How do you spend the day

“A day passes by so fast. I don’t even know what I’ve done and then day has turned into night.”

Is how you going to spend your life.

This quote often sends chills down to my spine especially when I’ve not been productive, or when I’ve squandered the day not accompolishing something meaningful.

When I was on the phone with a dear friend in LA the other day, friend asked whether I had gone to movies, dined with friends, had fun and what not apart from working.

I suddenly grew sheepish, because I hadn’t watched a single movie in the theatre lately. I blamed the lame movies that got imported. I hadn’t met many friends either except the ones I really wanted to meet because the deadlines had been hovering above my head since I got well from pneumonia.

It was as if everything I do, or plan to do, I had to give it some kind of meaning. Otherwise, it was not worthy of my time. It even haunted me in my dreams.

When dad asked me to help him to fix a phone app, I spent almost half an hour on it due to the app’s stupid user interface. Dad later apologized for wasting my time, for interrupting my writing. At the time, I did complain a little, explaining that it takes a person 30 mins to actually get into the groove to do anything creative.

Later, Dad, the busiest and earliest bee of the family, said without any context, “you know, a day passes by so fast. I don’t even know what I’ve done and then day has turned into night.” At the time, I was winding down watching Frasier. I looked up from my laptop and said, “Yes. I feel the same way.” Suddenly it struck a chord and made me meloncholy.

As of now, I am close with my loving parents, my needy cat who has to nap on my lap. Sometimes I admit I feel a bit overwhelmed. But soon, maybe a year or so, I will pack up my things up and leave again. This time, I will bid farewell and try to make my own home in LA, again.

You see, before we know it, our parents will be older. So are we. We dash through days, months, years, brushing shoulders with people zipping in and out of our lives.

By now, I don’t have a single junior or senior high school friend that I’m still in touch with. By uprooting my career some four years ago, I’ve made myself obselete in most of my old Chinese acqauintances’ memory drive while trying to squeeze into my American friends’ life, who may already have one friend too many… Such is a pickle of hard fact that I must chew and digest.

I only hope that when I take my last breath in this lifetime, I can say that I have had a brave life. I’ve done whatever I can to become the best version of myself with whatever resources that are available to me. I’m a good daughter, a sincere friend, a fun companion. And most important, I stay true to my heart.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Whose shit is this shit?

Dad saw a husky owner who didn’t pick up the dog shit. He called after the guy before he was led away by his dog.

“Sir, forgetting something here?” Dad pointed at the hot mess. Nerves on his temple bulging.

“You lost your marbles? Mind your own fucking business.” The man barked back and refused flatly.

Dad asked the Residential Committee to even things out. Its office is right beside where the shit show happened, fortunately.  And yet, not a single soul came out.

A staffer hiding behind her desk replied sheepishly, “[Dog poop] is NOT our job.” 

The man snickered at my dad, “See? It’s not their job. So what’s the fuss here? You’re a CPC member or what?” [Translation: CPC Member = Boy Scout with a twist.]

It was not until my dad threatened to call the police that the man dared to taint “the good name of CPC” that the man finally gave in and picked up the shit and apologized.

Dad told the story during dinner and added, “That’s why I warn you not to mind these monkey business. It does you no good.”

“But now we have one less shit to worry about, eh?  So who’s job is it when it comes to… dog shit?”

Dad didn’t have an answer. I don’t either. 

Truth is, you can’t expect every dog owner to remember pick their puppies’ shit up. Maybe another law will suffice?

Or maybe more folks like dad who is getting discouraged when he did the right thing.  Sometimes, if you meet people whose last layer of dignity is gone, there is nothing left for you to do. 

Did I mention that every person working in the Residential Committee is a party member? Yep, here comes the twist. Go figure.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Happy New Year!

The power lies right within us if we dare to summon it, tirelessly, lovingly. 

Happy 2019!

And she’s back.

Yes!

I still have a few pressing writing deadlines at my hand. But I’ve decided to log back onto the blog I’ve been turning to since around my major Rock Bottom last summer.

2019 may very well foresee my film career officially taking off. My first feature movie will premiere at the end of 2019 amongst other things. It all sounds surreal, but getting back to LA won’t be for too long after all.

For 2019, a few things will be my priority:

  1. Fear less. Worry less. We shall see how my Mrs. Bennet-esque poor nerves would serve me in 2019.
  2. Just do it. I think, strike that, I know I can. (My guilt pleasure is still to binge-watch Frasier whenever life or circumstances spit on me. I’m currently on Season 3 Episode 22…)
  3. Spend quality time with my parents. (I will take my folks to Japan for a week in the fall if I finish everythething I should finish by April*.)
  4. Be a friend indeed to my friends in need. (Say yes if I can help it.)
  5. Get up early. Exercise daily. Eat healthy. (Well, I just ordered a large pack of MyLikes, aka. Chinese Maltesers…)

After the months crawl out of the shitty place, all I can say is this:

The power lies right within us if we dare to summon it, tirelessly, lovingly. 

Or as Sir Winston Churchill eloquently put it:

Never, never, never give up.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Here is my first four months to-do list:

  • Animation feature script – done
  • Feature script polish – done
  • Paper – first draft
  • New feature script on spec – first draft
  • New short script – first draft
  • The class plans for the spring semester (I’m teaching two screenwriting classes at a Shanghai college)

Under the moonlight

As a writer, my job is to bring what’s under the moon back to the sun.

The more people entrust in me with their stories about love, about rock bottom, about vulnerability, the more I realize that there is no such thing as a perfect life. If someone says he begs to differ, then I’d say he’s missing out on life in general.

Everyone at some point gets her heart broken if she trifles with love. Sometimes what they’ve experienced should only happen in a movie. And yet, the truth is stranger than fiction. 

As a writer, you get to see life in various shapes and colors. If you don’t have an open mind, you only capture a limited few layers of life and people. But if you are willing, willing to set aside your own judgement, your own opinion, maybe you will find that people are more alike than they’re willing to let on. 

And yet, we tend to preach the popular, go with the flow through sunlight. We only let go of our subconsciousness and desire under the moonlight.

As a writer, my job is to bring what’s under the moon back to the sun. When it’s done right, it provokes people, it makes them uneasy, angry, upset… But in the end, people see their true selves through the story. 

They won’t admit it, but they feel it. To a writer, that’s a job well done.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

The bubble

Only this bubble of our daily life can make the old home liveable again. 

I met with three groups of friends on Saturday. All career women. They blew me away. I think if I need support group here in Shanghai, they would be the first people I go to.

I saw a pattern in all of their Shanghai lifestyle. I call it “The Bubble.”

If one exposes herself too thoroughly in the Shanghai environment, it’d be like opening up your soul to the Death Eaters.

The mass would judge your taste, your lifestyle, your career choices, your partner, your car, your language… They would tell you that you should change to fit in and think they are doing you a favor.

Women don the same shade of makeup, even have the same face from their latest plastic surgeries. They wear the same style because it’s in and hip. Because some celebrity is making a wave with it. The latest model of iPhone is glued to their palms, bending their neck. People stop judging others taking selfies. Because now it has become the mainstream.

If you don’t want to be taken away by the current, you gotta have some haven, some shelter… some bubble for your soul to breathe and expand.

“Where would you want to end up?” I heard myself ask each one of them.

The answer stays the same: not here.

I suddenly felt a wave of sadness. The place I grew up, the place I call my hometown, has become too fast to strange to me, to us, that only this bubble of our daily life can make the old home liveable again.

So Shanghai, what’s your trait other than new and shiny?

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Two months later

My heart still aches for the California sun. 

My folks are on a trip for three days.

It’s just me and my cat Michael in the apartment.

Where I had spent three years all myself in the US, now three days seems too long. I need to heat up the food three times a day for three days. I need to feed and clean the cat. I need to get things in place for the room-bot. I need to do my own laundry. I need to remind myself to drink water…

All these things that I had been doing for myself, I handed the responsibility over to my folks when I came home exactly two months ago. Suddenly picking those things up seems a real stretch.

It sounds bizarre but we get used to things real quick. I only hope that with this pace that I’m going, I won’t settle in too much before I uproot myself again back to LA, where my heart belongs.

Two months later… things are better. But spare my heart, it still aches for the California sun.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Communication

All I can do is to listen better; make sure who does what by when in writing.

I was going to have three calls today. One with the feature project director. The other two with the short film directors. 

The first one went extremely well. I was elated how this pro from the Big League liked my voice and nuances in the script. 

The second director was caught up in production. So we rescheduled till tomorrow. 

The third, boy oh boy, the third one got my head spinning like crazy. The director bumped into every possible pet peeves I had, the ones I didn’t know I had or the ones I thought had departed me…

Maybe I was being greedy. Because I didn’t need this extra short for my credit list when I was slaving away three short films, one feature while trying to build up the structure for my first Chinese animation feature plus a few other things.

Through the communication with the third director today, I learned a few things about communication and miscommunication.

Phone manners: Never answered the phone while you are in the loo when you tell the other side that you are ready while actually you’re not. Lock yourself inside the room when you know your call would meow and distract your conversation. The director blatantly did both. I rolled my eyes so openly. Thank the Lord it was not FaceTime.

Everyone needs to be acknowledged. This person never once said: “Thank you so much to turn it around within the 12 hour window.” Maybe she’s just another spoiled rich brat from China that need some spanking. I heard myself thinking.

Especially for screenplay projects, written words should be everyone’s best friend. I found myself trying to convince the director my vision from our previous conversation. It became her words against mine. When she said, “oh, my characters won’t do that. You can find it in the file I sent earlier.” “No, you didn’t.” I called her out loud. “Oh, now the male character has changed so much blah blah blah and the female character…” That part of our convo was a mistake, if not a disaster like Trump v. Pelosi & Schumer. I should ask her to send me more background stuff in bullet points before I started. Maybe she is young; maybe she’s inherited the worst part of the director title before earning it.

As a rule, I try to speak Chinese unless I can’t come up with the English word. I know how pretentious it could sound to the others in certain scenarios. We are both Chinese. So what the fuck? The director’s cringe-worthy English pronunciation got on my nerves if you want to know the truth. I’m not a pronunciation Nazi, but having so little awareness of how poor her English is by contaminating her mother tongue is what gets me. I found myself speaking English unnecessarily frequent with her as a way to beg her to stop.

And earlier I should sense the red flags. Like when I told her my price. She tried to bargain for a few rounds when I already told her that was what I charged for her three other classmates. Or, the part where she tried to give me RMB instead of USD and calling it thoughtful because I’m in China. I would have appreciated her street-smart in a whole different setting. Right then, I was not impressed to say the least.

When I asked her at the end of our call to send me her notes in bullet points, she never did. I recalled earlier when she came to me that she was worried about not being able to make it in time to the hands of her producer. Now she’s stalling?  Or maybe, we are just not the right fit. It happens. 

When my mentor asked me to not to internalize other people’s urgency but to go with my pace, I said I don’t have many choices right now because I want to get back to LA before I get bogged down by the Shanghai way of thinking (translation: What’s in it for me? How much can I milk out of it?)

I know better now after the bumpy voice call with the wannabe director. I took the rest of the day off; took a stroll with dad in the park; caught up the latest Colbert I’ve missed for the last few days; lit my scented candle and took a warm bath. I felt calmer. 

On the flip side though, I can’t help but think about those general meetings which I never heard back from. Is it because I was having too huge an ego for my petite stature? 

Hell, I can’t please everyone. All I can do is to listen better; make sure who does what by when in writing especially when I spar with another person whose personality doesn’t fit mine, which I’m sure may happen quite often.

And yes, I will need to breathe more and chill out. 

 

Yours truly,
YZ