My 27th birthday was August 7 in the United States, and August 8 in Taipei.
Time passes so quickly. One minute, I am a baby in a sombrero hat being held by my mother in the Marin Headlands overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge…
…the next, I am an (just about to be) 27-year-old letting some Taiko Drum video game in Taipei’s Miramar get the better of me.
Over the past two and a half years, one of my obsessions has been with trying to live in the moment. In the few weeks before Ron left for Taipei and during the few times we visited each other, I spent nearly every minute trying to remember every detail of our time together so I could keep it in the lock box of my memory and bring little things out to turn around in my head like worry stones when I missed him too much. It was like that song from “Oliver”:
“Who will buy this wonderful morning?
Such a sky you never did see!
Who will tie it up with a ribbon, and put it in a box for me?
So I could see it at my leisure,
Whenever things go wrong,
And I would keep it as a treasure,
To last my whole life long.”
To a certain extent, it was draining and perhaps self-defeating. It’s the same feeling I get when I realize I have been too obsessed with photographing an event or outing, and didn’t take a chance to just step back and relish the moment, and therefore have no memory of what happened that does not exist outside of a .JPEG file. I think that was one of the things I missed most about living in the same place with Ron — not having to milk every single minute for all it’s worth.
It wasn’t just the moments with Ron that felt like they were constantly just out of my grasp. In the year and a half before I left New York City, even before I had finalized my decision to come to Taipei, I spent much of my time trying not to take the city or my friends for granted, and it was often draining.
The difference between my time in New York City and my time here in Taipei is that I started out thinking that my time in New York City was permanent. I didn’t do things like keep a blog where I noted what I’d seen or done during the day, nor did I start taking photographs of the beautiful, fascinating and just plain odd things I’d seen until the year before I left, even though my parents had given me a digital camera right after I graduated from college.
When I knew I was going to leave, however, I started to wish I’d been more attuned to everything around me. Aside from leaving me with sharper memories (and being a good reporting exercise), it would have slowed time down, in a way. But it also would have been emotionally unfeasible — to feel at home in the city, I also had to take it for granted at times. Much of my life centered around routine, of course, and as much as I chastised myself for my monotonous lifestyle, I was also very happy. But in the months before I left, I wished that I could slow down time, literally, like Evie in “Out of this World,” so I could take stock of what was happening to me before touching my fingers together again and letting everyone and everything move forward. I would walk around the East Village or Astoria, or sit across a table from a friend and think to myself, in a few months this will just be a memory. I need to make it as rich a memory as I can. I wish I could hit pause and just let things sink in for a second. But no one has the power to stop time just for themselves because no one’s father is an alien being who communicates with them via a light-up plastic pyramid thingy on their nightstand.
I try very hard to stay positive in Taipei, and there are certainly plenty of reasons to. I think I am happier here than I would have been if Ron and I had decided he would move back to New York City (that was an option we always had on the table). I am challenged and learn something new everyday, which keeps me from sinking into ennui. But I have not found a routine yet. I do not feel at home. There is a dialectic that exists between me and Taiwan, in large part because I am still in the process of becoming truly comfortable with Mandarin. It forces me to be alert. I need to keep my eyes and ears open in a way I never had to in New York City. I can’t lose myself in introversion here too often.
Times passes a bit more slowly here as a result. I’ve been here for almost an entire year, and it feels like it. But there are moments when I still feel awed by the inevitable onward trek of time. My birthday was one of them. I got an e-mail from my mom: “It’s just like yesterday that I gave birth to my darling little baby girl, but I’m preparing your wedding now.” It made me think, “Well, holy cow, that is true. What other crazy thing is going to happen next? Good grief, I may be gestating my own kids one of these days. Whoa!”
This brings me to my annual What Have I Done With/To Myself Over the Past Year birthday list, which I make each year as a self-confidence exercise/memory tool so the next time I berate myself for being a time-waster, I can see that I actually did manage to squeeze a few productive things in between staring at pictures of yarn and dolls on the Internet. Since my last birthday, I…
1) … left my friends and my job at Dow Jones in New York City and moved to Taipei.
2) … reunited with and celebrated my third anniversary with Ron.
3) … studied Mandarin at Shida on scholarship.
4) … set a date and actually started planning our wedding after two years of being all like “yeah, we’ll get to it when we get to it.”
5) … started a new job that requires me to make reporting trips to places like the beach, the Taipei Toy Festival, art exhibits, bars, concerts and shopping malls. On the other hand, I have to use Mandarin to interview people (egads!), but it has helped me improve my speaking skills (woohoo!) and kind of forced me to be a little braver. I’m a pretty shy person, which has always been a challenge for me as reporter. I thought interviewing people in English was hard! What I’ve learned from the past few years of being a journalist, however, is sometimes you just have to suck it up and take a leap of faith. Sometimes you’ll land on your face and spend the next few hours sitting quietly on your bed staring blankly into the distance when you’re supposed to be on deadline, but most of the time, things end up okay.