They are right and I am left

We began sharing our year in review videos (yes, a family tradition started in the last year). Chris and I shared ours through an unlisted youtube link. Most people shared it through AirPlay, because that’s the type of people most people are.

But then I noticed my uncle’s first page of apps. The usual suspects—email, maps, phone, etc. But I vividly remember one app right in the first position of the third row. Fox News.

Two years ago, at Thanksgiving, I launched into a debate about Colin Kapernick with him. He had triggered my tirade with “shouldn’t people listen to their employers?” in reference to the NFL and kneeling.

Which as a very older millennial, I completely disagree with. I don’t listen to my employers when I disagree with them at a fundamental level. Yes, this might be a moment I might in this age, I would say “OK BOOMER”.

Everyone at this point must know that I don’t take jokes well. Because I sense the truth underlying them and I need to get to the belief of the joke. Sometimes I realize that it’s to my detriment because maybe that person doesn’t want to or not ready to reveal their true feelings at that moment.

I knew that he and my aunt might not have voted in the 2016 election. My dad said something to that effect. It surprised me, because beyond their very Christian values, I didn’t really know their political position. They had moved from outside Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area. Very willingly despite the uptick in the cost of living. I had always thought of them as yes very Christian, but also very agreeable and very assimilated to American society as they both owned a sports memorabilia gift boutique shop for many years. They were people who were naturally part of the community.

And so there it was. The Fox News app. I thought about the notifications that it sends with updates and headlines that linger and catch the mind as it scrolls by. I thought about the trigger to download that app over any other like the thoughts of “I trust them more than other news app” or “I need to stay informed”.

I didn’t anything to latch onto in that moment. Nor was it my prerogative to start a debate. So I saw it and later whispered to Chris about what I saw.

Later, as we drove out of the senior community, I looked to see if there were showtimes for Parasite, the korean movie at the nearby movie theater. Of course, it wasn’t. It was full of more mainstream movies—Frozen 2, Ford vs. Ferrari, Knives Up…

I wondered what kind of environment my aunt and uncle live in out here in a city that people in San Francisco wouldn’t even recognize as the Bay Area. My aunt and uncle are Asians who arrived in the United States in their mid 20s—coming from Hong Kong and Taiwan respectively, lived in the midwest for most of their lives, living a very middle class existence running a small business, adhering to very Christian values. They would be okay with certain people, the whiteness, the people who have enabled them to live well in the midwest. They oddly have built a wall for themselves to learn so the desire to be the identity that I would have built for myself is totally foreign. They don’t need it. They’re already happy where they are.

Before Chris moved in…

The majority of my time, outside of school and work, consists of this very screen. Whether it was my first desktop—the shiny Compaq that I had for freshman year of college. Or the desktop that I upgraded to, built with components, sort of on my own. Or the subsequent Apple laptops—first the 12″ Powerbook, then all the small Macbook Pros. All my time that was spent idling was spent here in front of a screen. When I first was looking for a room share in San Francisco, I wrote brazenly in my introduction email through Craigslist that I was a good, quiet roommate—”I like to spend most of my time with my laptop!”

I didn’t receive any requests for emails with that line.

At one of my first jobs at a design consultancy, an older colleague, fascinated with the behavior of young people (before the term millenials filled the national lexicon) asked me what I did with my free time. I was one of the youngest employees at the design consultancy—just 3 years out of college, 1 year out of graduate school. I was puzzled. “Go home, chat with friends online, then browse the internet, then chat with friends online, and again and again,” I said.

“How do you have time for that?”

“It’s what I do.”

He marveled at my generation.

But what I know now—a decade later—is that I had a lot of free time. But even more so, the words that I typed online—whether it in an instant message or blog—was my way of spending my time in the world. To figure out my life’s messes. To better myself. To explore and learn. To be more. To make myself feel better. To let out the angst, complain, rant, show off, pride.

Now though, it’s the after. I am partially troubled by the goal, more like the habit, that I had set for myself when I was young.

Write every day in this blog, because it’s what you do.

The after is different what I had imagined. My angst, my desire to better myself, my yearning to express is all replaced by this simple desire to spend time with Chris.

In reflecting on that, is it because all the things that I had been seeking on the Internet was replaced by someone else?

In graduate school, a classmate was always up for anything and helpful toward any reqest. Always at the ready. But when his girlfriend came to visit, he completely went offline. He was unreachable. He would have made plans, but usually would forget about them if she was in town. I remember feeling so appalled that someone could fill up so much need in one’s life.

He’s married to her with three kids.

But perhaps that’s what I am seeking. To feel whole. To feel like I am somebody. Or moreover that all I wanted was someone to witness my life. The Internet in its awkward ways can do that. But what is better than someone you can trust completely who witnesses and champions your every move?

What does it mean when I write less?

In June, I completed 14 days of writing 1000 words every day. No problem.

But I have had a contrast since I first started this blog. I used to write everyday. Sometimes more than once a day. I kept it up for so many years.

And then…nowadays, it may not happen. But what does it mean?

I know that I was drawn to writing, because it helped me. But to pass the time. But because I found it as a way to relax. I found it as a better way to communicate. Simply by the nature that I had a habit of hanging around my computer, it was a natural place for me to be.

And then now. Is it because that I have found satisfaction elsewhere? is it because all that energy that I once had to writing now is poured into work? That I found ways of expression that really work?

I don’t know what it is. But I hope that I haven’t lost my edge.

Birthday Wishlist 2019!

Previous years: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, forgotten year in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, a forgotten year of 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002

1. The watermelon begonia aka as the Peperomia argyreia. I have gotten a bit domestic lately…but this one looks like a watermelon!
2. Some kind of situation that would allow for my writing and family aspirations
3. A reliable writing community where I truly can be myself
4. The neverending energy to create…
5. …but also the courage (or perhaps audacity) to keep doing it in face of failure
6. Oh yeah lots of fruits. where are you milkfruit? why do you elude me so?
7. Another trip to Japan. this time with a Japanese-speaking friend!
8. To write or revise something that will get me into a writing residency and/or workshop
9. And to finish the NOVEL
10. And to all, good health!

It took years of self-work to get here

“You guys spent the entire time talking about things and having opinions about things,” he said, diverting the topic away from my babble on my recent fascination about personalities. “I thought that we were going to talk about the food.”

Instead of my former reactionary self, I calmly said, “So what about the food?”

“It’s just that you kept talking and talking,” he continued.

But of course, I wasn’t happy about his accusation. We had talked about the food, but he barely said much. I had already mentioned my interest in food and culture, about people of color, cuisine ownership, cultural appropriation. I had mentioned my top culinary experiences and prompted him to share his. So onto more fascinating topics! Like movies and TV! Like what’s streaming on Netflix. Like my writing. Like everything else in my life. My usual thinking about thinking. I was furious about his comment. But with all these years of self-work, I leaned in. “I thought that when you menat hanging out, it meant hanging out. I didn’t understand that it meant talking about “food”, just because we were at a fancy pop-up.

I breathed. He was uncomfortable. He was feeling triggered. He was feeling not with his identity. Like the entire time that I knew him. And instead of setting things on fire, I simply let it go.

Things I (or really we) learned from traveling in Japan

  • Eating while walking is simply unacceptable
  • Tossing trash even an used tissue is impossible in public—you pretty much have toss where you’re staying
  • No unified public systen exists in Tokyo
  • Yes, there are young men who are obsessed with looking upskirts
  • Japanese hopsitality is amazing—even when you’re late—although it’s hard to tell if they’re upset
  • Causing a scene in a public place doesn’t exist—although if you see another Asian person do it, it’s likely that person is from mainland China
  • It appears that the most common tourist in Japan is from mainland China
  • But English is still the common language that one uses
  • If you do go to a local (aka not tourist friendly) restaurant in Japan, be prepared to be surprised by unexpected unspoken rules of dining and eating
  • It’s colder than you think in Sapporo in February
  • Food is truly amazing anywhere, even in the malls
  • Skiing/snowboarding in Niseko is really amazing due to the fresh powder, but be prepared for below freezing temperatures and low visibility
  • And amazing, because you have ramen and soak in onsen afterwards!
  • Read a lot and watch videos about onsens before going to an onsen so you can get accustomed to best practices and Japanese customs—aka nudity, bathing, noise
  • Tokyo subway stations, especially the central ones like Shinjuku, are super hard to navigate, but even a local is likely to get lost
  • Not all Japanese know where about all the trendy places, but then again, do the locals know about them in your hometown?
  • Being expected to take off shoes indoors…is so so great! Mostly because I am Asian and everything is built for that
  • Japanese-style rooms aren’t too bad even though you’re nearly sleeping on the floor
  • Why the US doesn’t have bidets everywhere is a mystery
  • Crime is nonexistent in Japan—it just is
  • Even if you’re American-born, unlike other Asian countries, the locals can’t tell that you’re American-born, they will assume that you’re a local—very weird to me!
  • Pocket wifi is the bomb! Better than sim card
  • But it’s a lie that they work everywhere, because I went through a whole process of where the signal suddenly went out for an hour along the coast of Hokkaido
  • Eat sashimi as often as possible—it’s so plentiful, high quality, and cheap! (Although I do harbor some guilt about overfishing)
  • Get the supermarket sushi!
  • Buy Japanese snacks, but don’t share them with your coworkers (just only a select few), because it’s actually super expensive and…so tasty…do you really want to give $5 to each person in the office?
  • Eat the cheese tart, because it really is that good
  • Double check all your addresses for restaurants, because you may go to the wrong location
  • Use Yahoo maps, not Google maps—as of 2019, Japan is the only country that uses Yahoo maps and the information on Google maps is not that great
  • Everything is popular in Japan, so reservations and tickets are necessary. For some restaurants, some museums, exhibitions, etc. It’s awful.
  • Better the hotel concierge, the better they will be in getting you hotel reservations
  • Bring extra duffel bags (or buy one at Don Quijote) for goodies
  • Bring your passport so that you can get a tax-free rebate when spending more than $50 USD
  • So organize your shopping so that you do it all at once
  • Cash is king
  • Hot vending machines (for hot drinks) are underrated outside Japan
  • No paper towels in restrooms, get used to the Dyson air dryers or bring your own hanky/tissues


They say, “Celebrate rejections!”

Because it happens to the best of us. But there are certain things—like programs that are supposed to help you be better—that you don’t think rejection isn’t possible. Because you apply, thinking that you need this and that with this, you can do anything.

So you apply with even more hope. With even more fervor. You tell them how perfect you are. How you have been seeking this opportunity. You say that you have been looking for a place like this, because you couldn’t find anything else like this.

And you know this because you have read all the testimonals. You have seen the social media posts—from Twitter to Facebook. You’re so so so jealous.

So you apply.

And then more than 28 days later. In fact 47 days later, just right when they said that they would tell you.

You get a note.

It’s a 4% acceptance rate. They’re sorry that you’re not the 4%. They’re so so so desperately sorry. They really wanted you to be part of it. They are devastated that you aren’t the 4%.

You stare at the letter. You think: I wanted to be part of the 4%. The boyfriend says: they probably weren’t good anyway. But you don’t believe that Because you put everything toward it. And the disappointment, no it’s just pure feeling of rejection overcomes you.

But the next day, you think, what’s next? Is there something next? What else can you do?

And you move on.

Fish out of water in the water

Externally, I would have expected that my parents would have been amenable to the experience. Familiar Chinese food. Check. Servers who speak Chinese (sort of, but a different dialect). Check. Close to a familiar area. Check.

But I knew that this wasn’t going to be them. Not only was it restaurant week. Not only was it so very clearly Americanized Chinese food. Not only was that the website was full of words like “karaoke!” and “lounge!” And not only did the photos show huge gaudy decoration of gates, red, and enormous Chinese scrolls, and furniture that suggests an older era, completely absent in actual popular restaurants with Chinese people.

But I thought that with my parents, it could be possible. Some experience was possible. Some experience that would make up for all the guilt of not being a good enough daughter. And perhaps, just perhaps, the awfulness of restaurant week wouldn’t be present.

But the expectations from my parents and their frugality often don’t add up to a typical frequent diner experience. Especially a place where there’s a menu made specifically around liquor. You know those places.

We have no idea what happened before we arrived. Did the server say something? Did they say something to the server? My parents were already sitting at the table. As we arrived, a server quickly dropped off the menus and within minutes, I asked for the restaurant week menu. With the way that the server gave the restaurant week menu with a sour attitude, I knew this wasn’t going to end well. And with how my mom asked obnoxious question of whether the chefs were on strike after the server warned us that their kitchen was short-staff—”we have only one chef so dishes will come out slowly.

It took forever until someone took the order. The dishes did come out slowly. Well at least, one dish from the menu arrived. Then we noticed that several things were missing. The sauce for one dish. At least three house soups. Then the spring rolls. This was awful. Was it because we were the only table that didn’t order any alcohol save for a pot of tea? Was it because we were the only “ethnic” Chinese there which some would assume that we wouldn’t tip well? (To be honest, I would have except for this kind of level of service.) And so much more.

It was as if our table didn’t exist. Who knows. On the way out, the hostess said good night cheerfully and thanked us for coming. I thought about writing a yelp review, but I already knew when I had previewed the restaurant previously. And there was so little to choose from.

2018: Everything’s Ok

What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

In 2017, it was giving advice in hopes of inspiring others. In 2016, it was the moment that when immersed in the election aftermath that anything could change. In 2015, it was the moment when I realized that I could finish Ice Cream Travel Guide. In 2014, it was when I wrote a well-crafted piece (that I read to a live audience 11 months later). In 2013, it was when light shone in the face of despair. In 2012, it was when I stood up for myself. In 2011, it was a moment of clarity, sincere belief and friendship. In 2010, it was an action of commitment.

There are others like me. There are others as scared as me. There are others who struggle. And to my surprise, they don’t look down at me. I am like them. I want to give back.

Earlier this afternoon, I was scrolling through instagram and saw friends recounting their year. Of course, as much as I am happy for them, I sensed a part of me grow envious. But then I reminded myself, they probably would felt the same way if I recounted my accomplishments. Everyone did so much. Everyone can do so much. It’s all framing. They are all scared as I am. But they are also as hopeful as I am.

It’s the moment that fellow writers at a retreat said that they appreciated me. It was in the meeting that I was someone important. Even though so many times, I thought of myself as lesser.

Next year, I will not let my sense of inferiority keep me down. I will help others. I will let that drive to be the inspiration for others and myself.