Mid-Autumn, Mooncakes, and Mythology

A belated happy mid-autumn festival!

Zentih Mid-Autumn Festival 2016 GIF | Gfycat

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a time of family gathering. I first understood this when I was young and my mom was away on a business trip during that year’s festival. We still cut our mooncakes with a portion for her set aside and my dad reminded us that the beautiful full moon we were admiring was the very same one that beamed down on her, so we were connected by the moon. In fact, as someone who grew up celebrating all major holidays with my family (new year’s parties with friends still feel foreign to me), 中秋节 (zhōngqiūjié) was the first family holiday I spent away from my home and my family in college. I distinctly remember crying over the mooncakes my parents had lovingly purchased for me to bring back to campus when I visited them, because I had never eaten mooncakes alone before.

Even without a global pandemic still happening, my family has been split across many cities for a few years now, but I still acutely feel the effects of the pandemic on the festive season. I used to think my festive season ran from October (Halloween) through to the beginning of January (New Year’s ending the Christmas season), but upon reflection this year, I’m finding that my personal festive season starts in earnest with the Mid-Autumn Festival and ends with the end of Lunar New Year celebrations. (That’s when we would take down our tree, after all.) So starting the festive season without having seen any of my family (besides my husband) since February? January? When I consider the many people who aren’t even able to get mooncakes to eat alone (and am grateful for efforts to remedy that this year), I am worried about the lows we may reach during the festive season.

BUT.
This post is not about being sad during the holidays. 😅 This post is actually an informational one about the Mid-Autumn Festival, mooncakes, and the mythology surrounding this super important Asian holiday, where I’ll be focusing on Chinese traditions and folklore since I’m of Chinese descent. I decided to put a little informational up here because I got really into my Instagram stories writing about 七夕, aka “Chinese Valentine’s Day”, so I thought I’d spare my Instagram followers and torment my scarce blog readers instead. I’ll also share some new ways I’m celebrating this year in lieu of different circumstances and a highly-challenged comfort zone.

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Work From Home Strategies (6 months late)

I kind of hate working from home.

There are a variety of reasons why working from home has never been ideal for me: I’m an extrovert who thrives better in social environments, the external (if imagined) accountability of people around me keeps me too guilty to slack off, my home environment is full of tempting distractions like tidying and organization.

In simplest terms, being at home puts me in a home mindset, and personally, going to a physically different location for work helps immensely with putting me in a working headspace. Ever since I started working full time, I keep work and home very separate, very rarely touching work after leaving the office.

So the last 6 months have been, admittedly, a huge challenge. If you’re like me, they may have been a challenge for you, too. I have long understood that trying to be work-productive in the space I strictly reserve for my home-headspace is really difficult. But I’ve had to do the best that I can, given what I understand about myself. It’s been 6 months, so here’s hoping that we have learned a little bit about how we work from home, even if it’s just what doesn’t work well for us.

My personal strategy boils down to 3 main things:

  1. Getting in the work mindset
  2. Staying in the work mindset
  3. Leaving the work mindset

It seems straightforward but it’s hard, especially because I really don’t want to be in the work mindset at all when I’m in the comfort and safety of my home. I don’t hate my job at all but I don’t want it in my home. The hardest step of my strategy is step 2: saying in the work mindset. (I sometimes struggle to get properly or quickly settled into my work mindset even when I go into an office so the struggles I have at home are not new, and I shut myself off from work so strictly ordinarily that it comes more easily for me to do so at home.)

man in white sweater sitting on chair using Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
Photo by Charles Etoroma

Note: Alice Goldfuss has written a really great guide to working from home during this pandemic, and she wrote it at a more helpful time at the beginning of the shutdown. Honestly, I recommend reading that before reading on here, but if you want to know more about what works for me, personally:

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Summer Staycation in the City

Since the beginning of the global pandemic, my partner and I have erred on the side of extremely cautious. We stopped going to the office several days before our offices closed, which was already on the early side compared to the rest of New York. We literally did not leave our apartment building for weeks until we finally stepped out to get tested for coronavirus and its antibodies. We didn’t go out again until a few weeks after phase 4 of reopening had begun in the city, and only to pick up food from local restaurants in lieu of asking someone to deliver it to our apartment.

But we have been burning out… pretty hard. I think we have been mentally checked out for over a month, to be honest. Every single day was a huge struggle, and for me, I was sinking into a familiarly bleak place: small pleasures were no longer pleasurable, I wanted to sleep all day but when I finally went to bed I couldn’t fall asleep and then I struggled to get out of bed in the morning, keeping up with conversations was tedious and difficult, I had no appetite for the comfort foods I had stocked up on.

It became obvious that time off was necessary. Many of my coworkers had come to the same conclusion around the same time, and I suspect many of you and yours did as well. We have been living this new reality for months now, and summer brings with it a hazy lethargy during a normal year, but this year it was just exhausting to not experience it as usual.

Actually “getting away” was essentially out of the question for us. We had only just started getting comfortable venturing out of our building on foot, so trying to rent a car or even board a train felt like a really big leap that we weren’t quite prepared to make. This especially factored because we were so mentally depleted that we honestly couldn’t spare the brainpower to think about the risk management with trying to leave the city for our precious week away from our responsibilities.

baked bread
Photo: Stephan Mahlke

At the end of the day, we really only need to get away from the obligations that burden us to make it a successful vacation. Getting away physically is a privilege that most do not have and that we don’t feel comfortable taking advantage of at this time. So, in addition to sleeping on the air mattress in the living room to create that ~away from home~ feeling, here’s how we spent our little staycation in the city.

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I finally Blogged Every Day April!

Today is Day 30, aka the last day of Blog Every Day April!

I am still a little bit shocked that I made it. First of all, April really flew by, didn’t it? A lot of folks on Twitter are remarking that March felt really slow while April felt really fast, perhaps because the stress of a global crisis was still novel  in March, which made it seem longer, while it felt more routine by April, which made it seem shorter.

In any case, I am kind of in disbelief that it’s now April 30th, and this is my 30th blog post in 30 days. (Really really close to a true BEDA…) Let’s do a bit of reflecting on my most successful BEDA yet.

Sandy Beach Sunrise
A little throwback to our trip to Hawai’i last year, where we caught the sunrise at Sandy Beach

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Currently…

It’s been a while since I did a quick little “Currently” post but let’s go with it?

📺 Watching… Westworld season 3 every Sunday on HBO and I just started watching The Boys on Prime

🤔 Thinking about… future costumes, for conventions and for Halloween. (I usually start thinking about Halloween around… May…?) Confession: While the premise of The Boys has always been interesting to me, I basically started watching after I saw a costume from the show on social media that really caught my eye.

🎮 Backseat gaming… Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt still because it is the game of the moment in this household

😆 Gleefully enjoying…  watching parents participate in TikTok things with their children. Specifically, this dad and this family are two of note that I shared with a friend literally 5 minutes before typing this.

🍛 Digesting… many day’s worth of Go! Go! Curry!, which was the highly requested ordered-out meal this past weekend.

😲 In awe of… this absolutely stunning setup that puts everything else on r/battlestations to absolute shame

BrittanySetUp
By the AMAZING @brittnaynay3

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