The Big Three-O

While daydreaming at work, I was suddenly hit by this: how old am I? I don’t know about you, but after a certain age, I’ve started losing track of my age. Before I am pinned down as forgetting out of convenience, let me just clarify that I have no problems turning a year older. In fact, I was just telling my boyfriend that I can’t wait to turn 30. 30 seems like such a sophisticated and powerful age. That’s the age when you’ve got your shit together, and know what you want (or what you don’t want, which is a dumb boy who can’t keep up). Let’s not forget, it gives you a lot more credibility when you’re no longer in your 20s. In my mind, being in your 30s means that you still remember how to have fun, but you’re no longer willing to risk killing yourself doing it. The fear factor for me is losing a year without being conscious of it.

Going back to that day at work, I was frozen in the spot when I realized that I couldn’t be sure of my age. I did the one thing I could think of, which is to count the years from the time I was born, except in my state of panic, I had forgotten to factor in my birthday month (which is in the fall) and thought I was a year older. I was seized with panic because I thought I had lost a year. Did I mention that I’m also really bad with numbers? It comes and goes. When I realized the mistake, I calmed down. I told Seth when I got home this ridiculous story, and he reminded me that after a birthday, you would be in your next birthday year. For example, I’ve established that I am 28, so ever since my 28th birthday, I have been on my 29th year. Oh. My. God. While I was in shock at this realization, Seth said: if you think about it, birthdays are celebrated because of how you managed to stay alive for another year. There are so many uncontrollable factors everyday that can take away a life. Birthdays are really a way to say: good for you for making it this far!

Too often we’re obsessed with getting closer to death, but have you ever thought that you should be congratulated for living another year? I think I have a new appreciation for birthdays.


The Trouble with Overthinking

Who knew my next post would come so soon?

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about combining my design background with paper cutting by making paper dolls. Remember those? I played with those back in the day, even though I had 3-D Barbie dolls. I think the attraction laid in the details of the dress and faces of paper dolls. The downside was that the disproportionally large head made the neck extra frail and it wasn’t long before the dolls tattered.

ImageNot unlike what I had as a kid

I did some research on dolls today, cloth and paper, and found that there is still a huge demand for them, mostly for women in generation who remember playing with actual dolls, not digital ones on an iPad. I’m not a seamstress, but I’d love to design little paper dresses, give each doll a name, and maybe write brief stories about them. That would take care of my three loves: fashion, craft, and writing. When I sat down to do actual sketches, however, the sociological concerns surfaced and I found myself asking what kind of doll would be a good example for little girls? Everyone seems to be in favour of the doe-eyed, sweet, maybe creepy, dolls, and that was my first instinct. But what would I be projecting? Would making blushing, silent beauties be another way of imposing the image of the ideal woman someone who is only known for her looks and submissive behaviour? Is it still my social responsibility to create a more balanced view of a woman if these dolls would be targeted at women in their 20s and 30s?


photo from greasepuppy

Despite the progress women have made in the past decade or so in battling with repression and gender inequalities, why do we keep going back to playing with dolls, cosmetic enhancements, using sexuality to gain success, camera-whoring online, and the undying notion of marrying for money (or NOT marrying for NO money)?

I’m getting a little off topic. I love dolls, and even though I am all for being financially independent and not having kids because I feel like I have to, I also appreciate chivalry. It IS nice to have someone with a good pair of shoulders that you can depend on when things get rough. So maybe, I’m looking at the situation too monochromatically. The women movement should be about knowing what you want and not apologizing for it, no matter what it is.

We shall see what kind of ideal woman will be reflected in my dolls.

ps. How would I even draw a face that reflects a strong personality, intelligence, and passions besides creating the perfect ensemble?

Snow Storm Day (not yet, really)

School is canceled today, but the weather seems like it would’ve been manageable. My boyfriend still went in to work, poor, cold thing.

Today is Chinese Lunar New Year’s Eve. In all honesty, I’ve spent the last four years or so thinking family is cumbersome and only leads to stress. Why do you think I moved across an entire ocean? I think starting from last Summer was really when I started to appreciate family and really miss having people around. No one forces me to call home anymore. I have no relatives in the city, which really hits me around the holidays. I’ve sort of inherited family from my boyfriend, and it’s been really nice, but it’s not the same, is it? It’s really sweet how they’ve made such an effort to include me, and I feel lucky that I get along with them as well as I do because that’s not always the case. But inherited family is kind of like learning 33 years of tradition in one sitting. There’s a significant difference between choosing one’s family and being forced into one. Well, I wouldn’t say that I chose what his family would be like. Actually, I chose him and his interests, so everything is related, anyway. I probably have more things in common with his family than my relatives in Taiwan, and I would guess that I’ve spent the same amount of time with my cousins and his parents. So really, what is it about blood relations that makes me feel closer to them? Is it the idea of lost time, since I’ve been living overseas most of my life? Is it easier for me to relate to my cousins because we stem from the same cultural background, and that my relationship to Taiwanese culture is from my parents, so there’s that hominess? I have this unconditional love for these people that I’ve only started to assertively keep in touch with, and my cynicism thinks it’s nothing short of a miracle.

I’m an only child, so I wonder what my later years will be like. There’s only the three of us in my family, so we don’t have the numbers to really uphold traditions, not that my parents are very traditional, anyway. I wanted to start a tradition of our own for Christmas, but I was in Taiwan this year for my cousin’s wedding, and my grandparents’ 60th anniversary (see why I’m getting so sentimental?) I have decided to start up something for New Year’s. Today, I will do a bit of cleaning, such as get my clothes off the dresser, and organize my office somehow. My plan to cook a lavish Chinese dinner has been put on hold because who wants to shop in this weather? Instead, we’ll be having steak (not too shabby), and then making Chinese paper dolls to spice up our home. Of course, what kind of lazy blogger would I be if I don’t promise photos?

I’m in media studies, but am still afraid of the internet sometimes

Call me chicken, if you like, but I have issues with commitment, committing to the internet, that is. It has been a 14-year relationship, and I’ve managed to stay at arms length. I remember the day we met like it was yesterday; my friend came over, cheeks flushed and excited, and started to introduce me to the wonders of ICQ. “It’s like e-mail, but in real time!” It all sounded so foreign to me. What was real time? Did I really need someone to reply to a message right away? Why do I need to talk to my friend online when she was right beside me? But, dear internet, once I started with instant messaging, I was hooked. In a way, I think it made my high school years even more interesting. Think of all the secrets we could now keep, the gossip we could spread at a much faster pace, and the people stalking we could do. My first boyfriend asked me out over cyberspace, and the words on the screen allowed the sensation to linger for as long as I wanted. It is also because of how we’re able to control the rhythm of a conversation, and the power of editing that real emotions got watered down.

As you upgraded, so did we, and it wasn’t long before people started building networks and blogs so that we were communicating with a big group of people instead of one at a time. Our lives are now as public as can be, and allow for different personalities to take on. We are no longer only concerned about how we are representing ourselves in the streets, at work, or at school; the online community can be just as judgmental, if not more so. The difference now is that the criticisms follow us home. We have so much access to our friends that when they don’t respond right away, we automatically think its intentional.

I’ve gone from ICQ to MSN, from Friendster to Facebook, from Xanga to Blogspot, and now WordPress. I’ve done my fair bit of juggling, but I’ve always been faithful to the idea of online communication. It’s strange that someone with so few words in person has so much to say online. Actually, it’s not that strange. I love how the extra medium it takes to communicate frees the flow of my speech. That is the main reason I’m drawn to you. I’m sorry I’ve neglected you in the past. I got scared because I felt like I was sharing too much. You used to drop me like a hot potato too whenever someone called, remember? I wanted to pull my hair out sometimes, but you’ve shown improvement, and now I can’t imagine life without you. And now, with my dream career about to take off, I want to show you my commitment by buying a domain. But, there’s that trust issue again and I can’t seem to take the next step, afraid of getting burned. Advertisers are more than willing to persuade and support me, whether it is to own web space or purchase from an online vendor like Etsy. I only ask that you don’t give up on me. I will get there one day.

Deciphering Dreams & Ex-relationships

photo by sara b. and no one

The ol’ ball n’ chain says I should nurture my hobbies more and stop trying to distract him while he watches the last few games of football, so here I am. Speaking of balls, there was an ad on the subway a month ago for the TV show, Modern Family, where it featured one of the main characters talking about her life with the old BALLS and chain. Granted, the show is of a satirical nature and often makes fun of itself, but there is still the suspicion that it was a slip, and unintentional. On the other hand, I guess that saying could ring true for a young hot thing married to an wrinkly, old slob.

Enough of that introduction, let me talk about my weird dreams. Like most people, I’m guessing, I often have the same dreams over and over again. Well, they’re not entirely identical, but the setting isn’t far off. For a long time, I kept dreaming about getting lost in a huge mansion and having people coming after me. On the occasions where they do find me, nothing happens. What I mean is, these people don’t attack or try to kill me. I know that dreams often reflect our experiences and emotions during the day, and I often wondered if those haunting labyrinths were trying to tell me that I think my life is going nowhere, and that the people who are coming after me resembles the stress of the situation. I think I’ve stopped having this dream a few months after I moved to Japan.

Recently, I find that most of my dreams follow one of these scenarios; I am either getting yelled at by my mom, back in Japan teaching English again and have forgotten where everything is/ I’m back in my old Kyoto apartment but the electricity isn’t working because they’ve rented the place out to someone else, or it’s the last few days of my time in Taiwan and I’m on a mad dash to do everything that I’ve wanted to do before leaving. And then there are dreams about ex-boyfriends. They always start off well, either we’re back together, or we’re trying to be friends. Slowly, the relationship disintegrates while old problems resurface and I just want to go back being broken up. Does that ever happen to you? I don’t even know if I should be reading into those dreams. It’s usually the same two guys. One of them really hurt me, and the other I really hurt. Although I’m not in love with them anymore, maybe those two relationships have impacted me so much that it’s hard not to think about it when I’m letting my guard down as I sleep. I don’t think we ever really say good-bye to past relationships. They get blurry and biased, maybe stowed away in the corner, but it’s no use forgetting they ever happened. And when it comes down to it, they’ve taught me how to do it right this time.

Sometimes the best part of a trip is going home.

I won’t bore you with every detail of our trip. In broad terms, I really enjoyed the cultural activities (like, the Museum of Natural History, Museum of Civilization, the National Art Gallery), but wasn’t as interested in the rest of the city that I saw. The streets were pretty much what one would expect from any  Canadian city. Some of the buildings were quite exquisite, like the Parliament buildings, and both of the museums.

Did I mention that I forgot to bring my contacts?  If the best part of the trip was the Natural History, the worst part was wandering downtown, encased by concrete in 34 degrees celsius with poorly hinged glasses that continually tried to slip off my nose.

The one-hour pane ride felt like an unnecessary luxury, but an appreciated one just the same. It certainly beats spending the five hours it would have taken on the road. I’ve been watching a marathon of Sex and the City, and although die-hard fans have warned me about how shoddy the new movie is, I still want to see it. It’s just something I have to do. I now have seen up to 30-40min of Sex and the City 2, in between passenger announcements, the safety video, sleep, and a freakishly long pre-movie commercial I couldn’t skip over. And I have to agree with my peers. The film seems to be riding on pure glamour and beautiful clothes, with flimsy bits of relationship “situations” stuck here and there in a predictable, and tacky, pattern. It… bored me. But by no means will that stop me from finishing the movie. I will soldier on on hopes of something exciting happening by the closing credits.

All in all, it was a good trip, but we were even more glad to be home. It was like a vacation from our travels, which we needed. Being away made us appreciate living in Toronto, and in our quaint neighborhood. Sleeping in my own bed was pretty awesome, too.

Missing Japan

A few years ago, I had the good fortune of going on the JET Program to teach English in Japan. I lived in a small town in Shiga (滋賀) called Takatsuki (高月). After about a year, I decided to leave the gorgeous little town with its empty streets ideal for bike riding through peaceful rice fields, and move to a city where the last train was much later than 9PM, Kyoto. That year and-a-half was not what I expected. It was still full of exciting adventures and each day offered new challenges, but my first year in Japan in the country-side was still the most vivid, much like a first love, unshakably hard to forget. Perhaps because it contained memories of a lot of “firsts”, the most prominent being the first time living on my own which I tried to take full advantage of.

I had a dream last night about the first junior high school I worked at in Japan. In my dream, all the second-year teachers were crowded around me, gossiping about something I can’t remember. One of them was Mr. Soga, a guy a year younger than me whom I taught with the most frequently and had a desk right beside mine. Single, quiet, and an older brother to two, his superior English and age inevitably made him my confidant. He was a typically reserved Japanese man who spent his weekends in pachinko parlours, which were gaudy and noisy places businessmen, and women, frequented to play metal ball machines (aka Plinko?) for money, much like the mind-numbing effects of a slot machine.

image taken from Wikimedia

Our relationship was on a strong foundation that could be explained by how we addressed each other: him, by last name, and me, by my first. I had no qualms in sharing practically every detail of my life, which he would respond to most genuinely, but never shared much about himself outside of the office.

Soga was taller than most Japanese men, and had handsome features: large eyes, prominent nose, dark skin, the works. He was nice to look at, but beneath what would’ve been the window to his soul was emptiness. His stare was always a little placid, and made him an interesting subject for psychoanalysis and set a framework on understanding all other Japanese men I encountered thereon.

I moved to Japan in the fall of ’06. I remember receiving the phone call that changed the course of my life when I was shopping with my dad at Rona, a hardware store. I had a month to pack up my bags and say good-bye to my family, friends and my then-boyfriend, who was suspicious of the survival rate of a long-distance relationship. I didn’t feel unprepared, after all, I thought I knew all that I could about its culture through the language I had invested four years majoring in. I was so wrong. It was as if all this time I had been reading a fairy-tale version of this foreign country, and at other times, the reality of Japan was more surreal than anything I had ever imagined.