Quotes

I probably need to find a better to collect quotes. It’s everywhere in my laptop, on my notebooks, scattered amongt the loose paper… Maybe uploading them here could be a good solution.

So here you go. Enjoy!

#love

Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.
Louis de Bernières, Corelli’s Mandolin

Never love anybody who treats you like you’re ordinary.
Oscar Wilde

Hearts are wild creatures. That’s why our ribs are cages.
Unknown

Imagine meeting someone who wanted to learn your past not to punish you, but to understand how you needed to be loved.
Unknown

#kickass

The strongest form of birth control has always been my personality.
Carly Aquilino

I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes—but I’ve seen that movie.
— Jordan Peele

Put confidence with any outfit, that’s style.
Jessimae Peluso

#art

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.
— Martha Graham

My soul is not contained within the limits of my body. My body is contained within the limitlessness of my soul.
— Jim Carrey

Trust what comes from intuition; doubt what comes from my brain. 
— Sandra Cisneros

The thing I keep telling everyone is, “The only way we can screw this up is to not be bold enough.”
— Conan O’Brien

Yours truly,
YZ

Change

No cell phones. No chitchat. No napping.

Such used to be the norm. Now it has become the outlier amongst the college students. At least with the bunch that I work with.

My orginal theory was I just focus on those who would listen. But those who didn’t chipped away my patience. It became harder for me to focus as I kept reminding myself not to snap.

I asked my students to shut off the phone and exchange it with the person who sat next to them.

Suddenly I see more faces than I had in weeks. I felt more energy directing towards me. I felt the vibration in the air. I felt a sense of hope, a desire to improve with them.

When I was talking about how to apply storytelling to everyday life, I used myself as an example. A few years ago, I went to a quake-stricken area in Sichuan after a massive earthquake with the donation (out-dated books the firm wanted to purge from its inventory) from the firm I was with at the time. It should’ve been a light duty. But I couldn’t help but notice and feel that the things we city kids take for granted was a luxury for them. I would never forget going to the loo after seeing a couple of six-year-olds exiting the restroom area. I stepped inside and immediately wanted to vomit. There were all kinds of ecosystem there and none of which I’d want to be part of. I finished my business and got the fuck out. But wait, the pit must be wider for those kids… Wait, those moist wooden desks with rusty nails sticking out can cause nasty safety hazzards… Wait, they don’t even have beds to nap on?! Wait, the donations they’d recieved could only cover the cost of rebuilding those buildings?

24 hours later, I was back in Shanghai, back to my normal hazzard-free life. Those problems should’ve been swept under the rug. But I was haunted by the fact anyone can be born in there. Some of us were just lucky enough to be born in big cities like Shanghai to enjoy better healthcare, better education, better food, better cultural events… Better everything. But we aren’t happy. We are never content. We just won’t settle for less…

Things I used to enjoy didn’t feel right anymore. Like clueless shopping. Like getting the latest iPhone. For what and so what?

Long story short, I launched a pro bono project for the kids and raised 200,000 RMB for those who might be as bright as us but far less fortunate. My Sichuan project manager thanked me for raising the money. I thanked her to carry it through. It felt like Cloud Nine that day and I’d been since chasing that feeling…

It wasn’t an easy story to tell. I was struck with emotion. I was surprised by how years later it still felt raw. Of course my students noticed the tears welled up in my eyes. But fortunately, it wasn’t the first time I cried in a class. I did that at my evening class earlier when I showed the climax scene of Thelma and Louise. And it helps that I’ve got thick skin.

For homework, I asked my students to write down their dreams and their fears on a piece of paper without signing their names. I would collect them next week. All of these has nothing to do with this elective class I teach. It doesn’t matter, becaue it has everything to do with their imminent future, the purpose of their existence. And that’s what really matters.

“Be a better person” is the KPI I set for myself as an adjunct professor. It is the change I want to see in them.

If not now, maybe later. Maybe. May it be.

Yours truly,
YZ

Expectation

I bit my lips and started typing on my phone: “No napping or using cell phones in my class from now on.”

Sent. I then sheepishly waited in the group chat for my students to react, to respond about these new rules. 

The thing is, it’s already 11 weeks into the semester. I’m no longer the new sheriff in town. So making a sudden announcement like that was awkward as a teacher. 

“Would it undermine my image? Would they think less of me?” 

But more importantly, what do I want to achieve?

That one is easy. Respect is what I want to teach them. 

But isn’t it too late? It’s not a main course after all (my AM class is elective but also mandatory if they want to graduate), why so serious?

No, no, no, no, no. 

They’d never have a chance if they don’t learn to focus, fight off social media distractions and addictions, and learn to respect people when they are talking. Such is not a golden ticket to success. But I want my students to at least have good manners, to begin with. Like when someone is talking, you don’t automatically take out your fucking phone. 

Yes, this is the battle I’ve chosen. And I will fight it to the end. After all, my job is not to look good and be nice, but to teach my students things they can pack with them for life.

Before I started teaching, a fellow professor told me that I didn’t need to sweat much with this class. Just a bunch of people wanting the credits more than they want to learn. 

The college is the real culprit here. Since it doesn’t know what to do with the extra unassigned credits, it created this class to check its bureaucratic boxes. 

So when I had my first few classes, 90% of the students were playing with their phones. Not only was I pissed, I was frustrated with how to teach those who don’t want to be taught? I asked the same teacher, who told me to ignore it, “Just do your job and get on with life. You can’t change them.”

So I accepted the status quo.

Then a conversation with my psychologist friend Barbara made me realize just how untrue that notion was. “Teach them respect by showing them how they should treat you. And vice versa.”

After I slept on it, I decided to ignore my ego and go with my guts. We’re already here, why don’t we make it better, and bring some changes? 

It’s an elective class, but I expect no less from you. That’s my message. 

Not the toxic passive aggressive “You don’t give a fuck about me, so I don’t give a fuck about you.” BS which we deign to do as socialized animals who dress nicely, speak properly, and tread lightly so nobody would complain or report you.

But guess what, my job as a teacher is not to make people happy, but to make them see, make them feel, make them grow, even it means discomfort or pain. 

I hope I could say “You’d thank me later,” but I know I won’t be able to know it. But that’s fine—as long as I have a clear conscience to bring back home.

Yours truly,
YZ

And… she’s back

Hi guys,

I’m back, stronger, healthier, and more balanced.

For awhile I couldn’t see myself back. When I was at my lowest, I didn’t see the point of coming back, ever again. That voice was taking hold: You don’t matter. Nor does your voice. So shut up and piss off.

So I did. For two months.

During the period of my cock blocking my own blog, a dear friend asked when I would update again. I said I was busy. Truth is, I was. But I still found time to watch Colbert, follow the US politics shitshow, and binge HBO’s Barry and Insecure, Hulu’s PEN15 and Ramy… so what kind of lame excuse was that, right?

A few things to update here:

  1. One of the films I wrote just won Best of Fest, first of hopefully many awards during the festival season;
  2. I’ve almost finished my first ever comedy spec pilot script after tons of rewrite… I’m already nervous AF about the feedbacks.
  3. My teaching at the arts college has been going well. My students seem to like my class and I have a steady stream of followers who sit in for my class;
  4. Because of this teaching gig, I would very likely land another teaching gig for the fall semester at an institute whose values I share. Things would likely to unfold in a matter of a fortnight;
  5. I’m now collaborating with three people on three separate creative projects. It’s a lovely change for someone who used to work alone;
  6. My negotiation skills are now officially next level:
    a) I set boundaries with a bloodsucker (*see definition in the footnote) by upholding my dignity, telling him to fuck off without actually dropping the F-bomb.
    b) When a wannabe writer asked me for rewrite service, I told her my fees, which in turn shocked her the shitless. “I didn’t know screenwriting can cost this much.” My OS: Well, bitch, now you know. You don’t question the lawyer when she charges you by the hour.  Or your therapist.  Or your dentist.  Just because you vomitted 100 pages doesn’t make them un-stink… It went on like this for a bit in my own head.  I was caught off guard by my epic animosity towards this stranger who I had never met and possibly would never meet.  I took a Sorkin-esque walk-and-talk.  Then something hit me: when someone doesn’t see the value I provide, I get frustrated. My ego screams, “They don’t see what I see, and thus I don’t value what I think I’m worth.” It was all fear talking…  Sure in the end, I scared away a potential client, but I got in touch with my own psyche.
  7. I threw myself back into the dating pool. Quite a cliche move ‘cuz I felt I was in a rut with my writing projects. Now I wanted to seek validation from elsewhere. Bingo: men.  Regardless of all the debates why I should focus on my work and my work alone, my strongest inner voice fought on, “Bitch , I need to live. I need to feel like an actual natural woman. I need to feel that I’ve got game. Just fuckin’ do it already!” Without getting into too much detail, I’m pleased to report that I’m doing quite okay. I’ve learned that I’m beautiful just the way I am (Yo, Bruno Mars).   And here’s the list of key findings from my dating adventure:
    a) I’m a good listener.
    b) I’m a fun conversationalist.
    c) I’m told that I’m a pair of bossy fancy pants – which 99% of the Chinese men don’t dig but fine by me. #theirloss
    d) Could flirtation actually be my mother tongue? Hmm…
    e) Even though I’m a feminist who doesn’t wear it on her sleeves, I enjoy being pampered and seeing men pick up the tabs without making it weird or a big fucking deal.
    f) Trial and error also works in dating. Gurls and gents, don’t quit on your first unsuccessful date. Assess why it didn’t go well and charge the fuck on.
    g) More often than I’d like to admit, I sometimes have out of body experience that I would start writing scenes at an imaginary desk. Beware, #pervertwriter aboard…
    h) I’ll have to save more for later for now.

After two fucking months of blog drought, I’ll close this post with something my dear friend Barbara shared in our recent Zoom call:

Nobody else is the source of ​change​ to our destiny.  The bread actually sits right on our heads, but most of us look everywhere else just for crumbs…  Don’t ever minimize the purpose of your life.  

We get to live just once. So live it well. Make it count.

That’s it for today.  #illbebacktmr

Yours truly,
YZ

*Bloodsucker: one powerful individual who wants to pick your brains and suck your blood dry but doesn’t value or respect your time.  Let alone consider the $$$$$ it fucking entails.

*A reader of my blog reached out asking for some English writing advice. I was touched by the sincerity between the lines.  To rw: Thank you for getting in touch. You’re a Messenger sent by Higher Power who commands my presence in the blog sphere.  Thank you, dear.

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