boundaries with under-served marginalized communities. It never seems like I’m doing enough, or spending enough time, or dedicating enough resources when I hear of others who have far less than I do.

To add another layer of complexity…

As a son of a single, immigrant, working-class mother, having experienced tremendous trauma around money scarcity, it feels almost impossible to stop working. To my brain and heart, falling into oblivion feel closer within reach than my next milestone.

The visit to Staten Island was a sobering reminder of how fragile and fleeting life really is. Finding balance should not be at the end of life, but throughout the present.

Even more than balance, perhaps unpacking “work” as a coping mechanism from trauma, or further identifying what “work” actually represents. To be continued…

Rest in peace, Frank.


What I’m up to

For queer POC designers: Wednesday, July 21 - QTBIPOC Design Game Night!

For Asians: Sunday, July 25 - Asian American Healing Space

For queer Asians: Sunday, August 15 - Yellow Glitter Sparkes, Gaysian support group

Talks

Wednesday, July 22 - Design Content Conference

Tuesday, August 24 - UX Australia

Latest work

Yellow Glitter Podcast - Rainbow-washing & performative allyship

INTO - How I found love & acceptance for my traditional Asian mother


Secret messages

One Time Secret allows you to create links to snippets of text that expire after a given amount of time. You can link information that might only be best sent once - like CC information and social security numbers.

Last Kitchen Confidential

They were filming, they were talking, and then Tony stopped. He didn’t say anything for thirty seconds. Tom [Vitale, Bourdain’s longtime director and producer] went up to him and said, ‘Tony, what’s wrong?’ And he said, ‘Everybody’s looking at me.’ And it’s, like, yeah, because they’re filming you, but it was his paranoia coming out: Everybody’s always staring at me.”

A New Yorker synopsis of Bourdain’s latest documentary: Roadrunner that highlights the ups and downs of Anthony Bourdain’s life. Also, another New Yorker piece on the use of deepfakes in Roadrunner. (PS - it was definitely not consensual)

Simplicity of life

“Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true.” -Thomas Merton

As always, thanks for reading!

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Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),
Steven

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