January 1st, 2013. 2:53am
Can’t Sleep; let’s write.
2012 began with me making the move back to the US, specifically, New York City. It had been something I’ve talked about since spring of 2010, when she left.
That I’m writing this in Sheung Wan now means I’ve failed. At least in the general sense. I loved New York, and as a pop culture geek, I’m always going to put the city on a pedestal, because that’s where everything I love — basketball, hip hop, media, indie rock, “the batman”, street art — originated.
I came back to Hong Kong for a few reasons. One, although I was making end’s meet in New York, the high cost of living and tough job market made life very stressful — I was bordering on being broke towards the end of every month. Two, I simply had no close, or even regular, friends in New York. Part of that was my fault: I’m socially awkward; I hate making small talk; I’d rather do shit I love alone than do something I have no interest in with a bunch of friends. Part of that’s due to factors outside of my control: In the US I’m just a normal American, there is no “expat community” that sticks together like Hong Kong. Well, I suppose there is an “expat group” for people from Hong Kong. They’re called FOBs.
So yeah, I spent literally 95% of my time in New York alone, walking/biking up and down Manhattan; walk across the Williamsburg bridge while listening to The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack; eating out of taco trucks and Momofuku Milk Bars; sit around Union Square or Washington Square Park. I did all that mostly with headphones on, closed off to the rest of the world. I’d go a full week without getting a phone call or text message. Even for an anti-social guy like me, it was a bit much.
But New York is still Gotham, and lonely as I was, I felt inspired by it everyday. All the cliches New Yorkers throw around? About how the bright lights inspires? (Wait, that’s a Jay-Z lyric, no?) As much as I want to roll my eyes at it, they’re mostly true.
Aside from a four month stint at The Village Voice (!!!!!!), I was either freelancing/unemployed or doing a shitty remote editing gig for a site I didn’t care about. That setup, at least, allowed me to travel, and I did plenty of that in 2012.
I went to Europe for the first time. London was a blast, partly because of the stunning London architecture and the public bike-share system, and partly because I met up with two close friends there. Victor Chi. Anita Lam. Friends from my old life in Alhambra and my life in Hong Kong. I remember being in London and hanging with them — separately, but with others around as well — made me miss being around friends so much.
I also went to Boston with my friends from Alhambra. The boys. Seeing them always brings back old memories of high school days, when we were all carefree and…young.
Speaking of that — I turned 30 this year. And for the first time, I felt self-conscious about my age. I’d see a writer who’s established in New York — say, Jon Abrams, formerly of NY Times and now of Grantland — and when I realized he’s younger than me, I’m like, “damn, perhaps I’m trying this too late.”
Everyday in New York was a constant struggle. I’d step out of the house and love the city, love the life. But at nights when I’m wandering around town alone, or when I see my bank account, or when I see groups of friends or couples at a park, I’d tell myself perhaps it’s foolish of me to try to uproot my whole life and attempt to start over elsewhere at my age. It makes most sense, financially, and socially, to be in Hong Kong.
So I’m back. And like always, with many things in my life, I’ve been so lucky. I found a great flat at my favorite spot in Hong Kong, with a flatmate who’s actually a friend of a friend.
He’s gay. But we get along fine. We find each other’s attitudes — my overwhelming straightness; his flamboyant gayness — hilarious.
And work came fast. SCMP quickly gave me work. Between that and my remote editing gig for New York, I’ve been able to make a proper income while sleeping in till two everyday, working to my own hours.
The original Brit-Chinese crew has grown in size, and now, just about every weekend, we get together for a huge gathering. To go from spending everyday and eating meal alone to suddenly having huge 25 people dinner every weekend, in one calendar year? Cool/Weird, right?
But despite things in Hong Kong going smoothly, everyday, I think about New York. And when people ask me how long I’m staying in Hong Kong, I find myself feeling ashamed of saying “maybe I’m back for good”.
If I never return to New York, I worry I may always feel like I’ve failed. That I gave up — took the easy way out — and came back here.
Whatever the case, 2012 was an eventful year. On top of all that I mentioned, I also witnessed Linsanity; watched the NBA playoffs, marched down Manhattan with Occupy Wall Street; wrote for the Wall Street Journal and Village Voice; experienced The Dark Knight Rises in Gotham, at 4am, with hundreds of fellow fans.
And most important of all: I’m over her. That thing, which has been eating away inside of me for the past two years, is finally gone. I’m always going to hold her at a high place in my heart, but the sadness, the pain, the anger is gone. I’m done.
This blog has, for the most part, been all about her. I think I can retire the damn thing now, for it has served its purpose.
I don’t know what I’m going to do in 2013 — do I get a proper job and commit to staying in Hong Kong long term? Or do I stick with my freelance gig and travel around?
Not sure. Who cares. Let’s roll.