#024 Belonging

Goooooood morning. Thanks for calling me out last week as I tried to fly by the radar without publishing.

My 21 year old brother is in Los Angeles staying with me for the first time. That, along with AAPI hate crimes happening in the world has me reflecting a lot on the way we grew up.

I think a lot of people are raised around at least a few people that look similar to them or have similar sounding names for them, and for those who didn’t, I feel for you in a big way.

We spent our childhood in a farm community named Ashville, Ohio—19.1 miles south of the most populated city in the state. This is what the post office looked like, the grocery store, and the main drag in downtown.

This might give you a better picture of what it all looked like:

As of the census of 2000, there were 3,174 people, 1,243 households, and 872 families living in the village. The population density was 2,035.8 people per square mile (785.6/km2). There were 1,337 housing units at an average density of 857.5 per square mile (330.9/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 97.83% White, 0.19% African American, 0.32% Native American, 0.06% Asian, 0.19% from other races, and 1.42% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.07% of the population.

While the village has grown to be slightly more diverse now, this is what it felt like during adolescence. The Tan family, my two brothers, myself, and my dad were the .06% Asian population in Ashville, Ohio. Just us. Nobody else that looked like us, sounded like us, or felt similar to us. And while you don’t realize much of a difference growing up, I think often about the deep underlying confusion of belonging that many people have the privilege of growing up with.

I think we all innately feel more comfortable in settings that feel like you’re supposed to be there. I’m pretty removed from the culture as a whole, but even moving to Historic Filipinotown and seeing sporadic cultural events taking over the streets in LA felt right when I first arrived 4 years ago.

I think my brother and I are still learning our place in the world. Discovering what Jollibee is just this past year tells me I have a lot of catching up to do.

But him being in Los Angeles, surrounded by people who look like us even in the slightest, feels like a good start.

— Alex

Ideas from me


For many creative people, we view inspiration as something we're entitled to. And as a result, we find ourselves frustrated when it doesn't come in the way we expected it.

Forget inspiration and build habits instead. Habit is more dependable and sustains whether or not inspiration decides to show up.

Or like Chuck Close says, "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work."


It's imperative to remind ourselves that a great story is never made with the intent for everyone to like it. In fact, great stories are rarely aimed at everyone.

If we find ourselves watering it down and losing detail in order to appeal to everyone, we'll find ourselves appealing to no one.

The most effective stories impact a small audience in a big way, then that audience spreads that story all on their own.

Quote from somebody else

“Consequences are our form of time travel; everywhere we arrive is a story about where we have been and what has brought us there, which is why the past always seems falsely innocent and better than it was.”

— golden hour by Griefbacon

Links worth sharing

🏙 Thinking about how 1982 wasn’t THAT long ago.

📰 How the New York Times A/B Tests Their Headlines

🎬 I watched a documentary on one of my favorite photographers, Davide Sorrenti last week. Highly recommend!

🐤 Everything on Twitter was annoying this week besides this. I laughed.

🔍 AAPI hate isn’t new. Know what happened in 1882, 1885, and 1887.

📍Climax Books

🏡 A year of working remote. How capitalism and the pandemic destroyed our work-life balance.

🙇‍♂️ On Being Known by Ava, who writes Bookbear Express

Thanks for another week!

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