2021: 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 2020, it was when a product leader called attention to the quality of my work. In 2019, it was when I left my job and when Chris comforted me that we are ok. In 2018, it was realizing my own qualities. 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.

At the global level, it should have been the vaccines. It should have been that. It should have been the moment that I was waiting in line for my first dose of Pfizer (I admit that I got in line a few hours before people in my age group were qualified). I stared at everyone around me—fellow SF residents, the SF General staff, and thought…it’s going to be over. Now after a variant and yet another one, it’s still not done. It’s the antivaxxers. It’s the discovery that my sister’s mother-in-law is unvaccinated. It’s the growing number of covid cases around me. And at the national level, it should have been when Trump was silenced on social media and the aftermath of the insurrection should have been proof of that. It should have been a new political administration and everything else. But it wasn’t.

I am privileged to have a safety net—both socially, healthwise, and financially. A reasonable environment, primarily progressive.

And yet.

What is the best moment that everything’s going to be alright? It’s always the small moments that validates that I’ll be fine. From the job. For the future. For the writing. For my goals. That I keep reminding myself that who I am and who I want to be…and even how I want to spend my time isn’t dependent on money and keeping up with the Joneses.

It’s these moments of being told that my work is good—whether it’s that income-generating type or that my essay is good enough. It’s being told by writing programs that they loved my work (and then some weird line about how there wasn’t enough space for me). It’s being told that they appreciate me. It’s receiving all those messages. It’s even as simple as waking up and thinking, Hey I am still alive and happy in my pocket.

Maybe it’s this moment that I had with my therapist although I detest it a lot—that I have rarely ever been someone who doesn’t act. Whether it’s a good or bad thing, after college (or maybe grad school), I made a decision that I will not be frozen. I will always keep going. I kept myself accountable for that for so many years, tracking what I did and who I was with. Then I started to enjoy making my to-do lists. Not because I enjoyed the task itself, but I enjoyed the thrill of telling myself that I completed it. I loved checking things off even if it was as ridiculous as putting things back, cleaning dishes, buying something, making a phone call. Little things matter. And all of that action has made me forget what it would be like not to do something. As much as anxiety and depression can creep up for me, it doesn’t freeze me. Yes, I may sprial into what they call unhelpful thoughts, but the act of doing keeps going. Because I always believe that there’s something around the corner. The itch that I have not to feel sad or anxious is always relieved by action.

So let’s act.

2021: Next Step

When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

In 2010, it was about dream making. In 2011, it was about sticking to my boundaries. In 2012, it was about being true. In 2013, it was about embracing fear. In 2014, it was sitting my butt down and writing. In 2016, it was about leading. In 2017, it was about persistence. In 2018, it was about seeing the big picture. In 2019, it was about moving on (on my own terms). In 2020, it was about valuing the things (and people) I love.

There’s THE JOB. Which is depressing in some way. My next step is to decide what’s next. Literally.

At least if things happen, I know that I want time off—to do the writing thing. I have several things already lined up—applications to summer workshops (thinking that I ‘ll get into at least one), being part of a novel reading workshop, revising my (forever not finished) novel, rewriting essays, pitching essays, ideating on essays, crafting my nonfiction and fiction. All of that plus contemplating where my writing would be and go.

Then what?

Of course, I can reconnect with people that I know and can trust. I can see where they and how they feel. And so we can begin there.

2021: Making

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

In 2010, I made xmas photo. In 2011, I made metaphorical thingsthat were intentionally symbolic of relationships and history. In 2012, I made ice cream. In 2013, I made design. In 2014, I made “my room”. In 2015, I made the last line of Ice Cream Travel Guide, literally. In 2016, I made my annual holiday video. In 2017, I made another annual holiday video. In 2018, I made scones (from the Tartine cookbook)! In 2019, I made another holiday video! In 2020, I made some minor things (a chapter and writing prompts), but of course the biggest thing was the annual holiday video!

This year, of course, it’s a version of last year.

I made minor things as I always do, nearly every day. This time mostly food—a failed dutch baby pancake this morning, because I decided not only to substitute the milk with our So Delicious coconut milk but also the all-purpose flour with coconut flour. Then I accidentally overmeasured the flour which called for approximately 2/3 cup, but I put nearly a cup. So then I increased the amount of coconut milk and eggs. But it became this unbearable mush that didn’t even turn into a luscious dutch baby. But I did make a good kahlua drenched apple and banana slices. I am happy with my growing compost pile.

Then other minor things of recent—cranberry chocolate pocketbreads for xmas eve, revising my essay about the grocery store incident, ramen eggs, etc.

But of course, the big thing was the annual video. This year, after multiple sessions about how we could incorporate moments throughout the year including the car scraping, the pandemic, vaccines, etc…and also the big trend of TikTok, we finally were inspired by the SNL TikTok clip. Of course! Unfortunately, iMovie was soooooooo limiting. Could not make the UI that I wanted for our “fake” TikTok called BingBong. Could not do the messaging the right way even with my skill in Figma. Every placement was off. And it was frustrating to go between a phone app to iMovie. But I hacked it.

And then of course when we sent it off Christmas morning (along with the top ten things we learned), we reaped the benefits. AMAZING. FUNNY. ENTERTAINING. NEED SOME JOY IN OUR LIVES (IN YET ANOTHER SAD YEAR). I can’t imagine other people would do the same thing in the effort. But you know!

Sometimes I wonder if I should do this more—creating content like this. But I hesitate. If I do, won’t the joy dissipate? The fact that I’ll be chasing the money, the profit, the freedom of being? I’ll be left with a dislike of everything that I loved doing for low stakes, because there wasn’t any judgement?

Maybe though, I would enjoy the writing. Even as arduous as it would be. But I would always need an outlet to express myself without the fear of judgment, without the pressure of an income, without that despair could crush my dreams with rejetion.

2021: One Moment

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

In 2020, it were the moment(s) when I was creating. In 2019, it was the moment that I realized that he was actually…alive and whole. In 2018, it was the moment that we realized that the car would start. In 2017, it was the moment (or moments) that I deeply connected with a group I had just met at a conference where I thought I would have been antisocial (or just horribly socially anxious). In 2016, it was the moment that I felt in the flow in telling the story of Ice Cream Travel Guide. 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.

Each time that I finished creating something for really myself—the wedding invite video, the Thanksgiving video, and the annual holiday video. And maybe even when I finally saw my How to Grieve essay out in the world. I would run around the apartment, finding Chris and tell him about it.

“Look, I finished!” I said. “Look!”

When it was low stakes, especially for the videos, I felt a sense of pride. This ultimate creation. I am so proud of it. When I finished the wedding invite video, all the tension, all the planning, all of it just washed away. It was that moment of—I can’t wait until all of you see it.

And of course, some pat myself on the back type ones—I can’t believe that I was clever to come up with this. I can’t believe that it looks so good! I can’t believe that it actually achieved the effect that I wanted.

I remember sitting down in front of my computer—fretting over whether I had the right clips, studying the source video to sync as much as possible with the low-level editing quality of iMovie, figuring out how to made the partial opacity during the wave scene, and worried that I was missing some footage. But it worked out so well. And I was able to stuff some old footage.

And of course, there was the hard part of putting it actually into the messaging—plugging it into the website and incorporating the email. But it worked out.

Creation.

2021: Letting Go

Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

In 2010, it was a person. In 2011, it was an idea. In 2012, it was a symbol represented by a person. In 2013, I let go fear. In 2014, I let go of humility (or the desire to appear humble). In 2015, I let go of perfection. In 2016, I let go of expectations. In 2017, I let go of things and people I don’t need. In 2018, I let go of constant discovery. In 2019, I let go of expectations. In 2020, I let go of uncomfortable pants.

I want to say expectations again like in 2019. So many still to have achieved. So many still have yet to meet. So many are not even close. That I can just accept it.

But beyond that, it’s moments of acceptance. So obviously then, it would be obvious that I am letting go of rejection.

In the last week, I have been reflecting on why I encounter so much rejection, namely failure. The idea that I even said once that my skill was failing often. It is because simply I take a lot of risks. And because they are inherent risks, I fail. But sometimes of course, they are painful. And in that horrible way of thinking of resilience, I keep trying and trying. In one perspective, it may be about trying to validate the pain. Seeking because my young child was trying to find someone who would prove that failure is all that I am good for. Or in another perspective, it’s because one day, it will provide the truth and hope. And that it will always be worth it in the end.

Like all the writing rejections that I have garnered, soon, they’ll fall into the pile of rejections. Then it will grow and grow. Some will topple and fail. But some maybe will burst into growth, newness, all to say something new toward what I wanted all this time.

2021: 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, I said that it was work.
In 2018, I said that it was lack of support. In 2019, it really was the lack of accountability. In 2020, I said that it was about losing my creative space to WFH, but it really was about setting time for it.

Because of not one, but two writing groups, that actually fit my style, I have accountability. Plus another writing group may be the possibility!

Partly right now, it’s work. I put the writing energy there and it’s not quite the same when I write creatively. At work, I am being questioned so much about the writing, but somehow, then I second guess myself here. It’s not what I want. I would like purity between the two. And I don’t like thinking of the potential outcome to eliminate work to preserve my creative space.

If only the work burden could be eliminated in some way to not reduce my end goals.

There are risky things, of course. Quit the job. Do the writing thing. But almost everybody I know in the Bay Area (or maybe even elsewhere) when they do that, it rarely ever works out. Soon enough within a year, they are back to some day job. Everybody talks about the need to have a day job, because that keeps your boundaries focused when writing. Or they become successful, so a day job isn’t necessary, because writing is the thing.

*Sigh* It feels like a catch-22.

2021: Entertainment

Well, 2021! You would think everything was back to normal. A bit, but still not quite. And just like 2020, entertainment helped so much to pass the time, and sometimes it reminded us that things were kinda normal.

I recounted the most impactful entertainment pieces for me in 2014. Then I did it again for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Movies I Saw

Well, we still have yet to go to a theater, except that one moment that we saw Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at Oracle Park. But it reminded me how hard it was hear when there’s PEOPLE. I enjoy HBO Max and Disney+.

  • Nobody
  • In the Heights
  • Godzilla vs. Kong
  • South Park: Post Covid
  • The Mitchells vs the Machines

TV Shows I Watched

  • Industry
  • Succession
  • Hacks
  • Wandavision
  • Loki

Books I Read

  • The Loneliest Americans
  • Earthlings
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad (yes, I know that I was several years later)
  • The Midnight Library (for the concept mostly)
  • Crying in Hmart (less on the representation, but just some resonant scenes)

Ways to Pass the Time

  • Baking bread
  • Watching. So. Much. TV.
  • Trying to write something, but end up not being happy with it, so it just sits on my computer
  • Telling Chris to clean up
  • Work on yet another personal project, usually something related to the wedding (yes, even now)

Technology

  • Spotify (for some reason, after nearly a year, I didn’t realize that I could listen to music without disturbing other people because nobody is around!)
  • Google Home (and now if it actually listen to my voice)
  • Pixel 6 (if it actually SHIPPED)
  • Would have been Clubhouse, but the craze died quickly, I am sad
  • Discord, but it only works if you have the right community

Do you feel different?

“No,” I begin, knowing that the standard answer is a long list of nothing-changed. “But it made me realize how society values the married label.”

For most, at least at the very beginning, I tell the story about how we were in line and how when we used the wife-husband labels, that people reacted differently. That there was some different weight with those labels. That those people might be SERIOUS! And whatever they’re asking is IMPORTANT! Then I go into some angst about how it’s dumb, about how about the people who are single, who don’t marry for whatever reason. Why is it that labels define us so much? That blood is thicker, but suddenly marriage is even stronger?

Although I realized that Chris and I had masqueraded for years in front of my (somewhat religious) uncle and aunt that we had lived apart when he finally moved in three years ago. But I never confirmed any change in status. So when my uncle asked, “Oh where did you move?”

I was stunned. Of course, nowhere. But then I paused realizing the context. How my cousins had devoutly lived separately for years before marrying. For us, it wasn’t about religion, but mostly around practicality. His car wouldn’t fit in my garage. And I wouldn’t ever move to a place where I had to be further away from the BART line and had to pay more! So we gave some story about how we had roommates and then the roommates were kicked out.

But in a moment of fury in the response to Mr. and Mrs., I added, “I didn’t change my last name. I absolutely have no plans on changing my last name.”

And then there we were, as conversations shifted and morphed to some controversial topics. I was happier there, I think. No questions about me. But questions about beliefs, attitudes, behavior that weren’t quite about me. But I had the passion to argue about for hours.

Day 1 of Honeymoon

Technically, it’s day 2, but we arrived late yesterday.

This morning, I woke up in that usual mixture of where-am-I and work stress.

“Maybe we can go see the sunrise?” I said looking at the clock. “Although we have only 20 minutes…we might not make it.”

It was first started as some usual morning waking—the usual scrolling of Twitter and news. Then figuring out how to make tea. Then suddenly, it transitioned into Chris checking his work things and then I had been rolling back and forth on the bed, thinking that we could be out getting malasadas and that we might be missing a chance to get them early in the week. Maybe tomorrow?

I intended to spend time writing and editing. So I tried to get into the mood for that. A coworker pinged me based on an Instagram story I posted about looking at the forest outside our window. The shot also showed a reflection of a laptop in the window. I wrote, “someone is working when on vacay!”

I sighed as time ticked on. The irony was that I was soothed by Chris talking on the phone—was it commanding? Instructing? Clarifying? It sounded like he was in charge and I was proud.

Then I became that annoying child, annoyed in my seat, asking over and over again, “Are we going yet? Are we done yet? When can we go? I am bored!”

Part 1: Prancing into city hall

So 2 weeks ago…it finally happened.

Maybe I didn’t sleep that well or I was filled with nervousness of waking up. My sister messaged me shortly after 6 am that she was up. They were leaving Lafayette and she shared her location. The day before, she had made the trek to San Francisco to Cal Academy and it took over an hour due to a burning truck and usual traffic. But this time, perhaps due to the time, they made it over to the apartment in 30 minutes.

“Someone is sitting on your doorstep!” she messaged me.

I was annoyed, of course, and was too busy just trying to pull on my clothes. Trying to wear that near strapless bra that I didn’t want to wear. I remember how a friend told me that I needed to get the dress tailored and thought how unnecessary it was. My anger simmered at that, but I suppressed my feelings because it was ultimately irrelevant. And my sister found a solution that worked fine, after all.

“Go open the front door!” I told Chris.

But we were rushing around the apartment getting ready. I didn’t want my parents to come up and look around the apartment, judging the cleanliness or the state of things, especially since we barely had anybody over during the pandemic. So there was a pause until Chris finally went to let my sister in.

She came up with Jakobe. “In the other bedroom?” I said.

I had pulled out the fun or at least what I had deemed to be fun, Jurassic Parks. Unfortunately Jakobe, almost 2.5 years old, was feeling unhappy about being woken up. I could tell, because my eyes felt sore too and he was grumpy. But then my sister did the thing that she didn’t like doing and pulled out her phone. All was well as he sat on the bed. No need to worry about him exploring. He was satisfied just there with the screen playing a video.

Then my sister proceeded. I had the hairspray, the foundation and blush I acquired from Sephora, hair pins, brush, eyeliner, etc. In very little time, we were done with curls and what not.

And then we went. Chris got there easily. We paid, for the first time!, at the parking meter, because we were not going to be late. As we crossed the plaza, I noticed a car at polk. And there was Allison. I hesitated because I also saw the photographers along the way at the entrance. The entrance, probably first, so I deviated my path and waved over Allison. I was so awestruck by the crown, boutonniere, and the scepter. It was exactly what I wanted! Vegetables. Extravagance. Elegance. And whimsical. But I was a little troubled by suddenly realizing that I had to perform as the photographers began as Allison placed the crown on me.

Then my sister, Jakobe, and others arrived. I went ahead through security with Chris and the photographers. Because of the stroller, it seemed like they went an alternative route and were admonished for “sneaking” past security. But no time to waste, I went ahead down the hallway to get registered. We sat around waiting while the photographers slipped in photos. We met with a judge, had a conversation. “How long have you known each other?” she asked.

I noted that she had a neck decor like RBG. “Almost 15 years,” we replied.

“So just getting things in order?”

“Yes,” we agreed.

Chris mentioned that we were also planning to drop our ballots and the judge mentioned how she didn’t like the recall. I was surprised that a judge could say so in a public setting, but Chris told me that they didn’t have any policies to conceal their politics outside the court.