Clean floor

In the last apartment we were in, I always felt like the floors were dirty. Since I was little, I’ve always worn slippers in the house. Part of the reason was just in case I stepped on something sharp (when your dad can’t live without his tools, you inevitably will step on something sharp on the floor at some point during the day), and other times, it was mainly because I just like wearing slippers. But at the last apartment, it was because I always felt the floors were dirty. There was always something crumbly on the floor. Even after I scrubbed the floors, they felt dirty. It was probably because the floor boards were old and coming up, resulting in actual dirt being uncovered from underneath the boards. And then there was the issue of random nails sticking out of the floor boards, especially around the kitchen area, which was obviously a place I spent a lot of time.

So now that we’re in this new apartment, it feels strange that the floor actually always feels clean now. I rarely feel anything under my feet when I am walking barefoot, and even though I really haven’t cleaned the floor much at all the last two weeks, the floor… actually feels almost the same. I vacuumed for the first time today, and it didn’t seem much different than before I did it with the exception of a couple dust balls.

Does this actually mean I will have to clean less here? Is this what it’s like to live in a good apartment?

Luke’s Lobster

When I first moved to New York City, the biggest craze around lobster was at Luke’s Lobster, this little shop in the East Village that was famous for lobster and crab from Maine, brought in fresh daily from the state that is famous for these delicious, rich, and expensive crustaceans. Luke’s aimed to make lobster “affordable” for the New Yorkers who couldn’t always shell out the $25-45 for full lobster or lobster roll, and when I first moved here, that sounded really exciting. I think back in 2008-2009, the cost was around $15 for a lobster roll.

I wasn’t very experienced eating lobster or lobster rolls then, so then, I thought, wow, that’s a good deal. So my friend and I went, and although we both preferred the crab roll over the lobster roll, neither of us thought it was small.

Now, fast forward nine years later, I have this work perk where I can get free lunch at work. My colleague organized a group order for all of us to get lobster and crab rolls. And I hadn’t had these in ages, so I was just excited to try it again.

When the delivery came and I opened my box, half a crab roll and half a lobster roll, I was shocked by how small they were. Each half roll was literally three bites. I made it into six bites by taking the tiniest bites possible to savor it longer. But the rolls just looked so sad and puny.

I realize these are first world problems, but now Luke’s, having expanded throughout New York in multiple neighborhoods and having increased their prices, really doesn’t have any spark for me anymore.

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.

Dim lighting comments on race and sex

To celebrate the last quarter, our New York-based sales team went out to celebrate at the popular tapas restaurant Alta last night. Oddly, I was the only person not on the sales team invited, so you can imagine how annoyed all the other people in our office on the customer success team felt when they found out I got invited and they were excluded.

At dinner, our SVP of sales made the toast of the night, and I recorded via Instagram Story the meal and the round of cheers. The lighting was quite dim, yet despite that, I had two different people message me via private message on Instagram, first to ask me if I was the only female there, and secondly to ask me if I were the only person of color at the dinner. It’s amazing what a 10-second video can capture and say to different people.

Conference room discussion

The business world is a white male-dominated world. The tech world is a white male-dominated world. Pretty much every lucrative industry is a white male-dominated world. It’s changing at a snail pace gradually, but it is changing. My new company, which isn’t that new to me anymore since I recently passed my 90-day mark, is far more diverse than my last one. When I was in the San Francisco headquarters back in May for two weeks, I was happily surprised to see that we had black and Latino people across teams, that Asians (south and east) were represented across the organization, and that we had females at our leadership level. Much progress still has to happen, though, but I’m pretty confident that our HR team is doing what it can to increase diversity and inclusion as much as possible given the many channels in which we are constantly discussing this (even I’ve been an active participant).

But our New York remote office still has a ways to go, as well, and probably a longer way to go than our SF office. Since I’ve arrived, two of our (white) female sales people have left. Our office manager is (predictably) female, but she’s black. Other than her, we have four females in our office as of now, and of those four, I’m the only person of color. Of the rest of our small office of about 26, it’s a sea of white males… one Indian-Jordanian, one East Asian male, and one black, gay male. I add to the diversity of this office. And I’m very cognizant of that.

But I’m confident also when I say that I think people here are aware of the bubble we are in within the walls of our seventh floor office in Flatiron. Today, I was invited to participate in the enterprise sales east team quarterly business review, and as someone who is part of the enterprise team but not the sales side, somehow, I found everyone actively seeking my opinions on everything, even things I didn’t even have an active opinion about. People across the conference room were soliciting my advice or point of view on this and that, and as they asked, it was clear that every single one of them was eager to hear what I had to say, and they were actively listening and digesting what I was saying. It felt so odd, but in a good way, that all these white men wanted to hear what little ol’ Yvonne had to say. This is probably a result of being at a company previously for too long where my opinion was rarely valued and where I felt like people spent more time waiting for their turn to speak rather than listening to what was currently being said.

It feels really good to feel valued, like people are truly listening to you and care about what you say. It seems like such a simple thing, but sometimes it’s the simplest things we need to feel good about ourselves in life.

Macy’s trigger

Today, my dad turned 69. It’s the fourth birthday he’s celebrated since my brother has been dead. Each time his birthday comes around, I am reminded once again that just ten days before four years ago, Ed committed suicide, and each year is a another year without Ed to see the dad he hated so much get another year older. My family doesn’t celebrate birthdays, anyway. Nothing is really worth celebrating to them.

Macy’s, a place where my brother worked for 12 years, is gradually shuttering its stores around the country. The location where Ed used to work is closing, so my dad suggested to my mom today that they go in to see what was on sale that they might need. My dad didn’t feel like going in, so my mom went in. She barely lasted 10 minutes before she suddenly started getting really dizzy and nauseated, and it peaked when she saw a young Asian man who vaguely resembled Ed working in the domestics department. That’s the department Ed used to work in. She left and told my dad she wasn’t feeling well and had to go home and lie down.

Our dad was never one to talk about feelings. He still isn’t. And so my mom felt relieved when I called her today so she could talk about it with me. She immediately burst into tears when I called. “I just miss him,” she sobbed. “I could have helped him, but I didn’t take him seriously. Why didn’t I do something to help?” She reminds me again of that day two weeks before he died when he came up to her and said he didn’t want to live anymore, that he had nothing left to do with his life, that he didn’t blame anyone but himself anymore. She didn’t even tell me this happened until the evening he went missing on July 22 of that year. “I should have done something then,” she added. “But it’s too late now.”

I felt really terrible and feel for my mom when she is overwhelmed by all these memories and feelings of guilt, but honestly… at that point, it was too late to help. The help was needed — long, long before that awful low point. Why didn’t she or my dad do anything earlier than that — you know, when he was a child and needed the love and attention of his parents rather than the verbal abuse and yelling and beating? Or, how about wishing your son a happy birthday while he’s alive rather than “remembering” his birthday once he’s dead?

I feel conflicted all the time about the two of them. My parents have so much pride and joy around my life, with going to and finishing school at a prestigious high school and then college, of working and slowing increasing my “rank” career wise, of living an independent life where I don’t rely on my parents for money or physical protection. My mom takes all the credit for my success, even for how I met Chris. So if they are so quick to say that all my successes can be attributed to them, then why can’t they just admit the fact that at the same time, they should also take responsibility for my brother’s life and suffering and pain?  Ed had so much potential at so many points of his life, and they didn’t want to believe in him even when they say in retrospect now that they did. I always hated that we were treated so unequally, and I still resent it now when I receive money from them or birthday or Christmas gifts. I actually really hate it and immediately am reminded that Ed never got those things ever after he turned 18.

I comforted her anyway because I have to and because I think it’s the right thing to do. I try to soothe her because I know my dad never will. But I’m still pissed. I probably always will be about this… until the day I die and finally join Ed.

The other half

A colleague asked how our move went, and as I was showing her photos of our new apartment, her eyes widened and lit up as she exclaimed about how “adult” and beautiful our new space is. “Wow, so this is how the other half of New York lives!” she said, stunned, admiring the natural light and the bathroom space.

All I have to say is, this isn’t how I grew up, and these apartments are not at all exemplary of where I’ve come from.

Post college, I was constantly humbled when people had no idea what Elmhurst, Queens, was. Even when my apartment was huge with a renovated granite kitchen and a brand new oven/stove, it didn’t matter because people are so location-obsessed in New York. And it didn’t help that slowly but surely, I started discovering the roaches all over the kitchen and the bathroom. Even my mom discovered them on her second visit and was constantly chasing them around the kitchen to kill them. She asked where they were coming from. I told her it was a combination of bad foundation, old home, plus the disgusting landlords downstairs.

Then, I moved in with Chris to a much smaller space on the Upper East Side. Though the building was good with monthly check-ins with the exterminator, plus an elevator and laundry in the basement, the biggest scare I would have is cleaning under the kitchen counter to find the occasional dead roach, usually at least one to two inches long. And one memorable morning, I woke up to use the bathroom to discover a centipede and all its scary legs walking all over the bathroom tiles. That wasn’t fun.

This is a very different place than what I’m used to. It still doesn’t feel quite like home yet, and I still feel like I’m walking around someone else’s house. But hopefully soon, it will start feeling like my home.

Goodbye, Upper East Side

We came back to the old apartment to do some last bits of cleaning, and to sell and discard some last items. Once we emptied the remaining bits out, it was literally just a few reusable bags at the door with remaining belongings we’d bring back to the new apartment, plus the couch, sofa, curtains, and shelves that we sold to the next tenant who will be moving in at the end of August. I sat on the couch with the AC running and looked around at the place. I spent over five years in this apartment, cooking in that area, sleeping in that back room, sitting on this couch. And now, it’s coming to an end. It seems a bit sad. Even though the floor boards were coming undone and the brick walls were constantly shedding dust and sand and all kind of other disgusting things, I grew to love this place.

Onto the future. At least in the new building, I know I won’t have dead roaches randomly waiting for me or sand that comes out of a chimney.

Natural light

Even though moving day was a long and tiring day, I ended up waking up naturally at around 6am this morning. I felt a little confused, and though I lingered in bed for a couple hours, I immediately realized why I woke up; we didn’t pull the bedroom blinds or shades down, so the morning light streamed through the window.

I cannot remember the last time I had this much natural light in my bedroom… ever. Even in hotels, I usually take advantage of those thick window curtains where you can mask out every bit of light, just because I could. Outside of hotels, I’d never seen such thick curtains before.

This place is going to take time to really feel like home. Everything feels like an adjustment so far.

Concierge

Even though we hired movers to move all our boxes and lone bookcase, I still had to cart over a number of bags of things I didn’t want them to deal with, like our perishables from our refrigerator and freezer, jewelry, and random loose items from the kitchen and bathroom that could have become messy. I went to the apartment building first to get the keys from the building manager so the movers could enter, and as I unloaded all my things, the concierge came and asked if I needed help bringing my items to the room. I insisted I didn’t (and didn’t fully register that this is normal service in the building), but as I met with the manager, I left all the items near the service elevator. When I came out, they were all gone, and when I went up to the apartment unit, a porter came with all my items hanging from hooks on a cart and asked me where I’d like all my bags placed in the apartment.

I guess this is part of what I’m paying for, huh?