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I Guess It's My Turn for a Diane Essay
Yes, I rewatched some BoJack. Yes, I am going to be okay. Diane also knows that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd, if anyone was wondering.
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This issue of Hyperfixate, much like a lot of the ones I’ve put out this year, is going to be a little different. Calling this an ‘essay’ is a little generous, on my part.
I rewatched the episode of BoJack Horseman where Diane goes to Vietnam after her divorce. I was going to write this week’s newsletter about the new Lana del Rey single, Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd?, and all the different ways I can bring up the tunnel under Ocean Boulevard which we now know about. But I couldn’t bring myself to sit down and finish that piece.
This specific episode of BoJack, Season 5’s ‘The Dog Days Are Over’, often surfaces in the zeitgeist every once and a while. It’s usually from other women around my age and Diane’s age unpacking their break-ups, divorces, depression, writing careers, the definition of “home”, and so on. It’s a great episode. Like the rest of the show, it’s a clever piece of television that has a lot of heart to it. At the end of the episode, she says that her trip to Vietnam taught her that she can survive being alone. I think that’s one of those lessons we’re forced to keep learning no matter how many times we pass that class.
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Using a Croosh listicle as an excellent structural device, Diane takes us through the top ten reasons one would suddenly travel to Vietnam. Diane, despite being voiced by a white woman—one of my favourite white women, I might add—is Vietnamese-American. She lands in Hanoi a stranger, a tourist. And she’s hyperaware of it. I love how infuriating her interactions with other Americans are whilst she’s in Vietnam. It’s an age-old story we’re still unpacking; going to a place where everyone looks like us but still feeling like an outsider.
This is something I’m all too familiar with. I only really lived in Indonesia in the late 2010s and for a year of primary school before my brother was born which I can’t really recall. It took a while before Jakarta became home, but I have a greater appreciation now for being able to still speak my mother tongue and having had experience working in the city for a bit. I’ve been in Vancouver for almost five months, and I can’t stop thinking about what it means to feel “at home” somewhere.
I’ve moved around my whole life, I take pride in being able to make a home anywhere I go. I think I’ve written in this newsletter before that London is as much home to me as Jakarta, Sydney, or Kuwait City are. Vancouver is slowly but surely becoming a home of some kind. But there’s something about it this time around that still makes me feel uneasy.
‘Uneasy’ may not be the right feeling. It’s something I can’t pin down. I hate not having words for feelings I can’t pin down. It doesn’t make me feel good as a writer. I guess the closest thing I could attribute it to is feeling like I can definitely live here in this city, but I feel a lot of resistance internally that isn’t really stemming from anywhere nor is it anyone’s fault. I’m not struggling but I’m not fully adjusted either.
Vancouver is a different pace from what I’m used to. There’s more ground to cover when you cross the road, the buses don’t run as often, and there’s not much to do after 6pm. Which is fine, that’s just how things are here. Vancouver doesn’t have that much nightlife. I felt the most capital N Normal when I came home from a shoot at 4 am, and that’s probably saying more about me than it is about this city. Vancouver is also massive. British Columbia is massive. Canada is absurdly massive. A mate of mine that lives in Toronto was bemused to discover that I didn’t know you can’t just take a train to another province. It’s quicker to fly. (Have I taken the National Rail for granted? Probably.) There is so much land here. A lot of it, like many places, is stolen land.
I know better than to keep comparing places I’ve lived in before to one another. I can’t find much use for it. Maybe it’s because I still miss London or I miss Jakarta more than I’d like to admit, but I still can’t help but feel like an outsider even though I’ve actually settled quite nicely. I’ve just finished my first term of grad school, my friends are great, and I lucked out with the people I’m living with. When the weather’s nice, I go for a run on the beach. Sure, I get the odd bouts of loneliness but I don’t think any of us can avoid those anymore in the kind of world we’re living in. There’s something here that’s forcing me to slow down. Maybe that’s what’s making me so uneasy.
I think I need to make room in my definition of home for a place like Vancouver. What does this have to do with Diane Nguyen going to Vietnam? Diane wanted to get away from LA, as far as possible from what was hurting her, to eventually prove to herself that she can survive being alone. I think I needed to be reminded that I can survive being alone again. I’ve done it before. That doesn’t make it any easier, but it’s been done before and it can be done again.
My parents sent me a package from home. My dad has a friend in Vancouver (he has a few and they’ve all been incredibly kind to me) that was in Jakarta at the time this package was put together and very kindly got it to me when they returned to Canada. Inside this package was a red leather jacket that I forgot to pack, a pair of Bluetooth earphones I bought when I thought I lost the pair I stole from lost and found at my old job had disappeared at the gym, four packs of Laksa-flavoured Mie Sedaap (slay), and Eci, a doll that I’ve had since I was a baby.
Eci was a gift from an aunt and uncle of mine, I can’t remember which ones. I can’t remember if they were biological family or the countless family friends Indonesians grew up calling Om and Tante because honourifics are the right and polite thing to do. All I know is that at the wedding of this Om and Tante, they gave out dolls as souvenirs. I had two more that have been lost to time; one exactly like Eci and another with no hair my dad named after his late, bald brother. Eci has no eyes now, but he used to. His ‘eyes’ were a pair of felt glasses. He had dots for eyes but I drew swirls over them in ballpoint. At some point growing up, I ripped those glasses off because the glue that held them on was giving away. I brought him with me when we packed up and moved again. I brought him with me when I went to Uni. I was shattered to realize I had left him behind when I left for Vancouver. I hadn’t outgrown him, he’s just always been a stable presence. I’m an extremely sentimental person, so to leave what’s essentially a childhood friend behind made me feel sick. It made me feel like I didn’t care enough about this doll I’d had since I was born. It made me feel unprepared for all this change I was getting myself into.
In the BoJack episode, Diane lists ‘Because You’ve Got To Leave To Come Back Home’ as the tenth and final reason to visit Vietnam. She sits next to Laura Linney on the plane, who had recently finished filming a film in Hanoi, her own Eat, Pray, Love with a Gemini Man twist. Laura Linney says that she does end up finding herself in the film. Literally, she finds a clone of herself. It’s a great bit.
Going somewhere to find yourself is a very romantic notion, one I often attribute to white girls on their gap year or white women on their Eat, Pray, Love trip. I treat white women in media very glibly, I can’t help it. It’s hilarious. The idea that they find themselves in a culture that is not only foreign to them but richer than their own culture is all sorts of bizarre. Considering how prolific Western media is all over the world (thanks, Imperialism), it’s even funnier when Western media is out of touch with the rest of the world. It’s depressing, but it’s really funny to me. Although that could be my gross Grad School brain talking.
This actually comes back to the new Lana del Rey single after all. I’ve been listening to it constantly. On my commutes, on my silly little walks, at my desk—I now know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard! I bet Diane knew that there was a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard. She sings ‘don’t forget me / when’s it gonna be my turn’ like some millennial battle cry. A zillenial battle cry, even. I guess I still feel like I’m waiting for whatever it is. Whatever it was Diane was waiting for after ten reasons on her listicle. But I guess it and my turn isn’t something I have to wait for anymore. I could choose to just try and go with it, I suppose. Whatever this elusive it is. I guess this is more of that underdeveloped-prefrontal-cortex-thing, but I’m growing hyperaware of how small this moment will be in the grand scheme of my life if I get to live it for longer than I’m living it now.
I’ve been listening to that new SZA album, SOS, as well. I think Diane Nguyen would’ve listened to it on her trip to Vietnam. It’s definitely the kind of album one would associate with going to a party your soon-to-be ex-husband throws and you catch him kissing the waitress from Elefante. It’s a really long album, but I’m digging it so far. I have my favourites (which we’ll discuss on this newsletter at a later date) and I’m happy sticking to those for now. I think what SZA and Diane have in common (just so this doesn’t seem all that random of a tangent) is that they make me feel like I can feel whatever I want to feel without judgment. Even the embarrassing ‘low vibrational’ stuff. Existing can be embarrassing, but that’s fine. I kind of like it like that.
I feel the dissonance Diane felt in Hanoi in all the places I grew up in, all the places I’ve lived in. It’s even more amplified here because this is somewhere new that’s starting to become less new as each day passes. That’s how time works, Ari, duh! I’m really lucky to have grown up the way I have, but I also wish I had an easier time making peace with the idea that my idea of ‘home’ is always going to change. And That it’s never going to be constant. I guess that makes me the constant, right? Is that how that works? I’m also struggling with feeling like I belong in any of those places and cultures I grew up in, but to be honest, that’s probably because I’ve been caring too much about how I think other people perceive me. (Which, by the way, they don’t, because who the fuck cares!)
I also keep coming back to Diane because she’s a writer. And I’m a writer. And that’s something that’s taken so long for me to say about myself, regardless of whether or not it’s ‘true’ or ‘valid’. I’m a writer. Impostor syndrome, be damned. Another side effect of not having a fully developed brain too, so I hear. I also hear it’s something you just have to keep working at squashing every day.
After I watched that episode of BoJack Horseman, I didn’t go into a full-blown rewatch, but I did revisit Free Churro–the episode where BoJack delivers his mother’s eulogy, and the series finale. I cried a lot. I’m scared to get to the end of shows I’ve rewatched a thousand times because it’ll be over then. I skip to the last episode of shows I don’t want to end just so I know that it does end. I want my heart to be torn out of my chest in a controlled environment. I had felt so removed from all the times I had rewatched BoJack that this time around it felt even more cathartic than usual.
I also watched Quinta Brunson on Desus & Mero the other night. It’s an interview from earlier this year, I think, a little before the second season of Abbott Elementary came out. Quinta was talking about how she doesn’t really like/want/do (I can’t remember) to give out advice, but the reason she’s made it this far was that she believed in what she did. And that this was the only plan. There was no Plan B for her because when you have a Plan B, you know it’s there and you focus on that instead.
I’m scared that’s where I am right now. I’m scared that I’ve been making too many excuses for myself. Making redundancies even if Plan B fails. That being said, I also don’t think that I even know what Plan B looks like anymore. Which is just as scary! I’m just going with it. Grad school was a way for me to get out of the country again, a very middle-class escape route. Whichever comes first, the writing or the stand-up or the acting or the music, I’ll run with that. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I don’t want to do anything else. At least, that’s how I feel right now with my prefrontal cortex at the stage of development it’s in. I’ve spent so much of this year trying to define myself by things, people, and experiences outside of myself that I just forgot to really sit down and listen to how I’m feeling.
I’ve been feeling weird about this newsletter, to be honest with you. But I think that’s just because I need to find a newer, more sustainable way for me to write. We’ll figure it out. Shenanigans will resume, for sure, I’m just not sure what shape they’ll take going forward.
A bunch of my Black Friday packages arrived today. I was really excited. Dopamine hit from shopping, I’m not immune to that. I became unnervingly aware of how much joy could fade once these things came into my possession. A lot of them are gifts for people in my life, so there’s still that excitement. But I am very happy they’ve arrived before Christmas, a holiday I don’t really celebrate. Things won’t fill the hole. There’s no hole to fill. I’m whole and I’m sad, which is not at all unexpected this time of year. My housemates and I are going up to Whistler (which I’ve been told is crawling with Australians, so I know I’ll feel a bit more at home there, lol) for Crimbo and I’m very excited. I’ve never been before. I’ve been told it’s beautiful. Gotta leave to come back home and all that.
That’s all for today. Happy holidays.
All my love,