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The Story →

Very excited that APM’s The Story is airing a piece about My Dead Parents today. Catch it “live” on your public local radio station, or just listen to the segment here. Many thanks to Dick Gordon, Lauren Spohrer, Eric Mennel, and Andrew Parsons.

— 7 months ago with 13 notes
Hello

Today, I, Anya Yurchyshyn, revealed that I’m author of this blog, which has been anonymous for over two years, in an essay on Buzzfeed.

Like I said in that essay, I kept this blog anonymous out of respect for my family, and because I don’t consider myself a non-fiction writer, and never really had the courage that I think needs to come with being one. I’m an open book if you know me, but this…this just seemed like a lot to share with the world, like maybe too much. But when I was asked to write about the project and was given the opportunity to publish it under my own name, it seemed silly to keep pretending that these thoughts and feelings, and this family, wasn’t mine. I felt like I was hiding, even lying, and I didn’t like that. I will admit though, this feels pretty strange. But the response has been incredible, and it makes me feel a lot less naked, or at least like I have a better body. Thanks so much for reading. More soon. 

— 1 year ago with 34 notes
My Very First Psychoeducational Evaluation

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I came across this gem around a month ago—my very first psychoeducational evaluation! My school suggested I get one because I was, as usual, struggling academically, but also because I was suffering from severe headaches and acting out. I’d written “I hate me” on the bathroom wall, and my fourth grade teacher recognized my handwriting and tried to talk to me about it. I’m pretty sure all I did was cry.

I posted a similar evaluation from when I was 14 here. Discovering that one was slightly depressing, as I say in my post about it, but also kind of funny. This…this is pretty much just straight up depressing until I force myself to remember that, despite the fact much of what’s in this report seems to suggest that I wasn’t going to turn out very well at all, I am actually a pretty successful person, so go me, I guess, and go late-bloomers and the doggedness born out of low self-esteem.

Two things really stand out for me in this. Well, three. The least important is that I really am shit at “temporal-sequential organization,” like massively so, and it’s strangely awesome to learn it’s always been an issue for me. I am much more forgiving of myself knowing that particular part of my brain simply never worked.

 But far more importantly, I was shocked to read that there was “…some concern on father’s part that mother might drink too much. It is reported that she drinks one to three hard drinks per night, but it is stated that this does not interfere with her overall functioning.”

Trying to figure out when my mother really took to drinking and when it officially became a problem has been a mystery my remaining family members have been trying to solve for years. I knew that my mother liked to drink even when I was little, but for my father to mention her drinking to the therapist meant he was aware, probably before anyone else, of the behavior that would eventually do her in, and I’ll never know if he ever tried to do anything about it, or if he had any sense of the person she was capable becoming, or was slowly becoming, and then emphatically became.

And, as someone who likes to have one to three drinks per night herself, it makes me question my behavior. I am wired deep for addiction, but I’ve managed to avoid being addicted to anything so far, except for maybe male attention when I was younger. Well, I briefly became addicted to smoking when I moved back to LA three months ago, but I’m already done with that because, though my “temporal-sequential organization” might be abysmal, I’m not actually stupid.  I do have problems with impulse control occasionally, and I know that can lead to addiction issues, but that’s a “problem” that’s actually started to manifest itself in positive ways. At the moment, I can’t not communicate my feelings and say exactly what I think and want and need, and that’s a big accomplishment for me, as I spent most of my life minimizing my feelings, or putting other people’s feelings in front of my own. But anyway, I guess I should watch the drinking, but I’m so hyper-vigilant of my own substance use and of other people’s that I’m pretty sure I’d know when and if I developed a problem, and anyway, I’m a writer, so you know, bottoms up?

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— 1 year ago with 1 note
We Interrupt This Program…

For some thinking and planning. I know, this program’s been interrupted for a while, but I just wanted to say it’s for a good reason and that reason is not that I have given up.

— 1 year ago with 5 notes
Putting on a Show

So it happened – someone from my family found this blog.

A friend of mine ran a portion of one of my entries on her online magazine a few months ago. It was published anonymously, just the like the blog, though it ran with a picture of me as a child.

Recently, the same friend published a short story of mine. It ran with my name and I posted the link on Facebook, having forgotten about the blog entry that linked here.

One of my younger cousins, Larissa, is my friend on Facebook, and she was nice enough to read the story. She looked through the rest of the magazine and found the picture of me, and then she found everything else. When she emailed me to say she found the blog, I thought I might throw up all over my keyboard. 

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— 1 year ago with 10 notes
#longreads  #family  #grief 
Looking for Home and Finding 7-11

Last week, I returned to Shanghai after spending almost three weeks in Taiwan. Taiwan is gorgeous, delicious, friendly, and relaxing. China is also those things, but less often and rarely at once. It’s an exciting place to live, but a tough one as well. Still, I’m happy to be back, and to be teaching.

When I first arrived in Taiwan I spent a few days in Taipei, and one of the things I did— when I wasn’t stuffing my face, which I was doing constantly because the food is so good it’s stupid to ever stop eating—was visit Hsing Ting Kong temple with my friend of one day, Mike. Hsing Ting Kong is a Buddhist temple “guided by the divine character of En Chu Kong,” and Mike prays there regularly.  

Mike and I had been talking about Taiwanese fortune telling over a lunch of dumplings and dumplings and beef soup and more soup. He told me his sister once visited a fortuneteller who told her to eat less beef, and when she did, her problems, which anyone else would have thought were completely unrelated to her beef consumption, improved. I told Mike I’d love to see a Taiwanese fortuneteller.  After an annoying session with a psychic two years ago I swore I’d stop bothering with “that kind of stuff” (shamans don’t count) because I always obsess about whatever I’m told, but I decided visiting a fortune teller in Taiwan was okay because it was a relevant cultural experience, and also because hey, maybe this would be the person who could tell me how to fix my life. What if all of my problems were the result of not eating enough fried chicken and this was the only person who knew it? (Fried chicken from the night markets was one of my favorite things to eat in Taiwan and I’ve craved it every day since I got back to China.)

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— 1 year ago with 7 notes
#7-11  #taiwan  #taipei  #buddhism  #travel  #asia  #temples  #snacks 
And Continues…

I guess I got a little gushy, but that’s because I really am grateful that she was the person on the receiving end of my initial email. She’s very generous. This whole thing could have sucked in more than a few ways.

The forced formality of my writing - my attempts to be noticeably normal and intelligent - crack me up.

Me:

Hi,

I feel we approach the world very similarly. I could be wrong, of course, but you seem to be a super “processor” like I am, and like to turn information and situations over and over and over. I’m lucky that you turned out to be who you are – I can imagine that
most other people would either ignore my original email and/or be wildly offended by it, or would just respond very superficially because they didn’t think deeply about the world. Your emails are so insightful and thoughtful. Thank you.

I’m not sure that I like China, but I am fascinated by it. It’s an interesting time to be here, and working with (rich, privileged) young people is very illuminating. They are totally entitled but also incredibly driven, a combination you don’t always find in America, and the population as a whole seems to think anything is possible. Considering what’s happened in the last decade, I think they’re probably right. I certainly don’t agree with a lot of China’s policies and actions, but I am still happy to be here as an observer.

The rumors about my father’s death made it to America, but I always thought it was an accident as well. I was in Ukraine a few years before he died, and it is not hard to imagine something terrible happening on those roads. I could see how someone might have had it out for my father, I guess, because that’s just the place it was (is?), but I know he tried to distance himself from all the corruption. He told me that’s why he
left the bank, actually. He truly wanted to help Ukraine, and he knew establishing a central bank that was corrupt from the start wasn’t going to benefit anyone.

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— 1 year ago with 2 notes
#dad  #dads  #emails  #mistresses  #long reads 
The Correspondence Continues

I am way into this…

She wants to go on my journey with me. I hate the word journey and normally hate people who use it, but I love this woman. How could I not?

My Response:

Thank you so much for getting back to me - and for being open to talking about your relationship with my father.

Yes, narratives… It’s impossible not to create them, at least for me. I’m not even sure if I do it because it’s easier to process or organize information. I think it’s just a habit, though I’m not sure it’s a good one. Narratives complicate things. I’m trying to approach learning more about my parents as openly as possible, but it’s hard.

I’m not sure why my sister thought you were involved with my father either—I haven’t discussed it with her recently and it doesn’t seem worth going over again, but it really is strange. I appreciate you handling the fact that I emailed you out of nowhere to ask you about something you didn’t actually do so gracefully.

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— 1 year ago with 5 notes
#dads  #mistresses  #creative writing  #creative nonfiction  #long reads 
Home and Away

Last week, I moved all of my belongings into storage and took off for China, where I’m teaching for the summer. Because I was leaving, and because my boyfriend and I are “taking a break,” we decided to give up our apartment, even though it was really, really nice, and surprisingly affordable. I toyed with the idea of subletting it, but there’s no way I could afford the rent on my own when I return, and it would be depressing to be in our old place and surrounded by reminders that we couldn’t make it work even though we loved each other and, again, had a pretty great apartment. In New York City, that’s some sort of crime. 

When I was slipping the keys to my storage unit on my key chain, I realized that although my key chain weighs, like, a pound and a half, the keys to that lock are the only keys I need. They, of course, weigh almost nothing. A lot of people move their stuff into storage and marvel at how their life and belongings, which once seemed so sprawling, fit so easily into a 5 x 10 unit. I certainly did, and knowing that key would be my only connection to all of my stuff when I was halfway around the world was both liberating and frightening. 

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— 1 year ago with 9 notes
#home  #parents  #fires  #floods  #keys  #writing  #long reads 
The Reply

So I heard back from “my father’s mistress” and…well, you’ll see. She seems very cool and thoughtful and open-minded. The email I sent her had no subject (because what the hell could I say?) but the subject of her reply was “Peoples’ lives and our narratives about them.” I was like, aaaaaaand I love you.

I’m still processing this, both because there’s a lot to process and I’m confused, and because I’m in Asia now and so jet-lagged I’m about two seconds away from passing out.

I welcome your initiative to contact me. It’s not a problem at all. I would like to have a conversation with you about your dad, who was a good friend and mentor.

When your dad died in the car accident in Ukraine I was 24 years old, just out of graduate school.

I met your dad at an art gallery. It turns out we both loved the visual arts and thus started a friendship that centered around exploring the turbulent cultural life that was unfolding in early post-communist Ukraine. He was an enthusiastic buyer contemporary art and was well connected. I was thrilled to come along and absorb the atmosphere. I was flattered that he would want to take me along.

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— 1 year ago with 9 notes
#long reads  #letters  #dad  #dads  #grief  #writing 
What Do you Say to Your Dead Father’s Mistress?

As I mentioned here, my father was having an affair with a Swiss woman when he died, and I’ve been trying to track her down. I want to know about her relationship with my father and hear another perspective on him. My sister, who met her in Ukraine the summer he died, gave me her name, and I’ve been poking around the Internet trying to find her for the past few months but haven’t come up with anything or anyone. 

The other day I was going over some articles about my father’s death that my mother saved, and I noticed his mistress actually contributed to one of them as a reporter. Turns out I had her name wrong by one letter. Though her name seems like it could be really common if you’re Swiss, when I typed in the correct spelling of her name, I found her, and her email address, immediately. Sometimes the internet is scary.

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— 1 year ago with 6 notes
#dad  #mistresses  #longreads