We had the good fortune of connecting with Annie Huang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Annie, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
For the longest time, I had thought that success was a good measurement of my happiness. As someone who has a competitive trait and is also working in the creative field, it can feel as though the amount of achievements or accolades I have garnered should contribute to my own happiness.
The question itself is daunting. If I was to attribute my happiness to one aspect of my life, or rather, an individual, would that mean that my sense of fulfillment is measurable in that way? And if I came across any adversity in that area or relationship, would I still be happy?
The chaos of 2020 has forced me to think, more than I already do, about big, scary questions like “what makes me happy?” To others, it may be simple. Money. Family. Friends. A significant other. A great job. But I often wonder if happiness itself is definable.
I realize that more than anything, I am always in the pursuit of happiness. I am constantly trying to understand what that word means to me and to confirm whether or not I have attained it. If I had to think about all the moments that I have felt an immense amount of joy to the point where my heart feels like it would burst, it would be when I feel the most valued. Those moments when I feel like I am adding goodness to the world that I live in. That happens in a myriad of ways, like when I am leading AAPI initiatives within communities that I care about. I also feel happy when I am creating art that represents my values as an individual and when I am championing voices that I believe the world needs. I feel the most happy when I get to watch those around me succeed on their own terms.
E.B White once wrote, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it difficult to plan the day.” You would think that the people who find happiness in creating change should be a genius or have some sort of talent or skill that others don’t. Funnily enough, I am not the best at many things. I am an aspiring filmmaker but definitely not the best producer, and absolutely not a great writer or director. I can speak a handful of languages, but only well enough to get by. I can draw, paint, and design on a very mediocre level, compared to experienced artists. I was the captain of my tennis team but definitely not the strongest player. Sometimes, I believe that I am too emotional, too angry, and too naive in the sense of seeking out possibilities within the most impossible of things. Some might call that delusion, others might refer me to a new therapist. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am the furthest person from being the “best” in any given area. Yet, I am the happiest when attempting to bring change to this big world in my very own small way.
In his book Originals, Adam Grant wrote about this concept known as “the happiness of pursuit.” He wrote, “The Declaration of Independence promises Americans the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In the quest for happiness, many of us choose to enjoy the world as it is. Originals embrace the uphill battle, striving to make the world what it could be. By struggling to improve life and liberty, they may temporarily give up some pleasure, putting their own happiness on the back burner. In the long run, though, they have the chance to create a better world. And that—to borrow a turn of phrase from psychologist Brian Little—brings a different kind of satisfaction. Becoming original is not the easiest path in the pursuit of happiness, but it leaves us perfectly poised for the happiness of pursuit.”
Perhaps, happiness is not meant to be defined. And perhaps, happiness, like love itself, requires work. If a person is expected to be happy based on what they believe their happiness should be defined by, rather than continuing to explore it and experiencing it for what it is, then would they truly be happy? Maybe by those limiting terms. Today, I may be happy in the comfort of my own home. But tomorrow, who knows, I may be seeking out happiness in the form of traveling the world with a band on tour. In that sense, I am perfectly content with my happiness of pursuit.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I was born in Vietnam on the first day of spring. I grew up from the busy fish markets in Vietnam, lantern festivals in Taiwan, the street food stalls in Hong Kong, and the crowded cities of many more. My journey to the states started at the age of 10, when I had immigrated to Los Angeles on my own, with an all-pink outfit and zero English speaking skills.
As a first-generation college graduate and Asian American immigrant, I was raised on Chinese dramas & American subtitled films. I started learning English at age 11, with the help of subtitled movies & a stack of library books next to a dictionary. My early school years were spent catching up on American culture by renting out everything from classics to recent releases at the local Redbox. Despite the cultural differences, the thing I love most about cinema is that no matter what language it is in, I have always felt understood by it.
I think one of my biggest struggles here in America was having to learn English for the first time in a completely new environment and spending a majority of my adolescence not being able to understand or communicate with people. Additionally, education was never a requirement or something of prominence from where I was brought up — until I came to America. After learning English as my 4th language, I have learned to appreciate my relationship with languages and the many different cultures that make up my identity. As a result, I had decided to pursue a career rooted in communication and language; they were and still are my gateway to the success that I hold today.
I’ve always been passionate about advocating for creatives and collaborating to bring our vision to life. Being raised in an Asian household, pursuing any career out of the traditional lawyer, doctor, or engineer norm is deemed unconventional. However, I would like to challenge that notion by continuing to work hard towards a career in an artistic field, where the work that I do will be ever-changing, but never lacking excitement. More importantly, I have always been inspired by the way stories moved people, especially through cinema. I want to be an advocate for Asian American narratives, especially those that mirror my own. My hope is to make space for those silenced voices and pave the way for underrepresented communities that have always felt like their struggles are unheard.
In the future, I hope to bring to the big screen multi-generations of narratives that transcend language and culture and encompass everything I value as a filmmaker: universal storytelling with imaginative visuals and powerful female protagonists.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Avenue 26 Tacos – the best tacos in the world for $1 Porto’s Bakery and Cafe – cheese roll and cuban pastry heaven
The Famous “Elote Man” – not a storefront, but a nice old man who shows up every night at 10pm in Lincoln Heights with a little cart of corn and all the goodness in the world
Tanota Takoyaki – Little Tokyo can do no wrong, ever
Marugame in Sawtelle – a bowl of hand-cut udon can solve all of your problems in life The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I dedicate this shoutout to my village. A village of strong, ambitious, and supportive individuals who continue to believe in my craft and vision. Without them, I would have given up a hundred times before trying. While it is all up to our own selves to get started on a passion project or begin a new journey, it is with the help of those around us that lend us the power to continue no matter the obstacle. My story is not just about me. My story is about everyone who has shown me how to believe in myself when my doubts have told me to stop. I only hope that I am able to live up to the greatness that these people see in me.