All my friends thought it was hilarious when I moved to California, because its primarily known for 1. nature, and 2. being damn freaking big, both of which feel incompatible with the fact that I don’t drive in the States. Yet another thing the British left us Singaporeans with — this right hand drive — and I am so certain that getting behind the wheel on the wrong side of the road in America is a disaster we simply cannot afford to let happen. And I mean, it’s fine. After 30 years of living on this humid earth I have come to understand much about myself, the first of which is I actually don’t like nature. So the beautiful hills and rollicking fields in california are pretty much moot to me; one time we rented a car and drove an hour to a forest famous for having damn tall trees and after the third tree I was like alright lets see some variation sir.

And for the last 8 months I’ve got on fine without a car. Because I write from daybreak to 7pm, I barely leave my desk from the day to day, and when I do need to get out, like to Stanford, I either hitch a ride from the other Stegners or take a train. But the thing about being married is you keep learning new things about the other person and the latest fact that’s presented itself is that Shane??? Likes??? Nature????? Seriously, after 10 years together, this is a shock to me. I thought he liked cartoons and shopping, but the man has range.

Anyway. I finished my book in April (after almost losing my mind!!! it involved handwriting a whole draft from scratch… my right hand doesnt really work anymore, lmao, but I have a book, so you win some you lose some), and then looked up from my desk, and figured that since Shane moved across continents so I could chase my dreams, the least I could do was go look at some trees with him on the weekends. So we got a third-hand beat up car this month! Here comes nature, I guess. Will wonders never cease.

So at the end of April, after gripping on to my manuscript with, as my friends say, a death clutch, I was nudged, nay, shoved, to send out the book and finally embarked upon my querying process. A whirlwind month followed, and I couldn’t be more thrilled —

It still feels surreal. But also, after waiting for so long to take the next step, I do finally feel settled. A naive part of me thought I’d jump straight back into work (writing and revising was inevitably on pause during the querying period) but May has proven to be a nonstop party train, for reasons that have to do with the end of an academic year, and whenever theres a period where nothing is scheduled it turns out I just kind of.. fall.. into.. a.. nap…

All of this happened in May — fun & hanging out so hard:


last dinner with the 2022-3 Stegners, with Chang-Rae on one side and Francisco on the other, blotted out for privacy baha


Stegner Prom!! Now a tradition…


Cabin trip to Tahoe

And helping everyone move out of their places given the end of the academic year, which always means people leaving, moving, and the commencement of yet another batch of long distance friendships:


Bringing my Dyson all over the Bay area… Alameda… Palo Alto… Santa Cruz… it’s been places…

All that to say that the napping has been spontaneous and immense. I have been napping so hard.

Anyway! Given the institutional organisation of my last few years, May has always been a particularly sentimental month for me — people coming, people going, moving from one phase to another, the sense of an ending, the slow slide into springtime and allergies. Massive hugging season.

And although saying goodbye to people will always be bittersweet, I’ve become increasingly habituated to the idea that I’ll always just have parts of my heart scattered across the world, held by various people, and that it doesn’t have to be a disaster to be separated by oceans and land. This is, after all, the life i chose. And it feels so cheesy to say but I’m so, so happy. I was thinking about it the other day and getting (as usual) emotional — this year, the first year of my thirties, is also the first year of being a Stegner; of being a legitimately full time writer sans caveats, something I’ve dreamed of for years; of being married and living in a whole new coast; of building a life in our first ever marital house. What a privilege and blessing to recognize the beauty of life as it unfolds, and not simply in retrospect. After years and years of rushing and hustling it finally feels like I can slow down, and how sweet it is, to take exactly the time one needs.

x J