We waited for almost 2 hours in trying to have a tradition

It started with…nothing.

For years, Thanksgiving was a blank slate to me. Or at least something that other families celebrated with a large table, many family members from grandparents to aunts to uncles to cousins to second cousins to first cousins once removed, and a roasted turkey.

I don’t know if I ever had a turkey until my late teens when my dad “accidentally” brought us to a church where they were serving (free) Thanksgiving meals. When we walked in, I realized immediately that the meals were for the needy. We weren’t in need. The only needy thing was that we didn’t have Thanksgiving. Because my mom worked on Thanksgiving, not because she needed to, but because she chose to for the overtime. We didn’t need the overtime pay, but the lure was enough.

When my aunt and uncle moved to the Bay Area in my late twenties, we suddenly had an annual Thanksgiving meal like the ones I had seen on screen. They had formed a close-knit community at their church in the suburbs of Chicago and brought that tradition with them to my family. My parents had never formed bonds like that.

And this year, even though I never formed bonds, I missed it. Although I had gripes—mostly of the familial kind—a sharp divide between conservative and liberal viewpoints, how all women in the family (including myself) would try to one-up each other in dish-making, and awkward showmanship of bragging throughout the year.

Chris and I stood in line then at the House of Prime Rib instead. Orders (rather than the half or full prime rib) had to be taken in person. Chris had been against the whole idea because he believed that things like this should be eaten in person, but I insisted that this wouldn’t be around for awhile. And how long will this last? How long will his PCS last? I had initially thought that the line was going to be short. Maybe 10 minutes before ordering. But as we pulled up on Van Ness, I realized that no, it stretched down the block and once I got out, I saw that it stretched further than that, snaking down Polk Street. I jogged to the end.

This is where I want to describe the hopes and dreams dashed. It’s San Francisco of course so (I think) everyone wore masks. Most were Asian. Giggles rumbled through the crowd as we couldn’t believe that we were waiting. I messaged Chris to go pick up some time-passing materials—the Switch, a kindle, an extra phone. What else would we do on Thanksgiving? Would we do everything that we always did?

I have constantly been wondering why I panic at the idea of full reopening, with no restrictions. The feeling that now people can see me in full without a mask, for some reason, terrifies me. The fact that I am expected to be within six feet of other people scares me. The fact that I’ll have to talk to more strangers, more acquaintances…when I find myself struggling to even order and come up words…generates anxiety.

The chilly San Francisco winter air froze my fingers as I read on my kindle and the words blurred. I finally acqueised to Chris’ suggestions to sit in the car while he stood in line without any jacket. I told myself that I was weak for not being able to brave fifty degree weather.

There’s something tragic about the line. The way that we were there to get prime rib steaks, hastily blurted at the order after temperature checks and before a plastic divider to the host. A sign listed out the desserts and I threw in a cheesecake. Then we sat in the dining room—everything heavily spaced apart. A server calls my name “Jennifer? Jennifer?”

“Is that me?” I say, unsure since there’s a lot of Jennifers.

She brings the black tray with my card and it feels like I am in a restaurant again. But the bottom half of our face is hidden. I have entered the frame of thanking. I write in the gratuity and it feels almost normal as I calculate the total and sign, turning over the receipt. Music plays. I know that the restaurant has been outfitted with a state of the art HVAC system and I can feel the air blowing across my now unshivering fingers.

We later pull out the boxes from the bag—both King Henry cuts. I had it seared with creamed corn. Chris had added fixings to his mashed potatoes and extra horseradish. The boxes take up more than half of the dining room table with containers for sour cream, green onions, mild and spicy horseradish, bacon crumbles, the two steaks, gravy, au jus, and the separated container for Yorkshire pudding, our chosen side, and mashed potatoes.

We were alone and ate quietly into the night.

We waited four years for this

“We” meaning…well you know.
It’s hours before polls close across the United States. And it’s days, possibly weeks, or even months (?) before we’ll know the full count.

Because I have a lot of privilege—an ethnicity that isn’t constantly underserved, a full-time job that gave us the space today, a foundation that allows me soooo many things—I admit that I have been holding a calm with a tinge of anxiety. But early yesterday morning, I was startled with the realization that there’s so much hinging on the election.

It’s not that I believe that things will suddenly heal right after the election or that things get worse. But it’s just that…I am just tired. I am tired of so much, trying to have an opinion, trying to be that woke person, trying to be an activist. Trying all of that while also having my own personal goals. But it’s because I have a small hope that things will go back to before. I do realize that nothing will go back to before. Everything has been stolen from us due to so many factors. Yes the pandemic. Yes the way the president responded to the pandemic. Yes all the things that I found out about my so-called friends. Yes to all of that.

It’s simply awful.

I came across a post from 2008 when I talked about my voter apathy. About how my voting was inconsistent. About how I was uninformed about positions so I didn’t vote! And how looking back, I can’t even see myself doing any of that. I must go out to vote. When I read that post to Chris, he was appalled—that sounds like one of those voters. But that’s me, I said, in 2008. The fact is, there probably is so many versions of me. Even if there are people who are voting for the president, many aren’t even voting for their local propositions or their local leaders, because there’s not information.

I am standing here in my “office” while I should be working. I am listening to the Daily Podcast. Michael Barbabao is on his live podcast talking about THE needle as some polls start to close. “Some people love the needle. Some people hate the needle.”

I have no idea what will happen next. I remember sitting in the living room at Noelle’s apartment watching media coverage completely unaware that Trump was going to win. I saw the states turning red and…I couldn’t speak…I tweeted out later “No words :(”

I hope that doesn’t happen today.

When the people who matter can only see your head to the top of your shoulders

What’s the point of coordinating anything below? Why wear coordinating pants? Why wear something that looks right when you stand up? Why wear tight jeans to match with your billowy blouse?

What’s the point of the beauty standards that we all had to abide? Especially women? Why have manicured nails and toenails? Why even shave?

They always say that it’s to please ourselves, not to please others. But it never pleased me to begin with, because it’s swallowed by expectations. I don’t need to answer to anybody, but only myself.

Missed Moments Inventory

March

  • Friend’s birthday party at a brewery
  • Local plant swap
  • Color party
  • Garage sale at outdoors store
  • 2-day work team building event for senior-level roles for my function along the coast
  • Leading a workshop at a health hackathon
  • Annual women’s bike ride
  • Local plant exchange
  • April

  • May

  • Birthday party
  • June

  • Work trip to Spain or Portugal
  • July

  • A writing conference in Oregon
  • A writing conference in Florida
  • August

  • A writing conference in Vermont
  • Work trip to New York
  • September

  • Hot Takes

    During shelter-in-place, I realized that there are certain things that I am starting to appreciate (of course, recognizing my privilege) which are:

  • Regular baking and cooking schedule
  • Not missing large gatherings of people—why did I think that I enjoy those large crowds of people???
  • Traveling. As someone who flew across the world for various purposes, the ache of traveling is something that still stays with me. Beyond the glossy photos of food and sights, I cannot unremember the lack of sleep, the uncomfortable beds, the long traveling times, and potentially in the future, visa issues. But I do the miss the discovery of new foods and the serendipity of new experiences
  • Not missing small talk at all. Every communication now is intentional! For a very valid purpose. So I don’t want to revert to a world where I have to do aimless conversation at a party where I am really just there to see the host!
  • Ability to escape parties by a click of a button than negotiating complicated social graces
  • The fact that socialization can still work with small groups. Look how I turned out!
  • Today marks the 125th day

    Since I was last in the office. Since technically shelter in place started for me in effect when work mandated that everyone across the company work from home.

    I remember distinctly how it felt then. I was angry at the people who were congregating in small spaces. I had a cold or a flu (but not covid) and was acutely aware of how I was going to be perceived by others. I was annoyed at everyone. I was also annoyed at myself for catching something.

    But I was thinking that it was going to be temporary.

    In fact, that Thursday, I left around 6 pm as I noticed coworkers saying to each other, “I guess that I’ll see you next month!”

    I had been pulled into some intense meetings earlier that day, missing the initial company-wide announcement. It wasn’t a choice I wanted to make. And so when I stepped out of those intense meetings, I felt like…something was different. But I gathered as much of my personal things as possible and went home.

    And then it was wfh then.

    And then things got bigger. There were moments of light. Then it became dark again.

    I settled in a routine. Happy with things. But then filled with a certain kind of existential dread. What does this means for my future? What does this mean for the plans that now won’t pan out? What does this mean for everyone I know? What does this mean for the people I hope to know? What does mean?

    In some way, most of my goals in life can now be accomplished digitally. I have done almost many things that required to be in person whether it’s travel or being public. But what about all the opportunities that could have been there?

    Sadly, it’s not like the apocalypse in books. Society though…hasn’t crumbled. Society is still hanging by a thread. But is this the beginning of the end? Stories always jump to the good part. The aftermath and how people deal. But what happens during? What happens as we all suffer together? What happens as society crumbles very slowly. A crumb after another. When we finally look up, we notice that it is an avalanche that has fallen and society is not what we remembered.

    2020 Birthday Wishlist

    Previous years: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, forgotten year in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, a forgotten year of 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002

    Only because I realize that I haven’t written here since January. And in a separate post, I’ll update with literally everything.

    This birthday is going to be so different from my previous years! Interestingly, I would never say that 2020 was a bad year. That’s only in mindset. I would only say that…it was different. Maybe difficult in some ways. Maybe easy in other ways.

    1. That a vaccine or some drug arrives swiftly to save this world from Covid-19
    2. That the country and the world can actually get along well enough to coordinate and collaborate
    3. That the president gets out of the way soon—hopefully a personal decision, but I can only hope the most for the better outcome of the election
    4. A “wedding” of some kind that still brings in people that I would want around
    5. Finding the best friends
    6. Reduction of things in the household
    7. Lots of peaches or nectarines!
    8. Novel query actually gets out
    9. Which means a (good) revision of novel complete
    10. Short story accepted and published

    Each year of the past decade in 20 words or less: 2010s edition

    Okay, first Previously. I cheated and gave 25 words to a packed year in 2014.

    2010
    EVERYTHING is fun and good. Alternate reality games, puzzles, and more! We win the Street Food scavenger hunt after multiple crazy videos. Also, travel.

    2011
    Quit job and start a job in house! Visit Peru, kickstarting an brewing identity crisis involving relationships, location, and everything.

    2012
    Identity crisis morphs into traveling around the world involving ice cream, writing a book, kickstarter. Visit Argentina, Uruguay, Taiwan, Philippines.

    2013
    So. Much. Traveling. USA. Canada. Turkey. Italy. Broken promises. Begin to hate airplanes. An AWA writing workshop changes my life.

    2014
    Identity crisis resolves. Sell crazy ideas. Join a real writing group. On-a-boat writing workshop. Find an ending in Vermont. Discover healthcare. First Nanowrimo since 2003.

    2015
    Goal is to finish the book. Healthcare calls me. A project inspires my first talk. Visit Brazil. Finish the book.

    2016
    Publish ICTG. Give two BIG talks. Love winter. Get job that should change my life. 45 gets elected. Rethink job.

    2017
    Quit job. Say that I need to save the country. Join a wellness company. Visit Thailand/Myanmar. Give another talk.

    2018
    Change jobs. Again. Speak in Chicago. Side trip to NYC for a concert. Don’t find myself at wypipo writing workshops

    2019
    Visit Japan in the winter. Work at one job. Never work on my novel. Multiple accidents. Accept me as me.

    Top 10 Most Influential People of the Decade (to me): 2010s edition

    I did it then, so let’s do it again!

    I am surprised that I had put down the former manager at Method for my last list. Interestingly, I didn’t really talk to her after I left Method. Beyond a short sweet moment where she actually supported my Kickstarter and a brief attempt for consulting, I only saw her life pass me by from afar.

    So let’s see. It should be easy to name 10!

    Okay, after more than an hour, it really isn’t. Unlike my previous lists, the names couldn’t come easily. I looked through my contacts, people I talked to on Google Hangouts and Facebook messenger, email, elsewhere. I wonder if it’s because I have a more cynical view of people now unlike the optimism that I had 10 years ago. Also, like most people, I now reject the idea of celebrity and influencer culture. I don’t believe that a single person should be obsessed over. And yet, who really influenced me? Or is it just entities rather than individuals?

    10. 45
    Because you know that he doesn’t deserve a name. Before the election, I joked about him winning, thinking that I would move to another country if it happened. Of course, it did happen, but I did not move. But it made me rethink what my purpose was in work and life. Like could I really make a difference? And the type of people I wanted to surround myself with? It made me…as they say…more woke. It made me more aware of the things that I say and do that could affect others. It made me question how I wanted to treat others and how I wanted to be treated.

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