What LC Read: Vol. 19 (Artisanal Soy Sauce, Football, Embezzlement, & More)

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Farm | Joanne Ramos
Notes: Like The Handmaid's Tale with the exquisite specificity of Filipino American literature (think remittances, "chosen" families, sacrifice, etc.). The unrealistic, haphazard ending had me bristling, but it's a nevertheless compelling and worthwhile book. Ooh, also: the "villain" of the book is one of those innocuously evil East Asian American sellouts -- you know the ones. Delicious.
Synopsis: Nestled in the Hudson Valley is a sumptuous retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, private fitness trainers, daily massages—and all of it for free. In fact, you get paid big money—more than you've ever dreamed of—to spend a few seasons in this luxurious locale. The catch? For nine months, you belong to the Farm. You cannot leave the grounds; your every move is monitored. Your former life will seem a world away as you dedicate yourself to the all-consuming task of producing the perfect baby for your ├╝berwealthy clients.
Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines and a struggling single mother, is thrilled to make it through the highly competitive Host selection process at the Farm. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her own young daughter's well-being, Jane grows desperate to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she'll receive on delivery—or worse.
Heartbreaking, suspenseful, provocative, The Farm pushes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit to the extremes, and raises crucial questions about the trade-offs women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.

Normal People | Sally Rooney
Notes: My sister the Literature major hated this one, but I stand by its merits! I think it's one of those rare books written about young adults but for adults. There's enough nuance to curate and encourage nostalgia and empathy; but enough distance to feel sophisticated and retrospectively wise.
Synopsis: At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.
A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other. Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

The Misfortune of Marion Palm | Emily Culliton
Note: I'm not really sure what I found so compelling about this book, since it was a drag to read and full of deeply unlikable people. Still, I got through it eventually. No resounding endorsement here.
Synopsis: Marion Palm prefers not to think of herself as a thief but rather "a woman who embezzles." Over the years she has managed to steal $180,000 from her daughters' private school, money that has paid for European vacations, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, and perpetually unused state-of-the-art exercise equipment. But, now, when the school faces an audit, Marion pulls piles of rubber-banded cash from their basement hiding places and flees, leaving her family to grapple with the baffled detectives, the irate school board, and the mother-shaped hole in their house. Told from the points of view of Nathan, Marion's husband, heir to a long-diminished family fortune; Ginny, Marion's teenage daughter, who falls helplessly in love at the slightest provocation; Jane, Marion's youngest who is obsessed with a missing person of her own; and Marion herself, on the lam—and hiding in plain sight.

God Help the Child | Toni Morrison
Note: Re-reading Toni Morrison's works because obviously. This wasn't my favorite of hers, probably because it was uncharacteristically sparse. (Is that fair to say? Her works are never excessive, but they've always felt rich and this just didn't.) Still an aching, desperate novel.
Synopsis: God Help the Child is a searing tale about the way childhood trauma shapes and misshapes the life of the adult. At the center: a woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life; but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love until she told a lie that ruined the life of an innocent woman, a lie whose reverberations refuse to diminish ... Booker, the man Bride loves and loses, whose core of anger was born in the wake of the childhood murder of his beloved brother ... Rain, the mysterious white child, who finds in Bride the only person she can talk to about the abuse she's suffered at the hands of her prostitute mother ... and Sweetness, Bride's mother, who takes a lifetime to understand that "what you do to children matters. And they might never forget."

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God | Francis Chan
Note: Probably what C.S. Lewis meant by "if you're looking for comfort, look elsewhere." (The actual quote is: If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.) Very little about my faith has centered on comfort - it's why I keep emphasizing my pursuit of clarity, which is often ugly and unpleasant but has never led me to a forsaken place.
Synopsis: Have you ever wondered if we're missing it?
It's crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe—the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor—loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss.
Whether you've verbalized it yet or not, we all know something's wrong.
Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions? God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn't working harder at a list of do's and don'ts-it's falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same.
Because when you're wildly in love with someone, it changes everything.

Soy Sauce for Beginners | Kirstin Chen
Note: This had all the elements of an amazing book! Authored by a Chen! "Tension between personal ambition and filial duty!" My favorite Singaporean word, "Ang Mo," (used to describe white people) and its implications on interracial relationships! But I found this book severely lacking in any real meaning or character; I literally could not care less what happened to Gretchen despite wanting so badly to empathize with her. Very disappointing.
Synopsis: Gretchen Lin, adrift at the age of thirty, leaves her floundering marriage in San Francisco to move back to her childhood home in Singapore and immediately finds herself face-to-face with the twin headaches she’s avoided her entire adult life: her mother’s drinking problem and the machinations of her father’s artisanal soy sauce business.
Surrounded by family, Gretchen struggles with the tension between personal ambition and filial duty, but still finds time to explore a new romance with the son of a client, an attractive man of few words. When an old American friend comes to town, the two of them are pulled into the controversy surrounding Gretchen’s cousin, the only male grandchild and the heir apparent to Lin’s Soy Sauce. In the midst of increasing pressure from her father to remain permanently in Singapore—and pressure from her mother to do just the opposite—Gretchen must decide whether she will return to her marriage and her graduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory, or sacrifice everything and join her family’s crusade to spread artisanal soy sauce to the world.

The Fifth Risk | Michael Lewis
Note: A dizzying, fast-paced read that reminds you all the horrible, incompetent people you refused to delegate to during group projects are now real adults with significant power and they still don't know how to do anything. Except now you're not there to save them. A shudder of a book. No, a grimace. Highly recommend (as I do of most of Lewis's books!).
Synopsis: "The election happened," remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. "And then there was radio silence." Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them.
Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders. In Agriculture the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it’s not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do.
Willful ignorance plays a role in these looming disasters. If your ambition is to maximize short-term gains without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing those costs. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is upside to ignorance, and downside to knowledge. Knowledge makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview.
If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes, unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system—those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.

Book of Hours: Love Poems to God | Rainer Maria Rilke
Note: I don't know what there is left to say about Book of Hours that I haven't already sobbed to anybody who will listen. This was my point of no return to poetry; my personal copy is in tatters. The most divine, elegant, raw and human creation to ever grace earth. I will dedicate my firstborn to Rilke.
Synopsis: At the beginning of this century, a young German poet returned from a journey to Russia, where he had immersed himself in the spirituality he discovered there. He "received" a series of poems about which he did not speak for a long time - he considered them sacred, and different from anything else he ever had done and ever would do again. This poet saw the coming darkness of the century, and saw the struggle we would have in our relationship to the divine. The poet was Rainer Maria Rilke, and these love poems to God make up his Book of Hours.

The Blind Side | Michael Lewis
Note: I started this book with absolutely zero understanding of football. I don't think I've ever held a football in my life. Post-The Blind Side, I know... some things, none of which will prove to be of any practical use. But if you don't mind that your mind will keep wandering towards Sandra Bullock (who of course, played Leigh Anne Tuohy in the eponymous movie), this is such a good read. I love Michael Lewis. I really do. He made me care about sports.
Synopsis: When we first meet Michael Oher, he is one of thirteen children by a mother addicted to crack; he does not know his real name, his father, his birthday, or how to read or write. He takes up football and school after a rich, white, Evangelical family plucks him from the streets. Then two great forces alter Oher: the family's love and the evolution of professional football itself into a game in which the quarterback must be protected at any cost. Our protagonist becomes the priceless package of size, speed, and agility necessary to guard the quarterback's greatest vulnerability: his blind side.

Fitness Friday: No. 3

Friday, August 9, 2019

(CL Editor's Note: My half-marathon was on April 14th, so it's been 3 months.. oops!)

It's been a couple of months now since my half-marathon, though it feels like it's been a year. I can still remember some feelings of it quite vividly, but other feelings I've forgotten. Don't mean to sound overly dramatic, but I don't ever plan on running another half-marathon ever again. The toll it takes on your body (or at least the toll it took on mine) was huge. But completing the half-marathon felt like my greatest accomplishments in the past year. I truly have no idea how people do a full marathon at 26.2 miles when the half-marathon at 13.1 miles already tortured my soul.

To start, this race was actually my first ever race. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but you get put into "corrals" aka groups based on how fast your pace is. You also don't have to worry about not being able to run the first couple minutes, because the official time doesn't start until you cross the start line. They measure your official start based off of when your bib crosses the start line (something something bib tag something technology). As soon as I started, I knew this was the one and only chance I'd ever get at recording a half-marathon time since I knew right away I never wanted to run one again. This was great in that it pushed me to run fast! 

Pre-race I had woken up early to eat my home-made chocolate peanut butter oatmeal bowl for the #carbs #carbloading and during the race I ate Pro Bar Energy Chews. If you're thinking of running a half-marathon, definitely figure out what works for you but the consensus online is that you need to eat carbs beforehand and during the race mid-way through most take some energy gels or chews.

The hardest part of the half-marathon for me was probably the end. Every second of miles 10 to 13.1, I wanted to give up. I also vaguely remember getting a horrible cramp sometime in between and feeling as if my rib was broken. I'd definitely say that knowing the course helped me a lot because I knew when hills were coming and to mentally prepare myself for them. I think having people cheer for you around the end is really important whether it be strangers or loved ones.

All I remember about the "post-race" portion is cheering for my friend Dara and then us eating the free bagels and pretzels and juice they had given us. We both decided to take naps, so we passed out for a couple hours before meeting up again to eat together. Later that day, I ended up getting wonton soup, dumplings, Asian peanut noodles, and ice cream with her. We had been training together for the past month or two by running usually 4 - 6 miles once a weekend in Central Park. I also remember eating some cheap pizza later that night because I was starving from all that exercise! I think the best part of the half-marathon was finishing it, then sleeping, and then eating as much as I wanted to... haha!
Overall, I truly am so proud of myself for finishing my (one and only) half-marathon. There's just something about striving for a goal for a couple months and then accomplishing it that feels really satisfying. For those curious, my official time was 1:50:05 and my pace per mile was 8:24 (not sure if this actually really means anything to anyone though since running is truly an individual thing in my opinion).

Happy running,

Not a Hot Take, I'm Just Mourning: Toni Morrison

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

San Francisco, CA, USA

Photo by Acadiana Center for the Arts

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” 
T O N I  M O R R I S O N

I always suspected that my body, my personhood were insufficient vessels for all the grief and gratitude I've tried to contain within it. I drown until I spill over. The news of Toni Morrison's passing this morning confirmed this belief to be true. I am shell-shocked and speechless; I want to genuflect in praise and incomprehensible joy. I want to hug strangers on the street. "Don't you know," I want to scream, "don't you know the good news: that literature and language are undying, incapable of certain death. Look at all that cannot be burned down. Look at what nobody can take away from us. Look at the love and light that will always, always, forever be ours to keep. Look at what has been left behind to save us all."

I could try to prescribe her works, or catalog her finest prose. But any reader knows that this is unnecessary. You'll find her when you're ready; or maybe, the words you needed will find you. There is an entire generational canon of literature that can trace its ancestry to Morrison: 'If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.' 
My own, little as it is, sits among these.

So I'll end with the words that found me last:
I am a writer and my faith in the world of art is intense but not irrational or naive. Art invites us to take the journey beyond price, beyond costs into bearing witness to the world as it is and as it should be. Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it from even the most tragic of circumstances. Art reminds us that we belong here. And if we serve, we last. My faith in art rivals my admiration for any other discourse. Its conversation with the public and among its various genres is critical to the understanding of what it means to care deeply and to be human completely. I believe. 
I'm so devastated. So indebted. Thank God for Toni Morrison, and for every teacher who's led me to her. May her journey home be mighty, freed.


Sunday School: Vol. 2

Monday, August 5, 2019

San Francisco, CA, USA

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
2  P E T E R 1 : 3 - 9

The world easily feels so devoid of hope. From the multiple mass shootings in the past month to the escalating violence in Hong Kong to the general cruelty of those who will simply never learn to forfeit their selfishness, my solitary, little heart feels overwhelmingly broken. With every iteration of "thoughts and prayers," I fill with rage. What, exactly, are you all praying for, if not the courage to seek justice? To stand alongside the oppressed, the immigrant, the unloved?

I know I'm at once shy and bewilderingly hot-tempered, but I love this world and those in it with my entire heart. Grief, then, feels like an inevitable amendment to the human condition, the price we pay for all this love. In a split second of clarity, I understood the devastation of our Creator, how His love dwarfs mine, and therefore his grief, too.

As I've mentioned before, my testimony feels incomplete. I don't know what, exactly, resurrected my faith - I have guesses, none of them valiant or noble or particularly gracious. But I do know that my life has been doubly full of disappointments and rage ever since I chose to surrender to God's will; I've also felt doubly capable to survive them all. Tough love, I'm learning, is Godly and true love. I don't ever want to settle for anything less, ever again (cc: Leona in a few months, trying to be babied by the next guy. Don't do it!)

Below, the lights on my path:

This essay on joy as resistance by Sarah Bessey:
I know I’m not alone in this: we are all carrying each other’s pain this summer, it seems. It feels as if the world is burning down and we feel powerless to help and so we grieve and we get angry and we post things on Facebook, we march and we protest and we gather and we tell politicians what the problem really is, we watch the news and we cry and yell about things and then we look around our daily lives and wonder, am I doing enough to fix it? And is it a betrayal to not feel sad all the time? To not be in despair over the state of the world?
Here’s the thing about Christian joy – it isn’t stupid. Joy is the affirmation of the truest thing of all: redemption, restoration, reconciliation. It’s resistance. It’s a resistance of the false and broken to embrace and practice the true and the whole. We are prophesying with our lives. In the face of poverty, we practice generosity. In the face of ugliness, we practice beauty. In the face of injustice, we practice justice and mercy. In the rhetoric of fear, we declare be not afraid! In the face of racism, we practice reconciliation. In the face of despair, we practice hope. In the face of ignorance, we practice wisdom and knowledge. We name it, we aren’t afraid of it, and then while the Not-Yet looks on in disbelief at our cheek, we set to work putting things as they are-and-will-be.

 This statement written by members of Progressive Asian American Christians, a community for socially, politically, and theologically progressive Asian American and Asia diaspora Christians:
WE BELIEVE that the pursuit of social justice is essential to a life of faith in Jesus and is a present-day calling of the church. The credibility of reconciliation is obstructed when Christian communities proclaim it in a way that perpetuates the separation of its members. In this document, we specifically name discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexuality, and class [2] as perpetuating alienation and enmity to God and between members of humankind. We deny any teaching that appeals to the Gospel to legitimize discrimination, and we proclaim that such separation denies in advance the Gospel’s reconciling power. (Leviticus 19:18; Romans 13; Galatians 5:1-15; James 2:8-9; James 4).
  • God placed us in families and in communities. Our God-created nature depends on being connected with and cared for by others (Ruth 1:16-17; Romans 12:5; Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 10:24-25).
  • We are inherently social beings.
  • God wills that things are restored, repaid, made whole, and made new here on Earth (2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 22:1-7).
  • This is the spirit of justice.
  • God’s will is manifested in societies where the needs of those that don’t have enough are fulfilled by those who have more than enough (Acts 4:32-35). When God walked among us, Jesus taught and lived by this principle (Luke 6:17-26; Luke 19:1-10; Matthew 14:13-21).
  • Things are made right through communities of people.
In other words, God’s will is social justice.

The next installment in Transformation Church's "Relationship Goals" series, Single, Not Alone, on the importance of maximizing our singleness:

One of my greatest fears in life is a bad marriage, which seems counterproductive given that I've been in some sort of relationship for most of the last decade (lol, I know). I always thought that the key to a satisfying marriage (because nobody taught me and I had to figure this out for myself) was lots and lots of practice: learning their love language, putting in the effort, figuring out who you are as a partner. So I've always prided myself on being an increasingly good girlfriend. I'm more patient. I try to be sweet. I get dangerously close to "pick me" territory. But I'm learning - in my early twenties, thankfully, that to put my identity as a partner ahead of my identity as a whole, solitary individual nearly promises disaster and loss of self. This sermon suggests that marriage doesn't improve upon our single selves; it exposes it. Everything we believe, deep down, to be true about ourselves is laid bare in a serious relationship; are we prepared for this?

The Bible Project's 1-Year Reading Plan, which I'm working through at the moment:
As a side note, I prefer reading a physical bible so I can highlight/take notes/cover it in post-its, but the Reading Scripture app is really user-friendly, too!

This resounding insistence that how we treat immigrants is how we treat God:
Many of Christianity’s tenets are inherently illogical and absurd —  a person being fully man and fully God; a person rising from the dead; miracles (like being swallowed alive by a fish); angels and supernatural beings; an afterlife … If Christians can accept these things as true, the basic themes of the gospel: love, joy, peace, kindness, forgiveness, and hope can hardly be questioned. Yet many Christians are failing to abide by these fundamental truths, refusing to follow God’s greatest command. For people claiming the faith of Christ, showing love and compassion to immigrants, no matter their status, is a requirement of following Jesus — there is no alternative.

This poem from Rainer Maria Rilke's Book of Hours:
God, give us each our own death,
the dying that proceeds
from each of our lives:
the way we loved,
the meanings we made,
our need.  

Finally, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, by Francis Chan:
If you merely pretend that you enjoy God or love Him, He knows. You can't fool Him; don't even try. Instead, tell Him how you feel. Tell Him that He isn't the most important thing in this life to you, and that you're sorry for that. Tell Him that you've been lukewarm, that you've chosen ___________ over Him time and time again. Tell Him that you want Him to change you, that you long to genuinely enjoy Him. Tell Him how you want to experience true satisfaction and pleasure and joy in your relationship with Him. Tell Him you want to love Him more than anything on this earth. Tell Him you want to treasure the kingdom of heaven so much that you'd willingly sell everything in order to get it. Tell Him what you like about Him, what you appreciate, and what brings you joy. 'Jesus, I need to give myself up. I am not strong enough to love You and walk with You on my own. I can't do it, and I need You. I need You deeply and desperately. I believe You are worth it, that You are better than anything else I could have in this life or the next. I want You. And when I don't, I want to want You. Be all in me. Take all of me. Have Your way with me'.
With love, love, love,

The Catalogue: No. 34

Sunday, August 4, 2019

I love reading juicy things and Money Diaries by Refinery29 are some of my favorite reads. The idea is that you get a peek into the life of someone and how much they spend per week and on what. There's people making over $200,000, but also people making $17 an hour. The people talk about what subscriptions they have (e.g., Netflix, Blue Apron, Spotify) or what their parents help them with (e.g., rent or groceries) and it's all so interesting. Money and spending can be such a taboo topic, but these definitely provide insight into other people's lives. There are joint income stories and college student stories. I love them all.

There's shocking ones like the spending of a woman in LA making $0. Like did she really just pay a company $24 to do her laundry when she could save a lot of money by going to a laundromat or when she talks about her call with her lawyer because "a random meth addict wandering around the Hills managed to break into my house".

There's 'wholesome' ones like a banking analyst in NY who ends up moving to London to work at a hedge fund. I love that she writes about her spending and life both when she was in New York and then gives readers an update now that she's in London. I appreciate how genuine she is in her Money Diaries and she just seems like someone I could have known in my life.

Some also submit their own money diary about how they don't make much, but are able to do nice, fun things thanks to their parents. It's also crazy reading about how she has a friend with a CHEF! I am both envious and judgmental (for lack of a better word).

It's always fun to get a little sneak peek into other people's lives. As long as it's not causing you to feel bad, it's pretty interesting to see what other people do with their money. Most people's lives are nowhere near as glamorous as you may think. I personally enjoy the crazy ones, but I also like to read the ones of people living in New York making a similar amount to me and just seeing what they choose to spend their money on vs. what I choose to spend my money on (food, Pret, Starbucks, shopping, etc.).


3 Ways to Keep Burnout at Bay

Friday, August 2, 2019

San Francisco, CA, USA

1. Always have something extracurricular to look forward to on your calendar
It's probably so on-brand that my most effective way to navigate stress is to add something else to my calendar. Buuuuut,  note that it has to be extracurricular!
I never understood how spa days/manicures/massages could be part of a regular self-care routine because I am stingy, but I see the appeal now: dedicated, regimented time for forced stillness. Make this an activity that categorically has not contributed to your burnout: if the intensity of a really disciplined workout is getting to you, for example (but also, good for you), scheduling another yoga class probably misses the point. Or if you're a creative, even a casual paint day might not be as effective. Really, truly deviate from your everyday life. Eat out if you rarely do so (doesn't have to be somewhere nice! And if you go alone, like I love doing, you can bring an easy-read book so you aren't tempted to check your emails/be productive). See a movie or live show. Catch up with a college roommate.
The key for me is to have this on my calendar to remind myself that I have to commit to "pleasurable" activities as much as I do personal and professional ones. I'm not someone who just fits in "me time" in spare pockets of my planner; while spontaneity is great, having something extracurricular to look forward to reminds me that I have a life and identity beyond what I "need" to do.

2. Take mental and emotional inventory
Yes, ladies, this is indeed an exciting list-making opportunity!
1. Make a list of everything that's stressing you out. Get as granular as you'd like, then categorize them into "themes" that seem to make sense: this could be centered around their source (work, romantic relationships, health/fitness), or their trigger (a lack of time, feeling unfulfilled, etc.).
2. Circle what you feel is absolutely, holistically the most important. Not the item most immediately due, but the one with the most "spiritual urgency." Please don't let this be, like, a top-line company initiative. What matters to you the most? What would make you feel fulfilled? What would help you feel more like yourself?
3. Circle what you feel is the most important in each of your themes: if one of your themes is "career," for example, apply the Pareto principle: what is one project that will have maximum impact at work? If you're being an A+ list-maker and have included emotional triggers, is there an interaction or environment that you encounter most frequently?
4. Everything you've circled is all that matters for now. Everything else is just noise. It's cool that you want to start rock climbing and take that online CS certification course and develop a better relationship with your sister-in-law, but it can wait. You've now whittled your life down from overachievement to smart achievement: first, you're going to find a purpose again. Then, you're going to move the needle in a few, strategic moves. Then, you're going to take a break. That is all you get to do. I mean it.

3. Check up on your strong, powerful friends - especially the ones who always seem to have their shit together
I've always had friends who are astoundingly clever, ambitious, and well-rounded. Like, not just your typical "did well in school, holds down a nice corporate job in finance/consulting/etc." high achiever, but literal startup founders, Fulbright scholars, side hustlers, teachers, and grassroots activists. Honestly, the average of my circle is 10x the person I aspire to be (related: Combating Jealousy in Friendships). And while that can be intimidating, I've also seen this deeply human, suffering part of genius that I've come to respect and, consequently, make room for. The "social media only shows the highlights of our imperfect, chaotic lives" bit feels so superficial when it's made to be about stretch marks, messy hair, and cellulite. The real shit is the social policy trailblazer who can't reconcile with her conservative, racist parents; the MD/PhD candidate who obsessively substitutes sex for companionship; the community organizer battling anxiety and chronic depression. I've had the most productive, rewarding conversations reaching out to the friends who seem to be doing amazing in life.
The work here is twofold: one, you come to realize how much people sacrifice for their success - and beyond that, the toll of constant sacrifice. Seeing what excellence costs helps you put its pursuit into perspective. Repeat after me: hustle porn is a lie. 
Second, you learn to be more generous with yourself. I tend to be so forgiving and pragmatic with the people I love. I want them to rest far more than I allow myself to; I honor their needs and fears more than my own. Most people do. Very good friends will allow you to take care of them, all the while reflecting the ways you need to be taken care of.

Take care of yourself.
With love always,

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