It’s hard not to feel slightly emotional when looking back on 2021, right? I never felt like there was a separation between 2020 and 2021 – only two long years and as an individual incredibly stretched thin. I woke up this morning wondering if it wasn’t even necessary to have New Years resolutions. How can we set such goals when we don’t even know the state of the world in a week? In any case, I’m trying to remain hopeful. I always love these yearly recaps, but then I finish them feeling exhausted. Yes, I recognize that the video was also under 7 minutes.
Even as the country started re-opening, I never rushed to be first in line for anything. Whether it was outdoor or indoor dining, I was fine waiting until I was comfortable to take that next step. The CDC has been rather inconsistent so when they announced that fully vaccinated people can go without a mask, I had reservations. Retailers I follow on Instagram quickly came out with their own post that they still require masks indoors. Clearly, not everyone was comfortable with this change.
When asked how this would be enforced or verified, responses were “it’s an honesty policy.” Doesn’t it remind you of how individuals who committed anti-Asian hate crimes said it wasn’t racially motivated and people accepted that? When has an honesty policy ever worked? A rebuttal is that despite being vaccinated and continuing to wear masks, it signals that there’s something to be concerned about. I’ve learned from this whole process that no one will ever be on the same timeline. After traveling in Asia the last few years, I’ve observed that mask wearing is normalized as part of the culture. It signifies that one is being courteous to others or even protecting those around them. A friend mentioned to me that Americans sees masks as something to be cautious of. In television and movies, we see villains and robbers wearing masks to conceal themselves because they have something to hide.
You’re either up to no good or you feel like a piece of cloth is infringing on your freedom and rights. As we move forward, my concern is that because many Asians don’t find it discomforting to wear, they will continue to do so. It’s the kind of behavior that might continue to trigger the anti-Asian hate crime that we’ve been hearing about. And that brings this full circle to what we’ve seen in the last year. People don’t like to be told what to do. They want to be in control and they want those around them to behave the same way as they do. It’s never ending, isn’t it?
I recently went through an incident at a home that made me realize how much junk I’ve collected over the years. By no means would I ever consider myself a hoarder, but I did have receipts and unopened mail from 2019. Maybe we just call that being an irresponsible adult, I don’t know. Whatever the case, we end up keeping too much laying around that we don’t need.
As my company decides on returning back to the office, I’ve done a bit of re-evaluating with my closet. The pandemic year didn’t result in buying no clothes at all, it just meant a redirection in the pieces I was purchasing. I took a long and hard look at my closet. Even though I was home for the last year, I still didn’t touch 70% of the pieces that I owned. I’m clearly someone that looks at pieces as if they have sentimental value, but I needed to recognize that these pieces could go to a more loving home. I’ve filled two large shopping bags and tomorrow, they will be off to the Goodwill. I know in this day and age, many people consider re-selling pieces, but I honestly don’t have the patience. Once I’ve made the decision to part ways with something, I want it out of the way!
Spring cleaning, however, doesn’t just mean clothes. In the coming weeks, I’ll be figuring out what else I can part with. I also view spring cleaning as a time for fixing things like a window that I haven’t repaired or to find someone online to service my boiler. Windows, I feel, is an integral part of a home’s exterior appearance, and keeping it clean and sparkly is definitely a bonus for those who pass by your home, or visit it! Exterior window cleaning is something that is best handled by professionals, and if I do decide to get my windows cleaned, I might need to reel in experts like the ones at Aqua Pro! Everything is still undecided at the moment though, but I would definitely consider it. And while I’m at it, I also need to acknowledge how dirty my lawn and outdoors are getting. The grass hasn’t been mowed in forever, and there are leaves everywhere, even in the gutters. I looked online and found a company that can provide Gutter Cleaning Fresno services, now I just need to find a similar one in my area who can come and do the job for me.
I have also been considering taking some extensive cleaning measures, in ways such as getting the carpets professionally cleaned, to possibly having the floor re-waxed and varnished. A friend of mine recommended potentially looking at Peoria carpet cleaning services, to see if I have any companies that offer similar services in my local area. I have also been considering some possibly reputable floor waxers to help with making the floors look brand new!
It’s not the most fun adventure to be embarking on these days, but in the long run, my future self will thank me for it!
- Is Clubhouse the Next Tinder? [Vogue]
- The Evolution of Production in BTS’ Discography [Splice]
- This Artist Faked Being a Billionaire So You Could See NYC’s Best Views [VICE]
- 7 Pieces of Bad Career Advice Women Should Ignore [Harvard Business Review]
- How to Shop San Francisco’s First H-Mart Like Chef Chris Oh [Eater]
In the weeks leading up to my appointment, I watched as friends of mine and people I followed receive the vaccine. For some, it was emotional. Others announced their victory across social. Not often mentioned, I could feel the relief on the other end. I felt like I blinked and my experience was over. As someone documents much of my life in video these days, I didn’t even have time to think. The auditorium like setting in Sacramento was organized chaos, but in the best way. The experience itself reminded me of going to the DMV, but you can just tell that everyone had positive spirits.
Other than my arm hurting for a couple of days after and feeling discomfort trying to sleep, life hasn’t changed much. It’s easy for me to become social again and believe it or not, we have trips that we are looking forward to again. I never thought this day would come. However, I can’t shake the feeling of how much different life was for us a year ago. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead and I hope all of you will do the responsible thing and get vaccinated yourselves as well!
- In A Role Reversal, Asian Americans Aim to Protect Their Parents From Hate [NY Times]
- Michelin-Starred Ju-Ni Opens An Outdoor Omakase Counter [SF Eater]
- 13 Sports Films You’ll Love Even If You Don’t Like Sports [Life Hacker]
- Where to Stream the 2021 Oscar Films [W Magazine]
- “We Already Belong”: A Conversation with R.O. Kwon [NPR]
- America Ruined My Name For Me [The New Yorker]
- After Working at Google, I’ll Never Let Myself Love A Job Again [NY Times]
- These Are the 5 Deadliest National Parks [Outside]
- How Do People Even Find Drug Dealers? [VICE]
- Why the First Thing You Drink In the Morning Absolutely Shouldn’t Be Coffee [Well + Good]
- The 10 Most Crowded Cities in America – and the 10 Least Crowded [Mental Floss]
- The 26 Coolest Airbnbs in California [Green Wedding Shoes]
Even though I’ve spent time on more thoughtful pieces lately, I notice I’m posting on Yow Yow! less. It’s a combination of day to day life, work, exploring video, but a chunk of it is preparing myself to go back to a normal life. Combing through posts from last year and revisiting them on Yow Yow! the photos feel far. This photo was posted last July of Cafe Noe’s opening and it feels like ages ago. Back then, it was weird that restaurants and coffee shops were even considering opening up in a pandemic. But they felt what all of us felt; a desire to return to normalcy. I still recall stepping into this cafe and thinking ‘what a great spot to work at on a weekday from a booth.’ With no end of the pandemic in sight, I wasn’t sure when I’d get the chance.
These past few weeks have been a frenzy of ‘have you gotten the vaccine?’ ‘How and where did you get it?’ I’m still grasping that we lived in this world for a year. And as excited as I am to return, a part of me will miss this life. The slower pace and minimal obligations and in general, full accountability and responsibility for just myself. I’ll admit that while I was comfortable with not overexerting myself during this time, I felt the FOMO of watching my own friends continue with their lives. To see them reach new milestones while I was on pause by choice made me feel unaccomplished. While there wasn’t a standard for all of us, I constantly wondered if I could be doing more.
It’s human nature to measure your success with those around you. And as we exit this part of our lives and enter a new chapter, I just hope that I can remember how nice this time could be. That there will always be an option to pause.
The people who ask this question are all the same. They think they’re asking because they see themselves as a curious individual. In their head, they’ve already got you pegged for where they think you’re from and it can’t possibly be from America! You’re not Caucasian so that’s just impossible because what year are we even living in? They wait on bated breath for your answer because once you say where, they’ve got the perfect response. Are you ready for it? They can say “hello” in that country’s language. Wow so cultured. They once met someone that is the same ethnicity as you. And they just looooooove the one dish that everyone knows your country is known for. “So do you like, make pho at home also?” “Oh my god, that’s so interesting.”
Meanwhile, I play this tired out scenario in my head. Do I give them what they want or do I challenge them and say that I was born and raised in North Seattle. Why is it that the latter answer is never good enough for them? The other thing that irks me about this question is that it always comes from someone that you don’t care about. They come from small interactions with people you only encounter briefly. Why ask a question that you know will go nowhere? That you don’t realize that I will try and get out of immediately. Obviously the people that ask lack social awareness – that’s not even a question, but why do they all have to be so god damn tacky?
Chriselle Lim said this in a much more polite manner, which is that we know the people who are asking are well-intentioned 95% of the time. Unfortunately for you, our lives have been littered with this question asked by people who were not and because of that we shut off. We’re triggered and we don’t want to answer this anymore. I already have a plan for the next time it’s directed at me which is to pretend that I didn’t hear it. If that makes you feel awkward and uncomfortable, imagine how I feel.
We are now past the one-year mark of being in a pandemic. I look back on this time and remember how rare it was for anyone to be outside initially. My neighborhood, typically crowded on normal days, was a ghost town. As months went on, taking daily walks and being in outdoor spaces became the norm. It was a good opportunity for me to even spend time in areas that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Having only been to China Beach a couple times before, I finally had a sudden urge to drive there after work one night as the sun went down. I was by myself and it was freezing so it wasn’t the picture perfect experience I envisioned it would be. But I knew, despite that, I couldn’t have this experience in Seattle – being less than 30 min away from a beach and walking on real sand.
As things start to look up for everyone post-pandemic and we go back to normal, a small part of me is going to miss these moments of calm. Who or what will remind us that when we don’t have much to do, we can just drive out to the beach for a quick stroll?
Before we were in official pandemic lockdown, I was in an Uber where my driver was speaking to myself and another passenger about the coronavirus and how it originated because people in China eat “weird things.” It was late in the evening. I was tired and as uncomfortable as I felt, I didn’t have the energy to engage with racism. When do we ever have the energy for these types of conversations that happen over and over again? Sitting in the front seat I wondered if I had clapped back, what would happen to me? He clearly knew I was Asian when I entered the vehicle, was he testing me? What are the odds that we engage in a civilized conversation where we hear each other out vs. something that escalated further?
Too often in my life, I feel like I’m forced to make a choice. Do I want my voice or do I want my safety? As I read all of these [anti-racism posts] from other Asians and the statements they’ve put out, I think back to online bullies behind the screen. You can be tough behind a screen because of some anonymity. You can also be brave with your words behind a screen, but when faced with a real life moment, can you show up in the same way? In the last year, I am 0/2 on anti-asian racism directed at me.
I spend a lot of energy reflecting on these two moments. I replay moments like these in my head for no good reason other than wondering what could’ve happened that specific day if I had spoken up. I wonder if someday I’ll have a redemption moment – one in which I fight back with my words against racism or shut someone down so quickly they feel defeated or better yet embarrassed. My previous history doesn’t say much for my chances in this, but I remain hopeful.
Everyone wants to be the person that can have a quick comeback in any situation. Instead, these moments remind me of a more painful childhood. They were wasted years of being the punching bag for anti-asian jokes and hurtful racism. Why did I desire popularity so much and why did having friends feel like currency? The more I had, the richer my life became. If my friends laughed, so did I. But if your friends are laughing at you, you have to force your own laughter. I couldn’t afford to be friend-less so my only option was to continue to take it. Laugh it off and remind myself that it will end soon and hope that eventually we’ll all find something else to laugh at. Adult me knows better. If this ever happened to me now, I wouldn’t waste my time, but younger me was young and vulnerable. Having friends means you’re like everyone else. You blend in – it’s the thing that many of us have so desperately desired as Asian Americans.
Among friends, I’ve been referred to as “the easy target.” It was the response I got when I would ask “Why I’m being picked on” or questioning if we were actually friends? “Of course we are, you’re just an easy target”. Made to sound endearing, how silly of me to think that it was something negative when the attention was on me. As I see and hear this phrase now as the rationale between why [our elderly Asian are being murdered] and attacked, these words are piercing and painful. The label of “easy target” carried into my adult life, and has now spread to our entire race.
Though I feel very far from my childhood, [these string of recent attacks] remind me of the mental and emotional pain that I endured for many years. As an Asian American adult in my 30s, I feel scared and once again, small and weak. It’s the thing as of late that has put a target on our backs and fed into these harmful stereotypes. I hate this because Asian people are not weak and as we have seen in the last week, [they are resilient] and not afraid to fight back.
The sentiment is well-intentioned. Use your platform, use your voice, educate the people you know. However, there’s something else that’s not being said that deserves empathy and understanding. Those that are being impacted by these events are silent because we have had to be silent for a long time – sometimes for survival. Not all of us are ready to open these wounds yet and we need to allow space and time for people to get there. I understand the urgency in this moment right now, but we can’t force anyone. We all process on our own time.
I’m supposed to end my posts with a call to action. If there’s something you take away from this please know that this period of time where Asians have to constantly defend themselves against violence, hate crimes, and hate speech is hard for us. Some people may be like me and are more comfortable thinking a bit longer about things and being intentional that you miss your opportunity to act. It’s not always intentional, but a learned habit. If you are someone that witnesses – sees or hears any POC being attacked and you feel safe to do so, please step in. Speak up or use yourself physically to create space between the targeted and the attacker. That is allyship.
Author’s Note: This is my own personal narrative, I do not want to make assumptions about others’ experiences, pain, or trauma nor generalize the Asian American experience as a whole. I hoped to share a piece of myself and my story with you while understanding that everyone’s experience is unique despite the common thread of being Asian.
Resources to support Asian Americans: