Back home

Okay. I’m back in Shanghai.

Where shall I begin?

I got on a plane at Sunday noon, 12:55 pm.

By the time my feet got back onto the ground, it was Monday, 6 pm.

It was a 13.5-hour flight. But since LA is 15 hours behind Shanghai, it feels like I’ve lost almost a day and half.

But it felt something more than just lost of time. I’ve lost the ability to call and meet my LA friends whenever I wanted. I’ve lost the freedom to get onto Google, YouTube, Facebook hassleless.

I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I only managed 30 minutes of shut-eye. Whenever I tried to close my eyes, the faces of my dearest friends were right there. I tried to get closer to them only to be interrupted by the flight attendents’ footsteps.

Under my eyemask, I started weeping again. When I thought I had cried more than enough, I cried even some more. Hour by hour, I’d exceeded the volumn of tears of I’ve shed on a single day…

The plane arrived on Monday afternoon at 5:30 pm Shanghai time.

It was drizzling outside. How fitting. I had been raining inside.

Yesterday my parents and I went to the Postal Office to collect my stuff. It was rather smooth considering what I’d dreaded.

All fifteen boxes. All there. Safe and sound. Well, except my glass teapot, which was shattered in pieces and my spatular, which was broken in halves.

I love my parents. I love my cat. But I’ve realized that there is something more that I want for this life even it means to be far far far away from my family. I’ve realized that three years later, LA has become my home.

“You know what you should do after you’re back?”

I listened to my wiser friend as I sobbed in the departure lounge, not giving a damn who might be observing my ugly cry.

“I’m listening.” I murmured.

“Write it down. Write it all down.”

So I did.

And yes, I’m back.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Take a deep breath

But when I meditate in the morning, the message is always something different. Today it says: When we let go of all expectation, there is peace.  So I took a deep breath. And settled in. 

I re-started meditation in May.

Today I was told that I am on a 83-day streak. My longest was 91. So eight days away to set a new record. I hope I would just keep going.

I was doing meditation even when my Chinese family of four was here from December to February.

But my auntie fell sick only six days before their trip back to China, right on my 30th birthday. Her face was so swollen that she could barely open her eyes and she was running a fever. I stayed with her in hospital for the first night trying to get to the bottom of the cause.

Long story short. Auntie’s symptoms were relieved. The family went back to China on time. My dad and I even went to the Staples Center for the LA Lakers v. Dallas Mavericks game on Friday night when auntie was discharged late that afternoon, two days before they flew back on Feb 25.

Then, the insurance coverage. I was the middleman for the Ronald Regan Hospital and the Chinese Insurance Company. Roughly a month later, the insurance company confirmed that they would cover the staggering $36,000 hospital bill. By then, I was bone tired.

  • Yesterday in the mailbox, I got a Final Notice from the hospital, staying that they still hadn’t got the rest of the money wire. I have until Aug 8 to fix it.
  • The communication gap between the insurance company and the hospital bureaucrat is appalling. As if sending me those bills, the niece of the patient can solve the problem for her. The insurance company already paid for the 1st half. Shouldn’t she keep talking to the insurance company?
  • I had to stop myself from digging into this rabbit hole, from getting worked up.

Since my family’s left, I felt a huge void.
Plus, I was anxious about the work visa (H-1B) lottery result, my work prospect with the company, whether I was a liability or an asset, and when my boss would send the office manager to break the news to me.

As of June 1, I’m not allowed to be paid anymore. My parents once again showed me just how diehard they are to keep investing in me, regardless of my poor ROI.

If I were the hero of my own movie, I feel the stakes keep rising.  I need to prove my worth to the immigration board next year to get the artist visa (O-1)…

But every morning I switch on the coffee maker, sit on my couch, and meditate, I get a different voice.

Today it says:

When we let go of all expectation, there is peace.
– Kim Eng

So I took a deep breath and settled in.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Ugly Cry

I miss holding my father’s hand. I miss listening to my mum telling on my dad’s ‘misdeeds.’ I miss being the judge of the two, giving out my verdicts. I just miss being around them, like the old days, like a kid.

I stole this phrase from a colleague.

Over a weekend, he proposed to his girlfriend, the picture-perfect woman whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet for a few times.  In the photos, a few yards away were my colleague’s friends, holding pro-cameras and iPhones snapping the moment for the love birds on the beach against the cloudless blue sky under the California sun.

The woman, who works the camera by trade (model/actor), didn’t care how she looked and bawled.

“She had such an ‘ugly cry.'”

This comment from my colleague froze in my head.

This morning, that ugly cry hit me. The difference was, no one proposed.

I was alone in my bachelor’s pad. To put it more precisely, I was in my studio apartment. I just had a video call with my dad. It was my 5 am, his 8 pm. Our vocal cat Michael was meowing for attention slouching against my dad’s feet. Dad was concerned, about my visa. He was worried about the What-ifs.

It was the first time in months since I got up when the alarm first went off at 5. I wanted to use it well. I was going to write. But dad’s text got me thinking: he must be worried. I need to give him a call. A quick one, before I got on with my day. We talked for a bit, about this route, about Michael. I asked where my mum was. Then I heard her voice. Her wet head popped into the frame.

“I was just taking a shower. Where’s the lecture video? I was telling your auntie all about your success the other day.”

“Ma, it may take a few more days. Have some patience.” I replied impatiently.

“You dad starts smoking again!” She blurted out of nowhere.

With dad’s vices, mum never has a problem being the snitch. Her Animal Sign is Rat after all.  Dad just smiled back at me. To the others, he’s known for his scowl, even at home. And Michael (he’s our cat btw) knows it, too. But when he gets busted by Mum, the Policewoman, he lets out a gruff scarce laugh.

I told them that it’s five here in LA and I need to get started. 10 mins in and I had to go. I hated that I had to end our convo so abruptly.

I often picture them living with me in the US. I want it happen so bad. I want it happen right here, right now.

Then I made a mistake. I tuned into The Moth Podcast with the theme on Fathers as I prepped my meal.  It was a series of father-child stories. One story was about a son with his estranged writer dad who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The son drove him around when he visited him at the facility. The son was so full of fear—

“I looked at his hand. Not sure what to do. It was so close but felt so far away. Then I took my right hand off the wheel and lay it on his hand, as if I just took a jump off the cliff. I feared that he would swat it away. I held my breath. Then I felt it. He put his other hand over mine. We stayed that way as I drove… For the last few years of his life, that’s what we did. We held hands.”

I broke down at my kitchen counter and started an ugly cry.

I was disgusted by my selfishness, abandoning them back home, coming here to chase my dream. Nobody told me it’s going to be this hard to do the right thing. Why doesn’t it sound and feel right whenever I look at them through the phone screens, and not into their eyes?

I miss holding my father’s calloused hand. I miss listening to my mum telling on people, mostly my dad’s ‘misdeeds.’ I miss being the judge of the two, giving out my verdicts. I guess, I just miss being around them, like the old days, like a kid, without a care of the world, or of some distant dream.

More and more, that’s what keeps me going. And I hope, with each endeavor, I’ll be closer to them. And them, closer to me.

Damn, I’m cryin’ again.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Insomnia

When my mum and I took this little stray kitten home from our neighborhood four years ago, who would have thought he would keep my parents company when I left for the US? And who would have known he was one of the main reasons of my insomnia last night? Seriously, I miss you all. Do you hear?

I had yet another insomnia last night.

Yes, I did take a bubble bath.
Yes, I did meditate.
Yes, I did exercise.
No, I didn’t drink coffee past noon.
No, I didn’t watch Netflix – I don’t have extra bucks for subscription. I don’t own a TV.

I suddenly grew nostalgic.

  • My grandfather, my only surviving grandparent, is 90 years old. I didn’t like him when I was a kid. But he’s my granddad. And we are the only two Dragons (Chinese Zodiac) in the family.
  • My nieces and nephews whom I haven’t seen since for three years. They may not know that I exist.
  • And my cat! Michael (named after M. Jordan, M. Jackson and M. Chang) who’s now four and a half. I miss holding him, smooching him, feeling the vibrations when he purrs. I miss seeing him dashing around the apartment chasing after a ping-pong ball. Whenever my mum took out the Dyson vacuum we bought to deal with his hair, he would stare at the machine, sizing it up. If you poke his back right there, he would bounce up in horror. That jump would be the ticket to play in NBA. Or even his nagging meows trying to wake the family up at five in the morning because he’s hangry.

When my mum and I took this little stray kitten home from our neighborhood four years ago, who would have thought he would keep my parents company when I left for the US? And who would have known he was one of the main reasons of my insomnia last night?

Seriously, I miss you all.
Do you hear?

Michael peeping out of the bookshelf

Yours truly,
YZ