Remembrance of a Paper’s Past

Existential questions bubble up during this pandemic for me, and I’ve had to dig deep to keep them at arm’s length. I’ve plucked obscure things from my past to reassure myself that this too shall pass and incorporated a Zen mindset, my Catholic faith and the prayers I would say in the car before heading off to the bus stop with my siblings for school to settle any spiritual anxiety and disturbances. This crisis, after all, calls for all hands on deck and every ounce of resilience I could muster.
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The grotto I frequent to stretch, wind down and find solace after walks around my neighborhood

There was also a sixth grade paper, I alluded previously, in which I wrote about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. My mom was a pathologist, and as common for doctors she had these thick medical books on our shelves. My main source material was “Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine,” which I pored over religiously during the process, however, a Newsweek article was a secondary reference that introduced a public health professional who would figure prominently in the disease’s evolution to this very day. That professional is Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He is the reason I stick by the guidelines he is advocating with the CDC and the science and data behind it to slow the progress of the coronavirus. When he is being questioned over the government’s response by the U.S. Senate, he responds in the same compassionate, respectful demeanor when challenged by HIV/AIDS activists at the epidemic’s height. Dr. Fauci is an old warrior who has been at this game longer than most of these senators have been in office.
I suppose too this is like writing an open letter to my 11-year-old self who wrote that paper for Ms. Mary Cavanaugh’s English class, to say this is my playbook for surviving a pandemic, HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 or otherwise: We will eventually reach a point of equilibrium, and we will adapt to a different yet manageable norm. While I have no idea where the paper is now, I hope whence next I return to my family home, I will find it and marvel over how a sliver of my younger past could comprise my North Star for my near half-century present.

The Change I’m Waiting For

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Photos from a friend in Oakland of healing murals springing up after angry protests on the main thoroughfare.

June has me shaken by another horrific death of a black man by a police officer that, coupled with the coronavirus, exposes yet again the widening gap in this country’s social shortfall with communities of color.  

Just as the coronavirus had me recalling learnings from a sixth grade research paper I wrote about the HIV-AIDS epidemic, these days of protests have alerted my political underpinnings established in college and carried into my adult life. Eventually, I became resigned racism, like poverty and homelessness, was too intractable to solve.  But now I wonder has the moment of reckoning arrived?

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I hadn’t even made a dent, reading all the lives lost to cornonavirus, when George Floyd was killed at the hands of law enforcement.

Change starts with me internally, no less.  As a result, I am not only talking less and listening more, but also reeducating myself for a new reality due to the stirrings of a profound awakening. While optimistic, I am managing my expectations.

I also feel like a relic of a now distant past, and I’m more inclined to cede my place to this generation and ones that follow of such diverse voices and backgrounds to create a more equal and just society, since my generation has done such a bang-up job of the world. It’s their turn, after watching remote graduations of even that of my young nephews, and I’ll be the supportive aunt and ally. The impatience of a breathtaking global cross-section of people is real and palpable during a pandemic in which the future is ever so murky, but the present is so intensely clear. With record-high unemployment and too many senseless deaths and losses mourned, there’s no time to waste, nothing more to lose.

 

The Beauty of Being Alive

These are such unusual times, I’m really not sure how to do this, but I guess I’ll give it a whirl. I thank my lucky stars that I am still alive, given the horrific alternative of covid-19. As California rolls out its reopening in the coming weeks, my days are obviously accelerated, and I’m compelled somehow to put these last few months in some sort of perspective. Perhaps they’re encapsulated in the natural beauty and sense of community in my neighborhood in which I had to take refuge these months.

I was reading this piece in The New York Times about locals reclaiming their over-touristed cities pre-pandemic. I may feel the same when I finally find the wherewithal to explore my city and region again, especially if most people decide to hurry back to their homes after venturing out. In the meantime, my neighborhood is where I am right now.

Battening Down the Hatches

93441672_3474262592589250_1547091325038362624_oI am now on Day 35 of shelter-in-place, and it’s now sinking in my body that it’s time to wind down. Life, as I had known it, is not going to return to normal any time soon, and perhaps taking a nap would help to cope and eventually accept the current situation. The “screens,” a term from my 11-year-old nephew Finn who’s doing online learning, are my main interfaces throughout the day but for my mom, with whom I am quarantining. Now I’m feeling like the first few days arriving for my grandfather’s funeral in the Philippines 21 years ago, sequestering in a bedroom and wanting to sleep most of the day due to jet-lag from the longest flight I had flown at the time. But my mind still has not caught up to my body, and I am typing away on my bed, hoping it will finally capitulate and fall into a deep slumber “to sleep perchance to dream” of a life I had hewn and grown to love passionately and most profoundly.

Foggy Bottom

IMG_2119Since being shelter-in-place due to the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, I’ve felt like I’ve been living in a fog, disoriented and unsure of the ground under my feet. But then I’m reminded of a hike my friends and I had taken in Sibley Volcanic Preserve in the East Bay, and it hit me in that rather misty morning venturing into thick brush and hardy stalks of flora deep within the canyon of a silent volcano characterizes what I’m feeling at the moment. However, I was with friends, and I was reassured these are the women I could rely on in an emergency, even an apocalyptic crisis. At one point in the hike, we reached a plateau that provided a view of rolling, golden hills for which California is known. While the region, state, nation and the entire planet is being ravaged by this pandemic, memories such as these are meant to evoke better days when we could breathe freely, and nature will assert her incredible power when it is pushed to the brink.

 

Never Grow Old

It is quite true the axiom that no one could avoid, and that is of course about growing old—a constant, befuddling challenge after another Christmas holiday that at times renders us ageless until January rolls around for a reality check.

Closest model I could find of Tony’s car
I am reminded of Tony, an elderly portly fellow I met ten post-Christmases ago when I was returning a Zipcar. He was emerging from his 1983 Mercedes-Benz coupe and required a hand since the car was built low to the ground. I was at first wary of being drawn into such circumstances with a stranger, especially during the holidays in San Francisco. So I compromised and half-heartedly held out my hand for him to grasp, while giving myself enough space between us, should I need to let go and escape.
We started chatting once we were on level ground, and as we dove deeper into conversation he decided he was selling his impeccably maintained car that survived only one major accident (maybe it’s more like averted), being smacked in the middle of its windshield by flying rebar. Not exactly a muscle car, it is built like a tank. While it seemed like a snap decision, perhaps in his storytelling it was a natural conclusion. I told him I would think on it, but his parting words were “Rachelle, just never grow old.”
I passed on the car and never saw Tony again, but he gave me that impossible truism that nags me into the twilight of another decade. What does it mean, and how does it look like?

Artful and Festive

It’s quite amazing how quickly we come to the end of another year, and typically I reflect on its arc and narrative in this sliver chapter in my own life. However, this month I’m throwing that out the window and focus instead on particular art festivities over the years. The invitations normally come from my friend Wendy, my longest-known friend in the Bay Area, and thematically around post-modern art and museums with which she has memberships. Here are a few that pop to mind. With that, enjoy the holidays!

“Soft Power” is a rather dark exhibition currently in SFMOMA about disenfranchisement and recognition of refugees and immigrants in light of the current political and cultural mood. The installations exude layers of complex meaning and creativity in terms of material and ingenuity. I appreciate the global perspective and challenge to my own experiential approach to art.

Rene Magritte Exhibition

 

 

One of the more commercial exhibitions in SFMOMA that I briefly blogged, I was pleasantly surprised to know curators sought the services of an architect to design the interior space displaying the artist’s work. I worked for architectural firms and therefore have a soft spot for their efforts big and small.

Traveling Yurt

I’ve been meaning to write about this since 2013 at which time SFMOMA was under construction and its exhibitions were “on the go,” being shown in other locations. “Station to Station” was in Oakland’s rotting and graffitied historical train stations, a tantalizing artists’ lair. The customary yurt (see aforementioned “Soft Power”) seems to follow me and Wendy around our art excursions. I would say one of the most avante garde exhibits I’ve seen due to the venue.

img_3416-1This member holiday party has to be one of my favorites because of the backstory behind it. I had a few serendipitous dates on my dance card that day, and Wendy and I had libations of the mini-bar fridge variety. All told, a very merry good time.

Mentors

UZAD1166 Adjusting to a new job no question takes time. Be that as it may, I am mindful of what I already have in my career and lucky enough to have two I could call mentors from journalism to contracts management. Jason, a former contracts manager at Interior Architects, imparted knowledge and the path forward to leverage in my current career. Rene was my first and only editor in journalism, who taught me to be a better writer. They are both highly-skilled, invariably men in their positions.

The women whom I can say are my mentors are really my peers, which speaks more to the lack of them at a higher level. And those in positions of power, I have observed, are merely surviving, dare I say scheming (although they may call it succeeding), in a stratosphere of male culture that rebuffs equally qualified women who would otherwise be at the table but refuse to play the game in a man’s world.

This month I was honored to have met as well as delight in the gastronomic offerings of Chef Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Restaurant and “Top Chef” fame. She put together a meal featuring her soul food menu for the Macy’s Culinary Council during its Spring Flower Show. Her ability to transcend norms and create more of a life than simply a career resonates with me, and I peppered her with questions in exchanges during her cooking demo as we tucked into her dishes and imbibed in wine and spirit.

I identify with her eclectic background, having also grown up and educated in the East before moving west. She said she loves being her own boss, an entrepreneur who is also interested in empowering her community in the Bay Area and globally. She has a degree in Russian language and literature that later led to being a U.S. culinary ambassador to Kazakhstan for the Third Annual Culinary Diplomacy program in 2015.  While current public discourse has become polarizing, she said, food is instrumental in opening up dialogue and discovering commonalities when sharing a meal.

It’s comforting to know a role model like her exists when I am less than satisfied with how my career is progressing. She reminds me I have more agency over my life than I can imagine, and it keeps my eyes locked on the prize.

The Joy of New Beginnings

It was months ago last year in October to be exact that I wrote about eagerly anticipating my next move, and now I can happily say I have turned that page. I can’t say it was easy, but as I am told often, anything hard is more than likely worth it.

This was a no-brainer. There were no conflicts or fears on my end–just it was time to get out and be more me. So here I am with a new job and a freedom I don’t think I have ever known because I am so unequivocally joyful. I see it in wanting to watch my nephew play ball and being my own boss in whatever I choose to do. It is, as overused as this term might be, liberating once again and as ever a moment of gratitude and abundance–twin states of being I could only express in how I live and who I am.

 

Even-Keeled

Self-Portrait

A portrait composed by my coworkers on the whiteboard of my office.

I just thought it’s the perfect moment to plant a flag on something I’ve often wondered–whether my own plan would at some point coincide with reality. Office desk

Here it is–I have a job I’ve come to appreciate because it supports a life I love. By the same token, I approach my job situation in similar fashion as my personal life: It’s how I feel about the job not the company that’s primary. Therefore, it’s about my partner not marriage that’s foremost. I am hopeful on both fronts as I navigate my next move.