these days the writing grabs me and shakes; it wrangles me, throwing itself against walls, repeatedly, until, well, this happens: i write. i write (or document or journal, i’m never quite sure) and i feel release and i think about the writing i should be producing, the research papers, the graduate applications, my content creation driven not by an inherent and pure desire for artistry and betterment but a constant need for validation, largely from nice white men. i guess that’s how the writing has always come, and that’s how i’ve always let it make me feel, though.
what i learned from college is this: decolonization, desire, deliverance: all are really, really hard. would i be happier if i stopped trying to save everyone, and went to eat a hearty bowl of pho?
today i managed to put on pants, then shoes, briefly, as i went to the bathroom, and then to the kitchen for the jackfruit chips. otherwise i have sat in bed all day, for it is the most i can muster. now it is late and the sky is fading to a cloudless grey. before, in every precious minute of dusk, when all you could do was admit your powerlessness against the reds and purples of the sky, and admire how each and every house on your shitty suburban street looked beautiful bathed in gold beeswax, it seemed as if the earth, too, was recovering from the winter solstice, from the acerbic bite of the breeze, promising balmy nights and wrapping a blanket of warmth and radiance around all her scared creatures. (“this song feels like the premonition of summer,” i would tell jasper as we listened to beyonce’s all night late last spring, but the summer was quite good, much better than the fall, when a hurricane--or, as i drunkenly called it on the night of my 21st birthday, a hawaiian tornado--of emotional distress would rip its way through all our lives).
what i learned from college is this: i want to age to always appreciate the transcendent beauty of a sunset. the kind of person i want to become is the kind who is generous: with their time, with their thoughtfulness, with their friends. i imagine the dinners, increasingly pricier, and our conversations, carrying later and later on into the night, beginning sentences “remember when,” or “recently i’ve,” blurring the cartographic and temporal lines that have kept us separate, but never apart.
yesterday, on christmas, our wifi went down. it was the first christmas where no one in my family bothered to get each other anything; we were, i suspect, too tired of capitalism, assimilation, and some religious lore none of us felt any sort of connection with to pretend. i am jealous of all the extended immigrant families who have spread out in the US: the tíos y tías, the collective dream -- manifest in varying success, sure, but, oh, the pride you held for everyone else -- the long drives, the aroma of your potluck dish warming up the car. i wish for this abundance during my holidays, when it is the just four of us in whatever home temporarily shelters us, my mom watching a chinese drama, my dad asleep at seven, my sister and i screaming at fantasy worlds. but then i remember from where i came, from where my parents came, and i am guilty, embarrassed with entitlement; everyone has worked so hard for me and my good education and bright future, and i think: i have been so lucky.
yesterday, also on christmas, my 奶奶, my last remaining grandparent, died. and with her died what i sensed to be my sense of childhood, my naiveté and inability to see myself past age 30: i always assumed i’d be gone in a car accident, by then, to avoid harder thoughts revolving around the pressure to be something great. it was a cruel, almost hilariously ironic last chapter to this cruel, very much not hilarious year. i did not see my father cry. i think he grieves in logistics: trying to cancel the cabin we booked in yosemite that a week before he excitedly told me was a great deal!, scheduling flights (in this time of year!) and train tickets to rural, frozen china. i have never been back for any sort of familial function: not for this funeral, not for three of my cousins’ weddings, all in the past two months. “it’s too expensive,” my parents would say, or that they couldn’t take off that much work, instead smiling at compressed photos on wechat, and i wish i could throw my salaries from working in tech and as a TA at them, but it would only embarrass them further.
what i learned from college is this: being an adult means it is no one’s job to protect you.
also yesterday, on christmas, we took a “hike” (a brisk walk that held nothing to berkeley’s slopes) to the top of a hill overlooking the freeway, stretches of suburbia again dowsed in the sun’s glorious rays. i was immediately reminded of a similar hill i would climb in high school, a different (but identical) suburb on the other side of california, when it was late at night and my friends and i had nothing particular to do. how many hills, how many cities, how many stories are shoddy replications, put through the city planners’ photo copier, each smudged and bruised a bit differently when they came out, still hot from the laser. and yet: dazzling, ineffable, so joy inducing and addicting in their mundane transactions -- hugging a friend at a café, filling up a water bottle, coming home to a pet’s affection. i changed my phone’s lock screen background for the first time since i got it, from a black sand beach in iceland to a shitty tweeted photo of the bench at the top of the hill (like the bench at the top of the other hill, but this one had a backing), for i need to remind myself: there is no need to fly. there is so much here already.
my writing has three stages of protection: the first stage, not at all, a tag on a shitty microblogging website i lament about yet i’ve kept for over 7 years. the third stage: a blog i have revealed the url to one other, the password to none, that only my sister has read, early on (and even then, through stealing my phone). and in between: this stage, on this charming community, where i am anonymous yet all the while exposed, laid bare, like a patient etherized on the table (i’ll even throw in that was my favorite poem in ap english). (there is a fourth stage, a stage of pretentious notebooks and ink, but this stage has long conceded to the convenience of the keyboard, and my documentation lives either forgotten in moving boxes in my garage, or given to a (nice, white) boy i had so dearly yearned for in high school). but now i post quietly, and maybe some day the few people who do know about this, people whom i love like i love myself, will read this and nod to themselves and be filled with the compassion i feel when reading their own words. it is liberating to create without expectation or audience, yet i have found one in you, the best one of them all.
what i learned in college is what i had begun to realize in high school: sentiment doesn’t kill you.
lastly, for i have nowhere else to put it -- look at me, so self-proclaimed interdisciplinary, yet can’t even make room in my narrative for my profession -- what i learned in college is this: how to chmod 775, how to design and prototype and evaluate, and the power of for loops -- in software engineering, sure, but more so in design -- as in iteration, which isn’t a redoing but a relearning so blessed with wisdom and the comforting commonality of working towards a brighter tomorrow.