Captain’s Log: Day 21 of no social media* and I am slowly becoming accustomed to waiting in line with no meme-induced chuckling. Somehow I am getting by without daily briefings on the end of the world from Amy Siskind. My thumb still itches to scroll through endless pictures (of who really even knows what, because we don’t remember, we just keep scrolling), I am stretching out the kinks in my neck and am able to look up at my surroundings while walking through busy city streets. Not once in the last three weeks have I cannonballed down freshly rain-sprinkled steps (the bruise on my arse from last week’s fall is literally the size of Pangaea. Should have its own zip code.), stepped into oncoming traffic, or fallen in a manhole. These are all good signs.
I won’t pretend I don’t miss it. I’ve gotten emails about being tagged in a few things and sent panicky texts to friends – “WHAT AM I MISSING?! I can’t approve it because I CANT CHECK FACEBOOK!” to find out, in one case, it was a link to a story about a man who tried to kill a spider and burned his entire house to the ground and honestly? That is absolutely in the top ten ways I’m most likely to make the news. Well done, Alicia.
I thought I’d use the newfound time to step up my kitchen skills game. I bought my first cauliflower, and after crowd-sourcing the decision to instagram, have decided that the inside of a cauliflower looks like a tree-brain. I saw a picture of some lentil-something-something soup on instagram and decided to head to the market and get the ingredients to make it, spending some long minutes in the produce aisle before asking Google and then learning that the lentil was not in fact a vegetable found in live produce. I’m still not sure what it is… a bean? A small nut? A grain? I feel like it’s in hummus.
I’m reminded of the time my grandma sent me to the store for six heads of lettuce because she was making tacos for a party and I came back with six heads of cabbage because at 18 years old I still didn’t know the difference as I was only eating Los Panchos and chicken nuggets until about 22.
I ended up roasting the vegetables I had purchased so long that it made more sense to pour them into a blender and make a soup, which made me feel so damn grown up. Like when you finally throw out an old sponge and start using the new one, or remember to buy coffee filters before you run out of them and have to use a paper towel.
I have figured out how to make chorizo, which I wish I could un-know, because it is so freaking good and I am eating it for the fourth night in a row. Half-hearted resolutions to get in shape be (gently) damned. The chorizo makes me long for that summer trip to Barcelona, endless glasses of Cava, a bartender named Enrique, and the body and confidence I had five years ago.
“Winter” in Hong Kong feels properly cold. I have two cardigans and one jacket – a faux-leather bomber I got at Target in 2009, as Facebook’s “On this Day” has so handily reminded me, that leaves bits of disintegrating fabric everywhere I go. Everyone is bundled up in their winter gear, taking advantage of the few weeks to wear it. The temperature, which is communicated to me in Celsius so I don’t fully understand, really only bothers me at night when I can’t bring myself to sleep with socks on and instead shiver in martyrdom. But every time I’m prompted to complain about cold, I remember how miserable it is to sweat every moment here instead, as I did from August to October, and throw myself willingly into the freezing.
The other thing about winter in HK is for some reason we have insane levels of pollution, which becomes a huge drama with the PTA and for indoor recess. I’m the teacher rep on the PTA and I honestly want to bring popcorn to the meetings sometimes and kick back and watch it all unfold. I love it. Every once in a while I chime in with something funny or useful but mostly I just enjoy intelligent, opinionated, motivated women advocating for their children and politely arguing about everything from fundraising to uniforms to field trip policies.
Fasting from social media has given me a great gift – time. Of course, it’s still up to me to be productive with it. But I do feel like some sort of emotional weight has been lifted. I’m not playing as much of the comparison game as I was. I’m less subconsciously or consciously worried about what my life looks like and thinking more about how I am living it. That is a blessing.
Last blog I talked about trying to take control of some of my fears. Last year I proclaimed the 33rd year of my life as “the year of yes” as I felt like I was floating and had no direction, and needed a life reset. How could I know what I was capable of and what I was meant to do with this one precious life if I didn’t start taking more chances? I decided to say “yes” to every invitation or good idea or little dream that popped into my head.
I met with old friends, started a moderately successful but definitely fun jewelry making business, learned how to run an Etsy shop, ran a 5k, traveled wherever I was invited. Accepted a job in Hong Kong, never having even been to Asia. Went to Japan by myself. It’s scary to say yes to things unknown, but as my friend pointed out to me, the only thing that was left in Pandora’s box was hope.
Everything scary is released already, but you don’t know how delicious hope is until you’re brave enough to the open the box of unknown and let everything float about or fly about until all you can look at and focus on is hope. And it’s still not my birthday, so I need to keep saying “yes” because I haven’t picked a new word yet.
To that end, I have done some personal challenges these last few weeks – I went out to dinner with a person I met at a party last year. We’d connected briefly and chatted over instagram and decided we had so much in common we just had to meet up. I was super intimidated – her instagram was so cool and she was so pretty and nice and it felt like I was going on a first date! I googled “how to make friends in your 30s” so I had some back-up topics on hand should there have been a lull in the conversation. I took it one step further and invited a close friend of mine who was also at that party! What a wimp. But it was a lot of wasted and unnecessary anxiety. We just shared stories and bonded over the very singular experience that it living abroad and specifically moving to Hong Kong. It was fabulous. Plus I had fajitas, so. A win-win.
I also RSVP’ed for a night hike on Monday (where there is a possibility of night snakes! oh the thrill!), and am joining a pub quiz team! I friggin love pub quizzes. I signed up for some social groups that are for female expats, mostly teachers and artsy-type people, and am going to ask myself to be open to all possibilities. I’m joining a Bible study, which is beginning with a night event called “Beer & Hymns,” which I feel is fortuitous, indeed.
I had some students today for my English intervention classes and we were playing a version of Taboo where they draw a flashcard with a verb on it and have to make us guess the word. They have a minute to get as many right as they can, and for some reason, or maybe for a very specific reason, he kept using the word “peanuts” in all his examples. Except his English is still developing and he can’t say the letter ‘t’ so every sentence was “I am _______ing my penis safe from the birds.” (keep) “I have to __________ my penis before I swallow them.” (chew) “I _______ my penis!” (lost)
We are doing sex ed this month so maybe he had it on the brain. At any rate, because I also have the sense of humor of a tween, I was shaking so hard with unreleased laughter I couldn’t tell him to stop. Longest minute of my life. The kids at school are all very grossed out by the puberty talks, which I find hilarious. “Today we had to look at pictures of boy bits. It was disgusting.”
My roomie and her best friend, who I have decided is also my best friend by proxy, and I went out for a fancy night last weekend – exclusive Indonesian restaurant with fancy everything, a speak easy disguised as an umbrella store, complete with big band! Which meant I’ve spent the last week spontaneously breaking out into versions of “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” which I think we also made everyone in the street listen to at some point that night…. and then we went to the HK equivalent of a well-dressed Isla Vista, LKF, and danced until four in the morning. It was magical. Ben bought me a balloon that lights up, and every song was my favorite song and we ate street wraps and I was in love with everyone.
My life here feels like a hot mess most of the time. I have no idea what I am doing. Like, in general. With life. But I LOVE the kids I get to hang out with and the friends I get to do life with. They’re all so cool it’s stupid. I haven’t cried in three weeks. I’m useder to things. Right now I laugh a lot. And I love that.
In my next entry – about that one time I found out former students were referring to me as a scrotum! Ah, the joys of teaching internationally. And an update on my adventures in making friends in your 30s. It all promises to be wild.
If you haven’t heard it yet today, and you need to – you’re worth it. You and your one wild and precious life. ab. solutely. worth it.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
. . . . . I plan to have a good time.
*I’m currently fasting from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Candy Crush, sugar, dairy.