Unanswered Questions

First off, I just want to say I’m ok.

Secondly, I’m not ok.

Anthony Bourdain’s suicide really threw me into a melancholy funk.

Lately I’ve been reevaluating my Why. Through Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk and his book, Start With Why, I learned that if I get clear with my Why — the bigger picture, the reason I get up the morning, it makes setbacks, challenges and failures easier to stomach. Also with the big picture clear, that last failure isn’t viewed as debilitating but as a necessary step closer to achieving the dream. Inspiring stuff right?

After a lot of self reflection, I realized that my Why was: To tell my story so that I can connect with others at a human level, regardless of sex, religion, background, etc. Carl Rogers, an American psychologist said, “What is most personal, is most universal.” Representation matters! My last blog post explains how this rang true for me. 

Looking back at my whole creative journey thus far, I can confidently say I’ve really lived out the pursuit of my Why. As an actor, I use myself and my personal experience to connect to characters and bring them to life. As a writer, I’m writing my own stories unapologetically via scripts, essays, novels. As a storyteller, I’m sharing my experiences live with others. I was connecting to so many different groups, to so many different people. I felt seen, heard, understood.

And then Bourdain dies.

Here was a guy that was MY WHY manifested! He was literally going around the world and sitting in people’s kitchens swapping stories and connecting with diverse individuals. Watching Parts Unknown, you can’t keep count how many times he says, “I’m so happy.”  Here was a guy that was recognized and rewarded in every aspect of his life. And yet, he willingly ended it.

His death reiterated that happiness and fulfillment can’t be found externally, but must be found within. And so I was deeply saddened for Bourdain because how alone he must’ve felt. How he just couldn’t find lasting internal happiness. And how perhaps, he must’ve felt like an asshole, because out of everyone, he should’ve been happy right?

Obviously I don’t know Bourdain, so really all these conjectures are projections of my own preoccupations. Because if it happened to him, who is to say it won’t happen to us. To me.

So what if I’m telling my stories. So what if for that one brief moment, someone heard me saw me understood me. It wasn’t lasting. In between those very brief fleeting moments, long dull aches of hopelessness fill the gaps. Long intervals of failures, feelings of emptiness, indifference and abandonment fill most of my waking life.

I’m incredibly conflicted. My Why has carried me through these past 7 years in the pursuit of creative fulfillment. A desire that determined the course of my adult life thus far. A desire that is still really strong. But as more woke as I get, as more obstacles stand in my way, as more shit hits the fan in this crazy political climate we live in, I’m filled with a sense of  … what is the fucking point.

How do I become part of a system that is so rigged against me without compromising who I am?

But also it gets more complicated than that …

Is it worth to keep trying at the cost of my personal life?

Do I need to be an artist? Do I need to make money as an artist? Do I even need to be in LA? I DON’T KNOW. I have no answers. I’m still thinking. I’m still living. I still wake up and get up and do. But it’s with great uncertainty and dread. I’m ok but I’m not ok as well.

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Memorial for Bourdain in front of his restaurant, Les Halles.

 

 

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My parents are awesome.  Sure it’s taken me almost 26 years to appreciate them, but nevertheless, better late than never.  Last weekend I was supposed to go up to the bay for a family outing in sf.  This was in the calendar for weeks and I was all set to go until my manager calls me a day before and tells me I have a meeting with an agent (I’m getting a new commercial agent because my old one is leaving her agency due to internal turmoil within that agency — she doesn’t want to work for a shady owner in which I respect, but leaves me with no agency representation) on a Saturday afternoon, the Saturday right smack in the middle of my bay trip. 😦 I couldn’t find a ride out after the meeting so I couldn’t go back to the bay.

I was really upset when I realized my trip wasn’t going to happen and I called my mom to let her know.  She was wonderful about it.  She said every opportunity matters and that she and my dad understood.  She said I could always come home whenevers.

That’s so sweet.  Even thinking about it makes me feel loved.

I had some friends ask me once, “are your parents proud of you?”  In which I answered, “not yet.”  My parents worked really hard to get to the states, my dad fighting in the war, my mom staying in refugee camps.  With the help of my aunt on my mom’s side, they managed to find each other and rent out a one bedroom apartment in good ole east side San Jose.  My dad’s first job was a janitor and my mom’s was a teacher’s assistant for many years. Because it was such a struggle, they wanted their kids to have a secure and successful life.  So of course my mom pushed me and my sisters to be scientists, doctors, dentists, etc. (the Asian American dream).

But here’s where they fucked up.  My mom was a teacher and brought home tons of books, especially music and art books.  My dad was a computer techie and brought home huge empty computer cardboard boxes and Lucas Arts computer games (role-playing games that were rich in characters and story.  My all time favorite is Monkey Island and I will name my first dog Guybrush Threepwood).  They took us to museums, made us take piano lessons, encouraged reading and movie watching (i.e. Indiana Jones and Star Wars).  With a one-bedroom apartment, my parents had to be creative in thinking how to use their space to raise 3 girls.  Thus the 3-story bunk bed (picture above).  That in itself was utopia for the imagination.  We laid blue sheets and blankets on the carpet and draped it off the first story bed and pretended it was a pool or the ocean.  Underneath the makeshift desk was our hidden cave.  We draped a beach towel over the bunk bed ladder and it became a mail chute where we delivered old valentine cards.  We used lawn chairs, the cardboard boxes, and a toy clock to make a time machine.

So it was no surprise that I’m trying to do the acting thing, my hipster sister doing the starving artist thing (typical of hipsterdom: she recently graduated with a BA in fine arts), and my youngest sister, a senior in HS is contemplating between being an engineer or a musician (she was the best out of us 3 on the piano).  My mom actually says that the youngest sister is her last hope — she rather my sister became an engineer.  Hahaha

So no, my parents are not proud of me yet.  It’s not that they’re ashamed of me either.  They’re just worried.  My mom especially.  I think she’s in denial of what I’m doing with my life and thinks it’s just a phase.  My dad is a fan, but only in “secret,” he’ll ask me about my progress and just listen nothing more.

Here’s the thing: I want to make my parents proud.  They worked really hard to get where they’re at and it’s admirable: my mom’s a teacher with tenure, my dad is an engineer, and they live in a 4 bedroom house that they own in the suburbs of San Jose.  They made it where my sisters and I can choose to be a starving artist.  However, I want to succeed not for the fame or fortune or whatever that may mean, but to succeed would justify their struggle and hard work.  I want to succeed for them.