The Truth For Now

January 6th, 2022

Thursday

Dear Blog,

I have decided to come back to writing my blog because I have eliminated one major roadblock: the approval of one close friend. She is someone I know personally in Berlin and we have been friends for three years. She was also the subscriber of my blog, meaning she would get an email with each of my new post. After some clear soul searching I have come to understand that I have quite some harsh feelings about her that I was unable to express due to my nature to keep the peace and avoid conflict. I have decided that the best way for “nice people” like me to live a fulfilling life is to speak the truth, and some of the truth will be hard to hear. You can learn more about this through the video below because Jordan Peterson said it much better than I could. Also, I am aware of his controversy on the internet. Let’s just say that regarding advice to people who are too nice, he does an excellent job explaining the situation and the solution.



The following text I originally composed during New Year’s Eve. I think it’s important to keep it in its original form as it represents the raw and unfiltered thoughts I had at the time. It is perhaps not the best strategy to write on the Internet as it has a much more extended memory than my own. Should I choose to regret what I wrote, I don’t really have a chance to correct them. But that is also the truth of life. The time we spent will never come back. And the truth we experience will always be limited by the fragment of time that we were in. In that sense, what I am doing is to create a time capsule as a reference for my future self. I have no doubts that when I get older and look back at this moment I would laugh at my childishness. But it is still better than having nothing at all, which is how I felt about the past two years during the corona era. Time disappear, and so does my will.


December 31st, 2021

Friday

It’s been a while since I last wrote. So many things have happened and I don’t even know where to start. I think it’s important to remember that most of the time you don’t know how you feel until you write it down. In this regard, writing is a process of crystallising your feelings to a level previously unknown to you. So I will embark on this journey now to discover what I truly feel. Who knows what insights might bubble up. Considering that today is New Year’s Eve, I could not think of a better way to celebrate it. 

I knew something was off back when I stopped updating my blog. I have been doing it consistently for a while but I knew something is blocking me to express my truth. Looking back it had something to do with this friend. Let’s call her Madeline even though she is clearly a Sarah, as fake names would go. Since her name is not really the point of this story, I will simply pick the first thing that came to my mind because I actually knew a Madeline from my college days and she is delightful. 

I first met Madeline in Berlin in 2018 during a job. We grew close because we sat together on a bus commuting to set almost everyday, and I came out to her on that bus, sitting on the top deck seat facing the giant window. She confessed that she already knew because, in all fairness, in what universe would a straight guy utilize vocabulary like “gorgeous” in his daily greetings, as in “Good morning, gorgeous!”, which was what I first said to her the second morning after she arrived.

I condemned my English as the betrayer of my secret, because I am much more likely to be seen as straight when I speak Chinese when I have years of suppression to help my performance. It is important to note that I was working for a Chinese show with a very homophobic 1st AD who slept in the same hotel room as me, per usual arrangement in productions this scale to save money on foreign soils. I thought it was in my best interest to put my sexuality in the back seat because I would like to advance in my career. That should be a first sign that it was a toxic environment, because the moment you create a dichotomy between your identity and your career, perhaps this is not the best career for you. 

I also bond with Madeline because we were the only two translators during the early pre-production phrase in Berlin back in April 2018, which meant that the frustrations and chaos experienced from both of us tend to overlap. I did not realise how much we communicated through WeChat until she pointed out that her boss Alice made a comment “Stop texting Hanson that frequently at work” when the ladyboss had a glimpse of Madeline’s WeChat screen with my profile picture on it. Damn you, my gender-neutral profile picture with a striking yellow color that betrayed my identity. I should have picked black. I reassured Madeline that according to a reliable source, Alice had a crush on me, and had I been ten years older, she might have done something about it. The bitterness of having your crush being close to someone weaker than you, I have my share of such emotions, so I can’t really blame Alice for her comment, as it was a difficult time for her as well considering how much decisions she needed to make for the Art Department on a daily basis.

It was my other incentive to pretend to be straight: unsolicited attentions from female colleagues in high positions, which beats having no attention at all during a stressful production like this when you have an insecure homophobic 1st AD who was trying everything he could to get you fired. I shall leave out the details as it deserves another chapter of its own. 

Suffice to say that I grew quite fond of Madeline with her smile and character, not to mention how she embraced my sexuality with no trace of judgement, which at the time was like an oasis for me to relax and recharge. 



When I finished the production at the end of June and went back to my parents’ house in Beijing, I was determined to go back to Berlin since I could no longer tolerate living a lie. I was infatuated with a German boy I met on set and felt alive for the first time in a very very long time, and I was convinced I could not find such exhilaration close to home. Even though I have came out to my parents a few years prior, I could feel that by choosing to stay close to them I am signing a silent contract to remain sexless until their death, which is not a prospect I want to ponder any further. Upon realizing that German universities are free of tuitions, I immediately applied for the only program in Berlin that would accept English speaking students, the North American Studies department at Free Univerisity Berlin. The deadline was in July. I had a week to prepare. The fact that I had a degree from the U.S helped greatly because it saves me from another test and a certification process that most Chinese students need to go through to authenticate the status of their degrees, considering the many fraudulent cases of Chinese students who pretend to have a degree when they don’t, which is both understandable and sad to say the least. Madeline greatly helped with my application process considering that she went to a German university and had previously went through the same journey before. She even helped me to submit a few documents to the application office in Berlin because they require documents to be mailed in and could not be submitted electronically, per usual German fashion of distrusting the modern technology.

In August I received the offer and to my suprise, my parents were very happy for me. Mostly because I told them nothing until the offer came in and they seemed to be impressed. At dinner father kept telling me how I should take advantage of this chance as much as I could to learn and grow before putting me in my place:

“They would never have accepted you without your American degree, would they?” Father said, with a strangely proud tone, a typical Asian parents move to put you down while giving you a compliment that made you appreciate their contribution, because his subtext essentially can be boiled down to, “If we haven’t paid for your expensive American education, why would they accept you? A film student with zero skills? A laughable proposition.”

Okay, I may have been projecting my own insecurities here, because Chinese parents say the strangest things, and instead of confronting them, your best survival tactic is to have internal dialogues with yourself, try to guess their true meanings, which can be a hit-or-miss situation. Mostly miss in my case, considering my self-esteem issues. And when you have low self-esteem, you cannot understand compliments the way they are meant to make you feel.

In the end, my parents’ obsession with education saved me from an unnecessary fight, mostly because they could now announce to their relatives that their son will continue his education in Germany, the leader of the European Union and the 5th largest economy in the world with famous exports like medical equipments and luxury cars, in that order because they are doctors that appreciate good craftsmanship. They could easily humble-brag about my prospect to people that they don’t really care about, namely, their relatives back home and colleagues at work. I was also leaving home with the money I saved, now exchanged into euros stored away in a locked Deutsche Bank account per request by the immigration office. My parents really couldn’t stop me from leaving, though they never intended to. Little did they know that for me, Berlin meant freedom, the freedom to pursue love, the freedom to become my own person, freedom from their expectations and my nation’s demand to conform and mate and bare children to continue the good fight against the Western power whose only objective is to humiliate and destroy our legacy and the way we live. To hell with all of them. A world without boys is not a world I want to live in, let alone defending for.  



Nobody ever told you what would happen after happily ever after.

When my boy crush Adam (not his real name for obvious reasons) and his business partner drove me to the airport to catch the plane back to Beijing back in June, I thought it was the perfect ending for my story. A sad repressed boy fell in love during a beautiful summer in a foreign city now needs to go back to where he came from. We hugged, he lingered with a force that I could still feel in my bones, I smelled him for the last time, felt his smooth skin against his cotton T-shirt, and experienced the end of my adventure. My propensity for melodramatic sentiments immediately started to compose stories in my head, about how I would never see him again, how this experience will be transformed into a myth, and how I will never be the same person again. The story felt complete. Like a standalone novella that is not meant to have a sequel. Yet here I am, back in the city that started this one-sided love affair, to both his and my surprise.

Madeline very kindly offered her bed for me to stay until I found a place of my own. We had dinner at a Japanese restaurant close to her place when I arrived on the last day of September. We talked, and something felt different. I said goodbye to her on a bus back in June without knowing if I would ever see her again. I also thought it was a perfect ending to our story in which the friendship begins on a bus and ends on one as well. I told her a quote from Whinee The Pool, “How lucky I am to have a friend that makes saying goodbye so difficult.” I think I changed a word. 



Now sitting face to face, after the usual topics, something felt missing. We were no longer bind by the chaos and stress of the production. She was in the process of finding a job in Berlin since moving here in April, and I was in the process of, well, starting over completely. We both needed to step into the unknown. But it felt like meeting your friends from the summer camp only to realize the best days are already behind you.

She started to talk about how annoying her roomates was and how hard it was to find a job in Berlin. It was also a strange feeling to be sleeping in the same room with her, extending the fragile intimacy that had been cooled down for months since June. Shortly after I reconnected with Adam again after my plane landed, he said I could live in his apartment since he needed to go to Thailand for a job soon, and I could have his room all to myself for a month. I took on the offer immediately and moved out of Madeline’s place within a week. Looking back, I think I instinctively picked up how the energy was off with her without realizing it. I thought, it’s hard to live in a foreign city, it’s hard to live with a roommate, surely being frustrated is understandable, and I should be a good friend by being a good listener and support her. 


Flash-forward to December 26th, 2021, three years after I came to Germany. Yes, very cinematic language from someone trained in the art of screenwriting. I know. And I intend to take full credit for it.

I was standing in the kitchen next to Madeline as she was preparing the dishes for the Christmas dinner at her new home. From the look of it, Chinese omelette was in order. I was dreading this dinner but she seemed to be in a good mood. Sometimes I forgot how pleasant she could be when she was not stressed. I helped out in the kitchen. Prepared two platters of vegetable and fruit that I brought. Then she asked me to exchange presents in the living room with her boyfriend Markus and she would continue to cook. I gave them a nice box of Christmas ornaments, retail price €49.99, not that I would keep tabs but I clearly did, for reasons that will soon become apparent to you, dear reader, just you wait. I got a candle and two books in return. I didn’t really register the title of the books given to me before this musical skit from SNL started to play in my head and I couldn’t help but to start laughing hysterically in front of Markus as I opened the neatly wrapped box containing a vanilla scented candle. Thank god he was not confused by my laughter. You can watch this magnificent piece of art featuring the great Emma Stone below.



Perhaps I was primed by the key message of this skit before this moment. But it hit me right there and then that she did not care for me the same way I did for her. Three years of friendship, and I got a candle in return, which according to this masterpiece from SNL, means that I am as good as a stranger.

I think it’s important to note that when people use the expression “the last straw”, a pile of pre-existing straws is implied. I would be more than happy to list all the events and moments that would be part of this pile but that seems counterproductive, considering how most of the time when we feel something, we simply want to justify that feeling with a memory-hunt to support our feelings. But I will list out three key moments here as I think they symbolise the heart of my frustration and defeat.



Near the end of October, Madeline and Markus decided to move out of their old apartments which they resented dearly with their hearts for almost two years. The kitchen was too small, one bedroom was next to the noisy street, there was not enough daylight, the neighbours were crazy, I could go on.

One day at the old apartment with just Madeline and me, she complained about how the ceiling light in the kitchen was broken and how she would now have to cook in the dark. She said Markus didn’t know how to replace the light bulbs since they were a special kind and he would have to ask the landlord, who was his brother-in-law. I asked if she already had the replacement bulbs in place and she replied in the affirmative and brought me a box of novel looking things that resemble Christmas tree lights.( The foreshadowing nature of this moment does not escape me) I then proceeded to offer my service to replace the light bulbs, though success was not guaranteed because I too was not familiar with this particular kind of bulbs.

“I can give it a try.” I said. The sun was going down and the kitchen was indeed getting dark.

“Are you sure?” She said, per usual Chinese etiquette, putting the pressure of saying yes on you because saying she needs your help is unladylike and very imposing indeed.

“Let’s just try.”

I brought a wooden chair from the living room and put it on the kitchen table in order to create the height needed to reach the ceiling. As I got on the chair, Madeline said to me, “If you fall down, I will take no responsibility.” She said it in a matter-of-fact way with no hint of being facetious and returned to washing her vegetable in the sink with an annoyed look between her eyebrows, as if I was doing something obnoxious that needed to be tolerated. I was in such a shock and I laughed jokingly followed by an immense bitterness that felt like a stab in the chest. I was doing her a favour. I OFFERED my service out of my own initiative so I could solve HER problem, to make HER life easier, and instead I was treated like a minor annoyance that could lead to a series of unfortunate events most likely involving a trip to the hospital followed by an insurance claim with me suing her for damages.

I subtly sneered at her remark and went back to work, because I did not enjoy the sensations of falling down a chair and did not wish for that to happen in the foreseeable future. As I opened the old metal chamber for the light bulbs, dusts came down on me and instead of feeling a sense of disgust and flinching like a normal person, I did not move a single muscle in my body as I was still in shock from what she just said. I finished replacing all 12 light bulbs and came down the chair without a problem. She seemed very happy and had a smile on her face as the light went back on and lit up the kitchen. I said, “Yay! Now you have light!” with a feigned enthusiasm channeled by my inner gayness because it has to be the least enthusiastic “yay” I have ever uttered in my entire life, mirroring(foreshadowing) my enthusiasm when I received her candle a few months later at Christmas: “Yay! I love candles. Thank you SO SO much.” The fact that Markus’ English was not good enough to detect my sarcasm most certainly saved me from a confrontation. An alternative explanation is that I have already mastered the art of saying “yay” with the bare minimum of human energy required to make it seem genuine. I will choose the latter because I was utterly exhausted after replacing the bulbs, which was also how I felt after I helped them move to their new home in October.


Markus’ sister was moving out of their apartment because they needed a bigger space for their second baby and asked if he and Madeline would like to move in. They have been to the apartment before and gladly said yes because it was a massive upgrade compared to their old place, with a bigger kitchen, plenty of light, and a balcony to chill during the summer. At least that’s what I thought, because shortly after they moved in, Madeline expressed her discontent with the new abode to me, which I shall not delve into in details. I encourage the reader to use their own imaginations for the many reasons how the new place could be such a disaster.

Two weeks before their move, Markus asked me during dinner if I would be willing to help them move with another friend of theirs, John, and I said yes, because I know exactly how stressful moving can be and I would like to be of service, AGAIN. It’s funny looking back how Markus was the one who asked me when Madeline clearly had a closer relationship with me. I am going to use the Chinese card and presume that her unwillingness to directly ask for my help had something to do with our culture. At this point I have long forgotten the light bulb incident because I had other things to worry about and other wounds to lick, literal and otherwise.

Markus rented a fairly big truck during the moving day, and we could easily fit everything in there in one trip. Alas, they did not have enough moving boxes, meaning the rest of the stuff must be packed with plastics bags and other backpacks, which meant that we would have to take three trips instead. That was not the issue. I have done the exactly same thing when I moved to my new place the last time, and I was eternally grateful for the two friends that came to my aid that day and tolerated my multiple trips.

In all fairness, it was a very stressful situation, and Madeline would have to pack the rest of their belongings into all kinds of bags as we transport the boxes to the new home. She was in a foul mood the entire day and told us she was also on her period. Despite my lack of knowledge of the female anatomy, I could certainly understand how tough that could be and brought donuts and coffee in the morning in the hope of cheering her up.

After we returned from our first trip with my back aching from all the carrying and walking up the stairs, I saw her packing paintings and photo frames with bubble wraps and she was visibly annoyed at the amount of work required to pack. She was kneeling down on the ground to wrap and I volunteered to help her, and she stood up without saying a word and went to work in the other room. After she returned and saw my handiwork, she sneered with a sarcastic question, “Is that how you wrap?”

I was filled with a fury that I couldn’t understand at the time. I gave her the painting to let her wrap in the “right way” and walked out of the room with my hands in the air. I don’t have to take this. Not today. I don’t care if her period felt like a thousand needles stabbing her stomach at the same time. This is no way to talk to a friend who offers his time and service FREE OF CHARGE because he cares about you enough to carry heavy boxes across time and space with his physical body like a slave chained by an invisible code of honour. No disrespect to the actual slaves throughout the history, because they certainly went through MUCH more dire situations than I did. But I did feel trapped, like I had no choice but to tolerate her moods and maintain the peace, because that’s what nice guys do. Don’t you want to be the nice guy? Don’t you want people to love you? Don’t you want to pay her back for the kindness she did for you back in the day when she helped you to get to Berlin and offered her room for you to stay?

I said nothing and continued the day feeling hurt and exhausted. Markus and John cheered me up during the drive for the following trips with their silly penis jokes, as you do when three guys were trapped inside a moving vehicle, which was especially admirable considering how earlier in the day Markus bumped into a car by accident and would have to leave a note on the windshield of the scratched car in case the owner wanted money for damages. He was berated by Madeline for his carelessness, of course, considering how she was mad at him earlier for not purchasing enough moving boxes like she suggested and for forcing her to move into his sister’s place when there were so many other better apartments out on the market that he was too lazy to hunt for. Did I already mention that she was also on her period? A series of unfortunate events indeed! Despite all this, Markus and John still joked around in the car, and I was grateful for their lightheartedness. This is exactly why I need more male friendships.

After we finished moving for the day, eight hours later, Markus brought John and I to a famous Kebab place next to their new home known for their delicious Döner, which is a dish originated in Turkey and a must-have if you are ever in Berlin.

“Let me buy you guys dinner, to say thank you.” Markus said.

Thank god, I thought, I could really use a place to sit down right now. I don’t care about the food, I just want to sit.

Imagine my delight when I arrived at the Kebab place with only standing tables. What a great way to add some extra calories to burn to my day. According to my smartwatch, I have burned around 3500 calories at this point. And I most certainly could afford to burn some more in order to enjoy a culinary treat as complex as the Kabab offered at this world-renowned joint with lines as long as the baggage claim section at you least favourite airport. I asked for a chicken sandwich with everything. I wanted to order two because I was FAMISHED after only eating the donuts I brought to their place earlier in the morning, but I only ordered one because I didn’t want to take advantage of Markus’ hospitality considering that he was paying.

“Hey, do you have cash? I don’t have enough on me. I will pay you back.” Markus said after ordering our food with his wallet opened.

I gave him 20 euros. He gave me the change, and promised again that he would pay me back. I just need to remind him.

Thus concluded my day where I slaved away my body and my soul with the hope of a free meal by the end of the journey, only to have paid for the meal myself. If you are adding the costs of the complementary donuts and coffee I bought to cheer Madeline up in the morning, I essentially paid around 40 euros myself to help her move to an apartment that she did not like in the first place while being sneered at due to my poor wrapping skills, which was also a complementary service I offered. As far as I am concerned, I was only booked to carry heavy stuff, not to wrap metal frames that were so solid that you couldn’t break with a hammer even if you wanted to.

The only comforting thing about that day is that we did not eat at the standing tables. After we bought the kebabs with Madeline’s share as well, Markus drove me to the drop off location to return the truck. We rode a scooter back to their old apartment and sat together on the kitchen table under the ceiling lights that I replaced a few months earlier. Madeline still had some cleaning up to do because the new tenant would move in the next day. An additional layer to her stress uncovered, yet I was no longer able to cheer her up anymore. I was DONE. I ate my chicken sandwich in silence. It was really good.



One of the things I tell agreeable people, especially if they are consciancious is: say what you think. Tell the truth about what you think. There’s going to be things you think that are nasty and harsh. And they probably are nasty and harsh. But they are also probably true. And you need to bring those up to the forefront and deliver the message. And it’s not straightforward at all, because agreeable people do not like conflict. Not at all. They smooth the water.

– Jordan Peterson

Flash-forward to the Christmas dinner two months later in their new home, now free from moving boxes and bags of all shapes and forms. I put the candle gifted by Madeline into my bag, and said to myself, my debt has been paid.

Did I also mention that Markus never paid me back for the kebabs during the moving day? In all fairness, I did not remind him to pay me back. I was curious to see if I was important enough for him to remember to pay out of his own accord. Of course I was disappointed. I was not mourning for the loss of my twenty euros, but for the loss of the friendship that I once valued dearly that was clearly one-sided and false.

I have decided that from this moment forward, I will not feel guilty if I cease to become her friend. I will not feel guilty about writing about her in my blog, because I need to speak the truth. Perhaps she would read it and cut me off entirely. Perhaps she would make amends. I choose to hold no grudges, and thank her for the good times we once had and the kindness she once showed to me during a difficult time of my life. But that Hanson is long gone. And that Madeline is also long gone. And in the spirit of the new year, I think we all need to look forward and not back.

So here we are, back to me blogging about my truth. And I will not be stopped this time, as I no longer want to be an agreeable person. Agreeable people will get exploited. It is a fact, and I respect this fact. Thus the desire to change. Thus the existence of this blog, with all of my heart and my truth.

Well, the truth for now at least. During a moment in time as we slowly cross into the year 2022 with hopes and dreams about a better future.


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