LumiLens: Netflix’s Death Note

Time to place this all out into words while it’s still in my head and before I try to completely distract myself with Longguo and Shihyun.

Death Note was one of the first lengthy animes I ever watched. Having been lightly exposed to darker forms of media like Law and Order or Sleepy Hollow as a child, I grew to truly enjoy any kind of entertainment that stimulated my thoughts and made me question, “What would I do in this situation?” Death Note was one of those series. I could rewatch it countless times and never grow tired of the plot, and, to this day, it remains my favorite series. The complexities behind it are what really make this anime famous.

So let’s strip away the complexities and lay out the Netflix rendition of Death Note – because that’s what it is – a rendition.

I was, of course, part of the angered crowd that was frustrated at the thought of there being no Asian American actors in this film. The news became a huge topic in the Asian community, although, if you have seen interviews of the Japanese community in Asia commenting on American casting, they actually have no problem with it. To them, the casting of an American actor with more European features is more accurate to the animation than casting an Asian actor. Keeping this in mind, I pushed aside my prejudice and kept an open mind until I heard more about the Netflix movie.

When the move revealing trailer was released, it suddenly became obvious that this was not the Death Note I had binge watched in the past. This was an American rendition of the concept of Death Note, applied to an American setting. This being said, there was no real reason to keep the same character name “Light” if this was a typical American boy.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

In comparison to the cookie cutter life that Light Yagami had in the original series, Light Turner comes from a broken family; his mother was killed and the perpetrator bought his way out of the indictment. Light Turner holds a heavy amount of anger towards the world, and, frankly, he has an obnoxious sense of justice that earns him a beating within the first five minutes of the movie. In no way is this character supposed to be Light Yagami who is a model student, a good role model to his little sister, and a boy highly sought after by the other girls his age and older.

From the first scenes, Light Turner already displays aggression towards his father, and exemplifies himself as an outcast who has a crush on a girl who’s popular with the athletes in the school. So why does she suddenly find him so attractive at the thought of the Death Note? The next half hour of the movie made me uncomfortable, to be honest. There were a lot of scenes of the two sexually bonding while finding names to write in the Death Note which is… disturbing on so many levels. They bonded over their mutual sense of justice – if you could call it that. It also became obvious that Light’s sense of guilt was higher than Mia’s, and also, what happened to the football player who put his arm around her in the first ten minutes of the movie? She abandoned her former clique for a recluse who just admitted he killed a man on live television?

Past Light, the other key character in the Death Note series is L – the prodigy detective who works privately with agencies all over the world. L is calm and seems to have a robotic-like mind that lacks empathy and sympathy which allows him to take on cases objectively. With L, his assistant and caretaker Watari stays by his side and is the “face” of L in his absence. L also uses a voice modulator to mask his voice – anything to keep his identity a secret.

Netflix’s L was on the same level of emotion as Light Turner. Initially, he acts the same way as anime L, the craving of sweets, the childish behavior, and he even displays an exceptional use of Japanese when speaking to Watari. Upon meeting Light Turner, L is automatically suspicious and aggressively so. This seems to be a pattern with these character renditions – they’re all significantly more emotional than the anime. The stoic persona of the characters in the anime is what added to the ominous air of Death Note. It made one character seem perfectly normal and rational and the other seem odd but very objective and “big picture.” These two were the perfect rivals because as you begin to think one has prevailed – the other makes you question the outcome.

Netflix L does not use a voice modulator, and in fact, he shows himself to Light – face and all – and openly accuses Light of being guilty in front of his father. The only thing missing was his name. After having a public spat with L, Light even uses the Death Note to find L’s true identity through Watari.

THIS WAS MY BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH THE MOVIE.

For those of you who are unaware, L is not a single name – it is passed down as each L dies. Each new L goes through extensive training to be as good if not better than the last. The same concept goes for Watari – this is not his real name. Watari’s real name in the anime is Quillish Wammy and is in fact the founder of the school for gifted children that trained L. So why was Light Turner able to use the mononym “Watari” to find L’s true identity? And if the L legacy is supposed to be passed down with time, why was the orphanage that Watari went to in search of L’s name run down and abandoned? Netflix L’s heavily emotional approach to this case especially after Watari’s death was a clear-cut example of why Mello from the Death Note anime was not chosen as the new L, Near taking his place instead.

In addition to these drastic changes in character personas, there was the addition of a new character – Mia, Light’s girlfriend who joined him after learning of the Death Note. Mia’s deceptive nature, to me, was not as obvious as it should have been. After declaring her love for Light, she puts his name in the Death Note which she will burn to save him only if he passes over the Death Note to her. To counteract this, Light puts a condition in the notebook that if he can convince her not to take the book from him, she will not die. Which… doesn’t make sense to me at all. Putting someone’s name in the Death Note doesn’t come under conditions – if the name is there, it’s there. There is no boolean statement in a Death Note. Again, I’m confused.

L using the Death Note to kill Light at the very end of the movie as well as his emotional display in front of the other officers was so out of character for how L should have been.

At this point, it has NOTHING to do with casting; this was all about plot structure and keeping to the concept of Death Note. This was clearly an adaptation as the story line was barely similar to the anime, but having said that, the names should have been different with the exception of L because he is an international detective. But, again, because of that, his persona should not have changed.

All in all, A for effort, Netflix, but even someone who knows nothing about Death Note would not be impressed by this movie. To me, it looked like two children going head to head in a game of wits without actually knowing what the definition of “wit” is.

1.5/5 stars from LumiScript. Would not recommend.

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To Explore is to Experience

Every time I leave a place, old or new, the part of me that I leave behind gets bigger and bigger until I find myself scattered across the world, trying to get back until I’m satisfied with what I’ve seen. That’s the thing with vacations – they will forever be a moment that passes, a temporary hiccup in your life when a blank slate is placed in front of you and you’re free to paint whatever you want. When I was in Korea, that part of me stayed at our small Airbnb in Hongdae, ready to run downstairs to the 7eleven for a midnight snack and banana milk.

Los Angeles is not what you expect. Coming from the east coast where monotony is either the norm or an anomaly, the only thing I had to compare was what I had seen in movies, pictures, or just by word of mouth. Buildings are spaced further apart than what I was used to, and I found myself using public transportation for nearly any place I needed to go to. People stare and speak as you walk by without a second thought, and it’s almost as if tourists are so expected that it’s just become part of the norm. There were too many things that I needed to try that I felt I needed to be there at least a month before I could truly experience everything I needed to.

I never considered Los Angeles a place that I wanted to stay. The traffic is terrible, and I always seem to lose my sense of direction. The streets are dirty, and it just doesn’t feel like a place I could call home.

So what made this time around so different than the last?

The people – the ones I’d come across by chance and found myself trusting after only moments.

The experience – the nights I’d spent thinking that another day had gone by yet there was nothing for me to worry about.

The way that I felt like – for the first time – that I belonged here. It felt like I was breathing familiar air. I had just been placed into a space that welcomed me, and I was ready to take on whatever came first.

Third time’s the charm, they say, and that may be the case – because here’s that feeling again. The feeling that I’m just in a period of wandering, waiting until I can stay and never grow tired of the things I see outside my window.

I was told once that, while soulmates exist, so do soul cities. Your soul city is where your soulmate is, but the fact that a soulmate isn’t always a lover seems to pass people by. Your soulmates are the ones who you are meant to come across, those who enter your life and change it for the better. I came across more members of my soul group during this trip, and that made my time there so much more rewarding.

From this I learned to make friends wherever you go.

Those who are the most unassuming can be the people who add a little piece of ink to the tattoo underneath your memories, spaces in your being that are reserved for certain people that will never fade.

I was all too lucky to come across the people who I’d love to keep with me until I get where I’m supposed to – no matter where that may be. The soundtrack of my life journey picked up in tempo until the background noise became a symphony, and it was an orchestra they made up around me. The laughter and the stories were the only evidence I needed of their existence, and the pictures were simply surplus.

You never truly intend to make friends, but when you do, you find it difficult to imagine how you used to live prior to their arrival. Making friends, while it is something you’re supposed to have picked up in elementary school becomes increasingly difficult as you get older. After friends coming and going, the amount of trust you can hand out dwindles. Stumbling upon others who don’t make you sacrifice any of your pride for the sake of creating trust are the ones who should say – and they are the ones who will stay.

I left LA knowing I’d be back.

From the east coast to the west with love.

Tu-esday Food Adventures: Maryland

Last week, I hung out with two of my close classmates from college. One of them is off to go to veterinary school, so we decided to have one last get together before she left. We decided to meet up at Montgomery Mall, located in Bethesda, Maryland. It was the perfect middle point between all three of us since I live in Northern Virginia (NoVA) and they live around Gaithersburg. According to them, Montgomery Mall is going to be the only mall left in Maryland – at least near where they live. Any other mall nearby is either a dead-zone or about to shut down completely.

It was a bit of a struggle for me to find where the food court was there since I’ve only been there once in my life. That mall is huge, too. Maybe not as big as Tyson’s Corner, but it’s still fairly large. My friends ended up coming to look for me because I was that lost….oops.

Anyway, we decided to grab a quick lunch at the food court. I wish I had a picture to show you guys how it looked. The food court was very modernized and contemporary – a lot nicer than the food court at Tyson’s. We all ordered waffles from a placed called “Wicked Waffle.” Not only did they sell your regular breakfast waffles, they also had interesting combos like Peking duck waffles and tiramisu waffles. I heard of this place before since they have a location in D.C., which received a lot of praise.

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My friends ordered the egg whites and grilled veggies, sweet potato fries, and the fried chicken and waffles. I got the mango and brie waffle. The waffles were pretty good. They were crunchy on the outside but airy and soft on the inside. I’m not a big fan of those super dense waffles, so this was perfect for me. The taste of them wasn’t overly sweet or salty, either. The egg whites and grilled veggie waffle wasn’t anything to really rave about, though. This plate came out like a sandwich. The amount of egg whites inside the sandwich probably filled up around half of the inside. There were probably only seven slivers of grilled bell peppers. Although the eggs whites and vegetables were flavored nicely, I wish that there was more! It was each of our first meal of the day, so we all wanted something to fill us up.

The chicken and waffles was pretty good. The fried chicken was a little spicy, so it had a nice kick to it. The meat wasn’t dry either. It was moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. They dusted powdered sugar over the plate so the chicken had a nice sweetness factor to it. Only thing I’d change about this is the saltiness. The chicken was flavorful, but it was way too salty! I noticed myself grabbing my water to drink every time I took a bite out of it.

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Next is the dish that I ordered: the mango and brie waffle. I’ve always been a fan of brie. It probably is one of my top five cheeses of all time. I just love how smooth and soft it is. The taste isn’t that overpowering either so it pairs well with fruits like strawberries and mangoes. This was the first item on the menu that caught my eye so I had to order it. You can never go wrong with a fruit and cheese combo. The mango was sweet and had a little bite to it which went well with the soft and savory brie. On top of that, there were a few slices of jalapenos which gave the entire dish a bit of a kick. I really enjoyed my dish just because it had both my favorite cheese AND fruit.

Last, but not least, are the sweet potato fries. For those who know me, I love fries. Sometimes I end up staying up late at night because I’m craving fries.

Yes, my love for fries is that bad.

My favorite type of fries is the thinly cut ones so it’s super crunch on the outside. These sweet potato fries really hit the spot for me. The fries were julienned, which means that they were cut into long, thin strips. Once they hit the oil, these fries crisp up beautifully, leaving the inside moist and tender.

YUM!!!

I personally really liked eating these fries by themselves. The cashier told us that a customer really enjoyed eating the fries with whipped cream, so he gave us a cup of it. I was a bit confused at first, but I gave it a try. Honestly, it wasn’t anything that special. Just whipped cream with potatoes. I usually like my fries with ketchup and mustard, so I wasn’t impressed. If I were to try it again, I would have to crave it or would want to consume all the deep fried, oily goodness that day.

Am I the only one who occasionally feels like eating my weight in food?

After lunch, we decided to stop by a new dessert store that sold cookie dough. My friends and I were excited to try this place since there’s been a lot of talk about a store in New York that sells this. The people in that video made it seem as if it was the best thing in the world, so we had high expectations.

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Shout out to my friend’s overgrown manicure!!!

Anyway, we ordered the Oreo cookie dough at “Cookie Dough & Co,” which came with a shot of milk.

It was the sweetest thing I’ve ever had.

I actually thought I shoved a spoonful of sugar into my mouth. It was soooooo sweet. Disgustingly sweet. The three of us could not finish such a tiny cone because we all thought that we were going to get diabetes after eating it. Seriously.

I don’t even know why anyone would crave cookie dough in the first place. I checked their website and so many people raved about it, and I’m not really sure what the hype was about. I would never come back here. I got my Instagram pic so I have no reason to come back haha.

Our last stop was a new boba joint called “Lab Café,” located in Rockville Towne Center.

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From left to right: taro milk tea, plum sparkling tea, and unique milk tea.

Taste: Eh. It tasted like Kung Fu Tea, which I’m not a very big fan of. The taro milk tea tasted like it was made from powder. The unique milk tea didn’t taste unique at all. All I tasted was the powdered creamer. It wasn’t even well-shaken so I felt the grittiness of the powder. The plum sparkling tea was probably the best even though it wasn’t that special either. It was literally the Chinese plum drink with soda. I could’ve made it at home.

Presentation: I’d give more points to their presentation than their taste just because I liked the mustache on the straws. Their logo is pretty cute too.

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I’d probably come back here just to hang out. Their drinks aren’t the best, but they’re not bad either. I would try something else since they have a lot on their menu. The overall design of the store is nice too. It has a cozy feel to it and I can see myself studying here or socializing with friends. There’s also nice wall art, as shown above, which is perfect for your daily Snapchat and Instagram.

Well, that concludes my second food review. Overall, everything I consumed was ok. I’m sure that over time each food place will improve, since they’re all fairly new. I hope that other people have better experiences in the future!

To end this post on a good note, here’s a picture of me with my friends. Our facial expressions really show each of our personalities. Bubbly, weird, and sassy. 😊

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JJANGIE TRENDS: Hibeko

Ordering online is probably one of the riskiest things to do – especially shopping for clothes. People tend to worry whether the sizing is right for them or if the colors suit their tones. Most importantly, is the quality in the material worth the money you pay for it?

Recently this year, I discovered a shop called Hibeko while sorting through various Instagram models.

As expected, it is an online store only, and their shipments are based in Los Angeles, California.

Usually when I come across potential stores to pick through, truthfully, I am a “picky eater” to the name of the brand at the start. In this case, the title itself gave its own charm.

Hibeko is a hand-made, street-styled clothing brand for both men and women to enjoy. For those who are not familiar with the term, street style is majorly associated with youth culture by the influence of popular music, trends, and major urban centers.

For the individuals who would love to rock a cool and unique brand while working a nice color aesthetic, this store is a GO!!

My first two purchases from the site were their very own Autograf Hoodie which I chose in the shade of sand, which is more of a light creme color, and a Showstopper Hoodie in jet black. In the end, I did pay a hefty price in the end for just two items ranging a little over $100. The products took about a little over a week in domestic shipping to arrive since I do live in the West Coast.

Prior to my first look, both came in the brand’s own custom black tag attached by a sleek black string and a small black safety pin. Now, some might think I am crazy.

“Who would pay that amount of money for such apparel?!” so here’s what to expect!


Hibeko’s Autograf Hoodie is somewhat similar to a basic-everyday kangaroo hoodie a person would wear to stay warm during the fall and winter seasons. This item was released in the site’s SS-17 Essentials Collection along with various of other shades and title-printed sweaters. However, what really gives the street-styled feel to the hoodie is the fact that it is a bit oversized when you match with your true size. With the over drop shoulders, the style gives a nice baggy aesthetic without overdoing it. Unlike other Instagram shops where sizing majorly comes from Chinese manufacturers and dealing with the difference in “Asian Size”, this is just right.

In addition, an autograph of “HBKO” is across on both sleeves and a small print on the left chest with its clean black strokes. Depending on the shade of the hoodie, the autographs can come in different colors to suit its base. As for the quality, the sweater is soft and has quite the strong material to last for quite a long time.


The “Showstopper Hoodie” places itself in its own spotlight in my heart! Out of the two products, this sweater is by far my favorite. Not only did I like the the color  but the thickness of the material is what really got me surprised. For this, I really recommend wearing this only in cold seasons. Like the previous, the sizing does come a bit oversized when matching with my true size – especially the hood. If you are a daring fashionista who would wear a full-on black outfit during warmer weathers, this item would definitely suit your taste. As for its features, there are three horizontal rose gold zipper slits: two on each sleeve (both can open) and one fake zipper across the chest.


Another unique aspect of this hoodie is the two invisible pockets on the sides that make an illusion of a simple pullover, and the thick hemming along the bottom makes the apparel seem longer in length. Curving it to the back left corner is a “HBKO” stamp officially sewn.

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As much as I really liked the brand name, I was really worried more of how the clothes would come out compared to the display on the site. Nonetheless, I worried for nothing! The materials are quite well made, and the light street-style fashion brings great satisfaction.

All in all, I was very content in terms of strong quality in the make of the products. In my eyes, I think many dancers would be very fond of this style. Though some would oppose by saying, “You’re mainly paying for the name,” but I beg to differ with this particular shop since the price really does represent this store’s individuality. I would surely buy from this shop again in the future but maybe not in bulk.

Next time let’s try piece by piece, so my wallet doesn’t cry in the end.

Since summer is here and the heat is on the rise, I suggest checking out the Summer 17 for their latest collections while staying cool!

Tu-esday Foodspot: Bún bò Huế

First restaurant review!!! Yay!

The other day, my dad and I decided to have some quality time together and grab dinner. We went to Eden Center, which is a shopping center centered around the Vietnamese community in the DMV area. Here, you can find a plethora of small businesses ranging from family-run restaurants to jewelry stores. As a Vietnamese-American, this place has a special place in my heart. I’ve been coming here for as long as I can remember. I remember coming here to buy myself cute stationary at the toy store then stop buy a bakery to get an avocado smoothie. I pretty much grew up here.

Nowadays, Eden Center is a hotspot for a quality Vietnamese meal. Today, I’ll be talking about one of my favorite meals: Bún bò Huế (BBH).

To break it down, the first word, “bún,” means “rice noodle.” “” means “beef.” Finally, Huế is the former capital of Vietnam. The broth is prepared by boiling together beef bones, lemongrass, and fermented shrimp sauce, or “mắm ruốc.” Together, these flavors marry together to create a perfect balance of savory, sweet, sour, and spicy. A bowl of BBH is usually topped with big chunks of beef shank, pork knuckles, pork blood, and chả (pork sausage slice). I personally really like eating the pork knuckles because of how gelatinous the joints are. And, if cooked right, the skin is the perfect texture where it snaps in your mouth when you bite it.

SO GOOD….!!!

Anyway, I never really had amazing BBH other than when it’s homemade. Some places make the lemongrass flavor too strong, other places the broth is too sweet. Then, there are the restaurants that overcook the meat. I almost gave up trying to find a restaurant with good BBH until my sister’s boyfriend recommended me this restaurant called Kien Giang Quan. I’m not sure what that translates to in English, but all I know is that they serve AMAZING food. I mean…LOOK AT THIS:

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My sister’s boyfriend recommended me to try this place because they’re known for their BBH. I asked my dad about it, and he said that the restaurant is pretty popular amongst the Vietnamese community despite how small it is. There were probably about eight tables that could seat two to four people each.

My dad and I arrived at the restaurant around 6:50 PM, so we expected it to be busy. About four of the tables were taken, so it was quite busy for them. The waiter was very friendly to us, maybe because he knew my dad, and served us tea. He quickly took our orders and went to the kitchen to place them. My dad and I were talking for no more than 5 minutes and our food, including the vegetable condiments, was already out. Service was A+ here.

Before I dive into this, let me just show you how my BBH looked like when it came out:

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DOES THAT NOT LOOK DELICIOUS TO YOU?

I added some bean sprouts, sliced banana blossom, and a squeeze of lime just because I like getting mouthfuls of vegetables. This bowl of BBH just screams flavor. When I tried the broth, it had the perfect balance of salty, sweet, and spicy. Every spoonful of soup I tasted made me want more. You can really tell how much love and labor the chef put into making this broth. I don’t usually finish the entire bowl, but this time, I slurped up every last drop.

Let’s talk about the contents in the bowl.

First off, the meat. They had medium rare beef slices in here as well as beef shank, both incredibly tender and flavorful. There was also the pork knuckle, which was at the bottom of my bowl. Unfortunately, it was only a fraction of the knuckle, but it was still delicious. It had the perfect gelatinous texture that I love so much and the skin wasn’t chewy at all and had a nice bite to it. I only wish I had more!

I’m a huge fan of noodles. If I were to choose between noodles and rice, I’d choose noodles in a heartbeat. There’s something about slurping noodles that is so satisfying. Anyone else think this way?

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If this picture of noodles doesn’t look appetizing to you, I don’t know what does. These noodles are my favorite kind of noodle. It’s not too thin like pho noodles, but not as thick and heavy as egg noodles. They were perfectly cooked and had the right amount of softness. I believe that Asian noodles should be cooked a little bit past al dente. I’m not sure why, but it doesn’t seem right to cook it when it’s still hard in the center. I think it defeats the purpose of how easy it is to eat noodles.

After eating this, you feel full, but not disgustingly stuffed. My mom always told me that Vietnamese cuisine should never make you feel that way. You should leave the restaurant feeling content. Fun fact: did you know that Vietnamese food is one of the healthiest cuisines in the world? With every dish, there is a perfect balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Like any other food, you should appreciate what’s in front of you rather than focus on making yourself full. Both my dad and I thoroughly enjoyed our meals. I wasn’t even able to try his because he ate it all! I would definitely recommend anyone who wants to try real BBH.

Don’t go anywhere else in Eden Center – come here to try it.

You definitely won’t be disappointed.

The End.

I had a dream last night – it wasn’t a happy one. I was walking down an empty street, not a very affluent one. The mailman met me by the gate to my house and handed me two bundles of letters. He said they’d gotten lost in the mail, and they were only found now.

I opened each one with sadness slowly growing in my dream self as each one was counting down and read “Liberation.”

The saddest part was that I had sent them to myself.

I didn’t know what it meant, and I cried in my dream. I woke up somewhat worried. I’m the kind of person who thinks that, while there are chaotic dreams that mean absolutely nothing, there are dreams – like this one – that are meant to prepare me for something.

6:34pm I received a call from my manager; all Teavana locations will be closing by Spring.

Now, I have complained. I’ve complained enough. I’ve ranted and stressed and let myself be eaten away by anxiety because of things that have happened at this store, but I never once thought that this would happen – at least not while I was still here.

I had a plan once to make a website where I would post custom tea recipes using our teas. One of my blends even made it so big that it was featured on my region’s store menu. It was one of my most prideful days knowing that I had made an impact on this store even if in the smallest way. I grew from a team member, working from 6 – 9:30 to a manager who is trusted with the keys to the store.

“Who’s store is this?”

“It’s yours.”

“No. When you become a manager, it’s your store. So who’s store is this?”

“Mine.”

The woman who trained me talked me through this, and it became my statement.

This is my store. I represent my store. I represent this store that helps guide people through chemotherapy, through health struggles, through family bonding, and through this culture that I’ve loved since I was little.

Tea culture is part of my heritage, and I display it proudly. I was happy to know the benefits of these ingredients, to inform my customers how it can help you just as it has helped me.

I’ve seen my store go through one terrible manager and more than enough employees who didn’t see the job’s worth as much as some of us did. I’ve seen more than enough, and it all contributed to my growth as a salesperson and as an individual.

All in all, seeing this company dissolve right before my eyes after growing up with it is heartbreaking and shocking to say the least.

Outside of the sentimental side of this post, here is why I think Teavana is being shutdown.

When I first saw a Teavana, I was pulled in by the traditional tea culture that was being celebrated in such a modern setting. Yixing teapots with delicate designs and the highest quality teas that up until the turn of the century was only served to emperors. We even had the tea that was served to President Obama. Cool, right?

Our teas were organized by tea category:  white, green, oolong, and black. Customers came in asking for teas to help with blood pressure, headaches, cramps, and acne. We showed everyone how to make their teas in the highest quality Japanese hand-crafted cast iron tea pots and showed them the wonders of creating their own sets to share with their family. This was the world I joined.

Fast forward to Starbucks purchasing Teavana – by the time I had joined, we were already acquired by Starbucks, but the obvious changes were not showing. All the changes were benefits given to employees as we were adopted into the Starbucks partner system. This is the system that paid for my college degree as well as my Starbucks stock.

Until now, that was the big change.

As more and more Starbucks customers grew curious of tea culture, they would slip into the store, not knowing why they had to pay $4.99 for a cup of tea to go without bothering to learn that we were using at the most $30 worth of tea leaves for a cup that they would finish within five minutes. Teavana did not settle for low grade teas, and if one was discovered among our stock, it was quickly discarded and never heard from again.

Tea drinkers came out from under the covers and declared their love for the tea, but as Starbucks took more hold on us, our teas took a different direction. Less samples, less creativity, and no traditional teas available for customers to try. I distinctly remember a woman approaching me and trying to learn about matcha only for her to ask:

“So if I mix this with water, this will taste like a green tea latte?”

Being integrated into the Starbucks system not only changed how we operated and what we sold, it changed our clientele. People came in looking for Starbucks drinks and shrugging us off because they were coffee drinkers, not tea drinkers. I’ve even had someone complain with a simple reason being:

“It’s like you guys aren’t actually Starbucks.”

Let me say this once, and everyone better hear me.

We are not Starbucks. We were never Starbucks. Even after acquiring us, we never became Starbucks. As Teavana employees, we sold tea – not coffee. We were not there to cater to coffee drinkers’ complaints over why this cost more than a bag of coffee because – again – this is not coffee.

This is tea.

The transition into Starbucks took away the traditional tea culture that the old Teavana employees loved and celebrated. We saw the worth in our products, and we tried to do our best to show you the same.

Though, we are not entirely innocent. The original sales process was crude and did not cater to a customer’s needs, but money. By the time I was hired, we aimed to fix that. I wanted you to leave satisfied with your purchase. I don’t care how much you spend; I’m selling something to help your health, that was all that mattered.

Steering back, we slowly turned into what most would say “the Starbucks of tea.” Although, that could not be more accurate. Drinks are not our business; it’s tea leaves. I’m not here to be your barista; I’m here to help you find something to make your life better. I am not a Starbucks barista, ready to give you your venti cup of blond roast in the morning. I’m here to give you information to better your life.

Our tea wall changed, organized by flavor because “customers don’t care about how much caffeine or how many antioxidants this kind of tea has.” They said it would only confuse people. The Yixing pots disappeared, and slowly but surely, we knew the cast iron would, too. Right before my eyes, the world I had entered was slowly being catered to Starbucks customers who wanted a quick fix and something that tasted like juice – only this wasn’t juice so there was a false sense of security that this was so much better. We did not receive any new pure teas without fruits or herbs; we got cocktail-inspired teas for customers to mix with alcohol.

The vision had disappeared.

The culture had disappeared.

The roots of what Teavana had grown from – all gone.

The disappearance of the Buddha logo was just the cherry on top. This was the new Teavana.

Starbucks’s Teavana.

This is not the Teavana I wanted to work for – that Teavana died a long time ago, the shadow of its former self stood in its place, paraded with sugar and pastel colors.

And the sun just decided that this shadow isn’t worth saving.

Step 1: Honesty

Honesty is the best policy.

Or is it?

When I was in middle school, making friends depended on how I spoke and what I spoke about. I talked about things that I thought people liked, and I crumbled even if I didn’t think it was right. In other words, I had two personas – public and private. My public side was very into the current trends, things that the people around me liked. Public Me wanted to make friends everywhere even if that person’s ideas didn’t match my own. Public Me was loud – she wanted to be heard in anyway she could.

Private Me had all the thoughts, the ideas, and the potential but kept it stored away out of fear.

After my first friend purge, my first genuine best friend got me to stand up for myself – something I never actually considered doing. I was okay letting my friends walk all over me if it meant keeping them. Once I stood up for myself the first time, I couldn’t go back.

Why do we assume that people will only like one side of us?

Private Me was a different kind of loud – she was assertive, and she had all the thoughts that needed to be heard. But she saved those thoughts for the Internet or whatever other media outlet she could find. The private side of me stayed hidden within the confines of my computer screen. Then I suddenly had an epiphany –

How could I ever expect to make friends who I’d be willing to have for the rest of my life if I only ever show them one side? And what was the purpose of having both sides? Was I protecting myself? Who was I saving?

I wasn’t saving anyone. I was hurting myself. I kept these thoughts tucked away for the sake of having people around me.

So – honesty first.

Friends second.

It’s easy to talk to people, but what are you supposed to talk about? Do I talk about something I think you’ll like or do I talk about what’s on my mind? To whom do I cater this conversation to? And that’s where my lesson had finally been realized.

I needed to close the gap between Private and Public Me. As time went on, I made the decision to combine the two. The public persona brought the private to light, and the private kept the public from only focusing on what other people liked. There was definitely a result.

People started to tell me I was “real.” What does that mean? I’m being honest, how is that real? Is there such a shortage of honesty in the world that it has become an anomaly? Friends, friends, friends – they all said the same things, and I just let myself continue to be honest.

Honesty, however, does not always guarantee a common thought. I stayed honest, but when my words contradict your own thoughts, I became something else. I was no longer “real,” I was judgmental – I was insensitive, I was inconsiderate. All these things made me think I needed to change again.

But did I really? It wasn’t that I changed over time, but my thoughts no longer consistently aligned with the people around me. Suddenly I became the bad guy. I was no longer “real,” and there became a floating assumption that I’m hiding a part of myself from the world.

Trust me – I’m not.

If I’m hiding anything, it’s something I, myself, have not even discovered. There are no surplus thoughts underneath this image I’ve created for myself. I worked hard to make sure my visage matched my thoughts.

Believe it or not – I’m honest from day one. Until I find a legitimate reason to lie to you, I will not because there would be no purpose. I would be lying for the sake of lying.

Step 2:  Friends, but Step 3:  Consistency.

There’s a reason for this long explanation into why I act the way I do, and here it is.

If honesty comes first, what reason do I have to lie to get people to like me? And hand-in-hand with that, why should I have to fight when someone says otherwise?

Truthfully, there is no reason. If you’re my friend, you’re my friend. I learned just yesterday that the ones who cherish their friends are the ones who stick to their convictions. Childish rumors and hasty actions will not change that. Anyone who has anything to say about the way I act can only know that speaking badly of me will only make the reaction to seeing the truth that much more satisfying for me. Say what you want – you’re still speaking of me.

In this day and age, young adults have all become truth-seekers. In the presence of malice, they pursue the side that makes the most sense, and the side that doesn’t is the one spattered with red in the end.

True or false:  the truth finds you.

False.

You need to find the truth on your own.

Working in Retail Fixed Me

There are certain aspects of one’s personality that need to be adjusted but go by unnoticed.

Today at work, I was asked to watch a video by a motivational speaker who told of his experience with one Starbucks partner at a Minnesota airport terminal. He said he’d never forget this encounter due to that partner’s genuine interest in her customers’ lives.

“I don’t want them to come back to Starbucks; I want them to come back to me.”

Such a recollection like this brought me back to one customer interaction I had over a year ago. Actually, I don’t really remember the first time I met this customer. It was during a holiday season, and, for retailers, you know that the holidays are when you meet and interact with the most people in one day.

It’s difficult to maintain a perfect customer experience when you need to balance these two concepts:

  1. Show a sense of urgency.
  2. (but) Be patient with your customer.

In other words, I need to help you in a reasonable amount of time without making you feel like I’m pressuring you because there are other people in the store. And in balancing these two principles, occasionally, that customer service ability might dwindle down as you go through your day.

Again, I don’t actually remember the first time I spoke to this customer.

However, she definitely remembered me.

The next time I heard of this particular woman, it was actually through her friend who wasn’t even my customer. As this woman was being helped by someone else, I threw in my two cents about a product, and she smiled.

“You helped my friend the first time she came here. She told me about you.”

This was the first time I’d heard this in my few years working at the same location. She then went into detail saying that her friend is now an avid shopper at the location by where she lived. She only visited them once a year, and it was always just after the Christmas rush. I was honest with her and said I couldn’t really remember, but I couldn’t hide the joy in my face at the thought that this one customer enjoyed her experience at the store to the point where she’d tell her friends and family.

Some weeks later, the same woman came back to the store – this time with the friend I had helped.

While I vaguely remembered her at first, the interaction came back to me. She spoke to me with such enthusiasm about how I showed her everything she needed to know and that she had to come back to see me. She was frank; she didn’t need to buy anything that day. She just wanted to see how I had been.

We then delved into how I got into this job, why I was still there, and why I enjoyed it so much.

I think every young adult who works retail says this at least once with a tired spirit –

“I hate this job.”

Sometimes you do; sometimes you don’t.

I’ve definitely said this before, more than once, in fact. At the end of the day though, I really don’t hate it. Granted, once I’ve finished this chapter of my life, I don’t think I’ll ever return to the world of retail, but I can genuinely say that without this job, my view on how people should treat one another as a whole has changed.

So what makes working at Teavana so rewarding and life-changing?

I’m not just selling a product that, at first glance, seems overpriced. I’m not here to take your money for my benefit, to have my name on a sheet of paper that says I’ve sold this much to you.

I’m here to help you improve your life in whatever way I can.

Tea helps people. It’s helped me, so I believe that it can help someone else, too. I will in no way whatsoever sell you bullshit – as some might say. If I don’t believe this product can help you, I’ll tell you. I want you to leave my store knowing that I’ve helped you take the first step to achieving a goal – the task you’ve shared with me. Think back to that scene in Miracle on 34th Street when Santa pointed a customer in the direction of another store, and suddenly it was seen as a revolutionary thing – putting the customer’s needs first.

I’ve had people tell me that I helped them cut sugar out of their diet which led to a healthier lifestyle. I’ve helped customers going through chemotherapy by showing them things that will keep them comfortable. I’ve shown parents ways they can bring the family together.

Mostly, I hope that I’ve shown my customers that I genuinely care. From the woman who’s allergic to apples to the man who knows that he’ll enjoy whatever drink I make for him – I care about them all. I want them all to know that I pay attention, and I will continue to do so until I’m done with this job.

My job does not stop when I clock out; it will stop when I no longer work here. And even then, the world of retail surpasses the job itself.

You learn other basic things that aren’t really seen as common sense nowadays. I’ve moved up in this job from a part-time salesperson to one of the managers, and while it put more pressure on me, I certainly learned a thing or two.

Taking constructive criticism is the number one thing – not from your peers, but from your customers. There are rude ones and there are polite ones, and generally, the polite ones are the people who want to see you succeed. It isn’t a hit to my pride to get feedback. Receiving this feedback also helped me gear it towards other customer service workers who aren’t displaying the kind of service I’d show to my customers.

Regardless of your position in this world, customer service can be interchangeable with simply being a good person. Do not be selfish, keep in mind the person’s background, and don’t let your bad day turn someone else’s day sour.

Another short story – something that was a sign to me that I had grown as an individual in a world of adults who still don’t know how to treat people.

It was on a ride, some ride – no need to go into specifics – and my mother began to exhibit signs of claustrophobia. Anyone with a phobia knows that you should treat the situation seriously and with consideration to the individual.

“Ma’am, if we let you off the ride it will take half an hour, we need to shut off the ride, take everyone out of the cart, and call an operator to do this. The ride is one minute, would you rather I inconvenience everyone to get you out?”

No need to fast forward – I was livid.

How could anyone think that was the proper way to treat this conversation? We were customers just like anyone else. God forbid, the claustrophobia was worse than it actually was. Needless to say, I kept a straight face; I did not argue, but I began to form a conversation in my head.

The moment we were off, I ushered my parents to the waiting area and walked up to the beginning of the line to the ride once more. I asked for the manager on duty which surprised the worker. She radioed the man in charge, and he met up with me in no time.

I spoke calmly and professionally. I look young, but I will not act adolescent. This is an adult conversation, and I will treat it as such.

“I just wanted to point out something, but first, I just want you to know I am not here to argue or put you or the rest of your staff in a position that would make things tense. I work in customer service, so I need to point out something that happened in case it happens in the future.”

He responded to my demeanor, did not argue, and acted with respect because I treated him with respect. I’ve handled customers in the past who have argued with me, but I still responded in accordance to how I should have. You can argue with me, but I will not argue with you. As long as you are my customer, I will treat you as such.

Lessons learned from retail surpass your own job; they help you in the real world when others might not even recognize your actions. People are people, and this job helped me learn how people need to be treated.

Take on a retail job once in your life. Trust me – it helps.

“The Perfect Gift”

As you get older, you begin to realize that finding the “perfect gift” is near to impossible. It’s not because you don’t know what someone likes or what would make someone happy, but with age, you start to settle your mental list of likes and dislikes. In contrast to how each birthday you never really know what you want when someone asks you, when you’re young, every year there’s something new that you’re into. One year it’s boy bands, the next it’s guitar, the year after that is a phone – etc. etc.

Mom, I regret not knowing even now what to get you for Mother’s Day. In the past, it was always, “Sweetie, this gift will be from the both of us” because as a child, you look at your parents as people who have everything they need because you never stop to consider what they want.

So this post is not just an open letter to my dad for Father’s Day – but a thorough look into why I love my parents and why they helped shape me into the person I am today with what seemed like little to no effort. This is for both of you, Mom and Dad. This is for all the parents in my family. This is for all of you.

As children, you never really think about how hard your parents try. They come home from work, they kiss you goodnight, they make dinner seem like it’s just always meant to be there – that’s what life was. Mom and Dad have everything you need and they hand it to you because that’s the life they’re giving you – that’s the life they believe you deserve. When you get older and you live on your own, those meals start disappearing, replaced by last minute studying and hurried meals “because I just need to eat something.”

I will admit this post will not be entirely relate-able for some of my readers. At a young age, I realized that I had an abnormal relationship with my parents, but I didn’t realize exactly how different until people started pointing it out to me.

I text my parents “goodnight” everyday (almost, sorry, Mom). I eat with them at the dinner table. I tell them about my friends, and I tell them when I have a crush on someone at school. I go to them for advice and even go as far as to delegate my friends to them for advice as well.

Is that not normal?

Dad, you proposed to Mom after two weeks, and you’re still together.

Here I am, still meeting people who’ve been together for years and got divorced months later. You set the standard that marriage is a life-long thing.

“I can look, but I go home to Mom everyday.”

That’s marriage. You’re not limiting each other to the walls of the house you share because you aren’t sharing it. It’s not yours and hers – it’s yours. This home belongs to both of you; it isn’t shared. You don’t share your life with Mom; it’s your life.

And maybe you two are the reason why I have such high standards for friends – you two do as well.

For children with wonderful parents, have you ever stopped to figure out that your parents are the first best friends you made in your life? They are the only first best friends. And they are the best.

Yes, I know, again, this won’t apply to everyone but it certainly applies to me and a handful of people I can think of.

Yeah, sometimes I don’t understand you, and other times you don’t understand me. But as a family, even though you don’t understand, you still go to the dinner table – me in my spot and you both in yours – and eat, talk about the day, and enjoy each others’ company. Growing up, I never considered it as enjoying each others’ company, I just thought of it as dinner because that’s how you raised me. It was never an anomaly that “families who eat dinner together have a stronger bond” because that’s how it always was. We ate together, we did our separate activities in the living room together, and overall, at the end of the day, things were discussed together.

When I tell my friends I’m going on vacation with my parents, they say “aww” and for a few seconds I really wonder why. Is that not the norm?

The norm for me is telling my dad about my day. It’s feeling comfortable enough to talk about what frustrates me to a friend in front of my parents because I’m not afraid to let them hear what I have to say.

I remember some bits of advice every now and then.

“At this age, you’re trying to figure out what you want. And even if you can’t, you’re figuring out things that you don’t want.”

I never stopped to thank you for the childhood you gave me because it took me so long to see that this was not normal. Not all families have that transparency. Not all families go to Harry Potter World every year because it makes us laugh and feel happy. Not all families hug each other… just because. That’s not normal.

But that’s us.

So – thank you, Mom. Thank you, Dad. Thank you for setting this standard of life for me because without you I wouldn’t be aiming as high as I do. When it comes to guys, I think of you two first. Would you be proud of me for liking him? Would you speak of my relationship to the rest of our family with pride? And if the answer is no, then goodbye to that idea.

And maybe that’s why finding gifts is so difficult for me! I appreciate both of you everyday. I tell you I love you everyday. I spend everyday thinking of you two at least once, so what is one day out of the year to celebrate your existence supposed to mean to me? Really it means nothing. I appreciate that you are my parents everyday, and I’ll probably continue to do so for the rest of my life.

I get my quirks from you, I get my standards for life and love, I get my expectations – I get basically every aspect of my life as an adult from you. Will I ever forget that? No. I don’t think I ever will.

I know I’ve frustrated you in the past, and I know I’ve made you cry. I know I can achieve more and you believe I can as well, so I’ll continue to try and aim as high as you expect of me. I know I could have done more; I know I could have done this and that better. But I take pride in the fact that out of the millions of children who have said it in their adolescence, I have never once said I hate you. I don’t ever complain about you because – really – what is there to complain about? I learn from you because you were my first teachers. You were my first supporters, and my first friends. I never once regretted the life I had (or have) as an only child, and I know you’ve felt bad because I had no company growing up but did I really need it? No. I didn’t need it because you two did your best to give me that company that was essential to my development. I’m proud to be your child. I’m proud that you can go to your friends and say “my daughter did this” with pride because no one else raised me – it was all you two. The fact that I can be enough for you to speak of me with pride is all I could ever need to accomplish.

And perhaps, you both knew all of these things already, but in case you didn’t – here it is for you in writing.

Thank you for making my life what it is.

I love you both – I really do.

Happy Father’s Day.

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