The spell

Ever since I was little, I was told that I was short and dark. Short is fine, but what you don’t want to be in China is a dark girl.

Here’s the thing, Chinese women have to be Size 00 skinny, as pale as ghosts in Japanese films, having eyes as big as Anne Hathaway’s, wearing a chin as chiseled as a Swiss knife, and at least five foot five to be a pretty candidate… Worse yet, nobody was my ally. My mum shrugged it off. My dad simply asked me to study hard. So I accepted those words to be my truth.

As young as ten years old, I cast myself aside as the Fugly Girl. So I had no other choice but to be smart. I don’t even recall anybody say I was pretty. I got uncomfortable when people called me that. I thought they were teasing me. I had glasses since third grade. I wore baggy clothes to hide my body in puberty. I slept on my stomach and prayed for a flat chest. I even got a crew cut just to keep out the boy problem – as if there was any. I denied my femininity flat out when it was to sprout off the ground. I stampeded on it hoping it would never see the sun. You see, people give us the bullets, but we pull the trigger.

Years later, I fell in love.
He said, you was beautiful.
I flinched, no, no, no. I was not. You like me because I’m smart.
Yeah, but you’re beautiful.
I looked at him in disbelief.
He kept on going, listen to me, you’re beautiful. You’re beautiful. Don’t let anybody else talk you into anything different. 

In the bathroom, I wiped tears away from my eyes. In the mirror, I saw her standing right in front of me. For the first time in a long time, I noticed her symmetrical face, her exquisite eyes, her refined nose… And her gentle soul. 

That day, I unlearned my habit to look away before a mirror.
That day, I learned it’s okay to appreciate her beauty without turning into a narcissist.
But most importantly, that day, I fell in love. With her.
I promised her that I would love her regardless of her relationship status, her bank statement, her level of success… because “I’d love you til the end of the Universe.” 

During our domestication, our parents and siblings gave their opinions about us without even thinking. We believed these opinions and we lived in fear over these opinions, like not being good at swimming, or sports, or writing. Someone gives an opinion and says, “Look, this girl is ugly!” The girl listens, believes she is ugly, and grows up with the idea that she is ugly. It doesn’t matter how beautiful she is; as long as she has that agreement, she will believe that she is ugly. That is the spell she is under. 

Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Oftentimes when we are in the thick of it, we can’t see past our own hands in the fog of the falsehood. We might need someone else to break the spell for us. Because of him, I got lucky.

I hope you get lucky too someday if not already. But if you don’t yet, it’s okay. Just ask yourself: What is my spell? And follow the yellow brick road.

Yours truly,
YZ

Thank-me note

So, it’s going to be my birthday tomorrow.

My life had a 180 degree turn when I decided to study in the US. I knew it was a long shot for a working-class kid to do screenwriting in her second language in the pricy Tinseltown.  And sure enough, when I did living my dream, cynicism bit me hard in the ass. My last years as a twenty-something and as a thirty-something freshman, I’m burning on anxiety and uncertainty.  The knot in my stomach hasn’t loosened since I set my foot in the US. I always set my eyes on the prize. And it has always worked until I decided I’m actually an artist… 

None of my grand plans came true. I can’t remember the last time I had a big win. I’m talking about a shouting-on-top-of-the-roof-esque big win. No, I haven’t got anything like that in a long while.

Let me stop myself right here right now. I’m done bitching and moan tonight, because I want to jump off the bed tomorrow to give myself a proper birthday welcome.

When was the last time that I feel I’m unique and worthy of love? I simply donno, but I feel strongly that I have a reason to be here.  The universe has big plans for me. I still believe that. (If I didn’t, I’d already got myself a day job after I came back home.) So, enough of disservices I’ve done to myself.  

Tonight, I just want to say:

Thank you for bringing me on this incredible journey.

Three years isn’t enough to be great at what you set out to do. But you’re trying the best you can, even if sometimes it involves binge-eating and binge-watching TVs and movies especially when you’re stressed or depressed.

But girl, you’re so brave. You know that? You defy the gravity, the reality, and the inertia of Hollywood as a non-White, non-male, non-Trust-Fund, and non-US-citizen person under Trump’s new immigration regulations.

You shake you head and tell me you ain’t there yet. Your there ain’t my there. Just think about colored female writer’s odds in Hollywood. And who’s the Asian-Female equivalent of Aaron Sorkin? You don’t know. Me neither. Despite the odds and not because of it, you say you want to change the status quo. And you just ran with it. That was just dumb luck to get into UCLA, you say.  Maybe. Maybe not. 

Look, I admire your resistance, your resourcefulness, your persistence, your badass attitude and your kickass aptitude.

Girl, you’re going places. I’m tellin’ you. And If you won’t start believing in yourself, why should the rest of the world?

But what if it’s just a delusion. I hear you ask.

Just look at you, look at what you’ve accomplished so far!
You’ve written four quality shorts, one feature rewrite and one feature treatment (which got dropped but it ain’t your fault!) in a span of three months. And you’re keeping working on new materials, and sniffing new opportunities non-stop.

Day after day, you are closer to become the person you set out to be, the writer you dream of being even though you still sleep in, and stay up. What’s the hurry?  What’s the worry?  Your body and your mind need time to adjust and evolve.

If I physically can, I will give you a hug.

I’m just so proud of you.  I love you. Unconditionally. Not just because you’re brilliant, but you’re a loving person who has immense empathy for the people you care about. Those who don’t know you enough might label you as a shameless taker. But you give. That’s the truth.

I should tell you more often how much I love you not just for the sake of your birthday. Because I want to. 

Listen, you’re a most beautiful, intelligent, considerate, fun-loving old soul in a young sexy body.

And maybe it’s worth it for a word of caution here. You’re in for the long haul. Don’t worry about those shiny objects whose sole purpose is to drag you off the course. Make it count. Don’t wait till it’s in the past to be your hindsight. God doesn’t give us the ability to see hindsight, because what’s more fun than surprise?

Just remember, if you build it, they’ll come

And here is my vow to you: From this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

 

Yours truth,
YZ

Imperfect

Ever since I was a kid, I loved reading biographies, from entreprenuers like Steve Jobs to great poets like Su Shi from ancient China’s Song Dynasty. I read David McCullough like the Bible, from his recount on the creator and builder of the Brooklyn Bridge to the 1000-page books on John Adams and Harry Truman…

I studied the successs patterns. I tried to find out exactly what made those people great. And I wanted to “fake it till I was great, too.”

Then, I found the cultural differences between the Chinese and the English versions on the same subject, say Newton or Einstein.  In the Chinese version,  they were almost always so damn perfect.  It was in the English version that I realized that, “Oh, they did have a sense of humor. Oh, they were kids once too.” You might be able to imagine how shocked I was when I read Walter Isaacson‘s Steve Job biography…

To err is human. And yet, it was hard to get that message reading the biographies in Chinese… So, as a teenager, a young adult, I tried hard to get rid of my little foibles, my big shortcomings. It worked for a while, then there was always counterattack.

As I took up writing, it dawned on me that what made characters relatable is exactly their freckles, their imperfections.

When I chose Eddie the Eagle (2015) for my movie buff dad to watch tonight, I ended up watching it with him.

Eddie didn’t look like a pro; he didn’t have the Olympian presence as per the snobbish British Olympic Committee.  But Eddie tried, he failed and fell. He came as last but people fell in love with him and what he stood for – He is our guy. He is the guy who doesn’t care to be perfect. He can’t. He was 22 when he was 16 years too old to begin ski jumping according to the pros.  He can’t change people’s minds, but he sure defied gravity and elevated the founding principle of the Olympic Games:

“The most important thing is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”

– Baron Pierre de Coubertin

Most of us aren’t going to be Mozart, maybe not even Salieri. But I’d say this, something plastic surgeons never say, if you are able to feel okay your imperfection in public, I think you’re closer to be the person you dream to be.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Speaking of imperfection, we might be the last few generations who are imperfect. Now those gene-edited babies are among us…

Revelations

My dear friend Barbara taught me the term “extreme self-care” recently.

I was going to her Farewell Party. But I got sick three days before the scheduled date. Then we tried to reschedule for a few times until it was too close to her departure of November 4, which is tomorrow…

I could have dropped by her place as I stopped my eight-day IV treatment on Thursday. But she suggested that I listened to my body.

She was right. I was still weak. Plus, I was having a huge reaction to the medication that I was drowsy and depressed.

“In times like this, we need to exercise extreme self-care.”

That means that Oct 17 was the last time I saw her before her final departure…

I wish I didn’t stay up late every night for the last month I was in LA. I wish I rested more when I was on the plane. I wish I didn’t get up at 1:30 the first night I was back…  But I was too distraught to feel or act otherwise.

How many times do we ignore the signals from our body before we get struck down hard? My latest pneumonia episode should be a cautionary tale.

Like the world’s worst coach, we demand our body to go the extra mile for us when it’s at the verge of collapse.

“Where there is a will, there is a way” has been my mantra as long as I can remember before my health gets in the way…

Is it worth it? Is it faster to dash and get sick in the middle, or go steady and rest?

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t fully enjoy LA until it was time for me to leave. Am I going to do the same for Shanghai when I leave yet again later?

I told dad this evening when we strolled in the neighborhood park that I wanted to exercise with him every dawn as I recover. I shared with him my fears, my anxieties – just like the way we talked via WeChat when I was in LA.

I vowed that I would be more patient with mum regardless of her hoarding pet peeve or her poor sense of fashion…

Honestly, how many more moments do we get to spend with our parents 24/7 as we become adults?

Enjoy while you can.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

The Likes

I changed my Facebook profile photo, finally.

I turned off the notification and hid it from the Timeline.

I thought I was in the clear until a friend texted, “Nice hat.”

Damn, the picture.

I was still getting those Likes.

 

I told the friend how I felt being exposed.

His reply opened me up.

It’s about being shameless and knowing what you’re willing to die on.

So what are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want?

For example: I am willing to show people sloppy versions of my scripts because I want to be known as somebody who writes a lot. Somebody else might be more of a perfectionist and do twice as many revisions, but have half as many scripts and/or notes. But that’s what I sacrifice.

Since I’ve chosen to be on social media, I’ve chosen to give away some privacy for exposure and visibility.

If you don’t like to be Liked, don’t post.

If you don’t want to be read, don’t write.

If you don’t want to be criticized, don’t do a thing.

 

You do it, I do it, because we know we have a voice. We deserve to be heard.

 

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. Clocked in 103 words. Tallying 60,406 words. 14.8 days remaining.

 

A confession

Math and I have had a complicated relationship.

We first met in my kindergarten.

I know it was too early to be serious.

But we understood each other.

I thought we did.

Until he had my primary school teacher test on me.

I felt betrayed.

Against my will, he wanted to meet my parents.

I’m underage. It’s kinda illegal.

But he wouldn’t listen.

Dad was livid.

Conquer that little shit. He demanded.

 

So I managed. I created my marching orders.

Fast is never fast enough.
The cream rises to the top.
Hard work pays off.
Don’t you dare quitting.
Be the change. 

 

I talked with swagger.

I walked like a New Yawker.

I was going places.

I shoved that kid to the dodgy end.

She begged me.

I kicked her in the teeth.

She got lost.

Give me a map. Nope.

How ’bout an iPhone? Not gonna happen.

 

I’m a thirty-year-old now.

The weight on my chest is crushing me.

I can’t breathe.

I wonder how she’s been doing.

I found her.

It wasn’t hard.

She ain’t pretty.

She is the Elephant in the room, couching on my chest, weighing five tons, give or take.

Geez, what’s eating you?

I was perplexed.  There is nothing here except the moss.

She glanced over at me.

Plenty to feast on.

Anger. Rage. Frustration. Sadness. Melancholy. Distress. Misery. Depression…

Your shit nourishes me.

Let’s go to the gym.

Let’s go Whole Foods.

 

I tried to push her out of the alley.

It was a tall order.

My training shall pay off.

But she didn’t move.

We were stuck.

Well, she was.

I was spent.

I lost it.

You fatso.

Don’t you dare quitting.
Hard work pays off.
Be the change.

Com’on. Let’s go!

Uh-huh, doesn’t work on me.

I’m immune now.

 

Here is my confession:

I’m a Bully with a capital B.

I’ll stop typing now.

She needs me down there.

However long it takes.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

iChameleon

I’m bossy today but maybe sassy tomorrow.

I’m polite but I have a potty mouth.

I switch between American and British accents given whom I’m speaking to.

I carry a slight Beijinger (aka. New Yawker) accent that it’s hard for people to believe that I’m actually Shanghaiese (aka. LA). [Translation: “Are you from the North?” is suppposedly the ultimate sought-after compliment to a Shanghaiese amongst her friends from the North.]

I crave attention but I tried erasing myself fromt the Internet.

  • I deleted my photos from Weibo (Chinese Twitter) after being ghosted by a creep.
  • I erased my digital fingerprints so it’s harder to Google me.
  • I deactivated my LinkedIn when I had 500+ rock-solid CXO connections. I convinced myself that for my future line of work in the entertainment industry, IMDB would be the place to be. I don’t need LinkedIn. It’s for phonies and corporate climbers.
  • My public profile doesn’t matter. I should focus on my work, my screenplays.

Even when I started my podcast, or this blog, I call myself YZ to feel safe, to dodge bullets if people start trashing me.

 

Here is the thing: I simply don’t know how Madonna does it, or the likes of Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Adele, Lady Gaga… or the Kadasians.

Are they just Born This Way and can Express Yourself? Or according to Tom Wolfe, they just have The Right Stuff?

Where their successes are public, more so are their humiliations.

I often wonder what they do when their parents, their significant others, their children, their close friends and relatives learn about the excruciating details of their scandals with the world.

How can they live with the live-streaming of people smacking down their skeletons?
How would they ever face the public when the world knows their private parts better than their gynecologists?

So they spend the million dollars they’ve earned by being exposed and try to seek equilibrium via locking themselves within the multi-million-dollar bastilles in the not-so-hidden Hidden Hills.

 

But the question I’m wrestling with is this:
Can the rest of us be shame·less, fear·less if the Diva ain’t in our DNA?

 

After hurdling over some quasi-major pschological barrier, I posted my podcast on my personal FB page. I felt like I was pole-dancing, stark naked.

Now everyone knows my age, my humiliations, my pains, my fuck-ups.
Every potential guest I approach now would know my secrets.
They can laugh behind my back should they choose to.
If they care enough to look me up, that is.
Why the fuck would I care about whether if people care, anyway?

I, not somebody else, exposed me. I exchanged my privacy for exposure. No pain, no gain. But this, isn’t my cure.

 

I would practise Hip-Hop moves whenever I’m in front of a mirror.

People shouted at me, “Dude, are you totally mental? Stop it. Or we’ll send you to the madhouse.”

I just didn’t give a rat’s ass.  How could I improve my steps and care about what others think at the same time?

People get used to you overtime. If they don’t, they don’t.

I move on. I find somewhere else to dance.

Somewhere with an audience, who loves and appreciates me.

My guest, a Chinese filmmaker with shoulder-length long hair and bright yellow eyeglass frame, beamed as he shared his Journey to the West.  I shook his hand as we finished the recording.

I’m a chameleon. I’m done impersonating.

 

Yours truly,
YZ