Hi from Sebastopol, where I am buying overpriced groceries from bulk bins at the artisanal co-op, stomping in rain puddles at apple farms, and drinking Bi Luo Chun at the local spiritual-coded haunt surrounded by patterned tapestries, various pan-Asian tea paraphernalia, and a distinct lack of people of color, all of which are good indicators that I am in a peak hippie town. Tomorrow, I will head to Harbin for a healthy hot springs soak, continuing my quest to relive even a whisper of the former glory days when I was a 10-minute drive from a dirt-cheap, naturally-fed onsen at any given moment, then eat wellness food that brooch-wearing white women swoon over and finally force myself to learn what “ayurvedic” means. I’m coasting on the high of discovering that I’m a glutton for physical affection (goodbye lifelong shyness around unsolicited hugs), the deliciously nourishing cuddles that have followed (goodbye cringing at the word “cuddle”), and the bittersweet gratitude of snail-mailing an old friend this news when I wish he was here in person so I could tell him whilst holding both his hands in mine and sitting cross-legged across from one another in my living room.
More and more, I structure my life around collecting novel experiences: good, bad, euphoric, disquieting, depressive, uncomfortable, wacky, common, real. Doesn’t much matter what it is, as long as it’s authentic and teaches me something. This makes me high openness, amenable to abetting crime, and someone who says “yes” more than they strictly should.
I’m pretty sure I’m unmuggable, even though there is no rational basis for this assumption. I just sort of feel it, and thus far it’s held, so I’m not changing my mind any time soon.
On paper, I know that I am actually a prime target for attack, and that there are actually a plethora of market forces that make robbery semi-appealing. To the first point, I am small and weak and carry paper money lest I crave a pineapple bun from the local cash-only Chinese bakery and find myself unable to procure one. I do not know how to fight and post an 8-minute mile at my fastest. This is to say, on a purely athletic basis, I am not outperforming the average robber. To the second point, I reside in San Francisco, a city synonymous with the ubiquity of petty crime (though I firmly reject this association, likely due to my imperviousness to experiencing it), where the go-to "welcome to the neighborhood" gift is getting your car windows smashed in. At any given time, the broader economy is experiencing a minor disaster, probably, and also the world is trending towards collapse, maybe, and thus it follows that a portion of the innumerable people under evolutionarily unfathomable duress will resort to violence.
I have a keloid on my upper left ear. It’s a raised scar the size of an edamame bean, a vestige of an improperly healed piercing that my body responded to by producing a lump of excess collagen. For years, I strategically hid the scar, refusing to put my hair up even during exercise and weaseling out of any physical contact that might enable someone to make the discovery. In secret, I watched YouTube video after YouTube video of home remedies: people tying rubber bands around growths so tightly that they turned black and fell off, dry ice being used to freeze away protrusions, demonstrations of how to clip compression earrings on and off. Hopeful that new accouterments might call attention to other, less damaged parts of my face, I pierced the right side of my nose and glued a diamond to my canine tooth.
It turns out my skill issue isn’t one of competency; it’s one of imagination. I am actually good at doing things. I am merely bad at asserting that I can do more things.
Part of this is a personal branding failure. When you are young and a girl and have a so-so resume and medium IQ, you get points for being helpful and wide-eyed and eager to learn, or chill and low-maintenance and fun. You get fewer points for declaring that you are decidedly, frighteningly competent, or sprinkling grandiose into your self-introduction, or -- gasp -- maintaining that you are smart and worthy to a public audience. It follows that I am well-practiced in traits of the former sphere (non-assuming; bashful; “easy to work with”), and less acquainted with those of the latter (intellectually self-confident; brave in conquest; outwardly covetous).
Residing in the first category is how I learned that I am good at things. I want to be of service, and people want to be served, and that is a sturdy foundation for many relationships. But in addition to being good at getting things done, I would like to be good at choosing the things that are to be done. I am increasingly put off by the idea of letting doubt-fueled or “gosh, I’m lucky to even be here” passivity steer me toward a default state, or accepting objectives assigned by whichever elevated slant of the corporate machine I have decided to tolerate for the time being. I am more interested in boldly identifying what I actually want -- really truly want, want bad enough that it grates to admit -- then proclaiming it, then allowing honesty to force an honest pursuit.
After organizing an event that, to everyone who witnessed it, probably went fine, I had a series of panic attacks. When the majority of my dread-causing responsibilities concluded, I expected to feel relieved, which only made me feel worse when I didn’t, and instead found myself crumpled in a heap next to the entrance of a parking garage, unable to put off dishevelling until arrived at a more suitable location. Frightened by the extent of my inconsolability, I journeyed homeward through a cycle of crying, then fast walking toward transport, then crying again, then sulking on the sidewalk before boarding MUNI.
By the time I made it home, my most prominent desire was to dial 911 and be carted away, but that kinda seemed like a lot, so I instead ate a bowl of microwaved noodles and willed myself in the direction of friends, inspired by all the self-help articles that promise companionship makes you feel better. Aware that I had more “best self”-demanding activity around the corner, the grittier parts of me opted to rally.
Surrounded by revelry, I made it through exactly one hour of friendly banter before deciding that the articles were wrong – I did not feel better – and fleeing toward the nearest shade-providing foliage to begin hyperventilating under. I replicated the earlier cry/walk/cry/transit combo back home, then completed variants of sobbing and pacing in my room, then contemplated losing my mind in the company of an understanding friend. In the absence of one of those, I called the Alameda County crisis hotline, occupied with problems more pressing than taking a moment to locate the SF County counterpart, and talked to a nice man who said smart, gentle things in a soothing and validating way that only hundreds of hours of professional training can teach. I thanked him and meant it truly, then fell into a sticky sleep.