*A quick disclaimer: While I know that my feelings are valid, I would like to acknowledge my privilege. I am grateful every day to be able-bodied. I also acknowledge that I still fit into the traditional clothing size charts, and that my health hasn’t been impacted by my weight. These are all great gifts. I don’t want to gloss over my physical entitlement, but more to focus on my deep-rooted self esteem issues brought on by a stigmatized society, and the transformation of my body over the last year.
The restrictions of quarantine and the trauma of the pandemic affected everyone’s physical and mental health differently. While some people channeled their stress into peloton rides and meal prep, I was on the other end of the spectrum: I spent the last year and a half expanding. Glued to my couch by terror and state-ordered mandates, I numbed my anxiety with wine, and shoved down my feelings with butter on top. I grew from a size medium to an extra large (I don’t use scales, but I believe it to be in the 20-30 pound range.) In retrospect, I knew it was slowly happening, but I didn’t realize to what extent until things started opening up in the world and I was forced to face the reality that only a single pair of pants still fit.
As the promise of actually seeing people again felt tangible, I started melting down. I could no longer ignore the change in my shape. When I should have felt nothing but excitement to finally see my friends and family, instead I was hyper-focused on fear and shame. I worried people would be horrified at how I’d “let myself go.” I was embarrassed that I hadn’t taken better care of myself. I was supremely conscious of losing some imagined competition in my head – one where there was some kind of winner in all of this. Instead of being grateful for the body that had kept me alive and healthy DURING A DEADLY PANDEMIC, I was filled with contempt for it.
On a particularly low therapy call, sitting on a curb sobbing uncontrollably, I said out loud some of the meanest things I’ve ever thought about myself. Things about how disappointing I was and how ugly I felt. After listing out my copious flaws, I started manically detailing how I needed to change my entire lifestyle to get the weight down. Tons of exercise, calorie counting, whatever it took. I would fit into those vintage Levis again from summer 2018. People would think I looked great and admire how I’d handled the pandemic with such discipline and grace. I would force myself to shrink.
My therapist was quiet for a moment, then said something that stopped my racing mind in it’s tracks: “why would you go through so much painstaking effort to lose weight for someone you don’t seem to like very much?”
Holy shit. I didn’t like myself? This was new information.
Welp, we’ve seen the one-year mark of the pandemic come and go, and along with it some other strange milestones. People are celebrating their second quarantine birthdays, sharing vaccine selfies, AND many of us are marking a full year of working remotely. While I’m grateful for the privilege of remaining employed this whole time, it has been a unique challenge and sometimes slog to switch from a job based in offices, sound stages and live events, to working entirely from my tiny bungalow. It was a pretty massive shift, trading out loafers for slippers, film shoots for zoom calls, and team lunches for inhaling leftovers at a laptop.
There’s a lot that I haven’t figured out during this weird era, but I do finally feel like I’m getting the hang of working from home. (which is good since it looks like I’ll be doing it for the next 6 months and a hybrid model after that.) I generally love my job, but after a few (kind of miserable) spells of extreme work burnout in the summer and fall, I started paying attention to what was working and what wasn’t. If everything happening in the world was going to be miserable, I wasn’t going to let how I spend 40 hours a week also be.
Here are some things I’ve applied to establish a better work-from-home-work-life-balance.
About a month ago I stared working on a blog post called “A Perfect Day in Chinatown,” filled with recommendations of things to do, eat, drink and buy in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Los Angeles. This post was in reaction to the way the pandemic had affected this vibrant community, but in light of the larger conversation about AAPI racism in our country, I’m expanding this beyond just Chinatown. I’ve been reading more about what we can do as AAPI allies, and something that keeps coming up is support small businesses, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites.
I grew up in a city extremely lacking in diversity (other than the wonderful Mexican community I had the privilege to grow up around,) and when I moved to Los Angeles my mind was blown by the extreme and wonderful melting pot that it is. There is SO much culture here – and when I say culture I don’t mean museums and fancy restaurants, I mean the manifestation of so many communities from so many different places. I don’t have enough words today to express how much my lens of the world has expanded just from being in my own city, but for today I would like to share some of my favorite Asian-Owned businesses, Chinatown and beyond.
I’d also like to note that my original post featured businesses in Chinatown that were not Chinese owned, and while I love Wax Paper and Howlin’ Rays, it is not lost on me that supporting these white-owned businesses in an Asian neighborhood is it’s own form of subconscious racism and white gentrification that I have contributed to, and something that I am working to be more conscious of. So for my first post of Los Angeles Recommendations, here are some of my favorite AAPI owned businesses in town, and resources to find more.
Welcome to the Heart List – where each month I’ll be sharing things I’m ✨ViBiNg✨ with. This will include things to brighten your day, actionable steps for good causes, wine recs, things to do in LA, inspiring accounts to follow, wish list items, and more!
^ That’s it, that’s kind of the whole point. I obviously would like for you to keep reading, but essentially that headline is the TLDR version of the previously titled article “My Mini-Mantra and Goals for the Semi-New Year.”
And while I’m well aware that Valentine’s has already come and gone, and I’m still over here thinking about “New Year” resolutions, I figure that time doesn’t actually exist anymore, we can agree this is fine. Better not best, the journey not the destination, and all that.
For very obvious reasons, 2021 is off to a different start from any other year we’ve experienced. Staring knowingly down the barrel at what could realistically be another six to ten to twelve months of isolating or at the very least distancing, with the activities from our past lives non-existent, we are required to pivot. With my options limited and emotional bandwidth depleted, I’ve decided to do something with my goals that I’ve never done before…. be realistic. No snowballing, no building ambition upon ambition, not letting perfectionism get the best of me. I’ve got no European adventures to plan or TV shows to pitch, and if 2020 taught us anything, I hope the lasting lesson is to be gentle with ourselves. Sometimes surviving is all that needs to happen.
When setting annual intentions the past, I’ve chosen a single word to channel for each year – balance, clarity, drive. This year instead, I chose a mantra: Small Steps Lead to Big Things, which to say is what I am actually focusing on is consistency. Doing at least one thing, no matter how small, each day, to get me to a different personal elevation by this point next year. Within this mantra I set just a couple more tangible goals…
About 3 months into quarantine, I was in desperate need of a creative outlet. Missing my friends and eager to document this surreal time in our lives, I had the idea to do a socially distanced portrait series. Knowing that there would forever be plenty of photos of ransacked grocery stores and desolate street scenes, I asked my friends to let me photograph them in a more whimsical way. Combining this vision with my need for human contact came the title of the series: Extrovisions.
Here I am, having blown out the candles on another new year, sharing another one of my birthday goal lists. I’m feeling guilty that I’ve posted so little to this blog as of late that last year’s list is still on the front page, but I can at least take some comfort looking down the list and noting all the other things that have kept me busy during 31.
If you’re new to my lineup of intentions, when I was 25 I started compiling a numbered list of annual goals in accordance with how old was turning. They range from micro (learn to do a cartwheel) to macro (sell a book), and tangible (renew my passport) to the more expansive (work on being comfortable being alone.)
Well, it’s time for Mother’s Day, and as you might imagine I’m not in the best mood about it. I’ve been depressed for a minute and couldn’t figure out why until my therapist suggested maybe it was the imminent maternal celebration bumming me out. It immediately made all the crying in the shower this week make sense.
This is year two without her and I gotta tell you, it doesn’t really feel any better. The pain has numbed for sure, but there’s not a day of my life I don’t feel the deep, looming sadness. There’s not a week that goes by without crying. Not a beat of my life that doesn’t result in frustration that she’s not here.
Bad days are made worse because I can’t call her. Happy moments are immediately faded because I can’t tell her about them. It’s having a broken light meter on your mental camera and every shot of your life is just a little bit off, no matter how hard you work.