Physical vs. Virtual Progress

So after having the draft of my manuscript for about 6 months and continually editing it every week, I had lost some motivation. Everyday, I would face these thoughts, and these thoughts held me back.

“When is this actually going to get published?”

“Am I actually getting closer to publishing through all these edits?” I felt like I was just changing words for the sake of it and that the eyes looking at my manuscript were not paying attention to the things I actually wanted them to critique.

So I kept going back and forth with edits that would continually spring up out of nowhere. Even today I’m facing phase over phase of edits small and large that seem to go nowhere. Not surprising that the last graduate student that left my lab spent 2 years after graduating to get her manuscript published.

Finally one day I had a ‘special’ round of edits. Now, this isn’t special because of the contents. It was special in that it came in the form of a physical copy of my manuscript!! Apparently, my adviser had a wrist injury and couldn’t type comments and therefore had to print and scribble comments instead…

img_20180606_182905omg look at that THICK stack of stuff that I wrote 😮


Seeing the stack that makes up my manuscript–wow. What pride and joy. Immediately, I was encouraged and my faith is increased, “Hey this is a real thing! I’m going to publish!!”

The impact of a marker of physical progress is hundred times more impactful than the impact of virtual progress.

Don’t get me wrong, virtual progress is still important, sometimes inherent to the project, and important for reflection.

I had been engaging in tracking multiple forms of virtual progress:

  1. I dated and numbered every single draft iteration on a folder in my computer. I’m not up to 24!)
  2. I log hours worked on my manuscript with Toggl, which I use on my phone, desktop and web by their apps.
Toggl report of hours I worked on editing my manuscript (after it got written in March)

These forms of virtual progress helped me measure my work on a day-to-day basis, which kept me assured that I WAS doing stuff every day and NOT wasting my time. It also helped me in keeping organized.

However, virtual progress could not give me an aggregate sense of where I was going–a sense of the future. It could not give me a tangible feel for what I was putting daily effort into. It did not give me nearly as accomplished of a feeling as seeing that big stack of my manuscript that I had written.

Here’s my proposed solution: Turn your virtual progress into physical progress.

We still need virtual progress, since it is easier to use in our busy lives. I need to be able to use an app that works on my phone, computer, and anywhere else I sign in to track what I do between multiple locations. But by keeping all the information virtual, we will lack that ability to use tangible motivators to keep us moving.

So I would not recommend dumping your virtual indicators for more physical ones. Instead, let’s work on a transform our virtual progress into tangible ones DAILY.

Here are some of my favorite examples:

  • The star system. I have an internal goal on Toggle. I tell myself that if I work 2 hrs/day on writing, then I’ve earned 100%. Any fraction of 2 hrs gets a lower grade, which is translated into a different color. I then use physical colored stickers in my bullet journal (see photo below). It makes me so happy to put the stickers in and see them at the end. No matter the color, I still get a star!!
  • Progress mapping. My coached developed this fun coloring tool that she used to pay off her debt. I have used it for various goals (like daily Bible reading, working out, and expressions of self-love) and it’s very easy to use in my bullet journal, too.
  • Posting and participating in the daily check-in forums at the NCFDD. My school gives institutional memberships to this online resource for academics. They  have a dissertation success program that I’m half-way through. And they encourage you to post daily into their forum of grad students on your goals and daily progress. I find the community to be so supportive and inspirational. Connection with real people is so meaningful for a late-stage grad student.
My star system, color-coded by my ‘success score’ matrix on the bottom of the page.

What I really suggest is to try ALL of these AND MORE. To be honest, I had to try so many different systems before I figured out what worked for me. And there will be many more that I hear of in the future that I would like to try and add to my arsenal.

Have any you want to suggest to me? I’m all ears!

Have you tried any of these that I have suggested and want to critique it? I totally want to know how it worked for you!



How I resonated with Crazy Rich Asians

I am of Asian descent, and I mostly identify as Californian more than I do as Asian. That’s because my whole family is from and currently lives in California. I’m 100% Asian by blood, and 100% American in culture (whatever that means… I value independence, family and good food).

I understand that many Asian-Americans did not resonate with the movie. I recognize that everybody has their own story to tell and this movie just told one of the fictitious rom-com ones. Still, the direction and acting in the movie was well-done and I found plenty to resonate with.

I also suppose that I could’ve easily been one of those others who claimed to not resonate with the movie. Honestly, if it weren’t for my life experiences in the past couple of years, I would have approached the movie with a mild amusement and appreciation. And what happened in the last couple of years, you might ask? Well, I partook in my own romantic drama by meeting and marrying my husband and his family.

Related post: 22 reasons I love my husband

It wasn’t the Crazy part, nor the Rich part, nor the Asian part exactly that I resonated with. It was the aspect of families from different backgrounds coming together and a confrontation of core values. 

And so, you don’t have to be crazy, rich, nor Asian to resonate with the movie. In fact, there are SO many people who have gone through the ‘meeting of the families’ with similar trepidation and hurdles all over the place!

Note, if you haven’t seen the movie yet AND plan to AND don’t want to hear all the story plotlines, then stop reading and please come back after you have watched it to hear my side of it.

Here’s how the movie went for me:

We saw Crazy Rich Asians in theaters on Sunday. Really interesting to go out on opening weekend and yet find the theater mostly empty. We were in west Chicago where the population is mostly Mexican. Furthermore, we were the only people of Asian descent in the theater, which wasn’t weird, it just meant that there we were the only ones giving hollahs and cheers at seeing our favorite stars on screen [I love Constance and Ken, while husband loves Jimmy O. Yang].

The experience of watching the movie itself was quite pleasant. Generally, I’m not a teary mess when I watch movies and so I only really cried during two parts:  when her mom came to console her [man I love my mom] and of course at the end when Nick pops the question.

Now, resonating with Crazy Rich Asians really starts with resonating with the main character, Rachel Chu. Even though my situation isn’t the exact same as Rachel Chu (of course it’s not going to be exactly the same), there was still plenty in common as an Asian-American woman who wants to have a self-made career in being a professor and making my own life.

Rachel’s character was so well-developed that she did not follow a single trope. She had an integrated identity as an academic, romantic partner, and being a culturally aware, self-actualized, funny girl. Here are some examples:

  • She does not boast about her achievements yet confidently tells people her position during introductions. She is unapologetic about her family background and emphasizes the hard work that got her here.
  • During the Mahjong scene, she is contemplative, gentle, and coy. Being an expert in game theory, she knows what her opponent knows and uses that knowledge to affect the game and the ultimate outcome (one that has the best welfare for all parties) at the end.
  • In conversations with Nick, she expresses her true need and commitment to intimacy and truth in a relationship, *paraphrased* “It’s not about all the crazy situation and stuff that happened, it’s that I didn’t hear it straight from you.”
  • When attacked by other girls, she rose above and buried the fish. She did not slide into playing the same cat games, get greedy, or get overwhelmed when others accused her of being a gold-digger.
  • Even when she played out her ‘bok bok bitch’ plan, it involved talking about microeconomic policy with a princess and wearing a deep-v gown without typical hollywood cleavage. Like I said, no single trope can encapsulate her. it’s just… her!
  • And my favorite, which I will use in the future *wink*… “Hubba hubba!! Awooga awooga!!!”

Of course, I am not exactly Rachel Chu (she is herself, already), but I do seek the same academic-side, vulnerability, authenticity, silliness and deep connection that she does. And so I resonate with the character for who she is.

I also resonate with the character for what she goes through in the movie. She met someone special and met his family. I too met someone special and met his family in the past couple of years. I felt completely upended coming face-to-face with their expectations and being unsure if I really fit into the picture.

My husband was born in China, was raised by his grandparents for the first years and then came over to the US to join his parents who had sought higher education opportunities in California. So for the last 25 years, the family has lived in the US, moving around to various states and cities due to changing job circumstances. They speak mostly English at home and are quite integrated into American culture. Still, they are Chinese.

While getting to know my husband’s family, I never got the exact message, “You’ll never be enough,” like in the movie. But I did get some comments like, “You’re not Chinese. You’re American. Your family is American.”

Yes, this is true (I admit it at the beginning of this post). But it still caused me to be shaken when told straight to my face.

This aspect of ‘enough’ isn’t the same as in the movie. In the movie, ‘enough’ meant pedigree, wealth, ability to assimilate… Still, I got undertones about what was not ‘enough’, which meant an inability for our families to perfectly match together in tradition.

I felt like there was so much for me that I had to learn about their culture. To be honest, I didn’t really have any Chinese (like grew up in China) friends at that time. It was totally different! The China that my ancestors were from was different from the China that I had visited once as schoolkid, which again is so different from the China of today.

Today, China has so much development and abundance. Not as much per capita as in Singapore, but much more than I knew about. I was surprised that leaving food on the table was a sign of abundance, a good value instead of a bad one.

And so when I was faced with this new situation of getting to know my in-laws, there was a lot to mentally process.

I had thoughts like, “How do I fit within this family?” “What are their expectations of me?” “Do I want to be a part of that?” “If so, how will I establish my boundaries in this relationship while also adopting them as a part of me?”

The situation was made really complicated in my head especially when I went to China to meet the family.

When I got there, I behaved very similarly to how Rachel Chu behaved. I did not adapt. I felt foreign even though I looked Chinese. When people heard that I and my family didn’t speak Mandarin, there were confused faces. The conversation couldn’t really go to the deep topics that I normally enjoy talking about. So I felt like I couldn’t be myself.

Related post: The 3 major turning points in my life so far

There were also other times in our romantic relationship where I came up against competing expectations. For example, when they invited me on an international vacation and offered to pay for it, I felt belittled, as if I wasn’t able to pay for it on my own. I also felt like my companionship was being bought, which made me feel cheap. Of course, these were not their intentions–they simply were generous and wanted to alleviate a burden. But just like Rachel Chu, I was bothered that these acts didn’t come straight from my spouse.

There have been other times, too, when family actions seemed to interfere with the relationship (in good, bad, and neutral ways). And I’m sure that they’ll keep coming as we have more and more of life to live with each other. The best thing now, though, is that I have learned that I have to remain true to myself and speak my boundaries in order to not second-guess and doubt their identities as good people. 

Related post: Why do ‘good’ people do ‘bad’ things?

I’m deciding to take a high ground here and not enumerate on all the situations in the past that had bothered me about our families and the mismatch of expectations. Just trust me that there were a lot of little things that I had to progressively climb the brave mountain to become more okay with each one. Instead, I want to focus on what I DID to navigate it.

One of the first things I had to do was conscious complaining. I found a friend whom I could catch up with periodically to dump all of the complainings on. This friend was safe–all confidentiality and zero judgments. This was important since I probably said insensitive and naive things that I wouldn’t want to be repeated. Lastly, this friend could really empathize and tell me that ‘those things are normal for Chinese people,’ which really grounded me back to reality and put everything into a healthier perspective.

Second, I had to focus on what my ultimate core values were. Autonomy told me that it was not okay for another family to have a say in what I do. Intimacy encouraged me that I want to actually have a close relationship with this new family in the long-run, which is more important than the actual issues between us. Honesty told me that I had to speak up on what I was feeling. Self-development encouraged me that I would definitely grow in my courage and self-expression to have an actual serious conversation about this. Spirituality helped me put faith in God’s sovereignty during the process.

And then lastly, I had to set the actual boundary. I had never been vulnerable yet with my in-laws at the time. But two Thanksgivings ago it was really tugging at me and I had to have a sitdown conversation when I came to visit them. I cried a LOT when divulging on how it made me feel to have their involvement in my life, even though I couldn’t explain well the reason for it. I pushed hard for a new guideline on communication, which felt suuuper uncomfortable. And they listened, asked questions, and agreed!

Related post: The value and normalization of discomfort

Now, I make it sound super simple, but it kinda was even though it’s going to feel super tough in the first 10 minutes. The key will be how much you stick to it despite the initial pain. Resolution comes through perseverance and keeping your mind set on the fulfillment of your values.

What would Rachel Chu have done? I really believe, based upon the kind of character she is, that she would’ve done the exact same thing if she were in my situation. She’d gracefully confront, knowing her true values in achieving deep relationships and self-actualization.

If you or a friend are going through something similar with the clash of family values, you are not alone! This is a universal struggle–take heart! I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment or setup a time to chat with me so I can learn about it.

Is your PhD stuck on Mars? Apply the Martian Method

Tips for those who are stuck due to external circumstances. I’ve experienced this during the summer and would say that I’ve engaged in step one everyday and it really helps! And once I’ve taken care of myself, steps 2 and 3 have happened more naturally and with less resistance. Thanks, @roseychang

The Thesis Whisperer

Ever felt stuck? All researchers, no matter how experienced, get stuck sometimes, but during your PhD, when the clock is ticking, getting stuck is very stressful. This post is by Rosemary Chang: academic developer, writer and researcher. In her role at RMIT University, she partners with university staff on scholarshipof learning and teaching (SoTL) initiatives. Her PhD research explores writers’ experiences of strong emotions in connection to writing through the lens of mindfulness. Her project involves teaching mindfulness meditation to creative writers, and developing a novel. Her interests include Zen arts practice, contemplative education, and mindfulness in the curriculum.

She tweets about writing, mindfulness and life @RoseyChang.

‘Hello!’ to anyone who’s stuck in their PhD. I feel for you. As I write, I’m half-way through my PhD program, and I’ve been stuck too. I’m out the other side now, but it’s made me think: a PhD and Mars have…

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How I became an activist

It really was the Chicago Urban Program (CUP) that helped me change my identity from a lost child trying to make the best sense of the world to an activist who has the capability to make lasting change in peoples’ lives on an individual and grand scale.

In this program, we were given a scriptural basis for why God longs for there to be justice, reconciliation, and renewal on earth. When I read Isaiah 58 during a morning devotional, it was so clear to me,

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

How do you feel when you read this?

Well, so I must’ve read this before (because I know I have read the entire Bible in 2015). But when I read this in Spring 2017, I was realizing for the first time that all along I had permission to carry out social justice. Before, I  was scared of partaking in social justice because of how politically charged it can be. I was also afraid of it because I didn’t know how Christians were supposed to behave. My eyes were not yet unveiled to see that Christianity MEANS serving others like how the Lord serves.


It’s the same kind of mind-altering, paradigm-shifting event as taking calculus for the first time … or even better, physics WITH calculus… or EVEN better, being born again through the Holy Spirit.

Now I am better in my awareness, able to recognize causes that are aligned with social justice and able to assess how effective they’re doing. Once I do that, I am now able to join alongside them, vouch for them, give them praise and support them.

Remember, it’s always a gain in consciousness BEFORE we can act on it. That’s because our action always has to be a choice. Forcing someone else into serving doesn’t work. It’s their choice, which means it has to come from their eyes being open in the first place.

The choices that I make now are to dive head-first into things that’ll scare me if I know that it’ll pay out in emotional connection, compassion, understanding, and empathy.

I want to raise my voice since noone else can tell my story. My voice is just among the thousands, but it’s all a growth process that we must all undergo to be effective citizens of this world. Right after attending CUP, I attended my first public march to show solidarity (especially as an Asian American) and to let people know that it’s possible to hold a ‘middle’ viewpoint (an opinion that doesn’t fall into one extreme or the other).

The sign I made for the March for Science felt super brave to me.

It scared me to do that, but I used my courage muscles. I got some affirmation from some who agreed. But mostly, I didn’t really get a response. I conjecture that maybe people aren’t used to non-polarized stances. And that’s okay.

I want to be ears for those who have stories ready-to-tell. We know that everyone has a story, but now I get to listen, validate, and connect those stories to others that I’ve heard.

I now find myself being more likely to watch a video with a polarizing title. Before, it would scare me. I was scared that I’d have a bad reaction to it. Or I was scared that it would challenge my point of view that would weaken me. Now though, I know that curiosity and listening is WAY more important than the negative consequences that I feared. Furthermore, I noticed that no negative consequences came when I truly listened to another point of view. Instead, my perspective shifted and became stronger, wider, more encompassing, closer to the truth.

I’ve really wanted to write this post for a long time but never knew exactly how to do it. That’s my clever brain (the unproductive spirit who negates everything good in my life haha) getting me down. Clever brain told me that I had to have the perfect wording to not offend others. It told me that there’s no use in putting my story out there because it’s not inspiring enough. And yea, maybe this won’t go viral, but that doesn’t invalidate my writing, processing, and courageous act of hitting ‘publish’.

The dreaded doctoral defense

I love this list of “A Few Helpful Affirmations

Every time panic hits, practice defensive affirmations:
I am perfectly competent, confident, express, poised.
I am in command of myself.
I look forward to sharing what I know and have learned.
My defense goes perfectly.
The committee is for me.
I trust my knowledge, good work, and good mind to come up with the right answers.
I know everything I need to know, instantly.
I now visualize the movie of my perfect defense. I see myself poised and self-assured, talking easily about any aspect of the work, adlibbing from the PowerPoint. I graciously accept all compliments about the brilliance of my presentation. I hear the chair’s magic words, “Congratulations! You have passed!””

The Thesis Whisperer

An oral defence, or Viva, is common in the UK, Europe, NZ. The viva is less common in Australia.  Most Australian students will do a final presentation before the PhD, but many universities are currently discussing how to introduce a defence as part of the examination process, so we can expect a defence of some sort to become more common.

In the USA, the viva is called a ‘doctoral defense and PhD students have the additional challenge of being examined by their supervision committee. The US system is so different I don’t tend to write specific posts to address the various challenges because I don’t have any first hand experience, so I’m always grateful when a US colleague offers to write one.

This post is by Author, editor, writing coach, dissertation nurturer, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne, Ph.D. (Columbia University) has published over 400 academic, writing craft, and spiritual articles…

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Struggles of writing a manuscript discussion

So I’ve been in the process of writing my first first-author manuscript for like the past 6 months. The process has been super long and I’ve learned a lot so far…

I started in December with my figures and an outline.

While waiting for my PI to read and give me comments, two other papers come out in the field with studies on my same gene of interest using cool transgenes that I don’t have (but I get them sent over from Europe so future generations of grad students can have them). PI says, ‘let’s get our paper accepted within the next 6 months.’ Cool! Would love to. Let’s get working!

After fleshing out the entire results section, my PI then suggests that the whole format needs to be changed up. I basically agree since s/he gives me historical context of how reviewers have reacted to our group’s papers in the past.

So now comes March. I’ve rewritten it all and send it out back to PI and to my committee members since we have a scheduled meeting in April. I end up taking time (of course) to prep for that meeting. It goes smashingly 😀

Now it’s Spring quarter and PI is teaching two classes along with all the other stuff they do. I keep up the pace of writing 2 hrs/day, sending new drafts once a week. Through all this, I’m thinking, ‘it’d be nice to get some feedback to help me in my writing. I’d hate to be told too late that my claims are off/story isn’t compelling/context is misinterpreted.” During our weekly meetings, PI just says, “looks good, keep writing, i’m busy.”


Here’s the list of constraints:

PI said that paper should be ACCEPTED (not just submitted, but have gone through revisions and everything) by August.

I should have the paper submitted before I apply for graduation and go on the academic job market, which I wanted to do really soon.

I can’t change others.

I’m only human. I know my limits.

In prayer, God has told me multiple times to just focus on this manuscript during this season and to not take up anything else (this is actually really hard for me. hm… future blog post idea).

sigh… yea so that’s basically if someone asks me, “how are you doing?” Then nowadays I typically respond with talking about how I’m trying everyday despite these constraints.

this is my face through my computer webcam… distressed in-bed manuscript writing

And now to the actual meat of my post. The reason why I wanted to write this in the first place was because I was encountering some difficult thoughts in my head while writing the discussion section of my manuscript this month. Here they are in detail:

“my findings aren’t good enough to make such strong claims”

or the one that accompanies it, “maybe I’m making too strong of claims. I gotta watch and temper my language.” Either way, these thoughts cause me to hesitate and stop writing. The worst kind of thoughts are ones that stop the practice.

“the other authors i’m referencing will have beef with me”

this is totally fear inducing. The fear of the unknown uncertain future of how other people will gnash their teeth against me. Of course, when taking a third party perspective on this, it’s easy to think, “no way. You’ve even met these people in the field and they’re super helpful and kind.” PI advises me to only say nice things, not that I was going to negatively comment on their work. But I guess what I’m really afraid of is just calling them out–of engaging academically with these other lab groups and professors. It’s a sign that I’ve grown from being just a student who is the recipient of learning and now I am a contributor of knowledge. It’s so grown up it’s scary.

“Am I sure that this idea hasn’t been mentioned before in the literature?”

When I have this thought, I then start to become frantic and obsessive about reading everything I can possibly can to find the answer in the literature. I then proceed to exhaustively search, get all riled up, and end up with the same conclusion… that no, it hasn’t mentioned before. Yea.. after hours of work and reading I essentially end up in the same place. Same, but now I’m more tired and need some self-care in order to keep writing again.

“I knew I had something to say about this data……………… But I can’t remember.”

This thought typically happens when I get low in emotional, spiritual, mental and/or physical energy. When it happens, another unhelpful thought comes up, “welp, I guess this means that you don’t care about your research.” Soo unhelpful because even if that is true, it’s putting a break on the progress that I need in this stage of life. If I’m going to live in obedience to my calling, then this paper is the only thing for me to focus on. (Note I omitted phrases like “what I should be doing” or “need to finish ASAP” because they’re untrue)

So conclusion: just keep swimming. Whatever keeps me on progress is good. Whatever doesn’t just doesn’t. Amen?

The post-wedding To-Do list

crap. There are things I STILL have to do after my wedding? After spending almost a year on planning a wedding, somehow you’d think that there’d be a moment of rest afterwards. Well here’s the answer: Yes, you can have rest! After you address the following things:

Here in this blog post, I’m going to do the stereotypical thing and list a bunch of stuff and explain why you gotta do it. But I’m also going to provide the lazy alternative. Granted, these alternatives may not jibe with your family’s expectations, but it’s worth considering.

If you are in the stages of pre-wedding planning, it might be important to take note of the things here to preemptively plan to do the lazy version to avoid future decision fatigue, headaches and items on the to-do list.

1- Thank you cards

This is a highly debated topic with regard to the etiquette of thank you cards. There are pins telling how you ‘should’ word them and how long after the wedding you need to send them. Some suggest you send a photo from the event along with it. yadayadayada…

For me, sending thank you cards was high on the to-do list because it was an external sign of how ‘on top of it’ we are as a new couple. By sending thank you cards within 2 months of the wedding and before the holidays, I wanted to send a message, ‘I’m a well-put together human being”.

The lazy method: for those that really would like to minimize the work, create a template on something like mail merger and then print them. If your family and friends aren’t picky about getting a handwritten note (most aren’t), then you can really save your hand some pain and time.

2- The registry

There are so many things to deal with the registry. Firstly, you probably want some of the items on the registry that noone actually purchased. And registries often have ending discounts where you can get 10-20% off of purchases on the registry after your wedding date. So order those things.

Second, if you have a good registry like Zola, you can hold shipment, exchange and return items without your guests knowing. So I’ve ended up in over $350 in gift credit that I plan to use at some point on any furniture, gadget or experiences. I gotta keep mindful of this money since I’d hate to not use it. Overall, returning and exchanging things on the registry took up in total the most time in my pre-wedding planning stage. This can actually be a real timesuck despite it sounding so awesome.

The lazy method: have a funds-only registry. Or no registry altogether. Cash is king.

3- The dress

My wedding day was rainy. My dress got plenty dirty with sweat, food, drink and mud. Also at some point the bustle and hem tore during dancing. Cleaning and repairing can get quite costly. Taking my dress to Davis Imperial Cleaners, they quoted me for around $500 to clean and repair and around $700 to also do a museum-quality preservation. Heck no! My dress only costed me $475. I’ll have to go down to the local Korean ajoomah cleaners to sort this out.dirty dress

Why does this matter? Because my husband has this lofty idea of, “one day our fictitious ‘daughter’ might want to wear your dress.” Oh dear, sounds just like my dad. Well, ya know, that takes storage space for decades and there’s no guarantee that a ‘daughter’ would even like my dress (I didn’t like my mom’s). If it were up to just me, I’d donate the dress and have them deal with all the repairs and cleaning. But nowadays I don’t make decisions on my own anymore.

The lazy way: trash the dress. No, not one of those photoshoot things that cost more time and money. Just like, hand it off to your local donation center and write it off on your taxes.

4- Decorations

There are the immediate to-do list items like returning rentals tossing one-use items. Don’t forget to do or delegate these things to avoid late fees and the feeling that your coordinator will get at the end of the evening, “What am I supposed to do with this stuff?” I’ve seen this happen before and it is stressful.

What did I do? I waited about 2 months before finally asking for the leftover decorations back from my helpful friend and then let the box sit in the trunk of our car for another 3 months. In my mind, I wanted to pass them down or sell them to someone else so they could get used again. But in reality they sat until my in-laws announced their visit from out of town. I very quickly dropped the box off at Goodwill to have space in our car for their stuff.

The lazy and better way: Plan ahead of time just to donate the stuff. And then do it, swiftly.

5- Money matters

Starting that joint bank account and investment accounts. Making and refining the budget. Getting each other as authorized signers on the credit cards and making sure we have transparency on our spending. Do it sooner rather than later because I’m sure you’d like to figure out what you’re going to do with all of your cash gifts. This is not done in one evening, since it should be tailored to your own individual needs.

For example, we save just as much as we spend. We also have a very specific goal of saving to buy a house once I get a job. So we’ve spent plenty of discussions on the best location for our saved money (one that keeps it safe, liquid and conservatively growing) and the strategy of how to put away over the course of 2 years (not all at once to increase market diversity).

Also, we want to travel internationally before we have children (see also #8-The Honeymoon), which requires money. So paying close attention to a budget is important to have greater awareness of our cash flow and be able to be disciplined by it in our lifestyle. I use Tiller, which links accounts and gives spreadsheets which are fully customize-able. Their blog also holds a lot of cool spreadsheet tips (most which don’t require knowing how to code Excel).

The lazy way (but more expensive): I’d really recommend folks to not ignore money matters. Reading up and educating yourself will take more time. Or you can hire a financial adviser to set things up for you. Technically this is more expensive (you pay your new friend in fees), but it’s so much easier.

6- Life insurance

This saves you money in the long run. Husband’s company provides some life insurance, but really we should both have while we’re healthy and childless. Still on the to-do list.

There is no lazy way on this, unless you never intend to have life insurance while on this earth.

7- Writing a will

Our prenup states that without a will, all of our assets get turned over to the surviving spouse in case of death. At this point in our lives, that is mostly made up of separate assets that we have prior to marriage. Ultimately, we’re okay with that (cuz duh it’s in our prenup), but it would be most wise to consider where else we’d like our separate assets to go in case of death (like my brother or favorite non-profit).

The lazy way: don’t have a will and live with the fact that all your stuff will go to your new husband when you die.

8- The honeymoon

We did not take a full honeymoon after our wedding in November. We were kinda out of vacation days and wanted to save what we had left for visiting family for the holidays. So we did a short trip to Vegas and then planned to have a longer trip this coming summer.

I liked that I didn’t have to plan a huge international trip while wedding planning. But that means that I have to do it now. aiya… It’s been difficult because I don’t want to go woman-crazy and plan the entire thing on my own (which I can effectively do in like 2 days). Instead, I want this to be an opportunity to collaborate and get husband’s input. It’s just slower…

The lazy way: Buy a trip that’s planned for you. You can find some that are not that expensive and take away a huge headache. But beware! In order to do something like that, you gotta let go of your personal ideal for vacations and accept whatever you’re given. —don’t like the restaurant they planned for your romantic dinner? Suck it up or plan it yourself.

9- Name change

Get the marriage certificates, change social security card, drivers license, passport, bank accounts, school registration, credit cards, TSA precheck (they’re the worst… requiring everything by fax), rewards programs (frequent flyer, anything that matches my credit card name), email address, business cards, social media…. and the list keeps going.

The hardest thing is to change it in my own psyche. I still answer the phone with my maiden name and don’t always respond to being called by my married name. Only time can make it better.

The second hardest thing is the personal grief that I got from other professors. At my last committee meeting, they told me to keep my name. Excuse me? That totally crossed my personal boundary.  But what did I tell them? “okay” … just to get them off my back

The lazy way: Keep your name. Companies like Hitchswitch don’t even do all the little name changes (like your online profiles and rewards programs), which to me were the most annoying. I don’t recommend them.

10- Photos

Getting all the prints and things is super satisfying. I was pushed along in my timeline because I wanted to get these beautiful album books out to my parents in time for Christmas (6 weeks after our wedding). Thankfully, our photographer was a fantastic designer and has great printing connections. The end product was beautiful!!

Gold gilded edges on these books and a custom cover photo. Yes, it was over $300, but totally worth it since it included the design.
Canvas print! and our first christmas tree 😀

Hopefully your photographer keeps their online order portal open for you for as long as you need. Or maybe you’ve already downloaded all the photos and want to get them printed on your own. I recommend having the photographer order the prints because they’ll be able to edit them based upon the printer. Places like Costco and Shutterfly don’t do that so I’ve seen prints from there at low quality or too dark.

Lazy way: Don’t get prints and just set it as a digital background image to keep reliving your memories.

Bottom line

The to-do list never ends. Even when I’m done tackling all of these tasks, there will definitely be more to be done in life. I’m trying to publish and graduate, after all.

My tips: learn for yourself the best ways to install habits for when you need to get something done. How? Trial and error and a lot of guidance and self-compassion. If you struggle with these things, it’s super normal, and I can actually help you. Set up a meeting time with me here.

Flow–of mental state, work and bowels

I just wrote over 500 words today for my manuscript introduction and feel super accomplished 😀 😀 😀

Also, I’ve adopted a progress-mindset with regard to my life and am looving the feeling of being free of the world’s judgement.

And yes, I’ll be a little TMI… my bowels are regular (1 to 2 movements ever day)!!! How are all these things related? FLOW

What does flow mean? Not in-the-moment flow that was described by Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book. That’s something great and different. I’m talking about the physicality of flow, not the feeling.

My process of workflow:

  • determine what needs to get done,
  • understand how important things are (sometimes by failing multiple times and getting well-acquainted with the consequences),
  • feeling the motivation (which really depends on how my self-love meter is doing… If I’m not well-fed, then NO WAY do I feel motivated to do anything),
  • doing it (and treating it as an experiment),
  • and then getting the feedback, what a process!

Feels like stupidly simple in my mind. Yet, I had the hardest time getting to this point in my life. I’m a 5th year PhD candidate, working on my project for YEARS and sitting on my dataset for almost 6 months without real output in terms of writing. Also, how did I not know that I was supposed to feel natural urges in my body to defecate after every major meal? I guess I was lacking in my awareness.

Well of course, the real difference comes in after I experience for myself what the change is. I seriously feel so much better. And if I knew how it would feel back then, then I would’ve made the changes in my life earlier. But I was clouded by other things that were clogging the pipes.

Perils of clogged pipes

There’s no flow when things are standing still. Only when things starts moving and the pipes begin clearing, I realize the importance of the workflow once stuff is coming out and getting the feedback.

To use the biological example, when we don’t have regular bowel movements, the stuff gets overly processed by gut bacteria, then dries out and things can’t pass. So everything’s made so much WORSE just by not having flow. Then everything feeds back on itself because you don’t realize how much you need to go when there’s no movement… therefore you don’t go as often…

In terms of my work, it is the same as well. Without the daily habit of writing, I leave my thoughts in my head or unheard in my daily audio journal. Without thoughts on the page, words can never interact with each other or be edited. So the whole thing gets stagnant. Stagnant thoughts (ruminations) run through your mindspace over and over again and never get digested or turned into anything. So then what? You end up becoming more and more prone to ruminate without any new ideas to kick yourself in the butt.

How Progress-mindset fits in

now, I have to include this section because it’s very easy to interpret the topic of motivation as guilt-inducing. Many of us have incorrect beliefs that when the pipes are clogged, we must punish ourselves into getting things moving again. We use tactics of depravity to motivate ourselves into doing ‘productive’ things.

This is a terrible cycle for two reasons: 1) The guilt stems from a fixed-mindset, and 2) We deprive ourselves of the actual tools that we need to succeed (like self-compassion).

The thought, “I was bad yesterday because I didn’t write” or “My boss will be mad at me because I haven’t made progress on this” links productivity to goodness. Are you good only when you’re productive? Are unproductive people bad people? You see how this logic fails?

The solution: Exchange your fixed-mindset to a progress-mindset. Acknowledge where you are NOW and notice that it is on a progress line toward your goal. “Yes, I didn’t write yesterday, and today I wrote for 1 hr, and tomorrow my goal is 2 hrs. I will get to my goal over time.” It takes generosity toward your self-image to do this. It takes self-compassion and love to do this. It takes acceptance of grace and mercy to do this.

I love how much progress-mindset applies in life. Share with me how it has applied so far in yours!

[common question: what’s the diff between progress-mindset and growth-mindset?

answer: there isn’t one. I like to use ‘progress-mindset’ because it helps me see that sometimes progress looks like a step back to get toward your goal in the long-run.]

Does a committee meeting every go better than expected?

There is dread, panic, and scrambling associated with committee meetings. Why?

Is it because it’s our one time a year to ‘prove ourselves’? Well that assumes that our self-worth is defined by how my chosen 4 faculty members react to what I present to them.

Is it because we have benchmarked how much data we need to produce in a year’s time and have already assumed that our data is not up to that benchmark?

Is it a cultural phenomenon… because we’re so used to hearing from our fellow students about how they never get good sleep leading up to a committee meeting, doing so many extra experiments, and need ‘treat’ days afterwards? And so we get psyched up when ours come near and start the cycle over again.

Or does it have to do with the committee themselves? Is it that academic faculty are overly harsh, demanding, and demeaning towards students to better prepare them to become future academics? I kinda feel this way based upon my past 3 years of committee meetings. Is this a universal phenomenon?

Well, no matter the reason why, is there a way to combat this? These negative associations of committee meetings can be very harmful for the well-being of graduate students. So it’s really important that we figure out ways to promote our well-being during these times. Here’s what I’ve got to offer:

I just finished my 5th year committee meeting this afternoon. It’s the 3rd one that I’ve had since being admitted into PhD candidacy. In the past meetings, the faculty have been rude and demeaning towards my character, seniority, and level of expertise. They have made bold requests of me without generosity or providing adequate mentorship to help me complete these goals. Each time I went into these meetings, I felt broken down and blindsided. Why did I not get forewarning about the issues they had with my data? Why am I only hearing now that my presentation sucks? How am I supposed to NOT cry during these meetings?

Well, I can tell you now that I had to gain essential skills in order to navigate these situations. I now can say for certain that going through this grad school process was really tough. It is through this process that I had to learn. I also was able to gain other skills in mental wellness that helped significantly. And what’s the outcome: the committee meeting I just jumped out of went WAY better than anticipated. I literally heard, “Good job” from every member and nobody requested anything unreasonable from me in the next 6 months. Hallelujah! Furthermore, I’ve settled on a timeline to graduation by the end of this year 2018 and I could not feel more proud of myself.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Mindset- Without a growth mindset, I would’ve never changed my view of my committee members. I would’ve held the mindset forever that “They’re terrible people” or “My work will never be good enough” or “They’ll never let me graduate with this”. All of these thoughts are soooo unhelpful. They hold me back. I want to be grown and so I got with the growing process.
  2. Generosity- Of course, once I had the mindset to grow, I had to figure out how to do it. I had to reverse and toss aside all of these unhelpful thoughts. I did that by using the principle of generosity. Here’s how it works. Instead of knowing for certain that Dr. ___ is a terrible misogynist, I use the most generous assumptions instead: “Maybe Dr. ___ is having a bad day. Everybody has bad days. He is doing the best he can.” OR “Maybe nobody taught Dr. ___ how to behave nicely and give constructive feedback in a non-degrading way. I’ll assume that he actually means to be nice but doesn’t know how.”
  3. Boundaries- What’s okay and not okay for me can only be determined by myself. For example, it’s always okay to put my well-being first. Getting at least 8 hrs of sleep instead of spending extra hours on my presentation is always okay. It’s not okay for somebody to make personal comments against me. I practiced in my head of how I would say, “Excuse me? Did I hear that correctly? What you said is not okay with me. Can we stick to my data?” in case of a sticky situation.
  4. Confidence- Nobody is going to give you something you don’t ask for. So yea, why not ask for an aggressive timeline? The worst that could happen is that they deny it and I end up exactly in the same spot as I’m in now. I’ve learned that things move wayy faster when I just ask for them upfront with confidence.
  5. Vulnerability- Along the way, I opened up to others about what had happened in my previous committee meetings and was met with a lot of support, commiseration and commitment in helping. I first shared in our student-only seminar, in which I felt ULTRA vulnerable. And recently I opened up to my adviser about my struggles with particular faculty. He was able to validate my concerns by sharing more about these faculty and that I shouldn’t be worried since his sole opinion doesn’t determine everything.

I’d really like to share this learned knowledge with as many people as possible. For the current grad students, I hope that this can help curb expectations surrounding committee meetings and help you manage your own thoughts. For prospective and first year students, I hope this encourages you to get more curious about the end-stages of grad school. There’s so much that we go through, and oftentimes we end up silo-ing ourselves out of self-protection. But the more you ask us questions on how to navigate, the more you’ll gain. For everybody else, these principles are applicable in all fields. Let me know how you’ve learned them throughout your careers! And I’d love it if you’d share this article with loved ones that could gain from reading these lessons.

Should I keep my fast after Lent?

omg canafe and date cake ahhhhhhh

Here’s my problem: I did a partial fast during Lent (six weeks) and a raw fast during Holy week (four days). I felt great! And now I don’t want to go back to my normal diet. Yet I know there’ll be inevitably a time when I’ll be eating out at my favorite restaurants, participating fully in potlucks, and cooking our weekly batched meals of delicious things. Here in this blog post, I’ll list out my fears, weaknesses, hopes and tentative plans to help myself in sorting out the answer to this question.

My observations

I broke my raw fast last weekend at our church’s Easter retreat. The week before, I was only eating raw fruits and vegetables. When I broke the fast, I started with eating eggs, fruit and yogurt for breakfast. For lunch, I had beans and salad. Then for dinner I tried a little bit of gluten free spaghetti. Overall, I was filling only 1/4 of my plate with these ‘new foods’ and I stayed away from meat.

Now here’s where the trouble started. I was 1000% eager and excited to eat a cookie for dessert. However, two bites in I knew it was a bad decision. Immediately my mood and stomach dropped, I felt the blood sugar rise in my head which made me feel dizzy, and all of this killed my excitement. The realization that the sugar made me feel bad really sank in. My all-or-nothing mentality kicked in and I began to wonder, “Will I ever be able to eat dessert again?” I began to grieve. I held the cookie flat in my hand and looked at it sorrowfully. I wanted to hold onto it, but I knew I couldn’t eat it.

So what should I do? I know it was only the first day. Yet the next day I could barely finish half a marshmallow despite really wanting to indulge in it. And the day after that I was upset about being served a full slice of cake during a birthday celebration. My sorrow and grieving process surrounding sweets is a real thing. I want to recognize it and give it space. And then I want to work it out and find a new lifestyle that feels authentic to me and honors my body.

My weaknesses

Desserts. I love desserts. They’re so bad for me and I love them.

Three years ago, after reading Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, I decided to stop eating as much grain-based foods in order to better serve my brain function. At the time, though, I could not give up desserts. So I told myself that I could keep holding onto desserts and instead give up bread, pasta, and rice. The transition was difficult. I still craved eating a whole baguette in one sitting, but I’ve successfully been free from those foods since. I started eating more vegetables in greater variety and I’ve mostly lost my carb cravings.

However all the meanwhile I was still indulging in desserts as much as possible. I said yes to every dessert offered and would often grab multiple at the buffet line in order to give everything a try. I was a dessert-kind-of-girl. It’s part of my identity. Even my husband admits that he gained weight ever since meeting me because of desserts. oh no…

In my desk drawers at work, I have about 6 boxes of girlscout cookies. What do I do now? My weaknesses are this: I associate hording sweets as part of my personality. Getting rid of them is not an option in my head. I’d rather just keep them there and not eat them instead of giving them away.

Deep down, I have a couple theories of where this originated. I didn’t grow up with food insecurities, but I did have a brother who would devour all snacks in the house with lightening speed. I believe that I adapted to his behavior. Well I suppose no matter where it came from, that’s the way I am today.

My fears

that if I let go of all sugar products, I’ll be losing something irreplaceable.

that if I don’t eat dessert, I won’t enjoy eating or going out.

that I’ll be in a mode of depravity and be labeled ‘silly’ if I cut out all added sugar.

that I won’t know how to strike a balance of good and bad sugars and therefore be in paralysis my whole adult life going forward.

Already, by putting these fears into words, I feel the emotion of fear and anxiety rush into my cheeks. My heartbeat is rising, I’m breathing less… Yet, seeing them in front of me makes me think, “oh silly Lindsey, you’ll be just fine.”

My hopes and next steps

This blog post has already had therapeutic effect on me. I can see my thoughts and feelings more clearly and am able to swallow them. I know that this issue is not insurmountable and that with continued work, I’ll get through it.

My abstainer qualities make it hard for me to moderate. It’s like constant decision fatigue of, “should I eat this?” “should I buy this?” “should I throw this out?” AHHH!!! I’d rather have my all-or-nothing mentality to help me with this. But maybe it’s not the answer.

Here’s the experiment! I will pay attention to my hunger scale and only have sweets when I’m at -2. I will eat sweets SLOWLY, letting them melt in my mouth, or chewing them at least 30 times per small bites. And I won’t buy any more things with added sugar. Yes, I’m just adding more rules, but maybe rules just work for me, okay?

I’ll update in the next month or so about how it’s going…

and of course, if you were looking for the spiritual discussion about fasting after Lent, here’s what my research (personal and read) has taught me:

  • the principles and practices of Lent can be observed every week, treating every Sunday as Easter Sunday. This actually is a good thing because it cultivates a weekly longing for the resurrected Christ.
  • The more attentive and healthy I am with my body, the more I am growing in my self-awareness (a core value of mine). You could also see this as proper stewardship. 1 Cor 6:19
  • I’m still going to lay off coffee, which is still technically a partial fast.
  • “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them.” 1 Cor 6:12-13