2016: Moment

Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail.

In 2015, it was the moments after my hat was “stolen” in Rio. In 2014, it was a moment in a writing workshop that I had achieved greatness. In 2013, it was talking to Yasar Usta in Istanbul. In 2012, it was using the ocean as a “big toilet” while floating outside Palawan. In 2011, it was my birthday moment. In 2010, it was the success in Journey to the End to the Night.

There are moments that will stay with me this year. The launch party for Ice Cream Travel Guide. The getting up on stage, not once, but twice, at huge conferences. The first day at a full-time job in four years. Watching my sister get married and giving a speech. And of course, the realization that the president wasn’t going to be who I thought it would be.

But the moment?

Perhaps it was in this moment:

Another #icecreamtravelguide event a success in Noe Valley!

A photo posted by Jenn Ng (@jennism) on

I realized how much I had perfected the story of ice cream, starting with that moment in Bangkok. I know all the beats that I need to take. I know how to push the emotion to ride high and then ride low. Then twist the narrative to bring it back to the concrete. What people don’t know is all the sweat and tears that went into telling that 6 minute story. There are things that I cut out—the breakfast at the American hotel, the sliding along in flip flops. The fact that a friend was actually with me the entire time. There is also the mixed feelings I had that were actually more optimistic than the way I told the story.

What I learned through studying writing is that the narrator doesn’t have to be the true self. It can be somewhat fictionalized. Even better if it’s exaggerated. Who wants to hear about someone who isn’t quite there? We want to hear about someone whose emotions are clear and vivid, instead of complex. At least for the sake of this complex lovey-dovey melodramatic story.

So at Umpqua bank, I sat on the stool reading the excerpts from my book to an audience of 10. I realized how I had mastered so much more than that story. I had also overcome my fear of public speaking. I looked for the hints of how people were paying attention and adjusted accordingly. I remembered what people said and addressed them directly. Eye contact. And in all of this, I held their rapture, at least I thought that I did.

There were kids in the very back, enjoying the ice cream. I do remember that. But I kept going.

And telling my story about that singular ice cream in Bangkok. I don’t know the flavor. Perhaps it was vanilla, mango, peach? Whatever the case, it changed the direction of my life.

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