Steam cleaned engagement ring

My engagement ring was always too small. When Chris first proposed with it four years ago, we struggled to get it on my finger, and then really struggled to get it off. It’s always been the most frustrating when it’s hot outside because that’s when my fingers swell, just like my mom’s do, and I’d need to pry it off after applying soapy water to my hands. So finally, a couple weeks ago, I decided to have it sent in to be resized just a half size bigger, and when it came back, it was amazing: you’d be shocked to see what a difference just a half size in a ring makes. Not only that, the company also tightened all the prongs and professionally steam cleaned my ring, so now, this ring looks almost better than it did when I first received it. When I opened the box, I couldn’t stop staring at how clear it looked. It was almost newer than new, and in some ways, looked like a different stone.

Since I’ve started wearing it again, I’ve gotten no less than half a dozen different people asking me if I just got married or received a new engagement ring. Today, while having my highlights redone with my hair stylist, she randomly exclaimed, “Wow, girl! I love your ring! It looks like brand new! Did he get you a new one?”

It’s definitely not new, but it certainly feels like it’s new all over again given all the attention this ring has suddenly started receiving again. This professional steam clean really paid off, even though it cost nothing.

Key for the front door

I was out at dinner with some friends tonight, and a friend came over after to relax and catch up on random things. Then, suddenly, my colleague friend texts me to ask me if I have a key to the front door of the office. He was out at dinner with our east coast head of sales and our CEO and had just gotten back to the office with them in an attempt to have our visiting CEO pick up his luggage, which he decided to leave at the office. Our office building is set up in such a way that after 8pm, the doorman goes home, which means that the front door gets locked, and you need a physical key to get into the building, then a keycard to get into the floor we’re on.

When he explained this to me over the phone, I got so annoyed. Why would he just leave his luggage at the office and not bring it with him? The restaurant is so close to the office. And how could neither of the other two remembered that the door locks at 8pm? And if they had the key, which they do, why would they not always carry it on their set of keys and instead choose to leave it at home?!

I was getting ready to leave and kick my friend out to go downtown to open the door when my colleague calls me back and said that plan B worked out; they were able to get a hold of our office manager, who was able to call the cleaning lady, who just happened to be cleaning another office just a ten-minute walk from our building.

It seems like poor judgment, panic, and unfortunate events seem to descend upon us whenever our new CEO is in town. And the mood isn’t great. No one wants to be around. And I almost left my apartment at 9:30pm on a Tuesday night just so that he could get his luggage. I was so mad. And I was irritated that my colleague asked me to do this. This is what happens when you’re too nice of a person and people rely on you to always be there for them. You just get abused and are left feeling unappreciated.

Sheltered

I have a really low tolerance for sheltered people, people who refuse to leave their comfort zones, the bubbles they have created for themselves, and the beliefs they carry that are rooted more in ignorance than in actual knowledge of the world. One of the reasons I loved Anthony Bourdain so much is that he was curious in every sense of the word, always sought to understand others rather than be understood by others. He challenged himself. So many people fail to challenge themselves and their beliefs. Some are lazy. Others think they don’t have time. Others simply don’t have the desire. These are not the people I want to spend time with.

For our company’s Impact Week next week, which is our annual volunteer week where we give back to our local communities, one of my participants today messaged me and said that if she didn’t have someone to accompany her up to West Harlem that she refused to come. She and her husband, born and bread on the Jersey Shore, pretty much know nothing about the world outside of the Jersey Shore. She’s barely been to the West Coast, and no, it’s not for lack of money or resources. They barely know Manhattan even though both have worked there for over 20 years. After the last volunteer event, she’d said she didn’t feel safe being in Spanish Harlem, even in the day time. Her husband said that if anyone carried anything remotely valuable in Manhattan that they’d be a “target.” Manhattan is one of the safest places I’ve ever walked through, whether it’s 3pm or 3am. As a relatively young person of color, I’ve never once felt in danger walking these streets. And these white Jersey people do?

I just cannot handle this type of ignorance or sheltered attitude. If she wants to participate, I told her she’s going to have to find someone else to ride the train with her because I’m not going all the way back down to the Flatiron to pick her up when I already live on the Upper West Side.

Obsession with productivity

Chris left this morning for an all-week work trip, so I was left to my own devices today. I didn’t have much desire to leave the neighborhood today, so instead, I spent most of the day obsessing over the cleanliness of the apartment by vacuuming and dusting pretty much every crevice this apartment has. I had already deep-cleaned the bathroom yesterday. Then, I proceeded to hand wash my bras, disinfect our toothbrushes, wash my makeup brushes, and even buff some of the stainless steel appliances in our kitchen. After a 90-minute intense workout at the gym, I showered, did the laundry, went to buy some groceries, and made fresh almond milk and my quick dinner. And with Anthony Bourdain on Parts Unknown in the background, I polished my toe nails and masked my face. I lit candles in the living room to create mood lighting.

I have a hard time staying still. I get annoyed when I feel like I am not doing anything, so then I go find something to do. Anyone who lives with me knows this. My last roommate thought I was crazy. Chris still thinks I like to “fidgit” as he says (I don’t even know how to spell that, but that does not look right). It’s not an entirely bad thing because it means that things get done, and things certainly get cleaned, but it’s bad in that I really don’t know how to relax. I constantly feel like I need to be doing something, producing something. I know I get this from my mom. She’s the exact same way. She feels like she has to be doing something all the time. 

I guess the apple never falls that far from the tree.

Rest in love, Anthony Bourdain.

After landing at JFK early this morning, I was in an Uber stuck in traffic on the way back into Manhattan when I saw a news alert pop up on my phone that Anthony Bourdain had died this morning in France while shooting his show Parts Unknown. I actually felt chills all over when I read the alert: how is this possible? Is this real? And what’s worse was how he died: he had hanged himself. It was suicide.

I just felt numb. Anthony Bourdain, for me, epitomized everything amazing about life: he had a genuine curiosity about the entire world, about everything that was unlike him, and eagerly sought to constantly learn more and educate himself about every culture, every cuisine, every person. He was blunt and to the point, at times offensive to some, but that’s what the world really needs — more realness, more rawness, more people speaking about things the way they truly are instead of how they romanticize or wish the world could be, or… for some, ignorantly believe the world is based on the tiny bubble they choose to exist in. He was brutally honest, no bullshit, and always to the point about how he felt. Anthony loved food, and he saw food for more than just something to fill his stomach and keep him alive. He saw it in the way that I’ve always thought about it, as an expression of culture. I’ve always thought that if you want to learn more about another culture, another people that you haven’t been exposed to, the easiest first step is to try their food. Therefore, if you hesitate to try another culture’s food or immediately write it off as disgusting… you’re probably more likely to be racist. There’s a strong correlation there in my opinion. Food tells a story that is more than just “I’m delicious” — it’s about a culture, its rich history, its geography, economy, politics. It’s about how people live, where they live. Food tells a story. And stories reveal important ideas about how and why people are the way they are. And that’s compelling and complex.

He exposed so many truths about all parts of the world, from Palestine to Africa to Southeast Asia, that most of the world didn’t want to see or look at. He humanized the people that other travel shows and magazines wanted to ignore, everyone from people making street food in India to even the Mexican and Central American workers who staff the majority of our restaurants here in the U.S. He was a white male, yes, but he was extremely cognizant of his privilege and continued to ask questions and follow his curiosity around the world and understand more.

To this day, I haven’t ever really felt much when a well known celebrity has passed, but this time, I really did feel something. His death is a tragedy to the entire world, and now, when I hear his words being quoted or see his shows now, a part of me will hurt. He had his inner demons, as he mentioned many times in the books I’d read he had written and in the shows he starred in. He talked about how he should have died in his 20s or 30s, and really shouldn’t have been around to see his 50s. To me, I always suspected this would be a way that he’d leave the world. I just hoped it wouldn’t be true.

He always said he had the best job in the world. He died while traveling for work. I suppose that is a way that he would have wanted to go. I miss him, even though I never knew him personally.

On traveling, on culture, and on moving, he said: “If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”

I could not agree more wholeheartedly.

Rest in love and peace, our beloved Anthony Bourdain. The world is a worser and frankly, less honest place without you in it anymore.

U.S. naturalization ceremony

I originally planned to be in San Francisco from Sunday through Sunday to maximize time with family, friends, and colleagues, but I had to cut it short when we received a notification a couple weeks ago that Chris’s naturalization ceremony was scheduled for this morning. He had applied to become a citizen last August after all of the political nonsense that this country is facing with Trump being president. Trump as president has really spurred a lot of people to become more politically active, which is great news. Chris wanted to have his voice heard, so this was the result.

You’d think that if you were being sworn in to become a citizen of a new country that it would be a celebratory event, that it would be an occasion that would be happy, full of smiles, music, and praise. Well, that was not what I witnessed today. As soon as we entered the courthouse, all of our phones and any “smart” device were confiscated, neatly placed into a “smart phone cubby” that was organized by medallion number. No electronics of any sort were allowed into the building; they’d hold it for you. Then, as visitors sat down, the new citizens had to have all their paperwork organized and ready for when the officers needed them.

And, it’s no wonder that they ban all electronics and thus recording devices because it is absolutely disgusting what you’d see if I actually videoed what I saw today. As a country, we should be ashamed of how we treat newly naturalized citizens. There was not even an ounce of warmth, of respect, of anything positive in that room in the entire three-plus hours I sat in there waiting.

I witnessed some of the most inhuman interactions today. There was a line to get your papers checked, and a second line to get a second check done. It wasn’t clear that there was a second line given how people were organizing themselves. An officer says to someone walking towards the line, “Are you lost? The line is right there!” as though he’s some total incompetent blind person. Another officer berated another person who didn’t have her papers organized as though she was a little child; this new potential citizen was at least in her 40s. Every interaction I witnessed made me more and more angry. I was just bracing myself for how they were going to treat Chris when he got up there.

When Chris finally got to the front and was showing his papers, the interaction seemed pretty benign; no meanness or tone of arrogance coming from the officer, which was not what I’d previously witnessed.

Two hours later of waiting with no electronics, phones, or books in hand, the “ceremony” began (can I add that there was a rack of magazines that were roped off that said “do not touch”? How more evil can you possibly be when you’ve stripped everyone of their smart phones?). We recited the pledge of allegiance, a judge came out to give a speech to basically encourage everyone to vote… because of course she would do this since she’s a lesbian with a family, and has her own agenda to push.

She said that of all the judges she’d spoken with, this ceremony was what gave them the most joy in their jobs. That was total garbage, every word out of her mouth; they got to sit in there in their robes for ten minutes to talk about the hopes and dreams of becoming an American, yet they didn’t have to sit and wait through the last two hours of being stripped of electronics, being dehumanized in line, talked to like children, or the last five, ten, fifteen, or however many years it took all these people, mostly people of color, to get to this dehumanizing room to get ‘naturalized’ today. Everything about today’s ceremony was crap; there wasn’t even a moment where I thought, if I were getting naturalized today in this room, I’d be ecstatic, proud to be here. We were both just eager to get the hell out of there as soon as possible. All I could hear out of Chris’s mouth were expletives under his breath. And I couldn’t really blame him. But I honestly could not feel that happy, either, even though his “status” would be changing. It was a truly terrible experience for the entire three hours we were in there.

We ended the day with a beautiful omakase dinner with two good friends and drinks downtown. We had to have something to look forward to after such a crappy U.S. government experience. But this marks the end of my love’s immigration hell. This is truly the end.

And as Chris reminds me, now he doesn’t need me anymore and could divorce me. Heh.

Extroverted introvert

This week, I’ve spent four intense days in our San Francisco office, and also at our offsite at the Grand Hyatt in downtown with my team coming from across the globe. It’s been extremely enjoyable for me to connect in person, in meetings and over tea and meals, with my colleagues, some of whom I call friends. It’s been non-stop catch-ups and walks with so many people since I’ve arrived. I love seeing colleagues and friends I have not seen in a while and reconnecting with them. I enjoy sharing random anecdotes, travel and customer stories, and laughing about ridiculous experiences. I love learning new things about people that I didn’t know before. I’m always curious to find out more about everyone, to uncover the things that others do not know. As an extrovert, I derive so much energy in the presence of others, particularly those I find intellectually stimulating, humorous, and fun to be around. But as an introvert, when all of this is done, as it is for me tonight as I am headed to the airport to return back to New York on a red eye, I relish my alone time and enjoy not speaking to anyone, putting my earbuds in and listening to my book or my music. I enjoy being in the company of no one I recognize or know, and not being obligated to speak to anyone or have any type of conversation. Though I am the type of person who enjoys striking up conversations with complete strangers, when I’m in transit, especially when flying, I’d prefer not to chat at all unless it’s initiated by someone else.

I feel my extrovert and introvert all the time. They’re not necessarily at odds, but while some like the labels of being one or the other, I feel very firmly in the center of both.

Some edibles gone wrong

I unknowingly accompanied some colleagues to a dispensary after our company happy hour en route to El Farolito in the Mission last night. I didn’t realize what he was talking about when he said he was going to “buy flowers.” He named the place, and to me, it sounded like a bar. So I thought, sure, I could hang out at another bar before my burrito!

I walked in, got IDed, and immediately knew this was not a bar. They were there to buy weed and gummy edibles, and I was just there for the ride. We walked into the smoking parlor next door, and they all began to smoke and eat their gummies. I was debating whether I wanted to try them. I’d had a puff here and there before, but it was never enough (or, well, strong enough) to do anything for me, so I never really cared for it. When I was in first grade, my dad enrolled me i an anti-drug program where I’d get pulled out of class for a few hours each week to attend lessons on why drugs were bad for me, and why I should never try them. Since then, I’d had no fascination with any recreational drugs even though I could easily have gotten access to them. And to this day, I can say with complete honesty that I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. It just doesn’t interest me. And the smell is absolutely hideous to me.

But today, I just thought, meh. I can do this. I’m 32. What’s the big deal, anyway? People take this stuff to relax, as medication. I can do this just fine. And so, I did, and also had a gummy. I was already relaxed from the two cocktails I had at happy hour, but then after this, I felt even more mellow and happy. Hmmm. This isn’t so bad, I thought. I won’t do this often, anyway, so it’s not a big deal.

We went and had our super sized quesadillas with shrimp and steak. I enjoyed my horchata. Then, we went back to the hotel. It wasn’t even 10:30 and I was already sleeping.

Well, then I woke up at 3am with agonizing pain in my left lymph node. My lymph node was swelling, clearly enlarged like a golf ball, and it felt like there was liquid moving around in it. The whole left side of my face hurt. Opening my mouth was painful. I applied some cold compresses to it to make it feel better, but the pain was not residing. Great, I thought. This is what I get for taking what is supposed to be legal recreational drugs in the state of California while in California. Please go back to sleep, fall asleep, let the pain go away, I kept thinking.

I eventually did fall back asleep. When I woke up, the swelling had gone down, but the pain was definitely still there. If someone were to poke me right there, I’d probably scream.

Is the moral of the story here to never do this ever again? Or did I just finally have access to the “good stuff” as some of my colleagues called it to elicit a reaction from my body like that?

 

 

Not all Asian people look the same, and the failure of “Diversity Inclusion”

Within an hour yesterday of arriving at our company’s headquarters in San Francisco, I was chatting with a few of my local colleagues when one of my Amsterdam colleagues walked up to me to hug me, and he said, “I just saw you three weeks ago, and we meet yet again!”

I was so confused. I hadn’t been in the SF office since February when we had our annual sales kickoff. What was he referring to? “No, I haven’t been here since February,” I responded, unsure of what he was referring to.

“Yes, you were here three weeks ago!” this Dutch colleague insisted. “We were working on our side project together.”

And that’s when it hit me. Damnit. He’s mistaking me for another colleague… who is very likely another Asian female.

Our colleague visiting from London knew immediately who he was mistaking me for. He pulled me aside later and said, “(Insert Dutch colleague’s name) thought you were Diana,” he said in a hushed voice.

So, that’s when I decided to post on our company’s Diversity Inclusion Slack channel this message:

“So @jess asked me to be more vocal on this channel given my experiences in general, and so I think now that it’s my first day back at Optimizely SF since February…maybe I can ask this question: Should I be getting used to the fact that as an Asian American woman at this company that I should be confused for other Asian women repeatedly?”

It received a lot of reactions, many of which were other people of color getting mistaken for other people of a similar color. It was just so stupid and senseless. No response from HR was seen, just more outrage from other employees who were not white.

We have a diversity inclusion group at work, which frankly, is more for show and venting than it is for actually solving issues around diversity in the workplace. To make matters worse, it’s only in San Francisco, which is our headquarters. As one of my colleagues said to me when I shared this repeated experience of getting mistaken for other Asian female employees, our company fails to handle diversity management in a productive way that actually effects change. This Slack channel is mainly a steam valve to let people complain together. If our Human Resources team were serious about doing something, they would hire outside professionals to not only come in and do these trainings, but also advise HR on how to handle these issues, as they will constantly come up.

But, that isn’t happening. So, I will continue to be mistaken for other Asian females, and other Asian females will get mistaken for me. Because in a white people world, all people of color look the same to them. We’re not individuals. We’re just a single race duplicated into multiple bodies.

 

My brother stood out.

After lunch at home with my parents yesterday, we went to the Columbarium to visit Ed. After spending some time cleaning the glass of his niche and peering into the little world I built for him, it was time to bid him farewell for now. On our way out, I went into the main building and ended up meeting the new family service counselor. She’d actually been there for a couple years now, and we had just not met yet. Part of her job is to go around to each of the halls in the Columbarium to do routine checks of each niche to make sure each is in good shape. She asked me what my brother’s name is, and I told her. “Edward?” she repeated, surprised. “Wait, is he in the Hall of Olympians? He’s the one who has the Simpsons family with him?”

I almost lost my breath. I just stared at her and felt chills all over my body. How is it possible that in what is probably thousands of niches throughout this historic building that she could remember Ed’s over all of the others?

When she first began about two years ago, she walked around and browsed the niches, trying to get a feel for the place that she called her new workplace. She said she immediately noticed Ed’s niche. Ed’s niche was the one that touched her the most, and she kept wondering what happened to him and what the stories were behind the Simpsons and the other trinkets that decorated the surrounds of his urn.

She said that she felt for me because she also lost a sibling recently, as well. A couple of years ago, she was on a family vacation with her four siblings and parents when suddenly, one of her sisters was found dead in her hotel room by their father. She was just 34. “34?” I said. “Ed was just a month shy of his 34th birthday when he died.” Our eyes just locked. “That is just too strange, too much of a coincidence,” she responded pensively. Her sister also had a decades long struggle with depression. Another sister had attempted suicide. It was all too real for her, too.

She told my dad and me that we did a really good job decorating Ed’s niche. My dad shifted a bit and cracked a little smile. “Well, that was all Yvonne,” my dad said, looking down, still smiling. “Yvonne did everything and organized it all for him.”

“Well, then, you did a really great job,” she said to me. “I don’t think you realize how many people you unknowingly touch and how they can feel your brother through his niche.”

She said she was so happy we met, and that she got to meet the person who decorated that memorable niche. I’m still feeling strange that this meeting occurred, that we have these tragic commonalities, that she was so touched by my brother’s niche that she’d remember it and say it stood out from the others. I wonder if Ed was listening to that conversation.