It's one thing to know what I'm capable of as a designer or how I've gotten to where I am as a creative, but I try not to base my full identity in my career because I'd like to think that there's a whole lot more to me than than just that. There's Stef the person and I think she's just as important to get to know and represent. It's the version of me that people get in their day to day. The friend that people meet for brunches accompanied by school girl giggles and candid conversations. The emotional subway rider who sometimes finds herself in slight tears on the train because Jack Johnson's "Angel" is just that beautiful. Then there's the die hard Warriors fan who has a list of superstitions she must check-off during the season to make sure Steph and the boys have good juju coming their way. That's the Stef I want people to know...the whole version, not just a piece.
As a youngin my favorite children's book was Sometimes I Pretend by Kirk Roberts and Jeanie Winston. Unknowingly, this phrase sculpted my brain as to how I approach life—pretty much becoming my actionable life mantra. In the book there's a little girl who tells a story based on the phrase, "Sometimes I have to do things I don't like...so sometimes I pretend." For example (and probably my personal favorite) she talked about how she hated putting her laundry away, so she'd pretend she was feeding dolphins for fun instead. This innocent solution strategy stuck with me, inspiring the use and embrace of imagination, the belief in magic, and the want to always see things under an aspirational lens. This form of thinking helped me learn about creativity and perspective, which is why I'll always be an Imagination Enthusiast. It's the only way I can function.
I need music as much as I need air—it truly is a necessity for me. Let me explain. A typical day starts off with "Brave" by Sara Bareilles sounding off as an alarm clock via every creative's best friend—their iPhone. Next, I shuffle to the wash room and turn on whatever Spotify has curated to their Hot Country playlist so I have something to sing along to while in the shower. Once I'm ready for the day, I depart my Crown Heights apartment and shuffle through my library to find songs that match my mood during my morning commute, usually Drake or Kendrick chime in around here. Then once in the office, my headphones transfer seamlessly to my laptop so that I can get into focus mode, losing myself in the music, and letting the ideas in my brain flow onto the screen in front of me with a little help from a Majestic Casual playlist. And that's just my morning! Mind you, there's live shows, Zumba classes with the best soundtracks, an appreciation for lyrics the way a sommelier studies wine, and of course, that YouTube channel I update whenever I get time to play my guitar. There's a magic in music that I'll never be able to understand. All I know is that music brings clarity to my feelings, emotions, and heart.
Faith is important to me. Faith in people. Faith in love. Faith in dreams. Faith in myself. And faith in the positive. What can I say, I constantly read The Alchemist, do my Daily Devotionals, get pumped for any "Give Back" opportunities, enjoy that community life—which is why (even through 7 years of living in NYC) I still believe in the good ;) I see reasons to believe everyday—from a stranger handing a less fortunate person spare change on the train, to smaller moments like someone just holding the door open for the people behind them. We see it all over social media, too—those feel good videos that make us cry tears of happiness because moments of good are overwhelmingly touching—like The Lava Mae Bus video in San Francisco, the best of the best marriage proposal videos, all those warm and cuddly dog rescue stories, and best of all—the little kids on MasterChef Junior being so sweet, supporting, and encouraging of each other. When faced with the realities of life, I'll always choose to skew on the good and optimistic side of things...how could I not?
I grew up in San Francisco, and when I say San Francisco I mean the city—Bernal Heights to be exact :) Growing up in the liberal, open-minded, artistic bubble definitely sheltered and cultivated my creative ways. But the other thing it did for me was tone my heart. There's just a warmth and love that the city holds for people (at least when I lived there) that affected me in a positive way. My favorite way to describe SF is authentic empathy. There are so many different kinds of people with so many different stories that make up the identity of San Francisco and getting to experience them, do life with them, and call them all friends really helped me to see the world differently, and attempt to see the world through their eyes. Being able to see and feel things in a way that someone else does really helps you to see the bigger picture—and reminds us that we're so, so small. I guess that's why I'll always think of myself as an SF Hearted Cali Native.
If Ted Mosby was to be reincarnated into a slightly chubby, Filipino lesbian—it'd be me! I wear my heart on my sleeve, I can be excessively corny when it comes to anything slightly romantic, and I'm one of those weirdos who just "loves love." I read The Five Love Languages about two times a year, my all-time favorite movie is Meet Joe Black, and I'm one of the only people I know who actually thinks Serendipity is a great film. Instead of rolling my eyes while watching The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, I'm the girl at the watch party totally gushing over all the butterflies and rose petals floating around during those ridiculous group dates. I listen to love songs for fun, and may or may not have a dedicated playlist on Spotify made up of potential first dance songs for my one day wedding. And don't even get me started on what kind of Pinterest boards I have. So yah, I may be a product of all those silly Disney movies where the female characters (sadly) go the extra distance for love [I'm talking about you Little Mermaid!] and an overindulgence into every Nicholas Sparks novel ever turned into a movie, but at least it's love that I'm overdosing on. PS. #DateMyFriendStef
I would say that it's my guilty pleasure, but I feel zero guilt about my love for Bravo reality TV shows, or any reality TV show at that. It's not so much that I enjoy the drama, cause I don't, it makes me really uncomfortable...so much so that I sometimes have to hide behind a throw blanket while the TV is on. I more so love the shows because of the people on them and how fun and interesting I think they are. For example, I truly believe that Tom Schwartz is a total sweetheart and such a good dude—like, we could totally be best friends. My friends have even dubbed me as the Schwartz of the group when playing the "Which Vanderpump Rules cast member would you be?" I also think RuPaul's Drag Race is one of the best shows on TV—how could you not love a show that teaches you, "If you don't love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?" And lastly, all those cooking shows on TV? AMAZING! From MasterChef Juniors to Top Chef to Chopped...there's always room to encourage an appetite, plan a trip to a fancy food destination, or try out a new recipe. What can I say...I do it for the (Pop) Culture.
FOOD. I'd have to say my love affair with food started rather young. I come from a huge Filipino family based in California that loves to self-cater every and any event—from a backyard birthday BBQ— to a dinner party with a "few" friends— to what my dad refers to as a "small snack", but others would consider an entree. Food has always been a big part of life, and an even bigger part of family. I still remember being a little toddler sitting at this huge kitchen table where my Grandma Vicky was teaching me how to roll a lumpia (Filipino "egg roll") for the first time—it's a tradition I've passed on to new friends who have become like family over the years. And while I completely value the flavors, tastes, and smiles on my face that every plate of food can bring my way, it'll never out-weigh its symbolism of love as a reminder of memories, experiences, and moments shared with friends and family I think that's why breaking bread with others and truly enjoying is so important to me. Whether it's scheming reservations for the newest hot spot in town, planning a #LadiesWhoBrunch party as an excuse to get together and veg out with mimosas, or just trying out a new recipe in the privacy of my own kitchen—there's something about cooking, food, and sharing that will always feel like a big, warm hug to me.