Tuesday, January 29, 2019

IN THE HEIGHTS

I've been in New York for two months now. I had an interview with Lush last week, along with several other job interviews in the past weeks, but they declined me, because of my requirement for a visa sponsorship. It makes sense, they wouldn't want to go through the hassle of paying more and going through the legal processes of hiring a foreigner to do a job that thousands of American-born citizens can do. This means that I will be leaving soon. While I've been here, I've seen people who get married to get green cards, I've seen immigrants who are quite probably undocumented and have overstayed their visas, and I wonder how they do it. I really do wonder. I've applied for everything that I'm sure I could have done, copywriting and editorial, retail and F&B businesses, fashion, everything you think I can do, I applied for. I used all descriptives that I think actually apply to me, I said I'm adaptable and a quick learner, I am hardworking and passionate, all those buzzwords but it didn't work, because I wasn't born in the right country, and also because I don't have a skill that's in demand and niche, like software engineering or coding or law or medicine. My strengths are writing about my life, and being honest. Like what can I even do with that? When I received news from both my interviewers today, I cried on the Subway trip home, and then I recalled, between two and three years ago, I sobbed uncontrollably on the train home in Singapore, and that was because I'd found out I was pregnant, and I didn't know what to do, and I felt like my life was going to end, but a lady gave me a tissue and told me, whatever it is, it was going to be alright. And it was, and it is, and it will always be. I tried my best. I told Tina, and she texted me the following.
Tina: There's a book I've read a million times about this man who is basically immortal and lives all these lives
Tina: And in the middle of the book is an "intermission" of his proverbs, advice from his long long life
Tina: And my favorite is
Tina: "Certainly the game is rigged, but don't let that stop you. If you don't bet, you can't win."
Before I received the news today, Ben (the one I used to date in Singapore) brought me to Trinity Church and we saw Alexander Hamilton's and Eliza Schuyler's graves. I had a great day with Ben, despite the fact that we started with a heavy discussion on our feelings, and how we'd hurt each other, and how it is almost impossible to stay friends with people you used to date. I am forever in awe of Lin-Manuel Miranda's portrayal of Hamilton, and the musical whose casting and lyrics seem to embody the melting pot of America as it is today, the fact that immigrants have always gotten the job done. Today, I thought about the past two months and how much I love New York. I think about having met Adam, and learning that loving a person is different from loving the idea of a person. I think about when I was changing trains last week, I was at West 4th and there was a drummer playing a song I liked (there is usually a drummer there), and I was bopping to the music while gazing into the distance, before I realised there was a guy at the opposite platform, who was looking at me and signalling thumbs up to me, and mirroring my movement and dances, and I laughed, because that sort of thing has never happened to me in Singapore. I think about having seen someone propose at Brooklyn Bridge, and how down-to-earth they had been, how there were no frills about it, and yet everyone around them felt an enormous swell in their hearts, or so it seemed to feel. I think about the dozens of independent bookstores, that stock all sorts of books, written by first-time-published authors. I think about being at the Women's March, swept up by the current of politics and doing the right thing. I think about how much I've learned and grown, well overdue, things like buying my own dishwashing liquid and sponge, and cleaning from the start to the end of the cooking process. I think about Tina, my best friend and soul sister in New York, someone who's so kindred despite having been across the world almost all our lives. And then I think about Bennett, my boyfriend.

So when I saw Adam as my "Most Compatible" recommendation on Hinge, I told a Hinge match of mine about it, because I'm clearly the kind of person who has no boundaries. His name was Bennett, and he asked if I wanted to talk about it as a friend, because he said he knew sometimes you need a friend more than anything else. We met at a diner, and I was candid about what I was feeling, because I hadn't thought about it as a date. After dinner, we walked to Grand Central Station, and then Central Park, where we saw a raccoon run across the frozen pond. We spent three dates, and the past five days learning everything about each other. He studied linguistics, as did Tina, so they both made silly jokes about linguistics to each other through me. Bennett (who goes by Ben) used to work facilitating games, so for one of our dates, we played a word game called Wordsy, which I now love, because it's really fun and I think I could be really good at it. Ben was super cute teaching me to play it, 'cos he was clearly better at it than I was, being that he's also a wordy person, and he used to facilitate games for work, right. But he was always being encouraging and telling me I was doing much better than other first-time-players, and he also commented on how well-designed games are. He says since he used to teach and facilitate kids, he needed to know how to play and lose well just enough, because obviously he shouldn't be winning all the games, to teach the kids, and it was so cute, I was like ???? We talked about our lives and Mars, and SpaceX and Elon Musk, and underwater sea creatures and the things we both hate, and I played a tiny bit of a game called Steep with his housemate Hugo, who is a huge history nerd (and looks like Paul Rust tbh). I was falling asleep and I told Ben, my sister Lyssa and I have an inside joke that annoys her and amuses me to no end, and it's that sometimes when Lyssa and I used to talk to each other in my room, I would be falling asleep, and I would try so hard to continue the conversation, but clearly my brain would be shutting down and I would have no control over what I'm even saying, and Lyssa would be like, "can you shut up and just sleep!!!!!" and I was worried I was doing the same with Ben, because we were talking about things we both hate, and I said Trump, and I feel like I was mouthing other words, but making no sense.

I know I said I wouldn't mention my dates, but Bennett really reminds me of Penn Badgley, and so I told him to watch You with me. If you don't know what You is, it's about Penn Badgley being a stalker (yet again). No matter what happens, I really am glad I've got him in my life. I told him I got rejected by Lush and am making plans to leave, and this is what he says "no way, there are definitely other jobs, you'll be fine! I've got your back :) I will do anything I can to help you" and like, this boy (younger than I am by two years), he's been very sweet, and he's either saying I'm smart or I'm pretty or I'm wonderful, and every so often, he says "hey" to get my attention, and then "I'm not gonna disappear on you, okay?" and yesterday we had a confusing day, and it ended with him asking if I wanted what we had to be a relationship, and I said yes, and he said he was in, and ???????

I don't know, I feel extremely sad at leaving New York, I love it and have had plenty of lovely memories here, and I feel I belong here, but I also feel a lot more of an adult than I used to be. I think I needed to get away from the environment that I'd been depressed in for two years, and I've gained some ground and independence, and I've tried my best, and I'm just really proud of myself for even having tried, anyway. In the Netflix series You, and in Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse that I'd just seen today, and in many other shows I've seen in my lifetime, the landscape is very often New York, and I feel so, so grateful and so humbled to have been given the chance to experience it in such an authentic way. I know which trains have stops in which neighborhoods, I know how to make connections from Queens to Brooklyn without using the Google Maps-suggested route into Manhattan. I know that you can get some decent horchata. I know which brownstones in which neighborhoods are most sought-after. I know which Subway platforms have musical performers. I know where to find rice in Trader Joe's. I know that when I take the bus, the welcome announcement says "welcome to New York" and perhaps, that was indeed the inspiration behind Taylor Swift's song. I know that people struggle here, just as they do in Singapore, and people are happy here, just as they are happy in Singapore, and that heartbreaks and job losses and families and education happen in both and in neither and in all places. I know so much, and maybe I feel I belong, but the world will always have boundaries and borders, and I'm enough of an adult to know that if I'm happy within, I will be happy anywhere, and I think I'm ready to be happy, even in Singapore. We'll see what the future holds, but for now, thank you, New York, for being the most magical and greatest city in the world, for me to become an adult.