Then I realized that I was the only Asian present.

And one of the few minorities.

Sitting in the orchestra of Herbst theater, I relished in the words of Cheryl Strayed. A few months ago, coming upon a Facebook advertising her visit to San Francisco, I mindlessly (digitally) ran to buy tickets. Thrilled that I was able to score orchestra tickets, I declared that I was attending in the Facebook event. And today, I settled in the lush red velvet seats and watched two women—Caroline the interviewer chatting with Cheryl Strayed.

Her sense of humor was just right. Never too overly inspirational or spiritual. With some good gotchas here and there. It was as if I was there, on the couch, listening to her, like I have with some good friends. Those are the times that I enjoy the most. Leaning forward in fascination of a friend’s self-awareness and provocative nature.

I have to admit that I loved Tiny Beautiful Things—her collection of Dear Sugar columns. So much more than Wild. The heartbreaking tragedies and an intimate attempt to help someone. She and Steve Almond later called it radical empathy (better than that ridiculous philosophy of radical honesty). I loved it and dreamed that I could structure my words that beautifully.

Then the hours concluded and Cheryl Strayed greeted some onstage guests. Chris tried to urge me forward to unleash my fangirlness. But embarrassment always overcomes me here. I know how it goes especially when I appear at authors’ book signings and the only thing that I can utter is “I want to be like you!” What can the author say? I know when someone says to me that I smile and nod and say thank you. But the connection that I desire so much won’t just appear.

As I walked into the lobby, I suddenly was struck by the diversity of the audience. Earlier, we had nearly walked into the neighboring War Memorial Opera House where gray-haired guests decked in formal wear wandered the staircases. We were directed to the appropriate building which was filled with women my age. Young and very urban. Chris was one of the few guys present.

But as were leaving, I looked at everyone. Women, for sure, which made sense. Writing and this kind of self-awareness attracts a certain type. But to my surprise (and maybe increasing awkwardness), I noticed that there wasn’t a single Asian present. Save for 1 or 2 Asian males that accompanied a while female. Everyone was blond, brunette. There was an African American flying near the edges of the lobby. But I was the only one.

Yesterday, a friend was attempting to understand my hesitation of moving to Oakland. Oakland for sure embodies a lot of the writing community. But I lamented that I haven’t been able to make the connections. She mentioned that it was probably because of the people I surround myself with. But I pointed out that it’s not that. I choose the people that I surround myself with. And quite naturally, I found my comfort in tech. And moreover, I found comfort (oddly) with people who happen to be Asian in tech. I love food and so they do too. With ample disposable income. But if I was meant to bond with writers, I just never had. It’s a challenge for me, because I love writing, but the community has been so hard to find. At least the type of writers I seek. If I was meant to befriend them, wouldn’t I have met them already?

And so as I wandered in the lobby, I hoped to see someone I knew. But the faces were all unfamiliar. So then I did what I normally do in an awkward situation when out in the city. I went to find dessert. In moments, I had a toffee milk chocolate chip cookie in my hands.

2 thoughts on “Then I realized that I was the only Asian present.

  1. I would have gone, but didn’t really feel like shelling out the $. I’ll read her books and listen to her podcasts. ;-)

  2. It definitely was different than her books and Dear Sugar podcasts. But it’s sort of like going to a concert vs. watching a concert/buying the album. I often prefer the latter. Chris and I each submitted a question although it didn’t get selected!

    FWIW, the whole show is going to be on a podcast soon!

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