Category Archives: Family

Things I Learned From Ultimate Duo Queue

A couple of weeks back, I had the opportunity to attend my cousin Sam’s wedding in California.

I grew up with Sam, but I don’t remember much about him growing up.  All the memories I do have of him centered around video games.  Before working for Riot Games, he played games whenever he could.  He competed in professional gaming tournaments.  Many of the adults in his life dissuaded him, saying that he was wasting his life on video games.

When he joined Riot Games, he proved to everyone that you could do video games for a living.

Sam started from the bottom of Riot Games.  He helped out with player support.  Then he moved up to network operations.  Then he transitioned to assistant release manager.  Everywhere he went in Riot Games, he made life-long friends.

One of these life-long friends is Jing.

Now I don’t know much about Jing.  Even before I attended their wedding, I had only met Jing a couple of times.  Everything about Jing was a mystery to me.  I didn’t know how they met, nor did I know why they loved each other so much.

With the arrival of “Ultimate Duo Queue” all these questions would be answered.

On facebook, they had titled their wedding “Ultimate Duo Queue:  Sam & Jing are gettin’ married!”  For those of you who don’t play the game League of Legends, the term “ultimate duo queue” may seem strange as a title for a wedding.

I assure you, it is a fitting description.

In the game League of Legends, players who wish to play the game, get entered into a queue to wait for 9 other players to play with.  You’re going to get placed on a team of four random strangers and then asked to compete against another team consisting of five other strangers.

You don’t always have to play alone though.  If you have a friend to play with, you can duo queue.

This means that you both get entered into the queue together and this time the game will find 3 other players for you.  Duo queue ensures you guys don’t get separated into different queues.  You get to experience everything in the game together.  You either win together or lose together.

Duo queue is a partnership between two friends.  In this way, marriage can be described as ultimate duo queue.

Now, I will share with you all the things I learned from “Ultimate Duo Queue”.

#1.  Be Open To Change

During the wedding, Cory made a speech to congratulate Sam & Jing.  Cory is Sam’s best-friend since childhood.  In her speech, she describes how growing up, she used to call Sam “Ototo” and Sam would call Cory “Oneisan”.  Ototo means little brother in Japanese and Onesian means older sister.  These nicknames stuck because within their friendship, Cory was the sensible and caring one while Sam was the care-free and spontaneous one.

As they both grew older, the dynamics within their friendship changed.

Sam started to accumulate new life experiences by venturing out into the great unknown, while Cory stuck to what was safe and comforting.  Cory started to ask questions about life, while Sam shared his new found understanding of the world in order to help shed some light.  Cory no longer had to look after Sam.  Sam looked after himself and he also started to look after Cory too.

They both transitioned into new roles without missing a beat.

In general, people resist change.  Change is scary, especially when you’ve already settled down.  Change in power is even more unsettling.  Not many people can go from I’m in charge to I’ll let you be in charge.  People who take care of others, rarely accept other’s care in return.  They feel like they should be above it.  That by accepting help, they would no longer be qualified to help others anymore.

Change can be a scary thing.  That’s why it’s so nice to see people who are brave enough to accept it.

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Extroverted Introverts

One of my facebook friends recently posted this online article called “18 Struggles of Having An Outgoing Personality But Actually Being Shy & Introverted“.

After reading the article, I felt certain points rang true for me.

“#17. You prefer to travel alone, but meet up with people once you’re there.”

  • Every single month, I try to visit my sister in Houston.  At the end of this year, I plan on driving to California (a total of 21 hours of driving) all by myself.  As an introvert, I don’t view long road trips as a daunting or dreadful task.  I look forward to them and try to make the drive as enjoyable as can be, by burning some new songs, downloading some new audiobooks, or making some few scenic stops along the way.

“#16. You’re at your happiest in places like coffee shops and cafés: surrounded by people, but still closed off and keeping to yourself.”

  • I always bring my headphones while I’m at Starbucks.  That way, I can be around a full coffee shop and still feel excluded.  I frequent Starbucks at least once a week and always feel productive when I’m there.  I guess a small part of me enjoys seeing people coming and going.  And a big part of me revels in the seclusion that is promised to me while I drown myself in my music.

  “#7. Dating is weird, because you’re smiling and laughing and talkative at dinner, and then you don’t want to answer their texts for four days, because like, you just want to be left alone…”

  • My alone time can sometimes be mis-interpreted as a lack of interest in the opposite sex.  I remember my last girlfriend wanted to break up with me because she didn’t even feel like we were dating.  I guess I enjoyed my alone time too much.  There are times where I get too comfortable in my personal space, that I forget about the other person.

“#4. When you do choose to grace a party with your presence, you are the life of it. You’re dancing on the table and doing body shots until 3 a.m.”

“# 5. … You then retreat into three days of complete solitude to recover.”

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Introverts Unite!

I saw this pic on reddit a few weeks back.  (reddit post link)

 

 

Reading the captions made me giggle.  Thinking of how silly introverts are.  Uniting separately in their own homes.  Hehe.

The humor slowly faded when I realized that I am also an introvert.



Introverts + Strangers

As an introvert, I see social gatherings as a challenge.  It takes tremendous willpower, courage, and motivation to get me to go somewhere with a bunch of strangers.  Especially if the expectation at the event is that you should mingle with everyone there.

The way I feel about meeting strangers is similar to people’s mindset when dealing with someone who has the plague.  There is a distaste in your mouth.  Your stomach feels queasy.  You try to keep a distance from them.

With the plague, people have a good reason to act like this.  But with an introvert like myself, what am I so afraid of catching?

If anything, I might catch their infectious enthusiasm, humor, or wisdom.  There’s plenty of awesome people out there who I have yet to meet.

Yet when I’m at an event I always revert to my introverted self.

Perhaps I’m afraid of what people may think of me once we start talking.  At least if I keep to myself, I’ll always be a mystery to them.

Perhaps I have a limit on how many relationships I can juggle at once.  With more people, even if they are just acquaintances, it overburdens my emotional capacity.  Since I’m an introvert and only have a few quality relationships, I go out of my way to protect those few that I do have.  I know how hard it would be to find another one.  So I push others away, to ensure the health of my current relationships.

Perhaps I am a control freak when it comes to my personal space.  At home, I can re-arrange things how I like it.  Everything is predictable when I’m by myself.  Out there, not so much.  I have less control in the real world.  People tend to do things that I least expect.  And I find that extremely intimidating.



Introverts + Family & Friends

I don’t really mind going to places where I know most of the people there like family get-togethers or parties with friends.

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No Regrets

Me and my brother Nghia was driving down to Houston over the weekend and he asked me the following question:  “If you could change one thing about your past, what would it be?”



Now that’s a really tough question to answer on the spot.

First of all, it’s based on the assumption that we made plenty of stupid decisions.  Decisions we wish we could take back.  Decisions that steered us away from what we wanted at that time.

For example, for my nephew’s birthday, I thought it would be a wise decision to cut watermelon while I was drunk and trying to carry a conversation with my cousin Audrey.  Half-way through our discussion, I missed the watermelon and instantly cut into something else that colored the knife red.  (Now I know why you shouldn’t operate heavy machinery while you’re intoxicated.)

Of course, I am guilty of mistakes during all parts of my life.  Who isn’t?

The second assumption is that once we change something significant about our past, something significant about our present should also change.

This kind of thinking puts you in passenger seat of your life, instead of being in the driver’s seat.  You are pretty much admitting that you have no power or influence in your life.  If your life is so horrible right now, why don’t you change something about it?

Another fallacy in this way of thinking is you may judge that one mistake to be monumental, but in the grand scheme of things it was really insignificant.  Therefore by changing something insignificant about your past, you end up with the same present that you’re discontent with.

Here’s a hypothetical scenario.  You regret losing one of your past loves.  You were jealous and accused them of cheating on you.  It destroyed your relationship.  And ever day since, you wondered what could have been, if you had done otherwise.  So you make that wish.  Wishing that jealously would no longer be an issue.  And once you open your eyes expecting to be next to your lover again, you aren’t.  For some reason, that wasn’t enough.  Perhaps jealousy was just the tip of the iceberg.  Perhaps the relationship was destined to end regardless of how you acted.

Another way a wish could go wrong is if we wished something away that was actually an important aspect of your life.

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“Money Power Issues Within Relationships”

  1. Went to grab Starbucks with my friend and he shared his thoughts on the topic of the power to control money within a relationship.He mentioned that within any relationship there is usually two polar opposites that usually work with or against each other when it comes to money.

  2. He said that he enjoys having control over money.  If it was up to him, he would control all the financial decisions within his family.  His dad is very easy going when it comes to money.  His mom exerts some control over the money within the household.  I asked him, “What’s the point of having a hand in all your family’s financial dealings?”.  He said, “I know it’s their money and they have a right to spend it anyway they want, but sometimes I wished they had talked it over with me first.  When they hold the money, I can disagree but they can still go through it.  When I have control over the money, when I disagree with their decision, I have the power to delay/stop the spending.”

  3. He said he could never be with someone who has a Type-A personality like his.  Someone who is hands on when it comes to money.  He believes that being with another Type-A personality would just cause conflict.  Both would be too convinced that their way of budgeting and spending is the right way.

  4. He said he knew a couple who were both raking in the dough.  Each wanted to do things their own way.  No one would consult the other, on how their impulse decision to buy something would affect their overall budget.  As a result, each month they barely make it by even thought they each bring in more than six-figures a year.

  5. I asked him, “How do couples determine who will be the leader in financial decisions and who will be the follower?”  He said, “Most of the time, it’s pre-determinded by who brings home the bacon.  If the husband works and the wife stays home, most of the time he exerts control over the money.  I’m sure there are circumstances where the husband will relinquish control to his wife.  But if the husband was adamant about keeping the control, it’s tough for the wife to argue because she didn’t earn the money.”

  6. He shared the following, “I know a couple.  He is a successful entrepreneur.  His wife quit working at a department store because he easily provided for all their expenses.  Once they started to live together, she would go out and buy things for their house.  More times than not, the husband would always complain about her wasting money on things that were unnecessary.  She felt powerless and put up little resistance.  She eventually made the decision to go back to work again, not because they needed the money.  She was just tired of him bickering about how she spent his money.  Now that she is working, she can spend her money anyway she wants.”

  7. I then asked him, “What kind personality do I have, type-A or type-B?”  He responded, “You’re neither, or rather you’re a lil’ of both.  On one side you do a good job of saving and planning for the future.  On the other side, you don’t really mind if someone else were in charge.  You’d just go along just as long as you trusted that person who made the financial decisions for you.  When it comes to money, not everyone is considered entirely type-A or type-B, even though there are people like that.  You and many others lie somewhere in the continuum between type-A & type-B.”

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What You Do With Money Reveals Who You Are

Me and my cousin TA were diving into various monetary topics such as tipping, spending habits, and power control issues during my birthday outing.  We briefly touched on the topic what you do with money reveals who you are.  I had some more alone time and this is what I came up with.

  1. For people who work, money serves as a counter of how much time, energy, and other sacrifices they you have accumulated in the past.  Money is usually used to fulfill their needs.

  2. For some workers, work is meaningful and therefore money serves as a bonus to what they inherently enjoy doing.  There are doctors out there who enjoy helping others so much that they would still stick with the profession, even if their salary is halved.  They are in it because of the meaningful work, money is secondary.  Of course, there are those who would change profession if they knew they would only be making half.

  3. For others, where passion is absent from work, money serves as an investment into a better or different future.  People who work meaningless hours at the local gas station, in hopes of saving up and one day starting their own restaurant belong to this category.  They put up with things they don’t enjoy now, so one day they can be able to do what they enjoy.

  4. Some people put up with work so others around them can reap the benefits of having stable income to support their lives.  Most parents who start out with nothing, don’t have a choice in what they want to do.  They put up with doing dirty, physically straining, low-paying jobs that no one else wants.  All the time they wasted on doing something they don’t enjoy is actually an investment into the future of their own kids.

  5. People who gamble have the belief that they can multiply the amount of money they have.  No one walks into a casino thinking that they will probably lose all the cash they brought.  There is even the chance that they will lose even more than what they intended to gamble with.  For one person to walk as a winner, there will probably be multiple others that must walk out as the loser.  Everyone wants to be the winner, yet the number of people who lose always outnumbers the number of people who lose.  For some reason, they are unconscious to this.

  6. People who are handed money, don’t see meaning in the things they buy.  With someone else’s money, they can buy anything they want.  Anything they want is easily thrown away because it was so easily attained.  There is no need to cherish or be grateful for something that they gave up nothing for.  If they lose something, they can always buy another one without putting out anything.  They only need to put out their hand and a rich mom or dad will provide more money.

  7. People who take other’s money, are extremely short-sighted.  They only see what they could do with that money.  When you take someone else’s money, its like unleashing a demon that will haunt you.  People will investigate, they will become suspicious of you, they will want to know the truth.  They will be relentless, they will demand justice, and they will raise their guard.  They won’t forget.  If you take money and it becomes public knowledge, you have essentially closed all doors to a bright future.

  8. People who borrow another’s money and return it, are opportunists.  They see borrowing money as an opportunity to help them out of a rut.  They see it as an opportunity to take advantage of a prosperous business endeavor.  Regardless, of whether the borrowed money serves it’s purpose or not, returning it strengthens the relationship between you and the lender.  Whether it be a bank or a rich relative, when you own up to what you say, you build credit for the future.  A friend is more likely to let you borrow $1,000 down the road, when in the past you have been good on repaying the $500 you owed them.

  9. People who borrow another’s money and don’t return it, are slowly burning down all the bridges in their life.  Every single time you borrow someone’s money and don’t return it, you have closed off that person from your life.  You don’t want to see them, because you don’t have any money to pay them back.  Every time you do see each other, it’s the one thing that will be on top of everyone’s mind.  Conversations may start on any topic, but it will always end on “where’s the money you promised to pay back?”  Your relationship has been put on hold until you can pay them back.  No meaningful conversations, life experiences, or memories will be created between you two until you have fulfilled your promise.

  10. People who lend out money to help others, transforms the lending process into a charitable act.  They realize that their money does more good in the hands of others as opposed to having the money just sit there in the bank.  They enjoy lives of plenty and prosperity, and wish the same outcome to all those around them.  They hope that with some extra cash, you can start walking down the path of your own dreams.

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FB Status Update: The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree

My brother Nghia Nguyen had this uneasy look on his face and asked me, “Hey you ever get this tightness sensation in your chest?”

Me: “Hmmm, sometimes I get it … but I’m not sure what caused it.”
Nghia: “Yeah, it’s really uncomfortable.”
Me: “Maybe you pulled a muscle or something.”
Nghia: “No it’s definitely not that. I asked Dr Chuong about this sensation and he told me it’s a female thing.”
Me: “What do you mean it’s a female thing.”
Nghia: “Well, Dr Chuong say’s that girls have hormones that concentrate around their chest area.”
Me: “Yeah, that’s where their boobies are.”
Nghia: “Exactly.”
Me: “You do realize that we don’t have boobies right?”
Nghia: “Dr. Chuong say’s the painful sensation in your chest is related to the fact that we lack boobies.”
Me: “Are you trying to say that this pain I get in my chest is my female hormones yearning to develop into nice firm breasts?”
Nghia: “That sounds nasty, but it’s pretty close to what Dr. Chuong said.”
Me: “And you just admitted that you had this pain in your chest, so that means you’re going to have big boobies!!!”
Nghia: “Nooo. Not me. What? So did you!”
Me: ” … I don’t remember admitting to having any chest pains …”
Nghia: “Liar!”

So my brother just admitted to me that he has chest pains and that the cause of the pain is his female hormones going haywire on him.

Not the most masculine thing that has came out of Nghia’s mouth.

Now I don’t know if I should believe anything Dr. Chuong tells me anymore.

How can he tell my brother something like this?

Even if it’s true, I wouldn’t want to hear that about myself.

Couldn’t Dr. Chuong have said something like, “Oh yeah that pain, it’s your inner Hulk trying to break free.”

Discovering female hormones inside of him could traumatize Nghia for the rest of his life.

He could end up being like me when he’s over 30.

And nobody wants that, because the world ain’t big enough for two Thao’s.

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FB Status Update: Started From the Bottom, Now I’m Here

Dad told me recently, “Taking pictures is a hobby. You need to stop bumming around and get your ducks in a row.”

What this usually means is he thinks photography is a dead end job with no prestige and honor. I should go back to being a teacher or engineer. Or maybe go back to school to be a doctor.

Friend told me recently, “You can’t make a living off of photography. It’s something you do on the side, after you have a career in something else.”

Which is true, because most of the well-known wedding/event photographers I know, do weddings on the side. They have a tax firm, electronic store, or cell phone service business that they run on the weekdays.

My Aunt told me, “Here’s a business loan for your photography business. You have to promise me that within one year, if things don’t go well you have to move onto something more stable.”

I only got 40 more days until my year is up.



People were getting to me and I was letting them get to me. I wasn’t going to give up photography up completely, but perhaps I would be able to sustain my photography passion with a stable income like librarian or computer lab manager.

It didn’t matter much what I did during the week, as long as during the weekends, I got to do what I loved the most.

Perhaps everyone was right all along. Perhaps last year was a waste. Perhaps I shouldn’t have put my life on hold and poured everything into photography.



Last Wednesday, replied to Craigslist post. Friday got called in interview. Left interview as a full-time architectural photographer with pay comparable to a full-time teacher.

Literally, had tears falling from my eyes because I was so happy. It felt like I just won the lottery. Similar to waking up from a beautiful dream only to realize that it wasn’t just a dream, it’s reality now.

Now, I don’t need to work, save money, and then to go spend it on something I truly love. I can do something I truly love, save money, and then chill until I can do something I truly love again. This is truly my dream job.



I appreciate all the friends and family who have supported me along the way. Friends critiquing my work. Family referring photography business to me. Inspiration and creativity were allowed to flourish with companions like you guys.

At the same time, I got nothing but love for my dad, aunt, and friend. They told me what they knew to be true. It was there own way of showing me love. Full-time photographers are unheard of. Well at least now, they can say they know one full-time photographer.

No photography courses/classes. No photography degrees/certificates. Learning it the hard way by just doing it. Definitely helped to have so many experienced photographers around me to give me tips/advice. Couldn’t have done it without them.



Started from the bottom, now I’m here.

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FB Status Update: May Birthdays

Me and mom re-counting all the people who have May birthdays in our family.

Mom: We have your Dad’s, then grandpa’s, and then your nephew Cu Minh’s.

(Btw, my nephew’s name is Oliver Minh. The “Cu” that precedes his name means penis. For some reason, Vietnamese people think it’s cute to append “Cu” before babies’ & toddler’s actual names. Similar to how American people call little girls princesses and little boys munchkins, except those nicknames don’t mean penis.)

Mom: Oh! I almost forgot Linh’s lil’ boy …
Me: Cu Nam! (Penis Nam!)
Mom: No, that’s the older one. I’m talking about the new one.
Me: Cu Moi! (New Penis!)
Mom: Nooooo … that’s not it …

Then my mom goes quiet for a moment and then busts out laughing out loud. And when I figured out that my mom was laughing at “Cu Moi”, I chimed in a laughed with her.

Apparently, my mom think it’s hilarious to call my nephew “Cu Moi” (New Penis).

Maybe because it’s true. Of all the guys who have birthday’s in May, my nephew’s penis is the newest.

Or maybe an image of a “Cu Moi” popped up in her head and she found the imagery too repulsive or embarrassing that her only reaction was to laugh it off.

We will never know.

Well, at least now I know where I get my crude humor from!

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FB Status Update: Half Your Age


Went to the hospital with my brother Nghia and one of the nurses asked the following:

Nurse: “Are you two brothers?”
Me: “Yes we are. Why do you ask?”
Nurse: “You two look like you’re the same age.”
Me: “We do?”
Nurse: “Yep.”

She walked us into his room and left.

Then I thought to myself:

“Not sure if she was speaking the truth or just went out of her way to compliment me.”
“No wonder women lie about their age, it feels good to be young when you’re actually really old.”
“If I look half my age, does that mean I should start dating girls half my age?”

I’m approaching 33 years old and my brother Nghia is 17 years old.

Stay young Nghia.

Like your older brother Thao.

But don’t date girls half your age.

They’re still in elementary.

And that would be wrong.

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