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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.