Stories about travel headaches are long and boring

“I can one-up you,” I said after hearing a fellow writer describe her boyfriend’s long flight travel delay.

And so begins the story that I tell about the three weeks of travel in the Netherlands and Ohio. Of course, I could have started with beautiful, inspiring stories about the (positive) things I did—relief and wonder of being outside of the country, new foods, new people, giving a conference talk, writing workshops, self-discovery and all that woo woo stuff. But sometimes to me, those things are boring and I cannot help but resort to stories about that-was-so-bad-and-you-don’t-want-to-do-this. Perhaps an internal desire not to have someone follow my path?

I first talk about the nearly six hour delay of my flight to the Netherlands. But sometimes I might neglect to mention that I wasn’t in the economy class—a sign of privileged comforts. The lack of cleaning staff. The sudden medical emergency that forced a landing in Salt Lake City. The despair that as I looked out the window, I saw the fuel release, feeling like everything I had done to reduce my climate footprint in the last few years had disappeared right in that moment. The refueling and restocking of the catering supplies. The wait for maintenance and everything else. In all, a seventeen-hour ordeal of being in a metal tube reminded me why I disliked flying (the discomfort primarily of being squeezed in a singular position for hours on end among people I don’t want to be around), which started around when I started interviewing for Ice Cream Travel Guide. What I don’t mention of course were the surprisingly easy transiting afterward (minus the time it took to orient in a new city) from cycling, city light rail, and regional trains. And of course my return flight.

Then I lament the woes of my Ohio travel. The power outage in 90 degree humid weather for almost 24 hours in the areas where I was lodging. And how the power outage continued in some buildings including the dining hall. The worry that I was in unventilated spaces (but I had to EAT!) And how the airline made me stay overnight in Seattle because they rescheduled the second leg of my flight and the only available substitute flights (without just taking a full refund and paying more for another unpartnered airline) were the following morning.

I say all of this and then I mention that a writing instructor in one of the first writing classes (Travel Writing!) I took as an adult once mentioned that essays about travel headaches are boring. “Don’t write about them,” she said.

And now, I say, “You can’t inspire anyone with that kind of story. Everyone experiences it. And because you learn nothing. Except that you don’t ever want to do it again.”

2022 Birthday Wishlist

Previous years: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, forgotten year in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, a forgotten year of 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002

This morning as I was walking to the coworking space, I realized that I have to embrace this very fact: I am entering the fourth decade of my life. It’s common for people at this age to hide the age. So people do. But why be ashamed? Because there’s younger people? Because there’s ageism (yes, it’s real.) But let’s start: I AM TURNING 40.

  1. A sleep sac I thought about swaddling and wanted it for myself
  2. Good quality stone fruit and other fruits!
  3. Lower risk for those inherited body stuff
  4. Publication of my Listening to My Minor Feelings essay. Like somewhere, please!
  5. Progress on my novel(s)
  6. Some determination of how I want my income-generating life to go
  7. Identification of the home
  8. Better sleep
  9. Improvement on my goal on building deeper friendship and relationships to the community

Post-op and all

It’s done! I guess that I had prepared myself for the worst outcome post-op. But all is fine, similar to my previous surgery on my hand. I went in and then out with a sudden thing on my hand…and hip! The recovery for hip was more challenging than the hand.

As I was recovering from anesthesia, I was groggy, but at some point, I lucid enough to answer questions and tell the nurse that I didn’t want oxycontin. I mumbled something about how I was writing an essay in my head, but really I was eavesdropping to what the nurses were chatting about—something about epidural and what not.

But now just over 24 hours later, the only things that remain is the bandage with no pain! But for whatever reason, I am seeing things blurry but the internet (and also my sister who is an optometrist) assured me that it will resolve in a few days. But this is bugging more than usual I guess, because I was thinking that I would read and things while recovering! Now it’s just hard!

This time with TMI

My last surgery was in 2006 when I was a young 24 for THE hand. I briefly blogged about the pre-op and post-op experience, which barely was anything. I remember being in more pain than necessary because I decided that I wanted to harvest bone from my hip than use synthetic. What was I thinking! I don’t remember being told much of complications or risks. As noted, I asked about consent as I was being wheeled into the OR, but then nothing!

And now older and wiser…and put into a position that I should do yet another highly recommended but elective surgery, I have too much information. I have watched the videos and read articles about the risks. I have searched on Google, Twitter, Facebook about the thing. Horror stories surface. I read about the fear and anxiety. And even though I was completely calm and more annoyed at the disruption to my routine, it caused me to think a bit more. What if I don’t wake up? What if I am deformed? What if what if? But it’s all very ridiculous, of course. I am young and healthy. I have a safety net in case things go awry. I had an easy recovery last time, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. But but but! Knock on wood.

Interestingly, they offered me this podcast—specifically a combination of meditation and imagery practice. My immediate impulse is obviously, that this isn’t for me. I am not anxious. I don’t need this. But of course, there was a whole mention about how in research studies, it proved useful in decreasing recovery time and increasing healing (although I have to think that the people inclined to do this had healthy practices, to begin with).

On my last day before, I’ll prepare with a few things as recommended—antiseptic wipes, carbohydrate drink, the last shower, the last meal. And then maybe I’ll see you soon on the other side.

This time, do I want to ask for a video? Not sure!

What does it feel like two years later?

Today is the fourteenth year of using Twitter. That anniversary is less resonant than what happened (generally) two years ago. It was that week about two years ago that many things happened.

On March 5th, my work (at the time) declared that we’ll be all working from home. Interestingly, I was meeting with a coworker who was visiting from the NY office and so we skipped that all hands for our meeting. Because the culture was that the all hands meeting wasn’t that important. At the time, I admit that I was thinking that Covid was just some far off thing like SARs, but yes we should take precaution. And then, when I returned to my desk later, I heard coworkers say to each other, “See you in a month!”

I quickly browsed to the company internal wiki and saw what was happening. Okay, sounds good.

But outside of work? On March 8th, against the general health guidance and also Chris’ situation, Chris and I went to a gathering of cyclists to honor a colleague who was crushed by a truck while cycling. At the time, we didn’t know how covid transmitted outside. And thinking back, I was taking a risk. But it was important to talk about the unneeded tragedy of cyclists death. Especially since Chris came so close to experiencing the same thing.

And then, we went around on our usual routine to boba, plant stores, grocery stores. And then one last meal with my parents in Pleasant Hill on March 14th at a restaurant where they wanted to use a gift card. Even though Chris and I had scorned anyone who was eating in a restaurant. What were we doing? And I remember how a server coughed and everyone at the table winced.

Little did we know.’

Now two years later. Everything changed. But also nothing changed. I am sitting at my desk. Left that job. Recovering from burnout and some PTSD. Still hoping to revise my forever novel. I now have a ring on my finger. I know more about the state of my health (it’s fine in some way). Our car. But the world. The president is different. But the world in some ways because that’s the way we think, it feels worse. Tragedy after tragedy. Conspiracy after conspiracy. But is it. I am typing at a new computer with music blasting from Spotify (although I really shouldn’t). I am spending money on various forms of selfcare (namely, writing classes and the new hobby of scrapbooking). And most of all, I still haven’t caught covid.

Knock on wood.

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.


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.