The speech diet

Having lived in LA for three years, I don’t even feel {like} using phrases {like} {feel like}.

Or words {like} totally, literally, awesome, amazing, freaking out, Oh My God… Just to name a few.

I made an effort to favor words {like} wonderful, lovely, good…

I was in England for a while. So it wasn’t that difficult.

So what does a Valley girl sound like? Watch this video at 2:30.


My podcast guest this coming Tuesday has a bit of Valleyspeak. I thought about sending her a mixtape of {likes} she’s dropped I’ve cut out to show my {like} for her. That doesn’t sound too {lik}able, does it?

But {you know}, we don’t know what we sound like until we do a taping, until we really listen to ourselves talk.

I’m guilty of {you know} and {hmm}. And I {know} it.

Why do we speak the way we speak?

Why do the Jimmy Kimmels speak the way they speak?

For the rest of us, we are in a rush. We are insecure when we’re put under the spotlight. We assume if we talk slower, people might think we are inarticulate. So we fill the gaps with {like} {hmm} {you know}… as if those words would make us sound smarter.

Any cure?

I went on a speech diet replacing {you know} and {hmm} with…


All I can is this: it {totally} works!


Yours truly,

PS. Stay tuned! New episode coming out tomorrow at 00:00 PST.

The Customs – Part I

Mum texted me that she got notifications. From the Chinese Customs.  Thirteen letters in total.

But you have fifteen boxes, right?


What does it mean? What shall we do?

Calm down.

But my stomach tightened up. I felt queasy already.

Is it the two boxes of books?  My mind starts racing. I have a book about Chiang Kai-shek and two on Soong Mei-ling. I was hesitating whether I should take them with me on the plane when my friend was helping me with the packing.

I asked for his opinion. “Do you know how many packages are coming in and out of your country at any given day? They wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about your stuff. They have bigger fish to fry. Don’t worry about it.”

Let’s see how things would unfold…

One way or the other, the joke’s on me.


Yours truly,


The coolest girl

In the crowd… Do you know one of those girls growing up?

I do.

She has taste. What she throws on is effortless, timeless.

She has brains. What she says is witty, funny.

Everyone wants to be like her. But nobody can but her.

Every girl wants to be her friend.

Every boy wants to take her hand.

But only the lucky fews get to be near her.

That’s the trick. That’s part of the game, the fun, the pain.

She reveals just enough about herself. The best side. The coolest side. The perfect side.

The rest leaves to her fans’ imagination…


When I watched South Korean’s 2011 female friendship movie Sunny,

I knew who I was. Na-mi, the protagonist.

Na-mi got it all. The friendship. The respect. The love. The acceptance.

My own version of the movie would be somewhat different:
I was without the guidance of the coolest girl. Choon-hwa, who’s also as pretty as it gets. Or the accompany of the prettiest girl. Young Soo-ji, who’s also as cool as it gets.
What I got was cold shoulders, the no-response responses…

I couldn’t find myself in any of those happily-ever-after movies. Maybe that’s why I wanted to be a storyteller in the first place…

One day, not too long ago, I got up and a voice whispered in my ears:

Everyone else is taken.

Every other label has been used.

I’ll be myself. Cool or not. Pretty or not.

I’m done pretending. I’m done trying.

I’m just me. Take it. Or leave it.


Yours truly,

A million things

To do before my departure on October 14.

Today is September 21. Already?!

People start to text me for the final meet-ups.

“We haven’t seen each other for ages” is usually the icebreaker line, the way-in for the lost connection.

“Yes, indeed.” I took the bait.

“Let’s meet for [coffee / lunch / dinner, depends on the other side’s perception of our relationship.]”

“Sure.” I’d say.

Sometimes I wonder if people would ever meet if they don’t make an effort and meet on a regular basis until something’s up. For instance, the person is leaving, like me.

Usually people just drift apart. Life happens. [Translation: You’re not my priority. Right now.]

I look at my schedule next week. The most interesting one is this: I have a dinner with my former company.

What shall I wear? What shall I say?

I’ve decided that I’m grateful for all the attention I’m showered.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who picks up the tab. Or how much is the tab. But the person makes the effort and shows up.

Come to think of it, doesn’t everyone, at any given moment, have a million of things to do, to worry?

Here is the script I’ll stick to:

Thank you for your time.

And I mean it.


Yours truly,

The little horse

In the village live the animals.

Little Horse is now old enough to cross the river for the first time in her life!

What an exciting day!

But wait, just how deep is the river?

Little Horse isn’t so sure…

Why don’t I ask some older folks? She thinks out loud.

She knocks on the door of the Squirrel family.

“Mrs. Squirrel.”

“Yes, Little Horse. How can I help you?”

“I want to go across the river.”

“Oh, the river…”

“I don’t know how deep it is.”

“It’s deep.” Mrs. Squirrel fishes out a tiny napkin under her flappy arm and dabs around her round eyes. “My husband was drowned in that wicked wretched darn river last year.”

Little Horse gasps. “I’m sorry…” She bows and leaves Mrs. Squirrel to rest.

For hours she wanders… She is now back to the river bank again.

A few feet away, Mr. Ox is drenched in water. He shakes his toned body. Water splashes over towards Little Horse.

“Hey, watch it.” She is annoyed.

“Hiya, Little Horse.”

“Hi yourself.”

“What’s eating you?”

“Nothing.” But her eyes betrays her. The river is calling. “How’s the water?”

“It’s great. Not too cold. Not too warm. Just right. Take a dip and feel it yourself, Little Horse.”

“Is it deep?”

“Not at all.”

“But Mr. Squirrel drowned in it.”

“But you’re not a squirrel.”

“And I’m not you. Good day to you, sir.”

Little Horse returns to the stall, dejected.

“So, how do you like the river?” Mrs. Horse appears from behind.

“Not now, mum.”

“Have you tried yet?”

“Mrs. Squirrel said it’s scary deep. Mr. Ox said it’s as shallow as a puddle. I don’t know who’s telling the truth.”

“What if they are both right?”

“Then whom should I believe?”

“Why don’t you try and see for yourself?”


I don’t need to tell you the rest of the story. You see the ending.

This story, “The Little Horse Crosses the River,” is originally from my primary school textbook in China. A story I always remember and try to remind myself whenever a new river calls upon me to dare cross it.


Three days ago, two great older wiser friends asked me to stop posting my podcast feeds onto my personal social media accounts.

“You’re blowing your cover!”

“What if someone wanted to offer you a job and see your relation to… ‘Rock Bottom.’ Eww.”

“They’ll find out that you’re broke and amongst other things.”

“Being anonymous is so much cooler, so much more mysterious.”

At the time, they made a lot of sense.

The next morning, I got really frustrated. Just how on earth would I be able to grow my audience base without reaching out to my family and friends first?

I brought it up to Barbara, who’s featured on this weeks’ podcast.

“They’re not wrong. But they’re not you. They’re projecting their fear, their past unpleasant experience onto you.”

“YZ, you need to ask yourself why you do this podcast in the first place? What’s your compass? What’s your Truth North?”

“You know what you should do? You should do an episode and talk about this. This shame we carry on our backs.  As Brené Brown says, ‘If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment.'”

Secrecy. Silence. Judgment. 

“Barbara, could you guest host this episode?”

“Of course.”


Yours truly,

PS. Barbara Kiao is my guest for this week’s podcast.
You may find it interesting if you’re wondering these things:
a) Is it too late to pivot?
b) How does a psychologist deal with her life crises and rock bottoms?
c) I want to try counseling, does it mean I’m abnormal?
d) What does it take to be a psychologist?
e) all the above.

Brutal honesty

My friend had been waiting for me downstairs. It was 11:40.

“How long have you been waiting?”

“Ten minutes.”

Shit. Here is my pet peeve: I can’t bear having people waiting for me.

“Didn’t I say text me when you are here?”

“I texted you when I was five minutes away.”

I bit my tongue and I knew I should stop right there. But I couldn’t. I lost it.

“I got your text about an hour ago about getting dim sum. And you were giving me less an hour when I just got out of the gym. I was at the grocery store. To be honest, I feel ambushed. But I don’t want to reschedule.”

“Didn’t we say we were meeting today for dim sum?”

“Yeah. I thought we were sticking with the original plan. 1 o’clock. I was waiting for your call last night to confirm.”

“If you weren’t sure. Why didn’t you call?”

“I was editing my podcast.”


“Which I’m sure you haven’t listened.”

“No, I haven’t yet.”

“Then don’t promise that you would as I quote, ‘I’m gonna listen to it today.’ blah blah blah. Now it’s a week later.”

“You just have to win this, don’t you?”

“Just be honest.”

“I have a million of other things to do today. And I’m not feeling particularly well. Why don’t I just drop you off back to your place?”

He was not joking. I stopped.

When we were on the freeway, he asked, “So you feel overwhelmed. Why?”

I thought he wanted to listen. Big mistake. By the time I realized it, he was off the ramp and into the street.

“Where are we heading?”

“I’m taking you home.”

“Are you fucking serious?”

“Just because I haven’t listened to your podcast doesn’t mean I have to ruin my day being around you berating me.”

The car was still moving, but I unhooked the seat belt. “Pull off. I’ll call a Lyft.”


I started crying, “When was the last time I ever stood on you? Never. Do you hear? I never reschedule. You know why? Because I don’t want to. Because I know every meeting now means one less before I’m out of your hair forever. If you don’t want to listen to my podcast, don’t say you will. It’s not a fucking assignment and I’m not grading it later.”

“No. It is.”

“If it brings you no joy, don’t do it. Please. I’m not some needy kid screaming for your attention. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Give me some clarity. That’s all.”

“I pity the man that you’ll marry.”

Me too.


Full disclosure: The tears paid off. We had dim sum. Several hours later, he called and said he enjoyed my interview.

I rubbed my chest. It still hurt.


Yours truly,

PS. A psychologist is my guest for this week’s podcast.
You may find it interesting if you’re wondering these things:
a) Is it too late to pivot?
b) How does a psychologist deal with her life crises and rock bottoms?
c) I want to try counseling, does it mean I’m abnormal?
d) What does it take to be a psychologist?
e) all the above.

RBYZ: On my terms (#004)

“Feel the fear and do it anyways.”

Says our guest this week. She had been a successful hospitality manager until she decided to study psychology when she was two decades too old. That is, according to the norm.

Seven years later, after getting her degree and license, she walked away from the broken marriage, accepting her own Rock Bottom.

Meet Barbara Kiao, the therapist who practises what she preaches.

What you’ll hear:

  • Can one really switch from hospitality to psychology?
  • Is there such a thing as “too old to learn?”
  • What does age have to do with… anything?
  • What does a calling feel like?
  • How to stop the stigma around counseling?
  • What does a clinical counselor’s day-to-day practice look like?
  • How does a psychology pro deal with crises and rock bottoms?
  • And much more!

Links from the episode:


Listen and subscribe to Rock Bottom with YZ:
A weekly podcast for and about anyone and everyone who has spiraled downward and doesn’t know which end is up.

Listen to Rock Bottom with YZ on RadioPublic


Yours truly,

PS. Click here to see ways to help #RBYZ to grow.