We all have those moments when we lose sight of our creativity and don’t know how to get it back. Here are some tips to get your juju back so you can get sh*t done!
Have a routine – giving yourself a consistent routine gives you the ability to subconsciously do things without thinking too much. This will leave you with more mental space to focus on more important things at work and in your personal life. Many people create a morning and night routine so they have consistency in their life and don’t have to think too much of what they need to get done.
Wear a uniform (simplifying your outfits) – adding to the point mentioned above, creating some kind of uniform for yourself helps you spend less time planning what to wear in the morning. Obama follows this tip, minimizing his wardrobe to either gray or blue suits so he could exert less energy trying to figure out what to wear every morning. This allows him to focus on the tasks at hand.
Break a sweat – exercise, whether it means taking a quick walk around the block or running around the neighborhood for two hours. This has been said multiple times but exercise is known to help with clearing one’s mind and improving brain function, memory and thinking skills. To take a break from work, some people go to the gym and work out or take a class for a change of environment and to get a new burst of inspiration.
Eliminate stress – the thing that makes us go crazy and overthink all the time. To lessen the burden, try doing at least one thing a day that helps relieve you of your stress. Whether it’s exercising like the tip above, zoning in on a hobby you love or taking up a new one, this can help you focus on things other than your to-do list. s, I like to have game night with my girls or babysit my little cousins to help change my perspective on life to get away from the stresses being overwhelmed with work.
Stay focused – think about your goals, purpose, values and morals. Once you define what each of those mean to you, try to avoid doing peripheral activities, tasks and projects. Make room for things that have more meaning in your life and help you grow as an individual. To help you decipher what is important to you, check out our article, Identifying Your Why and ask yourself the same questions listed in the article to help you stay focused on your goals.
Connect and Collaborate – two minds (or more) are better than one! When you’re stuck on a task and need help, ask around! Getting outside perspective can sometimes help you see things from a different point of view through stimulating, quality conversations. A good example of this is a group project. People are assigned to work together to complete a project. They may not always have the same mindset or opinion but they collaborate and contribute different perspectives to get the job done.
Write 3 morning pages – Morning Pages is a concept that comes from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This exercise consists of writing as soon as you wake up. All you have to do is write three full pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness thoughts on a 8.5” x 11” notebook. It does not have to be perfect nor does it have to make sense. Morning Pages is just a way to let your thoughts out and clear your mind to help prepare it for the day. Bonus if you discover a revelation along the way.
A lot of these tips have helped me with boosting creativity in my own life, especially with collaborations and writing morning pages. Whenever I struggle with writer’s block, I use the technique to get all my thoughts out and to clear my mind. Collaborations also help as the current projects I have constantly give me inspiration in my journalism and passion projects simply because of the people I connect with and the work that they do. These tips have helped me maintain my creative productivity and keep me on top of my game and hopefully they will do the same for you!
Powerful start. Well first off I just want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me.
Sure thing boss.
Why don’t you give me a brief overview of what you’ve been up to at the Box Jelly Artist Residency.
I’ve been working with words and books in different forms. From straight up writing and typewriting on six foot scrolls, to concrete poetry making, to actual concrete letter molding, to words mixed and collaged with images and book landscapes. I’m also playing around with roguish graphic design, typography and cardboard page-frames, experimenting with ways to mix visual and written language in resonant ways. I’ve also been working with three chair…things.
Sounds like you’ve really honed your medium. Can you specify what the chairs have to do with anything?
I think they’ll be representations of reading as a revolutionary action, contemplative confrontation of reading in the digital age.
You “think.” So you don’t really know, do you?
Well I’m still developing ideas. I’m just spitting out creations that excite me, thinking that listening to my impulses will bring out all the relevant material I need for a show.
That sounds pretty naive. What are the scrolls about?
Different themes. Issues of identity and displacement and re-designing the self and self-image. American war crimes. Climate change. Religion. Love, loneliness, desire, depression, hatred rhetoric. Infinite monkey theorem. Some short fiction if I can get to them.
So basically just a bunch of broad, trendy themes?
Well no—I mean, yeah, a lot of them are in the trends now, they’re the pressing issues on a lot of people’s minds, and it’s not that I’m treading new ground on, say, climate change for instance. I’m not trying to offer solutions for what to do about America’s war machine. It’s more about the effects of a maximized consumption of information, and the pressure that’s put on everyone to have and make opinions about everything, even as they are not well-researched on the topic at hand. I’m also investigating ways to represent a modern human with multiple, urgent and contemporary concerns. How should a person be, how easy it is to lose your mind in the world as it is, how to be completely depressed and awkward and disassociate, how words resonate within and shape our lives, the effects of the willingness to communicate or the reasons for blatant disregard towards it. Will opening ourselves up to all of these questions, opinions and information accelerate evolution, or will it bring about a mass breaking point? How can we exist amidst this overflow while maintaining a vital capacity to care? Take how we’ve been changing Earth’s environment for instance. The climate crisis is so vast it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by that alone. Simultaneously, just a few of our current concerns in America include racism, gentrification, homelessness, school shootings, opioids, voting rights suppression, sexism, identity issues. Then just consider attempting to be a “well-adjusted” person amongst these, balancing out these concerns with your daily work and a healthy social life. It’s a crazy, crazy time we live in. There’s a constant lurking threat of disaffection, ennui and despair. To feel so overwhelmed and cynical you stop caring or doing anything on any of these fronts. Forgetting about your local community. Holing yourself away physically or picking up vices to suspend the existential malaise. Or actively working against a better future by exerting your selfishness outward because you feel like you can’t take it any other way.
Do you need help?
Oh, yeah, you mean like help with production for the show? Yeah I have a lot of ideas that not sure if I’ll finish in—
No, no I mean do you need help? Therapy help.
Oh. Uh, well, actually I’ve recently been thinking a lot about how I don’t want to be a crazed-artist stereotype.
Well you’re doing a bang up job.
Wha—why…are you being sarcastic?
What are you currently listening to, what are you reading, what are you watching?
I’m listening to “Soledad y el Mar” by Natalia Lafourcade, PJ Morton’s album Gumbo, and an album of Fela Kuti covers called Red Hot + Riot. Also listening to Joe Frank’s radio theatre series Rent-A-Family. It’s a little bit difficult to listen to at times though because the people are so deranged by their loneliness, and the voice actors so visceral…it’s very dark and strange, but I love it. I’m reading Ocean Vuong’s book On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Incredible. Incredible. Ocean is my favorite writer right now. You have to watch his talk at The Strand. Also, I’m almost done with Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, which is so long and devastating. It’s about the weight and capacity of deep friendships and how they morph over the years, and help us to cope with deep traumas. Then I recently watched BlaKkKlansmen, and this episode of Documentary Now! which is a spoof on Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present. It’s so funny.
What do you feel about art as therapy?
Woooow. Are you kidding me? Man, you’re so basic sometimes, it’s cute. In a disgusting way. I’ve felt pretty ill the past few weeks, just working all the time, art and overthinking and sitting down and looking at the same places till I’m sick. Maybe that’s what the chairs are about: a product of loose consciousness, letting the spool of thoughts run out the door while you’re just sitting there imploding. I know it’s a bad work routine, but I want to push it. A key ingredient is an obsession for work, production, and consumption. Very materialistic, capitalistic. When you don’t have healthy outlets for the constant flow of information it can rot your core. I want to convey some rot. I want some of this rot so I can access the desperation. Desperation is important to me.
That’s interesting. That right there is the beginnings of a common trope of the artist becoming the asshole. You are also basic in your desperation narrative, and your constant craving for the dramatic.
I suppose. Yes. But I want to variegate the tropes. I like art that’s bombastic, maybe even volatile, and gets right up in the face. That totally turns me on. I’m also very interested in silence and quiet abstractions, but yeah, maximalism too. I like extremes. Very American. I like—it’s a very western mode of thinking: extremes, and binaries, this or the other, white or black. I want to get at what’s between the binaries, that’s where the truth is.
Why does your art have to be so dramatic, have to take on big issues? Why can’t you just, say, watercolor waves, maybe take up surfing? You gotta get laid man, or go on some surfing dates?
I’ll never surf. Every time someone asks me that I’m adding another five years to not surfing. But, you know, when I’m dead you can send me out to sea on a surfboard, that’d be pretty funny.
I see you drying out into a bitter, old man right before my eyes.
Art doesn’t have to be dramatic. Art doesn’t have to be anything, I don’t care, it doesn’t have to say anything! God I hate that! I don’t care about that dumb question what is or isn’t art, or what it should or shouldn’t do. Who cares?!? I only care about what is art worth spending time with. My thing is, if you have the opportunity, the talent, the means, and/or the privilege to make art, then why not at least try to work on something multidimensional, that tackles current social or political issues and crosses analog and digital and conceptual forms, that reaches into the unknown, or something deep inside you, something that defines you disturbs you enriches you, that paints undertold stories, walks new plateaus or creates connections between homelands previously divided? Treat your materials and your time as the finite resources they are. Why are you wasting these resources with menial, unthoughtful bullshit? Find the things and the people you care about. What aspects of life do you want to improve? Work in that space. Expand and furnish that room. Do it so it matters. Do it so it lives and isn’t just some inert corpse once you’re done with it. I want connections between others and between myself and the world. To be connected is to be alive. What connects you to your place? What connects you to people? I want art to tackle absurdly large, cosmic, difficult, unanswerable issues because it has the capacity to do that. Also, I really really don’t care about art for art’s sake. That’s over. That’s nothing. No one cares. Teach me to care.
And how do you propose that? You can’t teach people to care like it’s arithmetic. Art for art’s sake is an avenue of showing people how to care because it forgoes the dogma of language. It aims straight for beauty. And repeatedly exposing people to this beauty is the only way to teach. Furthermore, it is necessary as a direct confrontation of all the ugliness of the world. Once we are open to seeing and knowing what is beautiful, what is beauty, we will naturally preserve and propagate it.
Okay, yeah, well, so what? I believe that.
You just said “art for art’s sake is over.” You sound like an art dictator, emphasis on the dick. Your words drove you into a cul-de-sac. How drunk are you?
You heard me.
Dude, that doesn’t even apply to what I was talking about. Are you even listening? I said a bunch of other stuff too.
Course I’m listening. I’ve noticed with you a stark division: Your sober, meek, introverted babbelling, and your drunk, bullish, circle-jerking, preacher-proclamations, both of which are tiresome.
I—I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re only hearing what you want to hear. Man, you’re—it’s you that’s prodding me into making these statements. You want me to be a dick!
Are you self conscious about being an inefficient whacko?
[Exasperated sigh] Sometimes. Often. But other times I like it. I feel, uh…more myself, I guess. We’re getting off topic here.
There is no “topic” to stray from, son. We’re just talking. Tell me about your relationsh—
Listen, don’t condescend to me. I need a break.
Fine. Take five.
[I expected Thad to storm off after this unceremonious break, but instead he straightened himself in his seat, stilled his body facing me, and stared. Was he for real? I came into this meeting feeling as detached as a stone that sits beside a river. But following our initial interactions, an urge to destroy him overcame me. I felt as if tasked by a higher power. I tossed out my usual surface questions, and scribbled a few words to ground my new purpose: unmask, debase, scrub out. I would confront him with his petty fabrications and reveal the base of his falsehoods. He appeared to be everything I struggled against: a densely-layered, overly-decorated fart of a man. I had met people like him before, but never with such deep fraudulence, so deep it appeared hidden even to himself. I believe he knew of himself as an artist, but insisted on non-artistry as a schtick, and by avenue of this backwards humility (and the even deeper insecurities that propelled it) pushed an agenda of frenetic obscuration and obliqueness. He was undermining the very thing he claimed to protect: communication. Yet, here before me, the charlatan sat and stared with a glaze covering his whole body like a membrane. He wasn’t seeing me at all; he had left the room. To where? What game was this? Before I could suss out his impetuous manipulations, he returned.]
Okay. Next question.
Alright then. I was going to ask, before you rudely interrupted me with your counterfeited weirdness, to tell me about your relationship to words.
Words reach me in a way other art forms don’t. Certain lines will just hit me in the gut and…just, I don’t know, live inside me. Like when you wake up in the morning and a song is in your body. Something like that.
Do you feel trapped in your own head, surrounded by an impenetrable wall of nonsense words? And secondary question, do you have any real friends?
Yeah—what? You know, self-deprecating humor is only so funny before it’s just annoying and obstructive. Stop being mean to me.
I’m merely probing you to figure out if you’re saying anything honest or if it’s all a put on. Perhaps you’re a slave to your own narratives, the words you deem so important?
No. I feel—
No, no, Jesus. Well you know, that’s something I think about a lot. I’m so afraid of becoming unfeeling. A huge part of my issues from working on this residency, and why I’m thinking about becoming a crazed artist so much is cause the work is so immersive. I write it out beforehand, do some research into the topic, searching for sources to pull from and converse with. And then I conceptualize the scroll, how it will layout as a typographic work, and then visualize in tandem what images I’ll try to work in. Or if I’m gonna make some cuts and collage outside paper bits into it. After that’s all done, the actual typing part is quite obsessive, but it does give me some sort of relief once I find the rhythm of it. The tactile sensations of the typewriter is meditative. But it’s round after round of pushing this stuff out, and on top of it working with these chairs, and creating little universes of books and figuring the entirety of the space with mirrors and concrete words about topics that…well, none of them are like, happy, or joyful topics—I feel like I’m digging a grave for myself. I’m afraid of becoming so consumed by the work that it’ll sever me from the world that everyone else lives in, or at least has access to live in, and all anyone will end up seeing at the end is the product of a fringe workaholic who’s lost himself to words and imaginary worlds. And if I do get that disconnected, the art is bound to be shit. I want to create an immersive, connective world that is electric and alive and has multiple entry and exit points, to create art that can self-contextualize in the map of humankind, and through its obsessive forms can provide platforms for hope and beauty and moments that accentuate the strength of simplicity. I’ve been having escalating bouts of mania that—I don’t know, I really don’t know if it’s helping or deterring. I don’t know if it’s necessary or preventable, or if I’m trapped in a narrative of possessed artists. And then, after years of excavating like this, I don’t know if it will be worth it.
Don’t you think it’s obnoxious to say “I want my art to do this,” “I want to show you beauty,” “I want to create a connective, electric world.” Don’t tell me what you want to do. Just do it. Show me. Or quit, and stop talking about it.
…Is that—is this a question?
You put “artist” in quotes in the title of this interview. Why?
No, I’m pretty sure you did that. Why did YOU do that?
Because I believe you are a phony.
Hahaha, yeah, well, maybe that’s one thing we agree on. I feel like I’m only playing at being one. So much doubt. Some days I’m ok. Other days I think…yo, you should definitely give up. Climb a tree instead. I mean, I know I’m very lucky to be making art and not struggling for shelter and food. But that title has so much baggage. I’m equally repulsed and in awe of the title “artist”, but either way don’t deep down feel like I deserve it. Give me some ten years and see where I’m at then. I think I’d rather be referred to as a social worker.
Hahahah are you kidding me?
Have you read the essay, “The Artist as Social Worker vs. The Artist as Social Wanker” by Anthony Schrag?
No. What are you saying?
Well, never mind then. Have you ever thought that you’re just the blunted debris of better artists, writers and thinkers, most of which are all dead?
…Yes…but, I’m—it’s not like I’m trying to tread new territory. I’m just trying to create more nuance to old stories, and find new, evolving representations for the portrait of a human. I don’t know man. I’m just—bottom line, I’m just trying to make things that I think…make me happy?
But through it all, through your doubt, fear of mania, and false humility, you think pretty highly of yourself don’t you? And you try to cover it up by saying “Oh, I don’t know, oh I’m insecure, I might sacrifice my sanity to make this beautiful trash, woe is me.” Okay, next question—
What the hell man? I don’t want to answer any more questions. I’m sick of it! What the hell is this? You’re always so negative, always cracking cynical jokes, always disingenuous rags. I’m done.
Hey, hey, come now, we’re almost done. I’m just being real with you. And just a couple more questions. Hang in there all star! Come on, please? You’re doing great. Every one’s gonna love you!
Oh my god man. Shut! Up!
Sit down, sit down. Okay speed round. What’s the correct way to handle your doubts as an “artist” and furthermore, as a human? Punch it in the face?
No. Holding its hand I think. Or hugging it. Or taking it out to a nice restaurant and—
Incorrect. Next question. What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist and also you were a mute and had no hands, AND your parents called you every week to accuse you of stealing things from them?
Holy cow. Great question.
Correct, and thank you. What’s your address and telephone number?
What? No. I’m not gonna say. But, well, I’ve been house-sitting at different spots, it’s put me in this anxious, spiritual limbo, I can’t fig—
And last question. Do you feel like you’re an asset or a detriment to Hawaiʻi, do you think your opinions, your “art,” your psyche, and the space you take up here will benefit or harm the community, and following generations? Do you think you belong here at all? And please explain why.
Um, well, god I don’t know. I hope so. I’m trying to—I don’t think I’m doing a disservice at least. And also—well, who am I to say? I think, maybe it could be—
As we said our goodbyes to Morning Glass a few weeks ago, we welcome in a new face to the BoxJelly and fishcake fam, Jason Chung and his business, Ānuenue Tea. The tea enthusiast began his business in 2015 in hopes of educating the community about tea culture and promoting a healthier lifestyle through his business.
“Ānuenue means rainbow in Hawaiian. To me, Ānuenue has multiple meanings behind it. One of the reasons is that we want to be like a bridge that connects people together. To me, tea is an eastern thing. I want to connect the east with the west. I also like talking about living a healthier lifestyle, especially mental and physical health. Physical meaning what you drink and what you eat and mental is how you feel. You gotta be happy. Naturally, when people see rainbows, they are happy. With Ānuenue Tea, I want to bring people happiness.”
The idea of starting Ānuenue Tea began in 2011 when Jason was interning in Taiwan. He was introduced to boba for the first time and fell in love with it, wanting to create a business of his own. After he helped popularize a boba tea company in 2012, Jason branched off and began planning the beginnings of a healthier boba tea company. Jason started his business with creating homemade, healthier versions of brown sugar and condensed milk for his business. He originally used raw, local honey as a sweetener when he owned a storefront in Kailua.
This tea enthusiast chose tea because he believes that it’s healthier than coffee.
“For example, matcha is 10 times stronger in caffeine content, but it has a very stable, slow, lease caffeine. It helps people focus and helps speed up metabolism. Tea offers a more mellow feeling that provides a good balance of caffeine and health.”
Jason found himself moving into the space after Maura of fishcake approached him about joining the community. He shares that being at BoxJelly and fishcake gives him the opportunity to test out his menu before making Ānuenue Tea an establishment again.
“Being here, it’s very interesting because I get to meet different entrepreneurs and business owners. To me, it’s bringing that kind of synergy and gets my creative juices going. I’m not the kind of person that looks at the recipe and sticks with it. Since I am changing my menu, it’s nice to get feedback from so many different people.”
Jason hopes to extend the hours in the near future and expand his menu to offer his homemade boba, plantation tea and food items such as waffles and various pastries. Ānuenue Tea is now open to the public from 8am – 2pm in the former Morning Glass cafe.
At 19 pounds, seven-year-old Chamoy Nawilis is your quiet, social extroverted dog who loves to have fun. This rat terrier, min pit mix was adopted by Dan Pham and Cindy Nawilis who describe him as playful, childish, mischievous, low stress who loves to simply chill. Chamoy was originally a foster dog, but the couple adopted him because of his strong, affectionate tendencies as well as his amazing eye contact.
“When he combines his eye contact and turns to his side for a belly rub, I feel like he completely gets me,” Dan shared.
One of Chamoy’s favorite activities include scavenging for things which goes hand in hand with some of his favorite food such as floor sauce with some oranges and mangos, along with anything that has texture. He enjoys begging for food and licking/tasting things. When he’s not scavenging for things, this dog loves to catch frisbees, swimming, long naps and cuddling.
At the end of April, BoxJelly co-hosted its first CreativeMornings event under the direction of our very own Meredith Mawhar. CreativeMornings began in 2008 by Tina Roth Eisenberg who wanted to create an ongoing, accessible event for New York’s creative community. This consisted of a breakfast and a short talk one Friday morning every month, free and open to anyone. The speakers selected to lead these monthly talks focus on a global theme. Over the last ten years CreativeMornings has expanded to multiple cities around the world.
The Honolulu chapter’s first theme, Inclusion, welcomes Matt Bruening as its first speaker. Matt Bruening is one of Oahu’s leading fashion designers and was raised in Makaha. He aspired to own a men’s clothing shop to provide Hawaii’s fashion scene with something unique but as he grew older, he became more interested in the details of creating various items. Today, he designs minimalistic ensembles for his fashion line, Matt Bruening Label.
During his talk, Matt brought up the theme of inclusion in social media and shared he wants to show representation of every ethnic group and every body shape in his Instagram feed. He also mentioned his experience of recognizing that he cannot do everything alone and that it is okay to collaborate with others.
If you missed Matt Bruening’s talk on inclusion or want to experience it again, check it out below.
Don’t forget to register for the next CreativeMornings talk which is happening on Friday, May 31, 8:00am – 10:00am and will be hosted at Entrepreneurs Sandbox. This month’s theme is “Preserve” and led by Michelle Jaime, the principal and creative director of The Vanguard Theory, a multi-disciplinary design studio.
Originally from a small fishing village in southeast China, Jason Lin immigrated to New York City when he was eight years old. He experienced culture shock because of the huge difference between his home village and a big city. Jason was surprised by New Yorker’s sense of individualism. Adapting to his new surroundings, for the first nine months of living in America Jason rode the subway by himself to explore his new home while his parents worked. This experience shaped him into becoming the person he is now. Shortly after, he and his family moved to upstate New York where so that they could take better care of him.
In 2011, Jason graduated with a Bachelors in business management and marketing. The job market was bare at the time but it didn’t have an affect as he had no clue what he wanted out of his professional pursuits. He lived at home and was working as a server at a local restaurant with his high school friends. One day, he decided to pack his bags, leave Rochester to test his luck in New York City. He applied to numerous internships since entry level marketing jobs were difficult to attain at the time. With luggage in hand, Jason went directly to his first interview. Jason, seeing that the interviewer was confused by his bag, explained his story and by the end of the meeting the interviewer offered him an entry level position as a paid ads coordinator. The pay wasn’t much but it was enough to get by. Jason has continued to work in digital marketing and works with Facebook ads, Google ads and e-commerce stores today through his own business, YJL Media LLC.
“I always envisioned myself as an entrepreneur. Even working at the agency, I was always doing stuff on the side. I always had side hustles, whether it’s like running ads for other people on the side when it was not part of the agency. Soon after I learned enough about marketing, I realized that I could do this myself. After two years I just felt it was time to go.”
The idea of moving to Hawaii came to Jason after he and his girlfriend grew tired of the hectic, New York lifestyle and yearned for a change of pace. They moved to Oahu less than a year ago and already feel the difference in their everyday. Jason shares that the work life balance he has created now is influenced by the work community he has being at BoxJelly.
“I’m kind of influenced by everyone else here as well. You know, a lot of people are very good at balancing life and work. So I’m kind of picking it up a little bit here. I feel that I’m getting a little bit ‘lax sometimes, but I think it’s a good thing.”
“I told myself when I left my advertising agency that whatever businesses I get into, I will not have a fiscal office. I want to have freedom over making more money and having a set office, or where we’ll have to go to talk to my employees. I came into BoxJelly because I was looking for a coworking space where I can just park myself there, have a place where you have a sense of community.”
When he was living in New York, Jason normally worked 12-hour days. Once he began working as his own boss and made BoxJelly his office space, his mindset with working shifted. Jason was able to create a better work life balance. He finds it most useful to create a schedule when he begins a work day. He list out of the tasks that need to get done for the day and schedules time slots for each. Doing this prevents him from going off on tangents or staying on one task for too long. Once five o’clock hits, he finishes everything and goes out to play basketball down the street. Depending on how much work he didn’t finish, he tries to complete after he goes home.
Another aspect that has changed since Jason moved to Hawaii besides his work life balance is his mindset on the idea of success. Previously, he believed that he needed to make a certain amount of money to call himself successful. But in the last year or two, he was able to shift his mindset to thinking, as long as he’s happy and my family’s healthy, he’s healthy, then it’s considered a success.
Jason hopes to give back to society one day by either contributing towards the end of world hunger or aiding the poor. He aspires to earn as much money as he can for the next ten to fifteen years so he can put his resources into giving back and becoming involved in the community.
After graduating with my Bachelors, I had no idea what next to do with my life. After being in school for almost two decades, you become accustomed to the routine of waking up, going to class, participating in extracurricular activities, and doing homework before the whole process repeats itself. Beginning a completely new chapter in my life where I was in complete control of designing my life felt very daunting. The possibilities were endless. Change could come at any time, either at my own will or at the hands of others. Do I want to take a break and volunteer with the Peace Corps before attending graduate school? How about doing some internships in my field of study? Maybe a full-time entry-level position at a new startup could be promising… or just say screw it and go on a three-month soul searching journey around the world.
As you can see, the possibilities are limitless. This applies to not just when you graduate from college but when you begin a new chapter in your life. With all the possibilities around, you may find yourself with questions of where to start? But to avoid taking aimless steps, people need to know their purpose; identify their why. This is not as easy as it sounds. Trust me. It took me almost the last four years to figure out what I know now. If you have struggled with some of the issues before, here are some questions to help you get closer to identifying your why.
What do you value?
In order to figure out what your values entail, I suggest taking the time to become aware of the commonalities in your life. Identify the common threads in your everyday life and keep track of it in a notebook. Look back at and reflect upon it. There is a pattern in everything from who you spend time with regularly, what the type of events that spark your interest and down to even the spots you go to for food and sustenance nourishment.
Seeing (identifying) these patterns repetition in your life allows you to see (evaluate) your personal preferences and values. This initial step is a great stepping stone to understanding your why.
What brings you to life? What is important to you?
Whether it is helping people out with (insert activities), eating at trendy new spots in town and reporting your findings, or designing a space to make it feel more homey. Finding something that is important could be literally anything.
For the longest time, what I wanted to do with my life was predetermined by my parents and I genuinely believed that I could achieve their dream. It was not until I was about to finish college that I received a huge wake-up call. I needed to figure out what I wanted out of life.
To figure out what makes me the happiest and makes me come alive, I made an effort to consciously explore things I liked doing outside of schoolwork. Along with that, I took a look at what I make time for in my life and did a lot of reflection. As a person I once knew said, “No one is ever too busy. It is a matter of prioritizing what you believe is important to your life.”
What are your strengths?
What are you best at? Do you have great attention to detail? Juggling ten balls at once? Tending to your garden or growing your own fruits and vegetables? Look for a pattern in the skills that you use the most and are good at. Whatever it may be, your strengths are your best traits and you should be able to use these skills to its full capacity!
To figure this out, take a seat, reflect and list down your best strengths. This could range anywhere from small skills to hobbies that you enjoy the most. Are you still feeling lost as to what they are? Ask your closest friends, family members and coworkers to help you out! You might even gain a new perspective of yourself when asking the people around you these questions.
Understanding my why
When I first moved to Hawaii three years ago, I came with the intention of being involved in the Filipino community. But I lost sight of my purpose during my first year going through the motions of working full-time. I was aimlessly working odd jobs – in other words I wasn’t fulfilled. It wasn’t until I took the time to reflect on myself and realized that I was not doing what I wanted to. I needed a change.
Full disclosure. I am an avid follower of Lavendaire. This YouTube and podcaster helps people discover their purpose and living their most intentional life. Following her content has allowed me to undergo deep reflection of myself and who I am as a person. Listening to her in addition to other bloggers such as Kalyn Nicholson and Jenn Im, I established a set of themes (identifying your values, strengths, and finding what is important to you). These types of questions help me understand that writing and my cultural identity held a lot of value in my life. Journalism became a huge priority over my day job and I found myself most excited when writing stories connected to the Filipino community. Giving people the space to share their story always gives me a sense of fulfillment. I have the opportunity to build visibility towards Filipinos everywhere.
I was able to find myself again through connecting with people who could support my original purpose. Understanding my why has allowed me to continue building myself and find more opportunities to grow in my niche. Having a clear sense of my purpose helps in knowing what to say yes or no to when opportunities come knocking on the door. The more you put yourself out into the world with the right intentions, the more opportunities you manifest along the way.
Matt Tengasantos, currently the quality assurance tester for Sudokrew, has been with the company for about six years. Prior to Sudokrew, Matt went through about two years of hunting for the perfect job, ended up working fifteen internships. He even had a short stint at BoxJelly! Like many folks, his journey consisted of many trials and many errors where he needed to step out of his comfort zone. When we sat down for a conversation, Matt pointed out three major points in his life that led him to where he is now.
Moving off island
Matt’s first life event that pushed him out of his comfort zone was when he moved to Los Angeles. After graduating from college in 2011 with a degree in public relations, Matt pursued an internship that involved his passion for video games and his college degree. While searching for companies that offered a mix of both, he located one in southern California. He called them asking for an internship opportunity. Despite the internship being unpaid, Matt assured them that “he would figure it out.” Using his savings from working at GameStop, he flew down to California and lived with family while interning in the gaming PR industry. Soon enough, Matt realized that a career in this industry was not for him.
Starting back at square one
Soon after, the young professional moved back home and re-evaluated what he wanted to do with his life. “So what am I do after I move back? I guess I’m going to take my Razor scooter and ask people for work!” Matt went around the Kakaako area and sought an internship from any business he could. He knew that experience was necessary to “make it.” In a matter of two years, the young professional worked fifteen different internships. Eventually, Matt landed a full-time project management position with Sudokrew.
Upon his arrival, Matt shared with Spencer Toayama, the Sudokrew co-founder and partner, that he had little experience in the position aside from school projects. Exercising the benefits of working for a smaller company, Matt has learned to roll out what is needed and figuring out how to contribute on the fly. He grew into this position and eventually moved into quality assurance which he has been working in for the last four years.
What is Matt’s latest expedition out of his comfort zone? Moving out of his parents’ house. This was a scary scenario for him. He knew this was the start of “full-on adulthood.” You try to plot out certain scenarios but you don’t actually know until you try. After six months of living on his own, he realized that there are two challenges: staying on top of things and taking care of yourself when you’re sick.
Reflecting on the journey
Matt shares that when you decide to get out of your comfort zone, you have to define your boundaries. Defining your comfort zone allows you to find things that are interesting that exist outside of it. You also have a clear goal of pushing your limits. This way, once you are stepping out of your comfort zone, you have a defined objective and not just aimlessly going for things.
Looking back at the beginning of his career, Matt realized that all his internships organically led into the next opportunity through networking and creating connections. He did not plan it. Everything just naturally happened. It was not about thinking, “I need to step out of my comfort zone?” but rather asking yourself, “What are some things that I’m interested in?,” and taking action and create opportunities. Try a lot of things, do what you think you can do with your options and allow yourself room for trial and error. Find people with problems and figure out how you can help them. From there, things will happen. Trust the process. Make sure you’re positioning yourself to make relationships and roll with the punches as they come.
“For me it is not about stepping out of my comfort zone. Stepping out of my comfort zone isn’t the point. Stepping out of the comfort zone is just a marker to reflect on after the fact. The real thing, at least for my journey so far, is that you have inherent interests in your objective regardless of how feasible you think they are. Some part of it may be feasible for you no matter what your skillset or experience is. It’s about hitting people up and doing things in the areas that you think you’re interested in, getting in front of those people. All opportunities are going to be through other people. Let that guide your path.”
The very first candidate for our new dog blog segment is the one and only Gobi Dog! About eight years old, owner Rechung Fujihira presumes he is possibly part Pomeranian and Australian Shepherd. Gobi weighs about 15 pounds and loves to eat dried veal tails. Some of his favorite activities include “forgetting people and then barking at them even though he met them and became friends with them the day before.” Being cute, sometimes aloof, playful and very forgetful are some of Gobi’s traits.
Gobi was originally a foster dog and was pawned off to Rechung by Dan and Cindy. After a month of fostering him, Rechung knew that he could not give him back and adopted him right away.
A USUAL DAY AT BOXJELLY FROM GOBI’S EYES
I’m peace. SHUT UP!
Leave me loner hoo-man.
I don’t understand hoo-man obsession with doggo-me. They want to come and touch my skin. I want to relax. I wait for Rechung for home. Dried meat taste satisfactory. I stick close to masterman to keep me away from these “undesirables.” When I’m not with him, I like my safe-space. Catch me laying underneath the wooden table. Nevermind, I don’t like you. I like laying on cold floors. Reminds me of hoo-man soul. Barren and cold.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Thad Higa?
I’m someone. I wake up everyday and don’t know how combs work. 3rd generation Korean American, 4th generation Okinawan American. Ex-religious. Born in San Jose. Went to elementary and high school in Honolulu. Moved to Seattle, moved to New York. Been back in Hawaii for two years. I can do ten push ups in two weeks. Art makes me pale. I like jeans and am looking for overalls.
What did you do in the past and what are you currently doing?
I was pursuing life solely as a writer of experimental fiction and poetry. I got sidetracked making zines with a group of artists and musician friends when I lived in Seattle, and didn’t stop. Now I’m going to take it to the Guggenheim this summer.
I got into bookmaking after I finished writing this novella and was impatient with finding a publisher so I started printing, binding and selling it out myself. I smuggled it into bookstores and took it to bars to sell for drinks. It wasn’t the best story but it got me excited about bookmaking.
I’m working on designing a zine with a band Sontag Shogun, a zine that will be released as a counterpart to their album. I’m also working on a HIZAB Library collaboration with CONTACT—the contemporary Hawaii arts exhibition—coming up in April. I’m building shelves for the artist books, curating a selection of HIZAB books for perusal and display, doing a Walkabout event with Adele from 88 Block Walks, where we’re attempting to remap the mission house area through psychogeography, and trying to finish my own artist book to submit.
How did your art come about? How would you describe your work?
I like to make things. It started by making special little art objects for people I liked. Then I started keeping things for myself. I’m an amateur. I just experiment and use the stuff around me to make things. I have ideas that make me laugh, or complicated feelings that I want to take apart, then I make work from it.
I would call it something like speculative book-making. Ultracollagin’. Special curatives for curators. Counterpart-therapy through frustrating and non-therapeutic means. Stealin’n’Sewing. Word Problems. I’m figuring it out. I’m trying to bring words to life. Physically. Giving actual weight to words. I’m definitely not a pioneer in the field, but I’m trying to find my own way to both new writing and new books.
Why do you do the work that you do? How is it different from everything else?
Everyone has their own lens through which they experience the world. These projects are mine. I want to find a deeper communication to people and place through these endeavors. Or in the least, engage my time in a way that interests me. I like what I do, so I do it. If you’re true to yourself through the work you do, I believe (maybe naively) it will resonate with others.
What is Tiny Zine Hawaii?
Tiny Zines. In Hawaii. I set up a little archive library for the zines to exist at Mori in South Shore Market. People can create their own tiny zines to live in the library permanently, or have some set up to give away for free.
I wrote in my first (and maybe last) Tiny Zine email list message, “It’s an exercise of creation, and a meditation on salience, portability, intimacy, coincidences and impermanence. It will be whatever the community makes of it and whatever failures/successes I cause by poor sense of place and social interaction, and will last for a long time or a not so long time. I don’t present hallmark invitations to create with Tiny Zine. I am one direction in an open field. I present myself and my moment here today. Tiny Zine is next to nothing. This near-nothingness is the signified and the signifier. Tiny Zine is the notion of the unopened door we walk past on the sidewalk daily. It is the free access to create/pass on/find not just beauty but wisdom in this quick world. It is the practice of exposure and a permanent quest for strangeness (realness), friends, heavy entertainment and alternative routes of communication.”
How did you come up with the concept of Tiny Zine Hawaii? How did it all start?
I’ve always been into miniature things. They make me laugh, especially if they’re represented dryly, objects unaware of their own tinyness. It provides me perspective on how absurd our concerns are to some giant entity looking down on Earth. I also went small because it’s economic. You don’t need a lot of material to create 1 tiny zine.
I don’t remember the exact impetus behind Tiny Zine Hawaii. But it was definitely inspired by Little Free Libraries and The Sketchbook Project. Little Free Libraries are those birdhouses for book-people, where someone builds bookshelves on the sidewalks, outside their houses or shops, and people take and leave books. Sketchbook Project is a space in NYC where artists all over can purchase a notebook to fill up with whatever they wanted, drawings, writings, paintings, prints…and when they’re finished they leave it in the Sketchbook library for others to look at. Tiny Zine Hawaii is supposed to be a mix of those two, but it’s hard to keep up with it. People take a lot more than they put back.
What is HIZAB Library?
It stands for Hawaii Zine and Book Library. It’s a work in progress at the moment, in the Chinatown Artist Lofts (until I have to relocate at the end of April). The full idea is to create a speakeasy type lounge for books rather than drinks, some which can be borrowed, and other rare or collectible items for in-library-use only. The curation is unique to Hawaii. It houses local and non-locally made zines, as well as artists books, poetry (much of it experimental), graphic novels, design-heavy books, as well as a mix of interesting fiction and non-fiction books. I’m also gathering local curators, book lovers, librarians, artists, writers, publishers, to curate special collections that are exhibited for a limited time, much like paintings in a gallery. Anyone can come in, pick up a book and hang out for as long as they want (or until it closes).
Why is it important to have HIZAB Library? Why does the community need to know about it?
There aren’t any well curated public spaces in Hawaii devoted to books. HIZAB proposes a comfortable, warm lit, lounge-inevitable space designed for books and book culture to thrive. You always hear people saying that books are dying and no one reads anymore, but its not wholly true. It’s rather that the book culture is changing, and bookstores/spaces/libraries often don’t make accommodations for it. The concept of what a book is, looks like, and can do is shifting with the global shift from written language to visual language. HIZAB wants to live in that critical juncture, and I think if its done correctly Hawaii will respond to it.
What is your goal and purpose for creating this library? How is it relevant today?
I want spaces that cultivate book culture, slowness, artful thinking, and curated coincidences. I didn’t see it happening on any one else’s watch, so I’m seeing if I can make it happen. Books are an access point to anything, any topic. It’s the internet, but focused, a forced deep dive on one issue or story. People want to read. Most of us just aren’t in the habit of reading. HIZAB promotes that. It also rethinks what a community space can be. We CAN have free spaces like this. We CAN cultivate the right questions, and the right actions by communing over quality, rare, esoteric, alternative, challenging and enriching free-access materials.
What made you want to apply to the Artists in Residence program? What are you hoping to get out of it?
I want to be obliged to push my art as far as I can. Working on a 6-month residency for a show helps towards that end. I’m honing a skill of commitment—learning to take myself more seriously as an artist, while not getting locked into expectations of myself as such.
I befriended a couple of artists last year who just worked at their art all the time. They had day jobs, but filled almost all of their down time with making art. I would hang out in their studio just to be a part of that energy. It was creative energy for sure, but mostly dedication to hard work. I’m trying to emulate that work force and put pressure on myself to evolve into a better version of me.
How does it feel creating your art in a co-working space and does it affect your workflow versus working in a traditional work environment? What are the benefits?
I like the energy. It’s easier to get work done when I know other people around me are working as well. Also, it’s easy to get stuck in your own head when you’re the only person working in your own studio, so it does dissolve those mental blocks.
What do you aspire to do in the future?
I aspire for a stable location for HIZAB to operate. I aspire for grants to fund reading events and shenanigans and acquisitions of incredible artist books and curated book and zine collections from all over the world, so that they may be made accessible to anyone who walks in the door of the library. I aspire for strange books that cross media boundaries, break their own forms in sublime and impossible ways. I aspire for new forms of old stories and for raising consciousness of language, thereby raising awareness of culture, diversity of story and thought, and furthermore empathy for all humans in the absurd universe. I aspire to meet someone who to take over my social media and marketing presence so I don’t have to think about it ever again. I aspire to eclipse Irma Boom and Dieter Roth.