two days ago, i turned 28 years old. in the whirl of birthday wishes from friends and near-strangers alike, i was hit with a mini epiphany: since shunning social media a couple years ago, i’ve fallen out of the habit of keeping the people around me updated on… well, me.
for some reason, it didn’t sit well with me – the idea that people’s only reference point of “Gwen Yi” being Facebook posts from 4 years ago, when i’ve grown and evolved SO much since.
so i sat down, and banged this out on a rainy Sunday afternoon. here it is, a list you never asked for – 28 things you probably didn’t know about 28-year-old me:
1. i hate the smell of cigarette smoke.
2. i’ve gotten really good at having difficult conversations, but i still get nervous every time i need to initiate one.
3. i’m a Yoga with Kassandra stan. i started out with her 10 minute morning yoga videos in July 2020; now, i do yoga every single day. 🧘♀️
4. meditation changed the way i show up each day. i used to think it was impossible for me to calm my mind down enough to focus. i’ve learned i was just doing it wrong. my favorite kind of meditation is guided visualizations — i’ve found these to be so powerful, allowing me to deepen my connection with my emotions, my body, and myself. if you’d like a recommendation, check out these YouTube channels.
5. yeeees, i’m a spiritual bish now. Namaste. 😝🙏
6. building a morning routine has been a game-changer for me. the sequence varies from day to day, but this is what i found works best for me: meditation, physio exercises, yoga, journaling, breakfast, coffee, an outdoor walk if i have time, then shower and get into work. it grounds me, uplifts me, gets me moving, and allows me to step into work calm, centered, and connected to my bigger vision
7. i’m not as emotionally reactive anymore. for this, i have the above to thank. i used to have the worst temper — my emotions ran hot, and i was always getting into one drama after another. these days, i allow emotions to flow through me as the situation unfolds. then, i take a deep breath, and choose how i want to respond.
8. one thing i’m learning, however, is how to sit in the sh*t. when storm clouds cloud your vision and the only thing you can see is dark, cold, grey. when there is a heaviness in your chest that won’t go away, and you feel stuck… that’s when i know: i need to take a pause, give myself space, and accept. accept that i am in this state. it’s not forever, but it is for now. can i hold it with compassion and curiosity? i’m so used to doing the opposite: fixing, solving, charging ahead. this was what the meditation teachers forget to mention: when you are so used to outrunning ‘bad vibes’, after a while, you forget what you’re running from. it just becomes instinct. if i were to think back, it might be because as a child, i was never taught the coping skills to deal with these yucky icky feelings 🙄 they overwhelmed me, made me feel out of control. so i doubled down on control. i planned, strategized, and manipulated. but i am learning to let go, now. it’s one of the hardest things i’ve ever done… but i believe it’ll be worth it, in the long run. 🤍
9. my guilty pleasure is reading “murder-y” books. not rom com or chick lit; i’ve already wholeheartedly accepted my love for that. 🙈 i read for pleasure, but occasionally, i read for pain — and that’s the need psychological thriller/horror books fulfill. one of my favorite ones in the past year is The Whisper Man by Alex North.
10. my favorite Sunday activity is cooking myself an elaborate meal, curling up with a good book, and taking a very, very long walk (if it isn’t raining — in which case, back to the couch we go!).
11. my favorite book of 2021 was Beartown by Fredrik Backman. this book… i still don’t have the words for it. it simultaneously tore my heart open and put it back together again. i cried throughout the entire book. TW: sexual assault, amongst other things. ★★★★★
12. i learned how to cook during the pandemic. my ‘signature dish’ is this Japchae-esque thing with kimchi, beef broth, more vegetables than i can stomach, and mung bean noodles. 🥘
13. my standard coffee order is an oat milk cappuccino. (i found out cow’s milk was causing my adult acne 🙁) thankfully, i can still have cheese, otherwise i don’t know what i’d do…
14. i was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in October 2021. up to that point, i’d been battling a slew of symptoms — stomach pains, lethargy, headaches; acne with cysts so big they hurt to the touch. my period has never been regular, but sometimes they were 99 days apart. i went to see a specialist, got myself educated, and started experimenting with my diet. it’s been one of the hardest things Shawn and i have ever had to go through as a couple. imagine waking up one day realizing that certain foods wreck unimaginable havoc on your body — but not knowing which ones. 😮💨 it was only through a ridiculous amount of trial and error that i learned what my body stomachs, what it hates, and what it absolutely laps up. here’s a running list of foods i can NO LONGER eat: wheat, gluten, corn flour, cow’s milk, dairy, red meats, vinegar, chili — pretty much anything carb-y, starchy, oily, or processed. wheat especially causes the most debilitating symptoms; once, i had some kimchi pancakes with my japchae at a Korean restaurant, and i instantly had bloating and flatulence so painful i had to hobble my way back home. that means no more ramen, bread buns, hawker store food, steak nights… the rich, sinful food i used to take for granted, living in Malaysia. going GF/DF/LC (gluten free, dairy free, low carb)has been difficult — and expensive — but it has also set me up for some of the best days my body has seen in five years. i can now go full days without migraines, body aches, and nausea. i have a deeper understanding of biology, nutrition, and our food system that i ever expected to. most importantly, i am my own best advocate. every meal, everything i eat or don’t eat, is an act of love — of service — for my body. i’m still learning to strike a balance, to know my limits, to prep and portion and cook and keep myself alive… but i am thankful for the journey. 🌱
15. the only desserts i still eat are pastries. i have a soft spot for the peach danish that’s only available on weekends at Le Bread Days.
16. another thing i’ve had to let go (because of PCOS) is working out. i used to be a devotee of military-style Boot Camp workouts; but since i found out that the adrenaline spikes inflammation in your body even more, i’ve taken to doing low-impact exercises like yoga, pilates, and walks over the past two years. i’m excited to ease back into strength training soon. 🏋️♀️
17. i’m a lot more gentle and forgiving with my body now. i used to have really bad self esteem/body image issues, as i have always been big-boned and was called “fat” all my life. these days — who cares if i’m fat!? i’m alive! i’m strong, i’m disciplined, and i can do a full hour of yoga without breaking a sweat. every day that i live pain-free is one that i am grateful for.
18. since developing a deeper appreciation for my body, i’ve also returned to an old love — fashion! i used to LOVE dressing up my Barbie dolls, mixing and matching their clothes, but never dared to do it for myself. these days, i’ve embraced the inner fashionista stylist in me, and have taken to clothes swaps to expand and explore my sense of style. it’s been SO much fun! 👚💞👖
19. gifts is one of my love languages. i keep a running list on my phone of the silly, quirky things i think my friends might love, and try to get it for them on special occasions.
20. i miss every single friend i’ve ever had the misfortune of losing. i find myself wishing at times that i had the knowledge i now have on empathy and communication and relationships when i was young and hurting, but of course, i didn’t know any better then. if you’re reading this — i’m sorry, and i love you.
21. the three things that can instantly lift my mood are: the Sun, this Spotify playlist, and Shawn.
22. i’m really, truly, wholeheartedly committed to my relationship with Shawn. i feel so lucky i found my partner in life, work, and everything else so young — i was just 23 when we fell in love. it’s been 5 years of doing this thing called life together, and my love for him grows deeper with every passing day. 💓
23. when i was little, i used to LOVE drawing and painting. i’ve recently taken it back up as a hobby. it’s now my go-to gift to show folks i care.
24. if there is one thing i have learned in life, it’s this: find your people, and hold them close.make relationships the #1 priority in your life. it might feel impossible at times, trying to figure out how to love on others when you’ve never experienced it yourself. i didn’t have much of a clue myself. it was a lot of trial & error, a lot of hard conversations, a lot of WORK. but the one thing that no one can ever take away from you is your commitment… your determination to MAKE it work. sometimes, i feel like we talk so much about red flags and trigger warnings as a community that we forget the way we grow — and heal — is through each other. i can only imagine where i would be now if the people i love had given up on me: destitute, broken, alone … and more set in my horrific, egoistic ways than ever.
25. my #1 relationship advice? get really, really good at apologizing. at peeling back the layers of a situation, and finding out what went wrong. at taking ownership for the parts you fucked up in. at giving the other person space. it took me a long time to learn this, but it has been the single most important thing to shift & heal my relationships. a heartfelt “sorry” goes a long, long way.
26. i believe, deep down, we are all just human beings trying to get through the day. but i also believe that, on some level, we are responsible for each other. to care, to love, to put in the work of making ourselves less selfish / ignorant / mean, and more respectful / tolerant / kind. THAT is the work. and it is the work i commit myself to every single day.
27. my big dream is to create a world where everyone cares. 💛 sometimes, i worry that the work we do at Tribeless isn’t making that happen fast enough. it is a struggle to remain patient, and hopeful. but if you gave me a chance to re-do it all, there’s not a single thing that i’d change. i’d still choose the journey we are on — because it’s ours. and even though the path forward may seem murky at times, i have faith we’ll make it through alright.
28. i’m horrible at staying in touch… but it doesn’t mean i don’t think of you, or wonder how you’re doing. write me, i’ll always reply
thank you for reading all the way! i hope this gives you a little insight into the person i am today. if you ever feel called to reach out, i am always just a DM or email (me[at]gwenyi.com) away.
i wish you all the beauty, joy and wonder that Life has to offer 🌸
stay safe, and be well, my friends.