COVID-19 reflections: Someone to thank

Story by Matthew Tsai
Print Managing Editor

Illustration by Alicia Zhang
Staff Illustrator

This article is part of Tiger‘s March center spread. Read the rest of the spread here.

“Wow. This is kinda crazy. I’d like to thank my family and friends for supporting me. Thanks to the producers for believing in me. And most of all, I’d like to thank my hands for always staying by my side. Thank you!” Okay, I’m not married to that joke, but that’s probably what I’ll say when I win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

My journey as a screenwriter began just as COVID-19 did; I’d always entertained the thought of storytelling, but now I finally had the time to do so, and I decided to take a crack at this lifelong dream. In the past year, I wrote a sitcom pilot, two features, and I’m currently fleshing out a third. I’ve learned so much about my life, my characters, and myself; I can’t wait to keep writing. This was my go-to answer whenever I caught up with an old friend, and every time, I recited it
with pride. Well, until that one time I went to Garfield Park.

It was the first time seeing my friends in almost five months. During an extremely competitive Spikeball game, someone cracked a lame one-liner about “penguin ice cream.” I was about to roast him for that terribly-delivered remark when everyone broke out in laughter. It was an inside joke that I wasn’t a part of. And I’ve realized this is not an isolated incident. My family reminisces about stupid conversations over homemade carbonara. My friends remember epic park-wide games of hide and seek. And throughout COVID, I was always locked away in my room, mesmerized by the worlds I created — alone.

In quarantine, because of my incessant writing, I’ve lost many relationships, and I’ve been okay with that tradeoff. But as I think about my eventual Oscar win, I wonder, what will my achievements be if I have no one to celebrate them with? Will that alone satisfy me?

I don’t know. But I refuse to believe that achievements and personal satisfaction are mutually exclusive. I think I can have both. Perhaps there’s a balance I haven’t figured out yet, but I’ll be searching for it everyday. Because it’s not just about the journey or the destination. Maybe it’s about the company as well.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I can’t have it all. Maybe I’ll need to choose one or the other. But I don’t want to take that chance. Because when I win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, I want to have people in my life I can thank.

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