Ask Jenny

Presently,

October 15, 2019

Presently,

  1. I live in Los Angeles in an artist collective with 28 people. It’s crowded, but I kind of love it. I watch movies and cook family dinners with actors, musicians, dancers, screenwriters, models, designers, and stylists. Everyone is from everywhere else. My own life is full of uncertainty, so it’s good for me to be with friends who are also living for their dreams. We support each other through long days, bad health, insecurity, and the demands of our work.

  2. The main inconvenience in the house is that we have an ants problem. This morning I took a shower. I watched two ants on the showerhead climb around the hot water and circle the spout. Nature… very impressive, I aspire to be as resilient.
  3. I pursue my dream of being an entrepreneur in education technology. I spend all my free time building Plot Twisters, a digital world of personal journey building tools for students to reflect on their values, curiosities, and goals. Maybe it sounds cool, but the reality is that I’m taking a huge and lonely risk. I am very slow, because of indecision and perfectionism, and my head can be messy. I have gracious friends who spend a lot of time helping me through ideas, but for the most part, I go it alone. I plan the business, design the minigames, research for viability, create interfaces and worksheets, and code. Please give me feedback to ensure the product is inclusive, diverse, and safe. My email is jenliuzhang@gmail.com.
  4. One day, when the platform is online, my plan is drive my little blue Honda Fit across the country and bring Plot Twisters to schools around America through playful classroom workshops. I’ve always wanted to travel and work with kids, so this is my “two birds, one stone.” Traveling school counselor. Through Plot Twisters, I dream of opening mental health centers in cities, plus a summer camp and apprenticeship program too.
  5. Caring about Plot Twisters sometimes affects my health. I picked a stressful path. I am very scared every day and I often feel unqualified, unskilled, not ready. But I play confident like I have my whole life, ask myself questions like, “what would Mom do?” and “what would Obama do?” and call the shots. And luckily, I have very supportive friends who talk me through every little thing. In between my part-time jobs (see numbers 12-14), I drink water and work in 25 minute sprints, like I’m taking chunks of the SAT. This is how I will proceed for a while.
  6. I barely sleep. This isn’t new, unfortunately. I always wake up just before dawn, and I go to bed when it feels necessary, which is often not early enough. I meditate throughout my day, though, which helps.
  7. I started boxing this summer. I go every morning at 6am, or 9am if I’m feeling a slower morning. I want to get better. It’s very difficult but I like it. I’m inspired by the numbered drill combinations. I number the Plot Twister minigames just like boxing drills, so that young people can practice combinations of reflection exercises, with the goal of reflecting on work becoming muscle memory. This will make sense when I release the product.
  8. I take Dutch lessons. They’re weekly in Pasadena, which means I let myself spend one full day per week in beautiful Pasadena. I joke that my Dutch lessons are a “forever Jenny” move: living in a crowded artist collective is a “Jenny’s Twenties” move, as is working retail, but spending time to patiently learn something new for fun is a “forever Jenny” thing, a habit I want to make a staple in my life. Anyway, my favorite coffee shop to stop by before my lesson is called Copa Vida. I take the lessons with Helen, a girl I met on a Facebook Free & For Sale page. She is an awesome honest joy, and so is our teacher Margaret. We often play board games, like Jip and Janneke and Ganzenbord, which provide a lot of visual inspiration for Plot Twisters. I’m not yet good at the language, and pronunciation especially is difficult, but it helps that I know Spanish. Practice makes perfect. One day I will live in Amsterdam.
  9. I visited New York last fall and again this fall. I don’t think I could ever live there permanently, but I plan to visit every autumn until I die. Autumn is beautiful there. The city is an adult playground. This time, I stayed with my friend Brianna. While she went to work during the day, I played housewife in her apartment and walked the city, ate in coffee shops, and went to museums.
  10. There is a boy that I sometimes play soccer with. We also make music together. I am writing a collection of songs. He plays guitar and keyboard and I sing. I don’t sound great, but we’ll practice.
  11. I currently eat vegetarian.
  12. I work two part-time jobs that help me afford and structure my day. I chose them very strategically:
  13. My first part-time job is at verynice, a creative problem solving studio for businesses, social impact initiatives, and non-profits. I work as a Strategist directly with the Founder and Managing Director, Matthew Manos, who is my former professor. We’re going to Mexico and Colombia to do workshops this fall. He’s a really inspiring mentor. Also, I’m inspired to structure my business model for Plot Twisters like verynice. verynice makes public strategy toolkits for businesses for free, but generates revenue through workshops and custom consulting services. Similarly, Plot Twisters will make a platform and resources for students, but generate revenue by providing classroom workshops and digital platform integration services to schools.
  14. My second part-time job is in Beverly Hills as a Customer Associate at Anthropologie, my favorite store. My employee discount is how I will finance my wardrobe and uniform when I visit schools to share Plot Twisters. The job also trains me to move faster. When I say I am slow at building Plot Twisters, I mean it. The job gives me a break from sitting at my computer all day and forces me to buzz around for a few hours, pleasing dressing room clients, processing clothes, and shuttling merch across the floor. I also have to be cheery and graceful while doing it, which is also good practice. I also practice reading people. I observe how someone interacts with outfits, and I help them with what I think they’d like. I wonder if I will ever work up to selling a wedding dress. I joke to myself: if I can sell a woman in Beverly Hills a wedding dress, I can definitely sell her and her kids my edTech tools. Before and after my shifts, I work out of the cute coffee shops on Beverly Drive.
  15. My “garden arm” of flower tattoos is growing. I will share about my relationship with my tattoos one day.
  16. I plan to stay in Los Angeles into 2020. There are several lessons for me here to learn before I leave—including working fast and sleeping regularly. I don’t know where I will go next, but when I know, that’s when I will leave!
  17. I found my favorite shirt. It’s a flowy button down with sleeves just to my elbows to hide my tattoos. It’s versatile and comfortable. I bought five.
  18. My mom is traveling the world. Currently, she’s in Monaco. My grandma travels now, too. She just got back from Vietnam. I wonder if this global curiosity is the legacy of the women in my family. Back home in Seattle, my little brother is finishing his last year of high school. He has blonde hair now.
  19. My go-to songs right now are:
    1. Crying by Julian Lage
    2. Mice by Billie Marten
    3. Monster by Kanye West ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver
    4. Go To Town by Doja Cat
    5. 4pm in Calabasas by Drake
    6. Two Cups by Rich The Kid ft. Offset & Big Sean (but mostly Big Sean’s verse)
    7. Bad Things by Milky Chance ft. Izzy Bizu
    8. Harvest Moon by Poolside
    9. This Life by Vampire Weekend
    10. Sacrifices by Drake ft. 2 Chainz & Young Thug
    11. Rose-Colored Boy by Paramore
    12. Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
    13. We Are Young by fun. ft. Janelle Monae
    14. Phone Numbers by Dominic Fike & Kenny Beats
  20. Overall, though, my favorite artist right now is Billie Marten. I drew this graphic while I listened to her sing. I changed the colors for the intro graphic, but these muted blues are the original colors of my drawing, which are most honest to my inner state. I changed the color to make it “happier” for the intro, which is definitely a metaphor about who I am and the faces I wear. I prefer to be happy, though.

    Her songs are sad, but also light and easy. I lie in bed and listen. They help me recenter when I am overworked, manic, and insecure.

  21. Especially when I’m feeling insecure and unsure about why I chose this journey, I fantasize about my dream apartment to motivate me. I picked it out already. It’s in Downtown Los Angeles, on Flower Street, which is on brand. A multi-story loft with exposed ceilings and roomy closets. The door is yellow. I can walk downstairs and watch movies at the Regal Cinema right there. I’m sure I dreamed about it as a kid. Love at first sight. It’s expensive, but dreams mean work. This apartment connects all of my wishes for my future. I started making bets with myself, and earning my Flower Street Loft is one of them.
  22. I still want to move back to Washington, when all is said and done. I would like to raise my family in Federal Way, eventually. Give me a decade, though. Much to do first.
  23. And though most days I am very tired, I’m quite happy to keep going. I know I am a very strong person, despite what anyone else thinks.
  24. Last week, I bought a ripe pink rose at the Los Angeles Flower Market. I’ve seen it before on the lips my mom wears while doing exchanges at the mall. Baby pink, but not baby in a fragile lace crib, but baby on the Pacific Coast Highway with one arm around the wheel and the top down in my dream convertible flirting, “I love you, baby!” Foolish pink like glowing fingers over a flashlight, reckless pink like flip flops and graham crackers in the dark by the bonfire. Unapologetic pink, maybe young and embarrassing, blushing like a salmon egg, the supple gift of life, makes me remember I’m only 22 and the world’s still a playground. Today, as I lay under a tree, I imagined her wearing it too, life in a necklace of apples.

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1 comment on “Presently,”

  1. your writing / blog posts always make me emotional in some way, but this one was so tender that i cried. ‘today, as i lay under a tree, i imagined her wearing it too, life in a necklace of apples.’ i can’t even describe the emotion that this entire post evoked in me. thank you for sharing these bits of your life with us. love you always