Sep06

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.

Note: This was taken back in New York at the beginning of the month!

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!

Being a photographer at a fancy schmancy party

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!

Tamil Ruby (red plum + ginger) & Banoffee (banana + toffee)

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.

Summer’s FINALLY here!

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.

Peach Vinegar Cobbler, Carrot Cake, Sea Salt Caramel, and 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.

Friends who stayed for Smitten Ice Cream after dinner

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.

Smoggy sunset at Golden Gate Bridge

Romantic hour at the Palace of Fine Arts

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!

Top: shots from Chicktech Gala, Bottom: shots from Female Founders Pitch Female Funders

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.

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11 Comments to "Five for Twenty-Five"

Stephanie wrote on 6th September 2017 at 9:50 AM

I’m taking you on a tea date when you next appear in SoCal! Does it still count if I don’t have my own blog and rarely comment anymore?

Glad to see that you’re enjoying the west coast! Happy Birthday!

Finally, get good enough at event photography and it can actually turn into a part-time gig. I’ve seen a couple people pull that off.

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Brandy wrote on 6th September 2017 at 8:23 PM

Happy Belated Birthday!!

It sounds like you seem to be settling down well in San Fran. Even if you weren’t able to return to the fountain at Washington Square, you still made the most of it.

I’ve heard that the heat has been oppressive on the West. Fortunately, we had a few hot days over here in our region, but nothing too unbearable.

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cantaloupe wrote on 8th September 2017 at 5:07 AM

Happy belated birthday! It sounds like you had some lovely celebrations of it and are living a good life!

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Pauline wrote on 9th September 2017 at 7:34 AM

Happy belated birthday Liv! I’m glad that you had a wonderful time celebrating it like a boss.

I’ve been reading your blog for a while and honestly have seen you change and become so much stronger. 💖 I’m so glad to see that you too can see that and are celebrating it because it really is freaking admirable!

I absoutley love that photo of you at Wasington Square Park, I can’t believe Matt and I were just there a few months ago. I honestly wish our paths crossed because I would love to meet you! 😊 Your school was just around the corner?! How crazy, I might’ve checked in on swarm close by or even taken a photo!!

I love your goals for the next year, it’s definitely motivated me and helped me reflect on myself (which I do regularly anyway but it’s always nice to have reminders! 😉) I would LOVE to talk to you more and get to know you on video call gal, LET ME KNOW 💖 Lets make it a regular thing!

Good luck with all your goals. With your mindset, everything is possible 💥 Love you!!!

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Hiro wrote on 9th September 2017 at 8:44 PM

Happy birthday!! Dude, it sounds like you had so much ice cream. Hahaah. And so many cool strange flavors.
It’s so cool you were able to attend an event as a volunteer. You get to be in the scene but also be the one getting the cool shots… I recently attended TechInclusion, which has a career fair and a conference for minorities in tech. It’s coming your way in October, I think… I recommend it if you’re looking for connections! 🙂
Good luck with your goals for the next year. Those hills in SF are killers, but at least you know you’re always getting decent workouts just by walking down a few streets… 🤣🤣🤣

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Michelle wrote on 10th September 2017 at 11:52 AM

Happy belated birthday! I am glad you had a great time! Looks fun, too!

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Cat wrote on 11th September 2017 at 12:53 AM

Happy (belated) Birthday! I’m happy for you that you’re happy with where you are now and with the changes you’ve made in your life! It sounds like you had a fun birthday with the gala and eating out with friends. So much ice cream!

I was really shocked when I heard that San Francisco reached over 100F. I didn’t think it could get that hot there! Also, your sunset photos are sooo pretty! I love the silhouettes you managed to get. Such beautiful colors and views!

I think that’s great that you’re getting into event photography and have been volunteering your time. I do it for work sometimes, and I really like being able to capture the moments and talk with people. I’m also glad you’re posting more on Instagram! It’s one of my favorite social medias, and that’s good that you’re seeing improvements in your photos 🙂

I like that two of your goals relate to keeping in touch with people! I’m not the best at striking up convos with blog buddies, but it is nice to get to know fellow bloggers more. I’m hoping to visit San Francisco this year!

Feel better soon! Your health is definitely important!

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Sue wrote on 12th September 2017 at 1:59 PM

So great we got to meet this weekend in SF. Really enjoyed the time we spent together, and getting to know you a little more. So lucky I got to try your favorite honey lavender ice cream at Salt and Straw. Hope and pray that your ankle gets better, and that your apartment stays clean from dust mites. Love your Instagram as well as the pictures you share on your blog. The sunset pictures in this post are especially beautiful.

Just nominated you for the Liebster Award. Hop over to my blog and find out more about it. Got it from Ashley ^_^

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Tara wrote on 17th September 2017 at 12:08 AM

Happy belated birthday. You’re officially a quarter-of-a-century old now XD I never have big birthday parties — going low-key is what I prefer 🙂 Actually, I like to hide at home or at a coffee shop for my birthday. It’s been a tradition of mine to take leave on my birthday — been doing that for several years now 🙂 But woot for your low-key party. Even better that one of your NY friends was in the area!

It is crazy that so much can happen in two years. I think it’s great you took the plunge to come to San Francisco. Money may be currently tight, but it’s clear that you’re so much happier and it shows so much in your photos.

That is such a good idea to volunteer your service to attend the event for free 🙂 What a fancy gala! Singaporean food and ice cream before your birthday sounds like a great combination. I’ve neer heard of those ice cream flavours, and they seem a bit wild for me! XD Honey lavender sounds more up my alley, along with the other flavours at Salt & Straw.

I now know to not visit San Fran in September. That temperature doesn’t appeal to me at all XD;;; Good luck with your five goals for next year! Here’s to another great year for you.

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Liz wrote on 17th September 2017 at 6:54 PM

Happy belated birthday!

Red plum ginger-flavored ice cream sounds like something I need to try and reminds me of this lavender-and-honey ice cream I had earlier this year at Sweet Firefly (Richardson, TX). “Banoffee” sounds familiar, but more like something I’ve seen as a froyo flavor than that of an ice cream one.

You took really great photos (in general, but also of the events)! I’ve considered volunteering as a photographer for the expo I go to every year because others they’ve had haven’t know “how to work this thing” (i.e. cameras), and I’ve lost poses with potential over it. :/ I’ve just been worried about the cross-contamination of nuts…and I also can’t stand for too long. Was it nerve-wracking to photograph either event?

I didn’t know you moved to California! I’ve been so behind on blogs and am finally catching up—and I browse photos on Instagram when I’m doped up on allergy/pain relief medication, so I don’t remember if I read something about it there. 😳 I hope you don’t get too homesick. <3 That’s such a far move.

Good luck with your goals! I need to figure out how to discipline myself to sleep better. Before I got a new laptop, this was easy because I’d pass time reading when I wasn’t watching Netflix or doing other things, and now it’s too easy to stay up until 3am or later doing things. It’s taking a toll on my body. 😣

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Claudine wrote on 22nd September 2017 at 8:38 AM

Happy belated birthday Liv! 🙂

Glad that you had a great birthday and that you were able to celebrate with your close friends. Being with people you love really makes a difference, especially when you’re celebrating in a new place 🙂 I actually prefer low-key parties over big ones, because I enjoy it more when I’m with people close to me as opposed to being with many acquaintances whom I don’t know that well yet.

I love the goals you’re setting for yourself for the next year and I hope you achieve all of them! I would love to chat with you, too! I’m actually pretty shy but I’m excited at the prospect of getting to know my blog buddies beyond their blog posts 😀

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