Talking to a twentysomething

Today, in class, Alexander Chee said in response to the way that his young students would write about aging, he would correct them: “At a certain age, having the same things happen each day is a victory.”

Yesterday (on my birthday as I inch closer to forty), in contrast, talking to a former twentysomething coworker, he noted a paragraph from my essay about my own twentysomething experience where I had rejected the notion of repeated doldrums of adult life. “That’s why I don’t want to get married,” he said.

I was awestruck by that. The moments depicted in the essay were more than years ago when I didn’t know who I want to be and how I want to be. I had embraced the idea that to be alive, it meant taking every opportunity to discover and feel free. What I didn’t know then was that discovery doesn’t mean that it’s meaningful. Being alive isn’t about adventure. In some way, yes, it’s about safety. Which seems risk averse and “too” safe. Yet, the happiness and maybe just satisfaction is the fact that my “home” is defined by someone. So no matter where we are—whether it’s at home for months on end due to the pandemic or a sleepless nights in a foreign city where we don’t know the language, that’s what I seek.

2021 Birthday Wishlist

Previous years: 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

Vaccines arrived! Well at least for the US, interestingly.

  1. Reduction in vaccine hesitancy
  2. And obviously, better vaccine distribution across the world
  3. Some kind of social event soon! At the very least, cooking a meal for people
  4. Acceptances for my writing whether it’s workshops or venues
  5. Better growth of selective close friendships
  6. Better sense of where I want my “income-generating” career to go
  7. Good fruit, especially high quality stone fruit and berries!
  8. Visit to a farm or similar food-making enterprise, to get the feeling of getting to the roots
  9. Building a relationship to a nonprofit that actually matters to me and a place where I could see my personal effort
  10. Some kind of way to buy reasonable, high quality property in San Francisco
  11. To offspring or no offspring?
  12. Decrease in stuff!!!

Vaccine Journey: Part 2

Because this time, it was planned. This time, I was prepared. I wasn’t as emotionally overwhelmed.

For whatever reason, they called me and asked to change my appointment time from 3 pm to 9 am. Fine, I said. So off I went, convincing Chris to drive me. In fact, he expected that he would do so since it was a hassle for me last time—to find parking and do that whole thing. So at 8:45 am, he drove me to San Francisco General, dropped me off at the welcome circle. I hopped out and got into the appointment line. Everything was repeating as if I was there the first time. Someone would stop me at the line. “Are you here for…?”

“Yes, a vaccine,” I say and hold up my vaccine card.

They would look at the date and nod. Then they stuck a sticker on me that essentially said registered. They placed on the sleeve.

“Do I go?” I say motioning to the doors. I actually have never been inside the hospital beyond the ER and that first time. I see so many people walk in—maybe appointments for other things, maybe staff for other things. This is the local public hospital and I wonder how much funding they get. Probably not much.

They tell me to wait. Finally the line is filling up. Five, six or seven people now. I am first. Then they say, “Follow me.”

She holds this paper spinning windmill—the kind you might see for a Chinese tour or a child playing in the yard. Right at the end lobby, she motions ahead to another person. “Follow her.” So we follow and arrive at a set of elevators.

I understand immediately that the elevator can only hold four. At least for safety reasons. We all stand in the corner. There’s a couple that huddles in a corner, treating like they are one person. Fine.

We arrive to the fourth floor and it’s back again in the row. The nurse asks me for my card and I hold it out. “You got it laminated,” she says.

“No,” I say. “it’s just a plastic cover.”

“How did you get that?” she marvels.

I am a little surprised, but not really. I wonder if she’s saying that because she just wants to talk to people, wants to have small talk again. I wonder myself if I want small talk. I tell her that I have a lot of conference badges and this is just one of them. I know that Office Depot and Staples are offering free lamination.

And soon, I arrive at another registration. “My second,” I say.

They send me to another station, then another station. I remember that just three weeks ago, I was frantically looking down at my work phone and checking the time, wondering if I would make it back in time. It’s barely 9:12 am now and it didn’t take much time at all from when I arrived to now. Soon, I am sent to a station. This time, I am curious. I am waiting and wondering why I am waiting. Maybe paperwork? Maybe the nurse needs to check something. Finally, I am sent to sit.
The nurse has a needle ready. I have taken off my jacket and have my sleeve ready. “Non-dominant arm?” I say.

She nods. A quick sharp jab and it’s over.

I do the fifteen minute observation. I wonder if I should take the juice offered, but I don’t because it’s embarrassing. I do the windmill, but not much because I don’t see anybody else doing it. And soon, the time passes. I take selfies. Trying not to be rude and that person breaking HIPAA. Then I am done. I stand in front of the selfie station and take photos of myself, because well, because I should. But there isn’t many people here, taking photos. It’s all serious. I don’t know how people are feeling. Smiles? Doing their civic duty? It’s what I should do.

And I went outside and went…to work virtually. I had a mild headache that afternoon, but didn’t know whether I could attribute to the vaccine (because I had a similar headache the day before) or to the annoying work.

I took the next day off. A sick day. But I was fine. Maybe slow. Maybe more pain due to cramps. But I felt like myself. And felt like I was stronger. And the world was returning to normal, maybe?