Cat’s out of the bag: To be a blob


Helen Chao

I have a confession to make: I’m really half-blob, half-human. Mentally, that is. I lack definition and structure. As a high schooler, my brain is gleefully mucking around in no particular direction whatsoever, sporting fuzzy slippers and a plushy bathrobe!

I lack passion: a driving force to mold my future or “life goals” into concreteness. Honestly, where am I heading? After all, nothing strikes my fancy.  Of course, I certainly have interests! I like to write, play cello and bake cookies. However, in the jargon of a flustered pre-teen, I don’t really “like like” anything. Much less love.

What does one define as love?

Traditionalists feel electrocuted, hyper-alert: Benjamin Franklin in the roaring storm, clutching an iron key and whipping a kite. Golly gee willikers! I’m in love! How outlandish. As a post-millennial, I’m attuned to the 21st century.

If I truly loved something, I’d take the pains to exit the Netflix tab for said person or thing. That being said, I am simultaneously writing this column and streaming Season 4 of “Sherlock.” Thus, this column has taken five hours to lovingly churn out.

It’s not as if I dislike writing or cello! That isn’t the scroungy cat I intend on releasing. My interests and I, well, we’re interlocked in the first stages of an arranged marriage — awkward and grudging! Which very much irritates my parents, or it certainly seems like it.

At first, my engineer father was miffed that I was interested in the humanities, something he’d assumed from my column writing.

“To be good at math is to be good at everything!” he proclaimed, hands flailing like a tipsy conductor with a chopstick batons. He paused to inhale two-thirds of his dinner. “If you know math, your writing will have another dimension! Have a touch of clean-cut STEM reasoning!”

I haughtily turned up my nose, slurping a satisfactory ratio of ramen to beef broth.

“Well, fine,” he replied, his feathers ruffled by my obnoxious slurp. As long as you’re happy and doing what you love. At least, his daughter had a calling, a direction in life. His daughter liked English, out of all things – she wasn’t constructing mobile houses for street urchins in London – but hey, her life had some grit and substance to it.

Or so he thinks, I spluttered to myself, counting the green onions pooling in the ramen.


Again, it’s not as if I have no interests. Our mutual  “affection” is simply labored.The story of my arranged marriage follows: I’m a hot-blooded youth who dilly-dallied the morning with Netflix, an endless TV show provider. At 1:00 a.m., I’m abruptly wedded to a blank Word document! It is a drastic plunge in exhilaration: from TV-binging to writing an essay.

Before my fellow writers scorn me for eternity — write a novel about a girl who works hard but dies in the end, they holler — I do enjoy writing! Writing is therapeutic and meditative. I can sulk here for hours on end, pruning flower gardens of metaphors to asphyxiate the reader with my floweriness.

I rest my case.

Of course, there’s a catch. As much as I have interest in something, I’ve never loved anything (besides Netflix) enough to approach or “propose” to it first. Also, if I truly loved — with a passion — to play cello, couldn’t I happily practice for four hours? Why, then, was finishing an hour of cello practice like completing a chore?

My lack of passion twisted my father’s head right round, his anxiety apparent in dinner conversations.

“What do you want to do when you’re older? English? I know you’re interested.”

I’d mumble two-syllable gibberish: “Uh-huh” and “Huh? Yeah.”

That’d light his fuse. He craved clear answers and a stable train of thought. After all, he’d immigrated from Taiwan when he was 25 years old, the homely engineer who chased his American Dream. 30 years later, he had four daughters and lived in affluent Cupertino. Previously, he had lived in three states and undertaken five jobs, charging forward with a mindset to succeed. Very unblobish, if I do say so myself.  

And here, his blobbish daughter, goggling at him with ramen noodles dangling from her mouth. Didn’t I understand how fortunate I was? Where was the youthfulness, the heady ambition? The hunger to warp, to bulldoze the world with my radical actions? I should be establishing my passion in such a liberal community, using Cupertino’s abundance of opportunities to feed whatever the monster of a passion.

“Because you’re going into English, right?” He asked. “You must have an idea of what you want to do in life.”

I didn’t answer. And I still can’t.