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

Rejections

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.

2018: Moments

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2018 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2018.

2017 5 minutes, 2016 5 minutes, 2015 5 minutes, 2014 5 minutes, 2013 5 minutes, 2012 5 minutes, 2011 5 minutes, and 2010 5 minutes

  • Visiting my sister in Arizona just over a month before her due date
  • Visiting New York City and eating all those desserts, viewing the immersive show As She Fell, watching Max Richter, visiting Storm King, having fancy dinner with non-alcoholic pairing
  • Staying in a BnB in Tahoe as we went to ski at Squaw Valley at the end of the season
  • Writers Camp at Big Sur in Esalen, meeting all these people but realizing how very white it all was
  • Doing hot spring one time at Esalen and deciding that truly it wasn’t for me
  • Going to the Brave Magic thing at 1440 Multiversity
  • Staying at Joy’s place with the family in Los Gatos and doing all the assorted things with the boys
  • Playing pokemon go with Chris
  • Setting up the apartment with Chris. In a better way
  • Hosting not one, but two BBQs in the backyard
  • Setting up the backyard for the above, particularly the jade plants and the failed things that we should have not gotten from Buy Nothing
  • Watching Chris haul more things from Buy Nothing, some good (like router) and some not great (like foot spa)
  • That washer/dryer discovery thing
  • Attempt to do laundry at my parents’ place
  • Getting my novel in progress critiqued by an editor, a real one
  • Reforming my people of color writing group and actually having litcrawl
  • Having a writing retreat up in Ukiah with that group and meeting great people
  • Hot springs at Orr Hot Springs and that incident of dropping the car key into the water
  • Letting Chris actually enjoy his time in the hot baths of the hot springs

2018: Writing

Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

In 2010, I said everything. In 2015, I said fear. In 2016, I said that it’s sitting down and doing it.
In 2017, 2017, I said that it was work.

I would like to say that it was the lack of true support. Or more specifically, the lack of support from writers of color. I did change that as much as I could during the year in creating my own writing group, but because there’s less of us, it was not as much I wanted.

And so I would like to say that is to blame. But it’s a certain amount of accountability and trust. So again, it’s the support of a community, a community that I want for myself. At times, I find myself at a disconnect with other writers. I have a day job with an ample salary that pays well. I had at one point thought that I would not want to do it, but the investment that I had put into it (grad school, building connections) and the fact that I didn’t hate it…wasn’t enough. With a community of people who I could trust, I believe I would naturally write more.

In brand new areas, especially an unknown network of people, it’s completely scary to me. I need an introduction. I need someone to guide me through it. At least initially. I am considering joining the Ruby although I don’t really need the space. But the women there I hope could be people to bond. I hope that they will respect that I am just a burgeoning writer. I hope that they’ll take me seriously. I hope that I can just be more than this writer on the side.

I hope that it’s so much more than that.

Maybe next year, I can do so much more. Keep on writing. Keep on chugging. Keep finding that community.

2018: Travel

How did you travel in 2018? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

In 2017, I traveled to Minnesota for work, LA twice for “fun”, Las Vegas for a not-so-good fun, and Thailand/Myanmar! Also somehow forgot to mention Cincinnati for MidwestUX! And did I forgot to mention Phoenix? In 2016, I traveled to Finland/Sweden for my first big speaking gig, Portland for a “bachelorette” party, road trip to LA for my sister’s wedding, and Minnesota for work. In 2015, I went to Brazil for a conference, multiple work trips, and a midwest trip. In 2014, I went on multiple weekend trips, increased business trips, and found a destination for ice cream and writing. In 2013, I finished off the bulk of the travel for the Ice Cream Travel Guide. In 2012, I started the journey of a life and went to what I thought was unfathomable (in my life) — six domestic destinations and eight international destinations — for professional and personal reasons. In 2011, I went on one international trip, one domestic…and one super local. In 2010, I went on one international trip and multiple domestic trips.

In 2018, I traveled to:

  • Tahoe trip to Squaw Valley. We made it work! And stayed in this “romantic” bed and breakfast. Although technically, it didn’t even come with breakfast.
  • Some ridiculous last minute trip to San Diego for work, which was more of a meet and greet than anything useful. I expensed an expensive dessert meal after the meeting.
  • Big Sur! Which wasn’t really a trip as much as a 3+ hour drive for Writers Camp at Esalen. The roads were repaired! Yes, amazing, but wouldn’t do it again.
  • Twice to Ukiah, one for a writers retreat and another with Chris to the hot springs.
  • Scotts Valley for a “writing retreat”.
  • Then this crazy 10 day trip to Chicago and NYC. Which I have to admit was fun, fancy, and cool. Not only because the weather was acceptable by our standards, but because I didn’t need to do any of the Bell and Whistles. Also I wasn’t overburdened by seeing people as I have in the previous times. (But I was irritated by the overly grammable foods all over the city. We did the best shows. Oh yeah and in Chicago, I spoke at a conference!

Apparently only domestically! Sadness. I never made it to Minsk for work (yay!), but that also meant that I never made it to Budapest or Paris to visit Callie. No film festival. It’s a hope, but not sure if it is something worth a trip.

But this coming year? Well there’s a quick trip to Phoenix to see my sister before she pops a baby. Then I wouldn’t be surprised if there were additional trips that I would make to see the new nephew. If I get into a conference, then I’ll also be in Phoenix too. Then I have booked a trip to Japan in February for the snow festival in Sapporo and of course some time in Tokyo! Also hoping to get into a writing workshop in the east coast, which would mean a trip to New York. Who knows what else may come? Would I be going to Grand Rapids if I get convinced again for MWUX? I am not entirely that interested, but we shall see! See Callie in Paris? Go to Vancouver for eats? Maybe go to Nashville for the conference? Maybe maybe.