The Year of the Monkey.

In truth, I don’t know all that much about Chinese astrology. As a child, I remember being fascinated by the red and gold Chinese restaurant placemats depicting the twelve zodiac animals and detailing the characteristics of each of them. Those placemats taught me that as a December 1980 baby, I am a Monkey: a sign known for its optimism, cleverness, sense of adventure, curiosity, and inclination toward mischief.

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On February 8, we began a new Lunar New Year: the Year of the Fire Monkey. According to the Chinese zodiac, it is not a good thing when you enter a year that corresponds to your sign. In fact, it is usually quite unlucky. This is an assertion that I have chosen to ignore. Given the way 2016 began, can you blame me?

A couple of weeks into the (Western) New Year, my car was vandalized, resulting in thousands of dollars worth of damage and leaving me feeling shaken and scared about the neighborhood I call home. My temporary job as an independent contractor – that began after the company I worked for was sold and moved to another state – was more stressful than I’d anticipated, leaving me tired and frustrated. Inspiration was difficult to come by, and my writing stalled. A persistent feeling of hopelessness started to creep in, threatening to derail my big plans for 2016.

Probably out of sheer stubbornness and my absolute need for things to be better this year than they’d previously been, I pushed forward. I kept writing, even though I didn’t feel like it. I reached out to a friend who’d produced my last play, asking her to come on board, even though I didn’t yet have a script. I renegotiated the terms of my independent contractor job, resulting in an arrangement more favorable to me. And I began the insurance claims process for the damage done to my vehicle.

Little by little, the clouds stared to lift. The original timetable of eight weeks to repair my car turned out to be mere days as the backordered part my mechanic needed became available much sooner than expected. Filing the insurance claim proved to be easier than I’d anticipated (dare I say, it was even pleasant), and within a couple of weeks I received a check covering all of the repair costs beyond my deductible. My friend and previous collaborator agreed to sign on to co-produce and direct my new play, giving my writing an increased sense of urgency and providing the motivation I needed to finish a first draft. And a fun-filled weekend celebrating a dear friend’s birthday in the San Francisco Bay Area lifted my spirits and temporarily curbed my growing wanderlust.

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By the time the Lunar New Year began, I was feeling like my old optimistic Monkey self again. A few days later, my aunt and uncle arrived in L.A. for a visit, booking a hotel on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica overlooking the pier, Palisades Park, and the Pacific Ocean. Their visit coincided with a rare winter heat wave: clear blue skies free of the smog that so often blankets this city, temperatures in the 80s, the Pacific sparkling like so many sapphires. The three of us hadn’t been together since Grandpa’s death three months earlier, and after the intense, emotionally taxing period of hospice, reveling in the majestic, sun drenched California coastline felt like a miracle.

On President’s Day, armed with towels, a water canteen filled with fancy French champagne, and red Solo cups, the three of us marched north through Palisades Park, away from the throng of tourists. At Montana Ave., we descended steep wooden stairs, crossed the bridge over Pacific Coast Highway, and landed on Santa Monica Beach, sinking our toes into the warm sand. We waded in the ocean, the foamy waves lapping at our feet, and then settled into the sand. We filled our cups with fizzy liquid, raised them in a toast to Grandpa, and then turned our eyes toward the fiery orange sun slipping low on the horizon and fell silent.

I captioned a photo from that day, taken by my aunt of my uncle and I looking into the sunset, my hand resting upon his shoulder, with a quote from a letter that my grandfather wrote to me more than a decade ago: The beach never changes, ‘tis only we who change. Those words recalled a different time, and Grandpa was referring to a different beach, yet they still hold true.

I have changed. We all have. Given everything that has happened over these last three years, it would have been impossible not to. And while I have no idea what the future holds, little by little, I am learning to let go of my obsessive need to control it. Maybe this Monkey Year will be lucky. And maybe, as the Chinese zodiac asserts, it won’t be.  But two weeks in, I have decided that whatever happens, I will greet it with the same indefatigable spirit of my zodiac sign: with curiosity, with optimism, and with an unwavering sense of adventure.

Onward.

Until next time, friends.

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28 thoughts on “The Year of the Monkey.

  1. I myself had a post sharing about this Lunar New Year of Monkey and 10 things people might not know about what that means in my culture, Vietnam. We also believe in superstitious things, I mean we are born and raised in a culture wrapping around those beliefs. My family, ourselves, are not that superstitious and me, I am an atheist. But since it is part of culture, we always talk about these when the new year reaches. And i think last year was also my unlucky year. I am not sure why, but my parents told me so. They went to pagoda and then usually there, during Lunar New Year festival, you get all kinds of predictions for the year coming about your life and all that. So when the last year ended, i caught my dad saying “the last year has passed. This year should be better for you, for all our family”. Then few days later, after they went to pagoda, they told me it seemed like this year, my unfortune has not fully left yet. 😀 The funny thing is, I usually don’t believe in those. And I always find it funny and a part of me being affected by culture, that everytime something unlucky happens, I will blame the year. 😛 And another funny thing is, it does not really matter. Because there were years supposed to be my lucky year, I still had stuff dragging me down. And then in the last year supposed to be my unlucky year, the first half was one of my most memorable experience: to be an exchanged student.
    So anyway, this is a bit late, but happy Lunar New Year! And since our culture believes in wishing, I will wish you all good things ahead! 🙂

  2. Onward indeed, fellow Fire Monkey! I have a good feeling about this year- looking forward to reading about it.

  3. I really enjoyed your blog post because a lot of what you wrote about I feel that I can relate to today in what I am going through and I am a monkey too so it made it even sweeter!

  4. The post was posted on my 6th wedding anniversary , not the happiest I must add.We all have some kinds of issues, but tomorrow is a new day, right. Head up. Loved the post.

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