The everyday things that will never happen

I dreamt last night that Ed came to visit at this apartment. We strolled through Central Park and the streets of the Upper West Side together. He explored the apartment building, asked me random Ed-like questions he’d normally ask if he were around, and marveled at all our new appliances and how modern our apartment looks. It was like a real life event, except it wasn’t real life at all. It was a potentially normal, expected event.

There wasn’t anything unusual or momentous about this dream. Nothing dramatic happened, nothing out of the ordinary or tear-jerking was observed. The most depressing thing about this is that it will never happen in real life. I thought about this as I woke up this morning. Those everyday events that you get to share with people you love — introducing them to your home, your neighborhood, the city you live in — those experiences will never be shared between Ed and me because he just isn’t here anymore. That’s what made this dream so sad.

iPhone XS

Today, we backed up my iPhone 6s and traded it in for the latest iPhone XS. In the last few months, I’d noticed that my phone’s battery life was waning severely and quite early in the day to the point where while at the office, I’d just leave it plugged in pretty much all the time unless I had my Bose bluetooth earbuds plugged in. The phone was constantly desperate to be charged. The pull to get email and other updates had slowed down, and it was really bothering me. I’d had this phone for about three years at this point, and unfortunately, I recognized that I was being pulled into the Apple fanboy base in the same way that other Apple product users were; I wanted a faster phone. And these phones were designed to not last forever and be as performant. We are all being brainwashed to want something better, faster, newer, more efficient. And so I caved in and got the stupid XS today.

I have no sentimentality when it comes to technology. My iPhone 6s will be taken apart and recycled for parts for future phones. Who cares. Bye bye. It once served its purpose and now will serve a new purpose in getting taken apart and reused. I guess I don’t have much sentimentality when it comes to most physical things I own. Chris has talked about selling my engagement ring once diamonds actually do increase in value in the mid 2020s (thanks to the brainwashed mainland Chinese people who actually are buying diamonds so fast that there will truly be a diamond scarcity; who would’ve thunk it?!). And I’m genuinely okay with it if it means that a profit could be made, and something more special, more attractive, and actual rare could take its place. In retrospect, I am saddened by the fact that I was brainwashed into the DeBeers’s marketing scam that “a diamond is forever,” and the trite belief that that is what a wedding engagement ring should be. Now, I actually occasionally oogle over the beautiful and rare bi-colored sapphires I see in my Instagram feed — gemstones that truly are rare in nature that are also worth quite more than a diamond.

Human beings are so predictable. We just want all the same crap other people want. So, it’s refreshing when people rebel from the status quo and want something different. But I still can’t live without my smartphone, though.

Alone time

It’s been a long work week. Every day this week has felt long and tiring. Even on the nights I was social and spent time with friends and colleagues, I really looked forward to coming home to a quiet apartment to be all by myself. And tonight, given it’s Friday night, I especially looked forward to coming home and being by myself knowing that I wouldn’t have to wake up by a set time the following day. Chris wouldn’t be home until past 1am from his flight back from San Francisco from Dreamforce, so I’d have a lot of downtime to think and be on my own. I came home, made my dinner, watched two Ali Wong specials and two episodes of Ken Burns’s Vietnam War documentary. I did laundry, had some at-home facial time, and even replenished my homemade chili oil since we ran out of our batch when my colleagues came over for brunch this past weekend. A colleague messaged me to ask what I was doing and if I wanted to come hang out in Brooklyn, but at that point in the night, I really could not be bothered. I was simmering chili oil over the stove and in my pajamas. There was nothing else I would have rather have been doing. My alone time is vital to my sanity now.

Pie Night real conversations

Over a month ago, a bunch of colleagues and I decided to sign up for Dominique Ansel’s famous Pie Night, when for one hour, all attendees have one hour to eat as much of the ten varieties of pie that Dominique Ansel Kitchen can produce while drinking bottomless apple cider sangria and having ice cream on the side. These were the varieties that we were able to try this season:

– Home-style Chicken Pot Pie with Butter Biscuit Crust
– Slow Braised Pork Shank Pie with Potatoes, Onions, and Cognac
– Artichoke & White Cheddar Pie
– Fennel Sausage and Tomato Pie with Sage and Melted Mozzarella
– Wild Mushroom Sherry Cottage Pie with Creamy Parsnip Purée
– Vanilla Bean Flan with a hint of Dark Caribbean Rum
– Salted Caramel Harvest Apple Pie
– Nutella Angel Cream Pie with Whipped Sour Cream Mousse
– Stone Fruit Pie with Honey Guava Mousse & Raspberry Jam
– Warm Chocolate Poached Pear Pie

My personal favorites of the savory varieties were the chicken pot pie — it was homey and classic, but with nice little soft biscuits lining the top; the wild mushroom with the parsnip puree; and the pork shank of the pork shank pie. Hands down, my favorite sweet pie was the stone fruit pie with honey guava mousse and raspberry jam. Granted to be honest, the guava flavor was not very strong at all, but the flavor combination of all the fruit ingredients was so delicious.

On the way home, a colleague and I took the train uptown together. He’s been asking me every now and then how the fundraising has been going and has been checking my fundraising page to see my progress. He generously donated two years in a row, and sent me a heartfelt message this year about it.  When talking about his two siblings today, he asked me about Ed and referred to him by name, which caught me off guard a bit. At first, I didn’t really understand why I felt so surprised, but then I realized the reason was obvious; most people, unless they are close to me, never refer to Ed by his name; they always just refer to him as “your brother.” Most people also do not ask anything about him given that I’m pretty public about the fact that he has passed, and I’m also very public about how he passed given my fundraising drive.

He asked me how old he was when he passed, what he was like, what he did for a living. We were cut short given we had to get off the train, but it actually felt comforting to have a colleague I’m friendly with openly ask me questions about my brother as though he was a real person, someone with an actual life and past that matters. Oftentimes, when a person has died by suicide, all they tend to be known by, well, by people who know how they died and didn’t personally know them, is simply that they died from suicide, and that’s it. They aren’t known or thought about for their actual life on earth, their passions, their previous reason for being, their foibles. My colleague today reminded me of this sad truth, and tried to make Ed a real person again. For the moments we talked about Ed, I felt grateful that he recognized Ed as a real human being who once breathed on this earth and just wanted what any ordinary, everyday person wants: to be recognized, loved, and heard.


Changing seasons result in Subway identity problem

Every year as the season transitions from summer to autumn in New York, fashionistas across this city regale in the fact that once again, their favorite time of the year to get dressed has come. Light sweaters! Booties! Scarves! Ponchos! Layering! It’s all back again.

I, on the other hand, lament the fact that I have to wear layers, am frustrated by the fact that I cannot throw on a dress or a simple shirt, skirt, and sandals, and run out every morning. Layering clothing makes me so annoyed. I hate always having to bring extra things “just in case” the weather changes. I hate wearing heavy, clunky rain boots to keep dry. I strongly dislike wearing stockings. If I had it my way, I’d wear airy clothing all year long. I’d never wear a sweater or a big bulky jacket. But that is a fantasy here.

And then, to make things worse with the changing weather from summer to fall, the subway cars have no idea what they’re supposed to do with their thermostat. For instance, today, it was 74 degrees F, extremely humid, and when I got on the subway car this morning… the HEAT WAS ON. Why was the heat on?! It was threatening to rain, so I wear my knee-length rubber rain boots and my raincoat, and I sweat so much that all my clothes felt wet by the time I got to the office. Yet, this afternoon, with a similar temperature and level of humidity, the air conditioning was on in the subway car. The subway experiences an identity crisis when the seasons change, too: should we have the heat or the AC on?

The subway doesn’t know what temperature to be. I do not know how to dress in the morning. This transition is not fun or comfortable.

Rain brings out the flakiness of New Yorkers

I awoke this morning to dark, grey skies and pouring rain outside my window. It is officially autumn in New York City. I looked at my calendar on my phone in bed and realized I had a drinks catch-up with a former colleague, and I made bets in my head about whether he’d cancel on me last minute.

And so around 3:30, two hours before we were supposed to meet today, I texted him to say, “see you soon!,” and of course, within an hour, he messaged to say that he has some big meeting he’s prepping for the following morning and may not finish it in time before he is supposed to meet me, so he may not be able to make it. That’s when I decided, yep, he’s definitely flaking on me.

At 5:15, he confirmed he couldn’t make it and would need to reschedule. I guess my gut instinct this morning was right.

That’s the thing about New Yorkers; the second the weather changes and gets a bit more extreme, whether it’s rain or snow, people start making excuses to not go out. It’s as though the world has ended and they need to go into hiding. This has been my experience since I first moved to New York ten years go, and people always flake during weather changes. People just suck and are not reliable.


Dumpling Galaxy

My work friend has been in town visiting family from Amsterdam, so I agreed to meet her for dinner at Dumpling Galaxy in Flushing tonight. I’d had this on my Yelp bookmarks list forever and had been dying to come for a long time, but I was never able to make it work until today. Dumpling Galaxy is pretty much any dumpling lover’s dream: the biggest variety of dumplings you could possibly think of, all on a single menu. And if for whatever reason you don’t want dumplings, they have a pretty extensive Chinese menu that is supposed to be delicious outside of the dumpling section. This place certainly met expectations; my favorites were the lamb and green squash dumplings and the cod and fish roe dumplings.

I make a lot of judgments about people when it comes to food. One of the potentially worst ones is that there’s a high correlation between extremely picky eaters and people who are racist. Some of the other ones are… if you’re not willing to try new foods, you’re probably just a really boring human being. If you hate all Asian food, you must be a horrible (and racist) person. If you repel any and all spice… well, I just don’t want to hang out with you. If you don’t eat sweets, you must not be a very sweet person. But another one I want to add to the list is… if you don’t like dumplings, you probably cannot be trusted. Who doesn’t like some incredibly flavorful filling stuffed into a little dough, then boiled, steamed, or fried?

The New York Times food critic who came to Dumpling Galaxy said that a single bite of a dumpling from this place had more flavor than a large percentage of full meals in his entire life. That — that is how life changing a single dumpling can be.

When work comes home

I’ve never invited a group of colleagues over to my apartment before, but I always thought it would be fun to invite colleagues over to bridge the work vs. personal life line. It’s also nice to see a glimpse of what your colleagues are like outside of the office, as a person’s home gives a lot of insight into who they are as a person. Is the person anally neat and tidy, or sloppy and disorganized? What kind of books would be on her shelves? How would she decorate the place — with a lot of personal touches or more anonymous things, like candles and plants?

It was funny to have them come with their partners and spouses today because I wasn’t really expecting their commentary on my living space. I originally was expecting a total of 11 people, but because one of my colleagues had to drop out for a family emergency last minute, that deducted two adults plus three kids from the mix, so we ended up being a much smaller group of six. So given I had 11 people in my mind as guests, I told them our space would be “cozy.” When they arrived, they marveled over how spacious our living room was and my colleague’s husband insisted I set them up to believe the worst when in fact, it was the total opposite! All of them obsessed over how clean and neat the apartment was (“is it always this neat here, or did you clean up for us?”), and one of them even said, “You know you’re in a fancy person’s apartment when even the dish and hand soap are organic.”

Creating strict lines between work and personal life was never something I really believed in. In theory, I get it. In practice, it’s too exhausting. And the worst thing is to be called fake or inauthentic. I feel like it’s easier to just be open and more consistently oneself all the time. It was a fun time today, and I definitely want to do it again. For the first time, I actually work in a place where I’d be happy to bring my colleagues to my home for a meal. I’m going to relish this as long as possible.

Aging and painful body

Chris left for San Francisco for Dreamforce rehearsals early this morning, so I have the weekend to myself. I began what was supposed to be a productive Saturday by hitting the gym. While doing tabata exercises with my Aaptiv app, I was doing hinged rows when suddenly I stood up and immediately felt a twinge in my lower back. A sharp pain ensued any time I moved.

You’ve got to be kidding me, I was thinking in my head. My hamstring literally just got to 100 percent last week, and I started running again after nearly two months… and now my lower back is in pain?! 

I laid on the mat for a few minutes, contemplating my aging body and why all these injuries are happening to me one after another. How bad is this going to be, anyway?

Well, it wasn’t good. I went downtown to meet a friend for lunch, and every time I stood up or sat down, I experienced what felt like a stabbing pain in my lower back. I had to buy groceries, but there was no way I was going to carry them back on my own. So my friend graciously carried my shopping basket around and carried all my groceries home for me. It’s a good thing he lives so close to me.

All the signs of age are just staring me in the face. When I was lying on the mat in the gym this morning, I wondered if Ed ever experienced issues like this while at karate and just never told me. He always hid things from me because he didn’t want me to worry.

And to think that next year, I will turn 33, the same age Ed was when he died. How the hell can we possibly be the same age? This is just so wrong.



the generosity of colleagues

This is the fifth year that I’m fundraising for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness walks. Each year I do this again and again, I start it feeling cynical. Does anyone really care what I’m doing, or what my story is and how it’s evolved? Is it just a one stop donation, and then people forget about it in their everyday lives? What is actionable from this other than giving money to someone’s fundraising drive whose story you found touching?

I struggled with writing a story this year. I would start, stop, edit, delete, start again, stop, get annoyed, then delete everything. I wondered who would donate again. I wondered of the colleagues I’ve met in the last year, or gotten closer to, if they would donate. I wondered what they were thinking when they read my message.

I actually received quite a number of very touching, heartfelt messages from colleagues this year in the last couple days about my story and my fundraising drive. I’ve also received a lot of extremely generous contributions. I’ve been responding to each of them one by one, but the one I was definitely not expecting was from our CEO. He shared with me that he has compartmentalized his own family experience with suicide from over 45 years ago, and still doesn’t talk about it, but that he admired my ability to be so open about it to help others. He said he’s only shared this with four other people in his entire life. He also donated $1,000 to my fundraising drive today to support me. I was speechless. No one has ever donated that much to my fundraising drive, ever. And he barely even knows me.

Statistics show that people are more likely to donate to a fundraiser if they know the person who is leading the fundraiser. They’re more likely to donate more if they are closer to the person. This level of generosity was not part of these statistics.

I ended today feeling hopeful. People really do care more than I give them credit for. My cynicism is slowly shaking.