Having a birthday shortly after the start of the year has always been interesting for me: add in Chinese New Year usually occurring around this time of the year, and every year, I have three opportunities to welcome in “a new year”.
This first month of 2018 has been a slow start to get back into a regular routine, yet also allowed me more margin to think about what’s most important in my life. I have been uncovering more of my purpose, and noticing the little (yet very valuable) treasures throughout each day of my life. I am abundantly blessed with beautiful friendships in all areas of my life, and I appreciate them all.
I have also been putting a big focus on my health and fitness, and just today I signed up for three months of personal training at my new gym downtown. It is definitely a worthwhile investment for my overall health, although it’s also a stretch for my budget at the moment.
As the saying goes: we have to get uncomfortable to grow.
Cheers to another birthday: another opportunity to celebrate and love on others more.
On the eve of my birthday, I sit here feeling simultaneously stressed out, worried, confused, elated, happy, et. al. It has been ten days since the inauguration of our country’s new leadership: ten days of angst across the country, as I obsessively scroll down my social media news feeds, consuming all the information that has come through and observing everyone’s terrified reactions.
I have been trying to figure out what I can do amidst all this confusion and anger felt around me, which is why I have been mostly silent about current events. Part of me feels like there must be more that I can do and say. Part of me feels guilty for solely focusing on my work even when I see how much anguish people are feeling around me. I was very vocal after the election, and many friends from different walks of life reached out to me because of how I expressed myself through Facebook live videos; yet, I also felt exhausted after I put myself out there.
There’s that part of me that wants to focus on the happier things in life: my birthday is tomorrow and I want to spend the day in celebration. It is hard for me to believe that it’s been seven years since my near-death experience, and how much I have grown personally and professionally since then.
Saturday marked the start of the Year of the Rooster in the lunar calendar: this year was the first time in my whole life where I paid special attention to the pre-Lunar New Year rituals and made sure to follow all of them before midnight on January 28th. Celebrating my ancestral heritage, primarily by consuming delicious foods that remind me of home: dumplings, roasted duck, noodles, etc. Gung Hey Fat Choi!
There is happiness, and there is sadness. Perhaps I am not alone in how to feel–because yes, if we all turn a blind eye from all that is coming out of our leadership, then we’ll bury ourselves alive. Yet, must we not also cherish the happier moments in our lives and be grateful for what we do have in the present? Isn’t there still good in this world?
I had gone back and forth over this decision. But I figure it is best now to just write it out in public and then let the past stay in the past.
Today, January 30, 2013, I will tell you what happened to me three years ago.
To spare you too many details about my life prior to this date three years ago, I was in a very unhappy place in my life. So, to finally be able to celebrate my birthday in 2010 was a great feeling.
I planned a small party for January 30, since that was a Saturday: only my cousins, their then-boyfriends, my brother Adam, and one of my friends were invited. We had dinner at an Ethiopian place in the Fillmore District of San Francisco. Then we walked across the street to sing karaoke for a few hours. Truly lots of fun; karaoke always cheered me up.
The seven of us left karaoke after midnight, so it was already January 31st, my actual birthday. My friend drove back to the East Bay; the rest of us decided we would walk down Fillmore Street to Market Street so we could catch our respective Muni trains. So, we began to walk.
It was a cool San Francisco evening. I do not remember much from the walk, except when I looked up at the sky and said to my Adam, “It is a full moon tonight.”
What happened afterwards, I have no memory of. Adam and our cousins pieced together the story for me:
We were crossing the street at the intersection of Fillmore & Oak. Our cousins and their boyfriends made it over; then, it was time for you and I to cross. We had the right-of-way. As we were walking in the crosswalk, a car came zooming up the hill and made a quick right turn. The car, with foggy windows, hit you [Helene] head-on. I moved quickly so the car could only slightly side-swipe my arm.
Then, the car continued down Oak Street with your body on top of the hood. I ran after the car, shouting “STOP!!!!” A few minutes passed before the driver finally stopped; you dropped from the hood of the car onto the sidewalk. You were bleeding badly from the head. You turned to me and said to me in Taishanese, “Adam, my head hurts.”
At that point, you stopped talking. The driver was unstable and we all weren’t sure if you were dead or alive. Eventually, one of us was able to get through on 9-1-1 and an ambulance was on its way.
Waiting for the ambulance seemed like an eternity. Fillmore & Oak is a big intersection, leading to the freeway; suddenly, a man and a woman appeared out of the slew of cars backed up in traffic. The man was a volunteer EMT; the woman was a doctor. I was nervous to see them approaching you, but they assured me they knew what they were doing. They lifted your head up, probably to stop the bleeding from going to the back of your head. They did this and other things until the ambulance finally arrived. Then, they left as they came.
You were out for 5-6 hours. I stayed at the hospital the whole time, hoping you’d be okay.
I woke up, January 31st, in the morning, in the Intensive Care Unit. I remember opening my eyes, and not understanding what was going on. I turned to my left and saw Adam sitting there.
“What happened, Adam?”
“You were hit by a car last night.”
The statement didn’t seem to have a full effect on me. Instead, I started spouting out names of people to contact since Adam had my phone on him. Then, I passed out again.
Throughout my time at the hospital, I remember different people visiting me: our cousins, our family friends, my co-workers. My parents and sister immediately got a flight to San Francisco for February 1. They arrived that evening, and I remember seeing them, saying hello. My sister and mother cried as they saw how beat up I was.
I was at the hospital six days. My injuries, at least the ones I can remember: internal bleeding in the head and a skull fracture. I needed sutures (stitches) on my head; I couldn’t wash my hair for two weeks. I had black rings around my eyes that healed slowly during the month of February. Surprisingly, no other part of my body was injured.
And, three years later, I’m still okay. My skull fracture healed (or it became very insignificant); the patch on my head where the sutures were, it’s all grown back and you can’t even see the scar there anymore. I came out of this accident physically intact. No broken bones, disabilities, etc.
I can’t say the same for my psychological health; there have been many rough patches since the accident, where I’ve wanted answers as to how this could have happened on a day that’s supposed to be joyous. But, I’ve gotten a lot better….to the point that now, three years later, I am willing to release this memory into the atmosphere; I must move forward.
As my friend just told me earlier today, my birthday now is more of a rebirth than anything else. Before the accident, my birthday was just a regular day with a few special happenings. Now, my birthday is a super-celebration of the life that I have, the life that I could have lost that year.
Funny how I haven’t blogged since October. Oh well…
Since the beginning of the year (last week), I’ve been making plans for my birthday.
Not just small plans….BIG PLANS.
I’m sure many of my friends, acquaintances, colleagues, wonder why I’m making a big deal out of my birthday. Yes, it IS my birthday, but why all the extra bells and whistles?
I’ve been feeling down most of this week with the response I’ve received for a fancy dinner…to the point that just 30 minutes ago I pivoted 180 degrees to have the party at a much lower price point in order to accommodate my guests accordingly.
So you wonder….why should I bend to the will of my guests? Shouldn’t they bend to MY will?
Not so, when most of the people I know are broke/have tight budgets.
I don’t blame them for this, no way. I too am on a tight budget. But what hurts me more from the declined invitations is the visceral feeling I get: that, to some people, it’s just another birthday party. Just another person’s birthday.
I don’t feel this way about my own birthday. In the past three years, I haven’t felt this way about my birthday. Instead, my birthday has become some sort of monument to myself: a super special day, in which I must celebrate to the fullest because of what happened to me in 2010.
It’s still an unbelievable story to me, especially since I was not conscious at all during the whole incident. When you nearly lose your life ON your birthday, there’s much to be thankful about and much to celebrate.
This memory is one that I’d like to forget, but it’ll only take time to have the memory go further and further away.
So this is how I’ve felt about my birthday since 2010. A lot of celebration, a lot of appreciation.
I don’t want others to think it’s “just another birthday”. I want those who are close to me to know–this is a commemoration of my survival. This is me, defying death, still kicking and fighting on this side of the world.
It’s been two years since waking up in the ICU, wondering why my head throbbed and why I was there in the first place. It’s been two years since that accident, the bills, the trauma; the memories continues to fade and be replaced with new, better memories.
In the past few weeks, I’ve shed away the final layers of that period of time. I’ve had friends tell me that I’m a phoenix: always arising from the ashes, becoming anew every time. This time around, I feel it is much truer than before; only now do I feel I have the wings to soar.
I’ve been here in Denver for six months now; most everyone who greets me with “Happy Birthday” today doesn’t know about what happened to me two years ago, how I almost lost my life. I’ve tucked that box away, taken my roots up from the City by the Bay, and have planted myself in the Mile-High City.
Every day I am here, I feel more and more at home. This is my calling; this is where I belong.
And this is where I shall celebrate many more birthdays to come.