Of birthdays and similar celebrations, I have always hated the pain point…that appears at the very end.
It’s horribly awkward because of the following reasons:
Someone has to take the lead to organize the splitting of the bill
That someone also has to account for everyone chipping in to pay for the birthday person
Some people are vegetarian, don’t drink, not hungry, sick, etc…they may or may not want to pull in a complete share
Not everyone in the group is comfortably financially and money is something that drains away any joy
The aim of any of my events is that there is no financial awkwardness or fear. It’s purely meant to be a joyous celebration of an event—that people come because they wanted to. Not because they could afford it, but because they took the time to travel, etc.
And so that is why on my 30th birthday, I took the liberty of picking up the full tab. As I had done for my 26th birthday, all of it was mine.
Or at least it felt like it. I had driven a few people to the event. And then now it was ending and everyone was heading to the parking lot.
Her friend looked at me and said, “It was great to meet you! See you!”
Then my friend said, “Yes! Thanks for driving. You know the way back?”
Surprised, I mumbled, “Um…yes…”
She nodded her acknowledgement while I mumbled, “But I am heading the same way you’re going…”
They rushed off to another car and suddenly I was alone in the parking lot, 20 miles from my place. With no passenger, no company and no direction.
Walking in, I spotted him sitting. He was looking through his phone—the usual sight of people waiting around in this city. I walked across the lobby and came up on the other side of the long bench, behind him.
I thought it would be hilarious. So with a swift jump, I attempted to leap over the bench and to land sitting next to him. Instead, I suddenly found myself in a free fall ending up as a pile on the other side of the bench. Htting my knee hard and bending my right foot slightly the wrong way. He looked surprised which was the achieved effect…and had this look of recognition cross his face—I know this crazy person.
Immediately I was horrified. But then I started giggling at myself. And I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide for awhile. But what emotion came up the most was…immediate pain as I rubbed my wounds as others came over and said, “Are you ok?”
I could barely answer as I was starting to laugh at myself with embarrassment, pain, and horror.
“What do you do in this city?” he asked about 10 minutes after we first met.
I was driving and he was the fellow passenger. He had leapt to the front seat while my friend sat in the back.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of his bold move, but I took that he was curious in starting a conversation with a stranger.
So I posed the question back to him—”what do you mean? are you looking to know why I do what I do or what I do?”
He explained that he asked because he can often tell what a person is like when they try to cross town. He claimed that there are people who take the main throughfare because they want to people watch. I pointed out that perhaps many are conformists—that they are uncomfortable with something radically different; perhaps when they discover a shortcut, they may feel uncomfortable and so return to familiarity. We are creatures of habit, I stated.
Then I returned to the question. In some way unlike most, I challenged the question rather than answering with—my job, the general habits of my life. I wanted to know the motivation to give a good answer than the ones that most will give.
In my early 20s, I was most self-centered and self-promoting. Alas, that has fallen to the wayside. BUT now I call back my BIRTHDAY WISHLIST. For my 30th birthday in less than 5 days!
Previous years: forgotten year in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, no forgotten year of 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002
In order of importance!
1. PRESENCE > PRESENT. I really don’t like presents, because I pretty much know what I want. But there’s the people that I can’t really ask for—and that’s what I want.
2. Endless supplies of fruit. Particularly the stone fruit kind and berries!
3. Ice cream. Especially fruity ones.
5. Some better way to manage the messiness of my room as I enter my thirties.
6. Acceptance, peace with the ways thing are
7. Maybe a better couch/sofa
That’s me. I know that I want to be a mom someday.
Do I think that I am a fit? Not very. Do I think that I am motherly? Not at all.
It’s not that I woke up and said, “I want to be a mom”. It was something that I just knew. Maybe I want a little version of myself running around. Maybe I want to know that I can make an impact in the world through someone. Or more importantly, that I can take care of someone…to a level that I will never have ever.
It’s a fundamental belief and it can be a dealbreaker.
“Can I get more…” I would start.
“No!” the server would say.
I would be stunned, shocked—unsure of what to say next. Why can’t I get…
Then the server would just laugh and say that yes, of course it is entirely possible! This is the worst kind of joke—especially at a restaurant.
But it wasn’t only that today. It was my request of triple cream cheese and getting blue cheese instead. It was saying “oh yes, the duck confit” when it was actually the “roasted duck”. And the odd glances to our table—when he could say “how is everything”. Things like—made it awkward and uncomfortable.
It wasn’t necessarily bad service, but mostly…off. Somewhat unattentive. Somewhat unfriendly. And making something that could have been incredible (the food was generally good)…off-putting. Negative points.
When I first did it, I was filled with anxiety. But my belief in it forced me to overcome it.
Today was my third time. I had just under an hour until my flight departed as my belongings moved on the conveyer belt. This time, I steadily looked at the TSA agent who was checking the bins and said in a strong but quiet voice, “I would like to opt out.”
She directed me to stand behind a female passenger who just opted out. The TSA agent asked me to point out my belongings—I pointed out the three bins and my bag. Last time in New York, I remember the TSA agent wondering aloud how I was able to fit all the five bins in two bags. This time, the TSA agent said nothing.
I stood waiting behind the glass gate, somewhat nervous that I would miss my flight, but certain that I couldn’t wuss out. I had taken a stance on opting out. My mind wandered to the idea of my biological clock ticking—I do want kids, after all…right?
The TSA agent called out again to her colleagues behind the security line, “Female opt out request, please! Female times two!”
“Are you opting out too?” the female traveler in front of me asked. I nodded and we exchanged knowing smiles.
It was my turn and the female agent led me to a screening area. She asked me if I would like a private screening and I declined. She asked me if I had any sore or painful spots and I also said no. Standing on barefeet, she asked me to spread my legs and put my arms out with palms upward to the ceiling. Quietly, I observed the commotion around me—watching a fellow female passenger make nervous comments—”San Franciscans must love this…” She seemed both amused and anxious. I noticed an obvious pregnant bulge.
Then it was over and I arrived at my gate…and I just waltzed into the flight since boarding had already started. 30 minutes to spare.
Professionally, I say very explicitly and almost without emotion:
I have x number of hours of available.
This is what I am going to do today, tomorrow…and this week.
This will not get done by the end of the week.
Let’s get the task completed. I need x, y, and z.
And yet oddly enough, all of us have trouble applying to it to our personal lives, particularly interpersonal relationships. I know that I do.
Behind us at the Naked and Famous concert, a girl said, “Wow! She’s so awesome—representing our kind!”
Although I consider myself American, I am still acutely aware of my ethnicity.
I can sense the slight intention when someone asks, “Where are you from?” The difference between where I grew up and where my heritage is originally from. In college, I often would take the sarcastic route when sensing the later—”Of the earth, of the sea!” I exclaimed proudly. Or if I was in a more lecturing mood, I would often fall into a discussion of how ethnicity and nationality were distinctly different.
But I can’t help but feeling something when I see a fellow Asian in the spotlight—whether it’s good or bad. In leadership, arts, news…it’s different.
So like the girl, when I saw the lead singer onstage. Realizing that she’s Asian (although from New Zealand), I oddly enough felt pride even though she and I shared nothing alike except our heritage.