Discover more from loaf of thought
I’m going to be totally honest here; I’m writing this on December 31st. And you will most likely have it in your inbox on the same day, the last day of 2021. I’m a procrastinator and this makes perfect sense, but I’ve been wanting to write to you all before the year ends.
So for the sake of brevity, let’s treat this like a normal monthly newsletter for now…
i’m feeling lucky
As always, here’s the playlist for the month. It’s got subtle notes of hope, ease, and energy. Enjoy and let me know what you think!
(Archive playlist can be found here)
Moka’s Way Out
Let’s begin with our third and final installment of the Stories of Moka. In the past couple months, I’ve seen my friend Moka less and less. I’ve been busy with work and visitors, so I couldn’t always visit my bodega friend. My lunches became proper meals with friends or family that were visiting and therefore I couldn’t pop into the store to see Moka. I felt bad. I knew that Moka really enjoyed talking to me and just seeing me everyday. I did too! On one Thursday I got a Whatsapp message from Moka:
“Hi, hope you are ok. Enjoying your time with family?”
This message meant a lot to me. It showed that Moka was thinking of me and my family. He was thinking of me even though he had so much to worry on his own plate. Let’s rewind for a second. Do you remember Moka’s daily schedule? He wakes up and sends his son to school early in the morning. Then he gets ready and comes to work by noon. He works a fat 9-hour-shift sitting behind a counter at the store tending one customer after another. And then he’s home by 11 just to do it all over again the next day. Rinse and repeat for 6 days each week. Doesn’t seem bad? Yeah except he gets paid shit wage and he deals with the worst people. Moka would tell me all the time how he hated dealing with the people that came to the shop. Some were rude, some were thieves, some were nice, some were smelly, and some were loud. I was only there for 30-40 mins every time to get my lunch and have chat but even when I spent that time, I experienced a little slice of the day Moka had. Moka developed some strong opinions of different kinds of people during his time there. I told him to not judge people based on their color but it was hard to convince since he saw these people in their rawest form. Mind you, this bodega is not located on Billionare’s Row. This is the Lower East Side, home of the homeless. Moka has seen it all working behind the counter all week.
In the last few weeks I’ve had here in New York, I visited Moka more often. I spent more time during my lunch breaks and went back to visit after work. I liked hearing Moka’s opinions and thoughts on life. He complained daily on his work and how was eager to move to another job. And he had been looking for all kinds of work but it isn’t easy as undocumented immigrant. He didn’t have TPS yet and couldn’t apply with a work permit. But he kept searching. And I reassured him that it would all work out in due time. His consistency would pay off. I told him that the day I come into the store to find him gone would be a happy day, knowing that he’d found a better gig. But soon my time in New York was coming to a close and Moka’s search was still unsuccessful. On one of my last days, I went to the store as usual to get lunch. There was a line of 4 people at the counter but Moka looked past them and welcomed me with an especially big smile. Something was up. I did my usual walk around the store waiting for the line to dissipate and eventually crept up to the counter hoping for some good news. Quietly, he told me:
“I’m finally leaving this damn place. I got a job.”
He had been waiting all day to tell me and hadn’t told anyone at the store yet. I was absolutely thrilled. It literally made my day. I was secretly hoping to leave NYC knowing that Moka would be happier with his life and be in a better place. He told me about how he had found this shipping company in Jersey that wanted to hire him as the transational manager. He’d be able to work normal hours from 9-5 for 5 days a week with holidays off. He could spend more time with his wife and son, and maybe even spend a little time on himself. He wouldn’t need to ask for time off to get a haircut or to visit the bank. The timing was ironic too; my last week of work was Moka’s last week at the store. I went back on Christmas Day, his last day, to send him off. He was there alone, with virtually nobody in the store. I spent an hour chatting with him, and made him promise to visit Austin. He made me promise to come back to New York soon. He put his big winter jacket on and we headed out of the store. We walked down the street towards his subway station and I unlocked my bike to head home. We smiled at each other knowing it would be a while since we’d meet again. And just like that, I said goodbye to Moka; and he said it back.
“Goodbye brother, see you soon”
Recently while playing a game of We’re Not Really Strangers, I was asked to describe my year so far in one word and the word I chose was “bridges”. The last year of my life has been extremely transitionary and dynamic. I started the year with my Nike Project Move team pivoting our entire focus from an app-based experience to an immersive art exhibit in a parking garage. An extremely fun pivot. Or as we called it back then, a “shivot”.
verb: shivot; to shift and pivot simultaneously. see pivot and shift.
Anyways, the year was filled with shifts between quarantine and not quarantine. One month the CDC would lift the indoor mask mandate and the next month we’d have a new variant threatening a lockdown. We’ve lived in such a frenzied pandemic dynamic that still isn’t over. In early 2021, there was a lot of creative bridging I did between music work, Nike Project, and architecture studio. It’s during this time that this newsletter was born. Each new project and shift made me think of the bridges I had around me. Some needed to be burned and some had yet to be built. I burned several old relationships in hopes of starting fresh and letting go of stale formations. I built new relationships and reinforced these bridges with superglue. I saw new creative outlets and ran across these bridges as fast as I could with the creative juices fueling me. I looked back on old habits and made myself burn those bridges so I wouldn’t run back to them.
Describing my year as one with bridges seemed so apt, with so much change and transition. It’s also helpful to see the world around me as extensions of myself and how they’re interconnected. Each relationship, creative venture, job, hobby, etc. is a bridge that I extend into another part of the world. Each bridge affects me and therefore I affect that part of the world. I don’t mean to make this segment another life lesson, but rather pitch the question to you: What bridges have you built/burnt in 2021? And which bridges do you do you hope to build/burn in 2022?
There’s a lot to be said about this year in retrospect. I guess there’s always a lot to be said “in retrotspect”. I tend to use this phrase often, because I tend to over analyze and reflect on literally anything I do. From the smallest of conversations with random people to big life changing moments, I’m always analyzing the bits and details of the past to figure out what I could’ve done or said differently. It can be a curse at times, since over-thinking sometimes comes with a side-effect of paranoia and anxiety. But in general, I appreciate the hindsight thought process because it allows me to be personally and socially aware of my actions and decisions.
For example, I look back on my entire time in highschool and wonder why I was such a shitty kid. I think about how I used to stay up til 4am playing FIFA instead of just doing my homework and going to sleep at a normal time. I would play through the night, do my assignments one class period before it was due, and then I would nap as soon as I got home from school. It was a ridiculous schedule and totally messed up how productive I was in school, at soccer, or anywhere else. But in retrospect, I think about how much fun I had with my friend Owen playing FIFA through the night and how good those evening naps felt. Ofcourse doing this for months also taught me how to sneaky and use my words carefully when it came to sweet talking my teachers to get an extra day or two on assignments. In retrospect, I wish I had done something more productive than playing FIFA. Like maybe I designed something or made music, but what can I do about it now? In retrospect, I don’t regret how I spent those times and how stupidly I prioritized my life, but I appreciate all the lessons it taught me. I learned so much about what NOT to do with my time and how I shouldn’t repeat idiocies of my past. Earlier this year I sold my Xbox because I realized the time I spent on it was ridiculously useless, and an addiction was definitely brewing. I made the decision after playing Rocket League (hey at least I switched up the game) until 4am and I sold the Xbox the next day. Do I miss playing? Yes ofcourse. (Sidenote - I was damn good at both FIFA and Rocket League… that’s one of the main reasons I kept playing them. If you do something for long enough, you’ll become really f*cking good. And once you get good, it’s hard to quit.)
My point is that in retrospect, I don’t regret the actions or decisions I made to play video games and ruin my sleep schedule and sweet talk my teachers and sneak by my parents, but I do learn from them. When doing retrospective thinking, it’s very important to not sit with regret and cry over spilled milk. Instead, we should remember to not spill milk again. And laugh over the milk we spilled. Unless a decision of the past really destroyed your life (which I doubt it did), then you can always learn from it and laugh about it ___ days/months/years later. As we look back on this year of craziness, I want to remember all the bad stuff as equally as I cherish the good stuff. Because it’s easy to romanticize the beautiful memories and discard the hardships. But when we look upon our hardships in a positive, laughable light, we not only keep them in our memories, we learn and grow from them. The hardships and downfalls and roadblocks don’t get lost in thought but rather imprint themselves as checkpoints of growth.
In retrospect, your past is a scrapbook of memories, good and bad. The good memories will stay with you forever and bring you joy when thinking of the places you’ve been, people you’ve met and experiences you’ve lived through. They exist in the past and remind you of the beauty that is the past. Good memories make you smile and laugh and cry at who you used to be. But the bad memories? They’ll stay with you for quite some time and remind you of all your little screw-ups. These memories shed light on your lowest-of-lows, the rough speedbumps, and tough conversations. But nonetheless, these bad memories make you smile and laugh and cry because of the person they molded you to be today.
Dear New York City,
Thank you. Thank you for everything. I came to this city in search of a dream - a dream I’ve had since I was a kid. I grew up watching the New Years Eve Ball Drop on CNN every year and watching countless movies and tv shows based in this city. I’ve dreamt of living in a fast-paced city with so many people around me. I’ve dreamt of being surrounded with energy and lights and passion, things that drive me forward at light speed. Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother fueled my dream of being an architect in Manhattan. And I’m so blessed to have been able to live that dream. My time in NYC has been so fulfilling and so tender. I’ve met incredible people and seen beautiful things. I visited Jackson Heights and got a taste of the true “immigrant story”; those that came from my home country and made a life for themselves in America decades ago. I lived in Harlem and commuted to work in LES, writing my own NYC commuter stories. I tasted foods from every corner of the world while living in one culturally-packed city. I had my best friends visit me and make memories that I’ll cherish for a lifetime and more.
Most importantly, I felt more like myself than I ever have. There were key material things I had that made me, more me: my bike, my camera, my beanie, and my sling bag. I felt truly alive on every bike ride, weaving in and out of traffic. My camera allowed me to capture this life in such color and with so much love. It allowed me to revive and grow a passion that secretly sat so large within me. I explored the city with my beanies and sling bag, and made this city my home over the past 6 months. I had my fair share of NYC experiences - chasing cockroaches, fighting homeless crackheads, clubbing til 4am, getting locked out of home for hours, and so much more. I’m tearing up just recalling all my memories.
As much as I’d like to dwell on this chapter and reminisce, a new chapter starts once I leave. But from the bottom of my heart, New York City, thank you. You will be missed and not at all forgotten. And I promise, I’ll be back.
Photos from around the world
In a creative rut? Watch this.
It’s not impossible, see?
Only for design nerds
Listen, this newsletter may have been procrastinated heavily but I got it done. And I enjoyed doing it. That’s my motivation for the next year. Foot on the gas, looking ahead, I’m excited for everything coming my way. I hope you all enjoyed reading these newsletters, it brought me joy hearing your thoughts and comments. I wish you all love and power in 2022. And if you need a soundtrack to get started, tap the I’m Feeling Lucky playlist. See you next month.