2018 was kind of like freshman 15: You gain some, you want to lose a lot.
Some people say that the past year was a train wreck. It was the year that the internet decided love was dead, what with Brangelina, Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan all calling it quits; it was the year Aretha Franklin, Anthony Bourdain and the creator of Spongebob passed; the year Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 was appointed associate justice of the Supreme Court, and, to top it all off, the second year of the Trump presidency.
Personally, 2018 wasn’t too much of a drag. I received my acceptance letter to Yale, became legally recognized as an adult and finally beat that level of Candy Crush I’ve been stuck on for god knows how long. I felt pretty great, that is, until I came home during winter break. Travelling precisely 12,886 kilometers, the equivalent of 17 hours on a plane, 3 on a bus and 2 in a cab, I came home to my parents’ immediate exclamation: “Damn, how much weight did you gain from America?”
Looking back, I admit, inhaling chicken quesadillas past midnight and binge drinking dining hall sodas weren’t the best move, but I didn’t think that one time I had decided to treat myself — along with the hundreds of other times I insisted that a late snack was a necessity — would have such a jarring impact on me. “It’s water weight, I’m just bloated from the flight …” I said to myself. Gaining weight had always been a fear of mine. Mostly ’cause I’ve inherited more of my dad’s genes than my mum, and Papa Ng, loveable as he is, has the physique of an Asian Santa.
It’s funny how unknowingly self-deprecating my family is. Take my dad, for example. He designs fitness products for a living, but he’s got boobs bigger than mine. So when it came to fulfilling our collective New Year’s resolution to lose weight, we decided that it would be a great idea to participate in a five-hour barbeque binge. My cousin, a self-proclaimed “foodie,” came up with the idea of a barbeque potluck a few years back, where each individual family member contributed some form of either protein, vegetable or carb. Needless to say, all 30-some of us arrived with some form of steak or pork chop. It truly was a sight to see. All 12 different cuts of beef and 11 different cuts of pork laid out across the acrylic foldout tables that we managed to purchase last minute. Despite our utter lack of communication, it was rather impressive how each family member managed to purchase a cut of meat different from the other. My family, dysfunctional as it is, exuded an imputing sense of optimism that made this exclusive, serendipitous meat-eater’s party an annual tradition.
We’re responsible, don’t get me wrong. My family has a tradition of hiking on January first, just to make ourselves feel better for the hundreds of fast-food runs and midnight binges to come, it’s the follow up to our barbecue binge. Hiking, however, has a very different definition where I come from. Instead of packing a bag for a four-day trip up a mountain, hiking in Hong Kong means 30 minutes of walking up a mild slope. Even then, my father, along with his abundance of enthusiasm for the start of what he calls his fifth attempted journey to Pierce Brosnan’s 1997 “Tomorrow Never Dies” body, forced the family to put on heavy-duty hiking gear. I mean walking up Science Hill at 9 a.m. sucked more than our family hikes, we certainly didn’t need the walking sticks, CamelBaks or the ergonomic Balenciaga Triple S–looking hiking shoes. But it was a new year, and we all wanted to start the new year with, although forced, a smile on our faces, so we complied. Walking along the trail known as Dragon’s Back, we saw everything and everyone: middle-aged suburban moms with their larger-than-life sunglasses and bedazzled visors, dog owners who looked remarkably like their furry friends, and Instagram go-getters decked out in Lululemon gear, carrying green juices. It seemed like everyone was doing their best at being this “new me” we all speak of —at least for one day.
Entering 2019 wasn’t that much different from 2018, 2017 or any year before that, really. The resolution to do better at school, lose weight, maybe read some more books remained the same. After all, I did sleep through my NYE plans to say the least.