Occasionally on the weekends, we’ll have Girl Code) on TV as background noise. As embarrassed as I am to admit it, I actually find it entertaining, especially when I hear some of the things that girls admit to. One of the most “laugh-out-loud” things that I heard was when one girl said that you probably hate 90% of your girlfriends and complain about all of them, and then you say you want more girlfriends, but that’s really so that you can complain about new girlfriends and less about the old ones. It really is true, though; even though I might be seeking new girlfriends at this point in my life, the truth is that all the new ones will probably drive me crazy in some way because anyone I would be interested in being friends with would have something outrageous about her, and while I might love it, I will also love to hate on it. It’s why we as women have love-hate relationships with the women in our lives. We love hating whether we admit it or not.
Tonight, we went to see Cat Empire, an Australian band, perform. I’d never heard of them before, but Chris has been their for years. I asked him what genre of music they were, and he said that I just needed to listen to know. They are some mix of ska, jazz, and Latin, but the funny thing I thought about while listening to them perform is our general desire to categorize everything into neat little boxes. Prior to meeting friends of freinds, we often ask what her ethnicity is, what industry is he in, just as when we hear of a new performer, we ask the genre. It would be refreshing to take the same approach as I (involuntarily) took tonight – to enter the concert with a blank slate, expect nothing, and be surprised.
Tonight, Chris and I used a package that his best friend got us for Christmas and went to a Paint Along BYOB class. We did our own renditions of the Flatiron building in a class of mostly couples and girlfriends while sipping mango Moscato. We’re not quite sure what to do with our paintings since neither of us is particularly proud, but it was an enjoyable experience to be in the same room expressing creativity together in a way that we normally do not. When I think about the different artistic skills that people have, I always wonder if I might have had more potential with a paint brush if I had been given more opportunity to do it as a child. Now, I just feel too impatient to seriously try it again.
For such an expensive city, New York actually has quite a number of free events of all types available to the public. The Lincoln Center has Target Thursdays, where Target sponsors a performance every Thursday of the year, and it’s first come, first seated. The River to River Festival happens every summer and provides free concerts. The New York Philharmonic has free performances on the Great Lawn in Central Park and in other boroughs throughout the summer. As long as you are able to spend some time waiting and possibly duck out of work early, you can snag your spot. Tonight, we went to a Lincoln Center concert where Meg Okura’s Pan-Asian Ensemble played. It was an incredible performance, and looking back at it, it’s crazy to think that we paid nothing for it. We’re really privileged to live in a city that values art and entertainment so much.
I grew up in a household where my mother wanted everything done quickly. As soon as dinner was finished, clear the dishes and wash them immediately. When the laundry was ready, fold and put away everything straight away. Now, in New York, everyone has a similar mentality – maximize efficiency at all possible costs, and not surprisingly, I fit into the picture pretty well. If I am not doing something I deem “productive,” I always feel as though I am wasting time and feel guilty about it. “Relaxing” doesn’t come naturally to me. Now I have a partner who enjoys dragging me to bed to rest, and it has been quite an adjustment. Most times, it is very liberating, and other times, I am lying there wondering what I could have been doing to “get ahead.” Why do I feel as though I need to deserve a break?
I hate tipping. I know that makes me sound cheap, but the notion that those in the U.S. service industry, particularly waitstaff, do not get paid even minimum wage, infuriates me. Knowing that their rent or food money is dependent on tips just doesn’t sound right – why should this be any different than any other job in terms of earnings? So when I visit countries in Asia and Europe where tipping is not expected (and in some places considered an insult), it feels liberating to know that a) these servers are (I hope) getting paid a living wage, and b) I don’t have to deal with calculating a tip in my head. So it was nice when we went to Sushi Yasuda tonight, and our bill said that tipping was not accepted, because as is the tradition in Japan, all staff are served a living wage – a breath of fresh air in the midst of a polluted city.
It’s been five years since I graduated from Wellesley. Though I don’t yearn to relive those days as a naive college student, I am extremely grateful to the strong alumnae network that the school has all over the world. It was through the W Network that I received much sage advice from alums in different lines of work and made connections with people who ultimately helped my career development. So it’s only natural that I want to help others in the network now who reach out to me. Oddly, what they say is true about helping others; it’s not completely selfless when you mentor others, because not only are they gaining something, but you yourself are benefiting because you actually feel good as a result.
I often get told by my mother that I may be book-smart and educated, but in terms of wisdom, I will never surpass her. I suppose that’s a fair statement for a mother to make to her child, but how do we define “wisdom,” and who do we consider “wise” from whom we’d take advice? Oxford Dictionary defines wisdom as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment.” I agree, but I’d also add that a wise person is someone who is fulfilled with the life she has had and continues to have, and is genuinely happy, otherwise, why would I take advice from this person?
Today, we visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL. One of the most striking parts of the exhibit is this hallway you walk through where all you can see are mocking caricatures that hypercritical journalists/cartoonists have done of Lincoln, expressing their great disapproval for pretty much every little thing he and Mary Todd did. This is then followed by faces speaking to you about why they disapproved of him in all directions you could turn. The exhibit notes that all criticism abruptly halted once Lincoln was assassinated. I thought about this. If we spend time criticizing those in our lives to an excessive degree, would we all stop if we knew that their lives would be cut short?
Being Asian and always having lived on one of the two coasts in the U.S., I’ve definitely been sheltered in a lot of ways that most do not consciously think about. Sometimes, I forget that only 4 percent of the U.S. is Asian (not 30 percent like it may seen in California or New York), and that most people in this country not on one of these coasts don’t get to see people like me with my “exotic” features that regularly. So when traveling away from the coasts, I become the minority, the one who doesn’t blend in, and definitely the one who gets stared at more.