Categories
Notes The Writing Process

To Become A Full-Time Write-At-Home Dad

It was January, 2016 when I realized that I was dying inside. Nothing medical, though had I continued on my path, I was sure to lose a part of myself that was critical to who I was, my identity, which never even had a chance to blossom — the part that wanted to be a novelist, a writer, an artist of words — and I would’ve surely degraded into some stranger, a foreigner to my own family, my wife, and to myself. I might as well have been dead.

“Identity is crucial in ideology and action — central to the problem of self-determination at any level.”

— Franklin Odo, Preface to Roots: An Asian American Reader

When I was 16 years old, I decided that I wanted to be a writer. Something in the words of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye pulled me in, something hypnotic about Holden Caulfield, something altogether magical — and not in the Mark David Chapman kind of way.

From Catcher to my studies in English at UC Riverside to graduation, writing remained a career goal but I then quickly realized that there was no money in writing, and as someone who grew up in near poverty, what I needed most at that time was a job that paid. So I promised myself that I needed to stack up some chips first before I pursue something so … broke. You see, at the time, I was tired of being broke.

And so I got a job as an editor for a car magazine, which led to a job as a content producer for a dot com, which ultimately led to multiple jobs in marketing and advertising, each one a major step up the corporate ladder, each one more lucrative than the other, and each one another pull away from that initial goal, like a strong magnet, a dark force, a bite from some zombie. I was losing my way. Some may have even called it a successful career, but to me, they were all just jobs. At each company, at every meeting, from business trips to business retreats, from a cubicle to an office, all I wanted to do was write.

And so January, 2016 came along and my firstborn had just turned six months old, and I remember whispering to him as I fed him his bottle, “You can do whatever you want to do when you grow up. You can even be the first Filipino-American President of the United States of America.”

And then I thought about what he would’ve said to me had he had the power of language, “Did you do what you wanted to do, dad?”

This imaginary question was like a mountain of bricks falling atop my head. I realized that I had no business telling my son to follow his dreams when I hadn’t even attempted to do the same.

I decided then to end what was killing me inside — another meeting, another conference call, another motherfucking business trip, another cubicle, another day at the ditch, digging and digging and digging.

I also took in account of that broke-ness that so drove me away from writing and of my status as a person of color in America, raising another person of color in America. Cliché alert: I really had nothing to lose and so much to gain. Being a person of color requires triple the work in the face of triple the hardship, and so I might as well do something about it now lest my child be in the same situation with no one to give him advice. And so I promised myself that my being broke will be temporary — and put in my notice.

I was also fortunate — because I know how difficult it is to make it in the writing game — that I have a wife who was is beyond supportive and understanding and willing to switch roles that society has set upon all of us, that I stay at home to raise our child (now two children) and she work and take home that bread.

It’s been four years since I decided to become a write-at-home dad, and nothing’s been easy. I need to cook, wash the dishes, shop for groceries, clean the house, fold the laundry, find ways to keep the kids busy other than sit them in front of the TV, manage my time, forego some sleep, enjoy my coffee breaks, take care of my health, and all of that and more before I can even put words onto paper.

But after 15 years in the office, multi-tasking in other ways with no positive results other than my salary, I’m glad I found the courage to let it all go for this — to make art with confidence, to be creative for my own purposes, and simply, to write. Times felt like they were ending for me in January, 2016, and times are certainly ending for many now (i.e., climate change, Iran, the continued genocide of black and brown men in America, etc.) so — on the real — there is no better time to do what you want to do than right now, at this very moment.

And if I’m lucky enough to have that imaginary discussion about following your dreams with my children when they’re a little bit older, that they can do whatever they want to do, I can actually back it up and show them the way.

And to those struggling with the same issues (work vs. passion) just know that you’re not alone.

My journey is not over, it really is still the beginning, but I don’t ever regret ending my marketing career jobs to pursue this, to be a full-time write-at-home dad.

Categories
Notes Sports Travels

Photos Of Basketball Courts From Around The World

In September, 2015, I was assigned to create content for the basketball category at Under Armour and found myself standing in front of several basketball courts from around the world.

I had grown up playing basketball at a young age, and it continues to be my favorite sport.

There’s just something serene about watching street ball, watching kids organize teams, assigning positions, keeping score, high-fiving each other, a stranger perhaps, a potential friend, and as I look at these photos of courts from Beijing to Manila, I feel blessed for the opportunity to witness the sport grow as much as it did.

Basketball courts in Manila
A makeshift basketball court near the tarmac of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. (Photo by Roel F. Concepcion)
Basketball courts in Beijing
Students from Tsinghua High School in Beijing playing basketball. (Photo by Roel F. Concepcion)
Basketball courts in New York City
A basketball court a few blocks north of the Freedom Tower. (Photo by Roel F. Concepcion)
Basketball courts in Tokyo
The basketball court at the National Yoyogi Athletic Field, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Roel F. Concepcion)
Basketball courts in Baltimore
The Federal Hill basketball court in Baltimore is empty during a snowy day. (Photo by Roel F. Concepcion)
Categories
Notes The Writing Process

Three Books I'm Reading Today

I’m not sure if this is common knowledge among writers (you never really know) but it’s always worth pointing out that if you want to become a better writer than you were yesterday, you must read everything.

”I’m influenced by everything I read, shamelessly. ‘In a review someone said, ‘Oh, she sounds very much like Amis.’ I was flattered by that. I love Amis. Thank you very much. I think if I carry on plagiarizing for 15 years, it will settle like silt, and I’ll write something really great.”

— Zadie Smith, via The New York Times

And that goes with anything that involves words and sentences. Even as relatively innocuous as a tweet, which requires one to read enough tweets to become one decent enough to gain a multitude followers. (Of course, the alternative is to just blurt shit out and I guess that has impact, too.)

But if you want to be thoughtful and be able to convey what you want to say in such a limited word space, you’d have to study the best twitter accounts and the best twitter accounts are often created by writers who write often — and presumably read often.

For me, when it comes to writing, nothing boosts my will to put words down on an empty Word document than reading a fine line of prose or poetry, and so I read as much as I can, and the three books that I’ve picked up recently — that I would also recommend to anyone who loves to read — are:

  1. Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash by Eka Kurniawan
  2. Yakuza: Japan’s Criminal Underworld by David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro
  3. The Open Boat: Poems from Asian America edited by Garrett Hongo
The three books in their natural habitat.

I haven’t finished any of these books, but if you happen to be reading or have read any of these books, let’s start a discussion.

The Open Boat will definitely be part of my ongoing rotation with so many gems that I will for sure come back to for many years to come. Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash is original and endlessly entertains. Yakuza not only details the criminal underworld of Japan, but it also provides some insight on how the Japanese people live, their values, their core.

What are you reading today?

Categories
Notes Photos

Winter Carnival Lights

There’s something about these carnival lights that make me feel at ease. It’s like a promise — to tell me that they will always be around, that they will never leave. To make me believe in tomorrow. To make me believe in me.

Winterfest OC Carousel
Dizzy flights dazzle. (Photo by Roel F. Concepcion)
Winterfest OC Ferris Wheel
Ferris wheel lights. (Photo by Roel F. Concepcion)
Winterfest OC Himalaya Ride
Rollers coasters shine. (Photo by Roel F. Concepcion)
Winterfest OC Ice Cream Vendor
Reds, whites, and blues. (Photo by Roel F. Concepcion)
Winterfest OC Carousel
White lights play. (Photo by Roel F. Concepcion)
Categories
Notes

To Write in 2020

It’s time to tear down all the decorations and all the bullshit. It’s a new year, new decade, and I’m fucking 40 years old.

I bring my age up because I tend to compare. Like “How old was he when he dropped his first novel?”

But despite that, I know that wisdom still persists. I know in the end it doesn’t matter. What matters is the doing, the act, and that’s exactly what I’ve not been doing — is the doing.

I have so many excuses.

If you write, good ideas must come welling up into you so that you have something to write. If good ideas do not come at once, or for a long time, do not be troubled at all. Wait for them. Put down little ideas no matter how insignificant they are. But do not feel, any more, guilty about idleness and solitude.

— BRENDA UELAND (courtesy of advicetowriters.com)

And so this, on the first day of 2020, my first act of writing is this very post and it will serve as my constant reminder for my days to come that there will be no excuse bigger than this, to write:

One blog post every day.

One sentence (at least) toward the novel every day.

One sentence (at least) toward a short story every day.

Though it may not seem like much, it’s a big step for me. You see, my main excuse thus far is that I’m the primary caretaker of two toddlers with a part-time job and the big responsibility to make sure that our home is live-able, clean, and conducive to a life of action, health, and woke-ness.

This challenge, if you will, at the face of it may seem innocuous especially when it’s compared to what I’ve done prior, which was to write at two in the morning, half asleep, exhausted from the day, balancing out time with my wife and children with other interests, and at times, dealing with whatever else life decides to throw underneath my path to trip me up, but I assure you that it is indeed a challenge, one that I have to face if I’m to complete anything worth completing.

So here goes.

Categories
Notes

Today, I took a picture of a dachshund

This little black-and-tan dachshund bitch is just over 10 years old. She loves soft things like new blankets and thick rugs; sunbathing; and playing with her squeaky rollie ball.

Today, I caught her basking under the sun atop our new Virgil Abloh rug, set inside our son’s room.

I bring this to you because this little black-and-tan dachshund bitch is getting old, and I always fear, most times anticipate, her going away, and I want to capture this bitch during her finer moments.

And today, on that rug, it was a fine moment.

Categories
L.A. Notes

Today, I went to Tom’s One Hour Photo

I hadn’t a clue who Kacey Musgraves was — but without her unabashed sense of adventure and her huge celebrity-sized following, she wouldn’t have had the chance to spread the word about Tom’s One Hour Photo, which is:

  • My kind of photo lab
  • My kind of photographer
  • My kind of photo

I have fond memories of taking similar photos back in high school during the ’90s, as I flexed for the mall photographer with my group of friends around me. The photos were then printed out, wallet sized, and flipped over to be written on, whether it be a signature, a small caption of the moment, or even a love note.

I remember keeping some photos in my wallet and took them out to stare at while sitting in the bus or alone in my room, probably admiring how hard I looked in the photo, playing up to my gangbanger sensibilities.

Once a classmate handed me her portrait with a note in the back saying, “I think you’re fine. Take it as you will.”

I was flattered like a motherfucker; it was probably the first time up until that point that anyone outside of my mom complimented me. I was too shy and embarrassed to respond accordingly but it was a fond memory that keeps me delighted til this day about my time in high school.

The one thing I regret, though, as I stare at my mug today in soft portrait lighting and my brown skin contrasted against some ’90s abstract background and style, is that I didn’t keep any of those photos I took from high school.

So kudos to Kacey Musgraves (I’m sure your music is awesome) for taking a chance with Tom’s One Hour Photo and reminding us all to support local business and to express ourselves no matter what.

All you need to know about Tom’s One Hour Photo can be found in their Instagram page, where you can sort through the dozen backgrounds that are available to use in your photo, Tom’s photography process, prices, and location.

Categories
Notes

Smoking Weed at 40: A Brown Man in America

I was just editing a post about smoking weed at 40, as I was smoking weed at 40, and it led me into a dark place (one of many) that I went through in life. Because as it happens, smoking weed at 40 can cause one to reflect:

I once worked for a company where the population of employees were nearly 90% white, and as I write that number, I’m hesitant to keep it because I’m not entirely sure what the exact percentages were, I just know that when I had to go to work every day and walked down those aisles of open cubicles, and watched white face after white face, I felt alone.

Especially in marketing, where rarely did I see anyone of color, which wasn’t a surprise since the product that we were marketing was geared toward young, white males. I was lonely nonetheless. The only other peoples of color were in finance, IT, and business development.

Outside the company walls, my friends had called me the token hire, the affirmative action hire, and who knows, as I reflect now, maybe I was? All I know was that I was never really challenged; I was just doing my thing the way I wanted to do things, because what the fuck were they gonna do, fire me? Fire the only person of color on the team?

My driving force was 1. money and 2. I wanted to know if I can do it — to be rich — from the depths of a colonized mind, from Manila to Long Beach to corporate America.

I was always worried about my salary, though: Is it enough? Who below my rank or on my level was making more than me? Am I being low balled to the ground level because of the color of my skin, because everyone else was white, and typically, they don’t give money to the brown man.

Anxieties, paranoia, engulfed my every day, to be alone, to stand out, to stand up, to fight back, to refute all things model minority, that was my daily.

But through it all, I fucking did it, a brown man from the ‘hood got corporate enough to get a sip of managerial power in the corporate world, in the face of white antagonism, in the face of white corporate America. I shook things up, so I thought.

The immigrant in me worked. Besides other than having to deal with entitlement, ignorance, and bigotry, what kind of other challenges did I have to face? That I shouldn’t call in too many times? Meet my KPIs? Be a great teammate?

LMAO

My immigrant energy wasn’t the only one pushing me; my ‘hood energy was as strong. The ‘hood has never leave my being, no matter how far I got up and out, I could be in Mars with Elon Musk, and I’d still be on the come up mission.

The ‘hood energy never let me enjoy the situation as it was, despite the money, the little power, it was like, yo, this is just the stepping stone to bigger things, this is just a moment in life to prepare you for even bigger moments.

But the money was too easy.

I had lived in near poverty, seen destruction and violence at its most gruesome, witnessed the struggle and the hate, as an immigrant child watching his immigrant parents be immigrant parents, to work hard no matter what, no matter how far the drive, how grueling the experience, work hard.

And as I reflect now, smoking weed at 40, I’d like to thank my mom for always telling me that money doesn’t matter and never mattered. I heard but didn’t listen to her then — but the seed was planted and it just took a matter of time for it to grow.

I eventually left the company and moved on to another even whiter company, and there, I was close to executive level before I left. I finally realized that executives at corporations are just the top-class ditch diggers, the very top, the ones who can dig the ditch efficiently with smiles on their faces.

If you can do that, and I did do that, then go right for it.

What I also realized was that if I didn’t do something drastic, I would die a fucking executive digital marketing creative social something manager of whatever whatever the fuck.

And when I played that out, right there, at that moment, I wanted out. I’d rather die as someone who knew what he wanted to do, pursued it, chased it, willing to do anything to maintain the chase, be it a cashier, bartender, server, primary caretaker of two children, literal ditch digger, or whatever it may be, that I would rather die being that than that

In the end, I’d rather smoke weed at 40 when I’m living the life I want to live. And I no longer feel lonely.

Categories
Notes Sports The Writing Process

Locked In Westbrook: Writing and Basketball

Russell Westbrook was so locked in that he forgot the basics, traveling halfway down the court without once dribbling the ball.

This is the type of day dreaminess that I try to achieve each time I’m behind the keyboard writing.

Categories
Notes Poetry

Today, I read a poem…

It was by Helena Lipstadt entitled “A Quarrel with the Village of My Birth.”

The word “village” lured me in.

I fell in love with each “Even her” – especially in the following line:

“Even her avenues are lined with pikes.”

Then I read each “Of course” and was compelled to share.

Read “A Quarrel with the Village of My Birth” at Porter House Review.