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La La Land

“I am very moved by the idea that you can meet someone in your life who transforms you and sets you onto a path that is going to finally enable you to be the person you dreamed of being, but ultimately, you need to go on that path alone”, says Chazelle. “You can have a union that winds up dictating the rest of your life but doesn’t last the rest of your life. I found that incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking and wondrous. At its soul, I want that movie to be about that.”

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Plot

While navigating their careers in Los Angeles, a pianist and an actress fall in love while attempting to reconcile their aspirations for the future.


One of the best movies I’ve seen in recent years is “La La Land” directed by Damien Chazelle. In it, Mia — a struggling actress meets Sebastian — a struggling jazz musician, as they grapple with reaching their dreams. Mia and Sebastian, are at odds with their two selves, the actor and musician who must make sacrifices in their relationship to find what they long in life. Mia’s first stage play is a disaster, but Sebastian urges her to follow her dreams and not let this setback sway her from continuing forward. Sebastian finds success in a new pop-oriented jazz band, but must give up his roots — classic jazz vs. post modernist — and in the process, missed Mia’s first stage performance.

Mia and Sebastian go their separate ways, but years later, find the success they dreamed for while they met. Their lives intersect again one evening. Mia — now a famous Hollywood actress married to another man, unknowingly goes to Sebastian’s jazz club. She sits in the audience and Sebastian sees her from the stage. They share a moment and the movie cuts to a montage of the life they could of had if they were still together. It’s bittersweet and subverts your expectations of the traditional feel-good Hollywood ending. It’s anti-Disney live happily-ever after. I loved it.


Love vs. Your Dreams

At one point, Mia and Sebastian live together — in love. Ultimately, they separate knowing they will never reach their dreams if they are together. They are motivated by themselves to push forward and travel the journey of life alone without their partner. It’s the reality of being in a relationship, it ties you down. Commitments now impact your ability to find personal fulfillment later on. Do you chose love or yourself? Love blinds you, but taking the road less traveled, must be by yourself. Never give up on your own dreams for others and you may have to leave the person you love to reach it. It’s ultimately what you want that makes the most significant impact in your life and the need for fulfillment. Sacrifices need to be made.

Duality of Self

In the opening scene, Sebastian is seen in the reflection of his rear view mirror. Mia is seen playing a role for a movie as she is stuck in traffic. She has many selves — the movie roles she portrays. You see them day-dream — an allusion to the city of Los Angeles — also called La La land.

To Be Selfish

Both characters move on with their partners in pursuit of their dreams. For Mia, its a successful movie actress, while Sebastian wishes to open a classic jazz bar. They must forgo their own love for each other and the relationship they once shared. Sebastian in one scene realizes he will not be present in Mia’s show in order to meet the needs of his jazz group and the pressures his new found fame brings. They put themselves first, yet are aware of the strain it puts on their relationship.

Love is One Of Many

La La Land’s ending shows that Mia and Sebastian’s love is another step in the ladder. While at one point they are in love, they do not end up together. Love is dynamic and used as a motivator for each character. Mia is motivated to continue being an actress by Sebastian, while Mia tells Sebastian is losing himself being in a band he does not like. They help each other and support their dreams. While their relationship does not develop further, they use it to better themselves. It’s a learning process whether or not they’ve broken up. In that regard, there is really no end, but it where it sends them.

Personally, I can relate to this a great deal. My last girl friend motivated me to be more ambitious and even landed my first job because of her. I learned to cook due to her insistence and I love making new dishes to this day. My girl friend before her, told me to not give up and keep trying even in hard times. I would not have known I did not have my life together if it weren’t for her. Subsequently, I got the best grades of my life after her and I don’t call that coincidence. Everyone you’re with supports you and is another lesson in life. The relationship may be gone, but new habits develop and remain. I am who I am now because of my “failed” relationships.

 

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To Love & Be Loved

This is my Grandma in the kitchen. I’m always amazed at her love and affection. The kitchen and cooking is all she really knows. She grew up in the countryside in China without any formal education all her life. She loves to cook and is excited I’m here to eat with her. Words cannot express my love and gratitude for her.

Her reality is different. She’s very superstitious, is vocal about her beliefs, and misses everyone. Growing up, I knew she had a lot of joy cooking breakfast for me or the celebratory dinners she single handedly made for Chinese New Year. She wishes we all can come together more often, but everyone lives separate lives with their busy schedules.

She usually listens to no one except me. She repeats herself constantly, but she just likes talking as much as I do. She gets shorter every year and her hair gets grey. I can say I get my skinny body from her. She’s in her 70s and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. She rambles on and on about the good old days — reminiscing about the simpler times when I was just five and her only concern was if I was fed. I’ll never forget that about her and hope I never will.

I missed her then and I miss her now. Sometimes all it takes for someone to come out of their shell is just a visit — one I’ve been needing to do the past few months. To love and be loved is one of the best feelings there is. Knowing she’s around and has been such a fixture in my upbringing makes all the troubles life carries disappear. I’ve stopped to smell the roses. She is my grandma and I love her.

I’m killing it with the new Grandma slippers. Coming soon to a Saks near you.

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Death Comes Knocking

Today, I came home from work to some hard news. My “Grandpa” from my mom’s side of the family passed away…

He was in his 90s, always told me to work hard, make money, and buy a nice car — something every Chinese family says is a measure of success. I knew him all my life since I could remember. He always had the nicest things to say about me regardless of how I was doing — impressed even. I’m a little shocked by the sudden news.

I’ve noticed when you’re a child, your family tends to shield you away from someone’s passing. As you become older, you hear about it more and more — making an impact to your year. I suppose by that reason, I don’t deal with losing family members too well. My mom is sad. I am sad. We’re all a little sad. Death comes knocking.

I’ll never forget the last time I saw him. It was a Saturday. He came over and sat across from me. Asked me what I did for work. I told him marketing and he enthusiastically replied, “Marketing? There’s a a lot of money to be made doing that.” Indeed, there is. He was a good man.

It’s a cruel world we live in. You really don’t miss them until they’re dead and gone.

Throughout life, you go on living missing those you wish you saw once more. It’s a reminder just how short life is and how precious the time we do have is. It grounds you. Gives you urgency. It’s motivation. Nevertheless, a very sad and tragic one at best.

I often wonder who’s next. If I had the ability to see into the future, would I spend more time for them knowing their fate? Would I change anything about myself now to appease them? Would it soften the blow of having to say goodbye? Life is a journey afterall. People come and people go. Sometimes you’re not ready to say goodbye.

Later world.

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Searchlight for One

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Happiness has been elusive this time of the year — more so than any other year I can recall in recent memory. This maybe due to my constant drinking and smoking in previous years that acted to numb my thoughts — go figure. I made a few lifestyle changes with the recommendations from my friends.

  • no longer eat out most of the week
    • This bums me out immensely. I like eating at restaurants. I haven’t had anything fried, greasy, or Mexican food (my absolute favorite) all week. I feel great and have more energy. I’m saving a ton of money — which is nice.
  • less caffeine
    • I drink a ton of coffee. I usually have one in the morning, several cups of tea in the afternoon, and some days, another coffee when I work late. Yikes, I know.
  • to be by myself
    • My friends and I have this group chat going on for several years now. I don’t think there has been a day where we didn’t text each other if that seems amazing. I care for all of them and wouldn’t hesitate to jump in front of car or take a bullet for anyone, but its time I went offline. I need time for myself and only I can find the light at the end of the tunnel. They don’t have the best habits and can’t possibly know what’s best 100% of the time. It’s just the truth.
  • no outside help a.k.a. cheating
    • I stopped taking my pills and refused to pickup my medication at the local CVS. I did pay for a visit to my doctor; that’s money wasted, but I’ve come to realize I need to quit while I’m ahead. I risk falling into the rabbit hole and another hard set back. My friend (in all his words of wisdom) suggested I pick it up and sell them for profit. Ha. No, motherfucker. This goes back to my previous point, I do need to be alone from everyone. If my motivation to just quit cold turkey and go through withdrawals isn’t a testament to my will, I don’t know what is.
  • worry less about finishing the goal
    • I reached most my goals this year and felt only a momentary happiness. I’m so caught up at reaching the finish line, I forget it’s not about the end, but what I do to reach there. I’ll have to remain mindful and not let my ambition get the better of me. I’ve made a few new goals for next year:
      • pay off my entire student loan by Q1 2019
        • It’s not a lot — if you consider less than $8K “not that much”. I’ll make one large payment and get rid of this gentle reminder of my time at Santa Barbara once and for all. Let go of the past.

As the year winds down and things at my office finally start slowing down, I’m hopeful for the new year to be even better than this one. I’m ready to go up and up. Just try and stop me.

Later world.

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She Lights Up the Room

Miss Future Heartbreaker👧🏻

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Growing Discontentment

discontentment: lack of satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation; lack of contentment.
a) a sense of grievance; dissatisfaction
the winter of our discontent —William Shakespeare
b) restless aspiration for improvement

I’ll call it byproduct of growing older, but nothing seems all that interesting — it’s a little disheartening. I should be excited about life, but I’m not. Discontent. Has abstaining from drugs and alcohol devoid me of any excitement? Shit. Maybe. I’m about to make this company somewhere between 1-3 million dollars a year and I get 3% commission from all online sales. It’s safe to say I’m stuck here for the forseeable future as e-commerce director. Who would complain with sales projections that high? Nada.

I should be thrilled my paycheck is growing in the coming months, but I’m indifferent. Remember what Biggie said, “More money mo’ problems.” Amen to that. It’s true though. The more money you make, the more problems you face. Life is infinitely more complex when there’s more money in the picture. It can only make you so much happiness before it loses its touch. Money stopped making me happy years ago. Now it’s just that number in the five digit range listed under “Savings”. At this rate, I’ll have my own condo in Pasadena in no time. It would be really sexy to tell someone I’m seeing, “Yeah, I bought this place.” That’s the whole idea in a nutshell. Do well enough and show it to someone who may be the future spouse. It’s convoluted, but a man can only go so far with dates and gifts. You’ll need that final push to really win her over — if there is such a thing.

That’s exciting to think about, but with all goals, it’s a bitter sweet feeling. It’s exciting for the anticipation, but bitter sweet having it come to an end. All goals are within reach and if you obsess over them long enough, you’ll find some way to make them reality. It’s not everyday you wake up suddenly and want to buy a condo or a nicer car and as a millennial. Do what makes you happy and full of purpose. Without the motivating drive in life, what is there to living? Self-achievement can’t be overlooked and we must all have our own self-driven goals in mind. Love comes naturally, but determination is self-taught.

Just this week, I’m prepared to spend to the tune of $5000 on laser eye surgery. To be honest, I wanted this done since before high school but never had the means to — until now. I’ve been told by past girl friends I look much better without glasses and I would have to agree. Looks aside, it’s convenient not having to look for them blind as a bat every morning. Is this convenience worth five grand? Maybe, but it’s a special treat for myself. And a permanent one at that. It’s life changing and I can’t wait to get it done next month.

There’s the question about fixing my teeth. My dentist said they’re not even that bad and he assured me he’s seen some bad teeth in his day. All I need is a few cavities fixed, two wisdom teeth pulled, a bleaching, and I’m all set for Invisalign or SmileDirectClub. Once I get them in, in just 6 months of mild discomfort, my teeth will be perfectly straight. It’s shocking to see insurance cover all of this. Just incredible. This will make me vain, but I could care less about someone else’s opinion. I’ll soon fix what made me self-conscious and with that, I’ll become gain a bit more confidence in my appearance. Worst case scenario, I morph into a (bigger) asshole and have my ego take over, but I’ll have my friends to stop me.

I do splurge and on big purchases — and this is somewhat a problem. You inevitably make money to spend money. It’s the lifestyle creep that money brings. I would consider this my downfall — or something I need to work on. Priorities. Did I really need a new fully spec’d out MacBook Pro for work? Arguably, no. Windows is terrible. The keyboard given to me in the office is just awful and makes too many typos. My productivity is at an all time high now and no one can complain about that. Price for better productivity is just a cool $2100. Designer case not included.

The worst part of my week so far is forgetting I already bought new clothes that are on the way and I went and bought another set. Fuck. Me. Did I really need 3 new shirts from J. Crew? Hell no. Did I really need a Kenzo sweater and a Yohji Yamamoto t-shirt? Fuck. No. I can almost hear my friends now, “Must be good being that baller.” Say what they will, I’m trying hard to have a better life for myself. If they only knew how awful it was growing up as poor as my family did. If they only could see the terrible living situation I endured as a kid. I’m getting closer every year — or every day, but so is my discontentment. It’s growing and I hate how I can’t just be content with myself. I have all the fruits of my labor and it’s all within reach. It’s a terrible feeling to know how fortunate you have it, but not feel satisfied. Perhaps there’s more to it and the void is sucking me in closer than I realize.

Later world.

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My Other Family

My aunt, uncle, and cousins from Peru moved here recently to start a new life. They’re a bit eccentric, but I’ll pass that off as differences in culture more than anything. Oh wait, but there’s more. My aunt, uncle, and cousin from China arrived here yesterday night. Just like that, my extended family grew by 5 and 3 respectively. It’s a lot to take in and all so suddenly.

My cousin Diana (it’s not really her English name but that’s a good approximation) looks so much like me. It’s scary, but that’s to be expected. It’s exactly like that episode of The Rugrats where Tommy meets his extended family from the countryside.

All my life, I’ve only known my dad’s side of the family. My beloved grandpa and grandma, aunts and uncles are from his side. I’ve never really gave it much thought as a kid — it’s just how it was for the longest time. And I’m fine with that. They are as they’ve always been, the family I love.

Just like that, it’s all different now. Call me surprised. I’m frankly not sure how to react. Should I be excited? Happy and overjoyed? I understand we’re all blood related, but I don’t know a thing about them. Language is also an issue since my Chinese is passable at best. They went from the rural countryside to the suburbs of San Gabriel Valley. Go figure. We all live blocks away from each other so they’ll be around a whole lot. From the chats I’ve had, they’ve made it abundantly clear I’m the black sheep of the family, but I am what I am. Guess I’m subverting everyone’s expectations a bit more than they expected. I mean, I grew up here all my life. What did you really expect? Everyone thinks I’m hilarious, which is nice to hear.

Questions I’ve been asked repeatedly:

  • Why do you wear earrings?
  • What’s that necklace for?
  • Why are you so tan?
  • Are you seeing anyone?
  • Do you remember *insert random family I met as a child and obviously do not remember*?

One of best aspects of getting older is gaining new perspectives. I’m wiser and more welcoming to other outlooks. It’s a very good thing. With the additions to my family, it all kind of makes sense why my mom is the way she is. Bitter. Cold. Withdrawn. She gave up all her family to move here with my dad. When her relationship with him and everyone took a turn for the worst, I can only assume it made her very unhappy and depressed — trapped even. For that, I’ll give her a pass for being just awful and terrible for all these years. I get it now. And fuck me for suddenly realizing.

She seems a lot happier and talkative — more so than any other month or year even. Does this excuse her for being an absent mother? Nope, never. If my former years of being a Christian were anything, I’ll learn to forgive her and forget it happened. My beloved grandpa use to tell me repeatedly, “You’re stuck with them forever. Might as well try to get along or at least fake it.” With that, life is too short to go on being bitter even just a little bit. Even my mom is making a turn for the better. Guess I needed this since we all deserve to be happy.

Later world.

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Two-Faced

We are constantly in battle with our two selves — the light and the dark. Good and evil. The angel on one end and the devil on the other. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I know this to be true because we have all done wrong at one point. Evil is a necessary force driving reality. We strive to be more good than bad — however intrinsically true that may be. Most only show one side of themselves — think of Facebook as the best example. It’s essentially your friend’s greatest hits in digitally digestible form. We forget they only show the best of them and it’s far from a true representation of their real lives.

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The greatest evil one faces is the battle you and yourself. Who am I? I can pinpoint various states of myself. One year I was this person, a studious, and hard working individual. Another, I was reckless, disillusioned, and overcome with fear of the looming end that awaited — that feeling of emptiness lurking within. My co-workers know this to be true. They hear of the old self and wonder how this person is presented in front of them — a real far cry from the past. This isn’t without its consequences.

There’s who I am now battling against who I once was — its a state of constant unrest in the mind. Perhaps many sleepless nights and states of insomnia can be attributed to this dilemma. Only you can chose who you are, yet the old self is hard to let go, but not invincible. You can be anything you want to be, but for some it’s,

“I’ll be anything you want me to be.”

It begs the question, “Am I how I am now because I want to be or of what others think I should be?” Issues of self identity are constantly on the horizon. To make a name for yourself and to be somebody now rather than later is important. It makes the mundane have purpose as every action is now purposeful and with merit.

I wear many masks. Some more than others.

Later world.