(Photo credit: Eugene)
My farewell party has probably been in the works since July, when I first planned to make it to South Korea in August 2013. I wanted to create this mega event where I could gather up my entire life and put them all in one space at one time. It was a chance to look hard at where I’d been, where I was now, celebrate the journey and acknowledge all the people I met along the way who helped me get here.
I pulled out all the stops. For once in my life, I thought about what I wanted and actually allowed myself to have it. I set aside all my thoughts about how I didn’t deserve getting what I wanted, that getting what I wanted was always worse than what my imagination came up with… and let it all go.
My initial thought was to see if there was anyone I could hand off the actual planning of the event to, but by the time I got around to thinking of who I wanted to ask, I already knew what my party was going to look like and what I wanted to do. I put my vision down in a spreadsheet, along with any actions I had to take to make it happen. Now it was just about getting into action and shaking the universe down until what I wanted fell out of it and at my feet.
This is how it came together.
In late November when I was thinking about the goals I wanted to accomplish in my last few weeks in the United States, I wrote down a few dates for a handful of my dream projects into a spreadsheet:
Friday, January 10: Karaoke fundraiser to benefit Typhoon Haiyan victims at Kona Kitchen
Saturday, January 11: Improv workshop for a mixed community of bankers and low income housing residents
Sunday, January 12: Kiss Me Goodbye Seattle!
Monday, January 13: Flight SEA – MNL
Of these four, only the farewell party actually worked out exactly. I was not intentional enough to fulfill on the improv workshop (though I like to think I haven’t given up on it yet) and my flight got pushed back due to concerns from my recruitment agency in South Korea. Hilariously, the day after I penciled all this into my calendar, I got the Facebook invite for the Seattle Asian American Film Festival‘s karaoke fundraiser at Kona Kitchen on Thursday, January 9th. So no matter what I did, I was guaranteed a karaoke fundraiser for an amazing cause at one of my favorite restaurants in Seattle. I’m just saying, spreadsheet-ing your life is magic.
And clearly because I was crazy, I posted a Save the Date! on facebook before any of the other parts were in place. Game on!
I invited 200+ people on facebook and watched the RSVPs climb up to almost 50, which started the panicky hamster running on its wheel in the back of my mind. If I did have 50 people on my hands, I didn’t have a place to put them in, my apartment being almost too small for my roommate and me. If I didn’t find a venue that could hold at least 50 people, I was screwed.
I planned on it being at the Filipino Community Center pretty much from the beginning. It was close by, it was tied up in my heritage– it was perfect. I was so scared. One of the other decisions I had made (after hearing a couple in my Self Expression and Leadership Program plan this for their wedding) was to make my farewell party fabulous and free. How in the world was I going to get a room for 50-some people for absolutely nothing?
It took me awhile to actually ask them for a free room for my party. I switched between using the phone to going in person, went to the center a few times without talking to anyone because I was too afraid, even went a few days in between the conversations I did have from sheer nerve.
First I asked after the big ballroom because that was the room I envisioned and the room used in all the events I’d been to. I asked them straight up to give it to me for free for four hours and they gave me the lowest price they could offer me. It wasn’t low enough for my budget of $0, but I couldn’t believe how well the conversation was going considering how much fear I’d built around it. They then offered me a room upstairs that was smaller than the ballroom but would hold 50 people comfortably. We discussed my doing some in-kind work (newsletters, budget, office stuff) and then the room was mine. For free.
As I was writing my facebook event description, I naturally started thinking about what photo best represented what I was trying to do. Eventually I said, fuck it. I’m doing a photoshoot.
I turned to a friend who had previously expressed interest in doing my makeup and told her what I wanted to do. She accepted, we picked a date to get together, and made it happen.
(It looks so good crossing my dashboard…)
We mutually arrived at the idea that the photo would be easygoing, whimsical, and fun. The photos and the photoshoot was mostly that, though I’m not going to lie: modeling is tough, kiddos. The name of the event is Kiss Me Goodbye Seattle! and there are more failed kissy photos in there than I care to admit to, or reveal.
Through my party, I wanted to share some of my favorite things with my people: improv, singing, talking to strangers. Some of my friends also wanted to dance. Music was a must. I really had to think about what I wanted in a sound system and then I asked for it: two speakers and a microphone for four hours on a Sunday night. I got about four offers. A friend of mine even offered me a DJ for free, but I turned that down. I wanted to keep the emphasis on people meeting each other and I thought the DJ would be a distraction.
I put together a playlist on Spotify that included all my favorite upbeat stuff. Plus the Cupid Shuffle and the Electric Slide, which I was going to say was the only officially-sanctioned dancing portions of the party. However, there was no Internet on the day of. So there was no music after all.
I did sing (acapella) the first section of “Think of Me.” Not only did it capture my feelings about leaving, it was the first song I ever tackled with my singing teacher and says a great deal about my journey as a singer.
How to make food free at a party this big? The answer that came to me was to make it a potluck. (Although it should be noted that this party then becomes officially not “free.”) I love potlucks; you get the most random things and there’s always an abundance of food. Utensils (and drinks), however, consistently prove to be my Achilles heel so an extra thanks to those friends to those who didn’t fall into my trap.
For all the things that didn’t come together quite like I imagined (we never played Poison Tip Samurai!) it was amazing. I got to see so many of the people I loved and express that love. The only “improv game” to survive was “What would you like to be acknowledged for?” which a number of people had no idea what to do with. But it was fun to acknowledge who people were for me and to acknowledge people for things I didn’t even know about them. (Someone told me he takes care of parrots in a sanctuary! I didn’t even know there was such a thing in Washington State.)
I got acknowledged too, and I tried not to shy away from it. I got who I was for so many people. So much of my internal monologue is about the things I fail to do, it was nice to hear how the things I did do paid off and made a difference in people’s lives.
Thank you so much to everyone who came. Thank you especially to the Filipino Community Center (Sheila and Ramon) for letting me use their space for free. Thank you to Amy W. for the photos and the utensils. Thank you to Rachael for the sound system. Thank you to my cousin Denny for doing emergency grocery runs and whatnot. Thank you to Alizeh, Rachael, and Vania for getting me ready for the party. And thank you everyone else, for making my life the awesome, amazing thing it gets to be.