Asian Girl Problem #134: Climbing The Creative Ladder

A few years ago I gathered some of my Asian beezies to go to an all-female Asian-American (both loosely defined) comedy showcase called Disoriented. It was everything I’d hoped for: incredibly positive vibes, and a mind-blowing range of humor. These weren’t the personas and jokes I’ve seen in the media–even in “fresh” shows like Master of None (though there’s nothing wrong with it).

Lately, in my efforts to get myself to an open mic night as soon as possible, I’ve fallen in love with one of the ladies who started and produce Disoriented, Jenny Yang. Her path to comedy is rad, from growing up a rambunctious child to burning out on her 9-5 job to taking comedy classes and ultimately producing her own show. Maybe when you grow up seeing “your people” always succeeding in a certain field, the magic is dampened. But until the market is saturated with Margaret Cho’s, imma be worshipping the few, the proud, the Asians.

In one great podcast episode, Jenny mentions how it took a leap into the unknown to quit her job and get into comedy–because that never seemed like a realistic option for Asian girls, and I can strongly relate. I had so many talented Asian friends who are now teachers, business people, or medical workers, despite winning accolades for art, music and writing throughout our childhood. Consider this: every Asian parent I know wanted their child to be a virtuoso at painting, chess, piano, what have you, but not a single one wanted their child to pursue it THAT hard, love it THAT much. Those hobbies should keep children out of drugs and sex, but once college admissions rolled around, all focus switched to earning those white collar degrees.

I don’t blame the parents. What our families lacked in creative gumption, they made up for in financial security, job stability, and sacrifice. Instead of “pursuing his passions” my dad made sure I would never have to worry about money in my life. Instead of moving us around the country or chasing his thrills, he came home at the same time every night to listen to my day, play cards, and teach me everything he knew. My mom…well, she was kind of absent, but also did her best to prioritize the family unit. It’s easy to think about our parents as yes-men who cling to the corporate ladder, and stodgy weaklings who have to eat out of the hands of their bosses while their white peers always get the promotions, but it was all for us.

And now I have the remarkable privilege of choosing whatever I want to do thanks to their persistence. I get to think about me me me all day, whereas every generation before me thought of “they” or the collective “us.” And I want to both be happy and make them proud–but it’s obvious that I can’t use their lives as a blueprint. They made all this possible, but I will not be finding role models of the creative hustle or self-employed writer in them.

What I can glean from them is their pioneering spirit, fearless resilience, and work ethic. Although the creative lifestyle might not have been nourished in us at a young age, we Asian-Americans do have badass parents who forged independent lives in a new country, and braved the loneliness, ostracism, and hard work that creative people similarly endure in their artistic struggle.

Practical or creative. Stable or wild. Is it possible to have both? I’m stuck in between values–but hey this is where I get to write from.


Reflections & Resolutions

new years eve 2016

As I’ve probably mentioned before, my approach to resolutions is to make and forget them, at least consciously. The time apart makes for a nice surprise when I look back a year later and see how my goals have changed–which is essentially, how I myself have changed.

On the surface, 2015 was not an eventful year. My relationship ended and I took a while to bounce back (and forth between the dudes and duds who followed) before I felt back in my element. It’s funny that what took eight months to come to a peaceful close can now be wrapped up into a tidy sentence.

And it’s been peaceful in every sense–all those adults who used to tell me I’d mellow out in my late twenties were right. This year I learned about saturn return and took comfort in uncertainty. I decided that I’d rather not know what’s going to happen in my career than know exactly which awful desk and task my ass will be working on until retirement. There will be other desk jobs in the future–that’s for sure–but taking a break reinvigorated and set my priorities straight.

Without a 9-5, I resolved to use the time to tackle some of my health concerns–I got a handle on my sugar/coffee/soda consumption and my food anxieties. It’s a work in progress but with the first couple months over, new habits have taken root. This year I don’t have any of the typical resolutions in regards to diet, exercise or dating. I have a pretty good handle on these, which frees up more focus and energy to:

1. Be a good daughter. A switch literally flipped last month where I realized that I’m over being bratty and surly to my parents. I’m improving my attitude, keeping less secrets, and making an effort at quality time/conversations. It probably had to do with my mom seeing one of my tattoos and hey, she’s still alive.

2. Be a good friend. I’m good at putting friends first, and thus reap the benefits of having super inspirational, rollicking, and rock solid friendships. I want to keep this up and do more–champion my friends’ personal goals and start projects together so we can create something together.

3. Find a good company fit. Maybe it’s having more experience this time around, but I’m not anxious about finding a stable job. There’s one in particular that I hope works out in January.

4. Visit my family in China, and at least one other new place. I hate being a tourist, but it’s high time I left the glorious bubble that is Oakland.

5. Perform 5 minutes of standup comedy. It’s happening in 2016.

Maybe being in such a state of calm isn’t conducive to making resolutions, but I’m still excited. 2016 and my 28th birthday both around the corner!

Asian Girl Problem #133: Growing Apart

Hello! Bet you didn’t expect me to pop up today–I sure wasn’t planning on it. I’ve been feeling the itch to write and am trying everything to cultivate that. I’m sitting in a pile of goose feathers and cat fur and kiwi peels–that’s how committed I am to keeping this itch strong.

This post goes out to my very first boyfriend, who dropped into my ‘hood from the Philippines. Not surprisingly, he got the dates wrong and what was supposed to be a 24 hour stay is actually 48 hours. Which, I’m beginning to realize now on this 24th hour,  is 24 hours more than I’m happy with. (Does that math make sense?)

First I want to say he is a fine person and was a fine first boyfriend. He hasn’t asked me to change plans or required much entertaining, being the true embodiment of a cat and having lots of work to do on his laptop every day. (Although today its vital signs are failing–it better not croak on us before he leaves.)

Now I can bitch. This guy, who we’ll call E, has been living in Manila for the last year, and traveling all around before then. He’s an awkward introverted type–good for losing your virginity to but not someone I’d want to host a talkshow with. When you’re 21 and in the college bubble, it’s not hard to find things in common. Six years later, it’s apparent how different we really are, and unfortunate to discover that we are not compatible as friends. I’m not saying I regret agreeing to his visit, but I should’ve expected less from it.

I feel myself straying into the myriad reasons we don’t get along, but the main AGP pebble in my shoe that I can’t get over is that I can see him slipping away into gross white ex-pat land. He has no connections and very few friends in the Philippines, but intends to go back after the holidays, probably for many years. Now, he’s a highly educated kid from an upper middle class family, and smart enough to know what distinguishes him from a typical womanizing, culture-blind, retiree ex-pat (which makes for 90% of them, he tells me). He knows about the poverty there, the power imbalance, and the colonialist history mirrored in some of the modern-day relations between white men and local women.

But he isn’t worried about it enough to convince me he’s not gross. And it doesn’t sit well with me and I’m increasingly irked by him because of it, on top of all the little things that already annoy me. Sure, he is smart enough and spent enough time in America to realize he’s physically average, and it’s a race/power/demand issue that projects him to Ryan Gosling status in Asia. But I’m still annoyed when I listen to him describing all the Tinder dates he’s been on. Sure, he is helping out the local economy by hiring people to help him with his company and paying them ample wages. But I’m again annoyed by his new year plans to bring all the “luxuries of America” there, which includes hiring a personal chef. Sure, all wealthy Filipinos have personal cleaners and chefs, but there’s something still annoying about the fact he’s dropping into this country and immediately doing the same thing.


Because you didn’t earn your stripes. You didn’t learn the language, weren’t welcomed by a local friend or family member, and don’t need to struggle at all to get all the girls and Ubers and personal chefs in the country.

Maybe I wouldn’t care if my parents immigrated into the exact opposite climate, where they were mocked for not knowing the language, lived hand to mouth, are lost and derailed in a tangle of cultures daily, and will always be second-class even if they made a million. Where are their girls and Ubers and chefs?

I expressed this to E, in softer terms, this morning. Damn me for being a softie, but I let it drop when it became obvious we weren’t going to get deep into it. All he did was feebly defend himself a little bit and has since tried to share other ways he’s wanted to help the community and his employees. But again, he’s not worried enough. I want him to feel guilty constantly reevaluate his actions and desires. As much as I’ve grappled with being an Asian in America, I want him to struggle and lose sleep over being an American in the Philippines. Because I’m kinda selfish and expect a lot from people.

But no, he will continue to ramble on about his travels and screenplay ideas and dates…without reciprocating when I ask polite follow-up questions and try to find some thread of common interest and connection between us. But that time is over. College was dumb. And I don’t have to spend time with anyone who doesn’t interest me. So I’m off to go make soup with my best friends and he can fend for himself tonight.