The order of things

I sometimes wonder if I’m living my life too black and white, too one thing or the other kind of gal.  When I chose to be a writer, I said to myself, “I’m going to dedicate my waking hours to this craft. I just don’t have time for anything else until I get there.” 

Years gone by, I’m still on my way and I’m still single. Sometimes, especially days when I feel lonely, I do wonder the alternatives.  I watched Princess Bride again today. That “As you wish” through line brought me to tears. I wish someday there’s someone I can say as you wish to and vice versa. But until then, the saga must go on.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Crazy monk

In the Dream of Red Chamber, one of the four Chinese classics, a monk passed by Jia Baoyu and told him the fate of him and his friends in a poem. But Jia and his young friends couldn’t care less about the monk. Let alone his words.  They dismissed the monk as crazy. 

When we’re given crucial information before we are ready for it, more often than not, we won’t listen a word of it.  As I write this paper about my film school experience, I began to reread those handouts from my professors. All of a sudden, they make so much sense now with scripts and some level of Hollywood experience. 

But one thing remains true for the whoel time. It’s the attitude of writing every day. Many of my UCLA professors are quote collectors. This one amongst the others is my favorite:

You must write every single day of your life. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. May you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.

– Ray Bradbury

Even though I knew I should write every day, I didn’t because I thought my job was more important than my words…

CUT TO a year later.  I had too little credits to consider an artist visa. I then realized that crazy monk was not crazy after all. 

 

Yours truly,
YZ

The power of doing

Today is the second time I teach for six hours plus the four and half hour commute… My dinner was a banana, but I wasn’t at all hungry when I held the bully pulpit. I waited for half an hour in the cold rain for the shuttle bus but I was all warm and fuzzy.

I recognized that feeling. I’m in love. Just like that, I fell into a bliss during and after I taught. Weirdly. Unexpectedly. Surprisingly. Of course, I’m bone tired. Of course, I want to get some time to get my own writing down so I don’t break the chain, according to Jerry Seinfeld.

Given how I paid for my out-of-state tuition and times seven for the currency ratio to the Chinese yuan, I’m practically giving away my UCLA film experience almost for free.

And yet, when my students have a click, an Aha Moment, a laugh, a sniff, those moments make my day. Knowing that I share my knowledge and experience without an agenda, without holding things back, makes me feel better about myself. Teaching is like an elixir that eases off the hard work and the sacrifice it takes to do the job, right. 

If it holds such power, teaching should be valued more right? On paper yes, but it never really is in practice. One either abuses that power or ignores that power. “Students are playing with their cellphone anyway, why the fuck should I care?” As teachers, we repeat it to ourselves. Then, we give permission to ourselves to perform sub par, bit by bit. Before we know it, our students complain about us, behind our backs. “This teacher sucks. She’s a loser. She’s a slob.” 

I bumped into this quote by dancer and choreographer Martha Graham the other day:

It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.  

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.

No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

It gave me goosebumps, because that has evolved to be my mindset when I create art and stuff in general. It has been tattooed into my soul after I’ve grown sick and tired of giving away the power of my OWN narrative. Why do we want to make ourselves feel inferior from those no-response, silence, and rejections anyway?

In Steven Spielberg’s Bridges of Spies, the lawyer guy (played by Tom Hanks) asked the spy (played by Mark Rylance) in jail, “Aren’t you worried?” The spy asks deadpan, “Would it help?

So, I go, “What if we don’t give away that power?”

Remember, we CAN.  We can shrug it off and move the fuck on just so we don’t stop producing work — if we truly value it more than what others think.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Attitude issue

Starting late and feeling grumpy when I began preparing for the Tuesday classes, I finally gathered the momentum and raced to the finishline.

Deep down, I hate it that I’m wasting a full day from my own writing. Then as I dived in, I learned so much, from structure to the actual delivery.  However, there is only so much time. I wish I could be more generous to my students. And yet, I have to set boundary to avoid burnout or overwork…

Last week, some students told me how they wish I were their teacher all along. Some teachers use the same deck for different classes to kill time and possibly murdered more than a few students’ future before the big launch.

That I will never do.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Serendipity

I was nursing my Bullet Proof coffee while I waited for my friend at a bistro in the French Concession. I tried to read a book, but a pair behind me was talking louder than I’d like. I couldn’t complain much, because most of the time, bistros in prime areas are in tight quarters.

It was a good book, but I simply couldn’t get in as the conversation became more intrusive. There was something odd about it. One was obviously an American guy. The other was obviously Chinese. But no, it was She. It was not some white dude trying to hit on a Chinese girl or vice versa. It was a Chinese man. Not just some Chinese man, but a man in his 70s.  They talk about deep stuff, from history to ideology. 

“Talk to them.” A voice started in my head.

“No, are you out of your mind?” I rebutted.

“The least they would do, is to ignore you. What’s the big deal?” 

Interesting. I took the bait and turned around… 

The Chinese elderly is actually 79. He started to learn English some four years ago via…

Wait for it… Siri. He set his phone to English and he takes classes here and there. He comes to the French Concession and talks to expats. As you can guess, he is loved and adored by the expats. 

Likewise, they were equally impressed by my ‘intrusion.’  All of us became fast friends within just a few minutes. 

In the cultural context here, you don’t talk to strangers. Strangers are strange and possibly dangerous. You mind your own business and live life accordingly. 

But what if you don’t? What if you try? What’s the loss and what’s the gain?

Truth is, I met two great friends back in LA via serendipity. All it takes is ‘Hello.’

 

Yours truly,
YZ

The next generation

By the time I came back, my niece and my nephew are four years older than when I saw them last in 2015.

The adults don’t change that much. Just more wrinkles, more white hair and a few more pounds here and there. But for kids, the change is huge. My niece is now 13. My nephew is 15. The two of them can’t be more different.

  • Niece: working-class; public school free-style education.
  • Nephew: middle-class; private school; tiger-mom education.

Within our household, we prefer the girl. She is just a bundle of joy, like Olive in Miss Little Sunshine. My nephew? He is a straight-A student, so shy and neurotic that he still hides behind his mom in public.

I wonder how they would be like in ten years, in twenty years. When they are real adults, what kind of career paths they would choose, what kind of life they would choose for themselves.

I imagine my niece would visit me in LA after I’m back. I would show her around my second home, take her to a Lakers game, and count the stars on Hollywood Walk of Fame…

When her family visited us this afternoon, my niece asked, “auntie (I still have trouble recognizing that term…), how do you give a good improv speech in public?”  I wish I had more time with her to tell her what I told my students, the opening, the twists and turns, the punchline, and the ending. But I can’t. I had to go back and work on my next week’s notes. And their visit was cut short.

Witnessing the next generation in the making is a blessing. Being able to shape them in any small way is a privilege.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Start again

While I’m waiting for a few days before getting back to my other project‘s rewrite, I’ve been working on another new story. That’s the idea I’ve been having for over a year now. 

After a handful of dropped projects, I now have more free time on my own hands apart from the teaching and two other collaboration projects (one short, one paper).  I dug out my own unfinished, never-begun projects, because I’m officially running out of excuses… And I can still feel the itch.  That’s crucial for me to start anything.

Immediately I feel how damn hard it is to begin something from scratch. In my case, to parse out what I meant in those notes that I typed out a year ago and make some senses out of it. 

It’s going to be challenging, because I haven’t done any TV Comedy before. But in the end, it’s all just storytelling. If I give it enough time and care, I think I can see to its blossom. 

Just take a deep breath. Word by word. Drip by drip.

 

Yours truly,
YZ