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Make It Count

I am grateful for this pandemic. There. I said it. The one thing I never thought I’d hear myself say. For one thing, it has shown how truly fragile life is, just in case you didn’t already hear “life is short” a million times while growing up. For another, it has forced many of us to slow down, stop, and deeply analyze our lives. From. Every. Angle. It’s kind of like taking a good selfie. Kind of. There are big questions to ponder like who are my real friends? Am I doing what I really love or could I work towards doing something I truly love even more? But I think the biggest one is what happens after I go? Knowing that there is a possibility that your life may end sooner than you would like or thought forces you to think about what happens after you’re gone from this world. For some that brings joy and for others that thought is scary. Let’s not focus on that for a second though. Let’s focus on the living moment. You know how when you drink water you are helping your body eliminate toxins? I feel like this pandemic helped me to detox my life. I have thought about the kind of friend I want to be and the kind of friend I want to keep. As a result I have cut some friends out and re-connected with the ones I believe are worth having in my life. I have thought about everything I drink and eat. As a result I am kinder to my digestive system rather than abusing it. I have thought about getting over FOMO. As a result I have chosen hustling more over going out. I have many more examples, but my point is none of this would have happened so quickly for me if I hadn’t been forced to slow down due to this pandemic. So maybe I’m not necessarily grateful for this pandemic so much as I am grateful to be alive, to know that each day I get to open my eyes and get up is one more day I get the chance to become a better version of myself for the people around me.

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molting

It’s time to taste the wasabi. Get things moving along, motivated by the sting of spicy that burns. Bambi’s father wants you to get up off the ground before the fire chases you down. You are faster than this. Mufasa knew you are more than what you have become. You are better than this. Shang needs you to get down to business to defeat the Huns. You are stronger than this.

It’s time to taste the wasabi. Try something new. Be daring. Be bold. Be brave. Not yolo brave. Not that foolishness. That kind of brave will only get you into more trouble. You don’t want no beef. With anyone. Or anything. Make Mark Twain proud if he is the one who said that famous quote that everyone attributes to him or Abraham Lincoln. Spoiler alert: neither one said that quote.

It’s time to taste the wasabi. The taste has been acquired. You can let gravity do the work now and take you down the other side of the hill. You are almost there. The band aid can come off now. No squirrels in sight. The last rose petal has fallen just as Belle is able to turn you back into who you really are. Finally get that haircut and leave the tower that has held you back from living. The shoe fits and it has never felt better to be yourself again.

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the things you think at night

“Lights out at 10.” It’s been a long time since that’s happened. It’s my own fault really. I’d like it to be truly exactly 10:00 p.m. when I go to bed each night, especially on the weeknights, but it just doesn’t happen even though I know better. The problem is the alarm on my phone. I need it to wake me up because I haven’t gotten used to the alarm on my clock. You see, the time on my clock is a little faster than the accurate time on my phone so I don’t want to set an alarm on my clock. I end up relying on the alarm on my phone so I bring my phone to bed with me. That is a black hole of time right there when I should be catching some zzzz’s. I have this habit of checking my e-mails one last time, clearing out the junk folders, checking Twitter, and then heading over to YouTube to find a video that answers the question of the meaning of life. That usually include things like I wonder what avocado-based ice cream tastes like? Tom Brady likes that stuff and he is the master at keeping his body in shape so I must try that. I wonder what it would be like to be an emperor’s concubine? I don’t know if I could handle the pressures of being an emperor’s first wife. Man, God wouldn’t like to me have these thoughts! But it’s a part of my people’s history. I can’t just ignore it! I wonder if a crop top will go well with my new pants? Where would I wear a crop top anyway? I really need to find a better way to practice some of those high notes. I’ve got to stop being afraid of 5th position and beyond. I wonder if I could get the recipe for chocolate chip pancakes. There’s got to be some way to consume all those extra leftover chips.

I don’t even know why I do it as I’m pretty sure no YouTube video is ever going to answer that question for me, but it’s like I have to procrastinate sleeping so I can delay waking up so I can delay starting another work day or chore day, as if I can intentionally pause time before I start the next “hard” thing to do on my neverending list. Time moves on with or without me and I know this, yet I can’t resist the vampire apps on my phone. I must be insane because every time I do this, I know I’m going to have a hard time waking up on time and I’m going to be tired all day and find it hard to concentrate on anything I am working on. Yet I do it anyway. I don’t like the sleep-deprived feeling, yet it’s like I’m addicted to it. What I really need to do is go back to relying on the alarm on my clock and turn off all alarms on my phone. I may be up a little earlier than I had planned, but at least it’ll mean I won’t let my phone apps suck all my time away. A girl needs her beauty sleep or she’ll wake up a beast.

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these rain things

I have never danced in the rain. I have never kissed anyone in the rain. I have always thought I’m capable of these things though, that I’m the kind of girl that could do these things. I couldn’t even tell you why except for the one day I woke up and decided whatever I was going to be, I was going to be different from everybody else. That’s it. But now there’s TV shows and movies that feature people doing these exact rain things so even if I do these things now it won’t mean anything. Is the purpose we feel alive when we do something we know has absolutely never been done before? With so many people in the world though, how do you know if you are doing something no one has ever done before? Who would be the person you could tell you did that very thing? And even if you found that person, could you trust them? Gossip grows like an untamed wildfire and there’s nothing worse than ruining your reputation. No amount of hard work can undo something like that. I guess these rain things can normally be seen as romantic, like the kind of romantic you find in relationships, not the languages kind. (I hate it when a guy I’m talking to and just talking to, thinks I mean the relationship kind and not the languages kind.) But what about dancing in the rain out of pure joy? What about kissing in the rain just because the moment calls for it? I’m going to venture to say these rain things are more acts of happiness rather than romance. They look like good ideas in TV shows and movies, but practically speaking, there’s a part of me that imagines the flip side—one where I would catch a cold or something from doing these things. Plus TV and movies only show the up side of things, not the everyday dull moments or the bad side of things. We need to be embracing when it comes to the everyday things we do, making them just as exciting as moments that qualify for dancing in the rain.

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livin’ it up

It has been brought to my attention the idea of “going back to normal.” Now now kids. I’m not sure anyone has ever defined what normal is. If someone has, I haven’t heard of it. Is normal just a time when face masks were not required? Social distancing was not required? Hugging allowed? Touching in general allowed? To be honest, even if we achieve herd immunity and it’s relatively safe to go outside again without a mask on, I might wear a mask anyway for the rest of my life. The number of flu cases have gone down is just one reason. But besides that, is normal going about your day-to-day business without thinking about how your actions may affect someone else’s life? Do we really have to wait until someone we know passes away to be more vigilant with washing our hands and watching when we touch our faces? If that’s normal I don’t know if I want to go back to it. In fact, I’d venture to say that normal doesn’t stay the same all the time. Its definition changes as life changes. Maybe wearing a mask and social distancing is the new normal. We may not like the new normal, but we have no choice but to accept it. The alternative is something we don’t want to think about, but happens to everyone no matter what you believe in.

So I don’t think I want to go back to normal. I would rather accept the normal I am in right now and make the best of the situation. If we can save lives by wearing masks and social distancing and washing our hands, I’d say that’s a small price to pay to make sure other people can enjoy this life. But if we can do that, we can also quit smoking so no one has to die from lung cancer from secondhand smoke. And if we can do that we can quit sleeping around with anyone who is not our current spouse to prevent the spread of STDs and heartache. We can learn to communicate better with each other, not just clearly, but honestly. We can learn to share what has been given to us so no one goes hungry or becomes a drug addict as a result. We can learn to clean up after ourselves so the proper items we consume are recycled, reduced, and reused so we not only take care of our neighbors, but our beautiful planet. Lofty goals? Maybe. Attainable? I00%.

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birthday melancholy

 

It’s my birthday month. No, it doesn’t mean I celebrate myself for a whole 31 days. It just means my birthday lands on a day this month that is between 1 and 31 and can be equal to or greater than 1 or equal to or less than 31. 😉

As you can see from my photographic evidence, on my birthday this year my mom made me a birthday non-alcoholic beverage that was kind of like a virgin mojito. There is honey, mint and lemon in it and it is delicious. She also bought me a tiramisu cake. I got some ‘happy birthday’ texts/e-mails/birthday cards from a couple of friends/co-workers. Then I went out and redeemed my birthday freebies from Panera, B&B Theatres, and Sephora. Finally, I branded myself with a temporary tat just because. The free pastry I tried this year from Panera was the Bear Claw and I paired it with a caffè mocha. Both were fantastically yummy and bitter and sweet in all the right places at all the right times of consumption. No joke. I am looking forward to the day I get this combo again on a non-birthday day. I got to share my free large popcorn from B&B Theatres with my mom and she didn’t want any of the free soda, so I had a free large Dr. Pepper to myself. (In case you were wondering, I was not able to finish all of that soda.) At some point I will try my free birthday cream I got from Sephora. All in all, it was an enjoyable pandemic birthday.

BUT it also lead to my birthday melancholy. And I’m not talking about the virus. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I’m not the kind of person who absolutely has to have a birthday party with all that jazz. I’m simply making some observations about birthdays. Just want to make that clear. I do have a lot to be grateful for, but I went through my annual birthday melancholy because the last couple of years it has become a barometer for who are the friends in my life who truly care about me. The measurement was who would remember my birthday on their own and simply wish me a ‘happy birthday.’ It sounds stupid, but that was the only measurement, despite the fact that I know I have friends who are just bad at remembering birthdays, but have been there for me throughout the other days of the year.

What brought this melancholy on was Facebook. There’s an option on Facebook to put your birthdate and then on your birthday you would at least get a ton of messages pouring in from your Facebook friends due to the Facebook reminder. But I’m stubborn and chose not to follow the trend and so decided not to post my birthdate on my Facebook. My thought process is I don’t want to get ‘happy birthday’ messages on Facebook as a way for people to have a cheap reminder for when it is my birthday, therefore not “counting.” So when I get a text or e-mail instead, I’ll know this friend took the time to remember my birthday on their own or maybe they wrote it down somewhere on their personal calendar or something. The point is it’s more personal this way than Facebook. I know I’ll get a lot more birthday wishes if I put it on Facebook, but when I don’t without the Facebook reminder, that’s when the sadness sets in and turns into melancholy. I know it’s silly to feel this way, but that’s how I’ve been feeling every year on my birthday now.

It’s so weird because I look back on my past birthdays and I know I’m feeling this because I used to get several texts and even birthday hangouts where a group of us girls who all had birthdays in July would go out and do something fun together to celebrate. That was in my 20s. Before that I had birthday parties and birthday dinners with my closest friends. I guess in my head I start wondering what happened to those friends and those days. So this year I wanted to take a picture of everything I got to treat myself on my birthday and I got to thinking if I lose every single friend I ever have one day, at the very least I have a way I can celebrate on my own. Because no matter what, I will always support myself to live, to keep going, to keep trying to make sense of this crazy thing we call life, whether there’s a Facebook reminder for that or not.

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The Best Medicine

I once read in, I think, Reader’s Digest, that laughter is the best medicine. But then one day I quoted it to one of my friends in college during my depression phase when he didn’t know I was depressed and he responded with, “but nobody here is sick.” He caught me off guard so I agreed without thinking and when he looked into my eyes I think he could tell there was something more going on with me than I was letting on. He frowned in recognition of my pain and mental self-torture. For a split second when my friend could see right through me like that all I wanted to do was scream at the top of my lungs, like that would solve every problem going on in my head, fictional or real. I didn’t scream, but I really wanted to. Yet, for that split second, having that understanding was the only medicine I needed. My friend didn’t know it at the time, but I realized in that moment that while laughter is a great form of medicine, sometimes comfort is the best.

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blissful birds tell all

Black birds like to wait for the rain to go foraging for worms in the grass. They go when it’s falling and right after it stops. That’s the best time to see them act territorial or I would have never guessed they are like that. Each one claims their own grassy area and when another black bird gets too close, the first one chases the second one away.

Worms come up out of the ground, ready to escape the water that is drowning them. That’s when they go out of the frying pan into the fire, right into a black bird’s beak. The little goslings are out now too. I can see families of four goslings or eight swim together, one adult parent goose on each end. Geese honk at each other and chase each other away. Even though they are upset with each other, I think that’s their way of having fun in the sun. They are territorial as well, maybe even more so than the black birds. But I am not an ornithologist. I don’t know for sure.

The heron creeps along like an old man (no offense to anyone reading this that is actually an old man, I don’t mean it in any negative way, just as a description) and fishes in the pond. It’s like a pickaxe in the way it hunts. Meanwhile, hawks fly way above, searching for prey. Life goes on as per usual for these birds because they know not of this diabolical virus even though it can spread from animal to animal and from humans to animals and from animals to humans. Ignorance is truly bliss.

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feeling like a real writer at YALLSTAYHOME a.k.a. YALLWest

I have not felt more at home than I did this past weekend during YALLSTAYHOME. It is normally called YALLWest and would have taken place at Santa Monica, but due to the coronavirus, it became YALLSTAYHOME in the format of several consecutive Zoom meetings. Attendees could pick and register for the specific meeting they wanted to attend and registration could include entering to win some of the fun book giveaways if so desired. YALLWest is the sister festival to YALLFest and both festivals are celebrations of the reading and writing world, with a focus on YA authors. I registered for as many panels I was interested in, but due to my schedule, I was not able to attend all the ones I registered for. However, cross my fingers that because I registered, later I will get a link to each recorded session. Hoping for the best here, guys!

Anyway, the whole festival ran from Friday, April 24 – Sunday, April 26 and here are the panels I registered for: Fierce Friday: Create Your Own Fantasy Story, I Read YA@Home, Opening Ceremony + Keynote, Creativity in the Time of Corona, Modern Magic Worldbuilding, This American Experience, PM Keynote with Brandon Sanderson, YALLSTAYHOME Smackdown, Suckage is Part of Writing, Remember High School?, and Writing Empathy. There were so many others as well that I did not register for just because I did not have room in my schedule! There were so many authors there including Marie Lu, Julie Buxbaum, Leah Johnson, Marisa Kanter, Bill Konigsberg, Alex London, Samuel Miller, Zan Romanoff, Tara Sim, Angie Thomas, Maggie Tokuda-Hall, and F.C. Yee.

I have got to say, I want to read all of their books!! And…I felt like Belle when she opens her eyes for the first time inside Beast’s library. With each panel I learned all about each author’s background and writing journey and in the case of Brandon Sanderson, got to meet his pet macaw as well. With each panel I learned the struggle is real during this pandemic. Many authors feel that it is harder to write staying inside all the time. I learned stuff like you can build a world based off of your main character’s needs and it’s important to write your truth and teens go to novels as a form of escape, some making more friends with the characters in the books than in real life and there is a now a lot more representation from Asian authors to Muslim authors to queer authors to biracial authors. A lot of times someone becomes an author because they weren’t reading books with their race or culture represented, so they became the first to write that representation. That is awesome!

It was also awesome to finally experience the Smackdown. I had read about it beforehand and I really looked forward to it. The Smackdown did not disappoint: Dumbledope and Snape Dog were there for starters, and it kicked off with a Cards Against Humanity type of game and I only just learned how to play this game a couple months ago, pre-coronavirus and a Harry Potter version, no less. Let me tell you there is nothing more LOL than this game. There was another segment a lot like MTV Cribs and then a Pet Roast and finally a dance party at the end. Once coronavirus is over this festival is definitely on my top ten list of places want to go to for real.

Finally, noticing there are a lot more Asian authors out there now made me feel comforted and happy and giddy. I seriously could not stop smiling. Then I noticed how welcoming and inviting and safe these panels were. It didn’t matter what someone’s background was, everyone was open to listening to everyone’s stories and where they came from and how they got into writing. I realized writing = life. There’s going to be racism, suicide, queer life, privileged life, and everything else in between in stories and everyone accepts this as is. Many of the authors mentioned inspiration can come from anywhere and even talked about how writing can get so hard sometimes you end up playing a video game instead of writing sometimes. I could not agree more. I love how relatable each of the panels were and I truly felt right at home. I left the festival with a feeling I’ve known all along and just needed a little reminder: This, reading and writing and talking about reading and writing until the cows come home, is the community I belong in.

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everything in between is missed

Audits. Now there’s a fun word. It’ll set people off like insane overtime the first three months or so of the year for some. That being said, I’m sure many companies require employees to take annual tests that they have to pass to be fully aware of all the companies’ policies, procedures, protocols, and the like, like security training and what have you to be able to stay in business. But all trigger words aside, this workweek I took a security training on phishing, malware, passwords, WiFi security, and the like and it made me think about all the hackers and launderers out there who find it their right to take other people’s hard-earned living right out of their bank accounts. If you have that kind of brain and time on your hands, you have that kind of time to work for your own hard-earned living at something that’s actually legal. Hmph.

It must go back to society’s love for instant gratification. There’s a nod to all the kids who liked to cheat on tests. Why do all the hard work of studying night after night for two whole weeks when you can just show up on the day of the test and copy off of the genius next to you? We have instant noodles with 1,000% sodium because why would you want to go through all the trouble of collecting ingredients, chopping, dicing, spicing and putting all raw edibles into a pot or wok and turn on the stove and cook something that is fresh, to your taste, and not about to cause hypertension or clog your arteries? All for the love of instant gratification. I think the only thing people don’t want instant gratification for is playing video games. What’s the fun in starting a game expecting to encounter dragons and collecting coins and having only three lives and getting eaten by a hippo and all that jazz only to end up at the ultimate level already having skipped over all those obstacles? Nada! That wouldn’t be a very fun game at all.

Yet hackers and launderers exist, oh my! So maybe those things are not all connected, BUT the point is I don’t get why people have to be so evil and selfish like that. Why would you do it? Why would you prey on the innocent? The thing in common with all these scenarios is people like avoiding or skipping all the “boring” parts and going straight to the “fun” parts. The truth is we have to go through all the “boring” parts to get to the “fun” parts to make the “fun” parts worthwhile. But people don’t want to go through the “boring” parts because those parts are boring. A lot of times they are hard to go through and nobody likes difficult tasks unless the payoff at the end is truly rewarding. So it becomes this sickly merry-go-round of working hard vs. reaping the rewards vs. skipping straight to the reaping rewards part.

Every day we wake up and have many decisions to make. Press play. Press stop. Press rewind. Press fast forward if you have to. But whatever you do, don’t press skip.