Nights and weekends available

Tonight, I was on the phone tonight with my friend who is currently in a medical residency program, and as of next summer, she will be starting her fellowship in movement disorders at UCSF. I’m really excited for her, if for nothing else but 1) she’ll finally get a chance to live on the West Coast, as she’s always wanted and dreamed about, and 2) she will actually for the first time in years have nights and weekends relatively free, as her fellowship hours are fairly “normal” white-collar hours, at about 9-5pm Monday through Friday. And because I’ll still be going back to San Francisco regularly for work and family, I’ll be able to see her more often. The last time I got to see her was almost two years ago, sadly.

People have often asked me why I never considered going to culinary school or working in a bakery given how much I love food. If there is one reason only, well, aside from the fact that I’d never have the salary I’d want, it’s that I’d have zero flexibility and I would have to kiss goodbye all nights and weekends. Those would be the times I’d have to work. That’s the way the service industry is no matter what country you are in. You are there to serve; that’s your job, your role, your everything. I love food. But I don’t love it that much to give away all my time and my freedoms. And frankly, I love serving the people I love, not a bunch of random strangers who have random (and chances are, crappy) judgments that I could truly care less about.

Broken foster care system in New York City

I met with my mentee for tea this afternoon, and she’s finally moved out of her foster parents’ house into her new dorm in Queens to start her third year of college. Despite having moved out, her foster parents haven’t made a single attempt to call or speak with her in a week. They haven’t even texted or emailed. So, it’s been zero communication since she told them she was going to move out of their house. She told me that her foster mom cried and told her she didn’t want her to leave, but when she finally did leave, she said nothing to her. Her foster mom is going through a depressive bout, and her foster dad, who has never been that involved other than to leave money on the table for her, hasn’t said a word to her in months.

I have no idea what the screening process is like to become a foster parent, but if this is at all representative of what it actually is like for other children who have been in the foster care system in New York City, much less the rest of this country, I’m extremely disheartened. The whole point of being put into foster care is because your own parents could not give you the love, care, and support you needed, so you are then placed with another family that is equipped to provide you these things. This is obviously not happening in this current situation, which infuriates me to no end every time I meet with my mentee and she shares these horror stories with me. She thinks something is wrong with her as a result; it’s nothing wrong with her. It’s what’s wrong with the world and the stupid system she has to deal with.

Team cooking outing

This afternoon, we had an office team building event at My Cooking Party, a cooking space that allows for classes and team events for schools and workplaces. We were split into two teams and each team got paired up with a professional chef, who would help “guide” us in the direction we’d want. Each team got one protein, one starch, and one vegetable, and had to come up with the most creative way to use each. At the end, two secret judges would evaluate each team’s dishes and decide upon a winner.

To be frank, there really wasn’t much creativity by the actual team members involved, as the chefs clearly had ideas in mind for what to do. I get why they set it up this way: the vast majority of people who take these classes have little to no experience cooking (New York City is the land of delivery, after all, and here, speed and convenience are king), so it would not be good to have a cooking competition where blind people are leading other blind people on a team. My team had shrimp, Israeli couscous, and string beans. The other team had skirt steak, potatoes, and spinach.

Our chef pretty much said, let’s make a pesto for the shrimp! And let’s also do a roasted tomato and vegetable stock based couscous! And who were we to object? I suggested using the ground coconut for a Kerala string bean sauté; he was not on board with this, and lightly suggested ginger-soy string beans. This excited everyone on the team except me. That just screamed “boring and predictable” to me. The other team ended up making a marinated skirt steak, French fries with rosemary oil, and buttered spinach. And somehow, they won despite how predictable their menu was, that their skirt steak was mostly well done, and at best, medium well in the center. The judges said that the fries were “creative,” but when did French fries become unique?

It was all fun in the end, and it was nice to be able to get out of the office and do something that wasn’t work related. But I didn’t really like that they made it sound like we had free reign to do whatever we wanted with the food and to be rated on our “creativity” when it was clear that we were at the whims of our assigned chefs and not our own minds. In that case, I would have preferred to just have assigned dishes with recipes per team and to eat everything together in the end. It’s either a real competition or not. It’s either with recipes or it isn’t. You shouldn’t have it somewhere in between.

 

Racism everywhere

I was at dinner with my friend tonight, who is visiting for work from Seattle, and she was telling me that the thought of moving back to New Jersey after over six years of living in Seattle makes her want to gag. She could kind of consider New York City, but even that seems exhausting and frustrating to her. Within a day of coming back to the Tri-State area and going out to Jersey to meet some friends for dinner, she was assumed to be a foreigner on the train. Some white male made fun of her for supposedly not understanding the English signs on the train as she was reading them, and she turned around, glared at the guy, and said, “I’m actually from here, but the train is not making normal stops. And yes, I do understand and read English. Thanks.” He seemed completely stunned at her response, nearly stupefied, said nothing, and walked away. “I get this all the time in Jersey when I am back here,” she said, irritated. “I’ve never even ONCE experienced that in Seattle! Not even a single time!”

It’s sad to think that is true, that in an area that is supposedly so diverse that people could still be so racist and make such blatantly ignorant comments. But I don’t really think any place is immune to it — not Jersey, not New York, not San Francisco or Seattle.   We’re just lucky when we don’t experience it. Asians are still minorities in this country and will continue to be for a long time. And even when that isn’t the case, there will always be white backlash at us for supposedly taking over what they perceive to be “their” land and “their” jobs. The world will continue to turn.

Hometown discussions

After an afternoon of customer meetings, my manager and I were sitting at the airport, eating burrito bowls and discussing life growing up in a semi-major city (San Francisco) versus a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, where he grew up. He now lives in Oakland in a house that he and his wife, also from the same hometown, bought, but spent most of his time in the Bay Area living in San Francisco proper. I obviously live in New York City, and it doesn’t look like Chris and I have any intention of leaving anytime soon.

“Do you think you’ll ever move back?” he asked between bites of chicken and rice.

It’s kind of a loaded question for me. I love San Francisco. I love its easy proximity to the outdoors, the clean air there, its reputation as a progressive, open-minded urban area. I love the different neighborhoods and how different they are. I actually even appreciate the odd micro climates that vasty vary from district to district.

But like anyone who gets bored easily, who is constantly looking for something new and unique and different, who doesn’t want the same experiences as everyone else around her, I do not find the idea of moving back to San Francisco exciting or even remotely interesting or pleasurable. It feels extremely mundane and to a degree, almost like I’m saying that I’ve given up on life and am resigning myself to the same ol’ same ol’ that the people I grew up with have and continue to have. And that is… gross to me. I don’t want the same life, even if San Francisco is not the same as what it was when I left it as a permanent residence.

No matter where you go in this country, the average American barely lives 18 miles away from his/her parents or where s/he grew up. Obviously, a multitude of factors contribute to why this is the way it is, but what this ultimately says to me is that at the core, most people do not crave change or a different experience to what his/her parents had, or a different experience to what s/he grew up with. Or maybe they had their period or “phase” or whatever you want to call it where they spread their wings, flew away… but decided to come back to the nest because it was time to “settle down.” When I hear about old classmates living in the same neighborhood as their parents in San Francisco or god forbid, in the same house, I immediately feel disgusted and can barely hide it from my face.

It’s actually a bit of a tragedy to think that our parents and grandparents or even great-grandparents left their families and homeland for a better life here, so they were far bigger risk takers than this current generation when it comes to uprooting oneself and choosing a “better life,” however you would like to define that. And so I explained this to my manager today while at the airport. I told him I just think it’s boring to “settle down” in the same place as one grew up… because I don’t really want my kids to go to the same middle or high school or even be familiar with the exact same neighborhoods as I was. That sounds senselessly boring to me. The mindsets in a single place never really change, either, and the ignorances you experienced while there will still persist today. San Francisco is a city full of liberal-minded people who sometimes are so blinded by their beliefs that they just can’t see outside of their perspectives. Living in other places gives you perspective. They do not get this.

My manager, having grown up in suburban Ohio, found this really interesting because he always thought that people felt this way in very non-diverse towns, but had never really heard of a “city girl” like me, coming from a relatively diverse place, complain about lack of perspective and finding her urban metropolis uninspiring, or get irritated by the fact that people from her hometown just don’t want to leave or even entertain the idea of living somewhere else. “I guess any place can be perceived as boring or uninspiring regardless of how diverse and open it is if that’s what you are used to,” he responded. Closed-mindedness exists everywhere, no matter how “great” or “diverse” of a place you live. I told him even living here in New York, I get annoyed easily by people who were born and raised in the Tri-State area and make massively sweeping (and flat out wrong) generalizations of “Cali” or San Francisco or pretty much any place that they’ve visited briefly for a work trip or vacation, but just think these three states are the best possible places to live in the entire world. That type of thinking exists everywhere. People think that wherever they are, it’s the best place. Perhaps it is the best place for them if they want the same thing constantly and to never have their perceptions or levels of comfort challenged, but that doesn’t make it the best place period.

And also, “moving back home” is more complicated by the fact that I married someone who is not just not from San Francisco, not from the United States, and not even from the North American continent. So while it might be “moving back” for me, it would not be moving back for him. He has his own version of “moving back” dread that I have, but in a totally different country and continent.

It’s been over 10 years now since I moved to New York. I originally thought I’d be here only 2-4 years and leave to go back to San Francisco. Clearly, that never happened. And I’m still not bored of it here. This city pisses me off all the time, but I still love it so much. You can’t have love without some hate. And it’s got airports that can take me directly to so many great destinations.

“New York is just a travel hub for you and Chris to travel to other places!” my manager exclaimed, laughing. “This IS a good place for travel to pretty much everywhere.”

That is definitely true, isn’t it?

Russell Peters at Forest Hills Stadium

Tonight, Chris surprised me by taking me to Forest Hills Stadium to see Russell Peters for his Deported World Tour comedy show. The greatest thing about going to see Russell Peters, or really, any comedian or any act of color, is that it’s guaranteed that the audience will be very diverse, as well. What has always frustrated me seeing theater in New York, whether it’s mainstream Broadway, off-broadway, or even smaller theaters like 59E59 Theater, is that the audience is almost always the same: a bunch of much older white people, with a small sprinkling of younger white people. Chris and I are usually the ones creating the element of “diversity” in the audience at those shows. And with an act who is of Indian descent like Russell Peters, it ends up being like multiple family reunions in the crowd, as families will use this as an excuse to get together. We saw so many big Indian or South Asian families meeting up in the food areas to hug and catch up. It was so adorable.

When I was a teen, I never imagined living to see the day when I could see Asian people like Russell Peters, Aziz Ansari, and Hasan Minhaj accepted as entertainers, and movies like Crazy Rich Asians reaching mainstream theater (though, Asian Americans in movies… this movie is JUST the beginning, really). Maybe I am actually gaining some faith in the world.

Office of sore wrists

A colleague had been complaining about experiencing sore fingers and wrists, likely due from a combined excessive use of computers (hello, work) and playing too much Nintendo Switch, so I suggested she try to use my Dynaflex Pro Gyro Powerball. Ed actually bought this for me back in college, so now at least 12 years ago, at the recommendation of our family chiropractor. I’ve used it on and off over the years when my wrists or elbows have acted up from computer use. My colleague used it at the office and brought it home to use it in the evening, and miraculously, her soreness completely disappeared overnight. Multiple colleagues then played around with it today, prompting another colleague to order one on the spot after seeing me use it, as he noted that he had been experiencing pain in his wrists lately.

These are first-world, white-collar problems that I’m helping to resolve, Or actually, if we had to be more accurate about this, Ed is still helping people even after his death, people who have no idea who he is, and who he will never have the chance to meet.

Lack of purse longevity

It doesn’t seem to matter how much or how little I spend on handbags, but none of them ever seem to last. A $250 Kate Spade crossbody bag that my friend got me as a maid of honor gift lasted about 4.5 years before I had to discard it, as the strap, the zippers, and all the edges started to fray and come undone, not to mention all the scratches that had accumulated all over it. I’m usually very careful with my bags, yet these things tend to happen over time. The $70 discounted leather bag (which was supposed to be over double that cost) I bought through Rue La La (a discounted designer items website) that I’ve used heavily over the last two years now has a handle that is on the edge of breaking, and there’s really no way to easily repair it. It would just need to be thrown out.

Then, there’s the Lo & Sons OMG (overnight / medium / gym) bag that I got just over two years ago, which is actually still in good condition despite all the travel I’ve done with it, but the strap has started to unravel. I emailed the company to ask if there was a way to have this repaired, but they said they had no process in place to have that done, so instead, they’d just send me a brand new replacement bag. Really — a completely new bag, just like that?

It gave me doubts about how much I probably overpaid for this bag in the first place given that they were so quick to offer me a free bag just like that. All these things are cheaply made, in China no less with cheap labor, and there’s no way to get any of these material items to last no matter how much or how little I pay.

Work marriage celebration dinner

Tonight, I organized a dinner for my team to celebrate one of our colleague’s upcoming wedding. We toasted to his nuptials over many shared plates of Northern Indian food and endless garlic naan. He’s generally someone who is very open and friendly and loves to share, and it’s been really clear to me over the last few months exactly how excited for his wedding he really is.

It’s a funny thing, listening to people talk about their weddings. Usually, if we have to be gendered about this, it’s the woman who tends to talk about the details of the wedding, the pains and pleasures of coordinating such a big event. But in this case, my (male) colleague is the ultimate sharer; he’s been giving us endless wedding updates along the way, especially around things that he’s passionate about, from the obvious (food) to the far less obvious (the types of tables and even the plates they’re going to eat on!). It’s sweet and adorable to see a man so interested in the details of his big day. It definitely is not something I am used to hearing.

life updates to share during a casual catch-up

A former colleague from two companies ago reached out to me over LinkedIn last week after I had posted that there were open positions at my current office, so we met up for a coffee and tea break at Madison Square Park this afternoon to chat through what he was looking for, why he might be interested in my company and our open role, and why he wanted to leave.

I honestly still couldn’t believe he was there. He had changed roles and levels many times since I left, but I found that place to be the epitome of everything I cannot stand about career and job life in today’s day and age: substituting activity for achievement, people pushing paper without any purpose other than a paycheck, a glorification of the completely mediocre due to politics and favoritism. We discussed this and of course, as conversation continued, we talked about updates on our own lives since then: I got married! I changed jobs twice! He got married AND had two kids! He moved from Queens to Long Island! He owns a house with a front AND backyard! I moved from the Upper East to the Upper West Side!

Whenever I catch up with a colleague after a long time of not seeing them, it’s always these same high-level updates we tend to share, these so-called “milestones” in human life: marriage, children, house or no house status. What if I suddenly just said, hey, I’m doing volunteering for foster care children! Or, by the way, my brother died from suicide, so this is how I view life now?

How deep is a casual catch-up really supposed to be, or is it really just meant to be superficial since the ultimate motive is that one person wants something from the other? I’m honestly not sure.