Mostly the Loss

A few major things to happen this year. Some have been painful, others have not. A few wins and a few losses, but if anything, it makes me all the more excited to get to 2015.

It’s a bit tough to talk about it, but my little cousin passed away late this year.

Well, he wasn’t little, but he was definitely young. Twenty-four is not a ripe age. It’s an age of potential and possibilities, of excitement and mistakes. It’s the age where you figure out most of what you are, and solidify any wavering judgements you may be too afraid to speak about as a kid.

You discover girls and deodorant in your teens. Then you discover hard work and sacrifice and love after that. Nobody was ready for Ivan to go. That boy is so fucking special, I’m not even exaggerating a little bit. He only got to taste that first little bit of adulthood, post-deodorant and acne cream. I still get a little angry when I think about it.

Death is a sobering experience, and it feels odd going through it almost seven years to the day my own mother passed.

The crazy thing is seeing it happen again, and feeling it now, where I am again, a little bit older and a little bit more sober. Once again, perspectives shift, realizations rear their heads, and for a brief moment, there is a crack in the realm and space where you exist.

It becomes a conversation between survival and sentiment. Especially when family is involved. While some petty things are let go, others become a means to cope. There were a lot of “Fuck this, I’m doing it” decisions made, and I regret none of them.

People are constantly evolving. And I don’t mean that in just a Darwinian sense. It’s not just the physical attributes you shed, like fingernails or exfoliated skin cells, but things like bitterness and greed. Granted, these exist like fucking barnacles on some people, but even everyday penchants and persuasions can change over time. Maybe that’s why Facebook loves their algorithms, snapshots of hours, days, years before. The same day this year. The same Bat-time and the same Bat-channel.

I went home twice in a month for Ivan. First to see him in hospital, and the second for his wake. And even in the span of those two weeks, I saw extraordinary transformations within the people I loved. From small gestures to grand ones, every little thing became definitive of who they were and are at that point in time. Tragedy, an ultimate test of character, sits front row and center, and there isn’t much to do but sit alongside it and watch things unfold. Your heart swells and breaks at the same time, as all these different pieces play into each other.

And once the currents die down, you pick up what’s left and try to make sense of it all. Things slowly start towards what normal could be, albeit a little redefined, and you start acting accordingly again. It’s a little awkward at first, mainly because you’re just so fucking tired. But slowly you get a sense of where things are. They are pretty much the same, but just maybe arranged a little differently.

AND THEN YOUR CAT DIES.

Ivan’s passing hit me pretty hard. But Hugo went a few weeks after that, and it just capped off the year with an immediate sense of, “FUCK THIS FUCK THIS IT DOESN’T MATTER I’M WEARING MOM JEANS AND EATING BONBONS ALL DAY.”

The post-Hugo stuff can be saved for another day. I don’t want to spill too much candy in the front lobby this early. But suffice it to say, I am really, really looking forward to 2015.

My Auntie’s Confession

We were having brunch together at Cora’s in Richmond. It was right after I had told a joke about all four of us (my aunt, uncle and cousin) being third-born children and how we were pretty much better than our respective siblings. My aunt then looked up from her poached egg and toast and lightly touched my arm. “Ginger, I will be honest.”

That worried me a little bit, but she continued. The last time she sounded like that, she told me I was gaining a lot of weight and that I had to work out more.

There was some hesitation in her voice, as it was obvious that she was trying to find the right words. “You are very different now from when you were at Emily Carr.”

“Now I think, ah, I think you are more… mature.”

Guys, I can’t even explain how big this moment was for me.

In the midst of forks and knives clattering on plates and servers whizzing by with coffee pots, my aunt had basically just told me that I wasn’t a little piece of shit anymore.

And before going any further, I will make it clear. I have no excuse for it, and neither do I want to deny it as a truth. I really was a little piece of shit. Particularly when I was in Emily Carr.

I don’t know what it is about being that age. Right about the time I got out of high school, it was as if a monkey had immediately strapped itself to my back and suddenly the world shifted. After a flash and a bang, I was out to prove something. I didn’t know what the fuck it was I wanted to prove, but the push was there—this weird motivated restlessness to be the biggest asshole in the world.

I picked fights with my mom and never listened to her advice. I refused to willingly take part in any family outing with my aunt and my cousins. I never called home and always kept it short and quick when my parents would phone me. I knew they missed me, but I didn’t care.

I suppose it was just being around other kids who had so much independence at Emily Carr. You try to find yourself in the midst of it all, being alone in an unfamiliar city with a totally different culture. It was exciting and fresh, and I didn’t want the trappings of my sheltered Filipino-Chinese upbringing to hold me back.

I kept wanting to go at it alone. I refused to ask for help for anything, constantly turning to people who didn’t know me very well, and probably cared about me even less. It wasn’t so much as a warpath I was on, but a refusal to acknowledge the idea of family.

I thought I was smarter and better than everyone I knew.

AND IT WAS SO NOT TRUE. ;_;

I’m sure it hurt a lot of people, and when I look back at it, I always feel a phantom bruise being pressed. It makes me physically gag and I get embarrassed all by myself. It’s terrible. Along with the clothes I used to wear, particularly when I discovered the Salvation Army and Value Village. Oh God, I looked like a fucking hobo. I was a shitty, bratty Asian girl who looked like she was homeless and hung out with people who smelled like the underside of a couch.

And so sitting there, with those words hanging in the air, I felt a huge rush of awkwardness and gratitude. Gratitude for them noticing the effort to change as well as the change itself. I’m not a parent, and I don’t have a lot of experiences with young teenagers. Just imagining myself in their shoes at the time, having to deal with this shitty kid, really puts things into perspective.

My excellent mother passing away was the unfortunate catalyst for this change and I know it. I have so many regrets when I think about my mom, and I’ve always sort of beaten myself up for it. And rightly so. It isn’t so much a call for pity, but more of a statement or suggestion. It’s said over and over, but it’s so different when it actually happens.

Guys, real talk. I know it may not be the same for all of us, but if you even have even the tiniest suspicion that your parents kind of love you, my God, don’t waste any of it.

I’m glad to be able to sort of make amends now, and to be able to talk like normal people. Normal adults. I feel like I’ve been allowed to stand up to my full height, and they are now able to see me at my full posture. I don’t have anything to hide from them anymore, and that feels really wonderful.

Now I look at people differently. I look at family differently. I don’t want the same regrets to apply to anyone else, if I can help it. When that happened, another flash and a bang went off, and this monkey loosened its grip and fucked off as quickly as it showed up. My selfish endeavours immediately dissipated, and all that was left was this want to be a better person. I just kind of wish that it didn’t have to happen with such circumstances. But then again, sometimes you don’t know that you’re on the wrong path until you’re halfway in thick of it. You just have to suck it up and find the strength to go back to the beginning.

Dude, I Can’t Just “MacGyver It”

My brother bothers me sometimes. Well, most of my family does, but this one is a specific thing. It’s not a deal-breaker, nor do I want to kill him for it, but sometimes I just become way more aware of our differences than usual.

We had a brief exchange about tools. He had asked me to ask around for some recommendations for animation/image-editing software. I had suggested to him that he spring for the industry standard if he can, as I know he is smart enough to learn it. And whatever he learns, he can definitely use for the future, particularly if he decides to pursue animation or motion graphics.

It then became about investment and effort. See, to me, if the tool is there to make my work/life easier, I would spend the extra money up-front. I like the idea of investments and the idea of investments paying off. The pain of paying in the beginning rewards you with better use of your time, more efficient workflow, and overall I’d say a healthier outcome because you’re not tearing out your hair out or sobbing profusely into a plastic bag.

To my brother, he’d rather work with a bit more sweat (and tears?) using something for free. He is okay with the extra effort, as he believes that the outcome will be somewhat similar. And save him a bit of money. ARGH. This applies to a lot of things that he does. It drives me nuts.

Of course there is something to be said about honing a craft and understanding the manual side of things, but I do think there is a weird line that is easy to cross if we’re not looking.

It makes me think about the two different types of people that Robert Pirsig describes in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He talks about his own need to understand what a bolt does in relation to the rest of the motorcycle, and the idea of studying and understanding how each small relationship adds up to a working whole. He contrasts this with his friends, also motorcycle enthusiasts, but would rather trust a mechanic or an expert to fix anything, if broken.

Somehow it makes sense when Pirsig describes this, but then I realize I fall into the subset of his friends. And it becomes a bummer when you realize you’re not the hero in your own allusion. Either way, I’ll grasp at straws here and say that a philosophical debate might be slightly different from function and application of tools.

Or in this case, we aren’t talking about Pirsig vs his friends at all, but Pirsig vs the mechanic. Who would you trust? No, really. Forget that Pirsig wrote the awesome book and imagine he is just some guy off the street offering to fix your shit, versus a guy who makes a living doing this shit all the time.

I don’t know. This is getting out of hand. Whatever.

Anyway, I think the big question boiled down to what this tool was to be used for and as always, the context of the situation. I just think my brother imagines that he is in a MacGyver/Michael Westin situation all the time.

And this is never the case.

And as with MacGyver, the thing works, but it looks like a fucking electrical nightmare and a law suit waiting to happen.

I’d trust MacGuyver to duct tape my innards and shit if we were in a hurry to get out of a burning building. That is great. I trust you, Richard Dean Anderson. Tape me up.

But I am definitely going to the fucking hospital once it’s all over.

Kind Women

The few friends that I have and know me well make fun of me often for liking terrible shows and sitcoms. I was thinking about it a bit today, as I was catching up on Fran Drescher’s tweets, and I kind of realized one reason why I get so drawn into shows like Reba and The Nanny.

I enjoy themes of family led by kind women.

It’s by no means a definitive thing about me, nor is it particularly grand in my discovery of it, but I just thought it was interesting to realize that little bit about myself.

In the case of Reba, I always joke that I love the show because she’s just a good Christian woman. She loves her kids, no matter how stupid they are. And they really are stupid. The jokes and the writing are simple enough, but I think there is a warmth to the show that I really enjoy. My favourite part about it is Reba’s relationship with Barbra Jean because it’s one of the biggest examples of kindness. It’s not done in a preachy way at all, but Reba’s reluctance to make peace with her ex-husband’s wife carries themes of forgiveness and tolerance. And what I appreciate is that while Barbra Jean technically should have been the evil “other woman,” the show made her out to be so awesome and lovely. Dudes, I love Barbra Jean.

With The Nanny, there is something about Fran Drescher that gives me a similar impression. There’s weird mother-ness to Fran that I really like. Even with the show revolving around an inappropriate Fraulein Maria, it was never really a question of whether or not Fran could take care of the children. It was almost a given that she was that way. It was just Mr. Sheffield’s weird commitment issues. And while I kind of think the last season really went to hell in a handbasket, there were parts of it that make me imagine what Fran Drescher was like while the show was still going.

Perhaps it’s a reflection of how I feel about my own unconventional mother, who was our family’s breadwinner and also covered up her kindness with some kind of non-standard veil. She would never say dumb, lovey, wishy-washy shit, but she was always clear in her actions that she loved us. When it came to her children, there were very few limits. And I like to think that it was a great lesson to pass on to us.

Apart from how to make ghetto midnight snacks like boiled Spam and Vienna sausages in our pajamas, that is.

The other thing is that I get the impression that these women are genuinely kind. They don’t seem pretentious, nor do they try to be more than they are. I really like that. The aspiration for me then becomes about achieving the same genuine quality, rather than more materialistic endeavours. (Although I do still get that feeling when I see shows like The Good Wife or Damages. Now that’s another breed of women I also aspire to be. In a balanced way, of course. Fuckin’ love Christine Baranski.)

I Went to New York for the First Time

I always thought I’d love New York at first sight, the same way people fall in love with the city in the movies. But my first visit there recently did not do much more than really convince me of how much I love Vancouver.

Why is she iPad-ding herself?

The fast pace does not make me comfortable, nor does it invoke a sense of challenge and passion in me. The people are well-dressed and intimidating, but none of them make me feel like I have something to prove. I suppose that’s a good thing. New York is a wonderful place to visit, but I could never live there.

It’s a bit expected to be wowed by such a city. But while magnificent, New York did not influence me as much as I thought it would. Not to say that it was a disappointment of any sort, but more of an assurance that Vancouver was a better place for me.

Vancouver is Van-groovy, filled with yoga-loving yuppies and dogs with t-shirts, but it also has a sense of slowness that I appreciate. Most people dislike it, but I actually prefer it. It’s not so impressive or enjoyable to see Vancouverites walking around downtown in Uggs boots and sweatpants from their high school gym classes, but there is something about Vancouver that comforts me and makes me happy. I am also not impressed by the term “Vancouverites” but that’s a separate issue.

I think New York is for people who have more energy and can run marathons and have verbal fights on the streets. It’s for people always looking up and don’t mind the grime. It’s a beautiful city, no qualms about it. The air is electric, the food is great, and the experience is stimulating. There is something romantic about New York, which many films and storytellers have explored. It has its own character, and is much more than just a geographical setting for something to happen. I felt the magic and the awe about the place, and the special things that people relate to it.

New York is definitely the type of girl that boys fall for, and nobody questions why.

Perhaps I’m just more of the idiot who falls for the quiet, nerdy girl that nobody notices. Vancouver is very much Laney Boggs, I’d say. She’s cute and people know about her, but she’s definitely no Taylor Vaughn.

Have I lost you yet? Those are references from the gem She’s All That. Don’t bother watching it. It’s terrible.

Anyway, about Laney Boggs-Vancouver. I can’t help it. I love this city. I used to hate it, but I’ve grown accustomed to everyone going to bed at 9pm. I like that people smile at me on the bus. I like that Canada has currency in techni-color. It’s just more efficient. The rude dumbass cyclists who can’t read stop signs I can probably live without, as well as the loud motorbikes and rice rockets, but every place has it’s downsides and assholes.

I also love that the mayor is so chiseled and good-looking.

I didn’t think it would take so quickly, but I think I’ve established some pretty strong roots here. It’s weird having such an international experience, but again, I regret nothing.

Maybe in the future I would like to visit again, under different circumstances. For the most part, this trip was to spend time with my sisters. Times together with my family are few and far in between, with each of us all living in different countries. And there is only so much you can do with Skype and FaceTime.

Some more things:

  • In Vancouver, a lot of the crosswalk buttons just give out a small “Beep!” when you press them, and then a chirpy “Beep-boop! Beep-boop!” I noticed in New York, their crosswalk buttons, while similar in shape and size, yell at you once pressed. It actually bellows, “WAIT,” in the way someone chastises a child for running in the hallways with scissors. Or the way a goon would say it while bouncing the business end of a baseball bat on his palm.
  • I very highly encourage everyone to stay away from those pretzels they sell at the hotdog street carts. They are extremely salty and not good to eat at all. :( Here is my face after the first couple of bites:

    Photo by my sister, Dianne
  • People in New York also do not know how to spell. It sort of takes away from the words of Johnny Cash.

    Photo also by my sister, Dianne
  •  Those bike tour guys are really aggressive.
  •  I never thought about how much nicer it is to hear “Pardon?” instead of “WHAT?” until I visited New York.
  •  The NBC Studio Tour is not so exciting when they take you to the set of “The Today Show” and, like, one woman out of the thirty of us know who Savannah Guthrie is.
  •  My sister lied to me and told me we were going to visit the MoMa. We visited three different Lulu Lemons instead. Don’t go to New York with my sister.