Mistress of none

So in an effort to distract my thoughts, lighten my mood and lift my spirits given recent developments in my cousin’s health since the last blog post, I indulged in some Netflix binge-watching in between furniture assembly and cleaning all weekend. I settled on Aziz Ansari’s Master of None. I was delightfully surprised at the depth of the final episode of this series.

Spoiler alert: the last episode of his Neflix series is refreshingly profound. He has been traveling a road with his girlfriend, and becoming ever more terrified of where it’s going after attending the wedding of friends who were on the top step of the figured-it-all-out-ladder. He sees love scores of 100 for a couple, and his current situation maybe hits a 70 or an 80. He worries that it’s all figured out from that point on. Marriage, kids, and the spiral into predictability terrify him. He runs from safety, as does his girlfriend, and they pursue new roads in life.

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I’ve been known to do this more than once. For having such a stable childhood in a single family 3-bedroom home in the suburbs of San Jose, California, I sure have moved around a lot. I left home at the ripe young age of 17, for college in Chico, California. It was a 4-hour drive from where I grew up, so it was both far enough away and close enough to home to suffice. College in Chico became a 5 year affair, because 2 majors and a minor had my name on them. Every year, I lived somewhere different. I mixed it up. I got my crazy out. I lived.

Freshman year, I lived in the dorms. I grew up an only child far away from most of my family, with three legs on my stool of life: my father, my mother, and me. This was the first time I ever lived with anybody new, and in such close quarters, like sharing a room. 2 XL twin beds, 2 desks, closet, and a fridge/microwave combo. The second year, I moved to an apartment complex off campus, with 3 girls I befriended in the dorms. We all had nicknames – Shorty, Piggy, Hoochie, and Deemoney. Sounds like the Golden Girls, right? Guess which one I was. The accounting and finance major. Dorothy. Mmmmhmmmmmmm. Other friends who just moved from the dorms lived in the small 40-unit apartment complex, so it was sort of like being in the dorms still, but still being a little more grown up. We had our own rooms with community living.

The third year, I moved down the same road from the second year place. Nord Avenue was a major road in Chico, and it housed a burrito place for 2am munchies, a Safeway nearby, a sandwich shop, and bike paths that led to campus in less than 5 minutes. This was the year I lived with a quiet girl I’d known from high school and middle school. She was an English major, mostly kept to herself, wrote in her spare time, and was just leaving San Jose after 2 years at community college. This was her first year of living away from home, and by then, I had morphed into a wholly new creature. I still wasn’t out of the closet yet, at the beginning of my third year. I had been to many frat parties, house parties, impromptu BBQ’s with the music turned up and the beers flowing like water. I partied. We won’t get specific, but I gained invaluable life experiences that would forever brand me as me. What she saw, with her eyes leaving home for the first time, was no doubt no less than a crazy person. There, I said it.

My 4th apartment was with the same girl from 3rd year, with another girl I’d known in the dorms first year, but hadn’t previously lived with. She lived in the 2nd year complex, in another apartment. This new place was in the Aves, a different part than where I’d previously lived. Chico was organized on a grid. The streets downtown actually have the names Chestnut, Hazel, Ivy, Cherry, and Orange to make the acronym, “C.H.I.C.O.”, which makes it easy to learn downtown. I was on the opposite side of campus from the C.H.I.C.O. streets. I rode my bike to campus, yet it was quiet and not where all the frat houses and party houses were. I was still a mere 5 minutes from campus. Perhaps that is what spawns my disdain for daily commutes. It should not be that hard to get to a place you have to be every day. There are days you don’t want to be there at all – making it difficult does not help the situation. It was in this apartment I took a big step. I met someone online, a woman, and began dating her. She moved out to Chico from Tennessee, and I came out as gay that year – to my parents, friends, hell, anybody who would listen. Life wasn’t so predictable when that happened. I mean, every day was unlike the previous and I was soaking up information and Bud Light like a sponge. I think I should have put myself on the liver transplant list this year, if I hadn’t in all my previous years. I had a full course load, a job, and an unpaid internship that year. I also started a non-profit student organization on campus this year, the Women’s Center for Financial Information.

My 5th and final year at Chico State, I moved in with my girlfriend, in an apartment overlooking a farm and a baseball field on someone’s personal property, far away from campus, in the suburbs. The complex had a laundry facility, a pool, a clubhouse, and was close to bike trails that led to my gym and eventually to campus.

After Chico, I moved to San Francisco, on a whim and after a series of unplanned and fortunate events. I’d been gearing up to work with a financial advisor at which I interned, when I found that she was closing her business down and I was out a plan. I had a friend who knew a recruiter at one of the Big 4 accounting firms, and a very short time later, I had a job starting with them in San Francisco. It happened so quickly.

My girlfriend and I lived apart that year, as I moved to San Francisco for work and she continued studying architecture at Chico State. It was my idea for her to keep herself occupied. I wanted her to push herself if she was going to move to be closer to me. It couldn’t be for me – it had to be for her. I found a very new life in San Francisco. I had a tiny 3rd room in an apartment in Haight Ashbury, where the famous homes of Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix can be found. I found my roommates online 2 weeks before I moved down. The rent for the smallest room in the first floor flat with laundry in it in San Francisco in 2004 was $750. The cheapest rent I ever paid in San Francisco. Don’t even get me started on this tangent. But I digress…

Then I moved in with my girlfriend from Chico less than 1 block down the street from that first apartment on Waller Street to another apartment on Waller Street. From there, we ventured into my first foray into home ownership and bought a place in Lower Haight, where we lived the year after that. The year we broke up.

I then moved to my very first apartment of my own, on the corner of Pink and Pearl Streets near Duboce Triangle in San Francisco. Most. Lesbian. Location. Ever. The Pink Pearl. From this apartment, a couple years later, I got the itch again and moved to Sydney, Australia. I lived in the same apartment there for my whole 3 years abroad.

My point (and I do have one – thanks Ellen for the fabulous book title), in relaying the almost annual turnover in my address since moving out of my parents’ house, is this:

I like to believe that life doesn’t get stale – if you’re doing it right. What Aziz Ansari felt, that fear creeping in of the mundane and safe, doesn’t have to be. You do have the power to change your life. Anytime you don’t like it. I refer you, dear reader, back to a quote from a fantastic film, Benjamin Button’s letter for his daughter, which reads:

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early, to be whoever you want to be.

There’s no time limit, start whenever you want.

You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing.

We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it.

And I hope you see things that startle you.

I hope you feel things you never felt before.

I hope you meet people with a different point of view.

I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

I truly believe this with all my heart and being. I have succeeded so many times in picking up the pieces that lay broken and piecing myself together in a new way that lets me put one foot in front of the other every day. I left home. I made mistakes, I travelled to far away places, even lived there. I loved. Hard. I opened myself up and met new people. I not only ventured outside my comfort zone but I lived there for 3 years. I was a foreigner who had a noticeable accent and was horribly out of place. I mastered the arts of being awkward and super smooth in social situations. I came home when I never thought I would. I fell down really hard a couple of years ago. I’ve picked myself back up and gritted my teeth and kept going. I adopted a sweet little kitten, lost sight of the shore, quit my job, moved to a new city and bought a condo to call home for more than one year.

Life isn’t stale to me right now. I’m exactly where I need to be, where I want to be. I’m right here. I had to go to all those places, fall apart, and glue myself back together. I had to be the person I am today. I am no one’s cup of tea. I don’t wake up and feel stale. I feel alive. I had a choice in the matter. I’ve used my voice regardless of who hears. I don’t care if I’m too loud, still awkward, and not perfect. The imperfection is the best part.

I didn’t follow a straight path (insert a fan attending the Rocky Horror Picture Show screaming at this crucial point, “No, you followed a gay path!” and throwing toilet paper across the audience.) I tried new things. I’ve been places 90% of my friends haven’t been. I’ve killed so many brain cells in college, hell, I can’t remember some of the best memories, but I know they’re there.

When I look back on my glory days, hopefully as I’m zooming down the bike lane of a 4 lane road on my Rascal at top speeds of 25 mph, when I’m old, I’ll have memories resurface I’d long forgotten existed. Or hallucinations, depending on my dosage.

I hope I see the laughs I had. I hope I see the people whose lives I had a positive impact on again. I hope I meet my own 5 people in Heaven, if there is one, like the made-for-TV special starring Jon Voight “The 5 People You Meet in Heaven.” I hope I see that, despite not having children, not being CEO of a company, not doing a lot of things actually, I’m satisfied. I hope I see that in my vast experience there are still some things l haven’t done, and I better love that. I hope I’m satisfied. I don’t think I’ll get to do everything in just one life. But I sure as hell can knock a lot off my list.

Life is unwritten, everything after today, anyway. Parts of today are still unwritten. I write this, in the closest thing I’ve had to happy place in what feels like forever: at my recently delivered dining room table. The first I’ve had in two years. I’m in a new home, in a new city now. San Jose, Chico, San Francisco, Sydney, Seattle… what looks like fun with a “Choose Your Own Adventure” in the S volume of the encyclopedia (with a little hiccup in the key of C mixed in there) has actually led me to just the place that feels right to put down a few roots for a while. It’s anything but stale, because I chose this. I needed this. I want this. Have wanted this. For a long time.

I didn’t let myself get too attached these last two years in San Francisco, after repatriating back from Australia. Now I feel my roots taking hold in fertile soil. I’m ready to grow. Buds are forming. I’m shooting forward every single day.

Even on good days, many relationships don’t get above 60. Sometimes, when times are really tough, it could be a 20 or a 30. It’s never 100 every day. You would hate it if it was, if you were to be honest with yourself. It’s true. You need the 20 days to make you appreciate the 50 days. You need the 50 days to appreciate the 80 days. We need all those days to feel like we lived a life well spent. Even the 10 days were a blessing, even if in disguise to your blind eyes. We need our fill of drunken, stoned college pool parties to appreciate that those days are behind us, and with them, our abilities to rally the day after such a party with a massive hangover. We want to be in a hospital waiting room, wanting any news, even if it isn’t good, to remind us how short life is and how much we really do love without even knowing we do. The bitter is bitter but the sweet is so much sweeter. I think I read that somewhere in Einstein’s theory of relativity. Write that down.

A storm to eclipse all other storms

The storm clouds roll in for a severe thunderstorm as predicted by all the weather apps on my phone. Yesterday 65mph winds tore through the state, downing trees, cutting power, and chilling me to my very core for the time I spent outside in it. My only thought right now, watching it approach and envelop is, “Good,” as it adequately reflects my mood.

Adulthood really is like looking both ways for cars before you cross the street, only to be hit by an airplane. Saturday, I got some bad news about my cousin. I’m only close with two of my cousins and he’s one of them. He hasn’t been feeling well for about a month or so, and finally went to the doctor. The doctor had him admitted to the hospital right away due to super high glucose levels, somewhere around 230 when they should be 90. Scientific measurements that seem too clinical to be real. Long story short, after a bunch of tests, the doctors diagnosed him with diabetes, then said he has a virus affecting his pancreas which could also be affecting the glucose, so it may not be diabetes. Symptoms could subside once the infection goes away, but he’s responding well to insulin treatments.

They also did cat scans and MRI’s and found “masses” on his brain. Now, after getting results from a few more tests, they’re no longer calling them masses, but tumors. And there are a lot of them. All over, some close to his brain stem, which would be inoperable. What I’ve heard is the doctors ran tests on the rest of his body and it didn’t spread from somewhere else, as there is no cancer elsewhere in his body.

He’s terrified, and doesn’t usually show his emotions, but he’s been crying and telling us he loves us. He’s only about 9 yrs older than me so he’s the first in our generation to have any problems – but he is the oldest of my cousins and me. The doctor has suggested chemotherapy for those tumors near his brain stem, and they’ll also have to operate on some of the others. And they can’t commence any operation until the diabetes is fully stabilized. Well, fuck.

My family is small, but it is mine. When something happens to someone I love, shit gets real. I don’t have family members to spare, I mean, not that anyone does. A life is a life. He’s my blood. And he’s a good guy. Sure, he swears a lot, and he’s not perfect. But he’s always tried to do the right thing. He’s been a great dad, involved in raising his daughter. He goes to work everyday, when he’s not in the hospital, and it’s not a glorious job. People probably don’t thank him nearly enough.

More news came along this evening which bears an update: it’s an aggressive form of cancer, and while no evidence can be found elsewhere in his body, the way his brain is reacting (swelling, etc.) indicates it’s moving quickly and likely spread from elsewhere. He has surgery scheduled for Monday to extract as much of the two large masses near each other forming one large mass, but for the at least 4 other masses and other lesions, chemo will need to be done. However, no course of treatment can be determined until the mass is extracted and studied. The large masses are on his temporal lobe, which controls speech and language, but there are also some on his cerebellum which ultimately control motor skills. Since he’s left handed, and the masses are on the side of his brain that controls his dominant side, extra caution and precision will be required in Monday’s surgery.

The deluge of information from different sources is a lot to handle right now, and the story changes as we go, and depending who I talk to. My uncle also had surgery scheduled for next week, for a couple of months now, so now, more than ever, my family will have to learn to pull for one another, be strong, and come together.

Lightning. Thunder. Rain. Anger. Sadness. Support. Strength. Tears. Shock.

The storm never presented lightning or thunder from what I experienced this evening on my commute home. Maybe the worst case scenario doesn’t always present itself, despite forecasts and best guesses. I don’t know how things will be on the other side of next week, but sometimes, the only way out is through. Hold on folks, the ride’s about to get bumpy.

And in the mean time, love your family and the one you’re with tonight. Even if it’s just yourself. Things may not be perfect, but you’re breathing, you’re alive, and you’re still here. This isn’t the first time this has happened to a family, nor will it be the last. I’m glad my cousin went to the doctor when he did, or else they may not have discovered this in time to do something about it, and it would be far worse. So also, when you feel like shit, and think going to the doctor is a pain in the ass, just bite the bullet and go. It could save your life.

Sending out love to the world, so it comes back around. I feel so many feelings tonight. When my father passed away, I was halfway around the world in Australia. Now, more bad things happen to people I care about when I’m on the other side of the country. There’s nothing I can do from so far away, except lend support, talk, text message, communicate, and calm my family down whilst their world turns upside down. It’s easy to be strong when distanced. Even if I don’t feel very strong. We all contribute and help how we can. Like Mr. Fred Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Força

Yesterday, as I left work to begin my commute home, the song coming through my earbuds was pure ear candy and perfect for the moment: “Força” by Nelly Furtado. I’m going to put the lyrics as I sing them to myself, and not how they actually are, because we all know our song lyrics we sing are almost always better than the real lyrics.

“It is the passion flowing right on through your veins
And it’s the feeling like you’re oh so glad you came
And it’s the moment you remember you’re alive
It is the air you breathe, the element, the fire.”

I first heard this song at a small Peruvian bar around the corner from my apartment in San Francisco, Pisco Latin Lounge. I was up to my eyeballs in a salad (translation: cucumber martini) and the video came on. My blurry vision miraculously cleared, and what I saw brought me to alcohol-induced tears. It was a moving video, shot in South America where soccer is a way of life, and it showed all people coming together to raise one child up, to get his soccer ball. Perhaps it was a not-so-subliminal ad for FIFA? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

There was a spring in my step yesterday, not just because I was leaving work to head home and see Cheddar.

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The spring in my step, which took me a moment to recognize it, came from sheer happiness. Lightness. Freedom. Passion. Life. Gratitude. From being appreciated and valued in my new role at work. From being in a new city, exploring and being in my basic human element. The sun was shining, which has been a rarity in Seattle since I moved here. The air on my face as I walked to the bus stop was crisp and cold. I was awake; I was alive. I’m back.

I was in a place I did not want to be for a long time, trying so hard and finding doors closed. It’s so liberating and invigorating to know that you can control your life and happiness, to some extent, and to finally be on the other side of that, feeling all the good feels. You can make changes to make it better. You can be a success story, and more importantly than success, you can be happy when you might thought you never might be again. When you eradicate the things from your life which wear you out and down, you get so much closer to the sky, you think you might actually be able to fly. Everything conspires to lift you up. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Acclimating nicely

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks since you last heard from me, so much so that I haven’t prioritized updating my blog. Sometimes life just takes precedence.

The biggest news by far is that the acquisition of my condo closed on February 29, 2016, after a fair amount of escrow and lending agent drama. I’m no longer living in temporary accommodation in Capitol Hill, but rather in my new home in Lower Queen Anne. New neighborhood, more exploring. Then, there was drama with the lack of customer service from my moving company. However, I wrote a scathing Yelp review after leaving the moving company unreturned voicemails, and within half an hour after posting, I had movers calling me to schedule my delivery. Shocking. That’s all it took? While I never think a business should provide customer service as a primarily reactive response to reviews, the squeaky wheel clearly got the oil in this case. The customer service manager called me 3 times on the day my goods were delivered to try to get me to change the review. All I could think was:

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My bank accounts are empty, but my home is full. All that investing, saving, reallocating of my portfolio, and now I’ve reallocated to real estate in an active and growing market. It’s a new strategy for me, one of which I’m excited to enjoy the benefits. The primary motivator for getting this place was to make sure my kitty, Cheddar, could run up and down the halls, and have all the space he wanted to be a frisky kitten. This past weekend, I heard the pitter patter of the pads of his paws up and down the cork floor hallways and smiled to myself. Home. I had my first home cooked meal in 2 months over the weekend, and have purchased household necessities and groceries (yes, most of it was wine) for day-to-day life.

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I’m still lacking a lot of furniture, but that will all come with time. I did manage to prioritize acquiring outdoor furniture – namely two finished cedar Adirondack chairs and an outdoor dining table, chairs and bench set up, along with covers for all that beautiful wood furniture. Without covers, none of that investment stands a chance in all this rain we’ve been having.

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Nothing was broken in the move, except for something I dropped as I was putting away. My bad. The unpacking process is painful, as I wasn’t the most organized packer (so unlike me, I know.) Learning how to use my Jenn-Air touchpad stove was a feat in and of itself. I was hungover Sunday morning and trying to fry some breakfast sausage, to alleviate the pounding head I was suffering from mixing drinks while out with new friends the night before (rookie move, I know.) Eventually I had to take out the instruction manual and figured it out. It should be easier; this is the twenty-teens. We’re in the future and it should be idiot proof. *drops mic*

Work is still going well, as I’ve been thrown into the deep end on a multitude of projects. I’ve had check-ins with my boss and she thinks I’m picking things up quickly and wouldn’t change anything, so I’ll take that as positive feedback to keep doing what I’m doing. My days are long, arriving by around 6:30am, and leaving after 4:30pm, but that’s mostly by choice. I have time to work out when I want to, and if I’m not motivated, I don’t get too down on myself. It’s a lot different coming home to a 1352 square foot apartment and walking around unpacking, versus coming home to a 419 square foot apartment and planting myself on the couch, immobile. There are also hills in my neighborhood, including 5 stories of steps from one bus stop up to my street up a sharp embankment. But hey, that’s why I have a pseudo view. Here’s to having a fantastic ass within 3 months’ time?

Interactions with neighbors thus far leave much to be desired. So far, I’ve only met the girl next door very briefly (couldn’t remember her name now if you paid me), and another one down the hall who is apparently president of the HOA. I have some passive aggressive neighbor (probably the HOA president) who left me an unsigned note taped to my door when my movers left some boxes with my mailing address on them in the wrong spot near our garbage/recycling, and left the boxes back by my door (so they had time to go get scotch tape after or during dragging the boxes back). Thanks, Seattle. I’m used to having a middle class of scavengers in San Francisco who pick through garbage and achieve the role of a finer filter for recycling, to collect the cash value on cans and bottles, so I blame my privileged San Francisco existence. I also sighted the neighbor above me, an elderly woman, sucking on a cigarette as if her lungs depended on it. So there will likely be friction over cigarette smoke wafting into my condo in summer months. But I figure I’ll save that for when it’s relevant.

All said and done, I’m no longer in the state of flux I was coming to abhor. I’m not fully settled, but I’m getting there. I’m acclimating nicely. Passive aggressive neighbors aside. There’s wine for that – I made sure of it.