Retracing my Life Map

At a recent Learning and Development day at the Starbucks Headquarters in Seattle, I was pleasantly surprised by the insight I gathered on my own life.

What I’ve recently learned about myself is that I’ve always been the person who never really knew what was next in life for me. In talking about what was next, most times it’s always been: “I’m working on figuring it out.” I’ve never had specific long-term goals. Every thing has sort of fit the expression: we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. In high school, I didn’t have a dream college. I didn’t have a dream career and I still don’t. I went into my Freshman year as “undecided” or as “undeclared” as I preferred to call it.

Retracing my life map, I zoomed in on different pieces of what has made me who I am – who I was as a grade school student, who I was as a college student, who I am because of my family, and who I am right now.

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I used these notes to talk about life story to strangers to professionals at Starbucks and it was nice to be able to write it down, see, and hear how my story is unique and different from others.
  • Grade School Student: I found the theme of knowledge. I was always curious about things that I didn’t know about or had never tried. Joining clubs and sports that challenged my intellect, leadership, and various skills.
  • College Student: I found the theme of service and leadership. I joined communities and took on roles that were focused on empowering others through relationship-building, leadership, and meeting others where they are at.
  • Family: I found the theme of creating a path of my own. As the oldest of seven siblings, a first generation American and college student, and daughter of parents who didn’t complete High School, I internally told myself that I had the power to determine where my path can go.
  • Present: I’ve been focusing on values that I have been letting guide me, professionally and personally: self-awareness, growth, and goal-setting.

So the million dollar question is: what’s next after City Year?”

What I can say is that in thinking about the path that I’ve created and what’s next, I’m finding that I want to take my love and values for these themes in my life to help empower others to be their best selves and to use their path to strengthen their values and lead them to where they feel purpose and joy. I want to use my skills in creative storytelling and communication to share the work and experiences of communities and individuals.

Where this will lead me, I’m not sure, but as usual, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

February Reflection

This month’s reflection is largely themed on City Year’s PITW # 158:

“It’s a privilege for all of us to serve at City Year.”

Last week, my gratitude for the work we do and the opportunities that are available for us to take advantage of was renewed. I mean it’s pretty awesome to have such a unique role in a school and in education – someone who isn’t a teacher, but can still have the opportunities to teach planned lessons to students. Someone who doesn’t have to discipline students, but can still hold them to high expectations. We can also develop relationships in a way that other school “adults” cannot. The red jacket distinguishes us, physically, but it also means that our role is different. Sometimes the role isn’t all too clear, but I can say that I’m grateful to be able to work in a school every day and have students ask questions and express themselves to me in ways that they might not be able to do with other adults. The near-peer relationship truly makes a difference.

The opportunities are certainly what you make of it at City Year. Professionally, I have developed by just working on and with a diverse team. A team that is made up of different backgrounds, experiences, and varying styles of learning and communication. Being able go through the process of navigating and understanding the unique individuals I work with has been so rewarding and worthwhile. Individualizing and adapting has made me more aware of others and myself. I’ve gained and developed skills that I once thought I was proficient at, but realized I wasn’t until I found myself working with others who were completely different than myself. Intellectually, my mind has explored different ideas and perspectives. Ideas and perspectives of other people who come with rich knowledge on various passions. With this, most times I just choose to just stop, listen, and admire what others have to share. I may not completely understand, but when I hear others speak so passionately, it’s special. I’ve also become more reflective in my service about myself in different contexts. I’ve thought about who I am when I’m at work, when I’m at home. Who I am as a friend, a leader, a daughter, a sister. Who I am as an Asian female who is a first-generation college student and has moved so far away from her family. I’ve learned that things can be complicated, but I’m also learning what things I should simplify and what things I should really think more into.

As I’m approaching my 18 months of service with City Year, I can 100% say that it’s tested me in all kinds of ways. It’s challenged my emotions, my resilience, my confidence, and many other vital components of my being. I can also 100% say that I don’t regret my decision in choosing to commit a year of service and also a second year of service. This unique experience has offered me so much and luckily I’ve taken learning opportunities to grow and persevere. I don’t think I could have gained what I have from anything other than City Year, considering what point I’m at in life. It truly is a privilege to serve at City Year.

November Reflection

November was a month that felt like there was a lot, but at the same time, there was less chaos. Not saying that there wasn’t any chaos – just less. During the chaos and even during the calm, expressing gratitude is what kept my spirits high and mind focused and clear.

Leading the staff appreciation was heart-warming as I saw hugs and facial expressions that were filled with joyful emotions. They were guided by prompting cards to appreciate their fellow colleagues. After writing a “thank you,” they personally handed the note to the person they were appreciating. It was great. There were even a few staff members who came up to me and thanked me for the appreciation activity. Even though the staff are hard at work every day and can pass by one another mindlessly, they can find something to appreciate about one another when they take the time to think about it.

November 22nd marked a year since I started my gratitude journal. I write in it every day and started it because I wanted to really set the tone for my day in a positive and mindful way. So I started writing down the following structure and filling it out:


Today I am grateful for:




What would make today great:

Today I am glad I:

I did this every morning in hopes that I can start a day off right by thinking about three things I was grateful for, one intention I wanted to set for the day to make it great, and one self-affirmation I could list to boost my confidence in making sure the day was great.

Taking the time to be grateful for the people and things in our life can really shift your day and ultimately your life, no matter how crazy it can get.

October Reflection


Oh what a month October was. They should call it…O(verwhelming)ctober…?

So many things were happening one right after another.

Looking back at it all now, I can let out a sigh of relief.

The bright side of tough periods of time is that you learn from it and improve yourself!

The toughest part of the month were moments where I felt overwhelmed and these feelings controlled my thoughts about the support I was receiving and wasn’t receiving.

After having a conversation about that with colleagues and my Program Manager and reflecting more on what I could’ve done differently, a common theme was reappearing.

That theme is me not asking for that support. It seems pretty simple, right? If you need support, you just ask for it. Well, for some people, especially myself, it’s not that simple. It’s easier said than done.

I had to think more about why the act of asking for help is not so simple and I think I got down to the root of it.

In the context of work, I think I hold back on asking for support because:

  1. I don’t want to seem weak.
  2. I don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings.

I think by asking for support, it may seem like I’m weak and that I’m not capable of completing a task or handling work that I’ve been held responsible for. With this, I’ve truly tested my limits and discovered my extreme challenge zones. I’ve seen how far I can push myself in saying “yes” to several things and offering to do things in order for them to be done a certain way. This has caused me to not be my best self. Instead of doing these things, I need to truly know my work capacity. What can I handle right now? I need to know who I can delegate tasks to and trust that it can be done in a way that is just as good as I would’ve done, if not, better. Asking for support won’t make me seem weak. If anything, it will show strength. It will show that I am advocating for myself and for what I care enough about to ask for support with.

I think by asking for support, it may seem like I’m offending the work of someone else. I’m thinking someone else may feel like I am not appreciating the support they may feel like they are already providing me. I don’t want to seem like I don’t value the support I’m already receiving. What I need to start thinking is that they don’t know anything unless you let them know. Let them know that I appreciate them and the support they are providing and hope that they can continue to provide support in an additional way. As long as I am coming from a good place and have positive intentions, I should not feel bad about asking for support in any way.

A lot of what may stand and has stood in my way is just my mind and what thoughts I feed it. Asking for support can and will show strength and compassion. That’s what I need to keep in mind.