Choosing 5 photos at random to start writing again 🙂

Today I decided to try something a bit different to start writing again!

I’m choosing 5 random photos from my Google Photos by choosing 5 random years, 5 random months and then 5 random days and scrambling up the columns to land at 5 specific dates.

Then, my thought was to write a little bit of something or just anything I felt like about the photo or whatever comes to mind! At the end, I would think of something to tie all the photos together, and then ta-da, I’d land on the title of this post in quotation marks, in this case “Growth in the Unexpected.”

I take pictures almost every day so I thought I’d give it a go. My excel excerpt of jotting down my idea looked like this:

Then I went through my photos and found the specific date and chose a photo for each date. Pretty simple, right? Random…yet there’s some method to the madness.

Let’s begin!

Photo 1: March 5, 2017

Spending time alone in Wisconsin after Taiwan, Australia and before NYC

I didn’t have too many photos from this specific date. Of course, on a non-eventful photo day, somehow my stuffed dog Doodance still made it to the camera roll!

He’s pretty photogenic, wouldn’t you say? I love all the wear and tear and how tattered he is. This was three years ago, and he’s getting even more worn out now from all the hugs and love.

I recall this time frame being very much a transitional timeframe for me. I was back in Wisconsin after one year in Taiwan, three months in Australia and I was getting ready to move to NYC…without a job.

Finding warmth in a Wisconsin winter

It was also winter in Wisconsin, which is unforgivingly chilly, but I do remember cuddling up in my old childhood room and spending most of my time in the kitchen, where it was warmest, surrounded by my dad’s 30-40 plants by myself, while my dad and stepmom were vacationing.

Crazy plant lady in the Wisconsin cold dreaming of a start in New York City…and bringing Doodance to explore the Empire State.

Photo 2: January 10, 2018

From Buying for Kohl’s Department Stores to Buying for VIP.com

When I got to this date, I remembered this day very well. I had a meeting with a vendor while working at VIP.com, China’s 3rd largest e-tailer.

It was my first NYC-based job after moving here in 2017.

I was buying for this household-known, Chinese e-commerce website and app and working on business development of building out U.S. branded goods within fashion categories such as apparel, accessories, shoes, handbags and more.

It was my job to increase cross-border e-commerce from the U.S. to China and procure brands to sell to VIP’s 300 million Chinese consumers.

Sometimes we have to look a bit harder to really see

This day, I took probably 50 pictures at this vendor meeting of a famous sunglasses mega-conglomerate. Can you guess which one? I’ll give you a clue: They were established in the same year I was born.

It was hard to choose the photo I wanted to go with because there were so many fun photos. I remember how hard it was to convince U.S. companies to work with China even though the opportunities in China are vast and the customer is hungry for quality and trendy merchandise.

Many people had misconceptions of the China market and still do. I remember learning that the website had the same member base as the population of the U.S. and that was one of the facts that got vendors and brands interested due to the sheer sales potential.

It was also enlightening to learn that levels and channels of distribution in China are blurred compared to what customers expect in the U.S. For example, we keep mid-tier products, mass brands, off-price merchandise, luxury goods pretty clean and separate.

I remember when I worked at Kohl’s and we had a vendor ship to our competitor the same exact bra stitch for stitch to a mass merchandiser and we at Kohl’s were not happy and had major discussion and negotiations with the vendor about keeping their product lines distinct.

We all see the same sun, but from different vantage points

In China, a customer might hop on a website and find luxury goods mixed with mass merchant brands mixed with flash sales mixed with regular priced goods. It doesn’t mean that the site is flawed, or not reputable. It’s actually just a lifestyle and reflection of how the Chinese consumer likes to shop. She wants to hop on and find all her needs, from good deals to the nicer and finer things of quality.

This model was definitely a contention point for many U.S. brands who wanted to work together but didn’t want to have a hi-lo pricing strategy where they offered deep discounts on their goods and would mar their quality perception in the west.

So it was about explaining the lifestyle and shopping behaviors of the Chinese consumer, talking about the differences in access to retail for different tiers of cities and asking vendors to start with a clean slate and to go into a partnership with an open mind because the landscape was just that different.

We so often just compare something new or different to what we already know as a benchmark. But the most successful brands were ones who didn’t do that and didn’t see only the limitations in relation to what they knew, but rather focused on the opportunities and embraced what they didn’t know.

I remember learning so much at this job and in this role. There’s so much more that I learned in this job and couldn’t possibly express it all in this post! But if you’re ever curious, let’s chat!

I will say that I really enjoyed seeing photos of these sunglasses from this day because while I didn’t end up working with this vendor, I saw their entire sunglasses brand portfolio, learned even more about brand licensing and exercised the art of the pitch and relationship building.

I chose this photo because duh, RAINBOW-colored aviators!

Photo 3: August 13, 2019

An Australian in New York City

This photo makes me smile.

It was taken 10 days after Alex moved to NYC from Australia. He was just getting over jetlag, he was acclimating to our tiny shoebox apartment and I was still walking 25 minutes to 25th + 7th Avenue for work.

While I was at work in the office, Alex decided to venture out into the city to explore and find some ingredients to share a nice home-cooked meal with me.

Bangers + Mash!!!!!

Alex worked all four burners and pan-fried some sausages, cooked up some vegetables – broccoli and beans – and did his own take on mash, chopping up some potatoes and pan-frying them to perfection.

Also, let’s just note that all of my pots and pans are green. Hahaha…anyone who knows me well knows that green is my favorite color, though, I have to admit I love all the colors as my brother’s girlfriend Stacey has put. Hahaha! But yes, a theme.

This photo to me now represents how long and short a year can seem. It’s been about 11 months since Alex moved to New York and we’ve had so many fun shared moments, so many tough times, many transitions and we’ve learned and grown together. Hehe…just realized we’ve been married for almost 10 months!

Photo 4: February 11, 2020

You can lead a horse to water…

But you can’t make it drink.

This picture makes me laugh, because it represents the above quotation which was one of my dad’s favorite sayings while growing up. He would always say it to my brother and myself, emphasizing that he could only tell us what he wished for us to learn, but that we would need to apply it ourselves.

February 2020 even seems like ages ago now. Pre-U.S.-centric COVID, it seemed almost like a time of bliss and impending uncertainty at the same time. But it hadn’t yet arrived in a big way and we weren’t yet really worried about things then.

How things change so quickly!

A chance to slow down and catch the Florida sun…when it was still safe 🙁

Alex and I had the chance to visit my dad and stepmom in Florida in February where they were spending part of their springtime. We had a nice time slowing down, eating delicious home-cooked meals, soaking up the sunshine, seeing the sunset and walking the beaches and tagging along to my dad and stepmom’s favorite retirement activities.

A hibachi birthday dinner with Packers fans

It was nine days before my dad’s birthday, so we picked up a card at a Walgreen’s and that night had hibachi to celebrate his 71st birthday. It was quite funny because we sat at a hibachi table of ten, and at the very end we noticed that one of the guys at the table had a Green Bay Packers shirt on and it turns out that four of them were from Wisconsin!

So, at a hibachi table for ten in Florida sat seven from Wisconsin (counting my stepmom and haha not counting Alex).

I decorated this birthday card for my dad with symbols from his favorite saying. He knew right away what it meant and laughed. That laugh was the best because it was an outward expression for all of the accumulated moments where he had tried to teach my brother and me a lesson and perhaps the best lesson of all was that repetition does work. Haha!

For his next birthday, perhaps I’ll draw a lightbulb and someone sweating. Can you guess his second-favorite saying?

Photo 5: June 6, 2017

Growing pains in Greenpoint

I vividly remember taking this picture.

I had also taken a series of other flowers that were peeking out from fences, from bushes and trying to get out in front of obstructions.

I was living in Greenpoint and had just moved to New York for 2.5 months. I was about to start a new job in the middle of the month. I remember how grueling the job hunting process in NYC can be.

Job postings from multiple sources, applications sometimes painstakingly lengthy for no apparent reason but to make applicants retype their entire professional experience into empty fields, commuting into the city for face-to-face interviews, that feeling of questioning if you were good enough just because there were so many others applying and that sheer competition of a concentrated group of go-getters, dreamers and more…

I remember stopping on the sidewalk to take in all of what I had accomplished while walking to the neighborhood laundromat to gather my dried laundry, because it was such a major transition to move to NYC and played with my mind so much.

I celebrated getting a new job after a two year hiatus. I patted myself on the back for making the move.

But to be honest, it felt like there was still so much to do: an immigration status for Alex then yet pending, starting a new job with a new company, future thoughts of looking for an apartment in Manhattan, rejoining old friends, meeting new friends, new adventures and opportunities and just getting to know a city I had come to love over years and years of work travel and staying weekends.

Take time to stop and celebrate the small wins

This little bunch of flowers just stood out to me. They represented a bit of pause and reflection in a busy, hustle bustle place. They worked to find an opening with a line of sight to that much-needed sunshine and when they found it, they grasped onto it earnestly, working to emerge from that fence and find their own space.

Those New Yorker flowers. Hustling for their dreams.

I feel you, flowers…I totally feel you.

Growth in the Unexpected

And as I try out this little 5 Random Photos series for myself, I reflected on what tied these photos together, though I had chosen them all at random.

And saw in the above photos the representations of growth. Growth in the unexpected.

It’s fun to reflect now with some perspective and hindsight. I have to say, I really enjoyed this little random writing exercise!

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