This life I chose

If there is a next life, I pray that I am a white male math wunderkind in Wall Street.

My nose is running. My throat is inflamed. My head is foggy. I fell sick three days ago. The third time since I got back to Shanghai, living in my parents’ rent-free spacious apartment, eating my dad’s thoughtful cooking and never need to do my own laundry. What a non-starter. Only it isn’t.

The person I knew who did everything on her own has begun to fade in my sleep-deprived memory. Did she really exist at all?

Did I really live in LA for three years on my own?

The past starts to blur not in years, but as fast as months.

My insomnia has now worsened to a point where I had to order melatonin to claim that I had failed at another foolproof task: getting myself to sleep.

Today I turned in the last draft of a short film. Thus far, four short scripts have come to an end. I will wait till May for the directors to come up with the finished films.  

On a side note, I got dropped from the animation feature project weeks after I turned in the movie treatment — the skeleton of the movie which took me weeks to write. It was a hard pill to swallow. I graciously told the director that it was okay when his boss asked for a more well-known American screenwriter to tackle this Chinese tale as old as time. Intellectually, I understood. Sure, I knew that I can do it. But viscerally, the sucker punch has a lingering side effect called depression. 

I also realized that why you shouldn’t announce it until you nail it in writing. What we have here is a stupid girl compounded with a rookie mistake. 

If this’s not enough, just read on. 

I still have problems with people who’re all talk and no walk. A former colleague made me a promise for some Chinese connections and projects before I left LA. I wrote the dude a letter on the new year to catch up on what he has promised. He replied with typical Hollywood flair: no response. I swept it under the screw-you rug and moved on. 

Yesterday, a friend who has got her O-1 visa warned me not to set the return date as early as spring 2020.  I don’t have much of a life in Shanghai with most of my old acquaintances either estranged or evaporated.  And my life in LA got upended and put on hold. Now you’re telling me with the speed that I’m running,  I might have to wait just as long as everybody else?

Yes. Get in line. Unless you’re the Naomi Osaka of screenwriting.

But that’s not all of it.

My thoughtful father sat me down a few days ago and told me that I need to think about “relationship.” Are we having this conversation, like right now? What about the times you cut me out when I had my first crush on some boy that I met at the night school? You sat me down and told me that I need to focus on schoolwork? I love my father so I bit my tongue and said I would think about after I get myself back to LA.  What about men over here? First of all, I don’t have stamina for Finding Nemo right now. Secondly, Chinese men and yours truly are 99.99% incompatible. I just don’t have time to scour that 0.01% right now. 

Today, I vented at my best friend in LA who at one point said, “Sometime I get a bit weary because you’re just very good at turning your friends into enemies.” I started apologizing profusely just as my alter ego began snickering at my level of immaturity for a thirty-something.

I hate February. Not only it’s the shortest. But also it hides my birthday, reminding me that I’m older, poorer, and nowhere near closer to anything that I set out to do.

I need a miracle. I need strength. I need unconditional love. I need to patch up my trust in people. And most of all, I just don’t want to turn into a cynical cat lady who’s gonna die alone and won’t be discovered until her neighbor’s Labrador smells something funny.

In one of the meditation exercises, I was told to make a list of people and things that I feel grateful for, to be the glass-half-full gurl for a change. I found myself struggling in my lonely heart in the dark night while my coward hot tears rolled down from my cheeks. 

Out of everything in the world that I could choose from, I chose writing. Because I want to be remembered after I’m gone. 

But if there is a next life, I pray that I am a white male math wunderkind in Wall Street who loves stocks and being filthy rich — or whatever prototype that is the most sought-after on God’s creating list. 

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. God, if you’re listening, please destroy the pattern you used to make me.

Next time

I’d be honored to work with you again some day.

I can’t remember the last time I snapped any photo of LA.

Maybe I had grown complacent…

Maybe I had gotten used to the expat experience…

Truth is, I just wanted to fit in, so desperately, that I never called myself one.

Now deadlocked with my inescapable fate, I had to reacquaint myself with this term I so vehemently rejected…

We had a beautiful dusk here yesterday. I snapped a photo with my eyes and stored it my memory drive.

I was strolling with my dear friend, who helped me move when I first got here, whom would be the first featured guest on my podcast, premiering next Tuesday, August 28.

 

I would be angry.

Was the first thing he said when he came up to my studio apartment.

“Why?”

“That you can’t stay here when you clearly wanted to.”

“Trust me, I was pretty frustrated last year. I couldn’t write.”

We talked about anything and everything. I asked him to record an answer for me, which has become the #RBYZ Trademarked question.

Then we talked some more as we walked the neighborhood.

He didn’t need to probe or ask how I was holding up.

I’ve become quite an expert in opening up. I’m rockin’ this podcast about those would-be shameful hours, and blogging makes me shame-free, almost.

“I remember thinking about taking a pill or something so I didn’t have to deal with the mess the next day. I’m just so freaking exhausted.”

He simply listened.

And that’s all I need.

I thought I was a warrior, but it dawned on me that I was picking the wrong battles for the last three years straight:

  • Moving four times within the first months I landed in LAX;
  • Filing a lawsuit against my former landlady, the quintessence of a cunt;
  • Vexed by my former ungrateful roommates who did nothing to contribute other than to complain. When I got our money back, I couldn’t recall a proper ‘thank you’ from the spoiled little brats;
  • Begging for just a five-minute meeting with my billionaire former boss when I didn’t get the work visa lottery…
  • If I knew my ex-boss would let me go a month later, I might not have paid 2.5 G to renew my student status awaiting him to grace me with his presence while not getting not a dime since June 1 because of my visa*;
  • *Thanks to the US immigration laws, foreign students aren’t allowed to work or get paid on paper. They can’t even land free internships…
  • By the way, do you know just how hard it is to get an artist visa as a writer fresh off film school?
  • But even if I did get to stay, what about dinero? How else would I survive the California Dreamin’?

God forbid I’m not a Crazy Rich Asian.

So when my current landlord decided to oust me for his little scheme last Thursday, I was bone-tired. I didn’t have an ounce of energy left. I was depleted.

My lawyer friend looked at the contract and got me a 60-day notice instead of the landlord’s original 30-days.

But I’d already decided to return to China, thanks to the wise words of my psychologist friend, Barbara Kiao.  And without the lovely Angels I’ve befriended in LA, maybe I might have ended up in the Cuckoo’s Nest already…

 

As I finished editing the pilot episode late last night, I texted my friend, thanking for dropping by.  At the time, he was at his friend’s birthday party.  Surprisingly, he texted back:

Don’t forget: you’re a funny, kind, and beautiful person. You have tons of adventures ahead of you and I’d be honored to work with you again some day.

The warmth coursed through my artery and pumped into my heart, my weary wrinkled heart.

“Not someday. Soon. I wish you said it in my face though.” I reprimanded.

He promised he would next time.

Until next time then.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Welcome to Wall Street

Your country won’t spare me. So why shall I spare you?

Friend and I were on our way to a famous ice-cream joint called Fosselman’s in Alhambra.

It was still rush hour. Friend decided to cross downtown instead of taking the I-10 highway.

Lo and behold, he got us to the armpit of LA.

Congested rows of tents, makeshift camps with umbrellas as rooftops.
Pretty creative.

Men and women, meandered the street.
They were here. But they weren’t really here.
They weren’t depressed, depleted, or deprived….
But numbness, written all over their faces, mostly African-Americans.

I didn’t need to roll down the window of the BMW to smell the air they were breathing in.
My hand grabbing the leather door handle.
My back tight against the car seat.

I glanced over at my immaculate African-American friend behind the wheel.
My eyes screaming, “Get me outta here.”

“For a country as wealthy as ours, I still can’t figure how we have allowed this to happen. It’s a disgrace. Sorry”

Friend hit the gas.

Before we sped off, I caught sight of the street sign.

It reads: Wall St.

 

Saturday afternoon is my Grocery Day.  I walk to Trader Joe’s in Westwood. I would pass this kind-faced woman with a tender voice, “Could you spare any change?”

Only a recent LA dweller in Fall 2015, I would stop and apologize because I only carried credit card.

Later I exchanged notes to quarters for laundry. But I found myself ignoring her with my bagful of changes… Or any homeless people I passed by.

I couldn’t spare any. Because I had nothing to spare. I was just a student, I reasoned.

But that’s a lie.

Here is the voice in my head barking back—

They’re fortunate enough to be born into this free country but they still let themselves descend to begging?

Your country won’t spare me. So why shall I spare you?

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Anger, angst… fear

With my phone timer, I let myself be the victim, feel the pain, the loss, the betrayal for fifteen minutes and no more. Tomorrow, I will do the same to begin again. Now, I will start working: declutter my life and do it out of love.

I was a total arse yesterday.

To cheer me up, friend bought tickets to the Walt Disney Hall, because I hadn’t been in there yet.

He called me at 10:30, “I’ll pick me up at 12:30.”

I rebutted, “Wait, so we are not having lunch?”

He paused, “We can do lunch although I won’t recommend it.”

I rolled my eyes and barked back, “I thought it was like last time when we went to Dorothy Chandler. So I haven’t yet had any breakfast.”

“Never mind. I will pick you up at 11.”

By 11, he was downstairs. He was tense. I tried small talk. But he wasn’t engaging, “I’m not a morning person. I’m not awake yet.”

We had a quick lunch. 30 minutes later, we were done, almost.

He asked, “Are you ready?”

It was barely one o’clock. The concert didn’t start until two. I snapped, “What’s the rush?”

Three minutes later, we were out of the restaurant. By the Modern Art Museum, there was a fugly fountain. Some clueless tourists were posing and taking photos.

He stopped by a group of family.

I rolled my eyes, trying to ask him why we were stopping since we were rushing.

He ignored me and turned to the family, “Would you like a group photo?”

“That would be great! Thank you!”

I zipped out and sat down on the nearest bench.

He joined me a minute later, “This is what I do when I see tourists. I take pictures for them.”

“You can at least tell me to wait.”

“Life is too short.” He said to himself.

In silence, under the perfect Californian sun, we strode towards the gleaming Disney Hall.

 

I was underwhelmed. The French Horn was late. The maestro lectured before every piece. The tenor popped the mic a few times. The female instrumentalists donned various colored gowns as if they were models. Constant phone lightings in the dark. People zipped in and out, during the performance!  Too out of context to appreciate the combo of music pieces, I gave up enjoying.

I knew I should just keep my mouth shut, but I complained to my poor friend during the intermission. He pointed out that it was a summer concert and it’s LA, so it’s casual.

Three hours later, we hit the road again. I asked him where we were heading.

“I’m dropping you off.”

“Wait, didn’t you say we are going to talk through my issues today over dinner?”

“I’m tired. I need to be alone, at my home.”

“You could have told me.” There I began another round of accusation.

Naturally, he gave me another round of silence treatment.

In the end, he finally said, “I’m not obligated to engage at your level of emotional immaturity. It’s like an adult trying to reason with a kindergartener who’s determined to throw a tantrum.”

The gut punch. I lowered the car seat and lay down… and breathed.

“The anger you have is towards your former boss, the way he treated you from the beginning to the end. Now you are lashing it out at me. I don’t need this, okay?”

I re-adjusted the seat and turned towards him.

“I’m sorry.” But my terse reply betrayed me.

“The good news is you are still young as you experience this thing called betrayal. You put your trust on someone and didn’t get what you were promised. I didn’t experience it until much later. It’s painful. It takes time. Your problem will still be here tomorrow. But right now, I’m too tired and you’re too angry.”

I finally realized what I was doing. I didn’t pick my battles. And it became a shitshow.

By the end of the night after half-pint of mint chip ice cream and a full box of cherries, I spoke with my psychologist friend in Shanghai.

“Come back home. Re-center yourself. You can’t make right choices when you aren’t mentally healthy. The good news is you’re still young. Not that you can’t when you’re older. A couple of months later, we can laugh about it over some wine. It’ll be okay.”

As I woke up this morning. I heeded to her advice. I repeated what she asked to say:

“I’m a spirit experiencing human experience.”

With my phone timer, I let myself be the victim, feel the pain, the loss, the betrayal for fifteen minutes and no more.

Tomorrow, I will do the same to begin again.

Now, I will start working: declutter my life and do it out of love.

 

Yours truly,
YZ