2014 was a year of career challenges, getting swole, traveling, and changing priorities. Let’s take a look at some of the goals I mentioned at the end of 2013 and see how I did.
I continued going to Crossfit all year, solidly making it my main workout. I even fundraised for, and completed, my first Crossfit competition, United for Youth 2014, for Westside Athletes Association.
I got a Runkeeper Elite subscription at the beginning of the year, and ran two races: Electric Run (5K) in Sacramento, and ran/walked Bay to Breakers (12K) as Pikachu. I didn’t want to train for longer races because running bores me, even with the Zombies, Run! app or listening to music.
I did yoga on and off with the Yoga Studio app a few times a week. In October, I started going to yoga at Giggling Lotus weekly.
One dessert per month
I planned to eat one dessert a month in 2014, with “dessert” encompassing your typical pies, cakes, ice creams, cookies, and the like. I had a solid streak of eating beautiful desserts that I photographed for about the first ten months. I reduced my dessert cravings and no longer wanted the occasional cookie or muffin, “cheap desserts,” I called them, because although they satisfied a sweet tooth, they weren’t worth the sluggishness I felt after eating them. I also realized that there were certain flavors that were consistently worth it, such as berry or apple desserts. I tried a fancy lemon tart that looked nice, but didn’t enjoy it as much as apple pie, which is one of my favorite desserts.
In November though, I started sneaking in small bites of dessert: a spoonful of ice cream, a few chocolate-covered nuts, a taste of an oreo cake. I didn’t want to miss out on trying new desserts or depriving myself of a bite of something I knew I would enjoy. I broke my streak and felt guilty, but I preferred the philosophy of having a bite of a dessert than completely depriving myself. The downside to breaking the streak was that I totally let go in December. I rationalized that, since French macarons were gluten-free and “better” than other desserts, it was okay to snack on several (um, 20 of them) over the course of a week (they were given as gifts, but that’s not an excuse). I ate ice cream when my parents came to town to visit, and ate way more mint chocolate flavored things than I should have.
Whether it was the dessert deprivation kicking in, the holidays, or hormonal cravings, overloading on desserts in December made me appreciate desserts less (and crave them more — I went on a salad binge at the end of the month to reset my system). This experiment has taught me which desserts I should be eating, if at all (the ones that I enjoy most), when to eat them (when occasions present themselves, instead of seeking them out), and how much to eat (the first bite or two is the best and won’t put me in a food coma).
No shampoo method
I tried the no ‘poo method for about three months, adjusting with apple cider vinegar and honey. I stopped because it required me to wash my hair every day, the opposite of the time saver I was hoping for. My hair stayed limp instead of full-bodied. I switched back to Organix Coconut Milk Shampoo & Conditioner and a blow dryer, and haven’t looked back since.
Learning something new every month
I was supposed to focus on DJing and creating mashups in January, but I ended up also learning some D3 for work and taking urban/street photography courses on Skillshare in the same month. I didn’t like the structure of having a month to learn something without having a clear project or goal in mind, so I changed the monthly schedule to something more fluid and on an as-needed basis.
Over the course of the year, I’ve learned a few skills this way: how to operate a photography business, I started taking advanced Chinese speaking classes, I learned violin basics from a friend, and I took up needle felting. I’ve also decided that maintaining skills were just as important, so am using Duolingo to review my Spanish and French, and have been playing the piano on and off as well.
Build design network
I went to a few meetups but found the majority of them to be of low quality. Either the socialization was in a bar, which is a suboptimal environment for having conversations because they’re so loud and crowded, or the presenters were not very insightful. The most success I’ve had was keeping in touch with existing designer friends and organizing smaller events among them or talking one-on-one about specific issues. In terms of finding a mentor, I ended up getting a lot of great advice from people at a firm that contracted with my startup. I benefited the most from having design feedback, so I sought that out specifically.
Take a photo/video every day
This habit also lasted about four months before I felt like I was forcing myself to do something I didn’t enjoy or believe in anymore. The decision to stop this habit coincided with my photography business taking off, mentioned later.
I started a San Francisco Stairway Photo Walk meetup as a way to bridge urban/street photography, building a photography network, and taking photos on a regular basis.
Nick and I wanted to start a family in the later part of the year, so we went on two international trips to “get it out of our system”. I’ve never been more fit in my life, and backpacking to Machu Picchu was one of the things on my bucket list, so we decided to do the 5-day Salkantay Trek. It was as grueling and painful as it was majestic, and made me appreciate nature and fitness even more. Our limiting factors were not our strength or endurance but our knees and feet. Walking downhill for 8-9 hours a day has left me with patellofemoral pain that lasted for months after the trip, and Nick’s recovering stress fractures in his feet almost made us want to quit after the first day. Thankfully, we were able to rent a horse for all of the second day, giving us a break on our weakest points of the trip.
For our second trip, we went to Japan with Nick’s startup cofounders Scott and George plus George’s wife, Becca. We were all good friends who appreciated Japanese culture and cuisine, so we took a 1.5-week trip exploring Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. Unlike our unstructured Mexico/Guatemala trip in 2011, we didn’t fare so well in Japan trying to be flexible, as we missed out on a lot of things we wanted to do and places we wanted to eat at because we didn’t research or plan them out in advance. This group also had different travel styles and interests, so each of us made compromises along the trip. The time difference also meant we were up at 6am even though most breakfast places didn’t open until 10am, and we went to bed earlier, when things were just starting to get interesting in the city.
Starting a family
Our travels ended in early August, and I got pregnant a month later. Nick and I are thrilled and grateful that it’s been a low-risk, healthy pregnancy so far, and we can’t wait to welcome a new member of our family in April/May (we’re not finding out the gender until it’s born)! It’s been fun reading books on childbirth and parenting, and I am constantly in awe of how much my body knows how to do on its own. Right now, we are planning on having an unmedicated home birth, have already hired a doula, and are interviewing midwives.
I went to a Women Entrepreneurship Retreat in April as a photographer, and it ended up helping me fully launch my photography business. I had a photoshoot almost every weekend for several months, volunteered with TechInMotion to cover their meetups, and had my first gallery showing. I made about 10x as much revenue as in 2013. A few months into my pregnancy, I decided to reduce the amount of clients I was taking, since certain longer shoots were more tiring and stressful. I still love doing engagement shoots and portraits, and still do photoshoots for my startup.
I’ve learned a few things about starting your own photography business and pricing. If you’re ever interested in starting your own, I’d love to chat!
One of my long-term career goals is to create a viable and remote business so that we can be location independent and travel more. I grew up in several different countries, and would like my children to have the same experience, plus, Nick and I were starting to get tired of being tourists, and wanted to immerse ourselves in a different culture. This is difficult when we are extremely comfortable living in San Francisco with our stable jobs and our networks keeping us connected to career and social opportunities.
While freelance photography makes a great side business, ultimately I want to use my design skills to make the world a better place. I started paying attention to the kind of design work I like to do and finding small opportunities to help my friends with design work to start building a portfolio. I’ve done a website audit, designed a few logos, and am working out a freelance contract for a 3-month project.
Parenting, career, and maintaining habits will be my biggest trends in 2015. Before and after my maternity leave, I plan on growing as a leader at my startup, while starting a freelance project. My photography business will be here if I ever decide to return to it part time, and I imagine I’ll be feverishly documenting my newborn in the meantime. A few habits I’d like to maintain are my piano, guitar, and ukulele skills, as well as my Chinese and French (to a lesser extent). I will continue with prenatal yoga and (scaled) Crossfit for as long as I can, and will return to Crossfit as soon as I reasonably recover from childbirth.