How it is: Chapter 18

“Wait, so you’ve been eating take out this whole time?” Justin eyed Timmy as the two were eating lunch together at a small diner in Chelsea. “Yeah. I don’t want to bump into Valerie or Tarou.” He sighed. “You’re still avoiding both of them?!” “Well, yeah. Since a ton of people hate me now, it’s hard to leave my dorm without getting death glares.” He sighed. Even when he goes to class, Timmy would face plenty of angry and dirty looks and people whispering threats at him. He did not feel safe whatsoever. Between the entire school of performing arts, Asian community, and the LGBTQIA community being mad at him, there were only few people who would treat Timmy mercifully. And by mercifully, Timmy meant outright ignore him. “You really need to talk to Tarou. I know you’re getting stressed, but avoiding him is only making the situation worse. A lot worse.” Justin wanted Timmy to just talk to Tarou, not even to mend their friendship, but to help his current living situation. To be in constant fear and hiding, that was no way to live. “I… I’ll think about it.” Timmy sighed. He could tell that Justin was getting visibly worried, and Misaki’s words were just ringing through his head. The way he was acting, it was causing those around him to worry. It was a cycle that he needed to break. He needed to stop acting in such a way that made others so stressed and concerned. He did not want to be a source of discomfort to those around him.

Walking to the curb, Timmy called an Uber for himself. He was feeling nervous at this point. Thinking about Tarou made Timmy feel like his stomach was twisting itself into knots. “You Timmy?” The driver, a gruff middle aged man looked through the window of the car. “Yeah.” He nodded shyly before getting into the passenger seat. Driving back, all Timmy could think about was hiding his face and avoiding being seen by anyone. ACU has made active efforts of alienating him, ranging from Alice ignoring him when they see each other in the engineering building to Gary glaring at him through the windows of the dining hall. At this point, Timmy did not feel safe. Nor did he know what to do. It was either live in fear and hiding from judgement, or confront Tarou, something he did not feel comfortable doing. He was afraid about what Tarou would do to him. Everything Tarou was saying and doing, it was unexpected. The Japanese boy Timmy grew up with, he was this young, unassuming, and loyal person. Since when did somebody so reserved and calm become so sporadic, overbearing, and dramatic in general? The Taiwanese boy sighed to himself, keeping his eyes to the floor. There was a looming anxiety bubbling in him. “What the hell do I do?” It was a question he had been asking himself for weeks now. And the answer was somewhere behind one of two really hideous doors. Timmy started to ponder why Tarou’s sexuality mattered so much to him. A large portion of this discomfort stemmed from all of those times Tarou insisted he was not gay, and how it felt like he was being lied to by his own best friend.

“He’s gay!” Two male eighth graders were mocking an already teary-eyed sixth grade Tarou. The 11 year-old was being made fun of for being on the effeminate side. “I’m not!” The chubby Japanese youth whined, trying to defend himself verbally, albeit poorly. No matter what the boy did, the two bullies continued to taunt him, kicking dirt at the younger’s face. “Hey, cut it out.” Timmy growled, walking up to them. He noticed his best friend laying on a tree, sobbing quietly as the two older boys continued to spew insults. “Oh, look, Glenn! It’s his boyfriend!” One of them laughed. “Yeah, Brent! What’s he going to do? Kiss us?” Glenn returned. “No. But you guys can kiss my ass!” Timmy shouted, kicking Brent straight in the stomach. “Oomph!” The 13 year-old groaned as he fell over. “You little punk-” Before Glenn could finish his sentence, Timmy punched him in the throat and proceeded to kick him in the groin. The older boy was on the floor, sputtering in fetal position on the grass. “Do that to my best friend again, and you’ll get worse treatment next time.” Timmy glared at the two before turning to Tarou. “What did they do to you? Are you hurt?” The boy wiped his tears and shook his head sheepishly. “They were just calling me gay.” He sighed. “But you’re not, right?” The Taiwanese boy looked at him, concerned. “No, I’m not.” Tarou shook his head. Little did neither of them know at the time, Tarou’s interest in males did not spur until high school. “What the hell happened here?!” Valerie ran up to the two of them, noting the two half-conscious teenagers laying in the dirt. “Timmy was protecting me. They were being bullies and calling me names.” Tarou admitted, half afraid that Valerie the hall monitor would tell on them. “Oh geez.” She shook her head. “Look, you’re my friends, so I’ll let this one pass. But please, Timmy, no more karate-chopping people.” She crossed her arms. “Now hurry up and get out of here. We can’t have you at the scene of the crime.” Thanks, Val!” The two quickly left the area. “And you two, if you try to say anything, I’ll tell the principal that you guys were trying to sexually harass me!” She frowned at Brent and Glenn. “We are going to say that this was you two trying to breakdance and failing epically.”

“Personally, I don’t know how I feel about gay rights and gay marriage.” Timmy admitted. He was in ninth grade now, and in his social studies class. They were discussing equality in gender roles and the topic of gay marriage arose. Timmy and Tarou were together, having a side conversation from the class’s discussion in the back of the room. “What do you mean?” Tarou raised his eyebrow skeptically. At this point, the Japanese boy was already slim and lanky, his features appearing more photogenic in general. This discussion was clearly unsettling to the aspiring model, who was just beginning to discover his sexual interests in men. After his first photo shoot, Tarou had been sneaking peeks at several of his male co-workers, and he found himself entranced by their physiques. “Well, I think that there’s a reason a man and woman can get married. And that stems from the fact that they can have children together. There’s no reason for same sex marriage, because these couples can’t have kids anyways, so why do they need marriage?” Timmy’s logic was that marriage was needed for parents to feel even more attached to each other and their children. Tarou was dumbfounded. That sort of logic made zero sense to the Japanese boy. But he could not bring himself to say anything at that point in time. But it was at moment that Tarou knew coming out to Timmy was not a possibility. He felt uncomfortable knowing that somebody could think in such a narrow-minded way. Timmy did notice Tarou’s discomfort, but could not take back the impact of his words. That was the way he was taught to feel. The Taiwanese boy always tried to rationalize emotions with logic and practicability, even when there were feelings and sensations beyond science and reason.

Advertisements

How it is: Chapter 15

It was Thursday, early in the afternoon. “Hey, how are you?” Janice and Mako looked at Valerie as she stepped into the kitchen. They could both tell that she looked exhausted and bothered. “I did not get a lot of sleep last night. One of my best friends who had a crush on me, he basically bullied me into trying to kill myself, and then he called me a skank in front of everyone I knew.” Valerie clammed up at that point. She felt like she spoke an uncharacteristically large amount, given how quiet and reserved she normally was at work. She felt her entire right arm convulsing with rage. It was one of the few times she wished she was a butcher at the restaurant. She could really use a cleaver on something at the moment, just to blow off some steam. Imagining that the pig or chicken carcass was Timmy, since both of those descriptions suited him at this very moment. “Here, come with me.” Janice pulled her aside. The executive chef looked greatly concerned at what she was hearing. “Wait, but I have prep to do-” Valerie tried to interject. “Mako, you’re in charge! Keep making sure that prep is going on schedule! It’s a Thursday, so we aren’t going to be as busy, so you guys should be fine without us for a little bit.” She shouted. “Alright, chef!” Mako called back as the two girls walked into the restaurant’s seating area. “We can’t have you going into service like this. We are going to talk a little bit.” Janice explained.

“Alright, so I just need a second here to unravel what’s going on. So you’re saying that you wanted to kill yourself?” Janice looked at her. “Yeah.” Valerie sighed. “Why?” “It happened around the time the finale aired. All of the comments, saying how I was an idiot, it was just coming back to haunt me. And it was because I made desserts only on that finale, and I make desserts here, so work was a constant trigger.” She started. “Okay, well that was you over a year ago, alright? You were a dumb 17 year-old. You’re going to make mistakes when you’re that young. Hell, I make mistakes now, and I’m 26!” Janice confessed. “What?” Valerie looked at her in surprise. “Yeah! A couple services ago, I accidentally look a ramekin full of sugar to the pass, and sprinkled sugar on the venison loin. I tasted it, because it did not feel like the malden salt, but at that point, I had already put it on the meat, and we had to re-fire it.” Janice rolled her eyes. “But in your situation, trust me, I know what it’s like. Yeah, I won my season, but the way I won it was too controversial. People kept on telling me that I did not deserve to win, and that I was a gimmick. I got eliminated fourth, and only got back in because of the Redemption Creativity Challenge in the last round. It sucked. But I just started to ignore that, worked my ass off, and that’s why I got a Michelin star.” Valerie nodded. It was surprising for her to actually have this time to speak with Janice on a one on one basis.

“So what exactly did your friend say that made you try to act on these thoughts?” “He said that I would go from being a joke to a has-been.” Valerie frowned. “Look, you will only be a joke if you let others get to you like that. You are a hardworking and determined young woman, and that’s exactly why I promoted you to executive pastry chef. And I know you probably think this, but I did not promote you so that you can copy and replace Namie. I wanted you to lead the pastry department with your own techniques and vision.” Hearing that was a huge relief. “Thank you, Janice.” Valerie smiled. “Stop thinking about what others say about you. I don’t know about your personal life or decisions, nor I should ask, since it’s not workplace appropriate, but if they want to call you a skank or whore, don’t listen to that. Even if you are promiscuous or whatever, your work ethic and passion for your industry, that’s what they should be focusing on. People who spread rumors, they have too much time and insecurities on their hands. Don’t stoop to their level. Don’t let what they say get to you. Confidence comes from working hard and gaining experience. Doubt comes from sitting around, being too sensitive and unproductive. You have so much experience already, I just want you to take that and own it.” What Janice said, it was eye-opening to Valerie. “You’re right. I need to. Thanks, Janice” Valerie nodded. The two got up and returned to the kitchen. “And that friend of yours, cut him off. He’s not worth your time or attention. He owes you an apology. Until he gives you that, just forget about him. Focus on other things, and honestly, don’t wait around, expecting an apology either. Do things with your time.”

“Hey, feeling better?” Jacky looked at Valerie as she walked up to the pass with her cherry dessert. Like they suggested, Valerie opted for a honey-goat milk-vanilla panna cotta instead of the yogurt, and it tasted phenomenal. “I’m feeling good. How about you? How have you been?” She smiled. “I’ve been alright. You know, living the chef life.” They chuckled together, as the two walked back to their respective stations. “Alright, so next order. Three ube doughnuts, followed by that, two olive oil cakes.” Valerie read off the checks. “Heard!” Daphne and Megan chimed in. For the first time in a while, Valerie felt in control. Orders were coming in, and being sent out with no issues. Megan, Daphne, and her, they were working together seamlessly. I got the doughnuts out of the frier, and I’m tossing them in the cinnamon-sesame sugar right now, chef! Give me 30 more seconds!” Daphne cried. “30 seconds, heard!” “Here, chef!” Daphne handed Valerie three bowls and the components to go into it, which the chef quickly plated up. “Daphne, bring these two the pass.” “Got it!” The cook walked down with the three bowls on a sheet tray. “Here’s the olive oil cake, chef.” Megan presented Valerie the two plates. The chef quickly finished the plating on those as well. “Alright, Megan, bring those up to the pass.” “Thanks, chef!” Megan smiled as she walked up with the two desserts.

“Man, that was probably one of the best services we had in a while!” Megan smiled. “Tell me about it.” Daphne grinned. The three were cleaning down their station, and celebrating a very successful dinner service. “It’s good to have the Valerie we know and love back.” They looked at her. “Thanks, you two. I wouldn’t be the chef I am without such amazing pastry cooks. Literally everything you two brought up for me was perfection.” She beamed at the two older women. It was remarkable to think about how Megan was 27 and Daphne was 43 with a son, that the two would give her, a 18 year-old, so much respect. When Valerie was first promoted to chef, she was nervous. Even though she worked there longer than Megan had, she felt that Daphne was deserving of the promotion. “Say, Daphne. How come you did not take the promotion to executive pastry chef?” She looked over the mother. “Well, Janice and Namie did ask me, but I rejected the offer. Yeah, the pay is nice and all, but I have a family to raise too. If I was the executive, then I would have to be too preoccupied with menu planning and coordinating with Janice. And then don’t get me started on those events in the summer. You’ll have to travel a lot and it’s going to be a major pain. I’d prefer to just stay in New York with my family.” She sighed. “Besides, Ben’s getting to a difficult age. He’s 12 and thinks that he’s the boss of everyone now. I’d rather be here, keeping him in his place.” Keeping him in his place, huh? Valerie thought to herself. We all have a place where we fit in and thrive…

How it is: Chapter 13

Spring break was finally over, and tensions were still awkward between the three. “Hey, there’s this cool promo for the upcoming Kingdom Hearts game! Want to go?” Tarou looked at Timmy hopefully. “Sorry, I have an Asian Awareness Event for ACU.” Timmy shook his head. They were going to have an event with all of the Asian organizations, and the logistics behind it were incredibly difficult to manage. Timmy himself was in charge of coordinating with all of the freshmen and sophomore representatives from the other clubs on how to advertise to underclassmen. Even the Japanese Business Association was involved, but Tarou himself did not need to go, because he was the treasurer, not a representative; the club only required presidents, vice presidents, and representatives to be at their events. This was their club’s expectations when it came to event attendance. As for their norm as roommates, it was Tarou excitedly inviting Timmy to things, and Timmy rejecting him in favor of ACU. At least, that’s how Tarou felt. Timmy did feel bad that he could not make time for Tarou, but he also wanted a chance to grow as an individual himself. But how could he get that across to Tarou? Tarou only cared about spending time together.

“Hey, do you have time to talk?” Valerie texted Timmy. The pastry chef was in her room, sitting at her desk. No response. Again. She had been trying to reach out to him during the break, but the Taiwanese boy kept on ignoring her. She felt like he saw her as this freak for her previous attempt at killing herself. Feeling deflated and offended by his attitude towards her, she put down her phone and tossed it onto her bed. She tried to get him off of her mind. Grabbing out her sketchbook, she started doodling. Janice wanted her to create a new dessert menu for April to capture the spring, so she had to start sketching out what she wanted the plating for each dish to look like. With it being April, she definitely wanted something that was a nod to cherry blossoms, while another dish needed something Easter-themed. Blood oranges, meyer lemons, fresh fruits that represent that spring has finally arrived! Just thinking about it, Valerie could not suppress a grin of excitement. With the ideas rolling, she chuckled to herself. At that point, Nothing else beyond conceptualizing these different desserts was even on her mind. She was slowly easing back into her one true love: having the creative freedom of being a pastry chef.

Feeling rather lonely, Tarou decided to take a walk through the city. Misaki was out with Justin in Brooklyn on a date, so that left him with limited options. He would not even entertain the notion of spending time with Timmy, Enya, Sarah, or Melissa. The former was being the source of his frustration, while the latter three would probably try to date rape him. Passing by a restaurant, he noticed the familiar blue shooting star logo printed on the window. “Wish.” He read aloud. “Oh wait, Valerie!” Tarou was immediately reminded of his friend. The restaurant was closed since it was still early in the afternoon, but he figured why not try to meet up with the pastry chef before she had to go to work? He excitedly gave the girl a text. “Hey, are you down to hang sometime?” The model was starting to realize how much he missed her; the girl was usually so consumed with work that she had little to no time for things like a social life, but to Tarou, it was still worth a shot. Within minutes, he got a reply. “Hey, yeah! Want to grab dinner tonight?” She offered. “Sure thing! Where did you want to meet up?” “Come to the restaurant! I’ll prepare something for you! I’m looking to practice some of my new desserts.” Tarou chuckled to himself. This was going to be a great day ahead of him.

In her room, Valerie was excited to receive that text from Tarou. She was sitting alone, watching cat videos on YouTube when her phone buzzed. “Finally, something different than my normal, boring routine.” She sighed in relief, getting up and getting changed. It was almost 2, which meant that she had to get ready for work. “Hm, well Tarou can be my taste tester for the day.” She smiled. Janice wanted her to plan that new menu for the spring, and she figured, why not have Tarou try the dishes along with her normal staff, just so that she can have something to do with her friend. That, and having Tarou, such a positive influence, at the workplace, it would help get her mind off of whatever residual insecurities she had from being a runner-up. Racking through her brains, she recalled the different items she had in mind. “Alright, so I should probably get the ice cream done first, and then after that, the chiffon cake batter.” She listed off, walking out the door. She had a lot of things she needed to prepare, but she had a general idea of what she needed to do and in what order. Being a seasoned pastry chef has taught her how to multitask and delegate well. That was the exact reason why Janice had promoted Valerie to the executive pastry chef position in the first place.

It was at the end of her first semester, when Namie had already announced that she was leaving. It came as a huge shock to Valerie and Jacky, who were just line-level cooks at that point. After a very stressful dinner service, Janice pulled aside Valerie to speak in private. The girl had no idea what to expect. “You wanted to see me?” She was nervous. Being the youngest and most recent hire in the kitchen, Valerie was half-expecting to be fired for some reason. Just thinking about what Janice could possibly want from her, it made her incredibly uneasy throughout the entire night. “Yeah.” The executive chef wore a stoic expression when she looked at the 18 year-old. “How would you like to be promoted to executive pastry chef?” “Huh?” Valerie’s jaw almost dropped at the proposal. “I gave it a lot of thought, and it was not a decision I took lightly. But looking at how you performed on the line, every night, in every service, you have skills far beyond any of the other pastry cooks. On top of that, Namie herself, I asked her who she wanted to succeed her. She said that you could carry out the vision of Wish the best. I trust her judgement as much as I would my own in this regard.” Janice explained. “Oh wow. I’m still in awe right now. This… it’s definitely not what I expected.” Valerie stuttered. She thought she was going to lose her job, not get a promotion. “Will you take the promotion, Valerie?” “Yes!” The girl beamed. “I will be your next executive pastry chef!”

“Alright, so here’s my first new item. It’s a cherry sorbet with yogurt panna cotta, cherry kanten jelly, and yogurt crumble.” Valerie presented the white and red dessert to an impressed Tarou, Mako, and Joseph. “What do you think?” “Presentation-wise, it looks really modern. I like how you used the liquid nitrogen to crumble up the yogurt. It reminds me weirdly of Snow White. Here, I’ll go in for a taste.” He scooped some of the dessert into a spoon and into his mouth. “It’s a bit on the tart side, not going to lie. Maybe just do a vanilla panna cotta instead of the yogurt? I think that the yogurt and cherry, having so much of it across the board is a bit overkill.” He sighed. Tarou is a dessert lover, as evidenced by photos of his childhood, where he was not only overweight, but also pictured wit some sort of pastry or dessert in hand. “Alright, I’ll be sure to change that.” “I have to agree with Tarou there. I thought it was too sour.” Mako and Joseph chimed in. Valerie rolled her eyes.  “Uh, don’t go turning into Butch Valerie, okay? We don’t want to die tonight.” Mako whimpered, hiding behind Joseph comedically. “Or at least kill Joseph so I can take his job.” Valerie just ignored his joke. “Okay, well here’s my next dessert. It’s a blueberry chiffon cake with lemon curd-coconut oil gelato and coconut-blueberry-ginger mousse.” Each of them took a bite. “Okay, that was amazing. The cake was perfect, the gelato, I did not expect to love it, but I loved it. The mousse added moisture back to the cake.” Tarou grinned. “I think maybe more texture, so a coconut crumble, but aside from that, I agree. Everything you put up here, it does not need improvement.” Joseph nodded in agreement. “Thanks.” Valerie smiled. It was a high praise, coming from Janice’s own chef de cuisine.

“Thank you so much for coming over to work and helping me, Tarou. It was a lot of fun.” Valerie beamed. It was the first time in a while that being at work made her so happy. And she owed it all to Tarou. “No problem. I’m honored to be your guinea pig in this case.” The model chuckled graciously. The two were sitting with the rest of the restaurant’s staff, enjoying their family meal together before the dinner service began. Both of them felt like they had a friend in the first time in a while. But this feeling of camaraderie was cut short with time. “Dinner service is starting soon, and as much as I’d love for you to stick around, I’d rather you not see me as a complete bitch. I’ll talk to you later?” She looked at him. “Yeah, for sure! Thanks again for inviting me.” Tarou waved as he left the restaurant. “Well, you better snatch him up. He’s a major hottie.” Daphne giggled. “Yup!” Megan agreed. “I didn’t know you were friends with a model, Val!” Jacky teased. “Well, I never felt the need to mention him to you.” She fought off the urge to blush. “I’m glad that he came over though. I felt like I needed that.” She sighed. “I haven’t seen you smile in the workplace before today. since the whole Warrior Chef debacle. I think this was good for you.” Daphne agreed.

It was late at night, and Tarou had finally made his way back to the dorm. “Hey, is your event planning coming along?” Tarou yawned, stepping into his room. Timmy was in bed, almost ready to go to bed. “It went alright. What did you do today?” He looked over. The model tensed up nervously. “Valerie invited me over to Wish to taste her upcoming dessert menu.” He confessed. “What?” Timmy looked at him, bewildered at his statement. He had this murderous look in his eyes. “What?” Tarou returned, unable to say anything else at this point. He did not want to escalate the situation. “Why would you talk about her in front of me?” “I did not want to lie about what I did today.” Tarou frowned. “I’m sure you’d be more pissed thinking that I went behind your back to see her.” He shrugged. Timmy was not saying anything at that point. “Why are you even mad at me? You’re the one who refused to talk to her! So it’s only obvious that she’d come to me!” Tarou growled angrily. “You know I have a crush on her, and you still go behind my back? Why didn’t you just say no?” Timmy glared at his roommate. “Why do I have to sacrifice my social life to make you happy? That makes zero sense!” Tarou frowned. “It’s not like you were able to hang out with me either!” The Japanese boy had a point. Timmy had been pushing him away with his ACU duties. That retort left Timmy dumbstruck. “Good night. I guess I’ll sleep in the hallway.” Tarou rolled his eyes, grabbing his sheets and pillow.

How it is: Chapter 9

In middle school, Timmy’s feeling for Valerie just continued to grow. Before, it was just because Valerie chose him and Tarou over their female classmates. But even during puberty, Valerie just blossomed. “Ugh, you two are so lucky you don’t have to wear a bra.” She groaned. “These things are like sandbags on my chest.” She was awkwardly referring to her bosoms. Both Tarou and Timmy were at a loss of what to say. Timmy was the youngest of three brothers and Tarou was an only child, so neither of them ever had to hear about bras, breasts, or periods before talking to Valerie. And since Valerie had very few female friends, she would just complain to them about her puberty-related predicaments, much to Tarou’s visible discomfort. Even then, Timmy was still intrigued by her. To him, she was always such an interesting person. At first, it was because she was the only girl who was not his mother who was close to him. But then those feelings, they expanded when he got to know her better. Hearing about her dreams and goals, and seeing the lengths she went to so that she could accomplish them, it was inspirational.

Valerie wanted to be a chef since she was really young. She used to travel with her grandparents throughout California, eating at fine dining restaurants, such as The French Laundry. By the time she turned 16, she was interning throughout her summers at a variety of restaurants. First, it was a local country club in Queens, where they all lived. But then, she started commuting to Manhattan to work for Mario Batali, and spent an entire summer in Chicago with her uncle, working under chef Stephanie Izard. Timmy still remembers that summer. It was before their senior year and Valerie was away the entire time. They would call every week, just to catch up. “So, how’s Chicago?” “It’s really cool! It reminds me of the city in a lot of ways, and I just love it.” She confessed. “I’m surprised by how not-homesick I am. That’s probably the biggest shock.” “Well, that’s great to hear!” Timmy was relieved, knowing that she was happy. “Hopefully, we’ll all be going to college together like we planned.” She laughed at them. “Definitely! Going to NYU with you and Tarou, it’ll be the best four years of my life.” He chuckled in agreement. Spending any time with Valerie was fun. She was a loyal and loving friend, and Timmy greatly appreciated that.

“So, I’m going to be competing on Warrior Chef, but that means that I’m switching to online courses to finish my education.” Valerie was sitting down with Timmy and Tarou. It was their senior year of high school, and she just heard back from the casting crew of the show. “Wait, really?!” They both looked shocked. While Tarou was excited, Timmy felt a little sad. He would not be spending their graduation together with her. But Valerie had already heard back from NYU, and got in with early decision. “I’ll see you guys on the other side of this experience, okay?” She smiled at them. “I can’t wait to hear about it!” Tarou grinned at her. “Unleash hell! Let them see what Stephanie Izard and Mario Batali taught you.” The Japanese boy chuckled. “Good luck, okay?” Timmy beamed at his crush. “Thanks, you two. I’m going to be sad that I won’t be graduating with you guys, but at the same time, this is really exciting and I can’t wait to compete! I want to make a strong impression in this competition from the get-go.” “Knowing what you can do, those other teenagers will not stand a chance. You’re going to be Warrior Chef. I know it.” Timmy assured her.

The concept of Warrior Chef was that high school students with an interest in the culinary field would compete in several challenges to determine a winner. In her season, Valerie was one of 16 high schoolers, and one of eight girls, to be competing. Much to her delight, she was able to start the competition on a strong foot, the entire first round and more importantly, the respect of everyone in that season. Everyone knew that Valerie was the strongest female cook. In the end, she wound up winning a total of eleven challenges. Valerie had the entire summer to work under Janice Arrington and slowly forget about losing the competition. While it was hard then, what helped her get over the pan was not thinking about it. She did not have the entire nation harping her on social media over her decisions at that point. Reliving the rounds going up to the finale, it actually bolstered her confidence. Valerie felt that no matter how she was portrayed in that final challenge, she would have enough fans and support to keep her going. But it was just comments of disappointment and judgement. Everyone thought she was an idiot. Nobody supported her decision to stick to dessert.

The one person Valerie would really want to speak to was Tarou. Since they were young, she always felt like she could relate to him. Then seeing him transform from what he was into an aspiring model, that was when her feelings turned romantic in nature. Tarou came off as confident and capable, but since they grew up together, Tarou was never nervous or afraid of her. He supported her as much as she supported him. Valerie knew that a relationship with Tarou, it would only help both of them grow as individuals and as a couple. But she did not want Timmy to feel uncomfortable, especially when the three of them were friends for such a long time. It was a major factor for why she always refused to confess her feelings to him. That, coupled with her fear of him rejecting her. Especially in the state she was right now, the last thing she needed was for yet another person she admired to tell her that she was not good enough.

Meanwhile, Tarou finally returned to the room from his event. “Hey, can we please talk?” He looked at Timmy, whose eyes were still red from crying earlier. “No. I don’t want to.” “What?” “I’m not ready yet.” He shook his head, before going back to ignoring the taller male. “What the hell do you mean you’re not ready yet?” Timmy did not respond. At this point, he felt like Tarou was being emotionally and verbally abusive to him. The constant yelling and screaming, it was beginning to take a toll on him emotionally. Just looking at Tarou, it made him uncomfortable. “Well, alright then, you fucking baby.” The model was already exhausted, and the last thing he needed right now was for Timmy to, per usual, treat him like shit or an obstacle. He did not need to be this protective of Timmy, and at that point, he decided it was for the best to keep his distance. “Hey, Alex. I just wanted to let you know that even if I do get the event coordinator position for ACU, I have to decline.” Tarou sent that message via Facebook to the president. “Oh, thank you for your honesty.” Alex sent back. The mode knew it was burning a bridge, but he did not care. The last thing he wanted was for Timmy to feel even more suffocated by him. Timmy was an immature brat who needed time to adjust to everything. Tarou was starting to realize just how inexperience the smaller male really was with life compared to him and Valerie. And a lot of that inexperience came from the Japanese boy smothering him with protection.

Subliminal Behavior and Bad Memories: realization

Something I’ve just realized is how subliminal thoughts can affect the way we act and react to things. And from that, I realized that those reactions, they can come off as passive aggressive, whether it is intentional or not. To add context to this situation, I will start with how as a child, I was bullied. A lot. Flash forward to when I am a 22 year old college graduate, and I am flirting with somebody who likes to sass people. I do not want to be the stick in the mud and stifle somebody else’s habits, so I try to play along with that. But then being sassed at, it spurred those subconscious bad memories of being teased as a child, and it caused me to become visibly uncomfortable, despite how hard I try to suppress that behavior or go along with being poked fun at in the present. And of course, that causes this domino effect of that person telling me that if I am offended, I should say it and not try to hold it against them. I did not realize how uncomfortable being sassed at made me, or more accurately, why being sassed at made me so uneasy, at least within the moment. And I am the type of person who does not want my past to interfere with my present.

These kinds of bad memories and experiences, they can really inhibit our outlooks on life, and close doors before we have a chance to explore certain things again. For me, I’m still trying to learn to be a good sport when somebody is playfully roasting me, because I am a grown adult and I should be able to take a joke; I know that their words are not of malicious intent, and I should not be this sensitive or put-off by something that should be funny. Yes, one could argue that these kinds of remarks could be rude or not-funny, but for me, I know the intention behind their statements, and they are not personally attacking me as a person, just maybe one or two quirks or funny habits of mine, so I know I should not be offended, hurt, or act like I am either of the above. Even though I am aware of this, my subliminal thoughts and bad memories just create this sort of rift between the me who knows better and the overweight, awkward kid who everyone would make an easy target out of.

I talk a lot about trying not to play the victim card, and that is why I’m constantly trying to overcome that hurdle of acting so sensitively when it comes to being made fun of. I do feel like this sort of behavior is justified in the face of knowing that the other party is not trying to bully me, bottom line. It is a tricky, tricky process, but I am trying to adjust myself to being sassed at, or at the least, being dealt with playful banter. I do not want to be this socially awkward monkey of a human being because I cannot take a joke, or because I am too busy being held back and caught up with my bad experiences from over 10 years ago… yeah, that’s actually just sinking in that it has been a full decade since anyone made fun of me for my weight. Tackling these subliminal thoughts, it is tricky, but subliminal thoughts are connected to your past experiences. Trying to go into things with the mentality of an observer helps a lot. Understanding that things are not intended as a personal attack on you, it softens the impact of any seemingly off-putting behavior.

It took me 22 years to realize this, but I need to continue looking forward. Being narrow-minded is only my past, and it will stay there. I refuse to make my idiotic upbringing the reason why I cannot move on with my life, make new memories and experiences, and forget about the bad ones entirely. Honestly, the main reason why I have not written a realization post is because for the most part, I have moved on with my life. I have new friends, new moments, and I have been enjoying my last days of college in full stride. I will continue to write in Featherlight regardless, because I enjoy doing it, and I know that this blog will always be here when I need to write in it, whether it is to overcome an emotional hurdle, or even occasionally share something special or fun in my life. I continue to find new ways to blur my past, heal my scars, and smile onwards, in my featherlight life.

ending this vicious cycle: realization 38

People who are dicks are generally being harassed by dicks themselves or are just frustrated about things out of their control and their anger manifests in the form of rude behavior. I speak from being in both positions and being attacked by people in both scenarios. We are always told in elementary school through high school how bullying is a vicious cycle. That statement is absolutely true. But what we are not typically told is why people bully. In my last post, I spoke about insecurity. Insecurity causes people to act out in different ways, and in a lot of cases, they can act aggressively and offensively. It is a domino effect, that behavior. When people get lashed out at, then they will find others in a weaker position to impose their own insecurities on. And it continues like that. Until somebody is emotionally or mentally strong enough to stop the behavior.

When I was working for a chef with Alzheimer’s, I was stuck in a very difficult position. He would yell at me for things I did not do, telling me that I needed to stop burning things; I ran the salad station. I could not have burnt anything because there were no hot components in any of the salads. It got frustrating when he told me to get passionate and stop burning things. It was hard for me to get passionate when my own boss was yelling at me for things I did not do, telling me that I was terrible, expendable, replaceable. And for me, loving food so much, and cooking being my own personal escape from life, it became difficult because my stress and my stress-reliever were the same thing. I was miserable and depressed to the point where I wanted to press my chef knives into my wrists. The sight of my knives made me scared. And when I was that emotionally unstable, I got verbally abusive to a lot of people who I cared about. Somebody who I saw as a little sibling figure, who I cared for like my own family, who I wanted to protect, somebody I made countless sacrifices for, I hurt them badly. I had so little control over my own self that I let the cycle continue. I was not strong enough to stop it.

Onto the topic of sacrifices. You should never make them for other people with the expectation that they will be appreciated or reciprocated. Doing that will just set you up for disappointment. Only make sacrifices when you know you will not get anything in return. That is one reason why me trying to protect somebody caused the abusive cycle to continue. My sacrifices, I felt like they were not being valued, and it caused me to get more aggressive. Stop making sacrifices for other people. Only do things that will make you, and you alone, a better, stronger person. If you do not love yourself, then you are in no position to love others. And you must make sure that you love yourself more than you love anybody else. You need to put yourself first and become a confident person who will not hurt others. Make yourself somebody you are proud of. I have made the mistake of making sacrifices for others and it made me feel like a complete idiot.

Now you might be thinking that I went off on a tangent and that I lost sight of the topic of this post. If you think that, then you are 100% wrong. The reason why you need to focus on yourself is that it will help you in stopping that vicious cycle. Being strong stems from loving yourself. Make your strength come from within, not from other people. By loving yourself and being genuinely confident with who you are, you can ward off the abuse. By being this capable, independent, and emotionally content person, you can rise above the bullies and the abusive attitude. You can end the vicious cycle by being better than it. Abuse comes from a multitude of factors, and from my experience, insecurity was one of them. But being strong and loving yourself are the two best weapons to combat the abuse. Love yourself, and the abuse goes away. Be happy in your own skin, and you can inspire others to do the same. Let’s end this vicious cycle.

Sky Bird: Conclusion

Hi, whoever actually read my story. Firstly, thank you for reading Sky Bird. It was a really fun story for me to practice writing, because of the entire concept of the story being based on my high school experiences, but making the main character, Kendall, based on somebody who actually bullied me in real life. I just figured I would write this post so that I can put a true end to Sky Bird, and address any questions or thoughts you might have after reading this story series.

The reason why the real life Kendall bullied me was actually a combination of reasons, but it was not too unlike what happened between him and the Chiangs. Money, specifically financial statuses, could really sour relationships or cause others to question your abilities: the real life Kendall assumed that rich people could buy talent, which was not always the case. Trying to understand why he thought that way was key for Kendall’s character development. Unfortunately, I never quite reconnected or reconciled with his real life counterpart, but I can somehow live with that.

To be honest, I wanted Fanny to be the main character originally. I just enjoyed writing his character because he was so sassy and forward. I even considered writing a spin-off with Fanny as the main character, but because of how inherently interesting and progressive his character was, it would have been too easy and it would not have particularly challenged me. I found it hard not to completely develop Fanny’s character here, because he was not the main protagonist, and I tried really hard not to make him overshadow Kendall’s character.

Chloe and Megan’s dynamic was inspired by my own friendships in high school, specifically when I was in cross country and was really close with one or two of my teammates. I did not really get to develop their characters too much, unfortunately, but I wanted both to come across as competent, capable, and in Chloe’s case, more lighthearted and childish, while Megan would come across as more responsible and easier to anger.

Sophia and Carly each took qualities from a variety of my friends from high school. I wanted Sophia to be more of the outwardly shy, inwardly brave type of personality. In Sophia’s case, I really wanted to make her have a constant presence in Kendall’s life, something you can pick up on when you reread earlier chapters. I tried to make her more relatable towards the middle and end of the story, focusing on showing more of her perspective, just to further imply that she would get together with Kendall in the end.

I tried making Carly outgoing, but I wanted her to come off as generally uninteresting to Kendall, just to make it apparent to him that they were not I wanted Carly’s presence to completely overshadow Sophia’s in the beginning, since the story was told by Kendall’s perspective, and her initially being his crush. Carly was supposed to come across as the girl next door, and also a little miss perfect-type of figure.

For Jared, I really only took the name from somebody I went to middle and high school with. Aside from that, he was an original character from my high school experience. Since Fanny was gay, I wanted there to be somebody who could help Kendall become more accepting of Fanny, so Jared’s role changed from being a homophobic background character to being Fanny’s closeted boyfriend. For Kendall, seeing one of his closest friends date his mortal enemy, it challenged his views and priorities: would his hate for Fanny overcome his friendship with Jared?

Matt’s character, it was left relatively undeveloped. He was directly based on somebody I knew in high school, even down to the name. I really did not know what to add to his character, mostly because I felt like Jared already accomplished everything that Matt could in terms of the role of Kendall’s confidant. At one point in the story, I considered pairing Matt with Carly, in hopes that their relationship would help develop the characters, but I opted out of that, because I felt like at that point, almost all of the characters would be dating and that would just be a copout. So I left his character along with Carly’s relatively untouched. Needless to say, Matt is a very nice and funny person, both the character and the real life version. I hope some of that easygoing humor was able to come through in the few moments he actually had.

One of the recurring themes I wanted to capture was the idea of brotherhood. I focused a bit on the dynamics between Jared, Matt, and Kendall, trying to show the friendship between three young men. I also focused a few chapters on Kendall and Gil. I originally had bigger plans for Gil, wanting to expand his role into a main character, but him being a middle schooler made it difficult to include him as much as I would have liked to. Gil’s character was also left relatively untouched, but I hope I did include enough to make him a character of some interest.

Overall, I am happy with how the final story turned out, plot-wise. I honestly had no clue where I was going in the beginning. For a fleeting second, I thought about making Kendall and Fanny a pairing, but decided not to for the sake of it being way too polarizing and Romeo and Juliet-esque. I even considered putting Kendall with Carly in the beginning, but the more I wrote about Carly’s character, the more I felt they were incompatible. I was really happy that Kendall and Sophia wound up together, because when I first wrote in Sophia, I was expecting her to be a background character and remain relatively uninteresting. The first vision I had for Sky Bird was for Kendall to be a family guy, close with his two siblings, and using his family as an escape from the antagonistic Chiang family. But I added in more characters and started to expand the world, and it wound up being a story about acceptance, love, and having an open mind. I hope you enjoyed reading Sky Bird, and I look forward to continuing my next work, Road Movie!

Scarlet: realization 20

I have dealt with so many different kinds of people in college. But for me, the ones that I had the most difficulty dealing with were the incredibly spoiled students who buy condos and drive their riduclous sports cars, and basically throw their money at their problems. Trying to reason with people like them can get really frustrating. I still remember my freshman year. I was friends with a girl from China, who we shall call Scarlet so that I don’t give away her real name. Scarlet’s father owned two 5-star resorts and hotels in China and was filthy rich. And I remember my interactions with her quite well. She would mostly just sit there, staring at me while I awkwardly tried to break the ice. But most of our conversation topics went towards the same three things every time. It was either “I MISS CHINA!”, “I hate your friends because ____”, or “I love (for the sake of keeping the names private, I shall dub this girl) Maureen.” Maureen was a mutual friend of Scarlet and mine. Scarlet had a borderline terrifying obsession with Maureen, which definitely was not reciprocated; Maureen told me recently that she considered getting a restraining order from Scarlet had Scarlet not graduated a year early and moved back to China.

Whenever Scarlet would scream that she missed China, I would try to reason with her, being an immigrant myself, and having to leave behind family to move to America. But she claimed that I didn’t understand, because I was American. Even when I tried telling her that her father spent a ton of money just to send her to America for college, she still would just scream that I don’t understand her situation. It got very draining because I had no idea what to say to her. She just wanted to announce that she missed China, I guess. There was no getting through to her on that topic. She just saw me as an American and would not listen to anything I said, nor did I know what she wanted me to say. For the second topic of hating the vast majority of my friends, it got really uncomfortable for me. She bascially would tell me that they were horrible people for making one or two mistakes and that they are not my true friends. She did not seem the understand that humans make mistakes all the time. Ironically, a lot of her criticisms, such as saying my friends were using me or taking advantage of me, those would be hypocritical by the time you finish reading the following paragraph.

While I appreciate her trying to look out for me, she would basically tell me that all of my friends are terrible people, and that got hurtful, because she tried to cut me off from everyone that wasn’t her. Eventually, I broke it off with Scarlet when she tried to make me do her writing homework for her and I did not want to risk getting caught and put under academic probation. I did offer her advice on how to write the paper, but she didn’t think that was good enough, and tried to tell everyone else what a horrible person I was. And that backfired, because I had screenshotted proof that she was the one trying to make me cheat on her homework. So Scarlet wound up being isolated from the rest of our friend group. I have no idea what happened to her between sophomore and junior year. I know she graduated a year before me, but I heard she wasn’t doing much since she graduated. She didn’t have to work, because of how rich her father was. It made me and my friends wonder why she even bothered going to college at all if she wasn’t going to apply herself.

Scarlet is just one example of several spoiled people I have had the misfortune of meeting over the past few years. I would rather not get into the details of all of them, because that would get exhausting and a bit depressing for me, but the general takeaway I want everyone reading this to have is that when somebody is spoiled rotten the way Scarlet was, approaching them like a peer or equal is impossible. It was like walking on eggshells with this girl, and all she did was spew hateful things. I am ashamed to say that when I was undergoing depression, looking back on my behavior, I resembled Scarlet. I was just as vicious and obsessive. A part of me does wonder if Scarlet was going through depression, and if she saw Maureen in a similar light that I saw my ingrate roommate: an emotional crutch or somebody we felt we could trust to help us. But I will never know. Scarlet never trusted me enough to tell me if she was depressed, nor did she ever reach out to me again once she graduated and returned to China. All I know is that the person Scarlet was when I was supposedly friends with her, that is somebody I really want to make a conscious effort of avoiding to become. I want to love, I want to smile, and I want to accept and appreciate. Those are the things I need to do if I ever want to live a feather-light life.