Writing today from Gate B9 in Taipei, waiting for a plane to- you guessed it- Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I’ve spent the past few weeks back in Washington making sure life still exists there (it does, and it’s thriving) and making some connections for work which has been rather exciting.
I could go ahead and write another reiterative entry about how I don’t have a clue where I’ll be in the next month or so (hopefully with a successfully launched app and be back in Washington for my mom and my birthdays) but there’ve been enough posts of those kind as of late. I spent my time back in the United States watching and gauging the lives of the people I love most. From celebrating the incredible engagement of my dear friends Sally and Seth (during their romantic European vacation while I house sat– congratulations, congratulations, congratulations my sweet darlings!), to Adam and Savannah’s brilliant lives and rapidly growing and awesome boys, Brooke and Nick’s thriving business and lovely little house turning into a home, to Jacob succeeding and doing amazing things every single day both in his day job or the myriad of creative things he continues to embark on with quiet strength and composure, to Glen and Amanda’s beautiful five month old Henry who was an absolute joy to finally meet, to my mom’s inspiring adventure through life across the United States and soon to be a quick jaunt with me in Phnom Penh.
I loved getting to share the project I’ve been working on for the past year with friends, family, and collaborators- all aspects of the app, company, and work environment- and gain support, insights and thoughts from industry leaders, some of the most inspirational people I know, and people who just generally know what the hell is going on. I’m so grateful to have mentors like that in my life (here’s looking at you Andy, Helen, and Bob!)
It was a time that fed me creatively, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
While I adore Phnom Penh, it’s proven to be draining- and that’s to be expected. Whether because of circumstance, timing, or simply because of the task at hand there has been a shortage of time to ensure that I’m consistently gauging the needs that should be met to lead a positive and fulfilling life, have an outlook on life (and people) that remains overall positive, and to focus on the things that really matter- both in the moment and for the future. I suppose that’s what a hard deadline for a massive project will do!
I’ve decided rather than letting the negative energy, my own and that of others, stress (both outside and self-inflicted), and the “not-knowing” bring me down- I’m going to try and view each day like one of my all-time favorite foods: xiao long bao, or soup dumplings.
When you sit down with a little basket of those savory, enchanting little pockets of wonder steaming delightfully in front of you- you never know exactly what you’re going to get quality-wise. Regardless, I’m always a happy cat when they show up to the table.
Sometimes I’ll be a bit disappointed at the thickness of the dough: chewy, difficult to bite into, hard to swallow, and overall underwhelming. Sometimes my mouth gets scalded by the overly hot soup filling (usually I’m just being overeager to indulge) and it’s a little bit more difficult to enjoy the rest of the meal. There are times that dumplings are delicious, but the atmosphere is less than desirable: annoying conversation surrounding you, a crappy table, a sticky tablecloth. And then sometimes you get a serving of xiao long bao that sends you into some sort of nirvana: when the skin is so tender you barely have to bite down and a wave of hot broth and the flavors of pork and ginger do a dance on your palate that is almost too good to handle.
The thing though about xiao long bao is that no matter how mediocre the dumpling is, I always leave satisfied after a serving (or three) or have gleaned something other than a full belly. I’ve learned not to return to a peculiar spot or I had the pleasure of dining with wonderful company or in the best case scenario, the piece was just perfection in itself.
If one day ends up with someone throwing a misdirected tirade or me getting snapped at for stating an educated opinion, that’ll just be one of those xiao long bao that I think “huh, okay well that burned- but it’s minimal damage in the grand scheme of things and there will be plenty more to come.” If another day has me wondering what I’m doing with my life, feeling uneasy about the future or questioning how things are moving forward- that can be the xiao long bao where the chef just didn’t know what they were doing that day. Maybe the sous chef or server had a hangover or there was simply an ingredient missing. Maybe there will be a day of utter exhaustion and just feeling like doing nothing: that’ll be the xiao long bao that I poked too hard with a chopstick and I lost all the broth down the slats of the steamer (such a sad moment…) Then there are going to be days of utter delight, where everything is ideal in its savory sweetness and the ginger to sauce ratio is spot on and the broth is flawless. Those are going to be the saucy gems that make trying them all completely worth it.
Today I’ve literally eaten my first round of xiao long bao at an airport restaurant for breakfast (maybe a 6 out of 10 on the flavor scale) but we’ll see what kind of taste the upcoming days of xiao long bao leave in my mouth.