Five for Twenty-Five
I celebrated my birthday at the end of August! I’m officially now in my mid-twenties more than I can ever be!
This year is my first birthday ever away from home and away from my parents. For the last two years I had multiple big parties, but this year I wanted to do something more low-key with just some closer friends since I don’t know too many people here that well yet.
I always start my birthday reflections two days early, because back in 2015 I got baptized two days before my birthday in Washington Square Fountain! Last year I went back to the fountain on the anniversary of my baptism (not counting walking past it every day since it’s right in front of my school), and this year I visited the fountain early just to get a photo for this post.
It’s so amazing to think how much my life has changed. Two years ago I would never have even considered going to California. I had no intentions of a different career because I thought I was making great money already and will make even more after grad school. Two years is a short amount of time for my heart to change, but a very long time to heal from my insecurities and pains to let go and do something that seemed impossible for me. I gave up a lot to be here in San Francisco – especially money at the moment, but I couldn’t be happier.
This year since I couldn’t go back to my fountain, I actually made the day memorable anyway by attending a black-tie gala at the fanciest hotel in the city, the Ritz-Carlton. The event was a fundraiser and tickets were $125! There was no way I could afford to spend so much unnecessarily, so I had the best idea of volunteering as photographer. I still got to dress up and meet awesome people!
On the night before my birthday, my roommate took me out for Singaporean food, then we got ice cream at San Francisco Hometown Creamery, a family-run ice cream parlor that makes unique flavors every week. This was actually the first ice cream place I had been to and I haven’t had a chance to come back until now! San Francisco doesn’t have a lot of crazy ice cream styles like New York does, but we sure have the best flavors! Ever heard of red plum with ginger or banana and toffee? I haven’t either!
I was really hoping that the weather would be finally warm enough on my birthday for the dress I bought for my birthday last year. My wishes came true! The weather was magnificent all weekend.
A bunch of people from church were super lovely and wanted to get lunch with me. The weather was too nice to skip ice cream after, so we hit up Salt & Straw, one of my top 10. One girl and I split a tasting flight because neither of us could settle on a flavor. The flavors at Salt & Straw are interesting and savory, but my favorite is still Honey Lavender.
I had my low-key party that night and was so glad my closest friends here made it, as well as a good friend from New York who was in the Bay Area to see his family! It truly was wonderful to have his company because it felt like my family was visiting on my birthday. Even though I’m super happy in San Francisco, it isn’t home and will still be a strange place to me for a while.
We had Mexican food at a restaurant that was too small to squeeze nine people in one table, then some of them went with me to get even more ice cream at Smitten Ice Cream, which I heard was the best in the city. The unique flavor I had the privilege of trying was called Bee Sting. I don’t know what was in it, except it definitely included pepper because every bite stung, even though it was super good.
My birthday marked the end of the summer, because as soon as September hit, the thermometer climbed to 106°F (41°C)! People were not kidding that September gets hot! I ventured out in the heat just so I could take some photos of the sunset, since San Francisco was almost always covered in fog at that hour during the summer.
The heatwave is over now, but it’s a whole lot warmer than it has been for ages. I’m looking forward to the nicer weather in autumn as a new year of my life begins! I have five new goals for the next year:
1. Become a volunteer event photographer.
The fancy party I photographed was hosted by ChickTech, a non-profit that provides tech programs for girls in the Bay Area. I had so much fun that a few days later I did another gig with The Expat Woman, a community for expat women (or American children of expats) in tech that hosts weekly networking and pitch events. Both organizations are run by volunteers, so I think it’s a wonderful way to give back to my community. Plus, everybody said they really liked my photos. My camera can finally stop collecting dust!
2. Be more active on Instagram.
I restarted using Instagram this year just to document my travels in Asia, then didn’t stop because I moved to San Francisco and had interesting things to photograph. I noticed that the more I photographed, the more my eyes visualized. Not only did my photos improve, but my creative work did as well. Especially since now I want to brand myself as a part-time volunteer photographer, I should post more than my average of 5 posts per month. I’ve posted every day in September so far because I had a lot of photos from the heatwave, but of course I won’t force myself to keep that up. It’s also important to not let Instagram take over my life.
3. Get to know someone who reads this blog.
I know I’m not the best at returning comments or reading all your blogs, but I do admire quite a few of you superwomen. I’m always getting to know people offline (I’m the queen of tea dates) but I haven’t given as much of my time to you guys as I would like. I want to have some deep convos with at least one person, perhaps face-to-face on video chat or at least voice call, unless you decide to visit San Francisco. I’ll take you on a tea date then!
4. Text one friend from New York at least once a week.
I don’t plan on going home again until the spring, and the more I think about that the more I miss my friends. Everybody is just as busy as I, and the time difference also makes it harder for me to initiate conversation because the hours I’m free they are likely to be sleeping. But these are the friends who were there to watch me during the most transformative two years of my life. I want to keep up with their lives and their dreams even if we’re far apart. Social media makes it easier for me to get a general idea of what everyone is up to, but that can’t replace one-on-one conversations.
5. Recover my body from this summer.
My body has taken a heavy toll this summer from my chronic cough and ankle sprain. Even though my ankle is mostly pain-free now, I find myself unable to climb up some of San Francisco’s hills because my fitness has decreased after not being able to exercise for so long. My chronic cough is also back again after I caught a cold from non-stop allergies that were keeping me up at night. The first step to recovery is sleeping early, which I find harder and harder to do the more I get involved in different activities. I must remind myself that nothing is more important than my health, so this is the last time I will finish writing a blog post at 3AM.