Third fundraising year

It’s hard to believe that over three years have passed since my Ed committed suicide. Sometimes, I still wake up and wonder if it was all a terrible dream, and then I look up at the photos of him on my wall next to my bed and am crushed, hit by the reality that he really is gone. Some days, life just feels so cruel.

I’ve been participating in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Walk for the last three years, and somehow I’ve managed to raise just shy of $10,000. It’s a bit surreal to think that I was able to do this on my own, without a team, and just with the sad story of my brother. I’ve oftentimes felt discouraged, even annoyed when less people are donating, fewer people are responding or expressing interest in my fundraising or my cause. But like Tony Robbins says, a lot of our disappointments in life are really just because of us, our own expectations. Maybe we shouldn’t expect so much of others. Maybe if we replaced our “expectations” with “appreciation,” we’d be happier people. And when I heard him say this, I realized how true it was. I shouldn’t expect anyone to donate anything; in fact, why the hell should they care about my loss or my pain? What have I done for them (thinking in the quid pro quo train of thought)? But when they do, I should appreciate it. I do appreciate it. I’ve been surprised so many times in the last three years when colleagues I barely speak to have donated insane three-digit amounts, or when old friends I’m only connected to on Facebook but never speak with anymore contribute donations to my drive. There have been a handful of times when complete strangers, touched by the story I’ve written on my page, have felt compelled to donate something even though they’ve never even met me even once. That feeling of surprise and appreciation has been very overwhelming, sometimes catching me off guard and making me lose my train of thought to just bask in the glow of an unexpected person’s unfounded generosity for me and my little cause.

I try to be optimistic about the future. I hope that the world will be a better place for our future children, the future generations of the world. I want the world to be a more open-minded, progressive, caring, and empathetic place. I think about all the bullying and criticism my brother endured as a young child and then through adulthood, from his misguided classmates to his unprofessional teachers to even our own parents, and I physically feel pain in my body thinking of how insignificant he felt throughout the course of his life to finally decide to put a complete end to it all. I need to have hope, if not for myself, then hope in my brother’s memory to help others. And all the support, whether it’s verbal or monetary, through this drive, has really helped drive my optimism and my desire to continue fundraising and to continue sharing my story. As the delusional Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire once said, “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Yes, she was delusional living in her own world, but there is some truth in this statement. As human beings, we depend on others being honest and kind to us, even when we are not in the position to do anything to benefit them in return. So many distant people have surprised me in this fundraising journey, and I know I have a lot to be thankful for. I think Ed would agree.

Role reversals

Up until I was 24, I barely saw any of the world. I barely saw any of this country, and if it weren’t for getting accepted to and attending Wellesley, I probably wouldn’t have seen anywhere as much of the East Coast as I had. If I hadn’t gotten a scholarship to study in China for a month in 2006, I probably would have graduated from college without even owning a passport or having left this freaking country.

This isn’t me complaining; I’m just stating what I know to be facts. I was raised in a house that taught me to think (I never did believe this, though) that travel was only for the *super* rich; everyday people like my family and I weren’t suited for travel. But since I first left the country to see just a dot of China, I was certain that I needed to see more of the world. And then, I fell in love with my long-time friend and now husband who had already been privileged to see so much of the world, and now wanted to share his travels with me.

Fast forward six years later, and I’ve been spoiled enough to travel to Australia four times (and a fifth trip is coming this December), Europe five times, and Asia five times. I’ve visited Canada once a year since 2013, and have seen 38 out of 50 U.S. states. I even went to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014, and in Rio, Chris proposed. And now, here I am, in the Worldly-Wise Wellesley secret Facebook group, giving travel advice and recommendations to other Wellesley alums for cities and regions literally all over the world, and even giving my brother-in-law, an obsessed world traveler, travel advice for Asia and even his own home country. I feel like a role reversal has happened in the last few years, and I never really saw that coming. I never thought I’d be the person giving travel advice to other people who consider themselves well traveled or “worldly.” It’s funny how times and circumstances can change.

First passing

Today, I talked to my mom, who informed me that one of her friends who attended our wedding back in March has passed away. He’d been struggling with health issues for a while now, and when we saw him back in March, it was clear he wasn’t doing well; he could barely walk. Yet he and his wife still made the trip from Hawaii to California for our wedding. He’s already been cremated, and the family is holding a memorial service for him in a month to allow for their relatives back in Japan to come to Honolulu and pay their respects.

It’s sad to hear about his passing, especially since he was so kind to my family and me when we visited their home in Hawaii back in 2007. Then, he seemed to be in great health and spirits, exuding so much warmth, enthusiasm, and a bubbly sense of humor. It had clearly faded by the time we saw him earlier this year.

Lives go on after our wedding. Babies will be born, people will die, others will get married, separated, divorced. We will all get older and time will pass. Or, as my dad recently said, “well, most people around our age — if they’re not dying from heart attacks, strokes or cancer, then they’ll die from falling in their homes. You have to go some way.” I wonder if they’re going to make the trip to Hawaii for this memorial.

Wellesley connection

We had a meeting today where a Twitter rep from one of my accounts came into the office. Before she arrived, I quickly took a look at her LinkedIn profile and noticed that she had Wellesley listed as an undergraduate institution she attended, as well as Barnard/Columbia after it. Hmmm, I wondered. She must have started undergrad at Wellesley, hated it for whatever reason, and then transferred.

At the end of our meeting, I told her I had looked at her LinkedIn and noticed she went to Wellesley, and I also told her I was part of the Class of 2008. She would have been Class of 2011, but she transferred, just as her profile had hinted at. She said the academics at Wellesley were some of the best classes and professors of her life, but socially she just didn’t feel like she fit in. How funny, I responded. That’s how I felt. We’re pretty much the same in that regard. She also said that when she transferred to Barnard/Columbia, the academics were nothing compared to what she had at Wellesley, but she fit in significantly more there socially than at Wellesley — the trade-offs we make in life.

I always wondered what it would have been like if I did transfer after my first two years, but I’m not sure where I would have transferred to. Due to Wellesley’s grade inflation policy that restricted the number of As given in classes that had over a certain number of students, my GPA wasn’t show-stopping by any means, so that wouldn’t have helped my transfer admissions. I also would have looked at it as a failure, something I didn’t see through to the end. My parents never would have supported it and probably would have been outraged and terrorized me about it (what did they support anyway, other than getting a degree?).

It’s comforting to meet other people who feel the same way I do, though, about Wellesley. I always look back at my classes fondly and the discussions we had in class as some of the most challenging and rigorous I’d had in my life. People were never shy in my classes to disagree and argue things out, and not in a hostile, passive aggressive way, but in a smart, educated, “look at every perspective” way. At times, it was so emotionally and mentally draining to be in class. There I was, a naive, narrow-minded, small-world American who had barely left California state before arriving at Wellesley, coming to an institution where for the first time in my entire life, I was meeting women from over 50 different countries, every state in the U.S., who had traveled extensively, lived in multiple countries, and had a far more worldly perspective than what I was exposed to. Just within my first week, I met a woman who was born in the U.S. but raised in Cairo, Egypt, another woman who was Turkish but raised in Greece, and women from Malaysia and Singapore who attended private American high school in Taiwan and spoke with American-accented English (when I was 18, I thought, what language do they speak natively in Malaysia and Singapore? How would I know? I knew so little). In college, I learned about all the other cuisines of China other than Cantonese, met Vietnamese women from all around the U.S. where there were small Vietnamese populations as a result of the Vietnamese refugees from the Vietnam War (how was I supposed to know that there were large Vietnamese populations in Minnesota and Arkansas?!).

I look back on what I learned very fondly, not just academically but about my classmates and the rest of the world. I’m looking forward to learning more about my rep’s experiences and what she thought of another women’s college that’s right here in New York.

Another. And another.

Last night, I found out that my friend’s colleague recently committed suicide. She’s still friends with his wife.

And today, I found out that my former colleague/friend’s friend, who I had met several times at his group events several years ago, committed suicide by jumping in front of an A/C train yesterday morning. I immediately recognized his face when my former colleague posted. And I immediately felt sickened.

When will all of this ever end?

Neighborhood spots

I’ve been living in New York for over eight years now, but I’ve never really had what I’d call a regular neighborhood haunt that I’d continually go back to. Of course, there are places I’d rely on for takeout or cheap eats, but no place I’d gladly visit over and over because I liked the food, drink, the ambiance, and the service all at once.

Tonight, I visited Jones Wood Foundry with a friend for the very first time, even though it’s been on my Yelp bookmark list for years. It’s a British style pub with a very British looking bar, a beautiful and spacious back dining area, and even a hidden outdoor terrace. The fish and chips we had were very authentic based on what I’ve had in Australia and New Zealand, which I’m told are the same style as in the U.K., and the chicken tikka masala salad was fresh and used dark meat on the bone (major brownie points). The drink selection is huge, and the service was incredible. We had several people come over to greet us and ask if this was our first time, and they said they’d welcome us back as regulars in the future (whether that’s really true and whether they will actually recognize us — we’ll find out). And I learned a little fun fact about the neighborhood I’ve called home for over three years now: before this was the Upper East Side, Yorkville, or Lenox Hill, the area between 66th and 77th streets and Third Ave and the East River, was known as Jones Wood.

Maybe this could be a place to just stop by for a drink or a quick snack moving forward. I loved the vibe of this place and felt so happy to be able to just walk a couple blocks home after.


Beauty and the Beast back story

Like most people, as a child I loved Disney movies; I still do today. But as an adult, I am fully cognizant of all the negative stereotypes that are perpetuated by them (e.g. gender and race stereotypes, massive favoritism for people of European descent). I loved the music and oftentimes sang along with the songs. My favorite Disney movies were Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, and Aladdin. Beauty and the Beast was a particular favorite for me because Belle, the main female character, was a bit of an eccentric, a total bookworm who obsessed over endless books and libraries and wanted more out of life than her “poor provincial town.” I loved reading when I was young (as I still do), so I immediately identified with her.

After the latest remastering and release of Beauty and the Beast on Blu-Ray, several articles have come out on it, particularly regarding the history of the main lyricist who worked on the songs for the movie, Howard Ashman. I had read a lot about Alan Menken, the composer who worked on Disney movies, but nothing about Ashman until today. This is when I found out that Ashman was a gay man who was dying from AIDS as he worked on Beauty and the Beast, and he died eight months before the movie was completed. He contributed a lot of very rich ideas to the movie; it was his idea to staff the Beast’s enchanted castle with sentient appliances that had once been human. These objects all felt alien in their object/appliance bodies, completely dehumanized. I’d imagine that’s what Ashman felt as he was writing the lyrics for these songs while dying. Ashman also loved to cook, and so he expressed his love for cooking and culinary rhyme with the song “Be Our Guest.” He worked until his death from his gay-friendly hospital via a phone patch to communicate changes to recordings and emphases on certain words or enunciations in songs, all of which were honored.

These beautiful songs and movies I enjoyed as a child have such a rich back story that I’d only be able to fully appreciate learning as an adult. Beauty and the Beast is more tragically beautiful than I ever thought before.



Oolong tea

I love meeting people who love to eat, who are happy to try new things, and don’t have a laundry list of things they either don’t eat or categories of food they are avoiding (e.g. gluten-free, dairy-free, blah blah). That’s why for the last three years, when my good friend has held his Upwardly Global Silk Road of Queens food tour as a fundraiser for his non profit organization, I’ve been happy to attend. I love trying new food in the borough I once called home, and I like meeting new people and talking about food with them. Unfortunately this year, we had the smallest turn out, but it just made for a more intimate session together.

At the last stop on the food tour, we ended at Fu Run, this delicious Xinjiang-Chinese style restaurant that we actually went to last year. They are known for their incredible Muslim-style cumin lamb chops, as well as their sticky taro and sweet potato desserts. My friend didn’t originally intend for any repeats as that’s not what he likes to do, but he wanted to end with some unique dessert, and the Chinese bakeries weren’t really going to cut it for a sit-down treatment. The conversations and food were enjoyable throughout our afternoon together, but I was caught off guard when almost everyone on the tour started raving about the tea that was served.

I was raised drinking Chinese tea, and all types — basic oolong, chrysanthemum, green tea of five hundred varieties, Taiwanese oolong. You name it, and I’ve had it. But today’s tea was nothing special. It was just very basic, cheap oolong-in-a-teapot-bag fare, and it was slightly comical to me that my dining mates were all going crazy over the tea.

“What kind of tea is this?” One woman said, glowing. “This is phenomenal tea, and it’s free!”

“You can’t get this kind of tea at a regular grocery store,” another guy said. “When you buy black tea at the store, it never tastes like this!”

“It’s just basic oolong tea,” I responded. “You can get it at an Asian grocery store easily. This oolong is fairly generic. This is the typical tea they serve at any Chinese place.”

They all got excited, and one said he may try to check it out the next time he visits a Chinese grocery store. I get that most people who are not Asian don’t shop at Asian grocery stores; Asians even in Manhattan, unless they live close to Chinatown, rarely will go out of their way to visit Manhattan Chinatown because Manhattan living is all about convenience — going to the bodega down the block from you, the grocery store less than five minutes away, or getting dinner delivery. But what I do wonder is — does a food tour like this actually make you seek out this food that you’re not familiar with once the tour is over? Will you actually visit that Chinese grocery store like you said and buy that oolong tea that you found so interesting? Would you actually come to Flushing on your own and enter a restaurant where they speak only broken English?

The Trial of an American President

Tonight, Chris and I went to see The Trial of an American President, a play detailing the hypothetical trial of former President George W. Bush being charged with war crimes surrounding starting the Iraq War, which we now know was a complete waste of time and money, needlessly killing hundreds of thousands of American and Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi civilians. A number of real victims of the war who survived detail everything from the harsh realities of “waterboarding” to the horrifying treatment of prisoners held without legitimate reason at Guantanamo Bay. This play just made me feel even more angry about politics today. So many people would want an actual trial like this to happen, but it never will.

The play actually reminded me of how ridiculous all the anti-Hillary or “Killary” people are, saying she needs to be “locked up” for everything from her 30,000 missing emails to the four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador, who died during the Benghazi attacks in Libya in 2012. Why are these people making such a big fuss about e-mails of all things to the deaths of four Americans when George W. Bush caused the deaths of literally hundreds of thousands of Americans and Iraqis in a war that was completely fruitless? He says he consulted with God frequently when deciding on the war. I love it when conservatives try to say that God gave them some direct message about the stupid decisions they make. It’s really amazing how people turn a blind eye on the things they don’t care about or think is important and zoom in on and scrutinize what really either isn’t important or has already been resolved.



Political passion

I understand why so many people would be apathetic to politics, want to ignore current events, and believe that their vote doesn’t matter. I don’t agree with it, but I get why people turn away from it. As someone who has been feeling things a lot more deeply in the last three years, I feel more stress when reading the news, when I hear of places in the Middle East being bombed, innocent people trying to find new homes in countries that don’t want them, including my own home country. I am angered by the corruption in politics, as completely exaggerated in House of Cards (obviously fiction, but I’m sure a lot of the stupid negotiations for votes on certain bills and others have to do with politicians just wanting to keep their seats in the next election), and made painfully real in the leaks of the Democrats led by DWS pitting the Democratic party against Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton. As a registered Democrat, I am frustrated, upset, and rightly embarrassed by it.

But I still think as people who are citizens and/or residents of this nation, we have a duty to inform ourselves of the facts, of what’s really happening in today’s world so that we can contribute to making the world the place we want it to be, a world in which we would be happy to raise children and leave behind for future generations. We have a duty to not only be informed, but vote and make our voices heard. And when I sometimes get so mad by the corruption and all the violence, racism, and sexism that still persist in the world that I want to stop reading the news, I am quickly reminded that there’s a reason we do all this. And I hear speeches like this one by Michelle Obama that inspire me and make me feel strength and purpose, and fill my eyes with tears because of the passion she exudes. She makes evident her love for this country and for the people of this nation and the world. I honestly have never felt any other political speech more deeply than the ones given by Michelle Obama. The first one was her speech at the Democratic National Convention this past July, and now, it’s this one in Manchester this past Monday. She’s an inspiration, similar to how I felt when I used to hear Hillary Clinton give speeches as First Lady back in the 1990s. I barely knew anything about politics back then, but I knew that Hillary was a strong, fierce woman, someone who was unprecedented in her actions and passion as FLOTUS. We need strong, stubborn, fierce women in leadership positions who have a “take no bullshit” attitude. I’m looking forward to seeing what Michelle Obama does after she leaves the White House with Barack Obama, and I’m also still hoping that America won’t prove to be as stupid as Bill Maher and Michael Moore keep saying, and will vote against the pro-sexual assault orange man.