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

 

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.

The coolest girl

In the crowd… Do you know one of those girls growing up?

I do.

She has taste. What she throws on is effortless, timeless.

She has brains. What she says is witty, funny.

Everyone wants to be like her. But nobody can but her.

Every girl wants to be her friend.

Every boy wants to take her hand.

But only the lucky fews get to be near her.

That’s the trick. That’s part of the game, the fun, the pain.

She reveals just enough about herself. The best side. The coolest side. The perfect side.

The rest leaves to her fans’ imagination…

 

When I watched South Korean’s 2011 female friendship movie Sunny,

I knew who I was. Na-mi, the protagonist.

Na-mi got it all. The friendship. The respect. The love. The acceptance.

My own version of the movie would be somewhat different:
I was without the guidance of the coolest girl. Choon-hwa, who’s also as pretty as it gets. Or the accompany of the prettiest girl. Young Soo-ji, who’s also as cool as it gets.
What I got was cold shoulders, the no-response responses…

I couldn’t find myself in any of those happily-ever-after movies. Maybe that’s why I wanted to be a storyteller in the first place…

One day, not too long ago, I got up and a voice whispered in my ears:

Everyone else is taken.

Every other label has been used.

I’ll be myself. Cool or not. Pretty or not.

I’m done pretending. I’m done trying.

I’m just me. Take it. Or leave it.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Take Your Time

I had a revelation yesterday.

Tuesday this quarter is the feature writing workshop. I dreaded it before it happened. I enjoyed it when it happened. Then I loved it after it did happen.

I had too many pages so was put at the last to be read. Then we ran out of time. I was a bit anxious. It was Week 8 and I just revamped my story. I really need to hear the critique then and there. Last week was a mess. Three weeks ago my stuff wasn’t read during the class. I thought I was losing my story trajectory and the voice of my characters. Thinking about it almost put me in tears. Then the nurturing instructor said if I was not in a rush, she was willing to stay behind and get my pages critiqued. My eyes screamed “I love you” at her. Almost everybody else just left the room because they had more important things to do. And I understand and respect that. Here is a good place to meditate not to take things personally. I think I am coping better now.

Then my pages were again full of red. The others were just given minor editing notes, mine was torn apart — every single time. I know that I shouldn’t compare with other people. Because everybody is in different phase when it comes to writing. I need to focus on myself, and myself only. If I am better than yesterday, that’s all that counts. But at times, I forget. That’s where my vulnerability gets me — bad.

My beloved instructor tells me to “take time with yourself, and with your writing.” “I see the improvement,” she often says. But it’s so hard to see it when we are this close to thyself. We lose sight of what’s important. We lose focus.

A third-year writer friend and I have a ritual to meet an hour before the workshop so we chat and share. She said, “a year from now, you will be so much better.” I was incredulous, “Real… really?” “Really.” She shared how insecure she felt a year ago now. How frustrated when she noticed herself lagging behind when everybody else was several blocks ahead. “You will get there, eventually.” She reassured me. “Even for those million bucks screenwriters, they are still insecure writers at heart. When you make it once, you would be haunted by the notion whether you are going to repeat or even surpass your previous success.”

When we make art, there’s always a THERE ahead of us. Because artists are never content and they shouldn’t.

So here is what I try to do — to make peace with that insecurity.

And relax.


An afterthought — 
It’s counterintuitive at first to try to relax when I have a crazy amount of work to do. But now I find being able to relax is extremely helpful to regain my focus and productivity.

Well, here is to my revelation.

A Chip on Her Shoulder

It was me.

I thought the world owed me. And I had every right to manifest that rage. I had few friends then. I never wondered why. I took it as a sign that I was simply too good to be in league with mediocrity.

In truth, I was just jealous; jealous of people who were born with good looks, good fortune, good family… In a word, the whole package. What they had was what I had been trying so hard to fight for. Maybe a Mulberry bag. I would calculate how many meals I should skip until I got it. I was hangry the whole time. I let stuff define me.

But what am I really?

Does owning [X number] of Balenciaga bags make me a better person, a happy person, a person of meaning and weight? No.

You see, I live with two younger gals who can afford expensive cars and luxurious cosmetics and clothes. They dine often at posh restaurants. Every day there are packages at our doorstep to be signed. The old me could get easily jealous toward them. Now I don’t.

Because I don’t, I see beyond those materials and see who they really are. They have great manners. One gal had her parents stay over during the Chinese New Year. Her parents always cleaned up the mess after they cooked. They even bought me a new bottle of olive oil since they used “quite a bit” during their stay here. They closed the door when doing the laundry. They kept quiet when in the common area. They invited me to dine with them on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Now I see where she inherited her well-groomed manners. The other gal’s only “vice” is her loving and enjoying the best things in the world. But she also possesses the best of the heart. We share an amazingly great deal of outlooks toward life. We can talk for hours non-stop on random things.

Now, if I were the old me — the gal with a chip on her shoulder, could I have made friends with those two beautiful souls? Absolutely not.

Be open. People surprise you, always.

All I did was loosen up. The world hasn’t changed. Just my attitude. That is all.