Shoebox Confessional: Part H

Dear reader,

If I wanted to break my current form and make the title of this post more eye-catching (read: clickbait-y), it would be called “How to Lose a Friend in 10 Years.” Additional subtitle: how I, a coddled millennial, learned that good things don’t last forever. But people would expect a list-icle, and this is not one. 

It wouldn’t be a very long and annoying listicle though. The only item on it would be: time. Its eroding power isn’t something I learned about recently, but I always try to forget it. Deny it, if I’m being honest, as somehow for me, the dissolution of friendships is even less pleasant than romantic breakups. Maybe because I’ve learned that friendship is the foundation to any relationship. That’s really all there is to it.

Thank you,

J Wang


The story I used to tell people about how we met was that I was mesmerized by your skirt when you first walked into our high school Japanese class. Some might consider this an expected, maybe even cliché, entry way into a female friendship. Taking gender out of the equation though, the piece you wore would’ve been a work of art in anyone’s eyes. When you stood, the cotton material fell almost to your slim ankles, so unlike mine, and unfurled visions of tropical splendor, the brushstrokes of the leaf and hut prints delicate yet evocative of another pace of life. I can see now how it might’ve appeared to be an item made for tourists, but no. The way you carried yourself in it suggested it had more meaning and maybe even a history, that it was a treasured heirloom. But to you whom I’d known for a minute up until then, I’d simply said, “I love your skirt.” And that was enough. You welcomed the compliment and soon, me. A new friend.

But technically, you had not been totally unknown to me. A few days before, I’d seen you when I stepped onto the ice to begin another session of struggling to master moves for my next figure skating test. You’d zoomed by, unafraid of your speed and potentially colliding with the other skaters, a foil to my cautious self. I admired that but really it was more so your lack of hesitation to assert that you had arrived, a new face here to stay. And after we’d shared chips dipped in your mom’s guacamole, study sessions that were too short but maybe also too long thanks to our goofing off, and shifts working together in the rink’s pro shop, I wanted you to. 

And you did. Through my ambivalence and “hater” period, when you successfully convinced me that prom must not be missed. Through the greatest surprise of my life, when you brought me back down to earth and assured me that it was true: I would be going to a college few get into and few thought I could get into, including myself. And shortly after, through the most painful, unexpected grief I’ve experienced, even though you could not be with me in person. In your stead, an arrangement of white flowers shaped like a puppy arrived at my door. The delivery man did not know what depths he’d pulled me out of. That you’d pulled me out of.

We would be forever friends, I’d thought. So many people dream of finding their true romantic love, but for an only child like me, our kind of bond was my unspoken wish. A sister before misters. Unoriginal and oversimplified, but I clung to the phrase. Near the end of college, during which we kept in touch over separate continents thanks to that relic Skype, I thought back to an article that had made its way around the internet, saying that if a friendship lasts seven years, it was likely to last forever. I counted up our years: by the time we graduated with our bachelor’s degrees, we would be firmly over that mythical line. A wish realized. Even better, soon you’d be back in the same country after our diplomas were in hand.

For a year or two afterwards, reality and fantasy were one and the same. We were both working adults with some amount of discretionary income to use as we pleased. Over one long-awaited three-day weekend, we reunited in the happiest place on earth. Riding with the top of your convertible down, my heart flew. We had made it back to each other. Our sixteen-year-old selves could not have imagined the lives we’d created. 

There was my error. I marveled at our present through the lens of the past, while you must have already begun to move on to a future without me. Seven, eight, nine, we climbed but didn’t make it to ten. Monthly calls turned into biannual turned into no more. Then, I learned, secondhand, that you’d wanted to exclude me.

So recently I’ve found different evidence to sustain me: one study found that most friendships don’t last more than seven years. With that in mind I can say we had a good run. Above the average, enough to celebrate and little to regret. 

Maybe we’ll be in the same place again someday, or the same context, the more technical term. There could be something else of yours that I’ll love. But you can be assured, it’s not a new wish of mine. I have no more claim on you than you on me now.

Old friend, love you, too.

Shoebox Confessional: Part A

Dear reader,

The confessional that started this series was about an old romantic relationship. This one is about a friendship, and I surprised myself by writing a longer piece for it than the first one about feelings unspoken.

Actually, I talk about feelings unspoken here, too, but unfortunately they’re of the more petty type.

I’ve kept this letter shorter because I won’t lie, writing the confessional itself was hard enough. However, confronting the hurt I’d caused, when I haven’t articulated it so fully before, was a necessary form of self-flagellation. Maybe there is no need to publish this, but I was inspired again by an NPR podcast I listened during the past week. The episode is here and called “Do Self-Help Books Actually…Help?” Kristen Meinzer, one of the women involved in a social experiment of living by self-help books, explained that displaying the results and struggles of the experiment helped to create a community. She was able to see that people connect through vulnerability, and so she felt that if she “can start that dialogue by being shockingly vulnerable at times, that’s awesome.”

This is hard to do in practice for so many reasons, including cultural and psychological factors. But it’s a noble goal, and I couldn’t agree more.

Thank you,

J Wang

P.S. I should’ve explained sooner, but the person’s first initial is what I’m using to name each part in this series. It’s TBD as to how I’ll deal with same first initials. I’ll probably add their last name initial, still keeping it anonymous enough.


I know I lost you, A, because I forgot how to be generous. The same kind of generous as when I don’t hesitate to donate three hundred dollars for refugee aid but also don’t broadcast my contribution to family, friends, or strangers. Until now, that is. Perhaps this is the issue. Maybe I didn’t forget how to be generous because I never knew. After all, this need to be recognized for how good I’m being—or more specifically, how much good I’m doing by someone—is the complete opposite of a genuine giving spirit and who a friend should be. I’m a fraud or was, as I like to think, but not anymore. Even though I view myself as having improved in this aspect, if only to preserve the remaining friendships I have now in my mid-twenties, it doesn’t mean I get you back. I don’t really deserve to. 

We found each other on the ice, and then had so much to share off the ice. In a population of our fellow tween figure skaters who found us offbeat for not sharing their love for One Direction or Justin Bieber—baby, baby, baby, ooh, be damned—you were my lifeline. We both liked anime before Michael B. Jordan being a fan of it made it cool. You shared with me your earliest versions of singer-songwriter style tracks, not fully formed but I found them incredible anyway, given my untouched music composition notebook. I put together poor imitations of outfits I’d seen in Teen Vogue and served as your photography study. 

With you, I could be my full weird.

How stupid it was, then, for me to resent you over some money. This was a hazard of friendships crossing into adulthood that no one had warned me about. In any case, hindsight is not twenty-twenty. Hindsight is being able to objectively see what happened between us but still not comprehend why I could convince myself to think so poorly of someone I’d shared my tweenhood with. How I could not be giving with what I had, like you always had for me, even if it was only time that you could afford to give.

After months of anticipation and saving up for your Los Angeles visit, you and your flight finally landed at LAX. I remember feeling like the night was forgiving for summertime, and how maybe that was what kept people’s tempers cool in the notorious traffic circling the LAX terminals. Making LAX trips was an act of love, the local pop radio station hosts often joked, and I still agree. I’d been able to at least keep that self-congratulating quip to myself.

You had made a list of the things you wanted to see and places where you wanted to eat and take photos of. I had helped vet and curate, using my extensive three years of experience in the sprawl of LA as a guide. I offered to add Disneyland to your joy, using up the last free passes I had saved from my former job. You were staying at my place, minimizing your costs, and since I had a car and did drive, I’d be driving us everywhere. I understood my role as a hostess. And as a thank you, early on in your trip planning, you had promised to treat me when we got to the Korean barbecue item on the list. It sounded like enough. It should’ve been. 

At the time of your visit, I was back to searching for full-time jobs after spending a year trying to be a writer, living a cliche. You’d been there for me through it all, giving feedback on passages of my mediocre novel and listening, or reading, my venting in the messages I sent: sometimes a torrent of clips, sometimes bigger blocks of frustration. And I didn’t just come to you about my novel. The stupid ubiquity of unprotected left turns in LA. The confusing parking restriction signs, one stacked on top of another, so how I was supposed to make a call while navigating a busy street? There may be a more technical term for it, but I can say I was generous in this crap way. 

I’d known my risk of failure was high, but the living of it, trying to get out of it, and sitting through traffic getting to tutoring jobs to survive it changed how I saw things, and in uncharitable ways. The days I spent with you weren’t paid vacation days. (I know they weren’t for you either, though I couldn’t see past myself at the time.) When I had to tutor a client during your visit and dropped you off at the movies, I breathed a sigh of relief, alone in my car again, even though before your visit, that kind of loneliness and the romance to it had long faded away for me. 

For all the years we’d been friends up until then, I should’ve been able to admit all this to you at some point during the week you were with me. Instead I stayed tight-lipped and acted my way through it badly—as in, not good at it. You saw through me earlier on and asked if anything was wrong. If you’d known, you may have pitched in more. Even if after my admission you couldn’t though, at worst you’d just see me as a cheap hostess. At best, we’d still have an open line between us, and I wouldn’t be writing this now.

I had a narrow fixation on what it meant to give. You had already helped me so much, and I wanted more. I never acknowledged how your tendency to empathize and receive could exhaust you, how much of a burden I was to you, then I went and made you feel like one in an unfamiliar city, when you were meant to be a guest. I’m sorry.

We didn’t discuss again the now-obvious mask I’d put on before you left, and after you flew back to Houston, I saw the advantage of our message exchanges in a different way. Before your visit, I could pour my sorrows out to you and not worry about the toll it might’ve taken. Separated again by a two-hour time difference and the advantage of a backspace button, I chose not to be upfront about how I’d really felt. You shared videos of fun things you came across on the internet. I replied immediately with a short acknowledgment of mutual admiration. I thought my act was working. You must’ve thought you could go on, too.

You didn’t. 

This time, the big block of words came from you, and you were clear. I was not good for you, you realized. 

The sad thing is, I kept trying to act. I told you I couldn’t see what about my recent responses made you feel belittled or not taken seriously. You told me if I couldn’t see it, then I never would.

Just like with the novel I gave up, I respected that we also had to end. I respected your choice to go.

To soothe my ego, and because she is my mother, my mother agreed with me that you should’ve done more of this for me and I couldn’t have done more of that for you. But in the end, this was a friendship between you and me, and I did not do well by you.  

You were not the first friend from my grade school years who I assumed I’d get to keep growing up with. And when we could still be vulnerable with each other, I had learned that I wasn’t the first for you either. By now I hope you’ve found a new friend, or many, who make you feel confident in that, yes, they value your company. They share your interests without hesitation and unconditionally. They are people you want to keep close as long as they’ll have you. For having known you for the years that I got to, I can only imagine how lucky they are.

Shoebox Confessional: Part M

Dear reader,

I’ve named this series the way I have because I’m writing it with my laptop perched on top of a large plastic storage container that’s serving as a shoebox.

Why a series of confessionals? And why don’t I have a proper desk?

The second question isn’t as important though easier to answer. I am still in the unmoored phase of my life, and where I can avoid acquiring heavy objects, I do. Interpret that as you will, though to be honest, it ain’t that deep. (For those who need it, an Urban Dictionary definition is here.)

As for the first, the content of these confessionals have weighed on me, and I finally decided to give them words, as a way of owning them and also letting them go. Recently, after listening to a poignant NPR podcast episode called “The Reluctant Immortalist,” I learned that a tiny, otherwise insignificant animal called the hydra is potentially immortal. This is due to its unique biology, with more details you can learn in a separate article here, but boils down to how it’s essentially continuously shedding what (cells) can no longer serve it or even harm it. From the podcast: “The best guess scientists have these days as to how it cheats death, as Rob Steele explains, isn’t just its crazy stem cell production, but its highly unusual ability to let go.”

Where this analogy ends: I don’t see these memories as no longer serving me, but as lessons. I looked to the earnest style of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, the first in a young adult novel series I love by Jenny Han. Sharing them though, letting them go on my site here, which is maybe brave or maybe brazen, I can hold myself accountable. Names have been redacted out of respect. Maybe these memories will become or beget something else. And perhaps someone else, after reading, becomes inspired to take the time to reflect on significant episodes in their own life. On this topic, I’ll admit that I used to not be a fan of memoirs or non-fiction. I almost exclusively read fiction, unless non-fiction was demanded for academic work. This is largely because it is a lifelong dream of mine to (traditionally) publish a worthy novel. Of course, to do this, one not only has to read great examples but also to write. For roughly the past two years though, I had stepped away from writing for so long, scared of the blank page or screen and overall feeling like an impostor. Through writing these confessionals, I’m finding my way back into writing in general. What a joy it is. And during the time of COVID-19 we’re living in now, we should allow ourselves that when we can.

Thank you,

J Wang


Ever since my dad passed away, I became accustomed to sleeping next to my mom in my parents’ bed whenever I was back from college. It wasn’t so strange to me, since the king size had become too much for her.

One night when M crashed at our house, after making sure he had what he needed to sleep, I turned away and headed to my parents’ room as usual. It was only after our stilted greetings the next morning and after M had left when I realized. Fully awake, a more coherent reading of our texts had clarified things. I wasn’t supposed to turn away and follow my mother. He thought I’d join him in the room he was staying in, a room we’d converted into a guest room. He’d wanted to bang, in short. Didn’t I?

What I’d wanted to find was some sentimentality in our simplistic messages. It wasn’t there. And really, should it have been? I was home only for a short fall break. But I guess his thinking was: we’d had something for each other once, and since then, we’d both had more experiences in and out of relationships. These should have been sufficient ingredients to set off a physical reaction. If I hadn’t wanted more at the time, I might’ve gone for a bang, letting it serve as a delayed declaration of sorts. 

When we were together in high school, I deemed “I love you” off-limits. I’d simply felt that it was cheapened when said too often. That went for expressing affection for my friends too, so at least I was consistent. I thought that it had to be reserved for when people really knew and felt deep regard and care for one another. Maybe my friends and I did, despite the small scales of our lives then: soothing each other over the sting of an A- versus an A, preemptively grabbing straws for each other’s bubble tea. But in my eyes, we weren’t truly responsible for anything beyond being our parents’ children, so I didn’t believe we could commit to or feel anything profound. Of course, I’ve learned since then.

So was it that I felt I had to save it for a big, pivotal moment? I had my chance at senior prom, the quintessential American high school event I hadn’t wanted to go to but did, thanks to my former best friend. I can’t remember M without her, but she is another memory. She’d been the one to push M and me together, prompting him to ask me to be his homecoming date. What I had with M, I owed to her. 

What happened instead has been my wondering until now if I should’ve just said it. Should’ve just snuck away to the bed he was waiting in.

In any case, I know now that by any average, reasonable person’s definition, the affection and care M had shown me when we were younger was love. Driving to the hospital and waiting with me and so many others for the inevitable passing of my dad, even though I had not flung myself into M’s arms, cried on his shoulder. Then years later, calling me to tell me that his father had passed away, too, and that he wanted me to know before I heard it through the grapevine. It was a kindness to me, even though it’s unlikely that I would’ve found out that inelegant way. Most of my surviving high school friendships are too tenuous, rarely getting past the basic updates out of politeness, for sensitive information like that to be divulged. So in recalling this gesture of M’s, I found another reason to believe.

I must have always known it was love. And though it’s passed, I’ll treasure that sense of high regard and care forever. I can’t ask for more, not when I’ve had friendships I believed to be forever dissolve instead. 

Thank you, M. And did you know? In my main college application essay—also so long ago—the alias I gave to the little boy I wrote about was your name. That was my first paying homage to you, however small. I don’t think I ever told you, just like I never said I loved you.

NaNoWriMo 2017: The Now What? Months

From emojipedia. I do not claim any rights.

I wasn’t sure whether to tack on 2017 or 2018 after NaNo in the title of this post, since I thought I might confuse people (or myself, reading this later on :P). Technically I won back in November, but my novel process has continued until now. The NaNoWriMo organization formally calls January and February after NaNo the “Now What?” months and encourages people to pull out their first drafts and revise them. Therefore, 2017 won out, and also I realized, duh, NaNo 2018 would mean this November. Silly me.

After a long January, I ended up with just shy of 81k for my manuscript! I wish I could say writing the last word came with an elated sigh, fist-pumping, and other celebratory gestures, but really, I kind of just sat there thinking to myself, “I’m done?” While my story ended where I plotted it to, I felt unsatisfied somehow. My friends tell me it’s me being a perfectionist, and they’re right. Because now what? Well, once I’d done what I could for my manuscript, it was finally time to find an editor!

Finding an Editor

I’ve learned so much through this novel writing and creation process, and one of those things has been just how many types of editors are involved with a book. Again, I’m self-publishing, so I don’t have the support of a publishing house and editors on their payroll. Before I waded into Google search results, I figured out what types of editing I needed at this stage. Below is a quick-quick summary; italic text represents the kind of work I just contracted an editor for (!):

  • Developmental/content editing: Called by differing names, this stage deals with “big picture” items like plot, characterization, style, structure, and other aspects of storytelling. It goes without saying that this stage of editing is incredibly important, and while I’ve pored over my plot outline, character bios, and even visual mood-board thousands of times, I (and any other human writer) need a second pair of eyes. I found a lovely editor who specializes in YA fiction, and I am so anxious to see what she has to say. Frankly I’m also bracing myself for the worst, but I need the detailed notes, not any ego-stroking!
  • Copy-editing: Here the editor is looking for any overly repetitive sentence structures, appropriateness of word choice, and clarity of meaning. (Yes, that last bucket was a bit of a cop-out on my part.) While we say that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, said covers are well-made to get a potential reader to pick up the book and peruse its pages. The copy editor’s goal is to help make the words on those pages shine and serve the story.
  • Proofreading: This work is done on the manuscript just before sending it off to be published. Here the proofreader is making sure all the i’s are dotted, t’s are crossed, and–you get the idea–no other grammar and spelling errors remain. (I’m definitely not ready for this yet!)

Now, how did I find my editor? To be honest, I was firstly constrained by the spring/summer publication date I’m aiming for, so immediate availability to start on my manuscript was my first filter. Then, or maybe ranking equally as important, was expertise and experience in my genre of YA contemporary. Beyond that, I evaluated based on email exchanges, information available on the editor’s website (prior books they’ve worked on), and also price. Good editing is invaluable, but girl is definitely on a budget. Instead of going on freelancer aggregation sites, I searched in Google via keywords: YA, contemporary, romance, editor, content, developmental, etc. I was able to find an editor who could do passes for both content and copy editing at the same time; I can’t tell you how thrilled I was by that!

Now What?

After I get comments and notes back from my editor, so begins the trials of squaring my impressions after reading my manuscript with her suggestions, then of course, revising (cue tears).

This may seem bold, but I’ve also learned (from many helpful “author-tube” YouTube channels) that you do not in fact have to agree with everything someone giving you feedback says! Of course, I hope you, like me, show your work to people who are invested in its success, your happiness, etc. However, at the end of the day, I know it is my story that I want to tell. Hopefully, I’ll be able to post soon about how to balance the protective author brain with outside feedback! Stay tuned…

NaNoWriMo 2017: Why, What Now, and Welcome

Happy New Year, all! This NaNoWriMo recap post should’ve come right after I completed the grueling month of churning out a first draft of a novel (holy moly, right?), but I couldn’t bring myself to write about my experiences. The post would’ve been a lot of complaining about the back pain I’d acquired pumping out about 1,700 words per day, and nobody should have to sit through that. 😛 To learn more about NaNo however, please follow the link to the official page!

So why the delay? Come December, I launched right into reading my draft. Okay, technically I took a break for two days, but that’s as long as I lasted. Generally, a longer break is recommended. It wasn’t that I was super excited to read my draft, if anything I was apprehensive because I knew it wouldn’t be exactly what I wanted, but more because I’m on a self-imposed deadline to self-publish my first novel this year. I can do a separate post on my decision to self-publish and not find an agent and publisher. (Long story short, my story isn’t necessarily something that will rake in big bucks by getting a movie adaptation, and that’s not my primary goal.) Let me know if that’s something you’re interested in reading!

I attempted NaNoWriMo in years past, like many people, but this was the first year I “won,” or finished 50,000 words over a November. For me, the target length of my book is 70,000 words, so I actually started writing in October. Before I say anything else about the lessons learned over this month, I truly marvel at people who win while working full-time jobs. They are the ones who deserve big super-writer capes!

Why NaNoWriMo?

Every person has their reasons for dedicating themselves to their stories during NaNo. Like many, I have always wanted to write a novel, having treasured books by other authors for so long. My actual writing journey started well before this year’s NaNo, but it was accelerated then. Without launching into my life story (no need for that eh), I took a break from full-time work halfway last year in order to embark on my writing dream, to bring a story fueled in equal parts by personal experience and imagination to a reader like my younger self somewhere out there. Of course, I carefully considered my circumstances and had prepared financially and mentally for the leap, so I am in no way recommending that people carbon-copy me. It is not at all necessary, and like I said above, there are people who win the month while working. For me, this decision coincided with an inflection point in my life, and I figured that now was the time to dedicate myself completely to this novel endeavor. I knew I had to do this because the weight of wondering whether I could write a novel would weigh on and distract me for the rest of my life otherwise. Dramatic, I know, but hey, I am trying to create a work that evokes emotion in people, right? 🙂

From reading all the blogs about previous winners and attempters (no losers here!) and what they learned about themselves and their writing during NaNo, I knew the month would force me to do the difficult work of creating a first draft. I can’t understate the importance of being willing to cringe at your screen (or page) and just start putting words down. The desire for perfection often stops or slows people (myself included) down from their personal path to greatness. Even if you do not hit the 50,000 words, the official goal for the month, any number of words is more than zero. During my slow days when I felt like I couldn’t write more than a sentence, my kind friends reminded me of this simple fact (a true mathematical statement) over and over. Two months later, I’m a more resilient writer, instead of telling myself that I’m a failure on any given day I don’t get as far in my story, which I’m now rewriting, as I wanted to.

What’s Next? (Or What Now?)

As I mentioned above, I took a first read of my novel and am rewriting it now. (Cue tears, many tears. Some happy tears, I swear!) My word count goal for today, after finishing this blog post, is about 2,000 words. At first, I thought I could embark on a NaNoReviMo (a month of revising), soon to polish and release my work, but at the end of the day, I realized my story had a lot of weak points. Coming to terms with this and barreling on with the work of improving it has been humbling, but I wouldn’t trade the discipline I’ve honed so far for anything in the world. Like going through any other monumental challenge, once you come out the other side, you grow and appreciate your past self for putting you through the discomfort and pain to become a better version of yourself. I remind myself of this daily as I mold and mold my new draft.

jwang's laptop at cafe
Not writing in my room for once! 😛

Hopefully, by the end of this January, I will be able to hire an editor to help me with the next step of preparing my work for self-publishing. I try not to think too far ahead about getting a cover designer and book formatter, as exciting as these steps are, but I do let the thought of them motivate me.

Another reason for my rewrite, besides my desire for a quality narrative, is the simple fear of being negatively judged. Having really thrown myself into the process of creating a whole darn book, I find it hard to truly criticize any work I know someone has put their heart into. However, I know that my story will not work for everyone who reads the genre I’m targeting, so there will be people who point out things they didn’t like about the book. I won’t lie, I’m still preparing for the first bad review I get, but I try not to let this limit me in my day-to-day work. All I can do is write my tail off and hope the story resonates with someone else. I’m confident it will, and I hope it could inspire that someone else to tell their own story because one book can’t be everything for one person. This I know, since it’s what drove me to create my story.

Is NaNoWriMo The Only Way to Write a Book?

The answer is, of course, absolutely not. You can begin writing anytime. I think aspiring writers, myself included, often forget this, as simplistic as it sounds. Remember that you can file away (never throw away) those first few sentences or pages if you don’t like them, but if you have a story to tell, begin now. There is no way to be completely ready, and as with many things in life, you learn as you go. Your story can change as you go, but once you settle on an idea and find yourself needing a period of time to turbo-charge it into fruition, remember that NaNo and a community of like-minded, supportive storytellers is waiting to welcome you, including me.

What’s in your cup?

February 17, 2017 | sippin’

My mother, like many excellent Chinese mothers, brings me some sort of health supplement each time she visits me in my new home. Last time, I got a bag of red goji berries to steep in hot water or tea.

Goji!

Her explanation is never scientific, and frankly it doesn’t have to be if your mother says it’s “good for you.” However, I did have to draw the line once at sea cucumbers. I take this at face value and while I don’t know what the exact effects are, if any, I make my tea and feel grateful that I will forever be her growing child. Never mind my fancy pants corporate business card.

So it upsets me that despite never enduring the trauma of non-(East) Asian peers wrinkling their noses at my lunch food, I experience a dampened version in my adult life. (Granted, I am a rare case and went to a public school with faces from across the melanin spectrum.) Of all things, someone wrinkled their nose at my goji berries. They don’t smell, they’re not furry with fruit fuzz, and their color is a bright, happy red-orange.

You might say that it was a simple, one-off question. “Ew, what are those things?”

But it also could’ve been even simpler, less shrill sounding. “What’s in your tea?”

Call me sensitive, call me a snowflake, but I was a touch annoyed and called it out. Of course, I did so in a light-hearted way that’s safe for consumption in a work environment. It’s a skill I’ve honed having been a first-generation college student and now a first-generation member of corporate America. I’ll continue sippin’…

After, After, After, Always

December 28, 2016 | kickin’ and screamin’

My childhood home will soon be rented out and eventually sold. I am a millennial, although I’m also slowly creeping towards the middle of the age bracket. We are often described to be itinerant and unattached. Seeking the next place to move our careers forward, for those of us lucky enough to be on that path. Swiping right and either unable to decide or decide so quickly that we hope to forget the next day.

So perhaps it’s slightly against my generational grain to feel so strongly about this old home as to bare my feelings to the Internet. You’re welcome, since I originally envisioned this as a poorly made film, or conversely, I’m sorry. I haven’t lived full-time in this house since I left to go to college where people wear UGGs un-ironically. However I quickly learned that the truly useful footwear was a pair of those hilariously named “duck boots.” This house protected my family for so long, but a few years ago when another one of us left, they never came back. (Note to self, I pledge to take my last breath somewhere other than in an ICU.) I’ll never be an iconoclast just for the sake of it, but in this case I can’t help but be very, very attached.

I will always remember the sounds of my backyard gate and garage door, for they meant saying goodbye to guests sure to return or hello to my parents coming back from work. I like to think they enjoyed me sticking my face up against the glass as a greeting.

I will always love the carpet that my mom kept so clean because of all the couches and beds I could lay on to read, I always ended up on the floor. This Christmas, I made sure to lay down a yoga mat at least.

I will always treasure the light pink walls of my bedroom, soon to be occupied by another lucky child, because my parents kept their promise that after we moved out of the townhouse, I’d get my pink walls. I regret removing the Rainbow Fish border.

I will always be impressed with the kitchen even though it doesn’t boast granite countertops or brushed steel appliances. That’s fine because if I’m eventually able to afford these in my own home someday, it’ll make me feel like I achieved intergenerational prosperity. Boo-yah!

I will always worry about the little crannies where I know spiders and other crawlies…crawl out of. When I killed my first spider in the house, I grew a little but also might’ve pee’d myself. Although I’m sorry, spider sir or madam, I panicked and forgot about the paper and cup technique that time.

I will always think of the quiet and peaceful park further up our street. And the pecans my grandma and I pilfered when fall came around. I probably owe some of my cavities to her candied pecans. Worth every one.

I will always wish I can hear my dad’s snoring in the master bedroom again. It’s the most comforting thing to know that you can be sitting and reading in another room, but not completely alone.

I will never forget turning onto this street after a long while away, after a dinner at Outback, after a day at the Galleria, after playing at a friend’s house, after a shitty day at my top-rated and therefore very competitive high school (go Rangers!), after, after, after.

And so I will always remember and love this house. This home. I hope the next family or non-family living unit cares for it like mine did. I hope it treats them well, much as it did my family. As I come upon my second year of the Rooster (quelle horreur), I know it’s time to finally write this and let it go.

Goodbye house, and thank you.

NaNoWriMo, Or NaNoReviMo For Me!

I’ve known about NaNoWriMo for about as long as I’ve been a reader. It’s been a personal dream of mine to write a book that someone will close with a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment, much like I have felt in the past. I also don’t think I’ve seen many (young adult) stories with Asian-American leanings, so I hope I can turn this draft into something beautiful for a younger me out there. Lofty goals? That’s what great books are made of, right?

With that said, I admit I’m cheating a bit as I plan to use this month to revise a draft of 70,000+ words. There will be a significant amount of rewriting though!

Since you have to be logged into the NaNoWriMo.org site to see a user’s novel synopsis and excerpt, I thought I’d share it here. It’ll help keep me accountable knowing that people know I’ve started this project. Hopefully, it’ll also inspire someone who’s wanted to bang out 50,000 words to do the challenge this year or in the future!

Working Title: Adjustments

Synopsis:

After a summer of sorrow, Irene and her mom return to the routine of school and work, work and school that had seemed so regular before. Her sister Iris is back at college, right where she wants to be, but not where Irene needs her to be. When your dad passes away, you hold onto everyone you can. What if they slip away, too?

Her best friends Dan and Misty made her watch bad but funny movies, try new bubble tea combinations, and did just about everything they could to distract her from her pain. Once school starts though, everyone has their own life to busy about. Some lives tend to intersect more than others do though, and Irene quickly feels like she’s getting left out. Or is she keeping herself out? With Eric from chemistry suddenly taking an interest in her, maybe it doesn’t matter…

Irene finds that when life surprises you, for better or worse, you have to make some adjustments.

Excerpt:

Misty and Irene looked like twin swans with their heads bent down as they scanned their notes for last-minute minutiae to memorize. Numbers for years and too many names swirled in Irene’s head. This happened before every semester exam. She needed to calm down before the bell rang.

Eric was nowhere to be found. Irene had expected him at the table this morning. He knew she had an exam and would come early to cram. She suddenly felt incredibly silly for thinking of all the things he could want to ask her and how she should respond.

Or maybe he was just being considerate. The thing he needed to ask could wait until after their exams. She tried to remember not to find little things to not like.

But he would at least have come to study with her and her friends. She checked her phone again. There wasn’t a good morning message or anything from him at all.

Misty elbowed her softly. “Hey, you’re making that face you do.”

“Come again?”

“It’s this.” Misty did her best impression of Irene. Mouth set, eyes widened just a little.

“You know this stuff better than I do. Don’t be nervous.”

“It’s actually not that. Eric was supposed to ask me something today.”

Up in Skyspace To Get Out Of My Headspace

This past weekend, Los Angeles welcomed its newest attraction the Skyslide atop the OUE Skyspace LA observation deck. (Yes, I read that as “Wee Skyspace,” too.) The deck sits atop the recently renovated U.S. Bank Tower, and I learned that the building is the tallest one west of the Mississippi river while waiting in line for the slide.

As someone fortunate to have traveled to many places, I’ve been to the top of my fair share of tall buildings. I’m happy to say that the awe I feel each time has yet to be dampened, since I just find it utterly incredible that humans can build so much so high. Maintaining a sense of wonder, oddly enough, keeps me grounded.

tokyo tower
Tokyo Tower, seen from Roppongi Hills Mori Tower.

I think it’s the same reason I didn’t hesitate to buy a combo ticket for the Skyspace and Skyslide once I scrolled to a targeted ad in my Facebook feed. It goes to show that as strange and creepy as advertising has become nowadays, it sometimes works. In my daily life, my body rarely travels more than four stories up from the ground. And a shot of adrenaline was something I sorely needed. What better way to get it than sitting on a mat and sliding down a glass slide from the 70th to 69th floor? 🙂

IMG_8115

Besides getting a hilarious souvenir photo of myself, my ticket also provided a reality and perspective check. A trip to the Skyspace is not cheap. Between the ticket itself and pre-paid parking, it’s about $40. (Believe me, pre-paid was worth it. DTLA parking? Good luck, bro.) Of course, if you go with multiple people in a car, the parking fee seems trivial. But realizing that I could afford this small luxury? That was a rush in itself.

Here’s my view from just before the actual slide…

about to slide
Holy 2^*#$)@#

They said that if you wanted to get the biggest thrill, you could look to the left out over the expanse of Los Angeles. Most sensible people kept their eyes straight ahead. I was not one of those people. I dared to look and scare myself, and for the brief four seconds I felt like the daredevil I always imagine myself to be but seldom execute against.

I spent the rest of my time on the observation deck. My friends who work in tall office buildings probably wouldn’t understand why (or might think the opposite), but I felt invigorated being so much closer to the sun than I usually am. My current work is rather elevated yet in the weeds at the same time, and sometimes I lose sight of the “why” of it all. I’m so focused on desperately trying to understand the numbers and check all the footnotes that the details wear me down instead of painting a clearer picture. Perhaps it’s just professional infancy that I’ll grow out of. It’s definitely why I eschewed Starbucks during the week for this ticket, and it was well worth the trip to get out of my headspace.

Bolstered by the Beyhive

Here’s something crazy. I had tickets for Beyonce’s Formation tour that stopped in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, and I almost didn’t go.

What?

Yes. I almost didn’t go because I didn’t want to go alone. Stupid, right? Granted, parking fees at the Rose Bowl could deter anyone, but once you’ve spent upwards of $200 on a ticket, you shouldn’t be pre-occupied with that marginal cost.

I acknowledge that I didn’t have to go alone. I could’ve asked my new friends in LA if they wanted to go. I could’ve broadcast my intentions on Facebook and gathered a group to buy tickets together. I could’ve done all these things, but I just didn’t feel like they’d happen, whether due to scheduling snafus or their general disinterest.

I was prepared to feel alone in LA. It’s a sprawling metropolis, and everyone’s busy with their own lives. I still haven’t made a ton of friends here, and those I can call new friends, I don’t know very well yet. I’m doing my best to change that though.

As a consequence, I leaned on my friends from high school a lot. When I needed to complain, and it happens more often than I’m proud of, they were the ones who got my Facebook messages or texts. (Side note: I should buck the millennial stereotype and call people more…) Over time, I began to take for granted how much negativity a person could take, no matter how close of a friend they are to you. I was using my friends as “trash cans,” if you will. And that outweighs any success I feel like I’ve managed in my first year as an adult. (By “success,” I mean paying my bills on time and managing my road rage.)

Ironically, it is one of these very friends who slapped verbal sense into me and encouraged me to go to the concert. I’m very glad I did.

Beyonce’s set, a giant LED-covered cube that opened and closed to reveal her and her dancers, projected her magnificence so that everyone in the stadium could see. The guys behind me abandoned their chill and turned into blubbering fangirls.

beyonce singing
Queen in action.

At first, I felt self-conscious as a solo attendee sandwiched between drunk middle-aged women gal pals and a son and his (probably confused) father. I wanted to bop along to Snoop’s surprise performance of “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” I wanted to go crazy and wave my arms and scream, “Yas, yas, YAS!” But I was alone, and I contained my crazy.

I spotted another girl a few rows in front of me, who I later realized was also attending the concert alone. Carefree and decidedly not self-conscious, she jammed along to the beats. Suddenly, I felt silly. I had thought all along that I would be one of the minority coming alone, but right there was another example.

Bolstered by the Beyhive around me, I started letting loose during “Run the World (Girls).” And then Beyonce delivered just what I needed that night.

beyonce formation tour
Benelovent queen Bey.

She spoke about being there for yourself and loving yourself first, and then…

“Me myself and I, that’s all I got in the end, that’s what I found out and there ain’t no need to cry…”

She is an omniscient queen indeed.