Highlights of 2015, Part 1 of 4: Financial Peace University & Turning 30

For the month of December, I’ll be posting weekly about a couple highlights from this year; granted, these highlights may very well leave out what happens this month, but we shall see what happens! 😉 Also, I couldn’t decide on only four highlights, so each post I will highlight two moments/topics from the year. Enjoy!


I certainly didn’t ask for my 30th year to be so monumental despite the fact that yes, I finally left my 20s and was now embarking upon a new-ish adventure into the next decade of my life.

But turning 30 and experiencing all that I have throughout this year has been very pivotal: I felt like I left behind a lot of things that I didn’t need anymore in my 20s. I feel like I finally got myself onto a better path in life.

Balloons from a joint birthday celebration during the day.
Balloons from a joint birthday celebration during the day.

My 30th birthday party was fun: quiet, simple, yet memorable. We bought a platter of sandwiches from Costco and invited a few friends over to celebrate. My birthday has always been a hit-or-miss with the weather: luckily this year the snow didn’t blow in until later in the night.

One way I got myself onto a better path this year was finally taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. I had known of his program for several years already, but never bit the bullet earlier on because I “didn’t have time or money”. I began 2015 with the feeling of, “Well, it’s now or never.” Luckily, Ryan attended with me and we were able to share a kit together.

During the nine weeks of class, we learned a lot about how to properly budget, pay down debt, and what kind of myths to steer clear of in the world of personal finances. Thanks to some situations wrapping up earlier this year, I have been lucky to pay down a lot of my debt to where now I can focus on repaying student loans. Every month, I have been keeping track of my budget via Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar budgeting webapp and I have definitely spent a lot less money this whole year. It feels good to know that I am in control of where my money goes!

Smiling because we completed Financial Peace University!
Smiling because we completed Financial Peace University!

I’m thankful for the opportunity to take the Financial Peace University program this year because I felt it really helped with clarifying my finances and my overall goals in life. Maybe one day I will consider teaching the class myself. We’ll see!

Another Eventful Year Ends.

Artsy year 2013

The ball has dropped in New York City for 2014, but I still have a little time left here in Denver to reflect upon 2013.

It’s been a crazy year for sure, both in good and bad ways. 2013 was the year I showed my Twitter prowess through winning conference passes and owning conference hashtags (see #launch2013 #incleadership #sxswv2v). This was also the year I realized that I didn’t want to do TAOpivot anymore. Some career turmoil throughout the summer plus another car accident….aiya >_< Then, the rise of Ms. Kwong’s Baked Goods and my transcription business.

Every year serves as a roller coaster ride for me; however, 2013 felt like the year where I realized my stage in life. I understood that I was no longer a flippant 20something (early 20s); I was well on my way towards a more stable time in my life. My group of friends changed (as it always does); I noticed that the age and demographics of my friendships skewed towards my age or older.

I became more aware of my finances and the negative self-talk I told myself; really focused on more overall self-care and creating a fitness/health plan based on what was best for me. Granted, the July accident threw a lot of my schedule out of whack for most of August to October; however, I am thankful for all the work I’ve had done with my chiropractor, cognitive therapist, physical therapist, and so forth.

2014 is already going to be a great year; I feel it in my bones.

Seeing off 2011 & Welcoming 2012

I’ve come to the realization that I am terrible at keeping a regular blogging schedule. But, I know I also cannot beat myself up for that: the last half of this year changed my life a lot, and, well, other priorities have taken precedence over blogging.

I figure now, on this New Year’s Eve, that I should review my year in passing and welcome in this next year.

This year turned out a lot differently than I had anticipated from last Jan. 1. I found myself moving around the country to stay with family; I re-kindled old friendships in my hometown and discovered more hobbies to be passionate about.

I was expecting change when my first quarter came around. But I wasn’t expecting so much change before then.

Living in Denver the past 4-5 months, I feel I am definitely in MY environment: I’m more sociable and open; I feel energized being around others who have similar career goals to me; I feel I can connect so much better with people here than anywhere else.

I’ve met so many wonderful people in Denver already, and I’ve only skimmed the service.

I know I say this every time, but 2012 is going to be another life-changing year. I already have many plans queued up for the year: for instance, I’ve taken the reigns to launch another the3six5 local edition: Denver ! Check out the blog, and spread the word if you know of people living/working in Denver.

Here’s to the end of 2011 and hello to 2012.



Looking Back and Looking Forward: 2010 + 2011

Circa 2005 at George Mason University

Well, I certainly disappeared for the month of December, but you know how the end of the year goes with the holiday frenzy. I had wanted to participate in National Novel Finishing Month, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be for this month. I added on only 300some words to my February 2009 novel, but I will add more in this next year.

This year in writing has been meaningful to say the least. I attended a few online classes via Gotham Writers’ Workshop to learn a little more about freelancing and blogging (albeit I’ve been in the blogging world for 10-11 years now, but I wanted to see what the instructor could advise upon).

I discovered the world of Fiverr and have landed a few small gigs via that website; have resulted in one customer giving me continuous work for short stories for an ESL class. The pay isn’t much but I have really enjoyed working on my writing as opposed to being stuck at an office as a minion (oh, but really, no offense to my previous employer at all; they are wonderful people there).

I also entered into my first writing contest, perhaps the first ever (I can’t recall whether or not I entered any writing contests in my adolescence). Granted, I didn’t win, but it was still a good experience working through my submission and having local friends critique the piece for me.

For 2011, I will do much more with my writing: complete the two drafts that have been unfinished for 1-2 years now (started those drafts in 2009), read more books (only completed 13 books this year due to the incident from late January), find more clients to write for, and, well, who knows where else I will go with my writing?

In other realms of my life, 2010 taught me a lot and perhaps was a year of enlightenment in more ways than one. 2011 is already shaping up to be another grand year with my entrance into business school and another big move on the way.

As I reflect on my life from this decade, I see I have really come a long way from the teenage years. We all realize this at some point in our lives, but I notice this year has been a huge step for me. Onwards I go into this new year!

(Oh, by the way, I have also created blogs at Tumblr and Posterous. My Tumblr account so far consists of amusing conversation tidbits, the occasional picture, and some poetry. If you are interested in joining me on my “One Word, One Picture” Project for 2011, check out the Posterous site!)

Happy 2011 everyone!

2009 Reflections & 2010 Goals

I might as well write my “remembering 2009” entry now, as I may not have much time to reflect during the last days of the year. I’m currently far away from a place I used to call home, and I’ve been contemplating a lot about what this next year, 2010, has in store for me.

This year has been a good year for me, writing-wise, but of course, with any progress, there’s always a few steps taken backwards as well. I launched my domain, helenekwong.com, earlier this year to be ambitious about my writing, to get the word out. The website has drawn a decent number of viewings, but I admit that it’s pretty plain in terms of design. I’ve posted short stories on my website and through other outlets such as Scribd and GoodReads; was featured on Scribd for my story, “From Riches to Rags”, which really helped my online presence. Later in the year, I was featured on the “i live here:SF” project. I’d say these two instances were great accomplishments through the online world.

Aside from these recognitions, I’ve also kept myself busy online with contributions to Muni Diaries, blogging on “Cinnamon Juice” (my food blog; currently on hiatus), and writing reviews on Yelp!. I’d say indeed that it has been a busy year on the Internet for myself.

In terms of my writing progress: I began 2009 with a lot of vigor for editing and revising my first novel. However, as is typical of some writers, I began to get distracted with other projects (writing and non-writing related), and have put my editing on hold. I hit a dry spot in inspiration early in the year, and attempted to muster up that Muse through writing exercises found in books. I’ve written a few short stories through online prompts and daily observations, but have yet to get around to finalizing the stories for public reading. NaNoWriMo this year was difficult for me, as November was a really trying time for myself in my personal life. My novel is still unfinished, but I do not feel as sad about it as I thought I would; I understand sometimes that other priorities must take place in my life, and that, sadly, my writing has to take a backseat when it comes to these other priorities.

Do I regret not writing as much, not featuring as much, from this year? No. Life happens, and, as much as I’d like to focus more on my writing, I understand that I have other dreams and goals that must take my full concentration at times. I already have some plans for 2010 though:

  1. Really, seriously, edit and revise Novel 1 and get it ready for agents. Out of all the first drafts I have written so far, Novel 1 is the most promising for the public. The other novels are still promising as well, but they have a lot of kinks that I need to work out over time. However, ever since writing Novel 1 two years ago, the plot still holds onto me as I think about the story and how it unfolded when I first pounded out that draft. I had begun the process of editing/revising earlier this year, and I had hoped to have the book ready for agents before June. As we all know now, that didn’t happen; I will seriously focus on getting this draft ready by April 2010 at the latest. I’ll track my progress here so you all can keep me on track.
  2. Write/Edit/Revise/Post one short story per month (12 all year). It seems like too little, but it’d actually be a lot for me to do this. It’ll be something to look forward to each month, right?

There will be more goals along the way as the year starts out; for now, I hope you, my readers, will keep these two in mind and help keep me on track.

In the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful end-of-2009 and many great things in 2010.