goodbye 22. / by Tina Xu

From the bottom of my heart, thank you friends for the birthday wishes and more so for gracing my life with you presence; 22 has been a hell of a year, a million moments of euphoria, despair, shock, determination and gratitude. Above all, I will remember 22 as a year of doors swinging open. Standing on the precipice of another trip around the sun, I can't help but take a look back at some moments that defined the last one.


Seventh to last day of being 22: Spent eight hours editing a montage of recent immigrants stating their dreams for themselves and their families for a Chinatown community organization. Sixth to last day: Sat through a fascinating three-hour lecture on the mating habits of birds. Fifth to last day: Interviewed the Director of Art Basel Hong Kong about the Asian art world for a magazine piece. Fourth to last day: Worked on the biggest TV show shoot of the year at NESN with 8 cameras. In the evening, sat on a panel with my co-director Nicole and producers Tessa and Claire after the screening of our Asian American short film Tomato & Eggs. 

Third to last day: Captured the voices of youth of color in Dorchester gearing up for their annual youth-led rally at the state house for racial and economic justice as part of the I Have A Future movement with Adiel. Second to last day: Shot the No-No Boy concert at Pao Arts Center, was shook by songs about family histories of Japanese internment and refugeehood during the Vietnam War. Last day: Wrote a 2,000-word essay for a Chinese magazine about a cross-cultural wedding I attended in Xinjiang. Today, I set up an experiment with ghost shrimp in a closed marine ecosystem, and spontaneously assembled with friends in HMart for dessert. Tomorrow, I conclude my full-time job at NESN and fly to China to spend Lunar New Year with my family.

In the last month of being 22 (Jan), I was flown to Singapore to write about contemporary Asian art, publishing three pieces, one dedicated entirely to politically provocative pieces. Second to last month (Dec), I traveled to NYC to write a piece centering the stories of recent immigrants who take intercity buses between Chinatowns across the United States. Third to last month (Nov), I was flown to LA to do a shoot with the co-creator of Glee. Found out that an economics paper I helped write in college got published as an NBER working paper, making me a third author yo lol but what is it good for idk??? Fourth to last month (Oct), I co-directed my first short film ever, with a dream team of Asian American and queer actors, producers, composers, etc. Fifth to last month (Sept), I started my first real full-time job with benefits at the TV network NESN. 

Sixth to last month (Aug), I traveled on a grant to film for Ahmad and my co-directed documentary in Europe, crying uncontrollably at unmarked graves on tiny Greek islands and releasing floating candles into the dark of waters where five thousand refugees drowned the year prior. Shot a video for Syrian women craft entrepreneurs with Jülide in Istanbul. And was reunited with Bükem after 17 years in Ankara. And got onto a plane to Bulgaria that accidentally landed in Macedonia. Seventh to last month (July), took dozens of drizzly summer walks with Sam in London. Eighth to last month (June), almost biked into a deer in Killarney National Park while visiting Shannon in Ireland. Lost one of my soul sisters and best friends since childhood and grieved for a long time (and am still grieving).

Ninth to last month (May), walked the stage at Wellesley. Tenth to last month (April), shot and screened the 80-minute long Stories From My Parents featuring students' tales about diaspora and love with Janjan. And nabbed the $20,000 prize of NESN Next Producer and used it to pay off my student loans. And buried my grandfather after a long battle with cancer. Eleventh to last month (March), was locked in a hotel room for three days with Sam, Doris, Chloey, Jamila and Juliette for the Wellesley CUPSI slam poetry team writing retreat. One year ago (February), shot a commercial for the Red Sox, "This Is Our City," still one of my favorite subtly subversive things I've ever made. Seems like just yesterday we were making earl grey tangyuan on snow days in the Scoop kitchen (Sabrina, Liku, Sophia, Charlotte)!

As I wrote on my 21st birthday, "It's been a roller coaster week. It's been a roller coaster year. Still trying to not wince as future pathways ossify too quickly to comprehend. Still straining sometimes to hear the birdsong in the cacophony of this human jungle. Still looking longingly out of and into windows. Still drinking five cups of tea a day and staying up too late, too often. Still compulsively hoarding books that I don't currently have time to read. Still don't have matching socks. Still can't play guitar." Nope, little has changed.

I can add: Grateful for all the people who believe in me. Grateful that I have mustered the belief in myself to throw myself off cliffs with faith that I will learn how to use these wings along the way. Found that I am capable of working 100-hour weeks if it's what I love. Found that the work is a lifetime's work. Found wonderful people to walk beside me along the way.