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Farewell to the Year of the Tiger

Today's the last day of the year of the Tiger. I have survived. While Western astrological signs celebrate their season of birth, I've merely been enduring the year of my birth. It is of the Daoist belief that your Chinese zodiac year, which comes around every 12 years, are years of trials and tribulation. You're supposed to head to a temple and pray and make offerings to appease the gods and ask not for a good year, just an okay one.

The year of the Tiger (1 February 2022-21 January 2023) brought me a 2-month doorframe lockdown, a new kitten (maybe black cats are bad luck, or maybe I was destined for a sh*t

year), an orthopedic surgery with a titanium alloy upgrade, and so far, 6 months living out of a suitcase. I have not seen my cats or most of my earthly possessions since early August.

It's also been a year of learning. One thing I've never anticipated is how well lockdown prepared me for post-surgery convalesce. When the surgeon told me I would be in some discomfort (lies) and not be able to put weight on my foot for at least 2

months, my first thought was: Oh, that's nothing compared to lockdown.

This time around, the length of my sentence is clear, I'm allowed to sleep in, as opposed to be woken up every other morning for mass testing, and instead of waiting

for government rations, my mother can spoil me rotten with cut fruit and oat milk tea. I'm not proud of it, but I am grateful that my mother is healthy, mobile, and has a spare room for me. After 3 years away from home, re-learning to depend on family and friends has been a process.

Lockdown has also taught me how to stay connected in isolation. I had developed a somewhat unhealthy, but very necessary, dependency on social media during lockdown. I made a point to check in and chat with friends. I'm aware of its downsides (sleep hygiene, over-consumption of horrific news, being swayed by real and manufactured outrage), but I also know how powerful and vital it can be when you're largely isolated. Lockdown had also trained me to have very strict no device time, for my sanity and sleep.

Yet another learning is how inaccessible the world is to anyone with disability. I'm not confined to my bed, per se, but it does take 3 separate elevators for me to leave my mother's apartment compound, since it's built on a hill. It is also located an hour's drive away from downtown Taipei. I now tear up with envy when I watch TV commercials for bone supplements, where middle-aged actors walk up stairs like it's no big deal.

In a wheelchair, I feel every little bump in the road, and I'm in everyone's way. Taipei is a very densely built city, and the only places I can navigate in a wheelchair are the hospital, some supermarkets, and some department stores. Many ramps are either too narrow or too steep to navigate. I feel very uncomfortable being wheeled around by my mother (isn't it supposed to be the other way around?). In crutches, I'm slow and still in everyone's way, and I can't interact with anything with my hands or carry heavy bags for my Mom, which I'm used to doing. Should's are unhelpful here, I'm injured, my Mom is able, and I consider myself very lucky. But it's a preview, a reminder that we're all just temporarily able. I'm a tourist for now, but if I'm lucky enough to live that long, odds are good that I might be back in wheelchair-land.

Lots of excitement awaits in the Year of the Rabbit. I'll be free of the splint by February 7th. I'm reuniting with my cats early March, and flying them to New York after a 2-week farewell trip in Shanghai. I'm still aggressively job hunting in New York, so any referrals, recommendations, cool people to have coffee with? Please send them my way.


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