I’ve been in Austin for nearly two months and I can say I think I’ve gotten into a rhythm.
A Regular Day
I wake up usually around 5:30 and go for a run. I want to actually train up for a marathon so my runs vary from 6 miles to 8 miles right now. On Tuesdays, I run with a running group called the Morning Jo’s. They run at 6 am at Jo’s Coffee which is famous for it’s “I Love You So Much” street art wall.
I love running and I love seeing the city when there are no people around. It’s still dark out and I can see the stars. There’s hardly any cars, but tons of runners.
I usually finish up my run around 7am and sometimes will grocery shop, run errands, clean the house, or read.
Right now I’m reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I was turned off it the first two chapters because all the women were just whores or dumb wives. The men described the women as useless, dumb, silent, etc. I was initially just like “This book is just grossly ‘of its time’.” But I pushed on through the first few chapters and have been enjoying it more. I think it still heavily suffers from a lack of any redeeming female characters and there’s quite a bit of racism directed towards a Chinese character named Lee, the only character of color in this book. However, it has great character detail to the main men of the book and sucks you into these peoples’ lives.
Before East of Eden, I finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope by DeRay McKesson. Both good and would recommend.
Then it’s work time anytime from about 10 to 6:15ish. After I am done with work, I shut off my laptop, turn off my monitor, and basically run from my desk. Since I’ve started working remote, I find that once I’m done with work, I am desperate to get away from technology and get out of my house. I usually bike over to the library which takes me exactly 7 minutes unless the train comes and then it’s about 13 minutes. At the library, sometimes I’ll read but sometimes I’ll draw.
I bought this used book about Central Texas nature with the goal to draw the different pictures throughout the book. The idea is that I will maybe be on a hike and be able to identify a plant because I drew it. So far it’s been mostly birds and wild animals that I will probably not come across but I’ve enjoyed getting back into drawing.
Asian Adoptee Network
I’ve also been doing a side project, usually in the mornings before work. It’s a website called Asian Adoptee Network. Dad actually inspired me to create this website but it’s going to be a resource website for Asian Adoptees and it’s just going to be a hub of information, videos, books, podcasts, news, action, events, etc. that are meant specifically for Asian adoptees. My hope is that some Asian adoptee who is maybe going through struggles can come across my website and maybe find something that will reassure them or something they can relate to.
When I searched for adoption material, a lot of it was geared towards parents. A lot was talking about how cheery and beautiful adoption is. A lot was about how adoption is the good Christian thing to do. A lot was just not at all coming from the adoptee’s perspective and not talking about trauma, transracial issues, identity, and attachment issues. As I’m curating a lot of information, I’m sifting through a lot of “those” things, but also finding books, videos, websites that I wish I had discovered long ago. I’m coming across lots of stories from Asian adoptees about how maybe things aren’t as cheery as parents make it out to be. How, along with typical teenage struggles, they also heavily struggled with internalized racism and imposter syndrome. And just more Asian adoptees who want to talk about their experiences in a real way.
So I’ve been slowly chugging along at building that website. I imagine it’s still going to be a while but I’ll update my small audience if you all want to take a look at it when it’s ready.
I think side hustles are a “thing” you’re supposed to do when you get into your late 20’s. It’s like the passion project that brings in some side income. Well my drawing, reading, and building of AAN aren’t putting any money into my bank account, but I’ve started to deliver for Uber Eats on weekends. Just food delivery and it pays not amazing but still brings in a little extra money a week which covers the fact that groceries and utilities are pricier here. It’s been a good way to just discover the city a little more. I have found a few interesting eateries and places of town that I probably wouldn’t have gone to if I didn’t deliver food there.
So that’s been pleasant but these kind of gig jobs are just unsustainable in the long term. The amount of wear and tear on your car combined with gas bills really makes gig jobs like that hardly worth doing. AKA the gig economy is structured on making profits for the big companies while the workers are paying out of pocket for things that typically would be covered under a standard employer but tech profits more from exploiting gig workers, not giving benefits, and paying low “wages”.
Articles on this:
Sometimes instead of going to the library, I will go to some event going on. Here are some of the cooler events I’ve gone to:
Elizabeth Warren rally.
She came into Austin before the Houston Democratic debates and did her spiel. Warren is definitely the candidate I’m more leaning towards. I’m not on the Biden train and even though I did a lot of things for Bernie last time, candidates like Warren, Castro, and Booker have appealed to me more.
It’s like TED talks but a little more comedic and more random. There are three presenters who just speak on a subject that they are experts at. The one I went to was about the sociology of making friends, the science of pitch and having a good singing voice, and the last about sensory augmentation.
Capitol building tour.
I went early in the morning on a weekday. Like 7 am nobody is there and it was interesting but the Denver Capitol building is much more interesting. The Texas one was huge but barren. The Denver Capitol has artwork, murals, and more artifacts that relate to Colorado history. The Texas one has pretty much zero artwork which was a bit disappointing.
Master Pancake is his comedy duo who will screen movies and do comedic commentary. The one I went to was at the library and we watched The Martian. So they start playing the movie and it’s definitely a good idea to have seen the movie previously because they talk into mics, add in jokes and jabs, point out inconsistencies or absurdities. They sometimes will edit the movie and throw in a funny reference clip from other movies or swap out the audio. They do a little halftime show skit on stage and it’s fun!
Spectrum Theatre Company Presents “Facing Our Truth”
Spectrum Theatre is a group who do play about the Black/African American experience. This show, Facing Our Truth, is a collection of plays on Trayvon Martin. It was thought-provoking, sad, and there was one play, in particular, that was pretty bone-chilling. I reflected a lot on the fact that I’ve met Sabrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother. We brought her to CSU for one of our events for Black History Month and my job was to escort her because we had to go down back ways for security purposes. She didn’t talk much and understandably wasn’t very open. I consistently think about how absolutely emotionally and physically exhausting it must be for Sabrina to speak at all these events around the world and recount her son’s death. It’s with the hope that all that work will lead to a better world, but the killing of a child is more than enough trauma and weight for one person- let alone having to always retell it for the consumption of others.
Umlauf Sculpture Garden
I was not a fan of this. It’s all works by Charles Umlauf and a lot of them feel like the typical male gaze, naked women sculptures. Or they are about Christianity or the plight of poor refugees/beggers (and therefore why we must help those in need). I think I got turned off of by a refugee sculpture in particular because he heavily emphasized their skeletal structure and made them look helpless and almost inhuman, like begging dogs. I think the narrative around refugees needs to be more about the fact that they are humans. Humans who have struggles and have gone through many hardships, but also can love movies and like playing the piano like any other person. They aren’t beggars or helpless lost souls, but just people who want a good life.
Southwest of Salem
I went to an event put on by Undoing White Supremacy Austin which is a predominately white group who put on events to educate other white folks about racial justice. This event was a screening of the documentary Southwest of Salem which is about: “the nightmarish persecution of Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, and Anna Vasquez — four Latina lesbians wrongfully convicted of allegedly gang-raping two little girls during the ‘Satanic sexual abuse panic’ of the 80’s and 90’s in San Antonio, Texas.” Here’s a link to the website. It was a fantastic documentary and Anna Vasquez came and spoke to us after the screening and she was great as well.
Adult Story Hour
I told a story at Adult Story Hour. It’s just a storytelling hour at the library for adults. I went to one in August and the topic was trees. I wrote about that and how one of the women’s story brought me to tears. This month was about Growing Pains and I told my story of being diagnosed with Cold Urticaria and how that led to me coming here. They really liked my story! But the most fun thing was these two ASL translators who before were just chatting about their different stories translating for things like Def Leppard concerts, surgeries, boring medical classes, one of their translators getting hit by a car and still translating, etc. Just hearing them tell their stories and the different things they’ve seen or had to do was fascinating. There’s one coming up about Holiday Horrors and they encouraged me to tell a story at that one but I don’t know quite what I’ll speak about yet…
On the topic of ASL translators. I went to ASL Expressions which was a night at the library for the deaf community to tell stories, do performing arts, etc. and someone would translate their sign language into spoken word. It was interesting to see because the standard is that spoken word has to be translated into sign language. But this opened up this door to an entire community where this event catered to them and all the people who didn’t know sign language had to receive the translations.
Loud and Proud Open Mic Night
This was an open mic put on by the Asian Resource Center here. It was mostly comedy acts and it was pretty good. Most of the comedy acts were first-time comics and I liked seeing the Asian community supportive of other Asians trying out things like comedy for the first time.
Blanton Art Museum
I went to the free day at the Blanton Art Museum which is one of the bigger art museums on UT Austin’s campus. I only really stuck around the contemporary art section which I honestly loved.
The IN Between: artist talk + community panel on immigration
This was an artist opening reception for Vy Ngo. She has pieces speaking to immigration and the refugee experience since her parents came here from Vietnam as refugees. The panel was the most interesting part because it was made up of women who work with immigrants and refugees. Specifically, they spoke a lot about immigrants who just made it across the Mexican border and how much the immigration system is stacked against them. Also how Trump is dramatically reducing the number of refugees who are let into the US. One of the most impactful things said is how it feels like we’re at a point in the US where we need to decide what the soul of our country is. Is it one that lets people in and lets them live or shuts them out.
So I’ve found things to do that appeal to my typical political interests and are art-related.
What about friends?
Yeah… so even though I find things to entertain me like events, drawing, reading, or running, I’m alone often. I’ve done somethings with some friends. I’ve met people at Meetups and we’ve gone out to dinners, movies, or played board games. I go to volleyball on Saturdays and I’m starting to learn the names of the regulars and usually have a fun few hours in the sun. And one of my mentors from college had a friend in Austin and they invited me to hang out with them one night. So there are people that I’m friendly with and have seen one or two times and would say they are friends.
But if I’m going to be honest, I definitely don’t have the same kind of friend circle I had in Denver. There’s a couple of Meetup groups that I like but they aren’t very active, particularly compared to the ones back in Denver. And I know it takes time so I’m just going to keep going to the Meetups that I like and trying to do more things with the people that I meet.
Is it home?
The fact that I don’t have a social safety net means I feel in flux. I still feel like Austin is this transition place. A place that isn’t home and that I don’t feel comfortable in. I have my routine and I’m getting to know the streets but what makes a city home is who is there and how comfortable you feel.
I’ve been asking myself if I see Austin becoming my home?
I don’t know.
A big issue is that I’ve been in flight mode for the past few years of my life. Since college, I’ve moved 8 times and in the past year, I’ve lived in four different houses. In general, I believe I’ve moved 19 times in my life. So moving and transitioning has been one of the only constants in the past few years of my life and I’m still in that mode.
I still have that fear in my head to keep an eye on the Craigslist ads and research apartments because moving just feels inevitable at things point. I feel like I can’t settle down. Not just in the house I’m in but also with Austin. Will I move if I get a job in another city? Will I stay in Austin? Will I try to find an apartment on my own (not really because I can’t afford it) or try to find roommates in a house? Should I go to San Antonio or some small Hill Country town to save money? Would I like that or am I a city kind of person? Will I ever be able to make enough money where I could live in a studio with no roommates? Will I even be able to afford to live in Austin considering the skyrocketing rent and a probable recession?
These questions are at the forefront and I think it’s actually unhealthy because it means my brain isn’t at peace but is in the fight or flight mode and on edge. I think it contributes a lot of stress to always be on the search, on edge, in fight or flight mode. And I think that’s how it been for the past couple of years to the point where I can’t really imagine staying at a place for longer than 6 months or having a space that I could actually call my home.
But I know the early 20’s are always stages of transition for people and instability is common when you’re just trying to work your way up. I know the resolution to all of this is just to tough it out for a little longer. All that – stability, comfortability, peace – will come eventually.