At 1:45 PM, September 15, 2018, I walked out of my studio apartment for one last time, call it mine for one last time.
In front of my landlord’s premium Range Rover, he handed me the pen and the paper. I signed. He tore the check and gave it to me.
The amount was exactly what we had agreed upon, including the six-piece furniture which I sold to him at a great price, including the move-out incentive, including the full security deposit.
Wait, can it be true? It felt surreal.
Is the check real? Will it bounce back?
I was breathless. I was a woman on a mission. I held on to the check, scooted to the bank, deposited it, double-checked that it landed into my account.
Then I texted my friend who helped me negotiated the amount.
“I got the check. It’s done. It’s finally done.”
Like a quarterback, I sandwiched my bedsheet that I forgot to remove earlier with me towards my friends’ apartment.
The husband had already loaded and unloaded the rest of my junk into their lovely apartment, the place I would stay for the next month… He slipped off the staircase earlier when we were loading. And yet, all he needed from me was “Are you okay?”
Who said Americans sue people to death?
The lovely couple charged me nothing for the month accommodation for this prime location.
The husband is making us dinner now.
The wife is helping me with some eBay shit I’m selling.
Angels, after Angels in this City of Angels.
I’m warming towards this city I’ve begrudged for the last three years. Why now, when I’m leaving.
When I get beaten the shit out by life, I scream, “Why (the fuck) always me?”
When I get lucky, I never ask the same question… until now.
Yeah, why always me?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll join the Michelin Star Chef into their open kitchen and observe “how sausages are made.”
Something I thought I had internalized, but I’m far from mastering it since I started this blog and podcast—
I don’t need to feel bad about how many people who have not responded to my art.
Since I’m competitive and comparing to the real influencers, my stats are pitiful, I’ve tried to sell my stuff to the folks who haven’t seen it, shared it, who may find my art interesting and become my evangelists.
I have a group of podcasting friends whom I’ve met at the Podcast Fellowship. I try to be fair.
Here is my definition of fairness: if someone see my stuff and comment on it, I’ll reciprocate. On the other hand, I get frustrated if I comment on others’ stuff and don’t get the same treatment.
That desire of garnering every “You too, hon!” comes from a needy place.
My psychologist friend Barbara Kiao, who will be featured on my podcast next week pointed out to me.
Here is the thing—
If nobody is watching, would you still be doing exactly what you’re doing now?
Does it matter, at the end of the day, how many people see it, like it, share it?
Of course it helps me to spread the word. But it’s not my drive. Nor my purpose.
Plus, people won’t shut up about the art if it’s truly remarkable.
[Translation: Am I going to make a remark about it?]
But first and foremost, I do it for me.
Then, to those who show up for my art, on any given day.
What an honor.
I thank you.
PS. I’m my own guest for this week’s podcast.
You may find it interesting if you’re also contemplating these things:
a) study abroad;
b) go to film school;
c) become a writer;
d) start podcasting;
e) all the above;
f) fear of the things above.
I hear you. I’ve been there. I’m still working on it.
I workshopped my first full-length feature script written at UCLA today.
Truth is, I hadn’t gone back to the story until most recently. I wanted to do a pass on it before sending it to the event organizer.
But I didn’t. The selling. The packing. The meetings. The podcasting… Plus, I knew if I started working on the story, I would have torn it to pieces. I would have detested so much that I would just call it quits.
So I didn’t. When I couldn’t procrastinate no more. I sent the script as it was.
I again, didn’t go to bed until after midnight last night, as if to dare if I would be able to make it to the meeting this morning. I woke up pretty early but didn’t get up until I knew I couldn’t sleep in no more. I gave myself just enough time to get dressed and called a Lyft.
Thankfully, I got there just in time. It would have been ironic if the writer was late for her own script, right?
They asked me how I wanted to use the next two hours, because everyone had read it.
Shit. They did?!?
Isn’t that the name of the game for the writer’s workshop?
I didn’t want to hear all of it. So I asked the group of 14 to read the ten pages from the beginning of Act 2, Page 30.
Then it was the critiques. I started sweating. It’s been a while since I was in a workshop setting like this. I felt naked. But those people read my script and wanted to help me to get better. That’s so big of them.
Here is what really happened:
I didn’t bleed to death.
People got excited about the potential of the story when I pitched them my plan for the next rewrite.
I got some pretty interesting notes and ideas.
We went to Panini in Beverly Hills for lunch.
I made new friends. Two would be featured on my podcast, after my move next Saturday.
A Chinese-American author/singer/mother gave me a ride to the gym later.
It’s not terrifying at all.
It’s okay… No, it’s fantastic! I’ll do it again till I get used to this feeling of stark nakedness.
To quote my new author friend:
“It’s time we Asian women make some noise.
PS. Clocked in 460 words. Tallying 62,214 words. 13.89 days remaining.
I wrote 103 words for my novel at the end of the day…
But that’s not the progress I’m talking about.
I finally started packing! And my writing desk, drying rack and the vanity set are sold!
My friend came and helped. By help I meant he watched me pack those used and unread books.
He did muscle out the New Yorkers, the Economists I’ve hoarded over the course of three years. And some of my printed scripts.
The first box was easy. All the Tony Robbins, all the productivity books. Thanks, but no thanks.
The second box was a little harder. The Doris Lessings. The Pulitzers. The Man Bookers. Guys, I know you’re important, but I’ve just fallen out of love with you.
The third box was difficult. I was only able to fill up one-third. I was not sure if the rest of them would also go to the Goodwill.
“Books are high personal items.” My wiser older friend said. [Translation: Goodwill it is.]
I did manage to gift some to my friend yesterday. Plus two IKEA pillows and a 1/3 1L bottle of Absolut Vodka, a reminder of my richer former Chinese roommate, which I used to bathe the salmons…
“Why didn’t you use a library card? You’re buying second-hand books anyway.” My friend pointed out as he watched me agonizing over the third box.
I thought I was better off if I owned them?
I thought buying books would make my chance of staying in the US higher?
I thought I need to fill the bookcase wall my friend helped me built a year ago?
Used & Unread
All strangely had nothing to do with the books themselves.
I don’t need to guess to know that I’d better off without them. Like a snake shedding a skin of the past. Au revior.
In the end, they are just craps and junks.
But wait, I’m a writer. I’m finishing up my novel’s first draft. These people, authors, spent years of their lives writing those books I now call junk… The odds that people actually read these days.
But still, I can’t take you with me back to Shanghai. I’ll be more mindful next time before I claim you mine.
PS. Listen to the latest RBYZ podcast if you haven’t already. The guest is a Vietnam vet and a dear wise fried. Episode show notes here.
PPS. Clocked in 866 words. Tallying 61,272 words. 14.36 days remaining.
In an inertial frame of reference, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force.
Here comes the million dollar question:
Where and how to find the force?
I went to a writer friend’s farewell party yesterday. No tears. Only laughters. Because by the end of 2018, everyone would be back in China. Me included.
They are visiting scholars at UCLA, from urban planning to neural science. A doctor wants to create video/audio content, explaining his line of work in plain mandarin that caters to the Chinese retirees who are Crazy Healthy Asians.
His Chinese Yankee humor, plus the subject matter, remind me of the TV series Dr. Ken by the one and only Ken Jeong.
“I think I know my core audience. I think I know what I want to talk about. I have so many anecdotes from my practice… But I don’t have professional background like you guys.”
He meant me, my writer friend, and her director husband.
I opened my laptop and showed the doc how I created my podcast from scratch.
“Stop thinking. Start recording. You can’t find your style without ever trying.”
5:30 became 11:30. Six hours later, we were all connected on WeChat.
“It’s so inspiring to see folks like you who made an idea a reality.”
A journey of a thousand miles… Begins with a single step.
Says Lao Tzu.
Who would have thought I would start podcasting myself when I couldn’t bear the sound of my own voice for the longest time?
Who would have thought I would start interviewing folks in different sizes, colors and genders about their most vulnerable moments, their Rock Bottoms, which they might not have shared with their loved ones, or even with themselves?
Who would have thought I would start baring my souls here and call myself a Blogger Anonymous? Who the fuck is ‘YZ?’ I still have trouble answering to my new id when I connect with my lovely guests on Skype.
I don’t know yet where my future holds, here or back home. But I love connecting with people again through this little project I created from scratch.
I know I’m more more than just a writer. I’m meant for something grander.
Maybe I’ll share my story on TED some day. Surely a lovely goal to keep!
As I launched #RBYZ podcast on iTunes and shared it amongst family and friends. A friend called me up and said she was blown away by the sheer awesomeness of my podcast trailer, from the cover art to the delivery…
This woman is someone whom I feel a gap in between us. She is the third-generation of an established Hollywood family. Her long list of credits in movies and TV shows. Her fierce work ethic. Her level-headedness. And she is only four months older than I am!
“Let’s grab coffee next week!” Her enthusiasm oozed out of my iPhone speaker.
“Have you shared it with XXX?”
She meant my former boss, also her former boss. She left the job last April.
The company threw her a surprise farewell party. Hugs were exchanged. Tears were shed. Selfies were snapped. Pro photos were posed.
“I was let go two Fridays ago.”
No party cake or balloons. Only hush hush and WTFs.
“It is what it is. I’m leaving for China in mid-Oct.”
“Yeah. I need to recenter myself. I called my psychologist friend two days after I got sacked. She gave me total mental clarity in just two minutes…”
Yep, my psychologist friend Barbara Kiao is also featured on my podcast, coming soon!
“I know it must be painful. But I’m so glad you’re getting something extraordinary out of this Rock Bottom! You know what, we should see each other more since you’re leaving in mid-Oct!”
Two things I discovered after I hung up, thrilled.
Between the woman and myself, we’re finally closer in this new friendship, which wasn’t possible when we were both employed there.