Happy New Year a.k.a. We Survived 2020

Happy New Year, everyone. My family had our jesa yesterday because my parents are opening the store today (though closing in the late afternoon, thank goodness). My mother prepared the familiar feast of dduk soup, pork belly, marinated flank steak, egg-dipped shrimp, seared fish, among other seasonal offerings, such as shikhye. I was struck by the fruits: in particular, the apples and persimmons, which were almost gemlike in their waxy shine and firmness. To top it all off: half a mason jar of white wine.

“I’m so lucky to have a mother who can cook like this!” I said to my beaming mother towards the end of dinner. At the same moment, I also remembered that the possibility of losing her and my father had been very real in early spring. Only months ago, but they feel like dog years.

Astoria Park in January 2020.
It = COVID. Here = NYC. March 2020.

Now I’m not sure that “lucky” is the right word. Because 2020 categorically sucked, so much so that I’m not sure I believe in luck anymore. Arbitrariness and randomness, yes, but luck — a.k.a. good fortune? No. It would have been more precise to say, “It’s random that I have a mother who can cook like this!” “It’s random that my family is healthy and alive and well, enjoying dduk soup!” In other words, I don’t feel gratitude so much as survivor’s guilt.

Have there been positives? Absolutely. Here are some highlights, in no particular order:

  1. My parents’ recovery.
  2. My mother’s 60th birthday party.
  3. My ears were pierced, and now I am deep in the rabbit hole of discovering jewelry.
  4. I got a new job in November. So far, all positives.
  5. Moving back home. I do miss my studio in Astoria, though.
  6. Becoming an ARMY. I purple you, BTS.
  7. I completed 2/3 of a half-marathon training program.
  8. My brother John came home.
  9. I read Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.
  10. I reached my personal finance goals.
  11. Strengthened friendships, both old and new. 4 friends visited me in person!
  12. Virtually met Jeong Kwan Sunim. Thanks to her, I now know how to prepare lotus roots.
  13. Hosted a weekly Netflix Party for 2+ months. Memorable movies: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Moonlight.
  14. Rediscovering Long Island. I found a new favorite spot in Cold Spring Harbor, a favorite pizza joint (Fanatico in Jericho), a go-to bakery for custom cakes (Northern Canaan Bakery in Hicksville), a favorite Indian restaurant (The Cotillion in Jericho) and a favorite burger restaurant (Burgerology in Huntington).

As I write, I’m conscious of the fact that creating this list is just a ritual in the end. And it’s OK to hope, in fact, it’s necessary in times like these. But I also understand that in a year like 2020 or 2021, where millions are going hungry, there is such a thing as toxic positivity, which is perpetuated by those who are in a position of privilege. We must, as a society, understand and learn to respond to rage, instead of define the rules of engagement because we feel “uncomfortable.” People are hurting; to accept this is but the first step to finding a solution. It all comes down to empathy, as simple as it sounds.

My goals for 2021 are few:

  1. To succeed at my new job. I truly respect my new boss.
  2. To continue to be present as a sister, friend, and daughter.
  3. Fix my mother’s kitchen or bathrooms.
  4. More exercise. Practice Pilates 2 times a week, do yoga 2 times a week, restart and finish the half-marathon program in March when the weather improves. If my kickboxing gym opens, then I’ll rework my plan.
  5. Try to date more! Even though multiple vaccines are out, who knows when life will go back to “normal”?
  6. Write, write, write. Write 15 pages of poems and 1/2 a novel, at the very minimum, no matter how badly.
  7. Start a business.
  8. Invest in more stocks.
  9. Maybe, just MAYBE, adopt a dog from a shelter. I’m ready to give more love.

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