9 hours from now

I will be boarding the flight back home.

My parents and I finally decided that they would meet me at the airport, instead of waiting for me at home.

Mostly it was because I don’t have Chinese cash (RMB) on me. My phone’s setting wouldn’t allow me to DiDi (Chinese Uber + Lyft).

 

A million questions coursing through the mind of a soldier, coming back home from the war… finding the wife has left him, the house is gone, the parents are dead, the friends are now strangers…

A gazillion questions grill my attention:

  • How would China treat me?
  • How would Shanghai see me?
  • How would my friends back home respond?
  • Would I be happy?
  • Would I find things I love to do here?
  • Would I be financially independent?
  • How would I find projects?

And yet, only one way to find out.

Live it.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. I’m wearing a thick parka as I type this blog. Yes, it’s what I would wear tomorrow. a) Shanghai is getting cold. So is LA. b) I think I’ve probaly gone overweight with my suitcases… c) I love everything this parka.

One less day

Is what I’m thinking about as I’m typing here.

Another friend and I said farewell to each other today.

The reality hit me hard. At one point, I almost bursted into tears (again).

I’m not dreaming. I’m leaving for China…

 

UCLA Extension found out about me not actually enrolled into the program, they gave me an ultimatum asking me to pay for my tuition by October 8. I told them that I’m leaving on Oct 14 so don’t bother. They replied that I had, not 30, but just 14 days to exit the country that I had been residing in for three whole years.

It was like the bouncer found out that I was underage and I didn’t pay for my own drinks, so they tried to pluck me out of the crowd.

Then I said, “How dare you. I’ll walk.”

But after I walked the walk for about a mile, I couldn’t talk the talk. Because I broke down crying, missing all the pals whom I wouldn’t be able to say proper goodbyes “under the influences.”

Would I be doing this after I’m back in China? I hear you ask.

You betcha.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Check out the latest #RBYZ episode featuring myself. It reads narcissistic. Hope it doesn’t sound so. Judge it for yourself.

Last day of September

Is not September 31st. But I do wish it has 31 days like October or December.

Rather unfair, wouldn’t you say?

That makes my remaining days in LA about one day shorter.

I never think it that way early in my journey in the US. Reaching the end of this chapter, I want the time to slow down, to freeze.

“With your experience in America, you would do great back in China.”basically summarizes what everyone has been telling me thus far.

I wonder how much of it is sugar-coated encouragement given how much confidence they have in my capacity, to which I know I deserve.

I have been driving myself crazy about my future back home, as if I have a much better idea if I still got to stay in LA.

Here is something I’ve realized: I’ve been a pessimist since I got to America. With every hope, my reaction is: Really? Are you sure?

Even when I landed the ‘dream job,’ the looming fear had been: when I would be let go. Until I was. A nightmare came true, more or less.

I’ve been guilty of tracking the subscribers as if it’s an arms race against the likes of Tim Ferriss. I was so upset when I found out that the first day playbacks has dropped significantly with the last episode, largely because the freshness has worn off amongst my families and friends. Or that my blogs don’t get enough reads.

Honestly, I feel the resistance, daily and hourly. The snarly voice [Think: Brett Kavanaugh, or Lindsey Graham] nags in my head, “So what? You ain’t no writer. Get out of my lawn.”

With that in mind, I’ll keep showing up here, with my blogs and my podcasts just to show Brett and Lindsey are very, very wrong.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Two writings on the wall

My last week in this apartment
I took down
The last two writings on the wall
Against the now-gone writing desk
Sold last Saturday

Here I share with you my mantra
The writings I forgot
That were there
The messages I got used to
That became invisible…

Until now
As I took them down
Read with my heart
For one last time
Before I tossed them
Two pieces of paper
Into the trash.

So here you go—

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented,
    and fabulous—
Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
there is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
    people
Won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some of us: it is in everyone,
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously
Give other people permission to do the same. 

—Nelson Mandela

 

Yours truly,
YZ

1097 days later

That’s three years, from September 5, 2015 to September 5, 2018, which is today.

Have I really spent three years in the U.S. without taking a single flight back home in between?

I didn’t. I had no money nor time. Plus, I was gung ho about making it in LA, getting settled and all.

When the news of packing up for China hit me, I was disappointed, distressed, ashamed that I didn’t accomplish what I was set out to do.

You gave yourself a Mission Impossible.

You had no screenwriting experience or training three years ago.

You’re writing in your second language.

Don’t you see you’ve gone so far in three years.

You should be proud of yourself.

My older wiser friends have been trying to tell me.

I refused to listen.

What’s the point if I had to be kicked back to Square One?

But truth is, I’m not.

I know so much more about the movie business, about screenwriting, about creation, about the process, about myself especially my darkest sides than three years ago, where I started from scratch.

I’ve made some lifelong friends here, whom I know would embrace me should I make my way back. And they always have a home wherever I go.

This is not a “zero-sum game” — a snazzy phrase I learned at Howard Suber‘s legendary Film Structure class.

Just now, a dear friend helped me sorted out my biggest issue: suitcases and boxes.  With her lightening-fast research and order, I’ve decided to ship all my stuff with Delta to bypass the sea-shipping hassles. Another friend volunteers to help me with the packing. saving me from yet another panic attack…

 

Truth is, I’ve never walked alone. Nor have I succeeded alone. Even when I fall, I know they’ll catch me.

Which brings me back to my Liverpool sojourn from a decade ago.

Never a soccer fan, but I do love the Liverpool FC song.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Listen to the latest RBYZ podcast if you haven’t already. The guest is truly one of a kind! Episode show notes here.
PPS. Yes, I’ll restart my novel again tomorrow, I promise!

Next time

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

Second chance

It may sound crazy, but I didn’t start to appreciate the good weather in Los Angeles until most recently when I’ve decided to part ways with the City of Angels.

To me, everything here was either too much or too little.

The sun was too much.
The rain was too little.

And yet, two years in a roll, we’ve had some fierce LA winter rains.

That day, I had to submit the printed script on campus. I made a trip to Staples. Then mounted my bike as usual to UCLA.

It was drizzling.
Drizzle in LA? Gimme a break.

Five minutes in, the rain started pouring buckets right above my head, pelting against my face.

Of course I didn’t give in. I was dashing against a deadline and I didn’t want to go home now when I’ve gone this far. So paddled as I did. I shall outlast it.

Yep. Two hours later, the rain stopped.

Looking around, I was not the only sorry ass on campus who was wet. But I was pretty sure I was on top of the Drenched List. Everything about me was soggy.

Then, the journey back home.
The wind…
Down the hill…
On a bike…

I empathized with Jack Dawson.
My teeth clattered.
My body trembled.
My will withered.
But I got home, alive.

 

I didn’t appreciate a lot of things in LA. Certainly not this rain even though I heard LA had been suffering from the worst drought in years. The rain came in time.

And don’t get me started on the Sun.  The Sun was always mocking me when it was not raining.  I couldn’t see past my personal mishaps. It was always about me, me, me, me, me.

Now I’m leaving. Soon.  Hope I’ll be back soon again.

I promise I’ll treat you better.

 

Yours truly,
YZ