With 2 hours remaining: Part #1

…so I decided to travel outside Vancouver to the dairy farm that I had looked up a month prior.

I looked at my time. It was 2 pm and I was standing in downtown near the Waterfront. My train was scheduled to depart from Vancouver at 5:45 pm and the ticket indicated that I must arrive at least 30 minutes before departure. Additionally, I needed to pick up my things from Vivian’s house.

Quickly, I walked around the glass towers to find the common chains: Starbucks, Tim Hortons. Once located, I leaned against the wall, hiding, stealing the wifi. Throngs of people dressed in business attire swarmed around me—I looked like a student with my running shoes and casual backpacks. I connected with my iPod touch and looked up the dairy farm address. Google maps indicated that by public transit, it would take 90 minutes.

Within seconds, I was walking to the Skytrain station. By that time, I already lost a wifi connection. It crossed my mind that I only knew how to get to the destination, but no idea how I would return to Vivian’s house.

As I sat on the Millennium line out toward Burnaby, it dawned on me the level of stupidity. This was certainly like the time that I missed my flight to London from Berlin because I dawdled at the cafe slowly sipping ginger tea, because I went shopping for clothes in Mitte, because I really didn’t know how long it would take to get to the airport via public transit.

But the desire…the reason why I came this far…I could not let it go. I had to go to the dairy farm—this was the famed dairy farm akin to Straus Dairy in the San Francisco Bay Area. Surrounded by school children and Chinese grandparents, I rationalized my fears of missing the train. After all, Amtrak isn’t as vicious as airlines and wouldn’t charge me a hefty fee. And Vivian wouldn’t mind an extra night and Joe wouldn’t mind that I came a day later. It would be all ok.

So I was on the Skytrain for over 10 stops passing through numerous neighborhoods—I stared out the window as the buildings changed from large glass condos to smaller residences to trees…to strip malls…and areas that seemed only accessible by car. In a nervous moment, I tapped on something in the maps app and instantaneously lost the transit directions due to a lack of data connection. Even with my real phone, I could not look up directions on the Lumia so there was nothing that I could do.

Fortunately, my memory was annoyingly remarkable. I recalled the 116 bus and spotted the stop around the turnabout…

Riding along the coast on Saturday

It wasn’t the climb from the shore to Pointe Reyes. It wasn’t the increasing grade that dug at me. It wasn’t the exhaustion from cycling for the third day in a row.

It was the nature, the Pacific ocean water lapping at the coast, and the sound of the my wheels spinning that suddenly held me in a melancholic moment. The silence and the loneliness of the stillness that gripped me in a vice.

I followed the figure in front of me—moving steadily ahead. Unexplainable feelings made me want to stop. I could feel the usual place of tension…tighten. As the climb appeared, I wavered. There was a moment where I thought that I would fall onto the pine leaves, almost falling onto the edge of the asphalt. I could slow down right there and fall with me clipped in.

Instead, I cried out in surprise almost to call out to my riding partner when I did lose my balance. Magically, I didn’t fall out and unclipped to hold myself and stood on the road.

“What happened?” he asked turning his bike around to meet me.

I mumbled something about the chain and the gears. Then I took a deep breath in an effort to soothe myself. I put one hand on my forehead, as if there was smarting wound there that I was rubbing.

He noticed and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing…I don’t want to talk about it,” I said and faced away—a move that I almost never take as confrontations are my style.

I gulped down water, staring at the road watching the cars wind north and south. No attention paid to the figures on the side of the road. We were in some sense…alone.

“Do you want to go back?” he asked.

“No…let’s continue.” I said.

Then I said as we started climbing, “Tell me a story.”

You wanted to swing your wand

Swing of the wand
you wish to change me.

You don’t say it,
but I know it.
You are dissatisfied
with the way I look.

The way I hope
The way I want
The way I wish
that the sky would clear
because the rain reminds me
of my tears.

You are dissatisfied
and you want to swing your wand.

New clothes.
New personality.
New me.

You say
“Let’s go to the waterfront.
Let’s go to change you.
Pencil me into your schedule,
because I know how to change you.”

You’re supposed to accept me
for who I am.

Why can’t you?
Why can’t you stop
wishing to swing your
broken wand
on me?

The past weekend, inspired by a friend’s attempt to write poetry, I was inspired to look at my own poetry. Particularly the ones that I had written in 2005. The ones that captured my wistful emotion and desperation for…love.

Particularly this one. It’s more than 7 years later and I remember who I wrote this about. He was tall, gawky, Asian, a game designer. His aura was like a video game—sound effects rampant, common phrases, colors. His favorite store was Diesel—for months, he tried to convince me why $70 for a pair of jeans worked just fine.

He once told me, “I can entertain myself while you shop.”

I don’t shop. I typically don’t care enough about my appearance to care.

But in that year, I almost cared. Each criticism, each demand dug at my soul. It was in this poem, I was starting to realize that I didn’t deserve the treatment. It took me an additional 12 months to be stronger again by someone who believed.

The last time I saw him was at the Riott Music Festival in November 2006 in the lobby. He was standing with two shorter friends. Out of courtesy, I walked up to him and said hello, exchanging pleasantries. He had purchased a condo in SOMA. I had just moved to San Francisco. How are you? Fine, thank you.

The wand, now 7 years later, has lost its magic.

The teacher was so mean

“You will be punished if you go to the bathroom during class,” the teacher cautioned us.

That’s what I could remember as one of the many traumatizing moments in my childhood. One of the many that may have led to my social anxiety as an adult. For why I am suddenly frozen in place when wanting to poke my head above the crowd or to order food at a bar without alcohol. I am seized by fear that I will be punished just like the overwhelming feeling I had as a 6 year old.

What was more traumatizing was how I needed to go one day. But I didn’t want to be punished. In the logic of a child, I could only see two choices: 1. Go to the bathroom and be punished. 2. Hold in until class ended.

Neither was ideal as I really had to go. And I didn’t want to be like little Bobby who wet his pants in class. My stomach really hurt. And I was caught in a web of anxiety…and high distress.

Was he negging me?

I was impressed with myself—I was able to be drift alone and not be overwhelmed with social anxiety. That day, I agreed (after a friend’s persistence) to accompany him to tubing down Russian River. With more than 50 of us, we launched from a beach in our inner tubes, most were packed with ample beer, weed and mineral water. Most people held onto each other—forming large floats almost like the trash in the Pacific.

Not particularly finding anyone interesting, I was content to float by myself. Sure, there was the ihatepeoplehelping me feeling, but in general, I just didn’t feel like conversing with anybody. I wanted to put my head back, close my eyes and float soundlessly down the slow moving river. Admittingly, I kept floating into the banks with branches and rocks. On my own, I needed to independently push myself away.

Interrupting my thoughts, a guy—in his early twenties and the kind that lived to wear a popped collar—paddled next to me. He had departed his “floatilla” of 10 and came toward me. I had just pushed myself away from a floating log and now was floating down the current.

Instead of an expected friendly greeting, the first words out of his mouth were, “I don’t like your individualistic tendencies.”

I shook my head at the disappointing conversation starter and explained my contentment of my independent floating. Somehow small talk turned into what we did for a living.

“I am going to be a writer,” I declared, not hesitating this time for a stranger.

“You can’t be just a writer,” he said. “You need to have a goal.”

“A goal?”

“You have to write for something. You can’t just be a writer.”

Inside silently, I scoffed at his comments. Artists can be artists without having a goal. The act of making art is perhaps a goal. The act of creating is what drives me—to share my ideas and my perspective with the world

Instead, I admitted, “Not copywriting or technical writing, but writing. A book.”

“Well, good luck.”

After that, I let the current carry us apart. He returned to his floatilla while I floated on my own again—banging into logs and rocks. I got stuck in a shallow area and needed to maneuver out of it on my own—standing on the stony pebbles with my bare feet.

Class differences

I surround myself with people who work in user experience. Quite naturally, when I finished graduate school, I moved to a neighborhood in San Francisco where most of my friends lived (and where my first job was located). Of course, that also meant that I never left. I am in my bubble—always meeting people who are buying apartments, doing their own startup, and taking cabs regularly.

Occasionally, I meet people who are outside the bubble. At first, it’s a surprise—why haven’t I met them before? am I that ignorant? They spend differently. Their lifestyles differ so much from mine where the primary goal is can I pay the rent this month?

Today, for the first time in a long time, I biked from a dinner alone. Because everyone lived in a cheaper neighborhood. I live in the Mission—where one fellow dinner attendee said, “The Facebook IPO has made it expensive to live there.”

It’s true. I am part of that phenomenon. I am the person that people seek when they visit here—requesting a place to stay or a place to pre-party. My neighborhood is constantly featured in hipster movies, because this is the quintessential hipster area although most hipsters cannot live here. When a new friend visits, it’s the questions of wow you have so much space while I am puzzled because it always seemed a bit cramped.

I am only comparing myself to my immediate peers. I just don’t know how lucky I am.

The energy vampire of spotlights

On Saturday, I planned to film my kickstarter video. With my filmographer, we laid a tight schedule of visiting ice cream shops, eating ice cream, making ice cream and hosting an ice cream social at my place. For more than 5 hours, I was the center of attention—the focus of the video camera.

I dragged out my rare extroverted side—to talk to owners and ask for more information. I calmed down my friends who didn’t know how to get to places. I kept in touch with people who were coming to the ice cream social via text—all seeming to provide level-headed responses. At my own event back at my place, I individually asked each person what flavors they wanted and prepared a personal cone (or bowl). As host, I constantly checked on people—were they ok?. Then with people I only met recently—the filmographer and other crew…I was trying to be myself…just be.

At the end of the day, I was exhausted. Not because I was running about or standing for 3 hours. I wanted to quietly say nothing at all and have someone tell me their stories…and I could listen silently. I dragged myself out dinner with the remaining crew and friends—engaging in conversation initially but happy when a natural extrovert took over and made the table talk fun.

Later, I opted to watch a movie that I had watched previously. My favorite scenes from Batman—something that required eyes on the screen. And it was me, an introvert here in my own skin.