Keep grinding

I’ve been grinding my teeth a lot lately. I know it because I have trouble moving my jaw without hearing it pop.

Our body usually gives us the red flag before things go awry. I discovered I had TMJ (Temporomandibular joint) pain while I was at UCLA. It wasn’t serious enough to put me into surgery but annoy enough to strip the fun off food. But I like chewing gum and eating in general. I binge and stress eat.

I was taking a producing class at the film school, the instructor invited a friend of his and called him a “grinder.” [No, not Grindr. See dictionary definition here.] “I’ve met and worked with a lot of people in Hollywood. Grinders outlast the rest and get things done. It’s how you succeed in the show biz.” The wise instructor ended on this note.

When I heard this remark, I thought I was a grinder. Not only I grind my teeth, but I would always  follow though on projects and get things done whatever it takes. For a while after I graduated from UCLA, I thought if I could do one thing well, I can find an opening and pivot. Well, the rest is history. I ended up back where I come from, my hometown. It was a hard pill to swallow but necessary for me to see the big picture.

Since I got back recovering from pneumonia, I’ve been doing podcasting, working on short films, rewriting two feature scripts, preparing lectures for the coming weekend and next Tuesday… soon to start a book collaboration, and maybe two other feature assignments. Knock on the wood. And then of course, I will finish my novel before it’s 2019!

That’s a long way of saying we’re better off when our plates are full so our minds don’t wander. But don’t grind on things you don’t enjoy or benefit from, say rocks. You don’t need a dentist to tell you it’s not good for your teeth.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Willpower

My dad lost some 30 pounds in a year since he retired. He did it by watching his diet and walking some 13,000 steps, plus 150 pull-ups and push-ups, every day.

My dad used to be a chubby driver for a state-owned company. He would wake up at 4:30 every day, made me and my mum breakfast and hit the road by 5:45. His job required him to be in the office by 9 and it would usually take him around 30 to 40 mins en route.

“Why did you get to the office so early?” I asked him one day.

“I have better place to sit in than traffic if I can avoid it.”

That’s my dad. For someone who grew up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, my dad wasn’t terribly well-educated on paper. He fixed it with his air-tight work ethic and street-smart.  Even after he’s retired at home, he still gets up at around 5:30 (my cat, strangely, is his alarm clock) to make us a full breakfast from taro to porridge, and then hit the park (his gym) nearby and exercise for almost an hour and come back to two women (my mum and I) in bed still sound asleep.

Confession time.  I, unfortunately, didn’t inherit daddy’s devilish work ethic, his will power, and his consistency… In my defense, I’ve been having a lot of stress as long as I can remember. My biological clock has been a mess since this summer, if not earlier.

And yet, I want to be able to say, “Like father, like daughter.” But right now, I often stay up late rushing to finish bits and pieces of my day’s work when I promised myself earlier in the day that I would go to bed early, starting today.

I have more respect for myself when I’m discipline and rise at dawn everyday. Who doesn’t? What I see in my dad is this mystery thing called “Willpower.” My old man calls it “Habit.” Some 40 years of stainless-steel habit oiled by fear that he may lose his job if he were even seconds late for work.

I often don’t change until I hit ‘rock bottom.’ But I can’t afford to wait for me to fall that far. I have to start now. I hope it’s tomorrow. But then, after tomorrow, there will be another one.  But, no, YZ, let’s just start.

And I will have my dad to be my alarm clock as long as my cat is punctual. We know who to blame if I don’t rise early.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Distance

You see, when I was in LA, I talked with my parents at least every two days for some half an hour or so each time.  Now I’m home and living with them under the same roof in two separate bedrooms, I go on for hours without having to engage in a single conversation with them.

I’ve only been back for less than three weeks thus far. And two things have happened. One, we have gotten so used to one another that we are practically strangers. And two, we haven’t been engaged in any serious conversations which doesn’t end with me grabbing my cuppa tea and retrieving into my bedroom.

I’ve got friends in Shanghai who scream how much they miss me when I was in the US. Since now I’ve been back, I haven’t yet got on the phone yet. Well, I’ve been sick for two-thirds of the time since I’ve been back. But I don’t see how it’s going to change now I’ve got my voice back. Shh, don’t let them know that I’m well. I just can’t deal with the sudden welcome invitations that are weeks overdue.

Or think this: I’ve been texting and FaceTiming friends back in LA since I got back and we figured out the overlapped waking time we’ve shared. Well, that’s something, right?

But distance, as I’ve discovered lately, is quite a con artist.

My parents aren’t gonna be thrilled about this but I’m trying to be frank here: I just find them more interesting when they are confined in that little frame of my phone.

Just like I don’t feel the least bit of urge to visit all my cousins after missing them for four Chinese New Year’s eve dinners and other excuses for relatives to be eating at the same table. I don’t even know how tall or pretty my nieces and nephews have grown. Honestly, I don’t give a shit except for this: those little schmucks are robbing my lunch money and call it their red pockets for the next decade or so. It’s legal because it’s part of the Chinese culture that we still feel like keeping.

Or my aging uncles and aunties who are going to ask me the same old question: “why are you still single when all your cousins are either married or about to.” Now do you realize why I won’t feel a thing if I hear that you get some weird diseases? Okay, that’s mean. But you get the idea.

To my parents’ credit, they never nag me about being single, not getting married or other things down in the pipeline like me having a baby or freeze my eggs just in case.  But, I can’t stop them from thinking these troubling big life events of their daughter who is now officially behind the curve. If they do, they never discuss it in front of me. That’s enough to give them Best Parents of the Century Award.

To make it even more difficult for them is that, all I do these days is walking around my polka dot PJ and sit in front of my computer when I’m not coughing my head off.

“I thought you were in Hollywood.”

“Sorry, Ma. I assure you that JK Rowling does the same thing and look where she is now.”

I guess that was why I held my chopsticks to the furthest when I heard an aunt say “the further you hold your chopsticks, the farther you would travel, kiddo.” But then, little did I know that distance is also the ultimate photoshop.

Yeah, Shanghai pals, how you like me now?

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. I’ve decided to stop the medication the doctor prescribed me after wasting another day today feeling drowsy and heavy even though I clocked in 15 hours of sleep and naps.

November

I can’t believe we’re already in November. Two months later, 2018 would be officially behind us.

I wonder what I have achieved exactly in 2018 other than being exhausted by logistics, getting fucked over by administrative bullcrap and now fallen sick thanks to the germs from my hometown. Homecoming kiss has never been so contagious.

I’ve never felt that I’m running against time as I do right now.

Hamilton’s Non-Stop echoes in my ears:

  • Why do you write like you’re running out of time?
  • Write day and night like you’re running out of time?
  • Every day you fight, like you’re running out of time?

 

As I dragged my bone-tired body out of bed today, I’d slept for some 13 hours yesterday including a three hour nap later in the afternoon. And yet, I still felt dizzy. I skimmed the side effects of the drugs that the doctor prescribed me yesterday.  Drowsiness, check. Lack of energy, check. Double whammy, check.

I vow that I will take good care of my body so I can run faster, write more. And yet, right now, on the second day of November, I can only take it slow. One step at a time.

Lesson learned: Take care of your body so it will take you further.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Woman in short hair

Almost always I’m the only short-haired woman in the room. I thought if I can’t stand out with my petite statue, I might as well do something about my hair.  It’s not crazy short, but it’s short enough for most women to make it their to-go hairstyle whenever they survive a major breakup.

I’m no Tomboy either. So why this short? I find myself trying to explain myself whenever people venture that question with me. The short of it is low maintanance.

But before I can relax, otherperiferial questions pop out as if they are the itches they are dying to scratch.

  • Why do you become a writer?
  • Why are you acting so different (aka. werid)?
  • Why are you so straightforward?
  • Why are you so subtle?

For the better part of my twenties, I tried to become someone else just so I could avoid being asked those pointy questions altogether. But I didn’t realize just how taxing acting was… until I was in the film school.

And yet, the minute I put my mask away, those voice come after me like a swarm of bees. As I had the Aha Moment, it finally dawned on me that instead of fight or flight, the best way is to sit still and chill.

There I found the answers to all questions in that nature.

I earn it. I own it.

 

Your truly,
YZ

PS. I’m so proud that I uploaded this week’s podcast quite ahead of time. Stay tuned! It’s coming Tuesday midnight PST.

 

Shanghai v. LA

Even before I was back in Shanghai, I knew I would go back to LA again.

It’s part gut feeling; part knowing myself too well.

Shanghai adores money too much to want to curate and cultivate talents.

LA adores money and fame nonetheless, if not more. But I feel that there are creative people daring and brave enough to be able to find a footing there.

LA is large enough to not to be distracted except for the gleefully California sun.

Shanghai is large too. But it’s too crowded to give a damn about craving space for creative people who aren’t the usual suspects: people in advertising and marketing. [Translation: people who work from 10 to 2 am who dress creative, talk creative, act creative because they have a business account to spend on.]

Shanghai is like New York in people density and busyness. But most Shanghai people are busy chasing money to pay off housing, imported baby powder, cars… to prove to their families and friends that they are leading a good life.

LA folks care about cars too. I’ve lived on Wilshire Blvd so I have had my share of vroom vroom symphonies. And yet, I feel okay to not own a car, or to own a second-hand car. Some don’t even care about new furniture. I’ve sold quite a few pieces of furnitures to students and fresh graduates who live on a budget.

In Shanghai, I buy everything brand new. It doesn’t even occur to me to look for second-hand stuff…

In the end, it’s not a race. It’s finding a good fit for oneself.

Some are lucky to be born into the city, the country that compliments their personality. While others have to search a little harder and longer.

And yet, the in-betweens complain about the place they were born into but never try to move elsewhere for a change.

I love Shanghai. It’s my hometown. But I don’t love it enough to want to live here forever even though my family is here.

I love LA. It’s the love of my life. I love it enough to leave my family and friends behind, again.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Beginner’s heart

People have been asking me what I’ve learned in my three-year LA adventure, and I’ve answered part of it in my latest podcast episode: Let’s talk about shame.

And yet, that only covers the tip of the iceberg. Another thing I’ve noticed the change in me is more tolerence in others.

Patience isn’t my strongest suit and I tend to judge others too quickly especially when they demonstrate certain things that prick at my pet peeves.

And yet, as I’ve learned during my last few months leading up to my journey back home, I noticed the new height I could reach if I open my heart beyond the good and the beautiful.

Sometimes what seems to be the bad, the fugly, the waste-of-my-time have the cliche silver linings that I hadn’t thought about before. Like one time-consuming writer workshop led to a bunch of meetings and new friends.

Even when people promise me something I desired which they haven’t yet delivered, I keep my faith instead of writing them off, or defriend them like I used to. Yep, guilty as charged.

And maybe, this is how we as adults develop new friendships and explore new ideas and experience.

Next time when the wind blows again, instead of asking:

Where the fuck are you taking me?

Try this:

Sure. Surprise me!

As for now, I’m heading off to the hospital for another round of IV for my unrelenting pneumonia pal, where I may do some more people watching.

 

Yours truly,
YZ