if i write all this down through the lens of retrospect then maybe i can simply will pandemic spacetime to be an artifact of the past; maybe if i am prematurely thankful for the experience then it will become a distant memory sooner, in the way that all things i wish would last a little longer inevitably pass by too quickly. i've spent the entire past year staying up late waiting for something; i've already spent a lot of words on things i miss. here are the things i am thankful for—
time spent in my hometown, which i never thought i would have again for any extended amount of time. i cried when i left home for good because i knew then that i would likely never live in the same city as my family ever again. it was impossible to know then that i would be wrong, just for a fleeting moment in time, but i'm thankful to have spent every afternoon last summer swimming in twenty-five degree sunshine, wandering the newly lush conservation area in my backyard which was just an empty field when we growing up, driving to the beach on weekends; for home, where making potato pancakes at one o‘clock in the morning is perfectly acceptable.
Furniture Fridays and Minecraft Pokemon and friend group therapy, and the friends i haven't seen since we left university despite us living in the same city. it feels like we picked up where we left off at the end of fourth year, but this time as adults with our lives ostensibly a bit more together. now we dissect each other's lives on a weekly basis, discussing everything from the mundane (i.e. the impossibility of proper Chinese groceries in downtown Toronto) to being the sanity check for every big life decision i've made over the past year. i forgot what it feels like to be immediately understood, to have friends who really see me; let me feel safe enough to detail every questionable life decision i've ever made. i'm not sure i've ever had the space to dissect uncertainty like this before. i'm thankful that we get to figure it all out together, and i'm especially thankful for every minute together now that i know one of us will probably move out of the city post-pandemic to start a whole new life and i'm sorry that i didn't appreciate it enough when we lived within walking distance; i didn't know how how good we had it until now. we're never going to be able to fully make up for lost time, but at least from today i know to appreciate every single minute.
Saturday night calls with a friend group that i miss so so much. can you believe that once upon a time we all existed in one place and building the future together was a given? i miss the Saturday nights we spent on T's patio, riffing on the dumbest jokes in a language only we understood. now one of us lives in a different city and i don't know where we'd be if not for this call. i miss a time when this whole adventure was new and we were oblivious to how it would end, when we were living out a story which would become shared mythology. i still tell everyone that you were the best cult i ever had. nothing else has ever come close.
clarity, and courage, to let go of something that i desperately wanted to work even though i should've known better from the very beginning. it's hard to leave if nothing is wrong. i probably would've stayed if pandemic distance hadn't revealed to me that the emotional distance between us was insurmountable.
a speculative fiction writing workshop about Chinatown in 2050, at a moment in time when it was scary to be Asian in North America. i am thankful for the community-building aspect of this project, and being surrounded by other artists who captured this second-generation existence true-to-life in a way which let me know that everything i thought was personal is universal, for a role model who is poised and accomplished and talented in a way that i can only hope to be in five years, for the way it challenged me as a writer and reminded me how much i enjoy world-building even though i've never been very good at writing fiction. this workshop resulted in a zine which will serve as a time capsule for 2020, and that's already precious and i'm honored to have contributed to it. but what i'm most thankful for: prior to this, i hadn't been in a room full of writers in years, and i forgot what exactly it feels like to riff on ideas and engage in intentional world-building with other artists. the creative energy in a room of writers working on a shared world is unlike anything else i have ever experienced. i never knew i needed this to feel most alive.
the capacity for forgiveness, and a collective reminder of our own finiteness. remember April, and how lonely and scared we all were? how everyone texted their exes and all the people who had ever wronged them, and the friends they had gotten into blowout fights with and never forgiven, to tell them that we hoped they were doing well despite these crazy times? that just in case something happens to me, you should know? that was maybe the greatest collective "just so you know" moment we'll ever see in this lifetime. i hope at least one person rediscovered love they thought they'd lost forever; i hope the pandemic gave you second chances. i hope you're making the most of them.
the letters, and my oldest friend. four years ago i left the letters unread and never wrote again; let you go off into the great wide world thinking i didn't care, because i was too terrified to ask you to stay. now i'm glad i didn't, because you found—are still finding—adventure that you would have never found if you had stayed. i'm thankful that last April i wrote and sent you a “just so you know” not even knowing if it would ever find you. i'm thankful that you wrote back. i'm thankful to be part of your life through these letters; for the gift of hearing your thoughts change through time. this friendship has never been perfect but it is once-in-a-lifetime.
someone who i didn't know would be such a good thing. in an alternate universe, you would still be working at a likely-successful startup somewhere across the Atlantic Ocean, and we would have never met. now that seems unfathomable; to think that maybe i would not be writing you at half past midnight at least half of these nights, sending every dumb thought in my head across an ocean, waiting on some of the best conversations we haven't had yet. so many other lives which almost happened, but we get this one.
this tiny art collective, and generative possibility made possible because of distance. i'm thankful for diaspora existence in all its wonder and complexity, when the pandemic hit and i was forced to confront everything i was missing in my life. i didn't know that there would be critical place-making to be done for these stories which need to be told; stories which probably saved my life, stories which we're still writing. i'm thankful for the way you made me brave enough to cold-email a dozen other artists with this vision, the way you believed in the necessity of this project, the way you believe that these stories need to be told. it's ironic that this is a book, because i wish i had the words to tell you how exactly thankful i am that we get to create something together.
sometimes the universe gifts us with unmissable things.