The greatest thing about spring’s arrival is that I know warm weather and travel for pleasure are just around the corner. The worst thing about spring’s arrival is that I know that my favorite winter squashes will no longer be available, and that instead, the only squashes to be seen at the farmer’s market or any grocery store will be summer squash… which I have never enjoyed and think are some of the most boring things to eat in the world. I’m somewhat scarred by a summer squash I once bought for soup that I pureed and later discovered was more bitter than actual Asian bitter melon. I ended up throwing the entire soup away because I found it inedible. That was a huge waste of effort.
So today, I bid farewell to winter by cooking butternut squash for the last time. Granted, it’s the last day of March, which means we’re technically already in spring, but I made a dish on my to-make list that I’ve been wanting to do all winter: butternut squash Mac and cheese made with my own pureed and roasted butternut squash, with Banza chickpea pasta shells.
I don’t do pasta that often at home, nor do I do pasta bakes, but this baked pasta with a broiled end was enough to make me re-think how seldom I do this. It was relatively simple and didn’t even require that much work, yet it yielded a very satisfying and filling result.
Tonight, we went to the Women’s Project Theater in the Upper West side to see the show Hatefuck… or Hatef**k, or Hatefk, depending on how able you are to digest profane language. The show tells the story of a very intense and opinionated literature professor who accuses a best-selling novelist of trading in anti-Muslim stereotypes in exchange for fame and fortune. They are both Muslim of varying degrees, but despite their initial clashing, they end up finding themselves attracted to each other. The play begs the question of… how much are you willing to do in order to have your voice heard? How far are you willing to go in order to be paid well and “respected,” even if that means portraying your own people in a way that is not actually true?
There’s a very powerful scene where the professor and the novelist are yelling at each other, and the novelist says to her that people of their color do not have the right to complain about things like sexual harassment or mistreatment, that that is what only white people have the luxury and privilege of doing. They have to take every chance they get and suck up everything else because they have no choices, and that given that white people have the majority of the power in the world we live in, sometimes you have to accommodate and pander to what they want in order to have your voices heard, because otherwise, who will give you the chance? Your own people don’t have the power to give you that chance, but the white people do, so are you really going to pass that rare opportunity up?
That was probably one of the most depressing scenes I’ve seen in theater in a long time… Because it is so true.
Luke’s Lobster has become itself a mini chain not just here in New York City since I’ve moved here, but has expanded even beyond New York. You can now find a Luke’s Lobster that is walking distance of my company’s office in the financial district/South of Market area in San Francisco. It is no longer unique, and in fact, now, it is ubiquitous. So when colleagues at work say that they are doing a group order for Luke’s Lobster on Fridays, most Fridays, I opt out, but today, I decided to include myself… and was partially in regret at the end.
The rolls are small and a bit sad, even if the bun is quite tasty and well buttered and toasted. And while the lobster is coming from Maine, it never feels as exciting to have a lobster or a crab roll in a place where the lobster or crab isn’t actually from. Having them in places like Maine, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island actually felt special because you knew that these little crustaceans were caught and cooked locally. They were cheaper because of it, too. Here in New York, you’d never trust any fish or crab from the water around here.
And then, as I thought this, I had a pang of guilt given my privilege for having traveled to all these lobster and crab destinations. But then that begged the question of: why should I feel guilty at all about this when I’m surrounded by a bunch of other privileged people in tech at the same lunch table who earn good money, have solid jobs, and have even more insane benefits? Is that guilt even warranted at this table?
It’s been nearly 11 years that I’ve been working full time, and in that 11 years, these are the conclusions I’ve come to:
- HR is pretty useless when it actually comes to making employees feel heard, appreciated, or like their opinions and feelings matter. They do not exist to protect you; they exist to protect the company, its reputation, and its senior leadership.
- White men still have all the power.
- Discrimination and bias are nearly impossible to prove.
- Even when you work at a company that is, by industry standards, “progressive,” you still realize that there’s an impossibly long way to go and that there’s really no use in comparing yourself to the lowest of the low in life. You won’t feel better.
- When recruiters, internal or external, say they are looking for a diverse set of candidates who are truly “culture adds,” they’re definitely lying unless they are actually financially incentivized to do exactly that. And we know none of them are.
- As I meet younger and younger people who are just getting out of school and into the workforce, I cannot help but notice how entitled they are to demand salaries that are $100-200K+ just a year or two out of college. Entitlement seems to be a common of those younger than me. But… did people who were in their 30s think that of me when I was at that age…?
- Doing your job and doing it well isn’t enough. You have to play the political game to get ahead. That means sucking up in some cases, and in others, socializing with colleagues and higher-ups you wouldn’t otherwise care to be around.
- Just because you are kind and friendly and helpful does not mean everyone at work will like you. In fact, there will always be someone out there who secretly, or not so secretly, doesn’t like you, and will make sure you find out some way, somehow.
- When your manager tells you that she wants to hear your opinions, she really doesn’t mean that. What she really means is… she wants you to package in a certain way that sounds good to her ears. In other words, don’t be a complainer. Figure out how to do to that, and you will get along just swell.
- What you might consider “common sense” in the workplace really is not so “common.” Sad, isn’t it?
I was one of the very last people hired on my team about two years ago who just had to do 1:1 interviews as part of my interview process, so no mock business reviews or presentations were required of me. Instead, after I started and had to go through product certifications, the final round of my onboarding was a mock business review meeting with fellow colleagues on my team, who would critique my presentation, discovery, and mock interaction with them as though this was a real customer meeting.
I’m pretty grateful for the fact that I didn’t have to do that because now, as someone who is interviewing potential candidates, I am truly pained watching prospective employees do mock business presentations. Thinking about the amount of prep work, Powerpoint finagling, and practice in public speaking makes me want to crawl into a ball and hide under my sheets. It’s not like I have an issue with presenting or speaking in meetings; it’s rather that the idea of a “simulated” or “mock” meeting drives me crazy. There are so many hypotheticals that go into the evaluation that you could easily get rated poorly when you actually did a great job, and vice versa.
Also, there’s a lot of randomness on our side, too, as the people who are evaluating. We have to make up “facts” on the spot to actually make this a meeting where conversations happen. This is when I have to catch myself from laughing or smiling too much because we’re literally lying as we go.
I met my friend for dinner tonight at the Canal Street Market, where we shared steamed rice noodle rolls, ceviche, and shaved ice. While I am not completely a fan of food markets for the sake of food markets, especially when a lot of food markets nowadays tend to be extremely expensive, Canal Street Market does a pretty good job of having reasonable price points and a varied selection of food. It’s not just Asian food here — they even have a token salad stall and a ceviche stall.
I thought about Joe’s Steamed Rice Roll, which I shared two of with my friend tonight, and which I just had a couple weeks ago in their original location in Flushing. It makes me happy to think about these small food businesses that started so small and humble in Flushing, and having made it and attracted endless lines and waits, have moved into Manhattan and even have their own branding. That reminded me of how big Xi’an Famous Foods has become, as well, also having started in a tiny food stall in a nondescript basement in Flushing. When there’s nothing else, there is still hope for good and delicious food.
Even after hosting a small brunch yesterday, we still have an incredible amount of leftover food from the weekend, everything from the dosa batter, potato masala filling, the coconut chutney, and even the roasted chicken and vegetables I made for dinner on Sunday — it’s filled our fridge to the brim, and I can barely see inside without having to move things around. It’s a good “problem” to have, though, as in “too much food.” But given that Chris will be away for a few days this week, it’s a lot of food just for me, and there’s definitely no way we’ll finish it before this week ends. So while it’s nice to have “too much food,” there’s also the other first-world problem of having to eat the same food every single day until it’s gone.
Then, I thought back to a conversation with two colleagues, one who is very like-minded as I am with food, eating every last bit and saving bone and vegetable scraps for homemade stock, and the second… who is our total opposite. When I told our opposite about how we always eat every last bit of everything at home when I cook, or when I roast chickens, I save the bones and any vegetable scraps into my freezer “stock prep” bag, her eyes widened and she laughed hysterically. “You would really hate to live or eat out with me. I hate bringing any type of leftover food home, and I’m notorious for buying a whole roasted chicken from Whole Foods, eating half of it, and then throwing the rest of it away.”
We laughed… but I told her she was a horrible human being and there are literally starving children in this country, and that’s such a spoiled rich-American thing to do. She admitted that all the above was true, but it was just her bad habits. I could actually feel pain in my insides listening to her say that she wastes that much food every single day.
I’m passionate about mental health and children in need, but given that I am also passionate about food, I’m indirectly also passionate about food waste, or rather, the focus on not wasting food. I think a lot about the best way to prepare and eat food so that the minimal amount is wasted. I like the fact that some companies now are focused on food waste and thus starting to sell “ugly” fruits and vegetables that get rejected from mainstream stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, but I think that barely even touches the surface of the issue because that doesn’t even address food waste issues like the ones noted above: perfectly good food that goes to waste.
Our friends in Sacramento came to visit this week and came over for brunch today. Even though it’s been a year since we last saw them, not a lot has changed for us. We’re still doing the things we always do: living in the same apartment, experimenting with different recipes in the kitchen, eating out, theater, work, work travel, and fun travel. On their end, while they’re fully settled into their new home they bought in Sacramento, it’s been a lot of family life for them given they have family nearby, and not as many friends. They haven’t spent as much time looking for new friends because most of their out-of-work time is either spent with each other after work or with family on weekends. Family time really is their social time now.
For myself, I don’t really mind not being that close to any family. I guess I have one cousin in New York, but he’s not a desirable person to spend social time with. I kind of like that when we visit our family in San Francisco and Melbourne that it feels like a special time because we’re not always there. You’re no longer special and prioritized when you live in the same place with someone, right?
I’ve been back into a rigorous workout routine for the last five weeks now. It’s been an adjustment for me given that I got pretty sick twice in the last two months, and with the travel of December/early January, my body was out of wack when it came to waking up early and doing my usual morning workouts. It’s been harder for me to wake up early, but I’ve been pushing myself to exercise at least five times a week. I’m sore in a different way almost every single day, but at least I know it’s a good soreness, as in, I know I’m working my muscles and burning fat, as opposed to soreness that may be from an injury pain.
But this weekend marks the first two full consecutive days when I will not be doing any exercise other than walking. I think my body is in need of this two-day rest period. Everyone needs a rest after a lot of hard work.
It’s been a long and tiring last few weeks at work. A handful of colleagues have left, some voluntarily, others less so. Some new processes have been put in place. A new layer of management has been put into place. It’s been a period where everyone seems to have something to complain and be mad about.
“Feels like almost everyone is grumpy,” a colleague said to me today.
“What do you mean?” I responded.
“Just seems like pretty much everyone in this office is frustrated by something from what I can tell,” he said back to me.
Yeah, that’s probably true. Most of us in this office do our jobs and do it well. When you’re in a remote office, you have to work twice as hard and advocate for yourself three times as much before anyone really cares about anything you do. And that’s been wearing thin on a lot of us lately. Sometimes, you don’t want to constantly yell and advocate for yourself; sometimes, you just want to be noticed for good work you are doing and have someone else call it out for you to the “powers that be” and get you recognition.
In the corporate world, though, even in late-stage tech startups like my own, that can be like pulling teeth. This is the life of being at a pre-IPO technology company.