I spent most of my time as a 27 year old having a quarter life crisis yet again.

With a pandemic, an election, and surprises at every turn, 2020 turned out to be quite the effective vision test.

As I questioned both the institutions that I grew up in and the mentors that inspired me as a young person, as they reacted to (or failed to react to) spikes in anti-asian hate crimes, it was as if the very foundation upon which many of my core beliefs were built upon, came into question.

As people, we idolize those we look up to. When they support causes we approve of we praise them. Alternatively, when people say something we disagree with, we are quick to crucify them.

This phenomenon has been referred to as “cancel culture,” and as I’ve thought about this concept, I’ve struggled to find my own bearings on the matter.

As a young person growing up in the church, we were taught at a young age that idolatry was bad.

We were told that money and celebrities were not meant to be worshipped or idolized.

Ironically , we were just as guilty of idolizing theologians, artists, and money as the “other” that most sermons were about.

In church, we really like broad sweeping generalizations, because it helps us to categorize things. We talk about “sin” as if it is just a list of behaviors that we aren’t partaking in and we choose which Bible passages to take literally and which ones have “varying interpretations.”

This sliding scale of morality and religious superiority is one of the most troubling aspects of religion in general: we see the flaws and shortcomings of those around us, but we overlook our own fallibility.

Now while I had grown accustomed to seeing this kind of behavior inside the church, I was surprised to see this level of hypocrisy outside of the church walls.

As I pondered cancel culture, I realized that this sliding scale of religious morality stemmed from a similar place.

In past years, I’ve become increasingly vocal about causes I’m passionate about while also being a little too honest about my own struggles and vices.

For the longest time, I tried to keep my personal struggles under wraps in order to protect my reputation. Besides, telling people about my struggles seemed like a surefire way to be written off as a failure.

Maybe five years ago, I began to tell my inner circle about my misdeeds. It was comforting to know that even though they might not condone my behavior, that they still saw me as someone who was worthy of being their friend.

As time passed, I realized that so much of my own growth took place in the midst of me dealing with the messier parts of life.

In fact, it was my personal depressive and suicidal seasons that taught me how to be present with those who were struggling through those same seasons. It was my own unfaithfulness that gave me the grace to extend to those in similar situations. It was my own deconstruction of faith that gave me the ability to empathize with those who had experienced hurt at the hands of the church.

My blogs up to this point had tried to simplify universal truths and combine what I had learned with anecdotes. I tried to promote positivity but I definitely wrote about vices in a very vague and very personally removed fashion.

As my own therapy began to increase in frequency, I began to sneak my own vices into my writing. I tried to shed the vagueness that I grew up with in church and I started trying to write about life as it is as opposed to how it should have been.

It was terrifying when I started, but with each blog I began to get a clearer picture of what my goal was.

As third generation Chinese-American growing up in the valley, I have always been confused about who I am. I was homeschooled until high school and when it was time for me to start high school, my family relocated to a completely different city. I tried to find meaning in religion for such a long time, but the institutions were cracked and tarnished with financial mishaps and affairs… it felt irresponsible to cling to an ideology that openly condemned certain sexuality choices while rampant and out of control sexual misconduct cases were a dime a dozen in church..

As puberty hit and the pre-college grind began, I struggled with emotional and mental health. I quickly found unhealthy coping mechanisms that prevented me from having to process and healthily deal with my disappointment and fear. After a few years in college, I reeled from the failure of dropping out of the school of engineering and switching majors. Not long after I graduated I struggled through being laid off, working a shitty temp job, and just being relatively clueless about my direction and my place in life.

I say these things not to evoke pity, but more so to communicate the fact that most of my life has been me wishing to be seen and heard while not feeling like either of those needs was being met.

Our culture is fixated on the illusion of looking successful and so nothing is really ever wrong. We are told that no one has time to listen to the hard shit in our lives and so we struggle alone while only the really fucked up people go to rehab, therapy, and AA meetings.

You take this stigma towards human problems and you magnify it at a societal level and boom, cancel culture is born.

When I was in high school, my aunt and mother were super into these TLC shows. The dysfunctionality in Jon and Kate Plus 8 was so obvious from day one and I remember not understanding why this was entertaining to anyone. I felt like I was watching and participating in the undermining of this marriage…

Somehow, we find comfort in labeling other people as more fucked up than we are. Yeah we might have some addictions or some other issues but good lord we definitely weren’t as bad as those other people...

As I processed having all my dirty laundry on display for everyone to see, I realized that my ability to antagonize the “other” decreased substantially. My conversation responses began to veer away from “you should do this” or “you better be careful and not do this.” I began to listen more actively while devoting more energy to empathizing and affirming rather than preaching at people from my moral high horse.

I found my relationships with people deepening the more honest I was with them about the real day to day shit. I realized concurrently, that I had a lot more in common with everyone than I had initially thought.

It was hard to believe that I had spent so much time lying about who I was when the best conversations I ever had were literally about the taboo and stigmatized topics.

The fact of the matter, is if we were all under surveillance 24/7, we would all be canceled.

We have all said terrible things.

On top of this we have all done terrible things.

I mean just imagine if someone taped you being an ass to that service worker.

Or imagine if someone dug up that archived ig post.

Better yet, imagine strangers sitting at your dinner table listening to all your off color comments.

Takes a little bit of the self-righteous wind out of our sails doesn’t it?

And that’s just the thing, just because we are flawed and make mistakes doesn’t mean that nothing we ever say is valid. And just like that rule applies to us, it applies to everyone else as well.

Cancel culture asserts that people should be judged by their most regrettable moments and comments, but I challenge you to look within and realize that if we were personally judged by the dumbest things we ever did or said, we would all be ostracized.

The hardest part of processing cancel culture for me was the role of accountability.

Growing up in church, oftentimes the phrase “we’re all human and fall short” was the solution band-aid that was slapped on every shady thing that happened. Oftentimes nothing would change, but that phrase would be used as a cover up and explain-away.

I think it’s really important for us as individuals and as a collective group to demand investigation and changes to institutions that foster environments in which harmful behavior is rampant. It’s incredibly uncomfortable and it is difficult work, but it’s how we can move forward while changing the spheres that we exist in.

This starts with us, because we need to be aware of our own vices and growth points. This self-awareness gives us the necessary empathy to call out people in love rather than choosing to just decry and cancel them.

We speak and act differently when we can see our own fallibility and I think there is so much power in that self-awareness.

The Bible said it best:

“How can you say to your neighbor ‘look at the splinter in your eye’ when you yourself have a plank in your eye? Shouldn’t you remove the plank from your own eye first?”

The problem always has been us.

So let’s stop trying to smokescreen by highlighting the flaws of others and instead work on addressing our own growth points.

Save It For the Eulogy

Have you ever been really moved by something a friend or family member did for you?

Maybe it was bringing you some gas when you overestimated how far you could drive with the gas light on.

Or maybe a loved one brought you flowers when you were having a terrible day.

It might have been as simple as a text that told you that you mattered to them.

Our lives are scattered with these tiny snapshots of kindness and care.

In the same way that the safe answer to the question “How was your day?” is “Good. How was yours,” (regardless of how our actual days were), we tend to maintain a certain level of dishonesty when it comes to appreciating those we care about.

We rationalize our under-appreciation with this bizarre belief that if we were to honestly affirm those we cared about, that it would “get to their heads.”

So we hold back on the affirmation and encouragement because we don’t want to inflate the egos of those we care about.

On top of that, in our instant message society, everyone is simply a smart phone swipe away. It has never been easier to contact our friends and family in distant countries and locations. And with FaceTime, Zoom, and Instagram we can be in touch in a matter of seconds.

We’ve unconsciously accepted the narrative that because everyone is so easily accessible, that they will always be easily accessible. And so “I’ll tell them tomorrow” or “I’ll affirm them later on” becomes our approach to interacting with those we care about.

I remember in my second car accident, I was listening to a song on Spotify while driving to work.

One second I was singing the second verse, and the literal next second the back of my car was caving in as a jeep rammed into my car.

I remember getting out in the Southern California rain as we pulled over to the side of the road. The one thought in my mind was how the whole trajectory of my day and next few weeks was changed in a literal second.

I unconsciously and naively always thought that disasters and tragedies took place over long periods of time. Maybe it was being exposed to my grandma battling cancer at an early age. Maybe it was the fact that I was sheltered and privileged.

I just never expected “accidents” to happen that quickly.

In the age of Covid-19, we were all affected in different ways. I have heard sad stories of people having to separate from loved ones as they fought the virus.

When my grandpa went to the emergency room for severe sepsis, we were unable to see him for weeks due to covid restrictions. My sisters and I worried for my grandpa.

To be in the hospital is already a traumatic experience in and of itself… but to be unable to see family and loved ones is something else entirely.

I tend to frame my life priorities from a very morbid lens. In those early morning hours when no one is awake except my overactive mind, I imagine myself bleeding out on the floor of in some random place. As my vision blurs and my grasp on reality fades, I ask myself the question: Would I have done anything differently?

In the past, I regretted certain decisions I made. Perhaps I reframed my career priorities. Or maybe I decided to begin pursuing old dreams that had previously died.

In almost every instance where this morbid daydream has played out, my biggest concern is that I didn’t tell people how much they meant to me until it was too late.

It’s at this point where I usually shoot a quick text to someone to let them know that they matter and that they are a blessing to me.

Before going to therapy, I couldn’t even place how I was feeling unless I was angry or stressed out.

Maybe it was because of my upbringing or maybe because of the legalism that religion taught me, but from a young age I learned that being sentimental was just unacceptable and uncomfortable.

I would find every excuse not to tell people that I cared about them.

Expressing care or affection was limited to near death events and emotionally high moments. But in the context of normal day to day living, it just wasn’t a thing to communicate to people that you loved them.

I mean after all they already knew… right?

When Paul Walker, the actor best known for his role in Fast and Furious passed away, I remember all these news stories coming out with his friends and co-stars lauding him with praise and affirmations for being such a stand out guy.

I remember thinking to myself that it was a shame that he never got to hear most of these affirmations.

But when you think about it.. this is an accurate representation of most of our normal lives: we amplify the flaws of those we care about, while staying relatively silent on their strengths and why we appreciate them as individuals.

In a way, we save the affirmations, the words of encouragement, and the best for last.

Tragic… but true.

In the shape of a metaphor that fits much too well, we spend hundreds of dollars on floral arrangements for our deceased loved ones that they are unable to appreciate. As those closest to the deceased share their favorite things about said person, the funeral attendees smell the flowers and hear the affirmations meant for the deceased.

The one in the casket can neither smell the flowers nor hear the words. And sometimes… it’s questionable if the deceased ever really knew how much they mattered to those close to them.

Sometimes the tinges of regret from the eulogy giver are obvious in their verbiage.

Generally, those with loved ones who are no longer here wish that they had said more.

Generally, those of us who are still here take the ones we care about for granted and save our affirmations for tomorrow or the next time we see said person.


At first glance, this post could seem like a massive downer.

“Life is hard enough, don’t remind me of its temporal nature on my day off”

However, my hope for you is that you would not hesitate to appreciate those who are still here with you.

Everything does indeed end, but regret and the “what if” can stay with us for what feels like forever.

So send that text. Leave that voicemail. Give that hug.

Leave with the “I love you and I am so grateful for you”

Stop using “see you later” or “we have to do this next time” as a crutch or as a postponement day for saying what you really mean.

Stop saving the kindest words….

…For the eulogy

Dry Carrot Cake & A Dead Battery

Have you ever been so focused on arriving at a destination that you do everything in your power to speed up the process of getting there?

Just the other week, in a frenzy to clean up my house and run errands before having company later that week, I locked my keys inside my bedroom. After a few choice words directed at my stupidity, I waited for about half an hour for my roommate Julian to arrive home and unlock the door. In that time, I listened to some music and breathed.

Though essential to human life, it’s interesting how often we forget to breathe.

As I have been pursuing healthier ways of coping, cooking and baking have proven to be cathartic ways to destress. Whether Imon is teaching me the basics as we cook a green curry from scratch or Crystal and Rey are flexing their great British baking skills as we make banana bread, there is something really fulfilling about making something together.

While texting my friend from high school about my new hobby, she mentioned that my reading Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat was a good way to learn the fundamentals, but that she preferred improvising like her mother had done when cooking for her. I likened her mother to a jazz musician who improvises with the flow of the music, not confined to the sheet music or any specific rules. There is something magical about being able to step into a kitchen, take whatever is there, and make something out of what is available to you.

It reminds me of life and how even though we may never get the best ingredients or the perfect tools, what we make of our situations is really based upon our ability to improvise.

“I mean the parchment paper is to prevent the cake from sticking to the pan, but the last time I made it, we didn’t use parchment paper and it was fine. Do you want to use the paper?”

While cooking is known to be a highly improvisational activity, many say that baking is quite the opposite. Substitutions and inaccurate measurements can be the bane of amateur bakers.

As Crystal and I added extra carrots, extra pineapple, and less confectioners’ sugar to our carrot cake, we hoped that the cake would still turn out well even though we were modifying the recipe to reduce our waste.

We greased the pan and decided screw it, save the environment and do away with the parchment paper.

Forty minutes and a handful of expletives later, the cake finally fell out of the pan and luckily in one piece.

When we finished the cake and tried our first bites, we got to see how our failed careers in acting might have gone as we tried to talk up the cake even though it was most definitely a tad dry.

Our hosts were gracious enough to say that they loved the cake, but suffice it to say, we weren’t the proudest of our finished product (though it did look quite amazing).

However, despite the less than optimal finished product, the process of making that cake was filled with laughter and learning moments. I remember thinking later on in the night that even if people hated the cake, that the process was enjoyable enough to be worth it..

Sometimes it’s the learning that happens in the kitchen and the company of your fellow chefs and bakers that make the day rather than what you end up eating.

You know the feeling:

Maybe you snoozed the alarm a few times more than you should have.

And maybe you also took a little bit too long picking out your Friday Fit…

And maybe your sandwich bread just had to be toasted today…

Either way, when you get to your car, you know that you are running a little late. You insert the key into the ignition and……

The usual sound of a humming engine is replaced with the retro machine gun sound bytes from the Metal Slug arcade game..

This was the situation I found myself in this morning..

My natural reflex is to go to a place of anxiety as I swear like a sailor and panic.

Today after a flurry of “fucks” and “shits,” I texted my boss to let her know that my car wasn’t starting and she told me:

“Don’t worry about coming in today! Just focus on getting your car back to normal!”

What ensued was a journey by penny board to Ace Hardware to get a few wrenches, a clutch AAA jumpstart sponsored by Julian, and then a perilous drive to Costco where I bought a new battery and installed it right in the parking lot.

As incredibly stressful as this day could have been, surprisingly, it was the farthest thing from anxiety inducing.

Knowing that my boss was more concerned about my well-being set the tone for the day.

As I skated to the hardware store, I enjoyed the Southern California sun and the absolutely beautiful day that today was. The hardware store team member was super helpful and advised me not to spend as much money as I was going to and instead directed me to a cheaper wrench. Julian came through with the AAA jumpstart and got me the ability to get to Costco. He even followed me to the tire center to make sure I didn’t stall in the middle of the street. The tire center employee was swamped, but because I wasn’t operating from a place of stress and anxiety, I was able to be cordial and therefore he was cordial back. I may have spent a little longer in that Costco parking lot than I’d like to admit, but at the end of the day, the battery was successfully replaced (thank you Youtube), and my car is back in operation.

No stress.

No anxiety.

So bizarre.

Are you ready for this conclusion though?

As I was waiting in line to turn in my dead battery, I made this crazy correlation between the dry carrot cake experience with my dead battery adventure.

In both situations, I had non-optimal circumstances: in one case our finished product was not to our expectations and in the other case my day had to be completely re-arranged due to extenuating circumstances that were out of my control.

In both situations, the people I interacted with and my attitude changed how I perceived the day.

I had the opportunity to be dissatisfied and disappointed with my results and my situation in both cases, and yet due to my attitude and the people I was with, I chose a different path.

It makes me wonder how often we fail to see the joy that exists in the chaos of our daily interruptions.

How often do I get so immeasurably stressed and frantic about life not going to plan? Or how often do I get annoyed that I’m not going to make the time table that I previously set?

It could be a career, a relationship, personal goals, or a number of other things, but I always tend to obsess about the goal rather than the journey.

Oftentimes the best parts of life occur on the way to our destinations.

We only get to see the nature preserve in the morning when we are forced to skateboard over the bridge to get to the hardware shop.

We only get to converse and laugh about cutting cakes improperly when we engage in the process of making something rather than just buying something pre-made.

So the next time your plans go to shit, and your finished product isn’t quite as magnificent as you thought it would be….

Take a second to breathe.

And when you finally open your eyes, look at what is around you and take note of who is there with you.

Maybe we all need some dry carrot cakes and dead batteries in our life to help us appreciate the journey.

Lessons From Therapy: Climate Change

Every tax season, I go through this weird couple of weeks where I get all depressed and think about my past year. So much happens each year and it’s honestly hard to remember the specifics of the year.

But luckily for us, our companies send us letters that put a dollar amount on the year: how much we earned, how much we were taxed, and for those of us who tend to be more pessimistic: what were we unable to do because we were working.

In a tug of war between remaining grateful and looking for greener pastures is where most of us reside. Our friends’ lives…. and their paychecks sometimes make us wish for something other than what we have. Yet, at the same time, what we have is what we know, and there is a comfort that comes with the familiar.

For one entire year, my job was so stressful that I used to spend hundreds of dollars every weekend doing 1-4 escape rooms and buying packages on Amazon to distract me. I used to work my main job in the afternoons and evenings, and I found a second job to work in the mornings just to have a little bit of extra income. And then, sometimes, when I thought I needed a vacation, I would go and work stints at a third job, where I would go to a different city and work insane hours….but I stayed in a hotel room so it counted as a vacation.

I was barely getting by financially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. But something long since ingrained in me, kept repeating in my head. “The diligent shall prosper,” a fantastic Bible quote, when paired with an ideology of works-based-worth is a fantastic way to run straight into a shit ton of problems.

Right in the middle of all of this, my adventurous friend, Crystal invited me to go on a trip to Turkey. It was a great trip, as that blogpost demonstrates, but when I came back, a lot of things started to become clear.

Sometimes, we need a jolt to our system to help us re-prioritize what is important to us. For too long I had buried dreams I considered to be dead. I felt trapped in a job where I was unable to do what was initially promised. I was running myself ragged with 40+ hour weeks, encouraged overtime, and the inability to use my time outside of my main job, for things that I was excited and passionate about.

When I talked with my therapist about my mental health and addictions shortly after that trip, I told her that one surprising fact was that in Turkey, my bad habits disappeared for a few weeks. We were trying to tackle my post-trip depression, and she made a note to re-visit what made Turkey so different than normal life.

The biggest difference we found was that while I was on vacation, my usual stressors, were no longer present. I was sleeping at regular hours for regular amounts of time while also eating three meals a day.

On top of this, because I was so disconnected from anything work related, my mind was free to revert to its normal creative self. I was filming as the trip was happening, writing in the evenings to reflect on what I was seeing, and I was having these super thought provoking conversations on a daily basis.

When we returned, it was like I hit this brick wall.

I tried to transform the positivity of the trip into sustainable energy for my day to day life, but everywhere I looked I faced walls that seeme to trap me.

I tried to start volunteering my time on weekends to get behind the camera more often, but my boss at the time had hired me specifically for Saturday evenings as well and any attempts to negotiate having certain Saturdays off was met with staunch resistance.

I tried to get back into a normal schedule with normal sleeping hours combined with a good diet, but my shifts were just too conducive to sleeping late and waking up late.

I tried to see if I could get more time in the evenings to spend with friends to perhaps emulate those thought provoking conversations, but again, I was met with resistance from the workplace.

There is perhaps no worse torture than being able to taste hope and then watching as your hope dies. It is soul crushing to become like Mr. Incredible who slowly watches as the mundaneness of normalcy overpowers the glory of the good old days.

After a few months of crippling depression, several therapy sessions, and numerous binges of negative coping mechanisms, I made the decision to leave the job that I was at.

It was the only job I was ever given the ability to manage other people and I felt like I owed a huge debt to everyone there. It was so hard to even think about having the conversation of leaving, and years of growing up on the concept of indebtedness and honor made it one of the most difficult decisions I ever made.

One of the greatest lies I believed was that “It can’t get better than it is here. There are problematic people and non-optimal work environments everywhere”

Now I’m not saying that we should all just leave our jobs that we hate while giving the middle finger to everyone who we believe wronged us. I firmly believe that there are lessons to be learned from every position we hold and from every boss we have. Some teach us how to be better people by modeling excellent behavior for us. Some teach us to how to be better people by modeling how not to act.

I grew up thinking that I had to work in a field that I was passionate about to be happy. Since film was what I loved, and it seemed like a hyper competitive field and an unrealistic pipe dream, I resigned myself to never being happy.

Recently and through therapy, I learned that your day job puts the food on the table, but those extra hours in the day are where you get to sandbox your creative dreams and passions. The hours between 17:00-9:00 are for us to really live.

You aspire to be a photographer? Bring your gear to work and shoot after.

You want to start a business? Set time aside to research your market and the need your product will fill.

You want to make movies? Then make some movies.

Andy Mineo told me in an email, that for us creatives, oftentimes we believe that in our social media saturated culture that we must produce perfect content. He encouraged me to make stuff even if it was terrible. Because we don’t magically become better without practice. Make the mistakes, learn from them, and get to a higher level.

Chick-fil-A was a great job, but it came to a point where I could not use my off time to pursue passion projects or broaden the skills I wanted to grow. Staying there and to have stayed there longer would have meant deferring my goals, aspirations, and skill development for an even longer period of time.

This deferment’s cost was directly correlated to my decreasing mental health and my relative unhappiness. We don’t all have the luxury of packing up our stuff and leaving today, but that’s not to say we can’t start charting our course to get the fuck out of wherever we are.

Gratefulness is important, but therapy taught me that knowing myself and what I want can help me prudently decide when it’s time for climate change.

If you have two seconds, if you can maybe fill out this survey regarding the “Lessons from Therapy” series I would greatly appreciate it!

Thanks for reading!

Lessons From Therapy: Learning to Cope

Years like 2020, have a way of bringing out the worst in all of us. With schedules and rituals disrupted, while daily comforts were stripped away, all of us turned to coping mechanisms to try and grasp onto some sort of comfort and normalcy.

I find it ironic that our high schools decided to put street names for illicit drugs in our health class curriculum, while choosing to leave out healthy behaviors and practices that would help us avoid coping via substances and addictions.

Thirteen years later, this is what I’ve learned about coping.

The Science Behind Coping and Happiness:

From a scientific level, there are three neurotransmitters and a hormone that are responsible for what we call happiness: Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins, and Oxytocin. I would recommend a quick Google search to see what each of these four do.

Endorphins are released when your body is in pain thus explaining runner’s highs and overall euphoria after intense workouts.

Dopamine is most often associated with your body’s reward system but it also plays several other roles from retaining memory to motivation.

In a healthy individual, who relies on more natural ways of releasing Endorphins or Dopamine, the thresholds you must meet in order for your brain to release these neurotransmitters are much lower. Which in plain English means that there are sustainable behaviors and activities that make it easier for you to feel happy.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, negative coping mechanisms oftentimes release a SHIT ton of Dopamine at a severe and unsustainable cost to your body. Certain drugs, trick your brain into releasing much larger amounts of Dopamine than a natural activity would. This translates to an incredibly pleasurable high, but it also means that your brain becomes conditioned to only feeling happy when this unnaturally high threshold of Dopamine is met.

Outside of drugs, pornography which is generally combined with masturbation, when consumed in large quantities can achieve a similar effect. Basically, we are tricking our brains into releasing unnatural amounts of dopamine very frequently, which then builds our tolerance to Dopamine. Which means to reach the same high or level of happiness we need exponentially more Dopamine.

WHICH MEANS: negative coping mechanisms are identifiable by requiring exponentially more exposure or higher dosage to achieve the same level of a high.

This applies to a wide variety of drugs, pornography consumption, likes/interactions on social media, etc. If you are chasing an ever elusive oasis of satisfaction that requires more and more effort to attain, chances are, you are using a negative coping mechanism.

As a person, I am very anxious, very cynical, and I care way too much about what people think about me. Because of this, I am seldom happy. I’m constantly comparing myself to my married friends on social media, or the average 20-something year old that I met at a wedding once where we swapped Instagram handles. My old boss once said “comparison is the thief of all joy,” and they were on to something.

This comparison and anxiety is generally one of the biggest triggers for me to engage in negative coping mechanisms.

In 2020, shortly after the quarantine started, I went on a porn bender. We were stuck at home, my running shoes were worn out and so I couldn’t run without leg pain, and we were isolated from friends and family. One would think with a perfect storm like the pandemic/quarantine combo, my negative coping mechanism would spiral out of control and destroy me. Ironically, with nowhere else to go, I quickly discovered the inescapable fact that: porn left me lower than I was before I consumed it. In a world where I couldn’t see people and was trapped at home, the crushing loneliness that drove me to porn was only exacerbated by my consumption. In short, my problems were only magnified by using this coping mechanism.

When my birthday came around in the spring, I resolved that I was going to up my game and try to kick the habit yet again. I remember being three weeks in and being so hyped because life was different in very strange but tangible ways.

I remember getting lunch from one of my favorite restaurants while I was at work. As I opened the to-go box I got ridiculously excited and happy. As I took that first bite, I felt like Remy the rat discovering flavor composition for the first time. I literally was smiling ear to ear having a pretty darn close to orgasmic experience eating this spicy tuna bowl from Fukada.

I remember driving home from work and looking at the hills I was driving by and feeling the sun on my face and thinking to myself that it was such a beautiful day. Normal behavior for some I’m sure, but for me, the details were what were speaking to me.

I began to notice that writing and organizing my thoughts was easier. That reading and concentrating were not as touch and go. Music sounded better. My runner’s highs were comparable and much longer than highs I had experienced with edibles without the groggy feeling afterwards.

Basically, the little things were making me happy again. So weird. SO bizarre.

My therapist’s first task for me when I came into her office and shared my story almost three years ago, was for me to do the work of discovering what activities were life-giving for me. She encouraged me to incorporate those activities into my daily life in the form of self-care.

The lesson from therapy in this post is this: Discover or re-discover the lifegiving activities (aka positive coping mechanisms) that work for you personally before trying to get rid of the negative coping mechanisms.

I had tried for YEARS to kick my bad coping mechanisms, but it was never sustainable. It wasn’t until I had the “happiness comparison point” of incorporating running, playing videogames with friends, writing consistently, or creating videos on a more consistent basis that I began to feel the effects of things that made me happy without the laundry list of negative side effects that came with porn, drinking, or substances.

Now when faced with the choice of which coping mechanism to use I can compare the satisfaction level of the negative coping mechanisms versus the life-giving activities.

Now I’m not just trying abstain from doing something. Now I’m comparing and making an educated decision on what it is I want and choosing the behavior that best fits my end goal.

It is no easy task to walk away from the negative coping mechanisms that distract us into thinking we are happy. Oftentimes, we’ve come up with reasons as to why the negative coping mechanisms aren’t that bad.

“Porn can’t reject me”

“I’m not an addict, I’m not hurting anyone”

“I deserve this, I’ve had a shitty week, month, year”

My writing in the past has oftentimes come off as judgmental. But as someone who has looked for some sort of relief from the depressing realities of life in all kinds of terrible behaviors, I’ll be the first to tell you that there is a better and healthier way. Shame, guilt, and judgement really only serve to push us further into our entrenched behaviors.

My heart behind this mini series is that you would see some hope in your current situation. From someone who was screwing up his Dopamine reward system for 13 years, I hope that you know that it’s never too late to start taking steps towards a more satisfying and rich life.

This post would be quite pointless without some application so really quickly:

  1. Take five minutes and write down some activities that you enjoy or have enjoyed in the past before life got “too busy” for them. Painting, working out, maybe something social, writing, sketching, building something, etc.
  2. Find a way to incorporate bite sized increments of this activity into your life. Get as close to daily as possible even if the time increments are small. Maybe 15-20 mins a day. You’ll want activities that are sustainable both financially and socially so that you can easily repeat them. Take note of how they make you feel before and after you complete them.
  3. Once you have 2-3 activities that you have to choose from and you have implemented maybe one a day for a while and it seems sustainable, take a break from one of your negative coping mechanisms that you think is the most often used. I suggest a month, but even a week to two weeks is enough to start noticing a difference.
  4. Document your experience. With the inclusion of the life-giving activities in your daily life, abstaining from the negative coping mechanism should become easier as there isn’t just a hole where the negative coping mechanism was. The duration of time you choose will begin to rewire the neurological pathways in your brain associated with Dopamine release and “rewards” that your brain gives you. The combination of the two, should result in a gradual re-normalization of a healthy amount of dopamine being released even when you are doing simple life-giving things.

Our individual journeys are so unique and so we are each both the scientist and the test subject. What works for one may not work for someone else, and so we have to be both creative and resilient as we experiment with what works and what doesn’t.

Imagine a life where we aren’t addicted to the red notifications, the late night website binges, and the hits from our vapes.

More than that, imagine a life where colors are more vivid, the days are more awe inspiring, and the little things like food or time spent with loved ones are more vibrant and exciting.

It isn’t a pipe dream. And more often than not, we have the power to walk towards healthiness as we are all learning to cope.

If you have two seconds, if you can maybe fill out this survey regarding the “Lessons from Therapy” series I would greatly appreciate it!

Lessons From Therapy: You Aren’t Crazy

“You are like me. You get really emotional and you feel these super high highs and these super low lows. It’s very unprofessional.”

I have this tendency to get especially heated when I see unfair treatment and double standards in the workplace and in different social circles.

My boss said this line to me after I reacted negatively to him having a tantrum at work. In his frustration at an inefficient supply chain, he misdirected his anger and correction at the wrong arm of his organization. In my anger, I shut down and began to work at a frenzied pace to demonstrate that our arm was not the issue. He knew I was angry, and he knew I was protesting his own emotional unhinging. But he saved his comments for a private meeting we had later that week.

After having some time to cool off, he said this to me, and I genuinely wondered how I could become more professional since having temper tantrums at work is generally a sure way to get the boot.

I responded, “I agree that we are similar, but can I ask you a question? What strategies have you used to manage your emotions and temper at work?”

“Well I would ask your doctor first. But Prozac ‘works’ for me.”

(Note: I have nothing against medication, and I think that it is a very real solution for some of us and that is totally okay. However, in the context of my professional relationship, this was not an appropriate response. )

The situation might be slightly different, and maybe the boss is a parent, a significant other, or a friend, but we all have these moments where people either directly or indirectly say that we are too much or simply put: crazy.

“Stop being so emotional!”

“Why are you like this?”

“Stop making a scene!”

“You are being unprofessional”

“You should get help.”

By far, the most important lesson I have learned in therapy thus far has been that your emotions and the way that you are saddened, angered, drained, or frustrated, are valid.

I thought that therapy was going to be me paying a person to tell me how to “fix” me.

“Tell me about your childhood. How does that make you feel?”

In actuality, my therapy sessions are often me telling these stories and my therapist responding with something like:

“Wow. What an asshole?! He sounds super difficult to work with! It’s ironic that he’s telling you that you are too emotional when it’s his mismanagement of his own emotions that triggered your frustration.”

Some of us go through life and we speak our minds all of the time. It comes naturally and we do not take aggression or insults sitting down. We’ll fire back with as much tenacity as we were attacked with.

Others of us do our best to keep the peace. We get hurt by people and we get frustrated, but we play devil’s advocate as much as we can. We care SO much about where the other person is coming from and what experiences are informing the inflammatory behavior of those we interact with.

Before therapy, I believed it was impossible to both validate my own feelings and those of others when we were in conflict. I hated conflict and I hated disruptions to the peace. I always preferred just “sucking it up” in order to keep the peace rather than causing any sort of drama.

Of course my frustration and anger had to go somewhere, and so I would have occasional meltdowns and I coped unhealthily with a variety of different methods.

The wildest thing about having a third party professional validate you, is that after the initial disbelief, you begin to self-validate. It might take a couple sessions, or a couple months, or a couple years, but eventually you’ll begin to acknowledge that you feel the way that you feel and that it is completely justified.

Then, when you thought it couldn’t get any crazier, as you practice being in touch with your own emotions in order to figure out why certain behaviors from people tend to push you towards anger, weariness, sadness, or frustration, you become more empathetic to the experiences of others you interact with.

For me personally, the before and after looked something like this:

In the past, I might have had a disagreement with my mother and felt like I wasn’t being heard. When she would say certain phrases or behave in ways that had previously been used by my brain to push me towards shutting down, my brain would reinforce this past narrative that she did not understand or see me and I would just shut up and mentally check out of the conversation and take my frustration out somewhere else or on someone else.

Nowadays, we might have a conversation that turns emotionally charged due to our history. Even though voices might be raised, tears might be shed, and vulnerabilities might be exposed, I am capable of articulating why I feel the way that I do, while also deciphering what experiences are informing her behavior and her experience. So yes the emotions are being processed, but not at the expense of invalidating either of us.

Because at the end of the day, now we are both able to communicate why certain topics, behaviors, or words trigger us and we have enough experiencing internally processing our own emotions to understand and empathize with the other person.

CLEARLY not everyone has parents who are willing to go to therapy, but even without the reciprocal behavior, there is so much benefit that comes from the skill of self-validating.

When I left this job, I had a pretty emotionally high meeting with my boss. I was very grateful for the opportunities he had given me and the mentorship that he had offered me, but it was time to move on. On top of that, our relationship had become toxic for a handful of reasons. There was a lot of gaslighting and just mismatched expectations. I had been hired for one role but it had been misrepresented to me and what it eventually ended up being was not what I had initially agreed to. I had spent years thinking that I was unreasonable and that I should be thankful and grateful to have a job. I had asked numerous times for certain things to change, but a pattern of unkept promises and inaction eventually pushed me towards some very unhealthy habits that made me ask “why” I was trying to find solace in such unhelpful ways.

When I sat in that room and we had that conversation, my boss was obviously frustrated. He believed that I owed him more than a two weeks notice and he was pretty aggressive. I wanted soooo badly to lash out and unleash years of anger and frustration, but luckily I knew that this was the best move for both of us. As he attacked my “short notice” I self-validated and told him that I was sorry and that I had not done this before. I thanked him genuinely for giving me an opportunity when I had none and for taking care of me when I was struggling. He calmed down and we left on decent terms.

Long story short, self-validation is so important because it informs your life decisions.

What are you worth?

Is how you feel justified?

Why do you feel the way you do?

Are you actually angry or frustrated with the person you are taking your anger or frustration out on?

Some ways you can practically apply this concept of self-validation to your life are just taking a second to sit with your uncomfortable emotions after tumultuous encounters with family, coworkers, or friends.

Practice saying that “A normal person would be _____________ just like I am if placed in the same situation”

I think our friends (if they are good friends) generally try to do this to also validate us. Sometimes they try to play devil’s advocate or “humble” us with “sides we may not have seen” and that can play a role in gaslighting us. It can also lead to our inner voices invalidating us with things like “they have to say that because they are your friends” or “see even your friends think you are being unreasonable.”

After you validate how you feel, try and get to the root of why certain behaviors, words, or topics made you feel the way that you do.

Very very rarely, is something so upsetting just caused by a one-off scenario.

Process that feeling and really push into the discomfort that it causes in order to trace that feeling back into past interactions where you also felt the same way.

The final straw that actually got me to try out therapy was actually yelling at my girlfriend about a feeling that I had towards one of my exes. When I realized that I was hurting someone else because I was still hurting from something that was said to me by an entirely different person, it made me realize that I needed help identifying and tracing my own emotions.

I hope that this is helpful in some shape or form.

In closing:

You are seen.

How you feel is valid.

You aren’t crazy.

If you have two seconds, if you can maybe fill out this survey regarding the “Lessons from Therapy” series I would greatly appreciate it!

Lessons From Therapy: Introduction

Over the past couple of years, I’ve become a staunch advocate for therapy. If you ask my close friends, they will probably roll their eyes if you ask them about how much I try to convince them to go and seek out therapy for themselves.

I’ve realized over time that individual choice is one of the greatest gifts that we have each been given and that the benefits of therapy are really only experienced when several different stars align. On top of that, mental health is still not recognized at the same level as physical health in many different cultures and contexts. Because of this, there is also a high financial cost associated with therapy, and this prevents even more people from getting the help they might desire. Many religions claim that spirituality should solve all issues regarding trauma and emotional processing, thus further stigmatizing seeking help. Media and film is constantly misrepresenting both care providers and those seeking care so that it seems that the norm is providers that abuse their stations and patients that are being absolute nut cases while trying to “get away with murder” (shoutout to Annalise Keating).

As I toned down my soap-box-go-to-therapy sales pitch, I racked my brain to try and find a way to share what I had learned without coming off as proselytizing, heavy-handed, or judgmental.

After as emotionally taxing of a year as 2020, I realized that we all really do need therapy, but some of us are just not going to go and seek out help for various reasons.

So whether your barrier is the stigma associated with it, the financial burden, the mystery associated with it, or anything else, I decided to do a short bite-size blog series on the most important lessons I learned from therapy.

In the next few blogs, I will be sharing some personal accounts combined with lessons that I’ve learned over the last few years. One of my resolutions for this year is to be more concise than I have been in the past so here’s to blogs that are far less than 2,000 words.

It is important to note that I am not a care provider nor a professional and so really I just hope that these posts are able to pique your interest and prompt you to educate yourself more.

As the blogs are released, hyperlinks to the different posts will be available here with topic tags for quick identification and access.

Thanks for reading!

“You Aren’t Crazy” : The importance of self-validation, in your journey of understanding yourself and empathizing with others.

Learning to Cope“: The difference between negative coping mechanisms and life-giving activities. Some ideas for how to step away from more harmful behaviors by supplementing them with healthier ones.

Climate Change“: How knowing ourselves and what we are passionate about can inform our decisions on when to change careers or better position ourselves to pursue what is life-giving to us.

If you have two seconds, if you can maybe fill out this survey regarding the “Lessons from Therapy” series I would greatly appreciate it!


The sun is scheduled to set in four minutes as Julian asks, “Let me show you this map, because I’m not sure if we are going the right way..”

As we double back over the half-mile that we just ascended, in order to re-embark on the correct trail, the crunch of gravel and dirt under our shoes becomes the backup rhythm to our pounding hearts. We begin the mile trek to the lookout point as the sun begins to fall below the hills on our left.

“The event that hasn’t occurred for 800 years, will only be visible for ten short minutes after sunset,” says the remembered quote from the article I read earlier in the day.

Our ascension becomes more and more frenzied as daylight begins to disappear and the hill to our left does not give way to allow us clear sight to the southwest. I feel the blister at the intersection of my heel and boot burst just as a piece of tiny rock slides into my other boot. The incline is relentless as our jagged breathing replaces the playful banter that we had just fifteen minutes ago.

All of a sudden, with one final incline, we lift out of the valley and arrive at a lookout point that grants us the ability to see above the hills that loomed so tall and imposing just moments before.

There in the sky, just above the gorgeous Southern California sunset, we see Jupiter and Saturn as they appear to violate social distancing rules as they meet.

Julian and I marvel at the sunset and the incredible nature of the human eye. Our iPhones and our prime lenses can’t capture the magnificence of the moment, but our eyes can.

Five minutes go by.

Ten minutes go by.

Fifteen minutes go by.

And yet Jupiter and Saturn remain, even brighter as the light leaves the sky.

As we return to the car using our flashlights that have proven handy in blackouts and fire evacuations this year, we continue to gaze into the sky to see if the planets will disappear from view. As we drive up PCH, we see the planets to our left and marvel at how frantic we were.

I say to Julian, “This is gonna be the December blog.”

I started this year with one goal: to write and release one blogpost each month.

We’ve gone on a journey this year. From leaving a job, starting a new one, finishing a Spanish course, taking an anti-human trafficking course, texting a rapper and getting an emailed response, experiencing prejudice and racism due to coronavirus, editing with a new software, producing two phases of music videos, filming an interview with Fight the New Drug, binging the Office, Dark, Rebels, the Mandalorian, & the Queen’s Gambit, processing through countless virtual therapy sessions, paying off debts and taking control of personal finances, lying in bed with crippling depression and anxiety, driving for hours to escape normalcy and to get into the middle of nowhere to take photos and to cook, playing hours of videogames with old buddies, and I’m sure more that I’m missing.

If you and I are close, you probably already know that I agonize about the past and fixate on the future.

I’m rarely happy with where I am right now, and I tend to romanticize what happened before and what could happen in the future.

2020 in a weird way, forced me to process the past and the future, BUT not at the expense of glossing over the present. If ever there was a time in my life that I was forced to be here and now, it was this year.

Three cancelled trips, a friend in South Korea’s missed wedding, the failure of negative coping mechanisms to provide sustainable highs in a quarantine environment, loneliness magnified, and more time alone than ever before all forced me to sit alone with my thoughts, my fears, my insecurities, and the long buried emotions that fueled my busy-ness.

An acquaintance called me out on instagram by saying “Your life looks like it was really cool before..” after my second repost of an old video I had made.

Fantasizing and planning for the future seemed foolish and wasteful when the future was so uncertain for EVERYONE.

And it was in that discomfort, that I began to breathe and exist in the present.

Sometimes in life, it can feel like that hike as you race this deadline to an endpoint that is uncertain.

People and resources have told you that your window is short and that you must hurry.

“If you miss your opportunity, you never know when the next will come around”

We frantically make decisions out of fear, and failing is unacceptable, because to fail is to let yourself and the people around you down.

We ignore the pain in our heels and the jagged breathing as self-care goes through the window.

Because the destination is what gives us meaning.

That destination could be tangible.

It could be intangible.

“Man I wish I was happy”

“Man I wish my emergency fund was fully funded”

“I wish I was with someone”

“I wish I was there

And as we rush to and fro, life in all of its beauty and splendor, slips through our fingers faster than grains of sand.

The people and places that we are in today, are not promised tomorrow.

Just like 2020 proved, today is a gift, not a given.

Life is so short, and we spend so much time freaking out about getting to the uncertain destination, that we forget to look around and marvel at everything that is happening around us.

Thanks Imon for being down to drive to Anza Borrego because I was having a mental breakdown.

Thanks Victoria for helping me realize that our struggles growing up as the oldest children in our very special homeschooled-legalistic households were shared.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to not bail out on my Fight the New Drug interview.

Thanks Mary for being there to trade stories about relationship trauma and drama.

Thanks Calista for the opportunity to learn so much about producing and overcoming personal fears.

Thanks Andy for the encouragement to just create without fearing the audience’s opinion.

Thanks Josh and Jeremy for being wholesome alternatives to so many shitty coping mechanisms. I never thought that a pandemic and cross play Call of Duty would reunite us.

Life is short my friends. Live it well.

Look around and appreciate where you are and who you are with in the present.

Because I guarantee you, life will never be the way it is ever again.

In the words of Andrew Bernard, ” I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them”

Thanks for reading this year and thanks for giving me space to think out loud!

pH out!


What determines whether or not something is classified as a problem in society?

A generally accepted concept is that anyone can do whatever they want as long as they are not harming anyone else. This idea is the basis for what issues are aggressively advocated for and which issues we as a society agree to disagree on.

In our attempts to classify activities that are problematic we must also define what we consider to be harmful. Harm as defined by Webster, is physical or mental damage.

I once attended a club meeting in high school in which the club president showed a video on how a well-known chain store was using unethically sourced labor to undercut local small businesses and to solidify its position in the market. She very passionately presented to us that if we chose to buy from this corporation that we were supporting their unethical behavior and increasing a demand for sweat shop labor and corporations that sold products for lower costs at the cost of cannibalizing smaller businesses.

I remember having a knee jerk reaction of being angry because I shopped at this store. I felt personally attacked, and I stopped going to that club. My family shopped at this store because it was convenient and it was cost effective. We didn’t have the luxury of buying “fair-trade” goods. So in my mind, I didn’t understand why I was being attacked for a “choice” that I didn’t think I had.

Besides.. the factories that made these products were providing jobs, right?

The moral of the story is that oftentimes when we begin to question the status quo, it becomes uncomfortable due to the fact that more often than not we are actually part of the problem. Luckily, none of us is defined by our behavior, and we have the power to change who we become and what we choose to stand for in the future.

The past should be learned from, but remember that it can not be edited, redacted, or otherwise modified. Keep an open mind, and realize that being a part of the problem in the present is not the end of your story.

Have you ever had a cold that lasted so long that you either forgot what smelling and tasting your food was like? Or have you ever been on a long road trip that had it’s path going directly towards the setting sun and so you had to wear shades for so long that you forgot (if only for an hour or so) how the world looked without the shades?

Imagine now, that we took this poor analogy and exaggerated it. What if instead of an hour of wearing shades, let’s say that you wore these shades for a few years. Let’s say 13.

Now for the sake of this analogy, let’s say I wanted to do an activity where I took a panel of five individuals and had them explain in words what golden hour in Laguna Beach looked like.

Do you think you would be an able bodied addition to this panel despite having a skewed perception of reality?

When I was 14, I stumbled across hardcore pornography disguised as analytical worksheets hidden in an empty closet in an apartment my family was about to move into.

My mind raced, my adrenaline pumped, and my curiosity spiked. To see the female form completely exposed almost disgusted me to a degree due to the lack of normalization of nudity in american culture.

But that disgust, was overpowered quite quickly as eventually mere photographs failed to keep my attention. I began to find ways to circumvent the firewalls on my family’s “school” computer and before much time had passed I was utilizing proxies and workarounds to access free pornography in absolutely excessive amounts.

The religious moralist in me was definitely disappointed, but I definitely learned how to justify that voice away. After all, I wasn’t harming anyone. In fact, these people were actors and so they were getting paid to do this. It’s not like they had a gun to their heads. On top of that, I wasn’t out and about acting out my desires on real people… so really, I was doing a service for the world and myself… or at least that’s what I told myself.

What a harmless pastime.. right?

I think I started getting concerned when I started sacrificing sleep in order to find the right narrative or video. What would start as one video that was skimmed through turned into hours upon hours of mindless and vain searching for something. If you were to ask me what I was looking for, I could not tell you.

Fast forward to college, and I was using it to cope with failing out of engineering. It didn’t actually help, because I was studying and sleeping less. Plus, now I was in a relationship, and it was proving to be problematic there as well..

Apparently my significant other felt betrayed and insecure about the fact that I was viewing pornography but I mean why couldn’t she understand that it wasn’t personal? This was just something I did… and really it didn’t hurt anyone… besides I had it under control. I mean I couldn’t stop, but it’s not like it was running my life or making me do anything illegal….

All concept of control went out the window when through a series of events, an anonymous chatter I met online recorded me and then threatened to blackmail me. I freaked out. In a way I asked for this by being so dumb, but nothing really compares to the feeling of being tricked and coerced. I shut down all my socials for a bit and resolved that I was going to reform..

But just like all my fear and morality based attempts of the past it was short lived.

While everyone’s journey and struggle is different, I can attribute all of the darkest places that I have ever been both physically and mentally to pornography.

From the less concrete things like how I noticed a gradual decrease in my ability to see people as human and not just objects to the actions I would take from lurking on backpage to cheating on a significant other and using people just to gratify myself.

I made all of my decisions personally and I accepted the responsibility and consequences that came with those decisions, but I would be lying if I did not acknowledge the role that pornography played in my gradual desensitization.

One of the final warnings that I experienced, was when I was sexually assaulted in one of my workplaces. Some guy who had been trying to force contact with me for an entire week, who I clearly was ignoring and not reciprocating, cornered me in storage area and groped me in an overtly sexual way.

I didn’t know what to do, but I just felt super violated. I didn’t report him because I didn’t think anyone would believe me and I didn’t think it was a big deal at the time.

I would think about this interaction for years after the fact, and to this day it still makes me uncomfortable to think about the look in his eyes when he grabbed me.

And then it all clicked.

That look which I can only describe as being in a sort of objectifying zombie craze was a look that I was all too familiar with.

It was the same look that I saw in the pornography I consumed… but more importantly, it was the same look that I had when I was consuming or searching for my next video.. That mindless gaze that did not see humans as human but as objects to be used.

It was at this moment that I realized that the objectifying themes that I was consuming for hours upon hours every week were the same themes that this guy acted on. And as I re-evaluated my life choices, my deepest regrets, and the path I had inevitably found myself on, I discovered that a version of me that disrespected people’s choice and ability to consent was not too far off from where I was.

Sure, I might have a desire to stop human trafficking, and sure I might sprinkle my life with altruistic deeds here and there, but at the heart of it, the reason why I kept placing myself in self sabotaging situations was because I was no longer seeing people as people: I was seeing them as objects.

I didn’t know how to get help.

Somehow I stumbled upon a podcast called Consider Before Consuming while concurrently going to therapy for other reasons. My anxiety and depression, both issues that were also exacerbated by my pornography consumption, had taken center stage until my therapist and I started digging.

As I searched for education and literature on pornography, I began to find that there was in fact a very large pool of scientific evidence, studies, and research, that explained and corroborated with my experiences.

Now mind you, I didn’t just put on a self righteous face and magically do away with my 14 year habit. I just continued to search for more literature and education on the topic.

The most bizarre thing began to happen as I searched for and acquired more and more data and resources.

The shades I had been wearing for 14 years began to weaken. I began to see through the self-justification and ideas that I had used to condone my behavior. For once, it wasn’t fear or guilt that was pushing me along, instead it was this desire to seek wellness. As time passed, I realized that the root of the problem really was me. Years of conditioning had skewed my vision, and the world I was seeing was not an accurate depiction of what really was.

Without the intention of guilting or shaming the reader, the research is overwhelmingly against pornography.

And when I say research, I don’t mean church groups, moms, and significant others.

When I say research I mean scientific studies, ex-actresses/actors, recovering addicts, and so many more.

We can talk about the conditions under which pornstars work under and how drugs are often used to help actors dissociate.

We can talk about how small porn habits have lead some to self sabotage their families with major consequences.

We can talk about the links between porn and human trafficking.

We can talk about our inability to know if porn videos are consensual or if there is consent from the actors/actresses.

We can talk about how pornography normalizes narratives that glorify physical abuse, rape culture, misogyny, toxic masculinity, and racism.

Or we could talk about how the average age of sexual assault perpetrators is decreasing with many children assaulting other children.

We could talk about how in almost all grooming relationships between pedophiles and their victims, porn is used to normalize sexual contact.

We could talk about how the vast majority of people asked about the effects of porn usage in their relationships reveal that they believe porn negatively affects their relationships by decreasing intimacy, introducing insecurity, and heightening anxiety.

The point is: porn is most definitely problematic.

Porn will probably always exist and (hopefully) for many, a passing fancy will probably be the only thing it ever is.

However, as I write this, I ask you to consider this:

For most products that have an addictive quality, there are regulations placed upon the industries that profit from them. Whether it’s alcohol, tobacco, ecigarattes, prescription drugs, or something in that vein, there are laws in place and regulatory agencies that aim to prevent the dissemination of these products into the hands of younger people who may not be fully able to handle the ramifications of using these products.

Yet when it comes to pornography consumption which is generally tied to masturbation thus making it highly addictive, all that currently exists is a box that asks if the viewer is over the age of 18.

Why does this industry that profits off of its harmful product continue to peddle its product without regulation?

And if you say to yourself, “my child would never” I would like to take this moment to let you know that about 12% of websites are pornographic, the porn industry is a $16.9 billion industry in the U.S. alone, the average first exposure age is 11, and most apps nowadays have in app browsers that allow for sharing of content without utilizing an external internet browser.

It is not a matter of your child or young people seeking it out. It is a matter of when they become exposed to it.

I have wanted to write an in depth piece on pornography, my personal journey, and why I feel the need to talk about it so much, for quite some time now.

There were so many factors to consider: being politically correct, not sounding judgmental, not shaming people, sounding too self righteous, not trying to seem like I’m wanting to drive the porn industry out of business, not trying to broadcast my dirty laundry for some sort of moral closure, the list goes on.

But the topics of objectification, sexual harassment/assault, human trafficking, and how sexual templates are being formed by the medium of pornography intersected in such a way that I felt it was absolutely necessary to write this post.

With 2020 bringing us a global quarantine and so much more time with our digital devices, the movement to bring education on the harmful effects of pornography to young people is even more urgent than ever before.

If you told 13 year old me as I picked up that first magazine, that those harmless pictures would bring me down a road littered with pain, a lack of intimacy, a skewing of my sexual template, shame, and problems that I would spend thousands of dollars trying to retroactively address in therapy, I think I would have thought twice about ever keeping that magazine.

Scratch that, my parents did try to tell me that albeit from a more religious and moral standpoint.

But it does make me ask the question, “What if this had been discussed to the same degree that the addictiveness and side effects of drugs or alcohol had been in my high school health class by objective third parties that were not my parents or legalistic religious institutions?”

Call me an idealist, but I think it is one of our responsibilities to do our best to make the world a better place for the generations that come after us.

If we ignore the dangerous and addictive nature of pornography, we will watch the themes of this fantasy world invade our real world in more shocking ways than what has already occurred.

Isn’t it weird that the #metoo movement seems to have less support from males?

Or that the current United States president has 26 sexual assault allegations against him and yet he still has half the population’s vote? Meanwhile an actress who accused her husband of assault has garnered the hate of the internet almost overnight? (I’m not speaking to accuracy of who did what, but particularly on the culture and the sexism apparent in the reaction of the internet)

Or isn’t it absolutely bizarre that if a woman comes forward about being a survivor of sexual assault that it is she who is put on trial? As if clothing or behaving as a human entitles anyone else to anything.

When we click those links and watch those videos, we fund the adspace that the industry sells to other vendors. That money goes back into the industry to produce more narratives that inaccurately present human as objects while proliferating the theme that “no does not mean no.” In fact, the exact theme that is prevalent in most videos is that “no means yes if you are persistent enough,”

And that my friends is part of the reason why porn is problematic.

Be sure to check out my friends at for extensive content on the harms of pornography. Whatever media consumption preferences you have, FTND has a resource for you. Whether it’s a podcast, articles, links to scientific studies, a three part documentary, guides for talking to children, significant others, or friends about porn, an app designed to help those in recovery, or something else, FTND probably can point you in the right direction.

If you are a recovering addict or compulsive user and you are reading this, congratulations: you aren’t alone. Recovery is a long process, and healing is often uncomfortable. I personally recommend therapy, but for my own recovery I desperately threw everything I could at the issue. Personally, it helped me to do away with moral/ legalistic counterpoints to pornography and instead focus on education and firsthand accounts. I started with Consider Before Consuming and it was super encouraging to feel like I wasn’t alone. Allies are also super important. Find maybe one friend or two to confide in and start the journey.

If you are a parent and reading this, FTND has resources available to talk through the harmful effects of pornography with your kids. They also have a partnership with a company called Bark, that focuses less on blocking content, and more on notifying you of word usage that could indicate porn consumption, self harm/suicide ideation, or potential online predator interaction.

Psychology Today is an excellent resource to find therapists in your area via zipcode. You can find healthcare coverage options all from the main page. A huge part in my personal recovery has been through therapy. I should also add that pornography also creates a space for anxiety and depression to be magnified in my own life and treatment has helped a lot with my mental state.

I pulled some data from :

Twigs, Logs, and Conversations with Grandpa

A week ago I got to sit down with my grandpa for several hours. At 89 years old, he’s seen a lot and if I’m honest, the older I get, the less patience I have for the repetitive nature of my grandparents’ storytelling. Regardless, I always seem to learn a LOT about life whenever I take the time to slowdown and listen.

My grandpa was the youngest of his siblings and even though he was often in poor health, he managed to outlive his wife and most of his colleagues. As he spoke, I could sense his overall pessimism with the concept of happiness. He kept referring to how when people would ask “how are you doing?” that the socially acceptable thing to respond with is “I’m doing great,” even though if people really cared and asked a follow up “but really how you are doing” that he would answer more honestly with a “I am very dissatisfied and unhappy with my life.”

A younger me might have steamrolled his emotions with a “There are so many good things happening around you. Look at your son spending time with you, or your granddaughters coming to visit you!” However, I just took the moment to nod and gave him the space to continue.

As we continued, he recounted how he met and courted his wife, how they got married, how they had their son, how they grew old together, and then how the breast cancer and the chemo took her away from him.

It was at this moment that I realized that it had been over 14 years since she had passed. Over the course of those years, slowly his liberties were stripped away from him. A few falls meant that my family had to move him closer to them and so he left his one community without any real hope of staying in contact. A few more scares meant he lost his ability to drive and so he mainly just stays at home now.

He smiled for a second and told me how throughout his life, his favorite past time was eating. If you ever spent time with my grandpa, you would know that eating was definitely a vice of sorts. But if you dug into the context, you would see how this coping mechanism was a response to the trauma caused by the Chinese Communist Party. My great grandfather had a pharmaceutical company in China and it was all taken away when the CCP came into power. My grandpa knows a plethora of languages and dialects because being on the run and being an immigrant were just a way of life. Eating became this privilege and struggling to make ends meet became a norm. There is this enormous scarcity mentality that I’m sure stems from that trauma.

His smile disappeared as he said, “Nowadays, because I’m getting old… even eating doesn’t bring me joy any more.” Steward your body, was the theme he kept repeating as he recounted story after story of how his older brothers and sisters would eat together. He recounted with joy the times that they got along, but he also mourned the times when they bullied him for being the youngest.

Somehow my grandpa kept returning to themes of eternal hope and gratefulness for what had temporarily been. It was quite literally a therapy session of a conversation where we felt all the emotions on the spectrum.

It was the first time where my grandfather ever told me, “I’ve done bad things and I always remember that I need Jesus.” It sounds sooo cliche, almost as if I’m adding this just to romanticize faith. But he really said that, and it really struck a chord within me.

See when I was a child (and some of my close friends would even argue now) I was ridiculously needy. I live and die for acceptance from family, friends, and the general public. I’ve chased affection in the form of relationships and accolades and I’ve always come up short.

I remember crying in my crib (yes I actually remember this), and being obnoxiously loud in that time period right as the sun is going down where it’s obviously getting darker, but it’s not completely dark yet. I was still afraid of the dark, and my room had a light pink curtain that didn’t completely block out light from the window. Across from our apartment was another set of apartments and on the wall of those apartments was a lantern with two lightbulbs. I was scared of the dark and had just woken up from a nap and as I looked around I saw the two lights from the lantern I imagined them as eyes of a monster peering at me. I started crying for my parents who I had forgotten were not home and my grandpa walked in.

I was hysterical and I wanted out of the crib and into the light. I think I just wanted to know someone else was there with me. I kept gesturing to the lights and trying to articulate that they looked like the eyes of a monster. Apparently I was decent at communicating, because my grandpa understood that I thought I saw a monster. But because I was being loud and because I was afraid, he reinforced the idea that I was seeing a monster. He said if I kept crying and being loud that this monster would come and get me.

In hindsight, if I was a parent or grandparent who was unfortunately given the drama king of a child/grandchild that I was, I think I would do anything to shut me up as well. If a story of a fictitious monster would shut me up then I wouldn’t put it past myself to use the same tactics.

But as someone who has sunk maybe 2-3k into therapy, let me tell you that this interaction was pretty important for little me. So much of my outlook on my own self, how valid my feelings or fears are, and so much more was formed in situations like this.

Obviously, my grandpa is not defined by this scenario, and he is not the villain in my story, but if we circle back to his admission of being an imperfect man, this scenario is one of the reasons why that admission was so profound to me.

Lin Manuel Miranda and Alex Lacamoire discuss the writing of the song “Wait for It” from Hamilton in a Netflix, Song Exploder episode. In response to the interviewer asking if they thought that Aaron Burr was a villain, Alex discusses how one theme from their work on Hamilton was “If our lives were judged by our worst days, wouldn’t we all be villains?”

I really enjoyed the shows Once Upon a Time, Dark, and Better Call Saul, because the characters in these shows have moments when they are heroes and moments when they are villains… just like real people in real life.

In 2020, we love cancelling people and organizations.

Let me rephrase that: In 2020, I love cancelling people.

I don’t think it was until I made some really large screw ups in my life that I realized that the world is not as black and white as I had thought as a child. It turns out that I’m not always the hero in my story. In fact many times I am the villain.

It turns out that despite my best efforts and my best intentions, I hurt and use people to get what I want.

Sometimes this is a result of trauma that I experienced in the past, but oftentimes it’s just a reflection of how human I am.

In Jesus’ most famous sermon on the mount, he preaches to this huge crowd of people on a mountain and He says (in summary), “Judge not lest you be judged. For whatever standard you use to judge others, you will be judged in the same manner. Why do you look at the twig in the eye of your brother but do not see the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘here let me take the twig out of your eye’ while there is a whole ass log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye so that you can see clearly in order to take the twig out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).

I find this passage very interesting especially in the context of our current culture.

I think it’s funny/sad how in general, Christians in the United States like to mix religion (Bible passages, teaching, campaigns, whatever) with everything else but specifically politics. Most churches will literally JUMP at the opportunity to publicly decry other people’s life choices while completely ignoring their own issues and sin.

We’ll talk for hours in “Christianese” circles about how we want to be like this romanticized notion of Jesus and how we want to be like the disciples that were just spending time with him all the time. We criticize Peter for not having enough faith to keep walking on water and we criticize Thomas for doubting. At the same time, we distance ourselves from and laugh at the hypocrisy of the pharisees, sadducees, and scribes (the Bible equivalent of church people) who literally spent their time trying to trip up Jesus on His theology and then eventually were the ones who initiated Jesus’ execution.

Like YO.

Hypocritical and religious church people like me were the people who literally put Jesus on that cross. It wasn’t the “radical left” or even the Roman government that put him there. I love how pastors will talk about how radical Jesus was and how the Romans saw him as a threat while literally glazing over the historical fact that THE CHURCH PEOPLE brought Him before the Roman powers to be executed.

The governor literally asked what Jesus had done wrong, and the religious people said that he was a criminal, that he needed to die, but that their traditions wouldn’t allow them to personally put him to death. When offered the choice of executing a known criminal or Jesus, the religious people chose Jesus.

This blogpost is kind of unique in the sense that it has really evolved from my original plans of what the message and theme would be.

What started as a reflection on time spent with my grandpa recounting the sorrow and joy of his long life, evolved into a personal reflection on fear and trauma, transitioned into an acknowledgement of the heroic and villainous nuances to each of our lives, and culminated in a Bible study lesson.

If you are reading this and you have questions about faith or Jesus, I think my message to you is that the Jesus and God of the Bible is actually a lot closer to us who are marginalized and what church people would call “sinners.” Religious people hated Jesus because his inner circle was literally the MOST hated people. There is a pretty large disconnect between the character of Jesus as depicted in the Bible, and the actions of the modern day church.

If you are reading this and you do consider yourself to be Christian, I would say that my message to you is that it is against everything we’ve been taught but we might need to re-visit scripture through the lens of the “villains.” Jesus addresses hypocrisy numerous times in His teachings. He constantly extends grace to people who we would consider “cancellable” while rebuking and admonishing religious people who try and condemn “sinners.” I think it’s dangerous for us to read the Bible and to try and learn about our place in all of this without accurately placing ourselves in the narrative contextually.

Initially, the title for this blog was going to be “Slow Down.” It was going to be an encouragement to take a breath and to sit and be present with those you care about without being distracted every two seconds by your phone.

I think thematically, I still implore you to slow down, albeit, I think now the meaning is twofold.

Obviously, slow down and cherish the time you have with those you care about because they won’t always be here, but also slow down when it comes to pointing fingers and judging others.

If you or I was judged by our worst day, we would all be cancelled.

I’m not saying don’t stand up for justice and just be a spineless person with no convictions, but there is a big difference between standing up for what you believe to be right and shaming and persecuting people who disagree with you.