College is not for everyone; life updates + more:

kjducwalkFive years ago, if you would have told me that going to college wasn’t necessary to get a job, I would have looked you in the eyes and told you that you didn’t know what you were talking about and I would have continued to reveal to you my ten-year plan, probably involving the GRE, some internships, and plans to kiss ass for the last four or so years.

The reality is — I just graduated from college and I still feel underwhelmingly unaccomplished. Years and years of hard work for a degree, and for what? Or, as many like to refer to it: a piece of a paper with your name and a couple of letters after it that will give you an immediate raise of about thirty thousand dollars a year if you find a full-time job that caters to what you’ve studied in.

What if you’re like me and you’re just intrigued by everything and nothing can really satisfy your knowledge-hungry brain? What if, the reason you picked your degree was that you were naturally good at it? What if you didn’t realize it, but you were brainwashed as a child that a four-year university was the only way to leave suburban mediocrity? I’ve been there. No one gave me the option to go to trade school. Coming from a lower middle-class family of Vietnamese immigrants, they didn’t know any better than to reassure success to the family than to send their only daughter to a university.

That being said, I would not have changed anything about going to my alma mater: Maryville University. I’ve met so many great people who’ve inspired me to challenge myself every day. I also met my soulmate there and he is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. However, under different circumstances, I would have been able to avoid the thousands of dollars in student loans and would have most likely instated myself into the coffee industry a lot sooner than later.


I recently got hired onto a crew of eclectic baristas at Thou Mayest in the Crossroads in Kansas City. Never have I ever felt the amount of satisfaction I do chatting up with locals, getting to know people for who they are before their coffee, and knowing that the drinks we serve help fuel their day. There is something fulfilling knowing that you are doing something active in the community while adding to your own life in skillsets.

Being a barista is not for everybody. It takes patience, mostly steady hands, and skilled palette. Watching my coworkers and I work together is slightly reminiscent to the several biology classes I’ve taken reviewing various jobs of every organelle. A smaller work environment and close quarters leave no room for drama or pettiness. The values at work aren’t just to please the customer, but to also encourage us baristas to always strive to learn within the coffee industry and outside of it.

I would pick this job over anything else, a hundred times over and over. I do intend to stay in the coffee industry while keeping my skills in data science as close to me as I can.

I’m not discouraging pursuing higher education by any means, but it is something to consider. What makes you happy? What will give your life meaning?

Any requests for some topics to discuss, please email

Not asleep, because I can’t breathe…

… and all I can think about are the same questions listed over and over again. Did you finish that? What do you have to do next? Did you do it well enough? Are you gonna fail? You better not fail. One o’ clock in the morning and have yet to get a good night’s sleep for work the next morning.

Wait, but you can’t fall asleep yet, you have to worry about this other thing. Overthinking is bad, overthinking is bad, overthinking is bad. But you should worry because it’s the right thing; you need to be thinking about these things. Don’t cry, wait don’t cry, stop crying, I didn’t mean to make you overthink. But you might fail if you don’t stop thinking. Actually, keep crying, because it just shows how crazy you are inside.

Two in the morning. Bawling under the blankets. My partner doesn’t know; he’s dead asleep and blissfully enjoying his stay in Dreamland. He doesn’t care, no one cares. You’re a failure. No, but I’m not a failure, I’m not a failure! Yes, you are, what have you ever accomplished? Stop that, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t fucking breathe, stop thinking, stop thinking, stop thinking.

Work the next morning. Get up, get up. No, just stay in bed, do yourself a service by not interacting with anyone. Skip class, skip your meetings, skip work; don’t do this to yourself. I gotta go to class; my teachers take attendance and I gotta work to make money and those meetings are mandatory. You’re going to hate today, you’re gonna regret getting out of bed. You’re gonna regret staying at home. You’re gonna wish you listened to me. I know you can’t handle today. You don’t want to handle today.

“How are you?” “Good.” Smiles. You’re a liar.

“Hey, how are you today?” “I’m good.” Smiles. Nods. You’re such a liar. How could you lie to their faces?

“Excuse me, is this my drink?” “Yes, you ordered a white chocolate latte?” I could explode right now, they’re all looking at me like I’m stupid. 

“Hi, what can I get started for you today?” Stop fumbling with the money, can’t you count like a normal person? It’s just change, stop shaking. Why are you afraid? Why are you so afraid right now, you do this EVERY DAY. You’re so clumsy, you dropped all their change! Get your shit together, you clumsy ass! You’re the worst, you’re the absolute worst. You can’t be normal for a second. “Sorry, here’s your change! I’m so sorry!” Customer leaves and scoffs.

You fucked up today, you messed up big time. That was the worst thing you’ve ever done. Your entire day is going to be ruined. Good luck at the four meetings you have today. Stop thinking, stop thinking, stop thinking, stop thinking just for a damn second. You could try a little harder and people would appreciate you more. Will you stop — no, honestly you could die right now and no one would notice. What are you saying — you know I’m right.

No stop, I can’t think about things like this right now; it’s only 10 in the morning and I have eight hours to go. Good luck, it’s going to be a crappy day. I know, you told me this morning. Yeah, but it’s going to be really shitty. Everyone’s disappointed in you… you can see it on their faces. What do you mean? You’re not hot shit, you’re just shit.

Eight hours of mediocrity and inattentiveness. Twenty-minute car ride home in silence. Except I’m still here, and today was awful. Yesterday was awful, too. You need to try harder to not be like this. I can’t help it. You didn’t listen to me this morning; I told you you’d feel better if you stayed at home. I can’t just stay at home and not be productive. You’re not even productive at school, you’re the absolute worst! You could have gotten so many things done today but you chose to talk to your friends instead. You chose your social life over school. I can’t help it, I need my friends. Friends come and go but you need to focus on school and your career. No that’s wrong, you’re wrong.

I’m right, you know I’m right. No stop, stop stop. Scream. Scream. Scream to block out the thoughts. Turn up the music a little louder. Full blast. No room to think, no time to think, just scream, scream, scream. Keep screaming.

Home. Pet the cat. Kiss the boyfriend. Remember all that shit you hadn’t studied for? All that shit you hadn’t touched? You need to do it right now. You’re going to fail. 

“Hi, how was your day?” “It was good. I’m tired.” You say that every day. It’s true. But you’re also a liar. I’m not lying, I’m actually tired. But it wasn’t good. It was awful. It was the worst day ever. It’s actually fine. It’s over, I’m fine. You shouldn’t have left your bed this morning. Stay in bed, stay away from people, stay away from yourself. I can’t be this negative, I need to be positive. Think positive thoughts. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts, happy thoughts. He can see right through you. Stop, stop, stop, stop, STOP, STOP, STOP, HOLD IT IN, HOLD THE FUCKING TEARS IN. DO NOT START CRYING. Save it for later.

I’m not asleep, I can’t breathe and all I can think of are the same questions listed over and over again. Did you finish that? What do you have to do next? Did you do it well enough? Are you gonna fail? You better not fail. One o’ clock in the morning and have yet to get a good night’s sleep for work the next morning.


For the femmes — I tried a menstrual cup instead of using tampons… here’s what I thought:

You clicked on this because either a) you’ve never heard of one before or b) you think it’s gross but you’ve thought about it maybe once or twice. I’m here to tell you that it’s not all that bad! I highly recommend using one if you’re a human who has periods but enjoys traveling and camping for long periods of time. But of course, please read on to see me justify my point.

I’ve thought about using one for a long time and the idea hadn’t really hit me until a few weeks ago, one of my coworkers, Bonnie, mentioned that she’s been using one for years.

Me: “So who would you recommend a menstrual cup, and why?”

Read More »

Pres. Bill Clinton’s visit to St. Louis, speaks on changing American values

I was given the gracious opportunity to see the forty-second president of America, President Bill Clinton, in person at an event put on by the St. Louis Speaker Series, presented by Maryville University.

President Clinton started off his talk by asking the audience, “What does it mean to be an American in the twenty-first century?” He mentioned how progressive America is getting to be, and how more open-minded the population is getting — for some slowly but steadily.

Read More »

March 14-17: The Great Smoky Mountains Reflection and Advice for Hikers

For Christmas, Jaret (my partner) bought us a nice, little trip for spring break. He booked an Airbnb in Sevierville, Tennessee. We both have never been to the Smokies before and we were determined to make the most out of this trip, making it as relaxing as possible before the last stretch of our senior year to graduation. Spring break was a great opportunity for us to spend time together away from all the stress.

I learn something from every trip and this weekend, I’ve found myself growing closer to my partner. From early morning breakfasts to late night conversations, I’ve never been more confident in my daily decision to be the best person I can be for my person and our intertwined futures.Read More »

March 17: Going home to St. Louis

6:45 AM EDT, Airbnb
A confused rooster crows despite the sky still being dark out and the sun nowhere close to rising. I lie awake for an hour in anticipation of driving home for eight hours today. Jaret wakes up around eight and we begin picking up our things to depart.

10:07 AM EDT, Airbnb
We get on the road to head towards Nashville for lunch.

12:25 PM CDT, Mission BBQ
Somewhere along the road, the time changed back to what we are used to. We arrive at Mission BBQ, situated in a Nashville mall adjacent to the Grand Ole Opry. I get the smoked salmon, mac and cheese, and cornbread.


1:13 PM CDT, Mission BBQ
We get back on the road to head directly to St. Louis.

5:53 PM CDT, St. Louis
We arrive home just in time for dinner! We miss our cat and roommate a lot and we’re glad to be back. We can’t compare anything in St. Louis to the Great Smoky Mountains, but we took the Smokies with us in our hearts.

March 14-17: The Great Smoky Mountains Reflection and Advice for Hikers
March 16: Waterfall, river, and fried catfish! <—

March 16: Waterfall, river, and fried catfish!

8:17 AM EDT, Airbnb
The rooster crows for about an hour before Jaret and I start getting out of bed. We have no plans ahead of us because we’re terribly sore from yesterday’s hike. His knees are wrecked and my hip has been popping, which means that today is a chill day. Out on our front porch, we eat breakfast — eggs, bacon, and avocado — while looking out into the Smokies, the perfect way to eat breakfast. We head out into the mountains again, looking for a place to relax.

10:42 AM EDT, Sugarlands Visitor Center
We stop by the visitors center to get a couple things for ourselves. Me — a cap and stickers, of course. Jaret — a map. We ask some park rangers where some good spots to hang out would be and he recommends Laurel Falls and anywhere in Greenbrier. We make the decision to go to Greenbrier, do the Porter Creek Trail to see the waterfall, and then hang out somewhere along the river.

11:51 AM EDT, Porter Creek Trailhead
We start the Porter Creek Trail sore, but ready. The ranger told us the waterfall should be about 2.5 miles out of the 7.2 miles of the trail, so we are prepared to hike only 5 miles today as opposed to the 10 we did yesterday. The foot traffic is light and the trail is mostly even and has slow inclines, so we have nothing to worry about.

12:49 PM EDT, Porter Creek Trail
We arrive at a neat spot, perfect for a picnic or a break. It’s 1.7 miles in, marked by a bridge with a narrow walkway, but wooden handrails on both sides. It’s nice and cool because of the river and the breeze it carries when the water tumbles over the rocks.


The narrow bridge across the river


12:58 PM EDT, Porter Creek Trail
After passing blooming wildflowers, we reach the falls! They’re gorgeous. The water cascades down rock walls, displaying a vibrant contrast among the white foam, grey rock, and green life. We take a few minutes to take pictures.

IMG_1567 2.jpg

1:59 PM EDT, Porter Creek Trailhead
We finish the hike, sorer than ever. We end up chilling by a river half a mile back down the road we came from. I read The Verging Cities by Natalie Scenters-Zapico and a couple pages of The Complete Poetry and Prose by William Blake. Jaret boils water to cook our MRE and we stay by the river for four hours.


6:15 PM EDT, Pawpaw’s Catfish Kitchen
For dinner, we choose to go with something local and freshly caught, so we go with seafood. I get fried catfish, coleslaw, and fries which did not disappoint! The service is super friendly and familial. We gobbled our food in less than fifteen minutes and we get home before seven.

March 14-17: The Great Smoky Mountains Reflection and Advice for Hikers
March 15: Hiking the Alum Cave Trail to Mt. Leconte <–  –> March 17: Going home to St. Louis