I gained consciousness in Seoul, Korea as the youngest of three children: my older brother got me into computers and inspired me to go into technology; my older sister convinced me as a kid that the chocolate ice cream I was eating was poop and graciously offered to eat it on my behalf. Thanks for looking out for me, sis.
My parents sent my siblings and me to live with my grandparents in the promised land of California. I successfully made my first friend in America and spontaneously combusted into a social butterfly with lots of pointing and three words: "You. Me. Friend?"
This is where my story gets fairly dark, but it gets better, I promise.
My brother and sister stayed with my grandparents while I moved in with my uncle and aunt. Unfortunately, they didn't actually want me and turned out to be physically and emotionally abusive for the two years I lived with them.
During this period, my mom and dad announced their plan to visit us in the States for the first time. Some time before the planned trip, my dad started telling me that my mom was too tired to talk whenever I asked for her on the phone. When the trip happened, he arrived alone, gathered our family members, and broke the news: breast cancer killed my mom. I cried and cried but no one else did because everyone had known for a while.
I share these personal events because I've long since discovered that openness and vulnerability creates strength. They are also a source of immense gratitude: When I look back on this period of my life and reflect on losing my mom in the midst of being beaten and neglected by relatives who were entrusted with caring for me, I can't help but be thankful that I somehow made it out okay.
I reached the peak of my creative life as a 5th grader:
I started a publication called Imagination Comix under which I created numerous comic books ranging from a choose-your-own-adventure stick figure spy series to one about a sheep named Famula.
I developed my own trading cards called Marble Monsters, held contests for crowdsourcing monster ideas from classmates, and hired a few friends to print cards from their home printers by paying them a dollar each. Andy wrote a letter saying that his mom wouldn't let him use the printer and asked if we can still be friends. I ignored him for the rest of the year. Just kidding.
I sold my own currency called Funny Money which were strips of paper with gold glitter that could be exchanged for snacks from Korean supermarkets. I'm told this was a felony.
A song cover that I posted on YouTube became popular (now at 100,000+ views from 130+ countries) and I discovered how amazing the Internet is for reaching people from all around the world. I also learned about my special power for curing racism: "Dude I was going to be racist and make fun of your slanty little asian eyes till you started to sing, and your voice doesn't suck like the girl I watched before this video, so... Good job?" (YouTube comment, 2008)
I found myself staring in disbelief at the screen with an orange tiger and CONGRATULATIONS! written beneath it. When I excitedly told my grandparents that I got into Princeton, they nonchalantly continued watching TV because they didn't believe me. When I finally convinced them, I wished I hadn't because they thought this was big enough news to publish in the local Korean newspaper and I obviously thought that was ridiculous. It got published.
I worked as a software engineering intern at Facebook after my freshman year and fell in love with the tech world. The summer was magical and full of many firsts: making money, working with amazingly talented and accomplished people, and learning that free gourmet food can be a bad thing when I experienced the "Facebook Fifteen" firsthand and gained a ton of weight.
I considered returning to Facebook but decided to use my internships to maximize my exposure to different experiences and joined Twilio in San Francsico. I learned what it's like to work at a startup, especially the part where you get really good at ping pong.
I took a year off from school because my grandma was dying. I spent time with her in the beginning of the year, moved to Silicon Valley to build the next world-changing iPhone app and quickly realized it wasn't going to happen, briefly worked as a street fundraiser for the Red Cross and learned the fearlessness that comes from getting rejected for 8 hours a day, then fell in love with traveling when I took a leap of faith and ventured on a solo backpacking trip around 13 countries in Europe.
I became a hackNY Fellow and coded at a startup called Crowdtap by day and explored New York and ate unholy amounts of Artichoke Pizza with the other hackNY Fellows by night.
After three software engineering internships, I knew what it'd be like to work as a software engineer. I looked for a role where I could focus on figuring out what should be built and why, rather than the implementation details. I interned as an Associate Product Manager at Google in Seattle and instantly fell in love with stealing all the credit and glory after engineers do the hard work.
I graduated from Princeton and backpacked around Asia over the summer when I got sick nasty abs because I literally got sick from drinking contaminated Vietnamese coffee and my body refused to digest anything for a week. When I got back, I joined Google as a full-time Associate Product Manager in Mountain View where I specialized in looking busy while actually just eating snacks all the time.
A psilocybin experience blew my mind in the most wonderful way and it led to a fascination with consciousness and altered states. That experience and Sam Harris's work convinced me that there is value in spirituality and that it can be approached in a rational way whereas I had previously rejected it categorically as superstition. I started meditating regularly and attended a week-long silent retreat in Spirit Rock where I cultivated a deeper appreciation for mindfulness and spiritual practice.
Working at a multinational company like Google provided the unique opportunity to live in a different country and learn about other cultures and perspectives, so I decided to move to the land of mochi and see what life was like on the other side of the world.
I fell in love with making videos and left Google in search of fame and glory. I stumbled upon it when one of my videos went ridiculously viral, racking up over 45 million views and resulting in hundreds of thousands of followers. I'm extremely grateful to have found people all over the world who appreciate my experiences — especially the ones that were difficult to share like forgiving my dad and struggling with my Asian-American identity.
In 2011, I became pescatarian after a course with the philosopher Peter Singer revealed the absurdity of the immense suffering we unnecessarily inflict on animals. In 2013, I started eating meat again despite my ethical beliefs. In 2016, I decided to live congruently with my values and became vegetarian. In 2017, I made the transition to being vegan.
After half a year of traveling and making videos, I dropped everything to investigate a question that burned brightly within: What really matters in life? For a year, I dedicated myself to spiritual practice in monasteries, ashrams, and meditation centers across Burma, India, and the States, including a 500-hour yoga training course and a 3-month silent meditation retreat.
I'm currently exploring how spiritual teachings can be integrated with the rest of modern life. What does it mean to live with mindfulness, love, and kindness in today's society?
I am holding that question closely as I focus on meditation, writing, design, and working on various projects.