45. a 24/7 performance
low-key digging it
What I’m up to
We are in the middle of spring break. It’s been low-key; we are avoiding being out and about since Paul and Lucy are heading to the US next Tuesday, and it would not be great if either of them tested positive for Covid before flying out (!!).
Since Paul will be gone when we move, he’s taking care of a few things now to make things easier for me in June. He has taken down anything mounted to the walls, including art, curtains, shelves. The walls are bare and I am… actually digging it.
What I’m reading
I just finished The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave, a thriller about a woman whose husband disappears, leaving her to piece together the puzzle of his true identity. The plot is not without holes, but it is a fun (and quick) vacation read. I’m happy to hear Apple TV+ is turning it into a mini-series starring Jennifer Garner.
I also finished Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou. It’s a satirical story about a Taiwanese-American academic who discovers something about the poet she is researching which in turn makes her question every part of her identity. This was worth reading, but the satire was at times so on-point, it made me uncomfortable.
Check out these excerpts:
What had been her childhood, really, other than a 24/7 performance? She was always looking at herself outside of herself, measuring the pitch of her voice, the loudness of her laugh, the sway in her walk, how she chewed her gum, what to do with her gangly arms, careful, careful on the pronunciation of her l’s and r’s—she would never stumble over these letters like Jacky Ma, who was mercilessly teased by everyone… Her existence had been a constant containment of any unchecked or residual chinkiness—this inescapable disease that leaked from her body, face, skin.
How easily the Chinese vacillated between ally and enemy every hundred years depending on who America was mad at or what America wanted. When needed, they could stand in as white, or at least, white enough to slaughter other Asian men and women in America’s wars, but with the snap of a finger, they were yellow again —the color of a disease, the color of a warning. Indistinguishable from the yellow men and women they’d slaughtered. Any temporary acceptance into whiteness revoked as quickly as it’d been granted. Because that was the thing: they were never white to begin with.
Next up: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. James Mandel, the author of Station Eleven. I’ve read Station Eleven multiple times (and highly recommend it), but the (also excellent) TV adaptation is hard to watch.
What I’m thinking about
This made me smile: there’s a placard at the Anping Treehouse in Tainan extolling the virtues of banyan trees. It says that historically, banyan tree wood was considered “inferior quality that nobody want[ed] to chop,” and thus, the trees were “able to thrive and subsequently provide shade for people.” Whoever wrote the copy on the sign must be into aphorisms, because it goes on to say that these trees prove: “being not useful is in fact of great use” and “everything is good for something.” Haha. Love it.
Also, I finally watched Blackpink: Light Up the Sky on Netflix. I am not into K-pop, but it’s become part of my everyday life because Lucy (and many of my students) are. I did not expect to enjoy the documentary as much as I did. First of all, the storytelling was riveting (it made me daydream about an alternate life as a documentary producer). I also only vaguely realized how international the group is (three out of four of them are TCKs). But what struck most was how quickly the group rose to stardom. To be clear, they worked relentlessly for years before they debuted, BUT once they did, their success was almost instantaneous.
Recently, one of my relatives won a reality show. It’s been insane to watch her go from a normal life to national recognition, with bonafide fans (stans!) and social media accounts dedicated to her. She went in with her eyes open — we all knew, once she decided to compete, that she would become famous. She’s a super strong person, definitely the type who can leverage fame in good ways, but man, this kind of celebrity blows my mind.
When I worked in public radio, I experienced some (minor!) name recognition amongst the small NPR-loving circles of our town. That’s the highest level of “fame” I aspire to — maybe a tiny bit of public recognition for my work. It was fun to feel like what I did had an impact on people I didn’t know and, while I sometimes miss that, real fame does not appeal to me in the least. What’s fun is seeing my cousin blow up and realizing how much it makes sense — there are just people who seem made for this kind of thing. (And many of us who are not!)
What I’m learning
How to make decisions while not making decisions. Remember the sibling trick to splitting things fairly? One gets to cut, the other gets to choose?
Here’s a similar technique for indecisive grown-ups: my friend S and I go out for coffee or a meal regularly, and we’ve come up with a way to make decisions despite our equally indecisive personalities. I provide three or four options, and she chooses from among those options. We’re happy because I do have opinions — I just don’t like to choose! — and providing options means I’ll be happy regardless of what she picks. She, on the other hand, likes not having to choose from endless options, and she knows whatever she picks is fine with me, since I’m the one who provided the options. Win-win.
I didn’t even realize we do this until our friend K started joining us for our Saturday coffee dates and asked how we decide where to go. Anyway, it works.
What I’m doing
Sleeping for a solid 9 hours every single night. It is glorious.
Gearing up for the next 6 weeks, during which, at times, our family will be in three continents and four cities.
Watching The Batman again.
See you next week,