equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
Me @ Twitter

RT @nilsgeylen: I think my ther­a­pist is see­ing some­one else.

9 months, 4 weeks ago
27 Dec 13

lessons learned on the path to awakening

Order mat­ters. Timing is impor­tant. It’s help­ful to arrive at the point where things can only get bet­ter, but los­ing every­thing takes time. Making mis­takes is okay. Being unable to cope is okay. Not being ready to say it back is okay. Life is a bal­ance between hold­ing on and let­ting go. Some peo­ple should never have chil­dren. You’re only over some­one when you don’t need to make a con­scious effort to stop think­ing about them. The first step in tak­ing respon­si­bil­ity for your needs is com­mu­ni­cat­ing those needs.

cat

Cats are lit­tle bun­dles of non-judgmental, unas­sum­ing, food-conditional love.

I need to be with lis­ten­ers more than talk­ers. A day spent writ­ing let­ters that will never be read isn’t a waste. Some peo­ple don’t know how to help, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. It’s impor­tant to make peace with one’s suf­fer­ing. You never stop grow­ing with the right peo­ple in your life. She never loved me more than the words I wrote. The last thing I want is to be ignored when I open up. It’s okay when friends pri­or­i­tize their kids before me. It’s okay to pri­or­i­tize myself before any­one else. Always be mind­ful of long hair when cuddling.

Foxhole party

There are peo­ple who love me enough to save my life (and pants are optional at their parties).

The ones with a lit­tle bit of dark­ness to them tend to be more inter­est­ing. If a guy in a suit is cute like me, that means I’m cute like him. Lisa is my third cat and that’s enough for now. I deserve to be happy. A bad trip doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean a bad expe­ri­ence. Strength is often quiet, recep­tive deter­mi­na­tion, rather than chest-thumping pushi­ness. Being kind to dif­fi­cult peo­ple is just as impor­tant as being kind to bene­fac­tors and friends; being kind to myself is most impor­tant of all.

21 Dec 13

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14 Dec 13

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13 Dec 13

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09 Dec 13

hey, c'mon

He’s only 40, an age I’d still con­sider young for a doc­tor. I see the fea­tures of so many of my Chinese peers in his face, though he’s actu­ally an Irish expat. Family and a restau­rant sealed his par­ents deci­sion to emi­grate to the Emerald Isle when he was too young to speak. It explains why his con­ver­sa­tional dic­tion is impec­ca­ble while some spo­ken con­so­nants are merged or lost, a famil­iar accent from being born into a Cantonese fam­ily. This imme­di­ately puts me on my guard. I’ve rarely got­ten along with those peers; the cul­ture hasn’t been kind.

But I’m not here for myself. I didn’t even make the appoint­ment, which is why I don’t know what to say.

Thankfully, he takes the lead and takes his time. The ques­tions cover a mot­ley gamut, and I can tell how com­pre­hen­sive his notes are through the clack­ing of the keyboard.

At some point he asks if any­one came with me, and I tell him who’s in the wait­ing room. He kindly offers to speak to her on my behalf, but she already knows. It’s the only rea­son I’m telling this story another time. I can’t help admit­ting how humil­i­at­ing it is to be so depen­dent on oth­ers, to need peo­ple like her so des­per­ately some­times that I can’t imag­ine how I’d sur­vive with­out them.

Without any change in his pro­ce­dural tone, he says this sen­ti­ment is part of our Chinese guilt. We dis­ap­point our par­ents by not being strong enough to live up to their expec­ta­tions as self-reliant adults, but they pre­vent us from grow­ing up by treat­ing us like chil­dren and refus­ing to let us make our own deci­sions. He knows, cause he’s gone through the same thing. At the same time, he never con­dones my feel­ings, offer­ing a reas­sur­ance that we all han­dle things dif­fer­ently, and that we can’t do it alone some­times. It tells me he doesn’t just lis­ten; he cares.

Before send­ing me off with a dose of Pristiq, he hands me a sealed enve­lope — on it writ­ten “emer­gency room let­ter” — and tells me to give it to the doc­tor at the Queensway-Carleton, while care­fully sug­gest­ing I have noth­ing to lose at this point. It makes sense, but I’m not ready. Not yet. This is good for now. She’ll thank me for tak­ing this step, one that’s as much for her as it is for me.

After, we hold hands in the car while wait­ing to be com­posed enough to be seen in pub­lic, bass lines wash­ing over us like heart­beats, an affir­ma­tion of rea­sons for and the things I love.

Me @ Twitter

Dear mid-20s co-workers: thank you for think­ing I’m the same age as you.

10 months, 3 weeks ago
29 Nov 13

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28 Nov 13

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20 Nov 13

stay is a sensitive word

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I haven’t been able to come up with a way of explain­ing the absence. I guess I’m still fig­ur­ing out where I stand at this par­tic­u­lar moment, and what it means to keep going. Many days were lost to the flux of ambiver­sion, when all I was try­ing to do was sur­vive the bal­ance of how much space I needed with how much com­fort I could only get from oth­ers. Suffice it to say, I’ve learned the impor­tance of tak­ing the time just to feel okay, which has mostly involved enjoy­ing the games I’ve put off play­ing for so long, spend­ing time with those who make me feel wanted+needed+awesome+loved, and draft­ing as often as possible.

girl and cat

 

My birth­day came some­where in between, a day I got to pick all the shows, eat dirty bird, and nest with the cats on me when they weren’t in the cud­dle train. It made the whole day mine, not because it was some­thing I asked for, but because some­one wanted to give that to me.

I’m slowly let­ting my guard down, let­ting myself share new songs in the dark, so the pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences become a per­ma­nent part of me. Making new mem­o­ries is a step towards sooth­ing my his­tory with heart­break. The com­fort I find in our embraces car­ries me through the time we’re apart, but feel­ing safe is still very for­eign. Just touch­ing fin­gers is a vul­ner­a­ble step, and it’s like being on a tightrope every time I put aside my inse­cu­ri­ties to make progress. Thankfully, she hasn’t let me fall yet.

Magic: The Gathering and beer

 

Most recently, I started work­ing at the busiest comic book shop in the city as one of the res­i­dent Magic experts. It’s left me try­ing to find my bal­ance again, even though the job is part-time and never feels like work. The posi­tion mostly involves run­ning the tour­na­ments, trading/selling/organizing cards, and giv­ing peo­ple game advice; things I already love doing in my spare time. A nice bonus is the fact that a new friend hap­pens to be one of the reg­u­lars at the Modern Constructed tour­ney, and I get to root for him and see how he does between matches.

Shawn even came in to say hi and give me hugs on my first day. Reminders all around that make me feel worth­while, instead of just believ­ing it. It’s the dif­fer­ence between know­ing some­thing in my head to my heart, a gap I’m start­ing to bridge with help from the right people.

Me @ Twitter

Making bis­cuits. vine.co/v/hTxBO1rqUXj

11 months, 2 weeks ago
Me @ Twitter

Daylight sav­ings: bi-annual reminder of which devices in your house aren’t con­nected to the internet.

11 months, 3 weeks ago
Me @ Twitter

If you don’t want to date me, that’s fine, I get that, but you’re wrong and I hate you.

12 months ago
20 Oct 13

Katie + Seth — Wedding Day

The Cuban sun burned espe­cially bright on the day Katie and Seth got mar­ried, but the wind kept every­one com­fort­able while unlim­ited drinks made sure sobri­ety was never an issue. There’s some­thing to be said about the exclu­siv­ity of des­ti­na­tion wed­dings, cause they leave lit­tle room for strangers or acquain­tances. Only the clos­est peo­ple will com­mit to plane tick­ets and accom­mo­da­tions. The cel­e­bra­tions are all the more inti­mate for it, and I’m always glad when I have a chance to be part of the that.

You never need to make a spe­cial effort to find the wildlife in Varadero; even on the resorts, birds will bravely snatch food at your feet, while stray cats toy with lizards and mice alike before eat­ing them. And being sur­rounded by other peo­ple on their own hol­i­days, whether they’re tan­ning on the beach or let­ting pretty girls cheat at limbo, brings a warmth to the atmos­phere that even the sun can’t provide.

13 Oct 13

mother dearest

The last time I saw my mom was on a trip she took to see me in Ottawa, along with a few other fam­ily mem­bers vis­it­ing from out of the coun­try. I had table ten­nis prac­tice one night, and instead of drop­ping me off, they decided to come watch. So five of us piled into her van, and halfway through the drive, my vision started grow­ing blurry. I’d been work­ing full shifts, then enter­tain­ing the guests every night, and my body decided it didn’t want to con­tinue coop­er­at­ing. With the aches get­ting sharper in my head, I told her I couldn’t play. She sharply asked why. I explained.

My mother has always been an emo­tional dri­ver, and on top of that an “emo­tional” per­son when she doesn’t get her way. With me rid­ing shot­gun, she decided to make a U-turn into oncom­ing traf­fic. It was an attempt to go home in a huff, except there are things to con­sider when doing this in a vehi­cle, like the fact that every­one around you is also mov­ing in their own giant metal sledge­ham­mer. When we crossed over the median, I saw an SUV head­ing towards me at full speed, and in that moment, there was only the dis­tinct real­iza­tion that this is how I died. It was some­thing I’d always won­dered, and the sat­is­fac­tion of my curios­ity was greater than any sense of fear of what was about to hap­pen1.

But we were saved by the grace and reflexes of the per­son dri­ving the SUV, who slammed on his/her brakes, and there was no col­li­sion. My mom con­tin­ued speed­ing back home in her mood, like she hadn’t nearly maimed us all. I knew in that moment she didn’t care about me or my well being; all she cared about was how she couldn’t show off her son in front of the fam­ily, and how that made her look.

I never looked her in the eyes after that. And when she left, I never saw her again. It was already her last chance. Proof that I still didn’t mean any­thing to her as a per­son, that I was just an orna­ment to her my entire life.

Fast for­ward many years later. A phase where I find myself learn­ing about hate and for­give­ness, how to let go of one and prac­tice the other. I decide to con­tact her again, let­ting her know that I’m not ready to for­give her yet, but I’m open to talk­ing. She asked what there was to for­give, as if she had no idea what she did wrong. I thought it was an odd thing to say; after all, how did she explain why we hadn’t spo­ken in years? I made no assump­tions though, and brought up a few things to refresh her mem­ory, the inci­dent above being one example.

All she could say was that she was going through a dif­fi­cult mar­riage, so I should under­stand why she acted the way she did. Then she meekly tried to mask her guilt with excuses about mak­ing sac­ri­fices for me, as if a child’s accep­tance or for­give­ness is some­thing that can be bought and this is why she owes me noth­ing. Through it all, she refused to apol­o­gize, or even acknowl­edge that she ever hurt me. Perhaps say­ing sorry would mean admit­ting to her­self that she’s done these hor­ri­ble things to her only child, her fault things got so bad he cut off all ties, and that real­ity would be too dif­fi­cult for her to deal with. To this day, she’s in com­plete denial about her role in any of my suf­fer­ing, and she doesn’t even care enough about me to feel bad about it.

I’m learn­ing to accept that my mom would rather give up the chance at rec­on­cil­ing than do some­thing as sim­ple as apol­o­gize, cause it means her sense of pride is more impor­tant to her than her only child. This is exactly what makes her a bad par­ent. Separating myself from her so many years later was just as easy as the first time.

If only I wasn’t still deal­ing with the after-effects of her influ­ence; I’m only now learn­ing not to judge myself the way she did the entire time we were in con­tact, how not to hate myself for being less than per­fect, how not to feel worth­less when I don’t have con­stant val­i­da­tion. So many of my demons can be traced back to her. Parents are sup­posed to nur­ture, instill­ing strength and con­fi­dence and sta­bil­ity, while help­ing their chil­dren explore a sense of iden­tity. Instead, she dan­gled love and favour and reward in front of me only if I met some ridicu­lous stan­dard in school or played the piano or did exactly as she bid. Otherwise, I was a bad per­son, the child she didn’t want.

It’s been some­what trau­ma­tiz­ing to re-experience these trig­gers again when try­ing to resolve issues I’m deal­ing with now. Sometimes I hate myself for being so bro­ken, but it’s eas­ier to for­give my mis­takes and accept myself when I real­ize such a toxic per­son has had so much influ­ence on my life.

  1. Although maybe that was also cause I knew it was a sit­u­a­tion com­pletely out of my con­trol. []