Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Theory of Everything

With the release of The Theory of Everything trailer and the sudden burst of popularity of the ice-bucket challenge to raise awareness for ALS, I've been thinking a lot about what may happen to me when I grow older. Both sets of grandparents on my mom and dad's side died relatively young; no one lived to see past the age of 65. I feel fairly confident I will live to be much older. I lead a pretty healthy lifestyle; I go to the gym and run regularly and avoid eating at Cook-Out more than once every four months. So, I often think that when it is my time to go, it'll either be because of a freak automobile accident or from some horrible, debilitating autoimmune disease, much like ALS. I'm not really certain why I think about things like this often. It's probably because something went wrong with me too long ago for me to remember.

The other day, while fidgeting around, reluctantly snuggling on the couch with Max (I am also uncertain about why I don't like to snuggle, cuddle, etc.), I asked him if he's seen the Stephen Hawking movie trailer yet. Because I am a fucked-up person, I began to taunt him about how I may one day have ALS. He gets sad when I talk about getting sick or dying. He gets even more upset when I joke about it. Rightfully so, because all in all, it's a really depressing and morbid subject. I asked him if he would stay with me if I had ALS. To emphasize the gravity of having to stay with a person afflicted with such an illness (but mostly because I am a fucked-up person), I screwed up my face and slumped over, à la Stephen Hawking.

Max responded that he would stay with me. He said that he wouldn't care about my condition and would pretend that I didn't have anything wrong with me at all. He said he'd talk to me daily, despite my inability to respond. He said every morning, he'll say, "Hey Juju," and stroke my hair gently, as if I was baby bird. Normally, I'd laugh and call him a complete corn-ball. Instead, I just cried. As fucked up as I am, I knew that he meant everything he said. After, I stopped fidgeting around on the couch long enough to let him hold me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


There's not really much to say about the death of the great Robin Williams, other than I was a huge fan and now I am just really, really sad. Sometimes I wonder about how the rest of us mouth-breathers will make it.

RIP, Robin Williams.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

You so Fit, Bit.

Me, at Piedmont Park goin' HAM on my Fitbit

A month ago, after receiving rave reviews from some friends, I decided to purchase a Fitbit Flex from Ebay. After I received it in the mail, I became instantly addicted. The Fibit Flex is a device that is worn on your wrist and it tracks steps taken daily along with mileage, calories burned, sleep patterns, etc. all whiling syncing wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet. It’s a pretty useful tool to help you keep track of just how active you are on a daily basis, but in my opinion, the most fun and obsessive feature is that you can see where you stack up amongst your friends who also use Fitbit. Essentially, the Fibit Flex is just another way for me to feed my mildly aggressive, competitive tendencies.

I grew up in a family where every member is intensely competitive. Any and every activity couldn’t be done simply for the sake of fun; there had to be loser and winner element to it. We couldn’t just go to the swimming pool to splash around and play with water toys; we had to have relay races from sun up to sundown. “Sock ‘em Bopppers” were used for death matches. I once played charades so furiously, I slipped and tore my ACL. At my cousin’s baby shower, we filled up several baby bottles with milk and raced to see who could finish chugging it the quickest. At another cousin’s wedding reception in Vegas, each dinner table tried to out-laugh and out-toast the other tables. Puns and jokes and thrown back and forth to one-up each other, not for laughing. Once, we made someone cry while playing “Limbo.” As you can tell, the Nguyens are “that” family, especially when we are all together. In recent years, because a lot of my cousins went to medical school, we’re all separated and these big, family get-togethers became few and far between, along with opportunities to be compete with one another. It became difficult to indulge in this side of personality until the Fitbit came along.

When I use Fibit, I am in a fierce competition with my other friends. I constantly find excuses to get up and moving; I straighten things up around the office and the house, I take out the garbage, take Thao’s demon shih-tzu for walks, etc. I pretty much just pick up a lot of activities I would normally never do. A new regular part of my bedtime ritual is to jog in place for as long as I can to hit my daily goal of 10,000 steps before I go to sleep. All of this done in complete silence; no one is aware that I am secretly trying to out-step everyone on a daily basis. No one is aware that whenever I pass someone on the rankings list, I exult “YES” and tell them to “EAT IT!” Although thrilling, these small victories are not difficult to achieve because I don’t have many Fitbit friends to begin with. I have seven “friends”, three of which who are either completely sedentary or are not wearing their trackers constantly. At first it didn’t really matter to me that the Fibit competition pool was so limited, but now I can’t help but feel that it is just not enough. I bought Max a Fibit for his birthday and have been encouraging everyone else to get one as well.

I sometimes wonder whether this obsession of always wanting to see where I stack up against others or always having to “win” is healthy. It probably isn’t, but guess what, hitting 10,000 steps a day is healthy as hell, so yeah, EAT IT!

Friday, August 8, 2014

First-generation guilt

This past weekend Max and I drove up to downtown Athens with some friends to celebrate Max's 26th birthday. I once heard from someone that Athens has more bars per square feet than in any other place in the world. I'm not sure whether this is true, but I'm pretty sure there are more drunk people there per square foot in the world on any given weekend. If you need any further explanation on just what sort of place Athens is, please hit up Patton Oswalt for more info.

The goal for the evening and night was to go to as many new (for me and Max) bars as possible. But, the primary objective was our usual one: To drink to the point where, the next day, we would start to think the Prohibition Act might have been a pretty good idea. Somewhere along the night, between dancing at a 90s-themed bar filled with more crappy, white, co-ed dancers than you would ever want to see, ordering a round of "buttery nipples" for a group of girls who obviously don't know how to drink, and just being drunk-yelling at strangers, we settled at Walker's. It's a mostly unremarkable bar, but it wasn't jam-packed with idiots, so were definitely feeling it. I listened to my friend talk about his recent trip to Chicago. I visited Chicago with Thao back in 2011 and I remember thinking that it was my favorite city to visit so far. He told me he had plans to move there or somewhere else outside of Georgia in the next few years. He said he was ready to just "get out" and "see what else is out there." Many of my friends have said things like this, and usually only a few have actually put their money where their mouth is and gotten the hell out of dodge. I commend these brave few, but mostly I am jealous. As someone who has travelled a lot within the past decade,  the whole thing got me thinking about what is really holding me back from packing up and leaving myself.

The biggest reason I can think of for not leaving is being afraid to leave my single mother alone. She is perfectly capable, physically and financially, and currently lives with her closest sister, my aunt, Di Son. There is no real reason to be worried about leaving her behind, except that I don't know what it would say about me as a daughter. When my mother was around 13 years old, she and her siblings left Communist Vietnam to live in the US. The details about how treacherous her trip was (they sailed by boat) or how crappy it was for her and everyone else to find their footing in a brand new country where they didn't know anyone or speak the language is for another time. This is mostly because I haven't had the courage to ask my mother a lot about it because it hearing it just makes me extremely sad. The most important thing here I'll discuss is that when she left Vietnam, it was the last time she would ever see her own mother. Shortly after my mother and everyone else made it to the US and attempted to settle in, my grandmother died. She told me once that she has never gotten over the feeling of being apart from her mother and is certain it is something she'll never get used to.

I was not always very close to my mother; I was a "daddy's girl" pretty much until I was 16 or so. It's been a long, hard road to achieve the relationship that we have now. We're not best friends who can speak candidly to one another without about our hopes, dreams and fears, but we can joke around once in a while and hang out for extended periods of time without wanting to kill each other. This may sound like a run-of-the-mill mother-daughter relationship for most Americans, but for immigrant parents and their American-born kids, we might as well be the Gilmore Girls. After all of the efforts spent by both my mother and I to become as close as we are now, I think it'd be a shame to leave it all behind. Mostly, though, I think it'd be sad. My mother did not have a choice when she left her mother in Vietnam all those years ago, and the idea that I would voluntarily leave my own mother leave her just to fulfill some inexplicable desire to "get out" is something I've been having difficulty reconciling with.

I realize all of this is a product of my own thoughts and feeling, rather than that of my mother's. I suppose it's some first-generation guilt I just need to work through over time. Is the need to live away from home unique to the young only? I wonder about this because I'm often concerned about making major life decisions when I'm in my 20s, only to regret them in my 30s, 40s, etc. Because really, don't we all just end up where we started? Back at home? Maybe I should stop thinking about where I end up and focus on how I'll eventually get there. In the meantime, I'll plan a trip or two with my Thao so we can "get out" and "see what's out there," even if it's just for a glimpse.