Sometimes yes I do want to live in the past forever

July 29th, 2014

During some moments in life when you want to live it over and over again. Maybe it’s elation or pride. Or the happiness that spills out through tears and smiles that hurt the muscles. It’s those moments when you feel that you belong, you’re important, you’re valued. Or that you feel the love that you’re spreading. The love that you feel radiated from others to you. So you want to live stay with that happiness. You want to be with that precious moment of completion.

I have those moments too. Whether it sitting with my graduate school classmates during our final project. Or my first college football game I attended with friends while a relationship blossomed via text. And the moment that I had with Chris at the foot at my bed where the world didn’t matter, but only the space between us mattered.

But I realize that moments are not meant to last forever. The friends that accompanied them have moved on. The graduate school classmates have filtered into the close friends. Chris and I grew and we hold strength in that we understand each other better, declared our boundaries and where it can be flexible. It won’t be the same.

I don’t really want to relive those moments over and over again if the future is not possible.

So today, I came across a friend’s post to a clickbait Buzzfeed video. Just like any female, I gravitate toward watching babies (and kids!) The 5-year old girl was upset that her sibling was not going to stay a baby anymore. She wanted him to stay like that, stay cute forever, smile innocent grins as she cried. I had a reaction to that. Yes, we love the baby as a baby. The precious moments and we will miss it.

But isn’t the great part of these moments is that the future contains possibility? That everyone deserves a chance to change?

In the world of Postmortal, everyone can take a pill to stop aging. So to survive in this world, everyone does. Nobody dies (unless of bodily damage of course). Diseases and cancer are eradicated by an additional drug. The pill is only allowed to be given after the age of 18. And yet some people take it illegally as a teenager—trapping their mind in a horrible state. And even worse, a mother decides her infant should take it so that he will stay young…forever. Isn’t that cruel to trap a soul that is old in an small body with an infantile mind. To be so helpless (and thus cute). To be trapped in a place where nothing ever makes sense.

I love progress. That’s why the world turns. So let’s keep moving.

The words hung in the air

July 28th, 2014

For a brief second, it was silent. Our words hung in the air. Swollen. Bulging with all the swords and thorns we packed into them. It thundered and struck with bold waves. Then they fell, breaking into million of pieces.

She said, “Okay.”

And she turned and ran down the stairs.

Or was it me that said “Okay” nodding at her as she ran down the stairs?

I shouted as her body rushed down, fleeing from an unwanted scene in my home. “Let’s talk about this again. In person. I’ll make the schedule work for you. I’ll be near Union Square.”

Did I really say it that eloquently? I remember thinking of my calendar and wondering if I could make it work. Afterwards, I was surprised that I didn’t feel any pain. No stabs to the chest. No tenseness near my ears. No knot in the throat. In fact, I felt fine. A light dash of adrenaline in my system from the shoulder tense when I wanted to shake her up and down, “Aren’t you understanding me?” and then I decided that words are so much stronger.

I was unaffected. My body told me to be sympathetic for the disagreement that we had. The fury that flew through our echoing voices in my living room. A sacred space in my home where I generously offered homemade snacks.

I wanted to yell, “I am done with this. Done!”

Everyone eats

July 21st, 2014

After air and shelter, food is the next step in the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

There’s nothing that I love more than traveling for food, where ice cream quite naturally fits. The local culture shapes the food. The frequency of meals. The type of food. The portions. The pairings. The content. Their taste preferences in bitterness, sweetness, spiciness.

It represents so much of the world. Everyone eats.

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Yet what happens when different locations influence other locations. What happens when the French influences the Japanese, which in turn influences that one chef in Texas?

I loved the ice cream we had today in downtown Austin. A popcorn ice cream paired with root beer gel, housemade candy bars, and caramel popcorn. And yet, did it reflect anything about the region?

There’s a small restaurant that I used to habitually visit near my landlord’s house (where I would actually drive to drop off my monthly check). There, the Japanese owners made a diverse set of dishes. Spaghetti. Sandwiches. Bacon fried rice. Noodle soup. She paired each lunch meal with a small scoop of macaroni salad and a fruit cup with the smallest cut up fruit. Was it gourmet? No. Was it fantastic? Yes, every single time. It was as if she used to dishes she liked for many people and someone said, “Hey you should open a restaurant!” But wasn’t it ok that her dishes weren’t fully Japanese? Or even American? Or what people would fusion?

Whatever I called it was comfort food that I loved.

At the security checkpoint, my heart races

July 20th, 2014

Although I have nothing to hide. But it’s the one moment of my everyday life where my humanity of a person is stripped. I am going to be judged. If I win, I continue through to my gate. If I lose, I will be subjected to questions that I think that I will know the answer but in reality I do not. I will be pushed out.

Granted, I look like a low risk. Female. An often innocent face, especially I stupidly struggle with my bulging bags. Asian of Chinese descent. American.

But it’s because I opt out. I submit myself to a patdown—partly to protest the way TSA does things, but also that…what if it actually affects my fertility? Personally, I am not afraid of being seen nude—I mean, I have nothing to hide under there. I’ll happily trapeze through the airport nude. I have no shame. But it’s the rules and the regulations. It’s the moment when the spotlight shines on me and I have to answer what seem to be basic answers: my name, my address, my birthday. What if my mind slips? What if I accidentally include something in my bags that I am not supposed to bring—a small cup of yogurt, a bottle of water, a corkscrew? One too many bags? My things slipping beyond my grasp?

There’s no other part in my life where I suddenly am dependent on one person. A gatekeeper. “Please let me through,” my eyes say everytime to the TSA officer as he or she studies my boarding pass and id. “This time.”

War is complicated

July 17th, 2014

With the wisdom I gained as I grow older, the one thing that I have learned is that nothing is black and white.

Last Friday, I lazily responded to a former colleague’s judgement of why a company was going downhill. “Politics,” I said. “Isn’t it politics? People just can’t agree on a decision.”

He looked at me and shook his hand, “It’s so much more complicated than that.”

Then he went into the old processes vs. new processes. The wrong fit for recently hired people. The quality of the staff. The lack of focus in the company. The priorities in the wrong place. It is complicated.

Likewise, war is complicated. Like how people are complicated. Like how a breakup is complicated. We think something is bad or good based on opinion that we may or may not have. (Everyone has an opinion of war even if they have never experienced one.) We say “drop that loser!” so easily to a betrayed one when the complexity involves a deep indescribable relationship, the kids, the house, the personalities of both parties. When in reality, it’s really about defining boundaries and setting expectations. The hardest part is to decide what to do when boundaries are crossed and expectations are mismatched. In truth, there are no right or wrong answers.

So why is it that some people think war is so simple? That if war happens, that it is absolute. That if war doesn’t happen, that it is absolute. Humans are of a nature that naturally seeks blame. It’s the most difficult thing to let blame slide, because our existence may not matter. This is why religion exists—to make sense of this complicated world. That is why we call each other names and throw insults, because it’s easier that way than to accept responsibility. That is why we find it tough to forgive.

In (good) movies and TV—the ones that tell stories of blame, I learned that the wrong thing to do is to war because of pain. Today, I learned that from the apes.

Eating dinner with strangers

July 16th, 2014

There’s a strange thing about me.

And in contrast to my previous post.

When in my happy mood, I prefer eating with strangers than people I don’t know. I can be whoever I want to be. If things go well, then things can only go up. I can maintain the relationship through social media or the like. If things don’t go well, I can disappear into my anonymity, knowing that it’s unlikely that I will ever run into my fellow diners again.

AirBnB Supper Club

So during the AirBnb Supper Club (perhaps I will go into detail in another post), I chose to sit in a table of strangers. I had the opportunity to sit with Chris who somehow was randomly assigned to another table. From experience, I knew that I would be compelled to talk to only him. The secret language of “please pass the beans” or “I don’t like the food, can you eat what’s on my plate?” So upon realizing that we sat at separate tables, I willingly suggested that we stayed that way. Not like a wedding where the disappearance of a partner was almost unacceptable.

And as a result, we had such disparate experiences. The CEO happened to sit at our table, which for better or worse, affected the conversation and the public eye. Also too, as a result of his presence, the photographers and videographers aimed their trained eyes on us. While we broke bread, passed around the guacamole, break open the large fortune cookie, and other random activities. And perhaps that’s why the table of 10 kept breaking into smaller groups of 2 or 3 struggling against the noise echoing in the warehouse.

Whereas at Chris table. The extroverts all out. “Seconds, please!” they cried and the servers brought out additional plates of food, sampling from all the different cuisines available. They laughed about how awesome the table was and chorused in agreement with rigor. Their conversations were animated and inviting.

When 9 PM struck, a few people said that they were tired. The CEO patted my arm and said that he hoped that I had fun. I exchanged pleasantries. “Thank you for hosting!” I said to the host. Then as a person asked me to tell my story, I was interrupted and the story was dropped. A fan came up to me and asked me to take a photo of him and the CEO. I obliged. In moments, the table dispersed and I was alone.

Where in just the table over, nearly everyone was still at their seats. Laughter trickled. When I arrived, Chris was engaged in a rich story. The kind of story that draws people in—their eyes glazed and in rapture. I took a peek at the belonging card, the prompt to write a memory of belonging. He wrote, “Here, at this table, was my best memory.”

Silence is nice

July 13th, 2014

It is. The clean silence that may be accompanied with presence of mankind. The low roar of the air conditioner. The faint rumble of traffic of a busy street and a motorcycle swimming by late at night. I love this kind of quiet.

What’s odd is that I have never appreciated the silence of the nature. A few years ago, I slept in the country. In a Western style house of course, but the things that I heard was the rush of the wind against the trees, dogs’ barking and their feet scamping on the deck and the roof. The owls and all the animals to make its nocturnal life. That kind of silence, I would say, is what silence is supposed to be. The desire for man to be with nature.

But the silence is the manmade one. The machines humming and the gentle grumble of life. It makes me feel secure that people are still living. I am living in a crowd of anonymity, I would say. But what I also crave in the silence is the soft padding of the keys. The keyboard that invites input and the thoughts that run through the circuitry into a digital scroll. Thoughts gathered slowly together.

In another century, it would be the slow scratches of pen to paper. But here, it’s the flowing thoughts quickly touching something. In and out. In and out. In and out.

Treated like a second-class citizen

July 10th, 2014

This is the funny thing. For the majority of my life, I rarely suspected that I was treated worse because of the “groups” that others perceive me to be a member. So is that why I rarely noticed any racism or sexism? Is that why I always thought it was about me?

In some way, I wonder if my obliviousness protected me even as it burned inside. In the thinking that the reason that I wasn’t invited…was simply not because of my personality, my strengths, and weaknesses…it was because of my ethnicity or gender. But I never knew? And so I blamed it on something that I thought that I could control.

And so in obliviousness and perhaps deep self-centeredness, I worked hard to overcome it. Even though my beliefs pained me thinking that I could never overcome who I am.

And yet, in the last few years, I have realized that it’s something more. It’s not about me. It’s about the groups that people naturally associate me to be part of and ridiculous assumptions result. So if I don’t drink, does that mean I am not fun? So if I am female, does that I mean that I am afraid of big scary monsters and difficult to solve puzzles? Untrue and untrue.

So I wonder is that why it seems that I don’t quite understand why so many people are repressed? A counselor once suggested that I was deeply afraid because I was often the only Asian in my class. I opened my eyes and gave a confused look. “The only Asian? I thought that it was all because of me. I really believe that it’s about me.”

Whatever the class, I am not a second-class citizen. I am a first-class citizen. So there!

(Public Service Announcement: Cyclists are not second-class citizens. They are first class citizens.)

Crowds never bothered me, but people do

July 9th, 2014

Like many Americans, I grew up around people. People talking. People gossiping. People interacting with each other.

It was just natural.

But the thing is for me I thought that I had the excuse to be quiet. I was exempt from interaction with others. I was not obligated to participate, talk, laugh, or frown. I could be a fly on the wall, completely unnoticed.

And yet, is that why I feel so comfortable around crowds of people? At last when I don’t have to interact with them.

So it surprised me when a colleague mentioned how she was overwhelmed with the crowds at Maker Faire this year. That it was too much. The crowds, the people, the everyone. It never bothered me (except the lines for the things that I wanted to do, of course). I felt at home in crowds where I could be anonymous. Where nobody knows my name. And I can, for once, be anybody.

Eating lunch with others

July 7th, 2014

Lunch is the meal in the middle of the day. The meal that is often away from home. The meal that is often in the company of strangers (or at least people who don’t know you at all) The meal that, if taken from home, is cold, perhaps reheated. Or made somewhere else. That’s lunch.

At school, it was the period where I desperately tried to fit in. The times where I sat with other girls pretending to be interested in conversations about beauty maintenance and other girls. It was also the time where you were ostracized for eating alone.

By the time I got to college, I didn’t want to bother with eating with other people. It was such a burden. At the dining commons, I would eat in the smaller room. The room where other people never ate. So nobody ever saw me in the bigger room. For years though, afterwards, friends would always be shocked—”Why are you eating alone?” Because I just do. It was too much anxiety to eat with someone. To come up with conversation, even empty conversation, between bites, because silence was never okay.

Then I graduated. I don’t know what I did in graduate school, because I don’t quite remember any specifics except cooking chicken and potatoes at home and bringing it to the lab. How did I eat? Did I eat normally at all? Regardless, it was there that I learned to “never eat alone”. Because “you may be missing an opportunity to connect.”

I took the professional networking advice to heart and did not eat alone for many years. Especially lunch. This is the time that I was supposed to build up my network, get to know people, connect with them. Everybody eats. Everybody.

But in the last few years since I already have a steady professional network…now I want to retreat back to my college ways. I want to eat alone again. To eat messily. To have nobody see. To choose the food. I remember in recent research, I asked what lunch meant to the participants. One participant who worked in HR said that lunch was a break from work. She worked with people all day and that with lunch, this was the time when she could be alone, eat her lunch away from her desk. That’s me I think. It’s me to go away and recharge. To enjoy the lunch that I had a $5 coupon for at a place with a long line and at a place where my colleagues won’t come with me to be relax for that one sacred hour during the day.