Let’s Get Deeper Vol. 5, Ch. 5 | The Lost STEM Boi

Hello. Welcome to the final chapter for Volume 5 of “Let’s Get Deeper.” This chapter is presented differently to the others, mostly because my guest isn’t too keen on listening to their own voice. However, they still sat down with me to unpack their experience of working in the US, some of their favourite musicals, and delving into some thoughts on masculinity. They’re also an incredibly smart and thoughtful person but I don’t want to gush too much about them so here’s the conversation. Enjoy.

Josh: Why engineering? Was it your decision to do it (a double degree in Engineering and Science)?

Mark: Well, I’m a STEM boi. If my parents had their way, I’d be an accountant or a doctor.

J: Fair enough.

M: I did chemical engineering because I somewhat enjoyed chemistry but I enjoyed maths definitely, and I enjoyed physics.

J: Then how did you get into the graduate program?

M: I went straight from the grad ceremony, gave back my gown, and went straight into the interview. Fun times.

J: But was that the only one you applied for?

M: Nah, I started applying for jobs in February/March of 2018 in pretty much every major company’s graduate program and a few smaller ones. But I probably just got lucky with this one because I applied in April and heard back in December 2018, which is a good few months.

J: But that meant that you had to move to the US, so how did you break that to your parents?

M: Well, they knew that I was doing the interviews.

J: And they know that if you were successful, you’d be moving to the US.

M: Yeah, so I just told them that I was successful in January (2019). They were pretty excited. They wanted me to get out of the house, funnily enough. It’s not typical Filo.

J: Definitely not typical Filo, nor typical Asian to encourage the kids to get out of the house. Then you left for the US in June 2019. How was your experience moving there?

M: Shock.

J: Huh? Shock how?

M: Just a big departure from “normality”. Just from the… I followed the same schedule or the same lifestyle for the last four years. So it was definitely a big learning curve.

J: And ’cause it was just you there. I mean, you did have relatives in the US, but because you’re in the middle of the US, it must’ve been difficult.

M: Yeah, they weren’t in that area.

J: So after adjusting to this new ‘lifestyle’, what was it like to live as someone who is Filipino in Texas?

M: Hmm… It’s weird.

J: - Because you’re not the majority there…

M: True, but we’re not the majority here either. There’s not as much cultural exposure to Filipinos in Texas — Asians in general, actually, but even moreso Filipino.

J: I guess it’s because we’re brown, so we look more Hispanic/Latinx…

M: That was the common assumption, that I was Hispanic/Latinx.

J: How did you tackle that assumption?

M : They were like, “Your name sounds Mexican but you don’t look Mexican. So what are you? And you don’t sound Asian, so what are you?!”

(laughs)

I’d introduce myself first as Australian…

J: To get the accent out of the way, and then?

M: I’d say that I’m Filipino by descent, and often they’d reply, “Woah, they have Spanish last names?” “Yeah, we were colonised by Spain for 300 years.” So it was a history lesson for them. “Wow! I thought only South America was colonised by Spain.” “Yeah, well, they went to Asia too.”

J: Oh, America and your history, y’all are so wild. Any bad experiences?

M: Bad? Not in Texas. Actually, maybe one but more in Oklahoma, where if you’d identify yourself as Australian, they feel like it’s up to them to judge whether you’re Australian or not.

J: Oh, great.

M: So they’re the ones that said, “Well, you’re not White, so how could you possibly be Australian?” and I came across that (sentiment) maybe three times. Once at a shopping centre and twice with Uber drivers. And despite sounding like this (even though you’ll never get to hear the recording) — despite sounding Australian, they felt like I sounded American, or ‘Asian’.

J: Huh?

M: One of them said I sounded ‘Asian’, and I was like “Enlighten me. What does ‘Asian’ sound like?” And they just didn’t reply (laughs)

J: That’s just, ugh. I don’t know how I would’ve reacted to that.

M: It’s a big yikes.

J: It is a big yikes.

M: I mean, they haven’t been exposed to many other cultures but the thing is that one of these people who had that prejudice was Hispanic/Latinx (American-born Latinx).

J: Ooooooh there’s some internalised things going on in there.

M: Probably the same type of people who would vote for Trump.

J: There’s definitely a lot of internalised stuff going on for them and it’s hard to try and separate them from that if they can’t do that themselves. OK. Best part about working in the US?

M: Places to go to, like, accessibility to travel because of cheap flights, and fuel. You can just go anywhere you want to go. It was very nice.

J: How many places you did you visit in the US?

We both start listing off the places he’d visited: Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Midland, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Seattle, Vancouver (not America), Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, New York, New Haven (aka “The city that Yale is in”), Boston (purely and simply to say that he went to Harvard and MIT; “the Asian’s dream.” He did buy merch from Harvard, claiming that he was more of “a Harvard kid,” to which I replied, “Ivy League boi.”), Florida (think Fort Lauderdale), California (LA specifically), Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Chicago.

J: Of those ones, which one was the most memorable? Can you pick one?

M: Definitely one of the highlights was New York. New York’s just a vibe. A constant vibe. Some people don’t like it but I love it. It’s not as dirty as you think, either, surprisingly. And of course because of Broadway.

J: We’ll get to that but go on; aside from New York, were there any other standouts?

M: Boston. I really liked seeing the colonial or old-fashioned America, where the city isn’t built on a grid system. It almost felt like being in a Commonwealth country and then Vancouver (NOT IN AMERICA).

J: When you mentioned New York, you mentioned Broadway. The funny thing about that is I recommended a number of musicals to you, if I remember correctly, and you went and saw most of them.

M: Did you?

J: Yessssssssss…

M: Well, I told you I had two options — should I watch “Frozen the Musical” or “Hadestown”?

J: Yeah, but I recommended the “Hadestown” album to you! (Apparently, he doesn’t remember)

We have a brief tangent about how I discovered he liked musicals, where he went to watch Book of Mormon by himself and not inviting me.

M: I don’t remember if I asked about “Dear Evan Hansen” either. (He did. I sent him the OST and then he went to watch the Touring Cast in Vancouver).

J: So, how is the Broadway experience?

M: It’s very different to watching musicals in Brisbane, because they’re usually at QPAC, which seats around about 1000 people, but the theatres in New York, because they’re heritage-listed, they’ve only got three floors and the seating’s maybe at most 400 seats. Maybe even less, so it’s a lot more intimate, depending on which theatre you’re going to but especially at the lesser-known musicals. It’s a lot nicer, ’cause you’re closer to the actors, and when they’re looking in your direction, it’s like they’re staring into your soul while they’re singing, which happened ALL THE TIME with Eva (Noblezada) and Reeve (Carney): they just LOOK at you.

J: So I’ll take a wild stab in the dark and say “Hadestown” is the one that you enjoyed the most?

M: Yeah; it’s also the one I had the least expectations for, as well. I went in blind. I listened to one song (off of the OST) just to see what it was like, and then I went in.

J: You got to meet Eva and Reeve too, right?

M: Yeah, at the stage door. Got their autographs too, in the -5 degree weather.

J: Hey, at least it was only -5 and not -20 or -30.

M: Yeah, it was a relatively mild day. It’s not as bad as Chicago.

J: Any other highlights about living in the US?

M: Driving was different. A lot more worse drivers because there’s not as many enforced laws, and there’s no P-plater system, so everyone just graduates with an open licence. So, habits that people get while they’re learners just stick with them.

J: For all the highlights, I know that living in the US had its downs as well. How would you say those downs were for you? Because ever since you flew back to the US after Christmas 2019, I know you started using your time off from work as escape from work. Like you’d try and not think about it.

M: Kinda. Work was something I wouldn’t mind doing again but if I had a choice, I wouldn’t have done it. It was a necessity, so I just had to suck it up, and it was also to do with living in a rural city and because the way cities are built there, it’s so disjointed. You have to drive everywhere; there isn’t any pedestrian accessibility, if any. Many places didn’t even have sidewalks, so it just lacks that local feeling like you’d get here in Brisbane. So it’s hard to feel like you’re home.

J: Then the pandemic hits. How was that experience, because where were you-

M: I was in Seattle when the pandemic first hit the US in March 2020. So I literally got home from my trip to Seattle and Vancouver and you were messaging me and my parents were messaging me too because that was when Brisbane was already in lockdown and America still had no idea. It took another three weeks for the government to say anything.

J: And by then, it was too late.

M: And the rest is history.

J: So how was it knowing that COVID-19 was spreading without the government doing much in terms of locking down?

M: It was scary. I mean, at the time, I was in Midland (TX), and everyone was already kind of on high alert but at the same time everyone thought, “We’d be fine because we’re in the middle of nowhere, so we’ll probably be one of the later places to be affected.” That didn’t stop shelves from completely being drained of bread and rice for at least two weeks. So, we felt safer in Midland but after the pandemic started, I didn’t go on any holidays until the middle of year. By that time, places were already opening up, so I waited for those places to open up and that’s when I went to Florida.

J: And you went to Fort Lauderdale and I was like, “OH GOD” because that’s where all the Spring Break cases happened.

M: Thankfully I survived but my uncle got COVID-19 maybe two weeks after I left because they got it from the school. So, I dodged a bullet there.

J: (Yikes) You already mentioned your company having to restructure, which meant you had to come back-

M: Yeah, that was in May.

J: How was that for you? Knowing that your grad program experience was cut short?

M: I was already preparing for the worst, starting in March when the oil price went negative at one point, and then everyone at work was talking about it. “Who was going first?” So, it was already in my mind since March, so I was already kind of thinking if the possibility (of being let go) was there but hoping it was going to be because it’s also a hard time to be out of work. It happened the week before my birthday so I was already celebrating; I was having fun with my roommates.

J: When you told me that you got let go I said, “Well, on the plus side, you won’t be working during your birthday.”

M: Exactly. So that was a plus, and I enjoyed that.

J: Then you had to come back.

M: Yeah, around late July/early August.

J: It was funny because you didn’t tell me exactly when you were gonna come back.

M: I didn’t tell anyone I was gonna come back. I mean, they knew I was coming back just not when.

J: You got very lucky because I think I’d mentioned Queensland was going to start charging (returning residents for hotel quarantine), you had to do a Sydney diversion.

M: That Sydney diversion was fun. I mean, I was in Darling Harbour. That was a good view but it got old fast.

J: So, what was something that you learnt about living independently?

M: I think I learnt how to self-motivate a lot better or a lot more. I t was good to be able to want to do something and just find the means to do it yourself. I found that really useful, and I guess it’s kinda carried over to now.

J: You think so?

M: Yeah. I mean, it’s definitely made me a bit more impulsive- a lot more impulsive, maybe?

J: Oh, if you asked me that, where would I put it? ’Cause we’ve talked about this before and your passivity but you’re more impulsive now, which is a good thing.

J: So the theme for the entire volume of “Let’s Get Deeper” has been ‘family’. How important is family to you in the grand scheme of things?

M: I think family’s still really important. Despite being physically distant, I still wanted to know what was happening back home in Australia. Why? I don’t know. I’m just attached to my family. It could be a cultural thing?

J: Do you think it’s a cultural thing?

M: I think it is.

J: Family is a very important thing for Asians, Filipinos included. Do you think that has carried over even if you were born and raised here in Australia? Do you think that your family still holds onto that (value) because it’s important culturally?

M: Yes. It’s like a support structure, I guess, and at the same time, I still have that obligation that if I earn money, that I also use some of it to support family members; not just myself. I feel like I still have an obligation to help out, whether that be to contributing to bills or paying for food or holidays sometimes. Why is that obligation there or that feeling of being obligated to contribute? I don’t know.

J: Maybe it really is a cultural thing.

M: It probably is.

J: I mean, sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s not because parents could use it as an excuse. “I raised you therefore you owe me for this, this, and this.” I don’t think that’s the best way to go about asking children to support the family.

M: Nah, my parents aren’t like that. They don’t tell me that, “You owe us”-

J: But do you think that they’re implicitly telling you?

M: Well, if they’re doing that, I haven’t noticed it, but they definitely want me to own a house.

J: That will come in time.

We get talking about one of the semi-permanent questions I ask every person who is part of the Asian-Australian diaspora: Do you see yourself as more Asian or more Australian?

M: It’s a tough question because sometimes when I surround myself with typical born-and-raised Australians, I don’t fully relate to them. Maybe 60% Australian and 40% Filipi- no, wait. (He changes it to 55% Filipino to 45% Australian. Why?) Because I’ve got the accent or the way of speaking (the Aussie way) but culturally I feel like I’m more Filipino. So maybe externally more Australian but internally Filipino.

J: That’s a weird way of visualising it.

M: So the way I think I come off to other people is that I’m more Australian but on the inside it’s actually more Filipino. Maybe that’s the best way to say it because I still value everything Filipinos do, like family and even being a little bit conservative or traditional.

J: But still with the Aussie accent.

M: Yeah, externally with the Aussie accent.

J: We were talking about this before (recording), and if you compared yourself to me, would you put yourself more in the ‘banana’ part of the spectrum?

M: Yeah but maybe an ‘inverse banana’ (White on the outside, Asian on the inside)

J: Which is a Twinkie?

M: It’s such a weird analogy.

J: Yeah, it really is such a weird analogy but in the grand scheme of things, when you look at how Filipinos identify themselves. For example, the ability to speak a Filipino language is something they value. That I know is something that –

M: No.

J: I mean, sometimes. Would you have wanted to understand or speak more Tagalog or Ibanag?

M: Yeah, definitely. Whenever I go back to the Philippines, I wish I could speak Tagalog but when I try to order food, it turns out Taglish instead.

J: That’s not a bad thing!

M: Yeah, I just bring out the “fake” Filipino accent. That’s my way of speaking Filipino, just speak English but in a Filipino accent.

J: Let’s go back to pandemic times. Did you watch or listen to stuff during the pandemic that helped you?

M: Let’s see. What did I do during the pandemic? We (Mark and his roommates) drank a lot.

J: Yeah, I saw that often.

M: Yeah, it was me and his roommates but they were working from home too so obviously we were kinda bored. There was a lot of day drinking. We did a few board game nights, and honestly Easter last year, we couldn’t go anywhere.

J: What else happened?

M: Planned my one-and-a-half month holiday for the month before I went on holiday. When I got back (to Australia), the pandemic doesn’t really exist here, so there was a lot of stuff to do.

J: At least you made it home.

M: Yeah, without getting COVID.

J: Honestly, the fact that you didn’t get COVID while you were there in the US-

M: That’s the biggest accomplishment? That was definitely an accomplishment.

J: You were very lucky that way.

J: Is there something you learnt about yourself in the last year that surprises you?

M: I guess it’s my level of endurance for crappy situations was a lot higher than I thought it would be.

J: What do you mean by that?

M: I felt like I surprised myself when I was able to endure all that work related stuff because there’s always stories about people quitting and everything. I didn’t quit. They were the ones who laid me off. I think there were two people who quit while I was still there. I think that’s what surprised me, that I can manage to do things I don’t like doing for a long period of time. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. I don’t know, you can interpret that as you will. I really think the self-motivation was what I really think surprised me the most. University didn’t actually take much self-motivation on my part.

J: Why not?

M: I had a close group of friends who were doing the same degree, so we would just share answers all the time. We’d make life easier for all of us, so it was like a support structure that you could just rely on someone else a lot, and if you didn’t know which course to do the next semester, you’d just ask your fam, “Oh, which course should I do next semester?” and you just do the same thing because you knew someone in it. You can rely on a lot of people in uni.

J: That’s not a bad thing.

M: I enjoyed it but also it would’ve been different if I was in another degree where I knew absolutely no one and it was just a lot less comfortable. That would’ve probably caused the self-motivation thing to happen a lot sooner if I was thrown into the deep end. There’s good and bad with that. So university was an easy, straight pathway, which is why, aside from moving overseas, graduating was one the biggest learning curves, and I’m still going through that.

J: Why is that?

M: Because that’s when self-motivation becomes important. You don’t have a path in front of you. You have to forge your own path, which I’m finding is really hard. Especially because now I have to go back to that “newly graduated” feeling or mindset. So in a way, when I graduated back in 2018, I still had a path in front of me because I had that offer almost straight up after graduation. I knew where that path was going to lead but since mid-year last year (2020), or since I came back, that’s when I got to truly experience being a grad with all that uncertainty, and that’s what I’m still going through.

J: ’Cause we were on that similar path; I was finishing my Masters and you coming back and (we were both experiencing) that uncertainty. Life’s changed for me, and having to see you go through that is difficult for me too. I know that you’ve been able to do it before but now it’s different.

We get talking about hopes for 2021. He mentions wanting greater clarity around getting work and goals. I know that that’s been on his mind for a while. I wonder if he’s been able to get that clarity, and so I press him on why he wants to keep moving forward, and even just living day by day without much of a plan. He says doesn’t mind the freedom he’s got now to just buy stuff from Marketplace, exploring places, and drinking all the bubble tea. However, he also recognises that he can’t stay this way forever because money. (A mood I identify with a lot. I also love how he’s become so much more aware that he can’t stay jobless forever. That there, friends, is growth.) He reflects on the uncomfortableness of work and how he took all of those holidays, that if work was better, he’d probably just stay in Midland. Possibly.

J: Any shows you’ve watched recently?

M: There’s only two that I’ve finished recently: “Itaewon Class” (Netflix), and “Wandavision” (Disney+).

J: What did you enjoy about “Itaewon” (Class)?

M: It wasn’t as conventional because I’ve seen a few conventional ones before like “Strong Girl Do Bong-Soon” and “Oh My Ghost”. The kinda cringy — almost teleserye –yeah, but this one was different for me. The love (arc) didn’t come in until the second last episode.

Unfortunately I can’t really transcribe the next few minutes because we have a very healthy debate about arcs and SPOILERS. Safe to say that we both hate Jang Dae-hee and Jang Geun-won, and acknowledge that Park Saeroyi and Jang Geun-soo are products of circumstance.

J: Would you watch any other K-Dramas?

M: I started “Crash Landing on You.” I’m halfway through Episode 2. I just think it’s a little too conventional. It’s setting up the love story at the beginning, which is why I’m finding it hard to continue.

J: If you can get past that, you’ll be fine. (Can confirm he still hasn’t moved past Episode 2 yet.) I only came back into watching K-Dramas late 2020 (after a long time away). I started with “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay” and then started “Crash Landing”, hopped over to “Itaewon Class”, finished that, then back to “Crash Landing.”

M: Was “Itaewon” easier to finish than “Crash Landing”?

J: Yes. Purely and simply from a duration perspective.

M: Oh. Are the episodes shorter or does the plot move faster?

J: The pacing is a lot faster in “Itaewon.” “Crash Landing” — They take their time! — even for 16 episodes, it’s a lot.

M: So it could’ve been how many episodes, do you think it could’ve been with faster pacing?

J: If it was faster, maybe 12? But I understand why we have to do the 16.

M: Oh really?

J: Yeah. It gives you more depth into who the characters are because there’s too many links for characters in the past. So I understand why we have to go into more depth than we would normally (for a ‘conventional’ K-Drama).

I get to ask him another staple question: If there was something you could say to your younger self (you get to choose what age your younger self is), what would that be and why?

M: “It’s okay to say no, but it’s also okay to say yes.”

J: Very balanced.

M: I like to be balanced but probably more the, “It’s okay to say no.” I only say, “It’s okay to say yes.” because some of the best things that have happened to me have been because I reluctantly said yes. So that’s why it goes both for me.

J: But you don’t always want to be a ‘yes man’.

M: Yeah. I think more so that piece of advice is for my younger self.

One of the last parts of the interviews I do is where I get the guests to ask me a question. Mark says that there’s no need for him to ask me one because everyone who’s listened would’ve probably heard everything about me at this point. Well, listeners and readers may have heard most things already but there’s always more. He finally thinks of one question to ask me but he’s laughing while he tries to get it out.

M: What did you think of the meme I sent you yesterday?

J: Oh god okay. (See the meme below) First of all, why are you attacking me like this. Is there something you want to say to me about that?

Aforementioned meme.

M: (smirks) Not really. I just found it funny because I thought you were 27 and I said to myself, “Isn’t Josh 27?” and that’s why I sent it to you.

J: I’ll take the compliment.

M: Yeah, see? So don’t take it too personally. That was literally the only reason why I sent it to you. Because you’re 27.

J: Fine but you also mentioned that it’s very much on brand for me.

M: You also sound just like that meme.

J: Yeah, I sound like that even without my psych/counselling hat on. It’s just too real. When I look at that (meme), that second half is just too real.

M: (laughs) “How will you not project that stuff onto me?”

J: Yes. Past trauma.

M: Why don’t you talk about one of your past traumas?

I didn’t expect him to throw this question my way. Not one bit. Let’s see where this adventure takes us.

M: What even is a past trauma?

J: Basically, something that happened in your childhood or teen years, I guess.

M: Are you asking me? Am I asking you?

J: Are you asking yourself?

M: Yeah, nah. I’m just trying to think (of one). I don’t think about past traumas. I have a very good-

J: You repress them, is that what you’re saying?

M: (laughs) I block things quite well.

J: ’Cause there’s some that I actively repress because it’s hard to verbalise.

I decide to talk about body image because it’s something that uncomfortably hits home. It’s linked to my paternal grandmother and how they pushed all the weight loss methods onto me as a chubby kid in Singapore. Even when we moved here to Australia, I struggled with it during high school, and it’s only now that I’m able to overcome that and take an active role in shaping my health. While I’m being vulnerable, he says that he’s ‘found’ one to talk about. He says that I have the option to remove this from the transcript. I didn’t in the end.

M: During work, I was introduced to toxic masculinity (culture), and that was also a big part of my Texas experience. That’s what I forgot when you asked me the question, “What did you least like about living in America?” What I least liked about living in Texas, and in particular what I least liked about working in that industry there is that a lot of toxic masculinity exists.

J: Such as?

M: Maybe it’s because I don’t surround myself with those (types of) people normally, obviously. It’s very macho. It’s very much, “How many hours did you sleep last night?” or “Were you able to get a full night’s sleep?” and it was more like a contest of how tired you were, or how many things you could lift. If you can’t lift a certain weight or if you tire easily, they’d kinda rat you out on that. They’d say that it was jovial or collegiate joking but you can sense that they truly believe that if you don’t have those sorts of standards on strength or stature, even from a body image sort of thing, that you’re somehow less of a man than other people. That was a pretty big thing. I remember just having to set up this piece of equipment one day and the guy was like, “Are you even a guy? Are you even a man? You can’t even lift that,” and I don’t even know what I said to him. I don’t think I even replied to that but my supervisor at the time was the one who stood up for me in that situation.

J: That’s unfortunate.

M: Yeah. It’s a common occurrence there, so I knew this wasn’t isolated so that’s how I made sure I didn’t take it personally but I guess you could call that a trauma because I definitely thought about it after what happened. It was kind of like, “What do you need to change to be accepted in this kind of community of people?” It doesn’t end there. People boasting about body count and that sort of stuff.

While he’s talking about all of this, I’m trying to process it and think about how I would’ve reacted in that situation.

M: There’s a lot of toxic stuff (in general). Like, everything that you could picture on TV or everything that you could imagine, a lot of it is present in that industry there. Work is work, so I just put up with it. I just dis miss it. “If you think that way, then whatever. I’m just here to do my job. I’m not here to entertain whatever you guys are trying to say.”

J: I’d assume it does get to you sometimes, though.

M: It does. They’ve mentioned to me, “Oh, you’re the smallest engineering supervisor I’ve ever seen!” I’d get that a lot but just laugh it off. So in a way, I don’t know if I would say that I developed a thicker skin but I guess in a way I did. Or maybe I just got desensitised to it.

J: That’s probably the worse of the two.

M: Yeah. I’m thankful that I don’t ever have to go through that assuming — I don’t know how it is in the North Queensland mining industry but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some commonalities. I think it could also be an Asian thing.

J: What do you mean an Asian thing?

M: I think it was also targeted racism.

J: Oh, you mean how they’d carry the assumption that all Asian men are somehow just not men? (both, sarcastically) Great. Even better. (cue an internal eyeroll and heartbreak)

M: I never- obviously, you’d never bring it up in job interviews or anything but diversity. If companies (truly) value diversity, those are the things they should be looking at. It wasn’t my company; it was the companies we were working with; the contractors. They’re 99% White, so they have no need for policies around that.

One can hope that it changes but I have my doubts, unfortunately.

J: When you said that you don’t associate yourself with those types of people here, what made you say that?

M: It’s not an active thing, I think. It’s just that I realised that those people are so different to everyone who I know here, and so that’s kind of why I said that. It’s because anyone I know here isn’t like anyone who I’ve met there, and I’m glad no one I know here is like that.

J: Anything else you wanna ask me?

M: I mean, we already went through trauma. (laughs) I think that was it. Talk about your trauma: now.

J: OH GOD.

M: It’s not even the topic of this interview. Family is the topic but the thing is I don’t even think we reached an answer on it.

J: I mean, we kinda did because you and your cousins, at least to me, seem fairly close. Sometimes the “grass is greener on the other side” viewpoint creeps in because I don’t have biological family here in Australia so we have to make do with the extended family. It’s different because they’re not biological family but we are practically biological.

We spend the last few minutes talking about biological family and cousins, and how my siblings and I were never really close to our biological cousins because distance and age gaps stopped us from really bonding. It’s a stark difference to my extended family where we meet up fairly regularly. He suggests that it’s really not that much different to having a close group of friends or family friends, which he also calls non-biological cousins. That they’re not that different to his biological cousins or might even be more important purely because they grew up together.

M: Blood relation-

J: Can only go so far.

M: Yeah.

J: So how was this experience for you?

M: Just okay.

J: Just okay?

M: It’s just okay.

J: Wow.

M: If this was filmed, that would be even worse.

J: There’s a reason why you didn’t want this released as an audio podcast.

M: Yeah, plus it would’ve been very inaudible because I stop and start, and change things. I could never be a live presenter. I want too much control over the way I’m recorded. Especially if it’s a permanent thing that exists in the world because there’s something different about just speaking to someone casually but then having that being recorded. Yeah, I don’t know. For me there’s just something uncomfortable about that whole process.

If you’ve stuck through and read to the end, congratulations! You deserve a bubble tea as a reward. I’m glad that I got to actually at least have part of what Mark and I do fairly often recorded and published in some form because the things that we often talk about are fairly deep, with a lot of different elements layered on top of each other. I just wish the audio was clear enough (and if Mark did give his consent to allow it to exist in the world) for you to hear the conversation because it’s extremely difficult to convey emotions and tone into words. He’s become more self-aware, and while that comes with becoming increasingly anxious about the future, it’s given him an opportunity to learn more about himself and grow because of that. That’s something I appreciate in the years that we’ve known each other, and I really do think that he’s become better because of it despite his anxiety and times of helplessness. We’ve both had our ups and downs both together and individually, all the while still supporting each other. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Josh | abangpinoy

Josh | abangpinoy

Binger of Netflix, podcaster, and constantly unpacking culture.