Are you writing the next Great American novel?

November 24th, 2015

“And so I realized that I wanted to write,” I said, bracing myself for the usual response and regretting that I was telling the truth about my freelancing.

“So you’re writing the next Great American novel?” he responded.

It was a breath of fresh air.

What is an hour wasted?

November 17th, 2015

The caltrain was late. Delayed is the better definition. Above the crowd on the train platform, a sign scrolled messages “60 to 90 minutes delayed”. Fatality, it said, fatality. And all around me, fellow passengers scrolled through their phone, talking to headless voices, or stroking messages to a very important person.

The chill was strong tonight. I curled my fingers underneath my cream-colored prana jacket, feeling the fleece and the wool. Other people moaned about the delays. I texted all the people I was supposed to have texted in the last week—arranged a dinner this week, got in touch with a friend who was traveling, informed a colleague that the train was late, and message Chris about my plight. I wanted to let my fingers to dance across the keyboard of my laptop, to let ideas pour out into my nanowrimo project. But instead, I stood there, shivering.

I recognized a friend and called him over. I learned about his plan for Belize and the regret that he had for waiting. After 30 minutes of waiting, he suggested Uber to Millbrae. But I shook my head, gesturing to my bike and thinking of the $50+ it would take me to get to the city. “I am okay, standing here,” I said.

“I am going to go,” he said.

And so I waited for 90 more minutes until I ran into another colleague. “You wasted an hour,” he said.

“But what would I have done if I got home?” I said. “Probably just screwed around.”

He opened the door

November 13th, 2015

In this city, if a man isn’t wearing the right clothes, I suspect something off when he opens the door for people. The same way when I see someone standing behind my car as I struggle to parallel park. “Got any change?” a man asked the moment that I opened my car door when I was younger.

And then I understood. Small acts of kindness were not free. Not to these people who with an entrepreneurial spirit found a way for financial success.

As I wandered into the Metreon, a man was racing back and forth to open the doors as people approached. He opened the middle right door as I approached. But out of discomfort, I darted to the far right and grasped a handle at the last minute to open my door. Despite the fact that his door was closing upon me.

I couldn’t trust him.

Behind me, I scanned the unsuspecting pedestrians. A woman with a stroller nodded gratefully. But that was all as more young people poured into the Metreon to watch movies.

A black bird picked up something from the ground

November 11th, 2015

Were the lights green? Or was it red? I wasn’t sure.

What I was watching was the black bird standing nonchalantly in the sidewalk of a busy thoroughfare in Mountain View. Cars speed through here quickly, wanting to return to the office in Silicon Valley. But here was the black bird trying to grasp a small boject in its beak. Then it flapped its wings and flew upward to the traffic light, perching on the pole.

By some fat, the object dropped out of its beak. Without pause, the bird swooped down and found it again. Pecking at the ground until it had the object solidly in its beak. I was quite certain that the light was green and all the speeding cars would not see it. And this is how another animal ends up dead on the road.

The sun is setting behind the luxury apartments, and I watched the black bird from the office window, my seat now pushed to the edge since my desk was taken from me. But then the bird lifted upward. To another traffic light pole, where it jumped up to the peak of the traffic light as the top light, the red one, was lit. Its beak moved almost violently and quieted. The object was within the body know. It sat there for several minutes longer, gazing at the intersection. And then I looked downward to my computer and it was no longer there any more.

I pretended to be someone else

November 5th, 2015

For San Francisco’s annual Journey to the End of the Night, I played a character at the Resurrection Checkpoint.

Now, I have never been an extrovert. Because quite naturally, I am not. But this role was to pretend to be someone else. So with my sister’s discarded black feather wings, I was Black Swan or on that night, I was DANCER. And I loved it so much, to play and improv. Never did I once tire (except of the players who didn’t get the roles). I am not a great actor by any means, but to create a story from scratch was a joy.

For over 600 people, as they approached me, I was Dancer. A sad dancer who wanted to change careers and was looking for someone who wasn’t first place. Someone who ate processed meats. Something that appeared in casing. It is within some squishy white thing. At a place that starts with a N. A contest. It’s Coney Something. It’s Nueva York. That did something special on that special holiday. The special holiday that had those big booms booms. Boom Boom, I shouted.

“Can you help me find him?” I said dramatically as I pirouetted and plied. “Can you help me figure out that holiday? Is it 2nd of June? It doesn’t sound right. Do you know the answer? Do you know what food this is? The food that supposedly causes cancer? Can you help me find him? I want to change careers. From a career that forces me to stay thin and eat little. To a career where I can indulge in gluttony. Where is he?”

Players squinted their eyes and scribbled on their papers. They were dressed in black, running shoes. Some were fairies. Some wore leather. One pair was dressed as pikmin. And so many more… “That’s such a sad story,” the empathetic ones said. “You’re imaginative,” one said. “Do you mean Second Place?” the smart ones exclaimed.

“Yes!” I said. “That’s him! Thank you! Can you please talk to him and tell him that I am looking for him. I can’t leave here. I am stuck in limbo, but I think that you can get out.”

It is the perfect weather

November 5th, 2015

I am the rare San Franciscan who declares the current weather (a fine 55°F) to be perfect.

“It was perfect for cycling,” I said yesterday when my roommate lamented how it chilly it was.

That’s not to say that when I am at my desk in my apartment that my fingers feel awfully numb. But the comfort that I don’t have to fling off layers of blankets and can wrap myself in a burrito in my down blanket…is so satisfying.

I love my long-sleeved clothes anyway. The way it drapes and wraps around my body, cuddling and holding me, sort of like how I prefer sleeping on my stomach.

This is the weather I prefer.

The weather should be at this temperature in San Francisco, but global warming (or some other natural weather phenomenon) has prevented the weather from being like this. I like it when the air is crisp. My apartment keeps a different temperature than the outside. It will always be warmer than the outside. It will be cooler than the outside. Naturally due to its lack of air circulation. As a result though, sometimes in my room, I want to curse the designer of the apartment. Because in warm weather, the air halts and does not move. It suffocates, and I turn on a fan, but it does nothing.

It’s a crisp weather now. The feeling that an apple has been cut, and the juice spills out. It’s almost like a feeling of wetness, but not quite. I love to sleep in this weather, and when I spring to my step on the cool hardwood floors, I am reminded that it’s not summer anymore. Then when I walk into the bathroom tile, I tiptoe, because my sole is cold. When I crawl back into bed, my soles are icicles as I cross my legs underneath the blanket. But I run hot nowadays, and my body temperature warms my soles. And I slip underneath the covers, ready to wake up for a cool morning.

The story you tell yourself is the person you think you are

November 3rd, 2015

A long time ago, I had envisioned my memoir to be titled “The girl in the corner”.

At the time, I was enamored with the fact that I was an outsider. That nobody really could understand me. But interestingly, in truth, that wasn’t who I wanted to be. The title was meant to represent my uneasy silence, as a result of being afraid of what other people said to me. My belief then was that being silent was better than not speaking up at all. It also too was representing how I wanted to have my back protected, perhaps with walls. And also at a location that allowed me to observe everyone freely.

I want to honor my thoughts of my younger self. But I could not do that title. Because is the girl in the corner really who I am?

Today, someone mentioned (like many have mentioned in passing), “You don’t seem afraid of public speaking.”

My dear, you’re so wrong.

It’s not that my fingers would tremble. It’s not that my voice would shake. It’s that my voice was never loud enough (cue people yelling me to speak up, but anxiety would keep my volume too low; thank you for the invention of microphones). It’s that my words tumbled out as incoherent sentences, and I was worried that people would ask me to clarify, but I couldn’t clarify to their satisfaction.

Until one day, I realized that people don’t care. Most importantly, I started hating it when people spoke for me. I wanted to separate myself—to put my anxious self to sleep while operating my conscious, intentional self on stage. I didn’t like when someone didn’t express clearly what I wanted or how I believed the words should be stated. And that was when I made the leap.

Because nobody could express my thoughts and ideas better than I could.

People often say that I am super talkative and friendly in person. But I don’t know how I cultivated that. They don’t know how much I had struggled in school in building and maintaining friendships. How futile my attempts were in saying “I like your pen!” because I had read in a self-help book that would be a key to starting a conversation. The self-help book didn’t provide any instruction to what happened to the opening statement. But the interesting thing was that it didn’t matter.

I tell myself that I want to do what I love. That I hope by doing what I love would be impactful to someone out there. I am Jenn. I am not defined by the past. But rather the future. That’s the story I tell myself now.

Social media warps your mind

November 2nd, 2015

“Let me add you on Facebook!” I said.

It was the easiest resort. She was a friend of a friend or a friend of a friend of a friend. So finding her was easier on Facebook. Rather than being regulated to email only or phone number only. Isn’t this what cool kids do nowadays? I thought to myself. Because quite naturally, I wanted to be cool.

There was this tinge of anxiety that pricked me: what if it turns out to be this awkward one-time add. And then we would drift in each other’s social media spheres without ever touching again? It would be so much like the times that I added someone “because we could go on bike rides together!” or “let’s hang out when we’re back in San Francisco!” But the inertia was lost.

I wanted to make sure the inertia was not lost. And after all, we weren’t dating. It’s NOT a romantic relationship. It’s two people collaborating. And I knew for a fact that we each both had our own significant others. So it felt good.

But then I sent the message to initiate. And then nothing. I saw the “Seen” notification show. I waited one day. Two days. Three days. And then…

Like many in this digital age, many things ran through my mind:

  • Maybe she doesn’t respond quickly
  • Maybe she hates Messenger on her phone
  • Maybe the message got lost among all the other messages
  • Maybe she’s very busy this week…
  • Which obviously became…

  • It was annoying how I could feel myself transform quickly. As I wistfully saw Instagram and Facebook updates. All I wanted was collaboration. All I wanted was that. I would look at those posts, and it bugged me. Admiration turned into fear. Fear turned into hate. And I absolutely hated every post.

    But I know myself now. I can see the path of my emotions. Some would call that maturity. I call that $3000+ worth of mental health and exercises. So I took deep breath and thought what’s the worst that can happen? If I do nothing, nothing happens. If I ask one time, there’s a likelihood that nothing happens. But there’s a chance that something will happen.

    So I took the leap and asked. It happened. As for her posts, they’re cool again.

    Today, I woke up with a can-do attitude

    October 31st, 2015

    Although I only peeled myself out of my bed shortly after 10 am (after an hour of meandering through the Internet and getting lost through clickbait articles and sudden inspiration from Cheryl Strayed and oddly enough, the zola twitter story), I suddenly thought: what if.

    I ate my breakfast—a bowl of fluffy scrambled eggs, thyme pear & potato hash—that I made yesterday. I prepared a mug of tea, leaves from Boba guys, chocolate honey from a family farm in Marin, and Kirkland lactose-free milk. I read the first issue of Peeps—a story of Chinese “losers”, a population that the mainland Chinese government believe is dragging down the economy. Then I reorganized my scarfs, jackets, and two drawers. I put away my clean laundry and cleared my desk. I put on my power music mix, the kind that I hope will blend into the background. Then I think now that I sit down, I will get many things done.

    At least, that’s how my days start where I think that I can do many things.

    Conversation with my neighbor

    October 29th, 2015

    Background: I had been in Brazil, and my roommate notified me that the landlord left a rent increase notice. But there was no way I could handle it effectively from afar. And the moment I touched in the United States, I started research. When I was in LAX during a layover, I texted my downstairs neighbor to investigate. Did he get an increase too? Or was the landlord just targeting me?

    Then the following conversation ensued…while I was delirious from lack of sleep on a red-eye 11-hour flight from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

    Me: And it’s too bad that our landlord is increasing the rent
    Him: He told me if I made out with him he wouldn’t raise my rent
    Me: What??
    Him: He said I’m the best kisser in the house though
    Me: That sounds like sexual abuse. If you report it, you might get free rent for the rest of your life

    I haven’t had a regular conversation with my downstairs neighbor yet. Beyond mild morning greetings when we pass each other through the front gate.