2020: One Moment

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

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.

Sometimes when I look back at moments where I thought that I would be very alive—reading my own work, successfully planning some event and relishing the praise, talking to someone (who I think that I am getting closer to), or being in very social connected moments…it feels disconnected. I don’t feel quite in my body. I don’t feel like myself. Like I had concocted all of it as if it was meant to be perfect and designed. But the feelings aren’t there.

Instead in the past year of many things, I don’t know what that moment was. It likely was a quieter moment where I successfully created something. Bread. A story. Growing tomatoes. Holiday video. The aliveness is barely social. The aliveness is just the pleasure of being me and there.

Last year, I realized that this question is simply a synonym for “when you were the happiest?” Which directly I would answer as when I could stay at home. Which is the complete opposite of everything that everyone else wanted. I literally am tired of performing. And yet, my antisocial tendencies are coming out.

Perhaps it is the moments when I wake up and think “I don’t have to go anywhere today.” Maybe it’s the creation of a video as I always enjoyed. The fact that I can create something and send it out to the video.

It’s rather interesting that I am so drawn to creation. That just like so many years, I was so excited about creating any video. That as my energy goes into creating, developing it, editing, and everything…that it still makes me so happy.

2020: 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.

This year. This year. This year. I think that I could easily say the same thing as last year, expectations. But honestly, I actually didn’t have strong expectations due to Chris’ PCS. Of course, I had hoped to travel for work. I had some aspirations of going to a writing workshop in a faroff place like…Portland! But of course, as things went this year, none of that happened.

The things that I definitely let go of…is UNCOMFORTABLE PANTS.

Like pants with pockets. For years, I refused to wear jeans, but I was FORCED to wear them, because everyone wore them. Also, because they had pockets, so it was easier to carry the phone AND that stupid badge thingie. But now, of course, I don’t need it! Because the space is so small that why would I need pockets!

It is very likely like it happened during my first month that I would leave my phone somewhere and forget where and frantically look for it.

Whomp whomp.

Okay, so bigger meaning from the letting go of pockets. I just love the fact that I have my own personal space. The fact that I can dress pretty much however I want. And if I have a spill, well I can clean it up because nobody is watching!!! And if I gotta go, then I gotta go with nobody watching! I love the privacy. Years ago, I would have thought…well I can take a nap anytime, but I actually don’t. I just like taking long breaks! But the privacy!

2020: 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.

The most obvious thing that’s getting in the way is the fact that my creative space that was meant to be my writing space was suddenly turned into my office space. Earlier this year, I had taken a job at a big company in order to relieve any work-related feelings at home and to make it so that it felt truly creative here. And yet, it all vanished when I had to find a way to keep WLB going.

This year though after doing not just one but two writing workshops/programs, also taking MANY classes, AND getting not just one but two writing groups…I would say that I have accomplished a lot in that realm. I had hoped to revise my novel, but I did finish a full draft earlier this year (before the pandemic). But the subsequent draft has barely moved that much beyond the so-so attempt as part of nanowrimo, but I got 50,000 words done!

Each day, sometimes I worry about things. And that worry turns into browsing the internet and trying to find an answer. Quite often, the browsing doesn’t turn into anything. So if that’s the case, then it’s not the room. It’s the behavior that needs changing.

2020: One Word

One Word. Encapsulate the year in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2020 for you?

From years past: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010

The one word that captures this year:
Grief

Maybe it’s because I am writing two prose pieces that have to do with grieving. One about how my grandmother passed away last year and its effect (and primarily its lack of effect) on me. The other to do with things I miss that will be gone and things I don’t miss. With grief in the pieces’ title, that word is so omnipresent.

It’s ironic, though, because I typically write these entries about a word that is uplifting from resilience to understanding. But how can I really summarize this year? If the pandemic didn’t happen in the way that it did, I probably would say something like comfort or authenticity or truth, because of all the feelings that I can truly be myself since I am at home so much without worrying about what other people think of me. And yet.

I grieve for the loss of the businesses, for the loss of art, for others’ hope and dreams dashed. And at the same time, I know that I am comforted by so many things—I am so free, but that comes out of being in a privileged place and how can I say this in the face of tragedy? How can I say that I am so glad not to have to hug when everyone else is falling apart due to no touch? How can I say that I love sleeping in my own bed when businesses, cities, countries are decimated by the lack of tourism? I am troubled because I am one person and I can’t celebrate my own happiness in face of so much despair. It feels inappropriate. And yet. There’s a ring of truth, isn’t it?

I hear stories of people. Everyday. The struggle of not seeing a loved one. The loss of a dream business. The slow death. They tear my heart. And yet I couldn’t shed a tear for my grandmother. The internal conflict is too much. I grieve for people I don’t know, but I can’t grieve for my own.

Or maybe the word is numbness. I am perfectly happy wearing a mask even beyond the mandatory order. I am perfectly happy seeing nobody. I am perfectly happy cooking, cleaning, etc. on my own. I isolate myself, but everything else is still…there. I am here.

Last year I thought this year’s word would be Gratitude. It could be. But I have been cynical of it late. Is it gratitude if it’s I am grateful that my family didn’t ask me to come to Thanksgiving or I am grateful that my family respects social distancing and mask wearing? I remember earlier sharing that as a gratitude “ice breaker” during a meeting, but it felt like a downer. But I couldn’t help it.

Well next year, another word. I am not in dire straits, so it can’t possibly be survival. But I really hope that it’s hope.

2020: Travel

I mean, this is the most 2020 post of my yearly reflections. But here we go!

How did you travel in 200? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

In 2019, I made a big trip to Japan and many domestic trips to Phoenix, Portland, and New York. In 2018, I traveled very domestically, mostly local for retreats in Ukiah, Scotts Valley, and Big Sur. Then San Diego for a work thing. And a trip to Squaw Valley. And a crazy long adventure through Chicago and New York. In 2017, I traveled to Minnesota for work, LA twice for “fun”, Las Vegas for a not-so-good fun, and Thailand/Myanmar! Also somehow forgot to mention Cincinnati for MidwestUX! And did I forgot to mention Phoenix? In 2016, I traveled to Finland/Sweden for my first big speaking gig, Portland for a “bachelorette” party, road trip to LA for my sister’s wedding, and Minnesota for work. In 2015, I went to Brazil for a conference, multiple work trips, and a midwest trip. In 2014, I went on multiple weekend trips, increased business trips, and found a destination for ice cream and writing. In 2013, I finished off the bulk of the travel for the Ice Cream Travel Guide. In 2012, I started the journey of a life and went to what I thought was unfathomable (in my life) — six domestic destinations and eight international destinations — for professional and personal reasons. In 2011, I went on one international trip, one domestic…and one super local. In 2010, I went on one international trip and multiple domestic trips.

In 2020, I went locally:

  • writing retreat in Scotts Valley
  • overnight in Avila Beach, because a friend broke up with his girlfriend and his reservation was nonrefundable
  • day trip to Orr Hot Springs (so yes I did predict this!)
  • day trip to Brentwood to pick fruit
  • day trips to visit my parents…like three times
  • and a few times that I cannot remember anymore in January and February to somewhere in the Bay Area
  • Literally, nowhere.

    Around this time last year, I was in the midst of getting a new job. I did get that new job which I knew would send me to New York and potentially work-related destinations like Europe or Asia. But nothing of that sort happened. Plus there was the issue of Chris’ post concussion syndrome which meant that I had been reluctant to travel without him since things are just better with him.

    Of course, the pandemic happened. Not that I had anything planned, but I hoped to visit Phoenix to see my sister (barring that issue with the BIL), visit Spain and Japan for work…and having gotten into a writing workshop, Portland. And who knows what else! Part of me is grateful for the pause, because I had begun to hate the idea of airplanes, a recent inability to sleep in a bed that’s not mine (I like my 600+ thread count sheets and my pillow and perfect temperature), and just the headache of planning. But still, the excitement of discovery which was the thing I enjoyed the most…is gone.

    When I think of next year, I think of hope of course. But where do I really want to travel? I want to travel to places with discovery. New York. Japan. I want to see my sister. The spots that I have always wanted to visit—New Zealand, Singapore, Korea. But really, I have no idea really. It’s all a matter of whether I want to do it in the first place.

    2020: Entertainment

    There’s way too much to say about 2020. But let’s start with the basics. Entertainment helped so much to pass the time. For those who were privileged for a safe environment.

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

    Movies I Saw

    It’s even more tough to say much about it this year since…we couldn’t see anything due to Chris’ incident then the PANDEMIC happened. But here we go

    • We Bare Bears: The Movie
    • The Invisible Man
    • Borat: Subsequent Movefilm
    • Cuties
    • Midsommar

    TV Shows I Watched

    • Lovecraft County
    • Devs
    • The Baby-Sitters Club
    • I May Destroy You
    • Queen’s Gambit

    Books I Read

    • Minor Feelings
    • Interior Chinatown
    • There There
    • Her Body and Other Stories
    • The Vanishing Half

    Ways to Pass the Time

    • Taking yet another writing class
    • Listening podcasts about covid, the election and Trump
    • Reading news, which is related to the previous one
    • Telling Chris to clean up
    • Unsubscribing from emails

    Technology

    The worst part of this…is that it’s another way to pass the time

    • House Party
    • Facebook Rooms (only because I supported some of its work)
    • Zoom and all the creative ways to adapt IRL things (yes, in the worst way possible)
    • Google Home
    • Animal Crossing and visiting islands!

    We waited for almost 2 hours in trying to have a tradition

    It started with…nothing.

    For years, Thanksgiving was a blank slate to me. Or at least something that other families celebrated with a large table, many family members from grandparents to aunts to uncles to cousins to second cousins to first cousins once removed, and a roasted turkey.

    I don’t know if I ever had a turkey until my late teens when my dad “accidentally” brought us to a church where they were serving (free) Thanksgiving meals. When we walked in, I realized immediately that the meals were for the needy. We weren’t in need. The only needy thing was that we didn’t have Thanksgiving. Because my mom worked on Thanksgiving, not because she needed to, but because she chose to for the overtime. We didn’t need the overtime pay, but the lure was enough.

    When my aunt and uncle moved to the Bay Area in my late twenties, we suddenly had an annual Thanksgiving meal like the ones I had seen on screen. They had formed a close-knit community at their church in the suburbs of Chicago and brought that tradition with them to my family. My parents had never formed bonds like that.

    And this year, even though I never formed bonds, I missed it. Although I had gripes—mostly of the familial kind—a sharp divide between conservative and liberal viewpoints, how all women in the family (including myself) would try to one-up each other in dish-making, and awkward showmanship of bragging throughout the year.

    Chris and I stood in line then at the House of Prime Rib instead. Orders (rather than the half or full prime rib) had to be taken in person. Chris had been against the whole idea because he believed that things like this should be eaten in person, but I insisted that this wouldn’t be around for awhile. And how long will this last? How long will his PCS last? I had initially thought that the line was going to be short. Maybe 10 minutes before ordering. But as we pulled up on Van Ness, I realized that no, it stretched down the block and once I got out, I saw that it stretched further than that, snaking down Polk Street. I jogged to the end.

    This is where I want to describe the hopes and dreams dashed. It’s San Francisco of course so (I think) everyone wore masks. Most were Asian. Giggles rumbled through the crowd as we couldn’t believe that we were waiting. I messaged Chris to go pick up some time-passing materials—the Switch, a kindle, an extra phone. What else would we do on Thanksgiving? Would we do everything that we always did?

    I have constantly been wondering why I panic at the idea of full reopening, with no restrictions. The feeling that now people can see me in full without a mask, for some reason, terrifies me. The fact that I am expected to be within six feet of other people scares me. The fact that I’ll have to talk to more strangers, more acquaintances…when I find myself struggling to even order and come up words…generates anxiety.

    The chilly San Francisco winter air froze my fingers as I read on my kindle and the words blurred. I finally acqueised to Chris’ suggestions to sit in the car while he stood in line without any jacket. I told myself that I was weak for not being able to brave fifty degree weather.

    There’s something tragic about the line. The way that we were there to get prime rib steaks, hastily blurted at the order after temperature checks and before a plastic divider to the host. A sign listed out the desserts and I threw in a cheesecake. Then we sat in the dining room—everything heavily spaced apart. A server calls my name “Jennifer? Jennifer?”

    “Is that me?” I say, unsure since there’s a lot of Jennifers.

    She brings the black tray with my card and it feels like I am in a restaurant again. But the bottom half of our face is hidden. I have entered the frame of thanking. I write in the gratuity and it feels almost normal as I calculate the total and sign, turning over the receipt. Music plays. I know that the restaurant has been outfitted with a state of the art HVAC system and I can feel the air blowing across my now unshivering fingers.

    We later pull out the boxes from the bag—both King Henry cuts. I had it seared with creamed corn. Chris had added fixings to his mashed potatoes and extra horseradish. The boxes take up more than half of the dining room table with containers for sour cream, green onions, mild and spicy horseradish, bacon crumbles, the two steaks, gravy, au jus, and the separated container for Yorkshire pudding, our chosen side, and mashed potatoes.

    We were alone and ate quietly into the night.

    We waited four years for this

    “We” meaning…well you know.
    It’s hours before polls close across the United States. And it’s days, possibly weeks, or even months (?) before we’ll know the full count.

    Because I have a lot of privilege—an ethnicity that isn’t constantly underserved, a full-time job that gave us the space today, a foundation that allows me soooo many things—I admit that I have been holding a calm with a tinge of anxiety. But early yesterday morning, I was startled with the realization that there’s so much hinging on the election.

    It’s not that I believe that things will suddenly heal right after the election or that things get worse. But it’s just that…I am just tired. I am tired of so much, trying to have an opinion, trying to be that woke person, trying to be an activist. Trying all of that while also having my own personal goals. But it’s because I have a small hope that things will go back to before. I do realize that nothing will go back to before. Everything has been stolen from us due to so many factors. Yes the pandemic. Yes the way the president responded to the pandemic. Yes all the things that I found out about my so-called friends. Yes to all of that.

    It’s simply awful.

    I came across a post from 2008 when I talked about my voter apathy. About how my voting was inconsistent. About how I was uninformed about positions so I didn’t vote! And how looking back, I can’t even see myself doing any of that. I must go out to vote. When I read that post to Chris, he was appalled—that sounds like one of those voters. But that’s me, I said, in 2008. The fact is, there probably is so many versions of me. Even if there are people who are voting for the president, many aren’t even voting for their local propositions or their local leaders, because there’s not information.

    I am standing here in my “office” while I should be working. I am listening to the Daily Podcast. Michael Barbabao is on his live podcast talking about THE needle as some polls start to close. “Some people love the needle. Some people hate the needle.”

    I have no idea what will happen next. I remember sitting in the living room at Noelle’s apartment watching media coverage completely unaware that Trump was going to win. I saw the states turning red and…I couldn’t speak…I tweeted out later “No words :(”

    I hope that doesn’t happen today.

    When the people who matter can only see your head to the top of your shoulders

    What’s the point of coordinating anything below? Why wear coordinating pants? Why wear something that looks right when you stand up? Why wear tight jeans to match with your billowy blouse?

    What’s the point of the beauty standards that we all had to abide? Especially women? Why have manicured nails and toenails? Why even shave?

    They always say that it’s to please ourselves, not to please others. But it never pleased me to begin with, because it’s swallowed by expectations. I don’t need to answer to anybody, but only myself.

    Missed Moments Inventory

    March

  • Friend’s birthday party at a brewery
  • Local plant swap
  • Color party
  • Garage sale at outdoors store
  • 2-day work team building event for senior-level roles for my function along the coast
  • Leading a workshop at a health hackathon
  • Annual women’s bike ride
  • Local plant exchange
  • April

  • May

  • Birthday party
  • June

  • Work trip to Spain or Portugal
  • July

  • A writing conference in Oregon
  • A writing conference in Florida
  • August

  • A writing conference in Vermont
  • Work trip to New York
  • September