New

Day 28, 500 words, 31 days.

Lunar New Year in Penang was pretty quiet, after all. Sure, we heard some fireworks in the distance, but they didn’t keep us up anymore than the instigating bird that pesters the entire neighborhood with its awful crowing.

Granted, we kept things pretty local and stayed in our area – Tanjung Bungah – for most of the weekend thus far. I’m bracing myself for a sudden spurt of liveliness that would change my mind, but until then, things have been pretty tame where we are, and it’s just the way I like it.

I’m not sure it’s a Lunar New Year tradition to make any resolutions the way we Westerners like to ring in January 1st. I know there are many other established traditions in place – the wearing of red, the giving of red envelopes or ‘ang pao’, the big family gathering for a meal.

For our modest, little celebration, there was just one ‘ang pao’ given, I wore a button-up shirt that Shuli insists is pink, and I didn’t even get everyone we had in one photo together – and there were only five of us.

Still, in our own, fairly non-traditional way, I’d say it was a nice evening – especially for the Chinese among our small group – my wife, and  two friends. For them, I can imagine doing something, anything, on this particular day, mattered a lot.

Considering how much of a family-centric celebration this is, and how none of us were around any, we made the most of what we had – each other. But we prepared a meal as if there were far more people coming over than there really were. Shuli provided all the ingredients for Vietnamese spring rolls, Chris prepared dumplings, and our hosts Roby and Erica, cooked an entire fish and roasted a chicken.

Meanwhile, I de-shelled shrimps for an hour. That was my proud contribution to this elaborate meal.

Ever so often, I walked out on the balcony and the occasional set of fireworks went off (I’d find out later that these are actually illegal in Malaysia, which might explain how infrequently they flew).  Something about watching the spectacle of lights burst brightly into the night sky gets me to be still.

Something about that compels me to take a moment to breathe, and be grateful. But I’m not drafting mental checklists of all that I have to do. I’m letting myself feel my own soul well up with a fresh hopefulness for whatever else is in store.

I’m not a naturally hopeful person. Most days I forget what it’s like to desire what I don’t have, and trust that one day, it will be given. Most days, I can only trust that which I feel I’ve earned.

“New Years” – in whatever form they come – the traditional ones, the Lunar ones, the birth-related ones, are a different kind of day, though. To me, they signal the dawn of a new beginning, and I suppose the explosion of lights have something to do with this.

My new beginnings always start from within. My secret hopes, deeply buried like ancient treasures, rise to the surface for some, shall we say, “dusting off”. And all the hopes I already had, the resolutions I made from a month ago that have already fallen to the way side, get a second chance at getting back on the grind.

I doubt our sleep tonight will be getting interrupted by any fireworks. But even if it were, then I hope to be shaken out of any cynicism, and remember to see the lights go boom.

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Dreaming

We were floored.

My wife woke me up, calling out my name, and immediately, I knew we received the news we were waiting for.

For a few agonizing weeks, that would be our routine, we’d wake up and immediately check her inbox, hoping to get a final answer on the one thing we had desperately hoped to hear back about. The waiting was starting to consume us – our conversations always punctuated with an open-ended question about our future that we never had an answer for.

Until that morning. That’s when we found out that we’re moving to Malaysia.

We’re moving because my wife was offered a position to teach an International School in Penang. We couldn’t believe it – I was screaming. It felt like the only appropriate thing to do.

In the days since, the elation has settled to a much more tempered, but hopeful feeling. We’re eager, but we’re anxious. We’re excited, and yet, we’re scared. Or at least, I am.

My wife tends to take these sort of abrupt changes in our lives in good stride. The thrill she receives from plunging forward into a sudden change – of everything- isn’t so easily extinguished. The fear of uncertainty is drowned out by her own desire to see what amazing things could possibly be ahead.

My natural response is to stay in the fear.

These sort of abrupt changes fly in the face of the certainty I relish, of the kind of control I always hope to hold onto. I hate admitting it, but it’s true, I still love “lording” over my own life – all the finite details, every little thing that requires even the slightest bit of management.

The news we received has taken my control away. And at first, it felt frightening. (Maybe, subconsciously, that’s partly why I had screamed)

But it’s starting to become something else. Our conversations are still almost always bookended by something to do with our impending move, but there’s a lightness to them now, an embracing of the inevitable that is becoming more freeing than anything else.

There will be a loss, yes. Of control and certainty, for starters. But of far more important things than those. Of time with family, and friends. Of a home we’ve found in Oakland. We’ll miss seeing our friends’ bellies swell, and babies growing into toddlers, we won’t see new romances bloom and witness old ones refine with age. We’ll miss the sights and sounds of all that we’ve come to know about where we are right now and what we’ve grown to love.

But slowly, I’m starting to appreciate the gain.

Shuli and I are following this series of Malaysian-produced Youtube videos from Samsung, promoting their new phone, and we can’t help but be overcome by excitement over the ‘makan-makan’ we’ll be doing (that means to ‘eat’), the exploring of a land that seems both foreign and familiar, and the sacred stories we hope to collect, with humility and grace.

The last time anything felt truly dream-like, was our wedding. When I think about that day, I remember sitting in our sweetheart table, removed from all of our guests, watching them enjoy an incredible feast of Southeast Asian cuisine as they sat beneath four, beautifully-lit magnolia trees, and looking back at my wife, feeling so, so grateful. We couldn’t have asked for a better moment to share.

And yet, we asked, and then, we were given. There’s something out there for us, and we have little clue what it may be. All I know, is that, I’m starting to dream again.