History repeats itself again

In Trump’s America, history is repeating itself once again with white supremacist rallies and violence, leading to the death of an innocent equality seeking woman and the injuries of many more. What is really shocking is not what the self-proclaimed neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and people-of-color hating white racists say and do; what is really shocking is the people who you’d least expect defending these rallies as being representative of “freedom of speech” and opinion, or the people, whether they are colleagues, former colleagues, or people within your professional network, who think a quote like the one below are delusional or “total crap”:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion … People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love… …For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

This was originally said by Nelson Mandela, and Tweeted by former President Obama after the Charlottesville act of domestic terrorism that happened this past Saturday. And someone posted this quote in my LinkedIn feed today, to which one very ignorant white woman responded that this quote was totally crap and all lies, that as if lions and zebras just “learn” to hate each other, that it’s instinct, so how are people any different?

So, I have a couple responses to that: 1) I didn’t realize that black people, white people, Chinese people, whatever ethnicity you want to name, were actually different species of animal the way zebra and lions are. That’s probably one of the most insulting and inherently racist things someone can say – that white people are innately different from any other race, or a comparison of any races in that sense; and 2) behavior towards people, towards things, thoughts, anything is very much learned, especially when it comes to expressing emotions, and it’s sad to see that people aren’t educated in school or in life enough to realize that. We’re not born thinking or knowing we are Christian or Indian or Muslim or anything; we are taught all those things. And in the same way, we are taught that one religion or race is superior to the other. Babies don’t have a clue what race they are or what religion their parents practice, and neither do most kids under the age of 5!!

It’s as though every day of 2017, I am becoming more and more aware of how delusional and short sighted my fellow Americans are. And every day, I kind of just want to bury myself under my sheets and not deal with reality.

Time may be up

It’s hard to feel positive about living in the U.S. when you have an orange racist, sexist, ignorant fuck in the White House, but I’ve tried to limit the amount of news I digest every day without becoming too ignorant of current events myself. There truly is a fine line between staying informed and going insane/losing complete hope in society.

But I almost found myself in tears at dinner tonight when I found out that my friend’s girlfriend, who is originally from Japan, may not be able to stay in the U.S. past September 9th. She’s on an H1B visa, and because she’s already had her visa transferred twice, she can no longer have her visa renewed, so she really has two choices left: leave to go back to Japan, or get married to my friend and file all her Green Card paperwork before September 9th. She was considered for a diplomat visa (I have no idea how that works, but found it odd given her organization that she could even qualify for that given her work has zero involvement with the government or being an actual diplomat), but she was told that given the current political climate, all applications for that are on hold. “Current political climate,” huh? Gee, I wonder what that means?

I could see the pain on her face when she was describing how upset and scared she was. Given her original demeanor at the beginning of the evening, I could already tell she was a bit on edge about everything. It’s terrible how little awareness the American people have about immigrants who are here on work visas, and because of that, it seems little will be done to help the plight of hard working, educated or uneducated immigrants like her and my own Chris. The system is basically set up against them and forces them to consider marriage to an American as the only viable option to move forward and continue living here and contributing to this society that doesn’t even value them or treat them like real human beings. I myself had no idea how hard it was until Chris and I started dating, and he educated me about everything he had gone through and what it’s like for the average educated immigrant here in the U.S. Unless you are good friends with people on H1B visas or are dating/married to someone who has had to go through the process, chances are that you don’t know crap about the process. And how can anyone really blame you? There are so many misconceptions of visa-holding immigrants to this country, and the media doesn’t help at all…. and that is how people are getting the very little information they have.

These are the moments when reality hits you about how hard immigrants have it, and how easy people like me have it in this country.

Race, even in furniture buying

It seems like in a day and age of Trump running the United States of America, everything seems to be about race. When you are anything but white, you have to think about race all the time. And when you’re white, it’s easy to take for granted the fact that you have that privilege. Like in this guy’s case that I’m about to describe, he thought he could take advantage of being white by “paying me later” when trying to buy our dresser.

After seeing our Craigslist ad, this guy said he’d be over on a Saturday and rent a truck, and his friend would come to help him move the dresser out of our apartment. As he’s on his way, he called me to let me know that his friend would be meeting him, but he’d probably get to the building sooner, and so, “Don’t worry about the Hispanic guy hanging out outside your building. He’s not there to rob you; he’s my friend just coming to help me transport the dresser. He’s a good guy.”

That phone call already started the bad taste in my mouth about this guy.

Then, when he arrived, his friend opened the truck door and he came into the building when I let him in. He introduced himself and asked, “It’s okay if I Venmo you, right? Can I do it later?”

Um, no. I expect the money before you leave my apartment and take my stuff. You need to pay me now.

He immediately looked exasperated, as though I asked him to give him some exorbitant amount of money for the dresser or was making him go out of his way. “Well, now I need to get my friend to give me my phone so I can Venmo you now, then.”

That… was not a problem. Your friend was literally 50 feet away. You could easily have him go get your phone. What, when this guy goes to a store, does he take merchandise out of the store and tell the cashier, “Hey! I’ll pay you later?”

So he Venmoed me, no problem. Then, they took the dresser out and he left. But I was still annoyed. Even though we got a decent chunk of money for the dresser, the entire experience made me mad. First, he stereotyped his friend and projected his stereotypes of Latino people onto me as though I would feel unsafe seeing a brown man coming into my apartment (ha, because my husband is brown, too), thus exuding the classic “I’m not racist, I have a black friend” attitude. Then, he expected to get away with “paying later,” and I’m almost 100 percent certain he did that because he’s a white guy who thinks he can be trusted just because of his race. And as though it were really relevant, he said he was a resident at Columbia.

Yeah, I don’t care who you are — black, white, orange, rich, poor, a tree hugger, or a doctor. When you come to my apartment after seeing my Craigslist ad, you pay for the furniture you said you would buy. Then, you take it out. And then you get out immediately.

Why did this annoy me again tonight? Because tonight, we had a guy come with his brother to buy and dismantle our bed frame, and not only was he extremely polite and hesitant to even enter our apartment, without question he paid us immediately in cash before he touched a single part of the bed. And this guy was black. And I can guarantee that he did this because he’s hyper aware of his skin color and how he’s perceived, and he knows for a fact he’d never, ever get away with what that white guy did and pull a “I’ll pay you later” stunt. It probably would never even enter his mind the way it did with the white guy who bought the dresser.

That made me so mad. It made me mad that this African American guy was so polite and really didn’t have to be that polite, and it made me mad that that white guy was so nonchalant about paying because he’s got white privilege. Everything is about race, even furniture buying and selling.

Happy hour reunion

Tonight, I reunited with a former colleague who experienced a lot of the same sexism and discrimination at my last company as I did. It was so refreshing to have drinks with a former colleague who felt exactly the way I did about the last place I worked, and as bad as it sounds, had it even worse than I did day to day. She experienced near daily sexism from her direct manager, and HR did pretty much nothing to address it. It was just accepted as the “way things were there.” And when you have a company where people hire their wives and best friends to report directly to them, who’s going to stop them from their bullshit and delusion?

It’s sad that companies still exist like this, even in the 21st century, even when companies as high profile as Uber are having their very public reputations unravel. But who cares about smaller no-name startups like my last company that are netting probably no revenue?

Down pour

Toward the end of the work day, the sky literally broke. What was a clear blue sky suddenly turned dark grey, and the lightning and thunder came. The tumultuous rain soon followed. And just my luck, I had no rain coat, no rain boots, no umbrella. I was lucky enough to have a nice colleague who walked me to the subway station with his umbrella. I finally can say I have good-hearted colleagues.

When I got out of the train at 83rd street, it was pouring, and I had to walk in the pouring rain for four blocks and arrived home completely drenched.

I somehow managed to bring a bunch of bubble wrap home from the office during the office move to re-purpose for our apartment move. I slowly started wrapping up fragile items in the apartment and taping them up, and suddenly out of nowhere, I thought about Ed. He’s only ever seen my Elmhurst apartment while I’ve been in New York, and he never saw this apartment. If he ever saw this apartment, he’d be appalled at how small it is. And if he saw my new and upcoming apartment building, he’d probably marvel at how nice it was and ask me how much we would be paying for it. And suddenly I found myself feeling so miserable, lamenting my dead brother and how he’d never see me move into a nice apartment near Columbus Circle and never visit this new and shiny apartment his little sister would be moving into.

We’re slowly approaching his death anniversary, so I guess it makes sense that I’d be thinking about him more and feeling sad at his absence in my life. There’s so much my brother missed out on. He never truly got to experience the joys of adulthood, of truly having ownership over anything, of truly trusting another human being the way I trust Chris, or even the way I trust my closest friends. But these are the moments I think of him most — when I’m at new and pivotal stages of life, whether it’s a new job or a new home, where I think… why can’t I share it with my Ed? Why can’t he be here to be happy for me? Or, more significantly, why can’t he be here to share these types of news with me about his life? He never moved out of the wretched house we grew up in. And that infuriates me.

This year, he would be turning 38. That fucking hurts.

Family leave in medical industry

Whenever I chat with my friend who is in a neurology residency program, I always feel a little guilty talking about my life — everything from the trips I am taking to the flexibility of my job to the fact that I can work remotely (doctors… can’t really work remotely). But today, I actually got angry at her industry when she told me that at the current hospital where she’s working, there is no recognized family leave, maternal or paternal. When the doctors in the hospital have a baby, they have to take time out of their sick leave (which is only about a week and a half) and their vacation time (that’s only two-ish weeks). Then, they have to make up that time later. 

“What the fuck?” I just blurted it out, not that my friend minds my occasional potty mouth, but I was just in total shock and disgust. I know at this point, I really should not be surprised at all; the U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world to have zero legal paid family leave (wasn’t it only Papua New Guinea that didn’t… and it’s sad to even put ourselves in the same category as them?) and to not recognize that new parents should be with their children. But it hurts even more to think that those in the medical profession, people who are devoting their lives to the health and wellness of others, can’t even take care of themselves and their new family members, and their lives are discounted.

It’s no wonder doctors are committing suicide and burning out at faster rates than the average person. Their lives and even their babies’ lives don’t matter to their employers.

Food photo shoot

I decided to not get food delivery for lunch today and instead pick it up (what a hard working life when your company pays for your Seamless order every day) — it would get me out of the office and give me a little more exercise. So I ordered takeout from Laut, a nearby Malaysian fusion restaurant, and picked it up during lunchtime. When I walked in, I noticed a commotion near the windows with over a dozen dishes all lined up with specific lighting and multiple DSLR cameras nearby. It was a food photo shoot! I’d never seen that happen before. And of course, because natural light is the best, they were placing each dish individually by the window to shoot.

I made small talk with the people doing the photo shoot. They work for a corporate food delivery service that makes it easy for companies to do group orderings for different dishes at different restaurants, all in the same order. I asked them if they actually get to eat the food after they’re done shooting. They said that occasionally they’ll take a bite or two, but they never ask to eat for free and don’t want to impose on the restaurants by asking to take the food to go, so they leave the food at the restaurants… which eventually throw the food out.

That is so freaking wasteful and made me so upset. We’re a world full of waste everywhere when there are literally homeless people down the street who are starving.

Missing photo

I don’t think any of us will ever fully understand our parents. Regardless of generation, what year you were born, what life experiences you may or may not have had, I think that because of the hierarchical relationship between parent and child, a child will never fully know her parent, and at the same time, a parent will never fully know her child. I mean, does anyone ever fully know anyone, anyway?

I came back to my parents’ house tonight for the first time during this trip back. The last time I was here was at the end of January. And when I went into my room, I noticed that the framed childhood photo of my brother and me was no longer on the shelf where it’s been sitting ever since I was a toddler; it was missing. That’s one of my favorite photos of us together. Where was it? Who moved it, and why?

So, my dad moved it. In fact, he moved it and cannot seem to remember where he put it. “I was just clearing away things and getting rid of junk, and so I may have taken it down,” he said nonchalantly. “I’ll try to see if I can remember where I put it, but I may have thrown it out.”

Junk? Childhood photos of your own children…. are junk that need to be cleared away and even thrown out?

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White privilege

Tonight, we went to see Ronny Chieng, one of the Daily Show correspondents, perform some test material, and his opening act was Adam Lowitt, who is also a Daily Show contributor (I think his official title is “Senior Jewish Correspondent”). If anyone has any doubt that “white privilege” exists and is real, they should have heard what he had to say tonight.

He talked about how he and his wife were driving with their infant baby in the backseat in Jersey, and he was speeding because that’s just what he does. A police siren goes off, and he realizes it’s for him. So he pulls over, and the police officer approaches and starts speaking in a loud voice. Without even realizing why this would be a bad idea, Adam immediately says “Shhhhhh!! (looks to the back of the car) The baby is sleeping.” And not only does the police officer lower his voice in response, he lets Adam and his wife go simply on a warning.

Adam admitted it. He said he took advantage of his white privilege then by speaking in such an irreverent way to a police officer without even thinking. If he were a person of color, he never would have done that, and if he did, he probably would not have been treated as well as he was.

If that were Chris driving, or if that were a black or another brown person who tried to “shhhhh” a police officer, what do you think would have happened? I don’t think any person of color would even dream of “shhhh”ing a police officer. In fact, Chris and I have gotten pulled over twice, once for speeding and another time because Chris forgot to turn his headlights on at night. The police officer who pulled us over for the lack of headlights was angrier than angry that Chris didn’t immediately pull over (Chris said he got confused and wasn’t sure it was for him), and then got even more mad when Chris answered one of his questions the wrong way. I always look back on those moments and think, would that police officer have responded the same way if Chris were white?

“Speechless”

I had a random Lady Gaga station going at the gym this morning, and suddenly her song “Speechless” came on. Ever since I can’t remember, I don’t pay as much attention to lyrics as I used to. But when this song came on, partly because of the way she was singing, I started listening, and even though I was running on my treadmill, I could feel my eyes tearing up as I listened to the words she sang. On the surface, this song seems like a sad love ballad, the kind where you know the relationship is doomed and at least one side of the couple is just in denial. But this song seemed more complex. The more I thought about it, this song isn’t about that type of love at all. It’s about something else. She belts out in the beginning:

Could we fix you if you broke?
And is your punch line just a joke?

I looked up the song afterwards. She said it was her favorite song on her Fame Monster album of 2009, and it was actually written about her father’s refusal to have a life-saving open heart surgery. He said instead of getting the surgery, he just wanted to live his life. Her mother was terrified, as she was. But she felt hopeless, as she was on tour at the time and had no way to be there with him physically. So she wrote this song as a plea to him to get the surgery. Her dad would call her every now and then after having a number of drinks, and she would sit there on the other end, completely speechless, having no idea how to respond to him. She was terrified she was going to lose him, and she would not be there with him when it happened. He eventually had the surgery. Every time she performs this song live, she gets emotional thinking about how she could have lost him if he hadn’t made that decision.

That’s how I used to feel about Ed when we’d talk on the phone. I tried to encourage him, tried to say everything and anything to help him keep going. There were so many moments I was speechless and could barely say anything. Nothing I was going to say felt like it would help. Other times, I rambled on and on in the calmest tone possible to get him to see that I cared and worried about him. But at those points, I don’t think he could hear or understand my feelings anymore. Everything got blocked out for him.

I couldn’t fix him when he broke.