Ten years ago at this mostly exact moment around my birthday I was submitting my audition tape to Myspace be a cast member on Glee. It was my third year of teaching (junior high Latin) and my students and I were obsessed with the show. Glee had an open casting call and my students convinced me to go for it. I sang “True Colors.” Oddly enough, did not end up being a rockstar. (But I do still teach crazy kids.)
In my post from ten years ago, on my 26th birthday, I was already very worried about still being single, felt lost in the world and wondered what my purpose was and if I meant anything at all.
I know this because for the last few years, I have written birthday blog posts filling out the same set of questions each time, so I can look back each year and feel what it was to be me in that moment.
I’ve been alive for over 13,000 days; 1,006 of them in Hong Kong, 88 of them in quarantine. Today I turn 36 years old. Hong Kong is at the end of about 13 weeks of social distancing, shelter in place, stay at home, closed borders Covid-19 life. We can’t gather in groups of more than four without facing a fine, I haven’t seen my students since January 23rd, I barely leave my apartment, my razor cried for mercy when I dragged it across my legs and hardly any of my clothes fit any more because I have been eating my feelings for three months BUT even if I had bad days, it’s not a bad life. It’s a great life and I want to remember it.
Here’s the last 365.25 days:
What are you doing exactly right now/what did you do today? I started my 11th week of online teaching, 13th week in quarantine lockdown. I took a catnap. I walked down to the pier. And I checked out an apartment because I have to move in a month. I tried to learn a tik tok dance for approximately five seconds before saying “YOUTHS!” and walking away from it. I wore a Wonder Woman costume while teaching my online classes, and tanned on my roof during my lunch break. I had happy hour with my besties and then dinner with besties and felt so much unexpected love throughout the day that it overwhelmed me.
My very sweet workmates threw me a VERY surprise birthday party on Saturday, on a beach and then an apartment, after a tour through a ghost village on Park Island, next to a lifesize replica of Noah’s Ark (I kid you not), all of which is very on brand for me. We danced to Backstreet Boys, had semi-serious wine-tasting, a lot of snacks, a craft, and my favourite cake. I was very embarrassed and very touched. It was all made funnier since I had made my best friend swear not to mention my birthday at all because I was determined to just skip it and not celebrate. Thirty minutes later I was undermined by love.
What shoes and clothes are you wearing? leggings and a sports bra because I am the captain of Team No Real Clothes for quarantine. Plus I think quarantine has made me allergic to clothes with zippers. Note that on my medical records, please.
What did you last eat? Last food pic on your phone? I make “pretend healthy nachos” – avocado, hot sauce, smashed Ryvita crackers, cheese, Fage yohgurt, and canned refried beans. It’s the closest I can get to Mexican food sometimes. But whats MORE important is that I went and got myself some Cheetos for breakfast for tomorrow because birthday. I have to hide them in the microwave so I don’t eat them right away.
The thing about quarantine life is that there is so little to do that the only exciting thing is eating, so I’m doing too much of it. I keep wandering into the kitchen and looking around like something new will appear, which it won’t, because I’m the only one here and I barely leave. So my standards for “decent food” have dropped dramatically. A few weeks ago I found a package of expired jello pudding and made it with coconut milk (which is what I drink) which meant it was more like a drink than a pudding and not at all good and WAY expired but I kept eating it with a spoon because it was entertaining.
Where are you living? Still in Hong Kong, nearing the end of my third year here, and seventh year abroad. I have to leave my awesome apartment at the end of the month, so I’ve been going around to different places. I met with a girl today to see about a flatshare…it’s so awkward house-hunting and potentially living with someone. There is an interview/first date vibe to it, but living together puts WAY more on the line. I don’t want to leave my neighborhood, my commute, my gym. I’ve memorized the grocery store layout and just can’t bear the thought of learning a new one (life’s been tough lately!) so really hoping I find somewhere close by.
Where do you work? Same school – a private Christian international school in Hongkers. I teach fourth grade, which is when I was obsessed with Oregon Trail on the one computer in the classroom, and now I teach every day with a computer and all my students have computers. I also had my first favorite teacher (Hi, Ms. B!) and I can only hope I am someone’s favorite teacher, too.
Where have you traveled this last year? Back home to California for summer, which included Tennessee to visit Sophie, then again doing a massive trip from Hong Kong to TN to see baby sis get mawwied. Thailand easy times in October, California/Chicago for Christmas, Cebu for CNY, but my dream trip to Morocco was cancelled. Really hoping I get another chance at that.
Lately I’ve been clocking a lot of steps between my apartment and the wine shop.
When did you last cry? This question was easier to answer in the last few years when the deep cries were fewer and farther between. But having spent the last four months in turmoil . . . I just cry all the time, really. Cried on my walk the other day, thinking people were staring at me (might have been, most likely not) and this led to me thinking I was ugly and fat (quite chubby at the moment, so a bit true, and Asians tend to stare at chubbiness because no one is chubby here) (but also I’m white and wasn’t wearing a mask at the time) (and wearing a hat that says “Virginia is for Lovers”) and that led to me thinking I was never going to find love, because how can you meet a guy when you’re all inside your own homes and scared to interact with people, and then I started crying thinking about dying alone in a dark and damp retirement home.
BUT the nicer answer to this is that this morning one of my students sent me a link to a birthday card he had created for me, with llamas and confetti, and he had added sound of him playing the saxophone and then the violin, and then finally his sweet little nine year old voice cracking on the high notes in “happy birthday.” I straight up burst into “only had four hours of sleep and I’m late thirties and single and only one cup of coffee” tears.
What was the last movie you watched? Emperor’s New Groove, and by “watched” I mean “recited word for word.” It was a comfort watch.
Favorite TV show of the moment? Just finished “La Casa de Papel” and I think about the characters like they are real friends of mine (I’ve got a pretty intense imaginary world I live in sometimes). I just started “Ozark,” watch “Fleabag” for comfort quite often. Still love “Outlander,” “Brooklyn 99,” and “Tiger King” and “Love is Blind” have had an impact on my last few months.
Favorite toy of the moment? Haven’t been shopping in ages . . . would have to say I’m just really proud of all my plants right now. Slightly less proud of how much I talk out loud to them. Just today I asked my aloe “would you like to go up to the roof for a few days? Just for a change?” Finding my portable wine glasses quite handy.
What book are you reading? Just finished Michelle Obama’s biography and so grateful for her. Started Testaments by Margaret Atwood.
How many books did you read in the last year? Highlights? I read 25 books in the last year. Highlights included Where the Crawdads Sing, Educated, The Color Purple, Hunger.
When did you last laugh really hard? When my family and I were doing Facetime during Easter and I made them do a family trivia quiz and then we all told stories afterwards. I was giddy with excitement and costume changes that morning.
What are you most looking forward to right now? Hong Kong seems to be nearly ready to relax the social distancing rules! Would love to go to a pub or sit in the sun on a junk and listen to music.
What’s your favorite song at the moment? Because I’ve been pretty deep in tortilla making, I’ve been revisiting a lot of old Latino pop and reviving the playlists I used to make for our high school Spanish class and have had Enrique Iglesias “El Ritmo Total” on blast.
What’s the same about your life last year that you’re happy about? The last year has brought about some pretty dramatic changes and challenges with everything in Hong Kong and now worldwide. But I’m happy to still have a job and a salary. My besties and I still have never-ending text message threads. I still work hard play hard laugh hard love hard.
What’s different about your life from last year? What surprised you about this last year or changed it for you? I learned how to make bread and homemade tortillas. I have a sister who is married and I’m going to be a “real” aunt soon. Between the protests and the quarantine life, I’ve learned a lot about what I need from my workplace and my friends and my home. I think I appreciate my family more. I learned about Tik Tok, for better or for worse. I have gotten used to wearing facemasks.
When and what was your last vacation? Philippines for Chinese New Year, making it easy on ourselves and staying at a resort with nightly dance shows and a private beach. So much relax.
What are you proud of this year? Absolutely all my credit card and college loan debt paid off.
What’s your current favorite joke? What do you call a beehive with no exits?
What would you like as a gift right now? An official end to social distancing. I will need a 45 minute hug from everyone I know as soon as it’s okay to do so.
What’s an important relationship at the moment? um, the one with my stretchy pants? and my ongoing affair with the internet.
What are your goals for the next year? To finish the book I’ve been trying to write for ages. To keep writing about this adventure along the way, because if I can’t be a good example, I can at least be a warning. To let go of things that don’t serve me and to hold on to only things and people that spark joy and make me a better person (yoga pants, plane tickets, my besties).
Hey – if you haven’t yet, go ahead and subscribe to my blog for email updates, or like my facebook page, you know, to show birthday love. I’d like that more than a lot!
Here’s to another trip around the sun and living the dream! Adventure is out there. Here’s the last year of it: