Job Hunt

Even though I know I’ll have a job in Sydney, I can’t help but wonder what else is out there.

So I start job hunting for the first time in 4 years. I can’t fathom why it’s much more stressful than I remember.

I mean–if anything, it should feel easier, shouldn’t it? I’m older, I have more work experience, and I know what I want.

But that’s just it. Knowing exactly what type of job I want and knowing what I’m worth are the exactly why job hunting is more stressful than I remember.

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When I was younger, I believed in my own skills less. I felt young and hopeless and I was willing to believe anyone else’s estimations of me. Job hunting in my twenties felt just like Halloween–I’m going from job to job, dressed up like an adult when I feel like a kid. I’m holding out my empty bag of hopes and dreams and just asking random strangers to give me something I normally don’t deserve.

Yet another aspect of why job hunting now is more stressful: I am more of a realist now. Four years ago, I was looking for ANY job. I didn’t care what job I had, because in my mind, I was a writer. I was going to be a writer on my own and whatever job I got to pay the bills really didn’t matter, because I didn’t have to care about enjoying it. I blindly believed I could do both; I could work in a professional field for a living and still accomplish the personal writing goals I set out to do.

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But… four years later, I haven’t made much progress, writing-wise. I do my daily word limits like a good little self-starter. I’ve created some interesting short stories in this time. Overall though, my big writing projects haven’t gone very far. There are a million excuses when you work a day job.

  • I’m too tired thinking about my work that I actually get paid for.
  • My brain is frazzled from my paid work.
  • I need down time from my paid work.

The excuses for not having completed personal writing goals are endless when you actually care about your day job.

It’s depressing, because now that I’m (kind of) an adult, I know better. I know that caring about one’s day job is impossible to avoid. Being a kid, even a young adult, you really have no accurate understanding of what might happened to you if you quit your day job. You have no one counting on you to put food on the table at the end of the day.

So here is where I admit: it’s not possible to care less about my day job. I have to care. Caring means more stress. And that’s okay. Being an adult means I have to stress. Maybe having all these things to stress about will make me a better writer.

Caring about my day job doesn’t have to mean that I just throw in the towel on what I want to achieve with writing; it just means that it’ll be more difficult for me to do, but it’s not impossible. I just have to push myself harder.

Perhaps this is why J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan–to help him (or others) deal with the realities of adulthood.

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A Great Holiday

I have had one of the best Christmas holidays in a long time.

I usually like being around family, but our options for “family” have been pretty limited since we’ve both been living in the United States.

We spent this Christmas eve with a couple of really awesome people. Then we spent Christmas morning exchanging small stocking gifts for each other (after 6 years together, we ran out of “big” gifts to give each other).

And Boxing Day ? I did laundry and cleaning–which are actually amongst my favorite things to do. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I enjoy housework. TubHubs and I have a running joke; he sometimes wonders out loud how angry he could make me… just so he could get me to go on a cleaning rampage (I clean to calm down).

Then tonight, we watched two movies in a row–Loopers and Inglorious Basterds–with a bottle of wine. Now we’re both browsing the intermets because we’re drunk. And yes, TubHubs combed his mustache the whole time.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

I, ____

I have two hometowns. I identify with 2 cultures, and I’m married into to a third. I hold two–soon to be three–citizenships.

I have two names.

This is how my next writing project begins. I plan for it to be the most truthful account of my experiences. By truthful, I mean to say it will be written without any attempt to make anything sound more interesting than it actually is; it will be written without any intention to make myself more likable.

I’ve been writing for roughly 18 years now. I made up stories about fictional characters, and I wrote about my life and experiences in various blogs.

But this is something I’ve never tried: writing something without worrying about what the eventual reader will think.

Sure, I’ve kept personal (hand-written) diaries. I have 6 notebooks of it so far, the oldest entry dating back to 1999. When I go back and read these diary entries, I realised something: even when I write in paper notebooks that I assume no one will ever read, I’ve actually been writing to impress my future self.

So the new writing project, I, ____, is my attempt at writing about myself, my past, my beliefs, without bias, or expectation.

I’m only a few pages in, and already I am afraid. Here is some of what I wrote on the first page:

I worry that by putting all of this down on paper and one day actually publishing this, I will lose everyone. My family will disown me, my husband will divorce me, and our future children would never speak to me again.

Whether this thing will ever see the light of day, I have no idea. It’s something I really should try at least once, though–writing a piece of work with complete honesty.

Perhaps that’s why some writers only write fiction; they put their horrid thoughts and feelings and pin them on some innocent fictional character, just so they can get their thoughts out there somewhere without being directly associated with having those thoughts.

And really, I tried that. I started the story of my family many times, in fictional format. Over the years, I shed my childhood fears and sorrows all over the pages as if they were happening to someone else. There are many versions of my story in the shorts and poems I’ve generated, but none of them were actually me.

What I found? Invariably the characters themselves grew their own sense of independence. They end up entirely different than I am, and forcing my own thoughts and beliefs upon them would no longer feel right. I let them veer off in the directions they wanted to go, and that’s usually when I end up with a story I like. A story about an actually fictional character with a completely different life than mine.

That reminds me of a quote from another great writer:

“This is the beauty of fiction. Giving your characters what you never had, which then comes around and is a vicarious gift to yourself.”

— David Wong Louie.

But I’ve had enough of “vicarious gifts”. Instead I think it’s time to write about the things I’ve been afraid to put down on paper. Maybe by committing past atrocities and childhood memories to paper will make them smaller and more bearable.

There’s a Chinese expression that I was taught to adopt; swallow bitterness. It’s something Chinese girls have always been encouraged to do in order to keep our families happy. Today I’m deciding to do the opposite of that. I’ll spit out all the things that poisoned me in one place, and move on.

 

“Just The Spouse”

The only occasion I’ve proudly said, “I’m just the spouse”, was directly after a US Customs officer turned to me (having spoken with TubHubs already) and asked, “and what do you do?”

 

Sisters 

I’ve never had a sister. I used to laugh at girls who complained about their sisters taking their clothes or make up.

Today I realised… I have a sister now.

Coming home to Vancouver to my parents house, I notice some of my things have been raided. The work of my brother’s girlfriend, who stays with him often.

My pink hair brush, for example, on my brother’s desk. No doubt where she last did her homework. Some of my hair accessories on my brother’s windowsill.

Surprisingly, I am not mad. I’m not annoyed. I’m happy.

Andrea has been dating my brother for years. It never occurred to me that she would have any use for my things. The gesture of her just taking my things to use as her own feels so sisterly that I feel nothing but loved.

It funny to me that now that a personal boundary has been crossed, I welcome it. It’s a weird feeling to have another girl using your things, and to think of it as a compliment (she must think I have good taste) rather than disrespect.

It feels good to have a “sister”.

I should mention: Andrea has also done the chores usually reserved for family, like picking me up from the airport, and talking my mom down. So she’s a good sister that way, too.

Just a Saturday Morning

Woke up, read my book, got into an argument, had some coffee, back to reading my book, then I painted my nails in the childish color of lavender.

I felt the need to write about something important, but then thought I’d leave that for a weekday.

TubHubs is outside helping our landlord with some outdoor chores. Pretty difficult to stay upset at someone who helps other people do things for no personal gain. Okay, maybe some personal gain; he likes being outside in the sun.

It still amazes me how far I’ve come. If this had happened six years ago, I’d be bitching about the insignificant argument as if it was the end of the world. Four years ago, I would have resolutely told myself not to talk to him again for the entire day. Two years ago, I’d be throwing out “let’s just break up!” lines every which way.

But today, I’m somehow able to see our argument for what it was: a short, insignificant moment in which we disagree with each other about something, and then we moved on.

It’s funny–now that I’ve gotten to this point, I remember all the times my friend of 16 years has had to tell me, “I get that you’re upset, but what happened isn’t really the end of the world. Things will fix itself and everything will be fine.”

And this makes me think: how often did I feel too much? How often did I let my emotions get the better of me and wrecked havoc on my daily happiness?

The last time I really had to have a real, tear-filled “complain-fest”, was over two years ago. Somehow within that time, I stopped taking everything so seriously and things stopped looking like they were insurmountable, ever. Now when I get upset, or annoyed, I’m able to just think, it’s not that big a deal and just.. move on with my day.

It seems ridiculous to write about this; it probably even sounds immature that I didn’t learn to let things go until I was in my late twenties. But I’m just glad that I did evolve, even if it might have been later than everyone else.

Home Towns

I wrote this in response to someone’s question about my hometown.


I currently live in Stamford, CT, USA. I came here in 2013 in order to be with my husband. He’d moved here in 2012 for work.

Our favorite restaurant changes with the season. Currently it’s Dinosaur BBQ. We don’t really have a favorite anything else because Stamford is not really our scene.

We go to the movie theatre a lot; and there are 2 Cineplex theatres here. Our favorite of the 2 is the one in the mall because it’s not as shabby.

We spent a lot of time at the Stamford Nature Center one year in Spring, now we spend our weekends up North a bit at a new State park we found.

I see this one bus driver, Charlie, a lot. He’s always cheerful. Doesn’t have that, “I hate my job” vibe that most bus drivers have. he talks too much though.

I see this other bus driver, I call him Parrot guy because I think he has a parrot. He constantly has a scar over his nose and it always looks like it’s a new scar. I’ve taken his bus for 6 months now, and the wound always heals a bit and then looks fresh again. I’m sure he probably doesn’t have a parrot and it might be some other story; but I’d like to think he has a grumpy parrot who pecks him and he’s grumpy back.

He used to be grumpy whenever I saw him, but I started smiling and asking him how his day was all the time. He started smiling back, and whenever he saw it’s me boarding the bus, he’d laugh and say “hey!” I hope I’ve made his day a little better.

I don’t like living here, to be honest. We’re planning to move to Australia at one point, which I’m really looking forward to.

Before we came here, we lived in Vancouver. There are countless interesting things to do in Vancouver that it would take a whole hour just to write them out.

Before that, I lived in Taipei, Taiwan (where I was born). My favorite restaurant there was this chain steak house; because they have unlimited free soda. My brother and I once went in there with a paper cup and filled up on our way home from elementary school; the waitress chased us out. Free soda was for paying customers only.

In Taipei, we lived by this huge river with a dam. We took walks along the dam most nights after dinner. We’d walk up to the skate park and our aunt would teach us how to roller skate. Lots of great memories from there, too.

Like the time I took in a stray puppy (snuck it in my back pack, kept it at school, then took it home with me) and hid it in my closet for a whole week. I moved it to my brother’s closet at one point because I was afraid it would poop on my clothes. It ended up pooping on his jacket. That’s when we moved the puppy into a card board box in our room (with the help of our aunt).

It took a whole week before Dad found the puppy. He then helped us construct a more secure box. A couple days later, Mom found out, and that was the end of keeping Puppy. Mom didn’t like animals, so we had to return it back to the wild.

In Taipei, in the 90’s, there were A LOT of stray dogs roaming about. I think animal control back then wasn’t very well funded.

I always get stumped by the Home Town question, because I have two. I have childhood memories from Taipei and Vancouver. Then when we include where I live now, or have lived, then there’s a lot more.

I used to hate moving around. I felt displaced a lot and never felt like I belonged. Since I’ve met my husband, I’ve come to enjoy it. I think my mind has re-centered what it thinks of as “home” to just “husband”. Now it feels like it doesn’t really matter where we live; it feels like home as long as we’re there together.

I Fell Far From The Tree

In my life time, I’ve heard my mother cry once.

It was in the middle of the night, right after another one of their evening shouting matches. These had become so frequent that my brother and I learned to fall asleep to her shrill tones and his muted replies.

I was woken up by my father. He tugged on my arm and whispered for me to change places with him. He told me he’d sleep in my room and that I was to go sleep in their bed with my mother. Sleepily, I obeyed.

Their bedroom was dark. The shape of my mother took up the far side of the bed. I crawled into my father’s side and tried to sleep… but couldn’t. I was afraid. The anger and resentment still hung heavy in this space they shared.

So I just rigidly lay there, hoping sleep would come. I wondered how many times my father had lain in this same spot, hoping for the same. I tried to will sleep to come by forcing my breathing to slow, relaxing my limbs.

And that’s when I heard my mother sob. She tried to stifle it, wanting not to wake me. The mattress beneath my body shook with her pain. I froze. I have never heard my mother cry before.

My image of my mother is of Constant Anger and Resentful Hatred. Our home is occupied by her daily discontent and tantrums. Going to school was the escape. In my child’s mind, my Mother was the evil Dragon Queen, the Blue Beard, Hansel and Gretel’s evil step mother who convinced her husband to leave them for dead in the woods.

So to witness the Monster in my own version of a fairy tale actually sob from pain and sadness–I froze. I did nothing.

If I was a sweeter child, a kinder child, I might have rolled close to her and try to hold her. I might have cuddled up against her and told her that I love her. But the cold, terrified kid I was, I did nothing. I felt pained hearing her cry, as most people would seeing a family member in pain, but at the same time, I didn’t want to cross that invisible line.

My mother has an invisible boundary to keep intimacy out. I have never seen her give or receive intimacy from anyone. Not from our father, not even from her sisters. She kept everyone at arms length. I know she must have held us as babies, but I have no memories her holding us behind what was necessary.

My father was a different story. I remember my father holding us in bear hugs so tight that we screamed that we were being crushed. I remember feeling my father’s love for us being squeezed into our being and I remember feeling safe, even though we almost couldn’t breathe.

So I did nothing. For years I held on to that memory. I excused myself from feeling guilty by telling myself that my mother wouldn’t have wanted any comfort. I told myself that I respected the wall of resentment she erected against us.

The truth is, I missed the opportunity of a life time. Had I ignored my fears of being turned away or rebuked and just comforted her, my mother might be a different person now. She might have felt less alone in all those years. She might have come to understand that the children she didn’t want to have were actually good things to have in her life. She might have had a few less resentments to live with for the rest of her years.


I don’t really know what made me write all this here. Once I got into a long term relationship and had my first “cry to sleep” night because of an argument with a partner… I started thinking about that moment more and more. I remember feeling so alone, so sad, and just wanting someone to understand. And I wondered if that’s how my mother felt.  I start seeing my mother and her life in a different way; not as My Mother the Monster, but as just another person I might know as a friend.

I saw all the struggles she had. The endless days being stuck at home with two babies, wanting to return to work but being told by her husband that she could not. Losing all of her friends and being cut off from the outside world. Being a stay at home mom was different for her; she didn’t have a car. She couldn’t have been able to go far with two babies on foot. Just strapping us in baby strollers to walk to the market was enough work, how could she have gone to visit friends?

I think of how alone my mother must have felt, as a 30-something year old mother of 2 young children. Now that I’m closer to her age back then, it’s become easier and easier for me to relate.


I’m not my mother. I know I’m not. I’m a happy person. I used to wonder if my mother had once been a happy person and life simply took that from her; but thanks to her sisters being too chatty with me, I know she wasn’t. She had been an angry child, an angry teen, and an angry young woman. She’s been angry her whole life.

Just a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to put all these things down in words. I was afraid of writing about her. I still am a little afraid to write about it, fearing that I’d see bits of her in myself.

But now I can say… we do share similarities. We’re both loud. We both like to argue. We both fear intimacy. But we are also different. I’m a happy, easy-going person. I let go of resentments. I move on. I know that I don’t have to live my life according to someone else’s wishes.

My sunny outlook on life, my freedom to live as I want; this is thanks to my mother. She saw the kind of kid I was, and she saw how the strict social environment in Taiwan in the 80’s and 90’s would have crushed me–just as how it probably crushed her in the 60’s–and she took us all to Canada. What a Taiwanese school teacher called “willful and un-lady-like”, a Canadian school teacher saw as “imaginative”.

Whether I would have turned out like my mother if I had grown up in a similar social climate, I can’t say for sure. But I can say that despite my mother being the “Monster” in my childhood, her decisions ultimately gave me the best chance to grow up a happy person, and that’s something I can never thank her enough for.

Things I Remember About My Father

The most intimate moments I remember of my father are these:

Once, when we sat in the living room of our small apartment while he cleaned out my ear. I sat on a stool, with my head on his lap. My father shined a lamp over my ear as he carefully extracted ear wax from my ear. I had had an ear ache.

Years later I knew that ear wax wasn’t the cause of ear ache, that instead it was infection. But still I can remember feeling better just sitting there on a tiny stool with my head on my father’s lap.

Then another time, I was much older. My father’s pinkie finger was infected. A bad manicure. It physically pained me to see the swollen nail beds. I pulled my father’s fingers into my hands, up against the bright bathroom lights. I poked and dabbed at it with tissues and a needle, all the while wishing I could magic the infection away.

My father and I aren’t close. We know virtually nothing about each other. We haven’t lived together since I was 10 years old.

But these 2 pieces of memory are still precious to me. And I only remembered them now because of a scene I read in a book.