it's natural to be afraid.

i had to get some baby teeth pulled in the morning. my cousin rich slept over the night before. we were just joking around, and then all of a sudden, i got serious. i told him i was afraid of seeing the dentist. he told me i didn't have to worry, that pretty soon we'd be riding around like batman and robin, and my dad's ford ltd would be the batmobile. that got me laughing again. i forgot all about being afraid, and i slept soundly that night. my dad's ford ltd the batmobile, what a riot!

i remember my dad driving us to the airport in the summer of '91. we were going to the airport to fly to manila. i didn't like flying. once, i got so airsick i had to throw up in a bag. i thought about it and thought about it. it was illogical to be afraid, since i had made the trip twice before. but then i thought, that was when i was a kid. it was different now that i was a little older. i could feel things more. my feelings and emotions had so much more gravity. i sang the church hymnal in my head: be not afraid, i go before you always. i watched planes taking off and landing, and i played that hymnal in my head.

we got on the plane, and i immediately forced myself to sleep. i wanted to sleep through the whole thing, but especially the takeoff, sleep the fear away. minutes later, my dad shook me awake. he told me that he and my mom decided to change seats. i burst into tears, and i yelled at them for waking me up. i had the whole thing planned out! i was in control! in our new seats, i couldn't stop my legs from shaking. it was the most violent shaking i had ever seen, and i couldn't get it to stop. the stewardess gave me a blanket, and my dad scratched my head. i closed my eyes for takeoff. once we were airborne, i turned to my dad, and i had the biggest smile on my face. i said to him, that was it?

my aunt used to own some dogs, lhasa apsos. they started barking at me, and they jumped on my legs. there were probably four or five of them. i just stood there in the middle of the driveway, and i bawled my eyes out.

in the philippines, one of my relatives had half a coconut on the floor. they used it to clean the floor. i saw it, and i cried.

in the seventh grade, my classmate went up on stage to play the piano for the talent show. before he went on, i wished him good luck. he said i could be up there, too, playing guitar, but i wouldn't. because you're a pussy, he said.

my mom used to have prayer groups at our house once or twice a year. there was a big statue of the santa nino, christ child, that she would put on display behind our couch. the statue was like a four foot doll, and it had a porcelain face with long, curly hair. at night, i couldn't leave my bedroom to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. i didn't want to see it in the dark.

my mom also had smaller versions of the santo nino that she put in my bedroom, as well as her own. when i was old enough, i told her i didn't want it in my room anymore. she asked me why, and did it scare me? i told her it did. i once had a dream where our house was on fire, and in the driveway, there stood the santo nino.

i slept in my parents' bedroom on a foldout couch up until the seventh grade. the thought of being able to masturbate openly and at any hour of the night trumped any fears i had about sleeping in my own bedroom.

freshman year of college, i got really high and paranoid. i wanted to go back to my dorm room. i wanted to be a good kid. out on 12th avenue, i powerwalked back to bellarmine. my two buddies made fun of me for walking so fast. he thinks if he walks faster, he'll get more sleep! she called out in the dark.

it gives me the creeps to go inside the rosemont house by myself. my grandpa died there.

my girlfriend wanted to ride all the rides at disneyland. i had never ridden anything before. she kept pushing me and pushing me. frustrated, i called her a bitch. her eyes bulged, and then she went and rode california screamin' by herself. when she found me, i was crying on a park bench. i was twenty-one years old, still afraid of life.

after hurricane katrina, i didn't want to go to new orleans. i'd wake up in the middle of the night and picture myself alone on an airplane. i didn't want to be alone on an airplane. i wanted to just be in bed with my girlfriend.

the first time i got prostatitis, i thought it was all over. i was sitting on a bench in cal anderson park, waiting for my doctor's appointment. i sat there on the bench, and it was a sunny day. what if this is it, i thought. what if i am going to die? i thought about sean reid, a college classmate who died of cancer shortly before graduation. i thought about my instant messenger friend, gabby, who told me once that she couldn't believe one day we'd all be dead. and the saddest thing about death, she said, was that she wouldn't be able to look through her kitchen window ever again.

after i watched the exoricst, i couldn't sleep. i was eighteen then. after i watched the shining on the big screen, i couldn't sleep. i was twenty.

one easter, i watched a bible movie with my dad. i kept thinking about lazarus coming back from the dead, and i couldn't sleep.

last year, i asked this girl out for drinks. i couldn't even do it in person. i did it over instant message. my heart was racing as i typed it. we finally went out for drinks, and i didn't know what to say. i was twenty-six years old, and i hadn't ever really dated. she asked me what i had been up to lately, and i told her that i had been barbecuing with friends. was i really so boring? when i came back from the restroom, she casually slipped in an anecdote about some guy she was already seeing. i played it off like, oh, whatever, and then i insisted on paying for our beers.

you never made a move, my ex said. i had to make the first move, she said.

i asked my coworker if she had any manly-looking umbrellas behind her desk. as if there's anything remotely manly about you, she responded.

sometimes i wake up alone in my apartment, usually in the middle of the night, and i am terrified. and for no reason. no reason whatsoever.
can you be perfect?

as i walked home from work today, a bunch of peewee football players were running up and down the hill. it made me glad that my elementary school never had any hills. i thought about how the coach would use anything to challenge us, physically exhaust us. and as a kid, i never saw the point. i looked at the faces of the peewee footballers, and they looked red, sweaty, miserable. i wonder if they thought what i thought when i played soccer and basketball and had to go to practice: what is the point?

i didn't see the point then. soccer practice was intense. mr. martin was our coach, and he was a big mexican man with a super mario mustache. he was large and had a big gut, wore glasses and a whistle around his neck. and he made us run laps like i've never run before in my life. there was one exercise in particular that all of us boys dreaded. we would all jog around the soccer field, and each time he blew the whistle, the boy at the front would have to sprint all the way around the field to catch up with the jogging group. and he wouldn't let us stop until each boy had gone around at least, if i remember correctly, twice. on one our two occasions, he was so pissed at us that we ended up doing it for the entire practice.

and then game day would be on saturday morning. i remember being so happy on the few mornings when it rained and the game would get called off. that meant i could just sleep in or maybe watch cartoons. but most of the time, it didn't rain, and my dad would drive us off to some random part of the city, and i would stand on a field in my jersey, cleats, and shin guards for two hours or so. playing a sport i didn't really care for with boys i didn't even really like. the experience didn't instill any sense of being on a team, or build leadership skills, or teach me that hard work paid off, practice makes perfect, and all that shit. all that i really learned from soccer was being disappointed when we lost, and not really feeling like i had contributed anything if we had won. i did, however, learn to hate the other team, to be disgusted with boys i didn't even know.

a few months ago, i got to talking with my parents, and i asked them why they enrolled me in soccer. "i thought you liked it," they said. i told them that i didn't. but i think that, on some level, i must have. i did like running (just not to the point of vomiting) and kicking a soccer ball and bouncing it off my knee. i liked getting new cleats from big 5 each year, and wearing shin guards made me feel like an indestructible robot. i liked getting orange slices and capri suns after a game, and seeing all the hot soccer moms and sisters of teammates. i liked it when it was all over, and coach would say he was proud of us, and you could tell by the look in his eyes that he really, really meant it, and then we'd get an ice cream party and trophies.

it wasn't until i saw friday night lights (both the movie and tv show) that i understood why we play sports, and why they matter. in the movie, coach is always talking about being perfect, and at the end of the movie, he explains that being perfect isn't necessarily about winning. but it's about doing all that you could have done. i think about that final scene a lot, the one that takes place in the locker room where he finally reveals this concept of being perfect. i think that it translates to so many other things in life.

there was this poem that my english professor shared with us once. it wasn't a very good poem, but it pretty much drove home the same point. in the poem, he kept repeating the line: "let it be enough." it was directed to all the perfectionist writing center consultants. the repeated line basically reminded us that there's only so much we can do. there shouldn't be any sense of failure or disappointment if you gave it all you've got.
never eat dairy queen in life.

i said that i wanted to hike up granite mountain. gen was a hiker, so she said okay, let's do it. but that wasn't good enough for me. see, i've lived in this city long enough to know that if you don't actually name a date and time, it ain't gonna happen. like how i was supposed to go fishing with my other coworker over a year ago. gen suggested a sunday. i said that was fine. so, we had plans to hike up granite mountain, and that was that.

the day before the big hike, i ate horribly. i had a taco salad from a food court, and then an oreo/m&m blizzard from dairy queen for dessert. it wasn't my usual diet, but i was in the suburbs, and i thought, what the hell, when will i be in the suburbs again? afterward, i spent most of the night in the bathroom. i couldn't believe what i had done to myself before venturing on an eight mile roundtrip hike. when the alarm clock rang for 8 a.m. on sunday, i kicked myself for what i had gotten myself into. but i couldn't flake on her. she was all set to go! suck it up, i told myself. for once in your life, be a goddamn man.

gen drove us out there, and it was a bit cloudy. we talked about our families and podcasts and work. there were no awkward pauses or anything. we got along fine. we got to the trailhead, and started our sunday morning adventure. she kept a brisk pace, and i was having a hard time catching up. she didn't even sound like she was out of breath. gen just kept talking about work and other stuff, and i was trying for dear life to keep up with her. i thought about the oreo/m&m blizzard. i could see it in my mind. all those sugars and chemicals slowing me down, making me feel faint. i felt bad, but i had to speak up. i asked if we could stop for a bit.

she didn't seem the least bit annoyed. she just sat there while i unzipped my backpack and ate an orange. i thought of the scene in 28 days later when the two characters are heading up the stairs and the main guy can't keep up. he has to sit down and drink a pepsi. that was me. i was crashing. if zombies were after us, i'd be eaten alive. i confessed the shit food i ate the day before, and she laughed at me. she said i should never eat dairy queen in life. she said that sometimes you just need a partner to tell you to keep going. i thought then about how it would've been nice to have had an older sibling, someone like her, to tell me to suck it up every now and then.

once i had regained my senses and was good to go, she said that it might be best if i led the way. which i did, at a snail's pace. going up granite, i kept finding other reasons to stop. i wanted to look at the view, i lied. i wanted to take a picture. there was a pebble in my shoe and it was making the walk uncomfortable. at some point, she told me that maybe we would see a bear. i said that i would like to see a bear, but i wasn't sure why. i just wanted to see something, anything. there's so much i haven't seen in real life.

we got up to the clouds, and a huge meadow opened up. everything was red and green and fog. she pointed out blackberries, and told me that's what the bears eat. i wanted to ask if we could eat them, too, but i didn't want to sound too ignorant. she regained the lead, but i must have gotten my second wind from the orange because i was keeping up. the cool mist on me helped, too, and i knew that i could summit the mountain, no problem.

all of a sudden, she became quiet, and she stopped so suddenly in the middle of the trail that i almost bumped into her. i turned to my right, and about twenty or thirty yards away, there was a giant black bear looking right at us. the bear looked to her right, and there were two small cubs eating berries. the bear looked at us again, and this time, she got up on her hind legs. gen said that we should probably turn around. i did as i was told. i calmly turned, remembering that any sudden movements might freak the bear out. my natural instinct was to run away, run the fuck away, fast and far, but somehow i knew the bear would just leave us alone.

we walked far enough back down the trail, and we bumped into two young women. gen told them about the bear sighting, and they decided to turn around. gen reasoned that it would probably be okay, that they would most likely retreat at the sound of our voices, but the fact that the bear got on her hind legs really threw her off. the four of us agreed that it would probably be okay, so we continued up the trail. we saw the cubs again in the distance, and we decided that it would probably be a better idea to just turn around. this was their home, after all, and we were intruding.

on the hike back down the mountain, gen told me that i was pretty calm for what had just happened. i told her that i didn't have time to really process the encounter. but what i really thought was: if the bear killed us, then it killed us. what else could we have done?
i can just feel it.

i couldn't sleep the night before my interview. it wasn't even that i was nervous about it. it was just something different. my life lately has been strict, mundane routine, so the slightest change upsets the system. i dreamed of some guy who was dead, and when they found him, he was in a relaxed and comfortable position in his desk chair, hands behind his head. i took it as a sign. that's gonna be you, keep going on the way you do, sitting at your desk, making money and turning stupid. i kept waking up through the night. time to get up yet? no, not yet. time to get up yet? almost.

finally i got up, showered, ate my oatmeal. why didn't i shit before i left? i had plenty of time to take a decent shit! now what if i have to go? nothing worse than being on the light rail or bus and having to go. only one time was it so bad that i actually had to get off at a different stop and scramble for a public bathroom. and luckily, at the time, i was only heading home, so no big problem. but it could come at any time! best not to think about it. i felt like a dope, dressed head to toe in j. crew with my new north face backpack. look at this nerdy yuppie, they'd say. he's certainly not fit for the program.

i got off the light rail at westlake center, used my handy dandy iphone to locate the office. i think i had been there before. same office as the oral surgeon i pussied out on going through with last year. i asked the front desk dude where the office was. "sixth floor," he said. i went up to the sixth floor, and the door was still locked. a small woman let me in. i apologized for being early. i heard you're not supposed to do that in interviews. i took a seat. soon, another woman came in and they hugged each other. "after you've been in the program," she said, "that's what happens! you start hugging everyone in this office!" i laughed. they were an odd bunch, but what the hell. i could use a hug.

the recruiter had a streak of purple in her hair. she told me i'd have to get fingerprinted. she told me she loved speaking with me on the phone, and she said i would be a perfect fit for the program, she could "feel" it. and then she fingerprinted me, but before she did so, she looked at me, and she told me she loved me. she was an old woman, old enough to be my grandma, and she was such a hippie that i almost felt compelled to tell her that i loved her, too. almost. she kept screwing up the fingerprints, and i liked to believe that it was so that she could keep holding onto my hands for as long as she could. that's probably not true. but then again, she told me she loved me within five minutes of meeting me.

she said that she was upset that she would not be the one interviewing me, but that i should feel completely comfortable in the interview. and then she disappeared, and i waited some more. i sat down next to a very pretty girl, who was probably right out of college, and i said, "hello." she said "hello" back, and i thought that this was a very good start to the program. i asked if she was interviewing, and she said yes. and then she asked me if i was interviewing, and i said yes. and then i got called in for my interview.

they asked me exactly twenty questions. why do i want to join? when have i been a leader? what challenges do i think i'll face? i faltered a bit in the beginning. and then somehow, i picked up the pace. something clicked in me, and that something said, dude, who gives a shit? i didn't practice for the interview at all. people told me beforehand that i should do a mock interview, or at least outline what i was going to say, but i said fuck it. i've had enough practice with interviews as it is. all in all, i think it went very well.

i left the building feeling confident. here i am, i thought. i may not matter all that much, but i'm gonna give it all i've got.
they'll only miss you when you leave.

she said that when i go into my interview, don't make it sound like i am trying to escape something. well, that kind of stung because of course i am trying to escape something. let me tell you about the things i am trying to escape.

there's my couch. the stitching has come undone in several places. it seemed like a good enough couch even though i felt coerced into buying it. see, my friends, they said, well, you have an apartment now, dum-dum, why don't you furnish it? and on top of their lists was a couch. they said, if you get a couch, then you can have friends over! and then those friends moved away. and the only person who sits on the $380 couch that i purchased brand new, and which has more or less fallen apart in just a year and a half, is me.

there's my television. i wasted most of spring and part of summer watching a stupid television show called lost. the show was okay and it had its moments, but when the island moved, and then when there was time travel...well, i just don't know how some people can say that it's one of the best shows ever. that's just silly talk. and anyway, watching the show by myself just reminded me that i don't know what i'm doing on this earth, but it doesn't really matter that much because i'm just going to die. six feet under had the same effect, but it was a much better show.

there's my iphone. technically, i'm still under contract for a full year and four months. sometimes, i feel like i am just working to pay for rent, groceries, and my iphone bill. and when i think of things that way, i think that the system is very stupid. essentially, i am working to give my landlord, pcc groceries, and steve jobs my money. and as a reward, i can have a few beers here and there, watch a movie, buy something i don't have to make payments on, like a t-shirt or backpack. i don't even like talking on the phone. i don't know why i have one.

there's the internet. sure, the internet is great for blogging and looking at boobs. but i'm trying to escape it, too. social networking sites just remind me that my life is boring. why do i have 370 friends on facebook? i don't even know these people. but i still read their status updates - everyone from some random elementary school classmate to some chick i talked to once in manila - and i don't know why i read them. not since sixth grade history have i read so much about something i have so little interest in.

there's the solitude. a friend of my dad's who also lives in seattle told my dad that one needs an upbeat personality to make it in this city. let's face it. upbeat personality? just look at the title of my blog. but the dude is right. living alone anywhere can be depressing, but especially in seattle. add to the fact that it's actually a fifteen, twenty minute ride south of seattle, and it's even more isolated. in the last three days i haven't spoken to a single person.

there's the job. granted, i've hated every job i've ever had, and i've looked forward to every last day with the exception of the writing center. but here's where it gets tricky. the job i have now is certainly not the worst. i could take off a whole month if i wanted to, and i've done it. there's always food lying around at the office, and it's always mine for the taking. i have a retirement account, and the school just keeps throwing money in it every month for no reason! and even though i don't know how to talk to any of them, there are hot girls all over campus all the time. the people i work with don't annoy me, and they don't expect much from me, either. all in all, it is the least stressful thing i've ever done. i also have full health and dental coverage, and i'm confident that they would never lay me off. ever.

but still, there's the job. there's looking at the computer all day long, browsing the same boring sites. there's my job title, program assistant, that screams unskilled entry-level no chance for moving upward ever. there are long-winded meetings about mission statements and communications and strategic planning. there's answering emails and submitting reimbursement forms. there's sitting in an office chair all day long, wondering about ergonomics and heart disease. there's awkward monthly birthday parties and being reminded that i'm one of the few men on staff, one of the few asians. and always there's wondering, can't i do better than this? wasn't i destined for something greater than this?

and though it's scary, i can't tell you how satisfying it is to say, fuck it. even if things don't work out, if things somehow get worse than they already are, at the very least, you'll no longer be in a state of wondering.
angel hair and baby's breath.

i went to the seattle art museum. the whole time i've lived here, i might've gone only about four or fives times. as a freshman at s.u., i once had to go for an art history class. i didn't get art history. who the hell cared about tribal clothing, goblets and paintings of fat and pasty white naked women? i had to write five to seven pages about some fucking tablet, and i didn't know what to say about it. i pulled something together, though, and it was good enough to get me a c or a b.

so yesterday i went, for the first time, by myself, as an adult. the other times i've gone it was because someone else wanted to go, and i had nothing better to do. i walked around, skipped all the african tribal stuff, and went straight for the special exhibitions, which focused on kurt cobain and andy warhol. i looked at a picture of kurt cobain, and i figured that music was about as close as i could ever get to appreciating or understanding art. there he was, in that iconic pose, lying down on a trashed drum set, and he was looking at the camera with a look that said, why the fuck am i still alive? i thought back to the times i played guitar with my cousin and all i wanted to do was smash the guitar, break it over my knee, and whirl it around over my head because i sucked, because the world didn't care about me, and because i would never be able to make real music. and i guess that this expression, this need to say something important without actually saying it, that was where art came from.

i didn't get warhol. the whole four prints thing sewn together and then all those black and white videos of just people's faces. i didn't get it at all. who the hell cared about cool white people who lived in new york a long time ago? all i could think of when i read about warhol's factory is the group of kids at every college who are all fucking each other and smoking cigarettes and listening to bands you've never heard of.

then i saw some photographs by amy blakemore, and i liked them. i think i just liked that she got an mfa in photography in the late eighties. that appealed to me for some reason, and i couldn't explain it. i saw this one photograph, and it was just a big open space and there was a woman pushing somebody in a wheelchair, and i thought that was great. then i read that amy had earned a travel grant from some school to go to europe to take more pictures in the early 90's, and i liked reading that. i can only imagine how happy she must have been then, to receive that grant to go do something she loved. and then there was a picture just titled "dad," and i read about how it was the last picture she took of her dad, him on his deathbed. it was real dark and all you could see were his hands, and there were these venetian blinds that looked like the ones in the bedroom i grew up in. i thought it was the saddest fucking picture i had ever seen.

i got out of there, and i received a text from an old friend. fuck off, was all it said.
just like starting over.

dude showed up and slapped hands with me. if he thought it was strange at all that i had asked him and his girlfriend to have dinner with me, he didn't show it. he had on his bus driver uniform, and then we ordered some beers. we got to talking politics, since he's part of the international socialist organization or something. he asked if i was socialist. i probably am, but i told him i wasn't, and that i didn't really know anything about socialism. i once read that jesus was a socialist, and if that's true, then i probably understand socialism better than i think i do.

he asked me what my politics were, and i told him i didn't really keep up on them as much as i did in college. i just don't see the point anymore, but i didn't tell him that. i told him i voted for nader, and then he high-fived me because he did, too. i told him i did so because i couldn't get behind obama's perpetuating the war in afghanistan rhetoric, and i couldn't support any candidate who thought increasing troops in a country we know nothing about would ever be a good idea. he nodded, and then we drank our beer.

his girlfriend showed up, and she seemed kind of huffy. she poked fun at him for always wanting to go to bed early, and he didn't try to argue or anything. it felt like i was watching an old version of my previous relationship. it was a strange thing, to have been broken up, to see close friends break up, and then to see this current relationship: the strong, assertive woman and her passive, low-key boyfriend. we ordered our food. i got the dungeon burger, and vegetarians that they were, they ordered tofu burritos.

we got to talking about the past. i told them about americorps, about sacramento, and he talked about the suburb outside of cleveland, oberlin, working at ups. the girl's story was about the northeast, delaware to be exact, how she studied neuroscience but had no plans for graduate school. it was a real good thing, to have people to talk to. people who didn't have to put on a show or act sarcastically or pretend they were something more than they actually were. i thought back to my seattle works group, how they were all older, more professional, better able to act like they knew what they were doing in life. all i needed, i realized, was some people my age who were in the same boat, just trying to figure things out.

he asked me if i had roommates and i told him no, but that recently, i was wishing that i did. he said that he'd never done it, and that it would probably be awesome to live alone. i told him that it was at first, but now i was wishing i had roommates. he said that sometimes he wished that he and his girlfriend lived in a house with other people and she said that she sometimes wished that, too. i thought about the lonely american and the idea of cocooning. it's not good to cocoon when you're a couple. you need an active social life and friends of your own. i didn't know those things when i was 22. now i am alone.

toward the end of dinner, his brother showed up, and he was going on and on about some dojo he had visited. the brother said that he was going to drive up from olympia every week to go to the dojo, but his brother told him it was a stupid idea. he reasoned that it would be a lot of money wasted on gas, so the membership, which seemed like a deal, wouldn't even be worth it. the brother was really intense, and i felt like he was putting on a show, but maybe that was just how he was. there were awkward silences when the brother was there, and then once he broke it by making karate sound effects.

the girl said she had to go pee, so it was just us three boys. somehow, we were talking about the game, the pickup artist shit my friend from new york is into, and then the brother said that someone should write the end game, a guide to breaking up with someone smoothly. he then went into his divorce, and he played it off like it wasn't a big deal. he said it was the easiest thing ever. he said that his then wife sat him down and told him that it wasn't working anymore, and to that, he just said, okay. and then when she went off and had sex with a girl, he also just said, okay.

his brother said that he was lying, that he wasn't okay with the divorce. he said that he was pretty upset about it for a while. and then he turned to me and he told me that his brother was with this girl for ten years before they got divorced. i just said, oh. and then he said out loud, i don't even know what i'd do if she and i broke up (she was still in the bathroom at that point), i think that i would just give up. i wanted to tell him, yeah, i have given up. look at me, this is what it looks like. and then he said, there's just so much that goes into a relationship. i can't imagine starting over.

i can't imagine it, either.