The Art of Not Giving a Sh*t

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‘Balloons’ by Andrew Hedges

The people who care too much are the most miserable. I can tell you a lot about misery. I’ve been in that state of mind since the day I was born. In fact, my Dad used to tell me that I was an unhappy child. I almost never laughed as a baby. Sometimes, Dad would spend a half hour making animal noises and contorted faces just to get me to crack a smile.

I spent my entire childhood in pretty much complete isolation but that didn’t stop me from taking up social causes as I was always a justice-minded individual. I used to accompany my grandmother to the seabird sanctuary in St. Petersburg, Florida. We’d marvel at the wide variety of feathered critters from flamingos standing on one leg in the sand to owls perched on a crooked tree branch. We went to cat and bird shows together and discussed the differences between various species. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that these shows were no place for animal lovers because they put an emphasis on whatever breeds were fashionable at the time. This encouraged breeders to cater to the market; often in unscrupulous ways.

Later in life, I took up human rights causes as well. I developed an interest in renewable energy and the accessibility of clean water in developing nations. I emailed my politicians about anti-hate crime legislation to protect the LGBTQ community. I criticized my parents’ church for sending missionaries offering only “Bible-based” aid to developing nations instead of proper education and no-God-attached resources. The list went on.

In college, I stopped giving a shit in all the wrong ways. I started drinking, smoking pot, and doing pills. My human and animal rights work got overshadowed by my new-found love of anarchist philosophy and I questioned my professors about our curriculum’s lack of real leftist literature such as ‘No Gods No Masters’. I also got more and more interested in transgender rights and body positivity. My off-campus sorority, Zen Haus, started as an anarchist collective and eventually grew into a legitimate 501c3 non-profit organization: specializing in creating space and support for up-and-coming artists of all mediums.

I graduated and moved to China. I think it was China that finally made me stop giving a shit. The first guy I liked here turned me down to get married to a Polish girl. Come to think of it, I’m glad they ran off into the sunset together. I couldn’t imagine being stuck in a shitty, podunk town living a life of poverty thousands of miles away from home. I like the big city.

Recently, there’ve been some Facebook posts discussing race relations in Asia. When I first came here, I admit, I cared way too much about what these local men thought. I wanted them to like me because I liked them. I liked that they paid a lot of attention to their girlfriends by holding their bags, asking if they’ve eaten, taking them clothes shopping, never complaining about picking up the tab at the restaurant and/or movie theater.

However, I realize now that all around the world, people are just people. They aren’t inherently good or bad. They simply have their own tastes and preferences and I’m tired of letting them get me down. I look in the mirror now and I love myself. I love my brown skin, brown eyes, and dark brown hair. I love my slightly curvy physique and the little belly I’m working on turning into abs with my 3x a week workouts. It took a long, long, long time to get to this point: the point of no longer giving a shit what anyone else thinks; if they like me; if they think I’m pretty. It took 28 years to build enough confidence in myself to say: I love me and I love my body. If you don’t like it, too bad.

I’ve refocused on my passions. I won’t throw my writing career to the wayside again. I’m in competition with no one else but myself. That’s the art of not giving a shit.

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Feeling Like a Human Again

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Mura Mezura

When I was a kid, and my grandmother was still alive, she sat me down on the couch and showed me a photo album full of pictures from her trips around the world. From Africa posing in the middle of the Serengeti with zebras in the background to a zoo in Australia where she cuddled a baby koala, grams knew how to live her best life while contributing her final years to valuable conservation efforts worldwide.

“Make sure you travel when you’re young,” she said, “when you get to be my age, everything hurts, and you need to stop for rest often.”

I took her words to heart. It was easy to do as a 12-year-old stuck in a small seaside city in Florida where the most exciting things were happening in internet chatrooms or the video games I played to pass the time between childhood and adulthood. If someone gave me a time machine today, I wouldn’t go back to those days. Life is happier and more exciting in Shanghai.

It took several years to get to this point. I moved out and got my GED at 16. I bounced around the U.S. until I ended up in upstate New York at the age of 19 where I stayed for four amazing years. The friends I made in college are for life, and I’ll always love them.

After I came to China, I finished my novel, and I had a lot of time to reflect on what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t cut out for teaching kids. I liked club work, but it’s not something I can do after 30. Also, due to the increasing amount of restrictions in China, they aren’t letting foreigners work in the KTVs/clubs as freely as before.

During my prime KTV days, I hopped around from city to city with my Chinese friend. Technically, we were homeless. If you followed my blog, you’d know that I was living like this for years on and off. Homelessness does weird crap to your brain, especially when you’re in a foreign country. You tend to hold on tight to what little you possess. Since the end of 2014, everything I owned could fit into two suitcases. I didn’t dare to buy anything else, for fear that I’d have to pick up and move again soon.

After I got my residence card in Shanghai, I felt safer. I got an apartment and started filling it with things. Just last week, after almost three months of living there, I felt safe enough to buy a bath mat and a little plant for my desk. Maybe next month, I’ll buy posters. Next time I take a trip, at least I’ll know I have somewhere to come back to and I don’t have to carry all my possessions. I’m starting to feel like a human again.

 

The Top 5 Online Resources for Chinese Language Learning

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Learning Chinese is a challenging and exciting experience. Whether you’re planning to move to China or simply want to learn the language for fun, the following resources have everything you need to get started or brush up on your Mandarin.

The Chairman’s Bao

This is an excellent website for reading practice. They publish Chinese news articles and categorize them based on HSK level. If there’s a character you can’t read, you can simply highlight it and a dictionary will pop up in the sidebar. You can practice with one free article per day per HSK level.

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YOYO Chinese

Yoyo Chinese has a huge video library for Chinese learners of all levels. All of the videos use real-life examples and are simple and easy to understand. The Facebook page often posts free videos but paid courses are also available for a nominal fee.

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Chinese Skill

Chinese Skill is an incredibly useful app available for Android and iOS. The app’s basic features include Chinese listening, reading, and writing exercises. It even offers a story-based feature for intermediate and advanced learners. Best of all, it’s 100% free.

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Dig Mandarin

Dig Mandarin offers a variety of courses from several Chinese teachers. Some courses are free, others are paid. They also offer HSK prep courses at a discount.

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Gurulu

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Gurulu is a helpful resource for people preparing to take the official HSK test. Don’t be fooled by the rustic layout of the site. Multiple choice questions, listening activities, and sample tests based on the official format are all available here.

‘Grasping Feathers’ Progress Report

Well, as promised I published the eBook on Amazon today. However, I didn’t anticipate a plethora of formatting issues that took several hours to sort out. I also didn’t realize there’s a 72-hour waiting period for the book to go live in the marketplace.

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So guys, thank you for your patience. I’ll make another update when I get the official email from Amazon. The paperback publishing process is significantly more complicated so I may delay it until I have time to spend a couple of days reading through all the formatting guides.

I’m off to go fetch my glasses: forgot them at the gym yesterday.

UPDATE (October 9, 2018): The formatting issues have been fixed and the eBook is now live and available for purchase. As for the paperback, I’m waiting for the proof copy. When it’s available, I’ll post an update here. Unfortunately, due to KDP’s policies, I don’t have much control over the price of the paperback. I wanted to make it available in more countries and keep the price below $10 USD, but it wasn’t possible. If you don’t have a kindle and find the price of the paperback too steep, please email me and I’ll work with you. I believe stories should be accessible to everyone. If you can, please support me on Patreon so that I can continue creating for you guys. If you can’t donate but you like what I do, please share. Thank you so much for your support. ❤

UPDATE (October 10, 2018): The paperback version is now available on Amazon.

The Beauty of Cotton

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“Cotton” from Fox’s Star

WARNING: SPOILERS!

I’ve been on a TV binge for the past few days while waiting for the new semester to start. My boyfriend’s iQiyi (Chinese Netflix) subscription led me to a variety of amazing American TV dramas that I’d missed during my four years abroad. Fox’s TV series, Star, takes us on a heart-wrenching journey with two sisters beaten down by the foster care system and a rich friend they’d met on Instagram who gave up everything to follow their dreams by starting a girl group in the eccentric city of Atlanta.

While the three main characters are interesting in their own right, the one who moved me the most was Cotton, a transgender black woman with a fervently religious mother. During the day, Cotton works in her mother’s salon as a receptionist. At night, she works in a seedy strip club where she turns tricks in order to pay for expensive bottom surgery.

Cotton’s mother, Carlotta, struggles between her Christian faith and trying to accept her only child. She treats her late best friend’s two daughters more like family than her own flesh and blood which leads Cotton to resent Carlotta. The final straw for Cotton was the day her mother asked her boyfriend, a local pastor, to hold a group prayer in the kitchen. The pastor begins performing an exorcism ritual and tries to force Cotton to say “I am a man”. She breaks down in tears and runs away.

The juxtaposition between faith and marginalized identities is a common thread throughout Cotton’s narrative. Carlotta merely tolerates her presence but struggles to fully accept her as a daughter, yet she also sees the church as a source of comfort because she associate’s “worldly things” with the drugs that took away her best friend.

While sitting alone in an upscale bar, a wealthy Asian man approaches Cotton.

“I don’t do Asians,” she remarks.

The man whispers something in her ear which causes her to go with him. After what we can assume has already been a few dates, Cotton tells Elliot about her gender identity. To her surprise, he readily accepts her as she is. This gives Cotton the confidence to bring Elliot home to her mother. However, her mother becomes angry when she assumes that she’s brought “a john into the house”. Cotton, feeling betrayed by her mother’s distrust, runs upstairs.

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Elliot and Cotton

While the new couple is out on another date, Elliot tells Cotton that he wants her to “stop hooking” and become “only his”. She hesitates at first but after some cajoling agrees to his terms. However, old habits die hard and the pressures of having enough for bottom surgery cause Cotton to get back into the game. Elliot catches her getting out of another client’s car and breaks up with her on the spot.

More hardship awaits when she comes home to find her roommate stole all of the cash she’d saved up. Desperate, she goes back to Elliot’s home, where she discovers that he’s already replaced her with a blonde white woman. This not only paints Elliot as a playboy but provides a glimpse into racial preferences which are often played out in the real world. White women are often put on a pedestal, especially by Asian men. Black women who date men of other races will often find themselves replaced with a white or Asian woman after they’ve served the purpose of fulfilling a sexual fantasy. Upon witnessing Elliot’s behavior, Cotton feels justified about stealing his checkbook. She didn’t want to be disposable and she couldn’t bear feeling taken advantage of. These feelings combined with the urgency of needing to feel right in her own body led her to the actions that would ultimately result in her arrest at the end of the season.

Cotton’s story is a tragic portrayal of a transgender black sex worker living in the south. Atlanta may be home to largest black LGBTQ community in America but the specters of racial and sexual violence as well as religious abuse place the most vulnerable in society in severely compromising positions. Because Cotton didn’t get to complete her bottom surgery or legally change her gender marker before she was arrested, she will be put in men’s prison. Trans women in men’s prisons are not given adequate access to hormones and are subject to rape from guards and inmates at rates much higher than their cisgender peers.

The existence of a multi-dimensional black transgender character on a mainstream cable network TV show points to the progressive direction the U.S. is heading. Stories like these will bring attention to all of the real-world Cottons from urban Atlanta to rural Ohio. That’s the beauty of Cotton.

Chinese vs. Western Makeup

I went to a Chinese makeup artist yesterday. I wanna show you guys the contrast between Chinese makeup and Western makeup styles.  The top is Chinese style and the bottom is my own shoddy version of Western makeup.  What do you guys think? Which do you prefer? 

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Chinese app: Pitu