A few hours ago, I watched The Farewell with a few friends then cried almost the whole metro and car ride home. The film is about a 30-year-old Chinese American woman named Billi who returns to China to say goodbye to her grandmother, who only has a few weeks left to live. In one scene, Billi confronts her mom about her grief and tells her that chasing fireflies with her grandmother is one of the only happy memories Billi carries with her from her childhood.
Similar to Billi, spending time with my grandmother is one of the only happy memories from my own childhood. Continue reading
Sometimes I act a little dramatic. Earlier this week, after an eyeroll-worthy email exchange, I stopped harboring feelings for the crush I held onto for the past eight months. Afterward, I thought well, if this seemingly beautiful well-read social justice-oriented hunk of a man turned out to be awful and an emotionally stunted communicator, I will literally never ever trust or date a man on this planet. On top of that update, one of my good friends, who I still care about and respect, has started prioritizing her boyfriend in her life, and I thought well, if this is happening to a person who identifies as a feminist and used to rant with me about people who over-prioritize their boyfriends, I might as well never make new friends because they’ll all eventually prioritize their boyfriends. For a day or two I felt the urge to stop eating. I thought to myself, hm, if I cannot control the quality of men that exist in a patriarchal society and I cannot control the prioritization of men and romance in a patriarchal society, then I might as well control the prominence of my ribcage. I literally felt my heart freeze up, like someone sprayed an icy mist into my chest and made my insides all cold and untrusting.
But after feeling my feelings while playing tennis at 7:30 this morning and then waiting for my tuberculosis screening in a nearby CVS, I thought to myself, wait a f-ing second, this is not who I am, I am not a fundamentally cold and untrusting person. As I guzzled a Blue Machine Naked Juice while in line at the CVS and then an Orange Fanta in my apartment, I thought I’m Thomas, who values warmth, vulnerability, and over-disclosing about my personal life on the internet, I’m not going to let some random man on the internet and the patriarchy turn me into someone I’m not. Continue reading
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of my grandmother’s death. This past Monday, my therapist asked me about some of my favorite memories of her.
“I remember her waiting outside the bathtub with a towel when I first learned how to shower,” I said. “Or waking up from a nap in preschool and seeing her standing beside the door, waiting to drive me home.”
I told my therapist I felt unsure about why I kept thinking of all these early memories. Continue reading
My grandmother passed away last year on December 20. Sometimes I shrug off her death. “Yeah, she was like my actual mother, so it’s sad,” I’ll say to a friend, “but it’s fine, like I’m fine overall.” I like to use the word “fine” a lot, because it helps me avoid how not fine it is to lose the person who had loved you the most. Or I’ll point to my planner and say, “Yeah, it’s tough, but I did this therapy session, and this research meeting, and that class reading, so it’s okay. Sad, but okay.”
But sometimes grief and loss and mourning are not okay, and no matter how much I want to embody put-togetherness, I just have to feel that shit, that not-okay-ness. Continue reading
I did not expect my grandmother’s death in December to bring so much of the pain from my past losses back to life. On a lot of days, my grief spills over into other parts of my heart, reawakening the devastation I felt from the loss of L, the therapist I stopped seeing last May, as well as the sadness of missing my close friends and mentors from undergrad. I always knew that grief would take me on a curving, misery-laden path – no linear progressions, no easy fixes, no strong emotions that just fade into weaker ones over time – but you still feel heartbreak even if you prepare for it. Continue reading
My grandmother passed away last Wednesday. I stayed with her in the hospital a few times in the days leading up to her death , though she had been sick for awhile at that point. She had Parkinson’s disease. Over the last few years, she lost the ability to walk. Over the last couple of months, she lost the ability to breathe without the help of a machine. Despite this physical decay, I have a clear picture to remember her by from an earlier time in her life: when she raised me, protected me, and loved me unconditionally. Continue reading
Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Thomas,
Hi, this is your nineteen-year-old self. How are you? I want to start this letter by saying that, yes, you still write embarrassing super personal blog posts three years from now. You do not write as much on your blog, because college keeps you busy, but you still do. Congratulations: no admissions officers take the time to Google your blog and reject you because of it, so keep writing.
So I guess I will start on the whole college thing: you get in. You really, really do. You get into William and Mary, the University of Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania. All your hard work pays off. Almost three years ago, you wrote this post about optimism, about how you would not let a B- in Physics Honors keep you down. Guess what: not only do you end up with an A- in the class, but you graduate high school and enter the university of your dreams: William & Mary. This might blow your mind, so feel free to take a moment and listen to Lady Gaga (you later get super into Ariana Grande and her song “Break Free,” but that can wait) or read a book.
Even bigger news: you escape your mother. No, not 100%. You still have to go home and see her, you still have to put up with her mood swings over the phone. But for the most part, you leave. You highlight your hair, you wear whatever you want, you study all the subjects you care about, and you have your freedom. At college, you feel the happiest you have ever been.
But I want to tell you some bad news. Continue reading