In Hong Kong, at last, the weather shifts. The mercury touches 18 C for a day, and mid-twenties for several. I try on pants I’d forgotten I owned, and wear sneakers even after work. In the mornings, while making coffee, I wear sweatpants and a shirt, reveling in the chill breeze through open windows. It has been a hot year. I suspect they will all be hot years.
My body, after a few days, can’t recall the sweat of summer. I’ve written about this before, the brevity of my physical memory. My mind knows we once sweated even while sitting still but I can’t replicate the sensation, can’t feel it when it’s gone. In some ways I am a goldfish, waking new to each moment and unaware that I am under water at all. In some ways the writing on this site is a challenge to that, proof that there are records that persist. As the sun sets on Thanksgiving day, I try to record this change before it too recedes.
In the fall of twenty twenty one, after an exhausting struggle and a huge amount of learning, I am again unemployed. I think about the habits I’ve made around this job, that I am now abandoning. I will no longer open the office every morning, turn on the A/C and set down bag and mask before making coffee. I will no longer run cash on hand on Monday mornings before I open my email. I will no longer hold 1-1’s while walking along the harbor. Time has come for all those things, habits I pass on to no one. Instead I will wake with the cat, pad around our silent apartment, stretch, and spend my time in thought. It’s a beautiful trade and portends a recovery of energy.
My body’s memory is short. I can’t remember being excited about taking this job after four months of freedom in the early pandemic. I can barely remember those first days of lock down, playing ping pong when everything else was closed. I can barely remember driving the East Coast of the US this summer, in the brief July window of 7 day quarantine hope. I do remember sitting on decks in Oakland chatting with friends we’d missed so much, and of swimming in the back yard with a child suddenly able to dive deep. Those memories persist, and will power me through another winter of closed borders and horrible quarantine rules. Those summer days of walking around Lake Merritt and having lunch in West Oakland are why we do so much of what we do, because the people we’ve met in each step are worth it.
The gift of this fragile physical memory is that nothing holds me for long; I make new habits easily. I quickly become accustomed to rising early, before the alarm, to give the cat the pets he desires with his breakfast. I easily learn to do laundry each evening after frisbee, when suddenly given an in-home washing machine. As I have written before, the changes of habit that came with our move to San Francisco, our move to Hong Kong, are also the changes of growing older, of learning the value of mornings. And yet what strikes me on my first few days of freedom is how quickly I acclimate, how easily these new habits are formed. In many ways what makes me good at the repetitive nature of jobs, what makes me comfortable building processes to be repeated by teams, is my own comfort with repetition, and the ease with which I become accustomed to new patterns.