I was basically raised by television, and it seemed like every show I watched growing up was about the importance of friendship: Golden Girls, Power Rangers, Sailor Moon, Friends, Seinfeld, the list goes on.
And in every single one of these shows, we were taught that friendship was all that’s needed in our lives. We don’t need fancy jobs or fluffy retirement accounts, because our friends will always be there for us. We should also go out of our ways to help our friends, because at the end friendship is the only thing we need in this world. That and maybe a bottle of Coca-Cola.
But the problem with learning from television is that none of these shows really prepare you for what happens when friendships end and how to carry on after that. Instead everything is just summed up into 30-minute self-contained storylines, and life is anything but that. This week, a three-part exploratory thought process on my struggle in making friends, my fear in being left behind, and my reluctance to carrying my own life forward.
A couple months ago I spent a weekend disconnecting from my otherwise turbulent life at Mavericks, California. I was at the beach by Pillar Point on a late afternoon just after it stopped raining. The clouds were clearing away, the sky was opening up, and the view to the Pacific Ocean was simply breathtaking. There were some people walking out and climbing up toward a vantage point so I followed them.
Curiosity soon turned into self-doubt when I noticed how slippery the rocks were, and that I was only wearing this cheap pair of slip-ons from Old Navy. I clumsily worked my way up, eventually to this spot where I would have to climb my way down and across a 4-foot wide pocket in order to get to where the vantage point was.
There were about five other people where I was. Some held the same initial hesitation as me, but all of them tried their way and eventually made it across. Meanwhile I just stood there for the longest time, because I was scared and more importantly frustrated at how useless I felt, unable to do something literally everyone else around me managed to do.
Then this guy showed up. He couldn’t have been much older than 25. He was wearing this preppy navy sweater and a nice pair of shorts, not unlike a model you’d find in a J.Crew catalog. He looked down toward the pocket for a second and just jumped from my side to the other. He just… did it.
In classic fairytales, the princess would meet the prince, and through overcoming evil or learning an important life lesson, they would live happily ever after. They’d never have to worry about filing taxes on time, dealing with severe droughts, or even the potential hidden danger of consuming genetically-modified soybeans.
My coming out process was supposed to be the story. In a conservative Chinese family, the protagonist realized the value of truth and self-worth, and risked everything to be himself. Fueled by cultural differences, there was a dramatic clash with his parents but through the power of love, everyone came together, saw past their differences, and learned a valuable life lesson. And like the end of every fairytale, having gone through everything I’m supposed to end up with this new found confidence and everything else in my life should fall neatly into place, including my very own happily ever after ending!
But as it turns out, coming out the closet was only the prologue to my story. TL;DR — I’m a friggin’ homo, now what? Turns out, being a gay man is a lot more than just being attracted to your own gender. If only.
It was January 29th, and the year was 1999. I was sixteen at the time, and there was a giant “Publish” button staring at me. My heart was jumping out of my chest, so I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, clicked the button, and exhale. Within a minute my website went live, along with my first online journal entry.
“…I was very mad throughout the day until I went to a supermarket, and saw 2 really (really) good looking men, European accent, WOW! My mood changed sooo fast!!” it read.
Poorly written and embarrasingly hormonal, but just like that, I finally came out to myself — I’m gay.
Years later I found myself feeling the same way, this time with the Ingredients of Fear. The idea of opening up to talking about my darkest fears is a powerful one, but the actual process of doing so is also incredibly scary and probably really dumb. So there I was, with the giant “Publish” button back and staring right in front of me, daring me to click on it…
I’ve always loved a perfectly new notebook, ripped with the scent of freshly-cut pages. I especially love the way a new notebook always starts with a blank canvass, ready for someone to dive in and start writing in his or her new masterpiece at a moment’s notice.
I have a lot of these notebooks. Probably no less than a dozen, many of them still have their plastic wrappers around them. Yet the only task they’ve had so far was to sit on my work desk, collecting dust as time goes by.
It’s not that I don’t have anything to write, because I certainly have plenty to say. But when push comes to shove and when my pen is about hit the pages — I back out. I don’t want to ruin this perfectly new notebook with my subpar handwriting, ya know?
Ever since my family emigrated to the US when I was ten, I’ve been trained to be constantly on the move. From going to middle school on the opposite side of the city, to college in Rochester, to working in Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, I’d find myself in a different part of the world every few years. I always looked so restless from the outside looking in, like those people who would rush to the front of the plane the second it hit the tarmac. Yeah, I hate them too.
The good thing about moving so often is that you get to hit the big red reset button every single time to restart your life. Like a witness protection program I’m sent to a different city again and again, every time with the opportunity to be anyone I want to be.
But growing up as a nomad also created this mindset that I could just pack up and evict myself every time an opportunity knocked at my door, even when that opportunity was really an excuse for me to take the easier way out.
I’ve changed jobs, wiped my computers, changed my email addresses, and even moved to the other side of the world just so I could look away from the face of fear. Instead of dealing with my problems head on, I’d just run away and try to restart my life over with a clean slate.
I’ve always been the baby: always the youngest in my family, in my class, and always, always the inexperienced newcomer at work.
That is until I woke up one day, looked around, and realized that was no longer the case. At Reddit meetups, at IGN, and basically everywhere I go in San Francisco, I’m consistently the oldest person in the room. My go-to ’90s references are getting outdated by the minute — who the hell is Danny Tanner?
The scariest part of being an adult isn’t the fact that you’re getting old, but this realization that you still have so much fear living inside you. Things that you’ve been afraid of your whole life, and things you’ve been meaning to work on but haven’t because you think you still have time to improve. You’ve arrived at the infamous sink or swim moment, only to realize you were too afraid of drowning so you never learned how to swim.