project 365

On January 1, 2010, I embarked on a life-changing mission called Project 365. The challenge was to take one picture every day of the year. Of course, at the time I didn't think of it as much of a challenge, nor did I expect it would actually change my life. But, at times, it was, and at the end of it all, it did.

I feel fortunate to have captured the entirety of 2010 in digital images. When the year began, I had no idea about the things that were about to happen, grand adventures that were about to unfold. Project 365 has helped me to find gratitude in every moment, allowing me to recognize and acknowledge my blessings. While I can easily look back and assign milestones to years, it's not often that I can truly claim that one year in particular was the best year ever. I know that I have a lot to look forward to, but damn, 2010, you did me right!

My dear friend Ratha and I have this funny thing we do where we assign an overall theme to the beginning of the year, sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy for all the things we hope to accomplish in the days and months to come. 2008 we titled "The Year of Change," and that's precisely what it brought; the glory days of Chez Echo came to an end, I moved to New York City to change careers and pursue my dreams, and Barak Obama was elected into office as President with a promise of change for the American people. In 2009, we vowed to "Live it Up!," which I certainly did while spending my one and only full calendar year living in New York City. When 2010 rolled around, we weren't quite sure how to label the beginning of a new decade. Ratha thought we should call it "The Year of Love" because so many people she knew were getting married. I wanted to call it "Legendary" because I had my first professional acting gig lined up and could sense a lot more incredible things coming my way.

2010 has blown me away. I began the year in high spirits, wearing my brand new and smoking hot LBD, drinking mojitos with my girlfriends at the Cuban restaurant I was working at in New York City. I was preparing for a belated holiday trip home, after which I would be flying down to Miami for a two-month contract with Actors' Playhouse doing Miss Saigon. That officially crossed off two things on my bucket list - perform professionally and perform in Miss Saigon. After that, I hoped that I might get another job offer within the year. Little did I know that I would get three, one of which I would have to walk away from in order to accept another that I probably would have waited a lifetime for if I had to. I spent much of this year in Florida, a place I had always thought of living in but never really considered a possibility, and my in-between time was spent in New York, where I unexpectedly fell into the center of a budding lawsuit and simultaneously burned a bridge with a now-forgotten co-worker, and back home-home in California. I dealt with unemployment and its accompanying depression for the first time in my life, and I had to say goodbye to some of the closest friends I've ever made, not knowing when, or if, we'd ever see each other again. I helped those same friends produce two of our own shows in New York City, living up to the age-old adage that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. At home, I reconnected with long-lost friends that I had fallen out of touch with over the years, and I learned about the resiliency of love. I made plans for the future, I cancelled plans for the future, and I tried my best to live in the moment. I struggled for money, lost a lot of money, then came into enough money to help me start breathing again. As the oldest in my family, I feel a lot of pressure to be the ideal role model for everyone else and a strong pillar of support that my relatives can rely on. But this year, I came to accept my faults and weaknesses and learned to find strength in my sister and cousin, to whom I offer all my love and gratitude. I miraculously traveled for free much of this year, and though not every place I've visited has been the ideal travel destination, I am thankful and humbled by the opportunity to see the world and gain invaluable knowledge and wisdom, all while doing what I love.

So 2010 was legendary. But Ratha might have been on to something. This year was also full of love. Those adventures and experiences never would have happened to me if I didn't pursue the thing I loved. This was the year I made a full commitment to my health and fitness. I did that to help cultivate a self-love, and I wanted to give myself the best possible chance for a long and healthy life because I have finally started to believe that I am deserving of all that. And then there were the three men who came into my life this year and taught me, each in their own way, that I am worth loving. I owe a lot of my recent happiness to them.

Bottom line: 2010, you were awesome! This New Year's Eve, I'm coming around full circle. I'll be wearing my not-so-brand new but still smoking hot LBD, drinking mojitos with my guy friends on the cruise ship I work on in the Bahamas. It feels right to end the year much like I started it. Joy begets joy. Or something like that.

2011, bring it on!

View my Project 365 here:


diary of a single girl

If I were to be completely honest with myself, I'd have to admit that the truth is I've never been in love. There were times when I thought I was in love, but in retrospect, turns out I was actually in need. I needed someone to make me feel like I was special because at the time, I didn't believe it myself. And having someone like that around made my days bearable. There were also times when I'm pretty sure I've been close to being in love. The trouble is, the other person never knew it. Extenuating circumstances - usually another woman - prevented me from professing my amorous feelings, and as a result, love never truly blossomed.

For a long time, I thought that my ultimate life's goal was to be married, own a house, and raise a family. I mean, isn't that what everyone who grows up in the suburbs wants? Okay, I'm a bit of a non-conformist, and my life thus far hasn't really pushed me in that direction. But I always believed I was just a little bit misguided and that eventually, the path I was on would join up with the ones everyone else seemed to be following. I also believed that if I pursued the things I loved - music, travel, adventure - I'd fall in love with someone along the way. Um, God? It's been about 26 years now, quickly going on eternity. Don't you think I've been wandering around long enough?

Maybe I'm not cut out for love. I don't suppose everyone is. You hear stories of people who spend their lives in solitude; maybe I'm one of those people. It strikes me as a bit odd, though. I believe I'm an incredibly passionate person, and I strive to build strong and meaningful relationships with people. Wouldn't I be suited for love? I think I could handle it.

I have received endless advice from people on the subject: "You've got to put yourself out there!" Okay, so I've tried online dating. Multiple times, in fact. Every guy I run into on the Internet just never seems to be a match. Either he wants to marry me in a week, he can't hold a conversation to save his life, or I'm just not that attracted to him. I've been set up on dates by friends, but there's usually a lack of chemistry. Hell, I've even picked up guys at bars. But those kinds of guys end up working in the porn industry (true story, and I swear I didn't see it coming) or have some frighteningly weird sexual fetish (also another true story, which I probably should have seen coming). There's also the good old, "You've got to stop searching for it. I found the love of my life when I was least expecting it, and I've never been happier." For all those who have ever doled this piece of wisdom out to me, first of all, I would like to make you aware of the fact that when I came on board the Carnival Sensation, the last thing I wanted was to start a relationship. But then I fell for a guy, and it's turned out to be the most complicated, difficult, and heart-wrenching situation I've ever found myself in. Second of all, fuck you. (I mean that in the nicest way possible.)

How many times do you have to strike out before you realize that you just aren't that great of a baseball player? Don't get me wrong, I know my way around the field. I suppose I'm not meant to be a pro, that's all. So perhaps I should consider an alternate course of action.

I'm giving up on the suburban dream. You know, rich husband, white picket fence, 2.5 kids and a dog, the works. It's not that shocking, I guess, given my track record (headline: Single Girl Gets Her Heart Torn in Two, Yet Again!), and come on, can you really imagine me settling down? The passionate musician who leaves all she knows behind to pursue and preserve her art, becoming an avid globetrotter in the process... Maybe it's worth throwing in the towel. At the end of my life, I'd love to tell stories of me singing my way across our lovely planet, exploring unfamiliar corners and meeting the fabulous folks of our great green earth. Not many people get to do that. And I've got a good start on it already. Is it necessary to have a life partner to do it all with? I've still got chemistry, I've still got romance, that should suffice. It has so far, for the most part.

Okay, there is a part of me that is surrendering. I've never felt like a keeper, mostly because no one's ever wanted to have me. But instead of wallowing in my misery, I'm rejecting it and embracing the life of the Single Girl. At this point, what else is there to do, really?

Maybe I'm not meant to find love. But I sure as hell will find adventure.


drumroll, please

There's this incredibly romantic episode in season one of How I Met Your Mother, my favorite TV show, called "Drumroll, Please." Here's a rundown for those not in the know: Ted, the protagonist of the show, attends the wedding of an old friend. There, he meets a girl who catches his interest. When he approaches her, the interest is clearly mutual. However, she proposes that the two of them attempt to achieve the ultimate one-night stand - all the romance without the awkwardness of the morning after. The rules are no last names, no kissing, and no goodbyes. That way, in the years to come, both she, first given the alias Buttercup but later revealed as Victoria, and Ted will have an untarnished memory of an incredibly romantic night that neither or them will forget. Sounds good enough. They spend the evening doing fun and spontaneous things, like stealing the bride's bouquet, tap dancing to piano music in an adjacent reception hall, doing cartwheels down the hallways. At one point, Ted asks Victoria if he can kiss her. She declines, saying that kissing would shatter the illusion of idyllic romance because Ted may end up being a bad kisser, thereby ruining the perfect evening. So Victoria suggests that they do a lead up to a kiss, the moment of anticipation right before the lips meet. A drumroll, if you will. Ted reluctantly agrees, and both admit the moment is exhilarating. At the end of the night, Ted confesses that while the evening was indeed perfect, it will end unhappily as he watches Victoria walk out the door. She smiles at him, asks him to close his eyes and count to five, and tearfully walks away in the brief moment that she is hidden from him, to help him preserve a perfect memory of her.

I first watched this episode about three or four years ago, when I first discovered How I Met Your Mother. I have since watched it multiple times, and every time, I am simultaneously entranced and frustrated. What an interesting concept, to have an unadulterated evening of bliss with someone you are clearly enamored with. But how frustrating to think that moments like that can't last forever. Of course, in the course of the season, Ted tracks Victoria down and they get involved in a short but sweet relationship, eventually terminating because of long distance.

Now that's the stuff that romance is made of. But come on, who does that really happen to? No one, right?

Wrong, friends. So very wrong. I know this because... Well, I just met my Buttercup.

Truth be told, when I first got on this ship a little over a month ago, romance was the last thing on my mind. First of all, I had a job to do, a job which I've been waiting a lifetime for. Second of all, and just as important, I had some money to make. And I didn't want to engage in anything that might be detrimental in achieving either of those goals. I also understood and accepted the reality of my situation; I'd be here for six months, during which time people would come and go, and it wasn't a good scenario for starting a lasting and meaningful relationship. I was ready to have non-committal fun, in whatever form it took. But then I met Buttercup.

The funny thing was, I already had someone else in mind for myself. Someone whom I'd been secretly waiting for and hoping that he was also secretly waiting for me. I never really gave him much of a thought previously, mostly because I was never in the right place at the right time, but recently, new possibilities opened up. And I was holding out for those. Maybe I still am, I don't know. But the truth is, I'm here, he's there, and there's a whole lot of time and distance between us at the moment. Then Buttercup walked into my life. Or rather, I came on board his. He took me by surprise, mostly because there were so many things about him that didn't fit my usual bill: he's younger than I am (I'll admit that I'm an agist and have historically refused to date anyone younger than me), he's not really my type (you know, I've got the Miss Saigon syndrome - Asian girl falls for the clean cut, all-American white boy), he doesn't have the type of career I prefer (I dated a guy years ago who does the exact same thing that Buttercup does, and it blew up in my face, so I've sworn off those kinds of guys since then). There are a lot of other complications to throw in the mix as well. In a nutshell, he's not right for me. But geez Louise, I think he's the bee's knees. Everything about him, from his looks to his laugh to his charming personality, has me doe-eyed and star struck. He really does it for me.

We spent one incredible month together, the last week of which sent me reeling back into youthful nostalgia as we spent nights walking along the beach, dancing under the stars, and kissing on balconies. But last weekend, he was transferred to another ship, where he is finishing out the remainder of his contract. As expected, I am heartbroken, and not a day has yet passed that I haven't cried like a teenage girl who just broke up with her high school sweetheart. We are trying to maintain contact, but living on the seas makes communication difficult. The odds are not in our favor, and I honestly wonder whether I'll ever see this incredible man again.

Here's the thing that I find most interesting about the situation. Those that are closest to me can attest that I am a closed person. Very rarely do I let my emotional guard down, and of the few times that I do, about 0.01% of those are for romantic endeavors. So why him? Why was he the one that I let myself open up to? Maybe it's because I was so physically attracted to him. Maybe it's because he is so genuinely sweet, and I felt that I had found a kindred spirit. I think, though, what it boils down to is that I know things here are temporary, so I want to make the most of it. Buttercup and I had a clear expiration date, and I wanted to relish every moment I had with him, even if it meant becoming vulnerable. And for the first time in a very long time, my feelings were reciprocated. Being open to him opened me up to happiness, no matter how short-lived it may be. I learned that I want more of this in my life and that the risk is clearly worth the reward. I just have to let myself fall once in a while.

I know that reality is gaining on the fantasy life Buttercup and I managed to piece together. Regardless of the outcome, I will cherish the time we had together. We had one hell of a drumroll.