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25082023 - blueberry fields

one of my benchmarks for selecting outstanding close friends is questioning: if my child was a carbon copy personality of said friend, how happy/proud would i be? (instant note: it goes without saying i will be happy/proud of my child regardless of who they become.) of course, this isn’t universal: i love having friends that are polar opposites, friends for wild nights, friends to introduce to wholesome family gatherings, even just simply natural friendships by proximity and nothing else. i most definitely party with not-the-best influences on me but i still regard them as friends (albeit not close). they are people i enjoy sharing silly, but infrequent, fleeting moments with. this is all to say that i think if my children turned out like any of the people i hold very near to my heart in a “i-would-invite-you-to-live-in-my-curated-neighbourhood” way, i would be elated. this is my indication of a lifelong friendship that i will put all effort into maintaining.

it’s no secret that anson is one of my favourite people in the world. it’s weird because we really do not spend that much time together, but the time we do share is incredibly meaningful to me. we find each other (or rather she finds me) in some of my darkest times and to me, she is the definition of radiance, relentless optimism, and jubilance. i have OFTEN thought that when i had kids, i would want them to be like her: undeniably curious and kind to others.

jaclyn and i got a glimpse of the Yu Family experience over the last two days and i think both of us were mentally logging everything that could have shaped anson (& her siblings) to become the wonderful people they are today. there is zero tried and true methodology of raising An Anson, but i did leave her blueberry farm with tidbits that i long to cultivate in my own family, both future and present.

we were instantly greeted with a huge hug at the door of her family’s house. there are no busses that go here. my friend dropped us off and said his goodbyes while the sun set in the smoky haze. we put our bags on the porch and anson eagerly gave us a tour of her seemingly endless backyard scattered with blueberry bushes and assorted, dirt-coated mini tractors. her parents recently built a grape arbour and the varieties of grapes transitioned from blue, to red, to green as you made your way down (it’s the little things!). her dog, zebra, who does not even have stripes, followed us and would occasionally drop to the grass belly-side-up, waiting eagerly for any of us to give her the time of day (we did).

family & education

anson’s father is the pinnacle of joy. i don’t think i ever saw her dad not smiling. anson interrupted her home tour multiple times to point out structures that her dad had built and every square yard of her farm had some sentimental story attached to it. their neighbour, steven, had asked her father to take care of llamas (who ended up getting arrested by police for violating traffic controls. for further clarification and for sheer emphasized obscurity: the LLAMAS were arrested. not steven or her dad) and they also had a one-off babysitting sprint of a peacock. the innate urge to build your own solutions is both a farmer and an engineer-coded attribute, but it can be passed on without having to professionally be the former. fostering an environment where you encourage your children to get involved in coming up with silly, fantastical ideas and then actually fulfilling them alongside each other makes the world feel a lot more open as a child. whatever you put your mind to, we can build this together! let’s make a shed today.

ive been diving into weird rabbitholes re: primary education and looking at alternatives to public schools. i highly doubt that i will actually send my child to an unorthodox school (who knows) but ive been consuming and contrasting different curricula from niche institutions around the world and seeing their similarities. i am going to write an entirely separate post about this later, but the gist is that one of the more obvious overlaps is always around autonomy. some schools prescribe this via teacher autonomy, some via board autonomy, and some via pure student autonomy. i don’t believe the answer to education is hidden in “true” autonomy, rather it’s more about increasing the surface area where kids can explore and figure out what piques their curiosity early on. sure, this can be done by giving them hundreds of books to consume at a young age, but this isn’t autonomy anymore: this is just another curriculum for them to follow.

the best way that i’ve seen is to let kids be kids - they are already naturally curious, thus a parent can & should be the initial source of the curiosity. i first got interested in finance because my dad always left economist magazines around me and i would pick them up because I wanted to see what he always spent his free time reading. he let me sort our family coin box and, when i expressed a further interest in mathematics, he taught me factorials and their relevance to lotteries at 11 years old. anson’s grandpa would just make blueberry wine and get his grandchildren to get involved in the farm via picking scraps, and morgan and his stepdad built sheds together in the summer. in this random documentary i watched of another unorthodox school, teachers would subconsciously get children interested in certain activities by setting an example and being the first to do so. one of the “facilitators” sat down in the field and tried to start a fire with assorted pieces of wood. one by one, the children gathered around him and asked if they could try. suddenly, all of them have become equipped with the knowledge of starting a fire!


the best way to describe anson’s mom is that she is consistently there. she is involved but not overbearing, she is clearly full of love for her children but she doesn’t endlessly gush about them. she lives her day to day life doing activities she enjoys and makes time to be in the presence of others. she also gave me so much produce to take home and that is my love language - i will be feasting in my last few days in vancouver.  she is decisive and most definitely runs her family.

which brings us to the most standout character we met: anson’s grandmother. she was a force to be reckoned with and was obviously the head of the household. we entered their living room and all of her children and grandchildren were present. warm sunlight hit the wooden furniture with mostly-eaten dishes of food directly harvested from the garden. there was a half eaten costco container of apple turnovers and mantous steaming in the background. her grandma squealed at the sight of anson and enveloped her into a monster hug before loudly catching us up on the state of the day. she coo’d at the chickens who surrounded her at an instance and she picked them up with no hesitation as they ran across the fields. anson had interviewed her grandparents about their love story and her grandmother matter-of-factly stated that if she had the choice, she would have never gotten married (periodt) and that she would have loved to live a life of herself. nonetheless, there still is an abundance of love in the Yu household.

it seems glaringly apparent that a strong woman would bring forth more generations of strong women. she birthed two sons who, in turn, also married strong women, and that brings us to the trickle down to anson’s heritage. to embrace femininity in its most empowering form via making long-term decisions for the household, putting equal (if not more) work into building family infrastructure (not limited to figurative; building a house from ground up, renovations, interior decorating) simply allows girls to be girls, and for boys to respect female authority.

i see this exemplified through anson. she predominates rooms with her presence and leaves everyone in agreement that she is THE voice to listen to, to admire, and to befriend. she thinks of collectives when making optimal decisions and you cannot help but feel safe that the world is in her hands - in fact, it makes you want to rally for more people like her to take office. then and only then will you feel some solace that someone in power is making decisions for you! and not in spite of you! you never feel like a second thought around her.

i reflect back on my male-dominated family lineage and my absence of women role models in my personal life and it feels disappointing, but so miraculous that i am who i am today. there are so many more docile traces that i have recently caught in my behaviour and yet i strive so hard to break free. i am not close to any woman in my family and it is sad, but i want to reset so many wrongdoings in the upbringing of my own children that i am beginning to adopt the belief that my parents should not be heavily involved in my kids lives. rather, i will build my own community of wonderful and strong female aunts to be pillars for them via the friendships i make today and maybe(!) through my partner’s family. i will also have my fair share of “stevens” - silly uncles (like morgan) that my kids will plead me to hang out with as he hands them a knife and brings them to a gun range or something.

the combination of strong moms and silly dads seem to raise deeply empathetic, strong-willed, and curious children. in turn, they grow up without any hesitation around the feeling of being loved. their perspective of the world is innocent until proven otherwise and even then, they challenge and persistently hold the belief that people are good; that they are capable of spreading goodness, and that as humans, the only thing we have in our control is to be good to yourself and others.

open worlds

exploration always feels better with others in the eyes of a kid. having siblings and cousins close in age to banter with, to pick blueberries under a glaring sun (that felt so much more “radiate-y” back then - what ever happened?), to be sent off on quests by your parents in an effort to get you to leave the house… these are summers that build your fundamentals without explicitly training for them. we touched upon increasing surface areas for curiosity, but there’s also a secret, more complex second thing around collaboration and encouraging collectivism.

i’ve been known to say that “everything outside of school is more important” and this is 1. not actually that true 2. i have way more fun outside of school 3. i majored in common sense in university so any topic more stimulating than porter’s 5 forces (which is the majority of things) felt way better to me. but! as an adolescent! this is more relevant than ever! what was your answer to “what did you do this summer?”

i will not remember your trip to punta cana with your family when you were 12, but i will always remember how one of my best friends in calgary went back to shizuoka every summer and cut lumber for his grandparents on their tea farm. he would always come back jacked and would subsequently lose all of his gains in the calgary winter. i remember playing basketball everyday at the village square leisure centre and bussing home for 2 hours with my friends. the fun has ALWAYS been about the people and the gruelling activities we put ourselves through!!!! how could i be soooo blind in the darkness of my room playing video games alone! i am going to send my kids off to collect rocks everyday for some unknown reason and that will be their life mission for the summer (i will return these rocks to where they came from) and they will make memories on their own from an early age, lugging stones across parks. don’t worry - they will have an AirTag in their shoe.

the vivid imagery of anson, her siblings, and her cousins frolicking around abundant farm land in their big rubber boots paints the backdrop for how all of them are so easily loveable. explore the world with others! share lived experiences of fermenting blueberries (and never drink the wine because of how much the process scarred you)! take care and tender to the livestock together! feed off each others boundless, childlike energy and unlock new skills, discourse, and hobbies whilst continuously upgrading the way we interact with one another. there is nothing more undeniably beautiful than the very human relationships we share over the course of our lives. i would like to maximize the time my children spend with loved ones & make sure they, in turn, are invariably surrounded by love.


this ties lightly once more to the education part of provoking curiosity. how can i best equip children to reach the highest probabilities of stumbling onto new passions? autonomy in decisionmaking early is important, but what is even more detrimental is the aftercare. finding areas you enjoy is one matter, being fully supportive is another.

jaclyn told me about an old classmate who had started a business out of manufacturing artisanal, ultra-realistic superhero equipment. think fully functioning iron man suits, real web-shooters (andrew garfield edition), and beautifully detailed (but practically useless) weapons. the weird part about his upbringing was that his parents are far from engineers; they worked in everyday consumer goods. but, when him and his sibling (who is also into cosplay) stumbled onto their love for mainstream cinema and alternative universe building, their parents gleefully gave them all the resources they could ever need without question. instead of pestering their children around their interests, they fully embraced their kids and they now have created something both wonderful and fruitful from it.

yes, the world is open for you to enjoy. but it feels much better to enjoy it with others who love you for everything you love.


i am in my last few days of the summer of a terrible year. i was never lost, i just hold an aching sadness that will continue to persist forever. but, i am learning to subdue it under layers of all the other joys i have accumulated. there is a light that never goes out even in the darkest of days! regardless, i think all my coming of age writings dwindle to the same points: my identity is weird because i lived two distinct phases of a childhood. i had a glimpse of hong kong & intense private schools and then i was more defined by my navigation of struggling through low-opportunity, high-access public schools in alberta. i want to raise kids who see the world as a gift that only gets better through their actions. i love the people around me deeply and fondly. in any way possible, i will leave the world a better place than when i first entered it.

sometimes when i meet people who had resources (human, fiscal) to a bountiful selection of opportunities, i feel sad for the teenage arielle that was bursting with energy but had no channels to direct into. however, there is literally ZERO point of dwelling on this because i still feel fulfilled that i accomplished as much as i have, and i did eventually make it in the rooms that i belong in now. the only harbouring resentment i hold onto is that i lost out on extra years with fantastic people i met later in life - who somehow share circles from the earliest days. the way i counter this is by making our moments together now as meaningful as possible to make up for lost time! i must show up, better! be the cowboy!

plus, everything i’ve done to this point has brought me to where i am today and i can’t imagine it being better nor would i like to. jaclyn, anson and i talked about fatal flaws / our biggest delusions we hold. these included: believing that ALL people hold good intentions, thinking that we are capable of doing anything, and that everything will always turn out alright. another one of my friends said that her fatal flaw was that she believed that everything has meaning. i don’t care if these are delusions - i am aware and i still hold them as my guiding stars. what is life without being a bit delusional? what can propel people to exceed beyond boundaries without delusion? to experiment with some wacky, out-of-body stuff that ends up progressing humanity in ways unknown to us now? i love being in my own head where i make up absurd scenarios and it compels me to live life the way i want. i show up as ambitious but in reality, i am a fool with a powerful work ethic and this makes all the difference.

i am a weird coagulation of many moving parts and i am largely shaped by the environments i delude myself into. above all, it is vital for me to be surrounded by the best people in order to show up as the best version of myself. i want to be the friend (and admittedly i already am in few cases) that they can trust but also look up to. i need & will stand by my unwavering beliefs of being good, doing good, and sharing good.

this ramble started off as a “how do you build an anson” and quickly turned into “actually - there is only one anson, but you can foster some of her best qualities beyond childhood and into the present.” i loved the time we shared in her blueberry fields and it feels bittersweet to not know when the next time we’ll all be so at peace & youthful together. but, i look up into the smoky skies and the world feels like it’ll be okay because there are people like my wonderful friends living in it!

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