“So we walked around for a bit, and the guy would not stop talking about himself. Well, that and my boobs.”
“Sounds like a swell guy. Tell me, why are you dating again?”
“Because I don’t want to die alone.”
“We all die alone.”
“You’re not helping, Duo.”
I have no phobias (irrational fears) to speak of. Crowds? We’re social animals. Deal with it. Flying? I’ll take my chances. Asian giant hornets? Well, fear is the only rational emotion when faced with these winged harbingers of nightmarish doom. In no particular order, here are my three deepest fears:
- the fear of disappointing my family
- the fear of squandering my life
- the fear of being lonely
My grandfather was a great man. He fought to liberate China from the Japanese, kept the Chinese aerospace program aloft during the Cultural Revolution, traveled to Antarctica, and became an artist after retiring.
I have a great family. Even though my father lives on another continent, both of my parents sacrificed so much for the well-being of me and my sister. My sister is kicking ass and taking names in the name of sustainability in college.
I’m proud to be part of my family. But with that pride comes guilt, because I myself have not brought much honor to my family. I don’t have a steady job. In fact, I’ve never held a job for longer than 2 years. I don’t have a doctorate. My Chinese is rusty. I’m not on the path of marriage, let alone starting my own family. I’m not a homeowner. By Chinese standards, I’m coming up short in a lot of departments.
But the fears of squandering my life and being lonely go beyond meeting family expectations. In the back of my mind, there’s a vague sense of wanting to be remembered by future generations, of wanting to leave a legacy. I used to be solitary by choice, but now my life is filled with many wonderful people. Despite this, there are still moments when I feel so very alone in this world. Yes, everybody dies alone, but how long must I live alone?
I need help confronting my fears, so let’s go find some help!
A Visitation with Buddha
I don’t know much beyond the basic tenets of Buddhism. I’ve also never taken to talking to the Big Guy Upstairs, be it Buddha or Jesus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Still, the devotion to a religion, be it a few minutes or a lifetime, is fascinating to me.
寒山寺 (Cold Mountain Temple) was found in early 6th century. The temple was made famous by a Tang dynasty poem about a forlorn traveler hearing the sounds of the temple bells. The location is a popular destination for Buddhists around the world, especially those of Japanese and Korean heritage.
Buddhist monks still walk the temple grounds. People from around the world come to pray. Some purchase candles. Some tie prayers to trees. Some bow to one of the many Enlightened beings.
There are many ways to pray, wish, and show reverence. None of the aforementioned activities interested me. As a forlorn traveler myself, I came for the bell. There will be resonance, both symbolic and acoustic: I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff.
The structure housing the bell was impressive to behold. The bell was even more impressive. I paid and signed in. 10 RMB (~$1.63) for 3 strikes of the bell; 3 strikes for 3 wishes.
I put some strength into each strike. The sound of the bell was deep and rich. Yet, after the ringing of the 3rd strike receded, my fears remained.
A Visitation with Ancestors
珍珠塔 (The Pearl Tower) was not a tower inlaid with pearls. In fact, it was not a tower at all. Instead, it was a well-preserved historical residence that was the location for the TV drama 珍珠塔. At this point, I was already a little disappointed, but the tour guide seemed knowledgeable and friendly, so I decided to stay. In the back of the residence is a courtyard and a room dedicated to ancestors. The courtyard was decorated with strands of good luck charms. The room housed a statue of the Jade Emperor and every single Chinese family name.
It didn’t take me long to find my family name. As the tour guide led us in prayer to honor our ancestors, a worker placed good luck charms in our hands.
The tour guide went on to tell us that for 10 RMB, we can purchase the charm and honor our ancestors and bring us luck.
Fuck. That. Shit.
I chose to pay to ring the bell of my own volition, but this gaudy piece of plastic was literally shoved into my hands. I returned the charm and stormed out. My fears were temporarily replaced by anger, but sure enough, they came back when I cooled down.
A Visitation with Self
Never trust idols to do a real person’s work. There are no proxies for me, heavenly or otherwise: there’s only myself.
The problem is, I don’t like myself. To some, it looks like I live in the land of rainbows and unicorns and eternal happiness, but in reality there’s a dark undercurrent of self loathing. It was hard to single out a cause amid what seemed like a sea of inadequacies, but I have a working hypothesis.
I’m fat, and I don’t like it.
To give you perspective, this Onion article hits too close to home, because I weight more than that. By BMI standards, I’m morbidly obese. I want to be a healthier, more attractive person. I like to walk around, and recently I’m feeling the strain on my knees and my heart. I don’t want to take up 2 seats on an airplane. I want to be able to tell a girl I like her without the fear of being rejected for my corpulence.
Maybe being fat is not even the real problem. However, taking better care of my body can only be a good thing. Should my working hypothesis be rejected in the future, I will at least be reassessing the situation as a healthier person. So what is there to do? Why, eating less and exercising more seem like just the things to do.
Do not be paralyzed by fear, but instead let fear be an instigator of positive change.
I’m not okay, but I’m working on it.
Hold me to it.
We encourage you to come share your Embrace the Boogeyman story at the live show! If you post an Embrace the Boogeyman story in the comments here, you get into the show for free.
A Month Of
Stage 773 1225 W.
Belmont Wed Oct 9th 7:30-10:00
$10 or free with a shared dish/posted story