We are brittle, ashamed, and human

When you live in solitude long enough, there comes a time when you recognize who you truly are. “True”, in the sense “unobscured by others”.

I am not used to taking care of myself. I have more to do since I have to do everything. I am lonely.

In the beginning you could use the solitude as an excuse. But one day you will realize… this is who you are when you are on your own. When everyone has been hidden away from you. When you don’t have anyone to rely on to give you a role, a script, a mask. When you are left alone, vulnerable.

This is who you truly are.

Without any imput from the outside, you become both numb and overly sensitized. With the hard shell holding everything together stripped away, inside the crumbling mess you find pieces of yourself you had hidden away so that no one can see it. Weaknesses. Embarrassment. Shame. Disgust. Surrender and hopelessness.

Fall apart.
So easily… fallen apart.

No one can know. Because if they knew, and they rejected you, you couldn’t live with the pain. Because if they knew, and they embraced you, you will fall apart into pieces. Even now, you are waiting for someone to pick you up and tell you that they love you the way you are. Even now, when you have hidden yourself away from everyone.

Hide. Don’t hide.
Give up. Don’t give up.

Empty. A corpse is so empty and so cold. A lifeless thing. No pain, no pleasure. Give the knife in your pocket a reassuring pat and gather up. Go on living… because life is whatever you think it is. Find comfort in life, in death – wherever you can, however you can. According to your own compass that you build and take apart, build and take apart…

Alone… Together.

What it means to write poetry

*Translation below

시를 쓴다는 것은 자신의 머릿속에, 마음속에, 심장 박자 안에서 존제하는 그 느낌을, 혹은 그 이미지를, 그 기분을 자아낼 수 있는 그 하나의 단어를 찾아가는 것이다. 그 허우적거림 속에서는 수십개의 표현이 손가락 끝을 스치고 지나가는데, 그중 자신이 찾는 그 하나의 단어를 위해 끝없이 손을 뻗어나가는 그 동작이 마치 시인의 춤 같다.

Writing poetry is like searching for that one word that exists in that feeling, image or mood inside your head, mind or heart. This frantic movement towards that one expression that eludes you as dozens of words slip by your fingertips – this neverending stretch of arms is like the poet’s dance.

帰りたい

How convenient
it would be
if I could name my emotions
if there was one logical explanation for my actions

How easy
it could be
if I only needed to learn more, learn the correct things
for my life to make sense

하고 싶었지만 다 못한 말을
솔직하게 정직하게 진심으로
말할 수 있다면
고함칠 수 있다면
속삭여도 좋으니까

帰りたい

I was built to endure
but so fragile
oh my heart
encased in glass
in the name of: Education. Flexibility. Better chances. Better human.
When you get lost
listen to music
My heart shuddered
and the glass cracked

Tränen
Heiße Quellen des Lebens
Eine Reihe leerer Flaschen
Kein einziger Tropfen bleibt
für mein Herz

Dead petals gathering dust
That’s my heart
A useless thing
yielding to Reason, to Logic, to Ideal
Do my captors realize
a dead heart is soaked in poison
oozing toxic blood
in the name of love?

부러진 날개
아무리 날갯짓을 해도
돌아갈수 없어

帰れない

When we carry our wounds
do we become stronger?

thoughts on queer visibility from intersectional point of view

Hi. I am an Asian-looking woman in her 20s who’s been living in Germany for the past 11 years. And I’m also queer.

I wasn’t born knowing I was gay. In fact, being anything other than heterosexual simply wasn’t a concept in the country I grew up in. I started questioning my (hetero)sexuality when I had already been living in Germany for six years, and it took me another five or six years to the point I am at today.

But by the time I first started noticing my attraction to girls, I was already familiar with racism and the feeling of being the “other”. It’s a disconcerting feeling, like a bucket of ice-cold water being thrown over your head every day when you least expect it. It’s also a constant companion, because you can never escape it as long as you are among white people. It’s the feeling of alienation and isolation and paranoia. It’s Du Bois’ double-consciousness and estrangement from yourself.

This feeling of otherness has accompanied me every single day for the past 11 years. One of the reasons why it’s inescapable and such a huge part of my identity is because of my appearance. A race visibility, if you will. I recently learned that an adult needs only 120 milliseconds to register another person’s skin color. Only after that you notice the gender, age, etc. I can’t change the way I look, even though during my teenage years, I would have scraped my skin off if that meant that I’d turn into a white-looking girl. I don’t know how to explain the crushing – and this feels literal – sense of alienation, of isolation. The desire to jump out of my skin, only literally.

So when it comes to being an Asian, a foreigner, I was thrust into the battlefield way before I was ready, and it’s a battle I take up every day. Because being a person of color is a visible thing, sometimes painfully so. But how about being queer?

Admittedly, the majority of the years I spent in confusion about my sexuality (which will come and go, I am sure), I did so in my head. It was an internal battle, and even when I did first come out as bisexual (because that’s how I identified myself as for that period of my life), it was only to a handful of closest friends, plus my mom and my sister. Most of them were like, oh okay, and the topic never came up again. Because how do you portray your sexuality?

In our heteronormative culture, most of us are assumed as being straight unless told or shown otherwise. I am dead sure that I pass as straight for 99% of the time, benefiting from straight privileges. This experience of passing – it’s so different from my experience as being an Asian that I am flabbergasted. On the one hand, it’s so nice not to have to spend the time and energy on trying to diffuse the feelings of otherness. On the other hand, though, the otherness doesn’t disappear just because they are not visible. What’s more, this invisibility might even have a further consequence, and that’s questioning the legitimacy of my identity.

Being queer is something I had to establish first. Because it isn’t tangible, I tried to ignore it, run away from it, trivialize it. And most of the time I did so by keeping quiet about it. Even now, heteronormativity is so pervasive that I catch myself thinking that I am not really gay, of course I am straight, I’m doing all this just to get attention! (And then I imagine myself in a heterosexual relationship and hit myself on the head. Of course I love women. Duh.) You know what helps against this constant questioning of yourself? Talking about it. Talking with others about your experiences, their experiences, your feelings, their feelings. Connecting with other people and sharing stories help me realize that confusion is normal. Feeling conflicted is normal. Best of all, all forms of loving is normal: same-sex, different-sex, non-binary, pansexual, asexual…

In order to have these conversations, though, you have to find other queer people, and “out” yourself in the process. (The only way I can think of is to go about wrapped up in a giant rainbow flag, so if you have any ideas about how to display queerness, please let me know in the comments.) I realize that being out is not something that every queer person can safely choose. We all have to decide for ourselves when and how to come out. To be very honest, I myself am not sure whether I am prepared to be confronted with the subtle (and not-so-subtle) homophobia every day.

But here’s the thing: I won’t have to confront homophobia every day, because, compared to being a person of color, being gay is less visible, especially if you are not in a relationship. At the end of the day, I am torn between wanting to be visible – to own that part of my identity – and my desire for a less exhausting life. Because it does drain you of energy, this constant awareness of being the “other”. There’s no easy solution for this, only personal choices.

Stay safe. Be brave.

October 2016 – Part II

Tuesday, October 18th
… I feel like I’m figuring out myself all over again, but with the comfort and a little more ease of the past experiences. It’s funny how I thought just a week ago that I Was trapped and my whole life already mapped out, and today I can see the vast, unwritten future in front of me. …

Thursday, October 20th
There is such a discontent in me that it spoils every pleasure.
There is such a hunger in me that cannot be abated, no matter how much food is put in my stomach.
There is such a weariness in me that no amount of sleep can get rid of.
Pain. There will always be pain. The fear of pain has made me resist the cracking of the soul. The breaking of self.
But to not break! How can I prevent it when I have already been marked? How much longer can I hold myself together before turning into a living corpse?
A surrender, if you will. A step forward with eyes closed, not knowing whether I am standing on a cliff. To stop questioning everything.
Solitude is a hard thing. Loneliness is even more excruciating.
Ideas are dangerous things. Even when we know we should be critical of each and every one of them, once they are planted, they just take roots and worm their way into the deepest parts of our mind. Especially when certain ideas resonate with you, or they explain your flaws in such convenient ways. When it’s such a relief to accept them. We can lament the fact that all we can do is to construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct our personal truths over and over again in our lifetime. It will probably drive us mad.
A descent – or ascent? – to madness. Why should I stop myself?
You know when the relative truths clash and burn and explode? Politics. Society. Because we don’t live alone.

Friday, October 21st
I realized that I don’t know how to love people who are 8000 km away. I tried to pretend that the distance wasn’t there, masking it with modern technology, but it’s an empty substitute, because the distance is there.
Jeanette Winterson – as she tells it in the book Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? – hadn’t given up. She had always pursued life – love of life, love of self, however clumsily.
Nowadays “giving up” is associated with a task, a goal. But “giving up” really means stopping whatever you are doing. When you give up on life, you stop living, literally or metaphorically (I haven’t experienced the former, so I can’t really compare, but the latter is bad. It feels horrible, because you can’t feel anything.).
I thought I wanted security. Stability, guarantees. But what I want now is “just” to live – I want to love life, and everything in it. I am and have been lonely, no matter how hard I try to distract myself from it. Yes, there have been sunny days, days of warmth – but they passed. They will come, and they will pass again. But it’s a comfort to know that you can be lonely and still be in love with life.

Sunday, October 23rd
… So what was I coming home to? No one was waiting for me; I didn’t feel connected to anyone at the party. It was a difficult emotion to feel – that loneliness, unwantedness, fear and hopelessness. But then I thought of the heating mat that would warm me up; when I walked in and saw my familiar things, I began to settle down and felt centered enough. They gave me the strength to stay on hits path of unsteady present and unknown future.

Tuesday, October 25th
… Reality clashed with longing and bore a fruit that is unrecognizable, tart and sweet at the same time. …
For life has no meaning, and no reason. It consists of a series of present moments, and you can delude yourself into thinking you can prepare yourself for them, but you can’t.
Time is a gift and a curse. If you treat each moment with precious care and concentration, time does not exist and you are floating in the universe, and you are constantly creating your life. Even when you pause, you are creating pauses in your life. Your creation is not built to last, because if you hang on to the past because you do not want to let it go, then you stop creating. You stop being in the moment. The same thing when you worry about the future and the tasks that you have to do. So your creation lasts only for the moment it has been created in, then it fades away and gives way to your next creation.
We invented the clock, so that we can be at a certain place at a certain moment. We surrendered ourselves to be the clock’s slaves.
… I have never been an orphan. I have a beginning to trace back to, a family that is not hidden. A mother who loves me without reason, just with her whole heart. … I have not created myself from nothing, so I have a path to trace back to, a life story in which I encountered many creatures of the day and night.
A head wants confidence; it wants guarantees, it wants to understand so that it can plan.
A heart only knows what’s right right now. It accepts and it lives in the quiet, knowing way, without having to think about it.
A head wants to assess and evaluate and theorize and – improve. It strives for the best, without knowing what is good or better or best.
A heart is the true survivor. It accepts and it is immersed in the reality of now.
… It’s no wonder I don’t want to be an academic. Pursuit of knowledge isn’t my highest goal. It always comes back to humans. I want to reach out to people through my writing. It would be wonderful to reach that goal, but I think – I hope – that the process itself will be worth while.

Wednesday, October 26th
… I am alone and lonely and I have zero interest in opening up, because I know that my insides are empty. … I am not comfortable with not having an identity, because that’s how we establish relations with strangers – either social position (daughter, friend, employer, etc.), current profession/passion, or at least a weird, distinguishing quirk to set us apart. When has it become our job to entertain others with our identities?

Monday, October 31st
… I wish I could do the “practical” thing and enjoy it. But I can’t. I feel this pressure and misery when I ignore my inner voice. It doesn’t give me any specific direction or a grandiose goal to pin my hopes on. I only know that I’ve gotta take these next steps, even if they end up making me smack against a wall. Hard experiences are parts of what I need to experience. As for the rest, I suppose I am an anxious optimist.
In a strange way, my happiness seems to lie in getting lost. I don’t know if I will ever find myself or if anyone will ever find me. I used to read these books with stable, happy endings and anxiously imagine my future like that.
But fear and anxiety are two different things. I have learned that whatever makes me anxious in that pit-in-the-stomach, dreading kind of way, I should avoid at all costs. What I dread now, I might not dread in a few decades, but that’ll be because I’ll have changed by then. And the only way I can change into that person who does not dread X anymore is by avoiding X while I still do dread it.
Logical. My anxiety came mostly from the fact that I wanted my life to be logical and orderly. In a way, I think it takes a greater logic to accept that there are some things beyond the logic. It took me a long, long, looooong time to fully embrace this instinct, this heart, this being. Of course I will falter at some points. But even as I waver, I think back to the moment I found my heart, and I will steady myself. … Feeling right is not the same as feeling good. Feeling good is a temporary high. Feeling right encircles hardships, heartbreaks, tears, sweat, depression, as well as laughter and joy and contentment. …

November 2016 – Part II

Friday, November 18th
… Everything is falling apart. The great deconstruction has begun, and I don’t even know why I am doing anything anymore. To forget that, I’ve been medicating myself with The L Word, and now I have to be back in the real world, and I don’t know how to act. Everything feels unreal, and all I can think about is me, me, me. So self-centered…

Sunday, November 20th
… I hate the dark. I can’t believe I forgot how much I hate the dark. … Maybe it’s my winter blues again, but I’m fed up with obsessing about sex & relationship. … I look around & no one in my circle of acquaintances has a functioning relationship. The majority of the people I know lose themselves in the relationship or stay with people who makes them feel insecure & anxious. So far I can see that relationships are not only pain in the ass but also a huge energy-sucking distraction. …

Monday, November 21st
… Along with the will to push forward with my plan despite all the uncertainty is the desire to hide & run away for another degree. The desperation shouting, I’ll stay in Germany! The instinct for immediate security warring against the intuition for risks. Risks I can even consider taking because of my privileges.
I realized that I don’t know humans. I don’t understand them, what is going through their minds, what makes them do certain things.
All these years, I’ve looked at them through the lens of all the narratives I’d gobbled down. But the people in the books are simpler. Less conflicted. They change, or adapt to change, easily. They have two or three big traits that define them – bold, funny, soft-hearted, nice, aloof, insecure, etc. – and none of them has a dusty collection of tiny characteristics that are clumped & dumped together like abandoned toys. They are single-minded in their pursuit, so sure of who they are. They get over traumas easily without having a relapse. They never have socially awkward conversations (unless being awkward is one of their traits) with strangers/acquaintances/friends. Other people trust & like them so easily that I am green with envy. They are rarely lazy. Sometimes there are genuinely nice characters whose niceness doesn’t vanish no matter what is done to them.
They are not humans. They are created by humans as some sort of idols, similar enough to humans but ultimately too good to be real. None of them are messy, disgusting, abhorrent, conflicted about the smallest and the biggest thing.
It’s not easy to be loyal and vulnerable. It’s difficult as fuck to stay true to yourself or even to find yourself. It’s hard to escape the feeling of being an outsider, warranted or not. It’s probably normal to hate the world & everyone in it, because they all sicken you without any reason. We think about, like, and do certain disgusting things. We run away or medicate our pains a lot. We blame other people, we victimize ourselves (although watching Jenny Schecter has shown me how fucking selfish & revolting that be), we become irrational on regular basis.
Goddess, what fucking messes we all are.

Tuesday, November 22nd
The people in my head are translucent paper-people, and I don’t know how to turn them into solid, flesh-and-blood people.
… I tend to be pretty unforgiving towards people – esp. those whom I want to like. Once they are inside my heart, I don’t care as much, but until then…

Thursday, November 24th
My head is a cluttered place; a bleeding wound. I vomit other people’s words out of my ears.
… Being vulnerable – being authentic – is hard. Being self-compassionate is uncomfortable. Engaging with my fears feels like I’m going mad.
… I crave certainty like a drug addict, and yet at the same time, I harbor a disdain for the society’s rules. I want chaos. I already am chaos, but then I lose my head, certain that I will never find my way back to reality.
… I look at the reading log for this year, and 80% of the books I’ve read this year were escapist reads. And I spent a lot of time in front of my laptop, watching movies and TV series. I have been emotionally numbing myself the whole year.
And maybe I haven’t been honest with myself, either. I am happy alone, but at the same time I feel like no one is going to love me. I do want to write, but I am terrified I suck at it. I do like reading, but I am constantly ashamed of my choice of reading materials. I do practise the mindset of enough, but scarcity creeps up on me again and again. I still measure my proud moments against what other people would be impressed by. I am still loathe to disappoint my teachers and professors.
… It’s difficult to see myself as I am, because there are a slew of things I want to become, but can’t do until I accept my current self. Humans are messy and ugly and always, always struggling. I want to create art that captures that struggle. I want to be honest. I want to stop playing a saint and just be my selfish, quirky, lazy, intent, struggling self.

Saturday, November 26th
… [I was at a poetry evening with a friend.] It was held in a studio place with a bit of run-down, starving-artist minimalist look. The people who came – there were many, and we were one of the early ones, so we had an ample time to observe them all – were very diverse in background & looks, but they all knew each other & we didn’t know these people, plus the music was too loud anyway, so we just sat there and looked around a lot. After an hour or so of socializing, some people read aloud their poems, and I liked having this read-and-share movement (also because it gave us a legitimate reason to sit around & not talk), but the poems… and the poets… they didn’t resonate with me at all. It’s definitely a matter of taste, but I couldn’t understand even the vaguest outline of their poems and it sounded like a string of words that conjured up all sorts of weird jumble of images – sexual, guttural, human waste. The theme or the form themselves weren’t disturbing, but what bothered & shook me the most was that I couldn’t feel the writer’s authenticity in their writings (except for one piece). The words felt empty, the whole presentation a cliché, and the art dishonest.
It is true that I am not into this twentysometing’s retro, hip & broke(n), artsy scene. The kind where the past seems to have been appropriated and the past authenticity turned into a grotesque cliché. Scenes where the said twentysomethings smoke pot, talk about having beautiful souls, and sprout Hemingway-esque poems (in the sense that they are vaguely misogynist and so male). … A year ago or less, I would have been intimidated into believing that an artist has to be like that way to be a “true” writer/poet. Maybe I’m being too hasty in my judgment/condemnation, but that’s the impression I had when we left the party. …

Tuesday, November 29th
… Does no one feel like this? Does no adult remember the emptiness? Does no on-the-cusp-of-adult experience this hollow space we call “self”?
… I am very rigid in my ideas of what I want when it comes to work. … Am I being too picky, so drenched in the privilege that I have my sight trained on too high? Or am I so afraid of working that I reject everything, thus deluding myself that I am “looking”, but at the same time still leaving the status quo untouched? …
I act and act and act out whatever I can get my hands on, because if I were to let myself be authentic, I’d probably sprout off some incoherent sentences at random, grin toothily, and scurry away.
… I just hate, hate, hate, HATE dealing with my emotions – there’s a reason why I’ve been numbing them for so long. I am not good at anything; this knowledge hits me like a brick on the back of my head, because my fragile ego had constructed this reassurance precisely to keep myself from this black-out. … And worst of all, I am disinterested in so many things that I can almost hear my neuron pathways dying off. It’s not that I find everything uninspiring or boring; I just don’t have any subject that I would dig into its depth to the center of the earth. …

Wednesday, November 30th
… Winter is the time of the year which I recoil from in the beginning and whose darkness I embrace eventually. Instead of brightening the room as much as possible, I am content with a flickering candlelight limiting my view to only what is right in front of me. Instead of feeling grateful for the technological advancement that allows us comfort (hello – radiators??!), I am annoyed that the city never truly sleeps, that it never lets its occupants recuperate.
I think that always being in search of my identity might be my identity. Perhaps because I had to learn the lesson about the instability of identity earlier than usual, and with more force than usual. Playing the various personas that are probably a part of me, all the while frantically searching for the core of my self, even though I know in the back if my mind that there is no such thing. But the emptiness – or the fragmentation – how to bear if without going mad?
… When we talked about “identity” in my Cultural Studies lecture, I encountered ideas/theories that opposed the Enlightenment notion of a core self. Certainly, how we perceive ourselves change a lot over the years, and I daresay it is influenced by external circumstances… but maybe it is a choice, you know? The characteristics that you choose to let go, and the ones you choose to hold on to. There are of course going to be parts of yourself that you are unaware of.
I feel so conflicted. … I do want to change, because I think change can lead to growth… but a part of me mourns the pieces I will inevitably have to leave behind, pieces that I have to let go in order to embrace new ones. Perhaps a human’s capacity for contradictions is limited. Another part of me, though, is terrified of both letting go and letting in. That part just wants to bury myself in the ground and talk myself into being content where I am right now.

November 2016 – Part I

Wednesday, November 2nd
… It’s strange, but I sense some learning curves (or growth spurts, or whatever-) some of my friends are going through. Things that you don’t realize you are in the middle of even though you are up to your neck in it. Freeing yourself from parental expectations struggling to stay vulnerable; recognizing that there will always be certain space between humans that can’t be bridged; learning to live with uncertainty instead of seeking certainty. …

Thursday, November 3rd
… I go to the trees when my head feels too big and time is slithering through my fingers like water. Gazing up at the ancient lives who have witnessed events from the far past and who will live to see the far future. My head shrinks back and I am enveloped by the life bigger and vaster than I could ever be. Smelling in the damp earth, my inner animal stops growling and settles back, content for now. …

Friday, November 4th
I decided to follow my heart and be a writer, but I haven’t been writing.
I knew the road wasn’t going to be suddenly smooth, and I have to make the decision again and again, every day. It’s hard to find the heart, and a lot harder to keep it, because it’s helluva easy to lose it.
The human interaction between fictional characters (movies, books, etc.) – Erich Fromm was spot-on. They are imitations of the real thing, and we turn to them because it’s easier, more accesible, and less risky. But they also don’t linger. These quick bursts of warmth and humor are fleeting and they leave you feeling emptier than before, thus starting and enabling a vicious cycle. …

Saturday, November 5th
… I feel lost. Lost and scared, even though I know what I want to do. The decision to trust my heart was just the first step, perhaps the highest point for a long time to come. I did say I was descending (or ascending, or maybe it’s just straight ahead) towards madness.

Sunday, November 6th
Connection/Disconnection. Lately, that’s all I’ve been thinking about. That precious moment of shared human-ness, striking that space in us that is full of longing for belonging and of the need for connection. …
But also the disconnection – the dissonance in the melody of relationship, the surface of ego demanding spotlight. It’s time to step back, take care of our inner child, and ready ourselves for another meeting on the level of the spirits. …

Monday, November 7th
I am scared. I am scared shitless about the future. … I am afraid of turning out to be a mediocre writer, although I don’t see what’s wrong with that – perhaps it’s the social pressure of finding the dream job right away, the idea of our jobs representing who we are. … I realized that I don’t have many – any? – concrete, tangible fears. I am afraid of abstract things such as the future/uncertainty, and also of not being understood/accepted/loved by other people, but I can’t think of scary experiences in my life – for me, it’s a perpetual, long-term fear, not a moment of fear bursting into a flame and extinguishing itself just as quickly. I don’t want to play the victim card again (but I probably am), but when you have already experienced being an outsider, when you have already gone through several identity crises, perhaps your fear of spiders or operations cease to have such a huge influence on you.
In my melodramatic moments, I fancy myself an orphan – which is a slap in the faces of all the people who really do not have family, or parents who are so bad that being an orphan would be the better option. What I had refused to see, however, was how many people were trying to be my temporary family in small ways. But I never really let them, priding myself over my emotional independence, telling myself that while they were nice, I didn’t need them. Then, being a hypocrite that I am, I bemoan the fact that I am alone with my actual family far away.
Why do we isolate ourselves? Why do we push people away? Why do we punish ourselves?

Tuesday, November 8th
… I was feeling discouraged, and I did what might not have been such a good idea: I called Mom. My security blanket had been ripped off me, I felt hypersensitive and raw all over – like everyone was staring at me & judging me -, so I wanted to slip back to the role of a child and seek the comfort of my mother’s lap. Only she could not provide it anymore. So I start keeping things from her, and from my family. …

Friday, November 11th
… I don’t know how to love people whom I can’t see, touch or hear. I am constantly seeing only parts of their lives, and call me a perfectionist/purist/extremist, but I can’t love like that. I want the physicality of love or nor love at all.
… Is family a structure in which the members need each other or want each other? Is it both? Or neither? Or does it depend on the individual family?
… Maybe I don’t feel confident enough yet to face my family’s opinions. Maybe, one day, I will be able to comfortably share all of myself without worry or fear or anxiety. Until then, I’ll keep my life to myself.

Saturday, November 12th
Behind being torn about the future lies a fountain of feeling inadequate and the lack of my belief in myself. The fear of not knowing myself. Not trusting myself to be strong enough to survive the world outside of the academic bubble.
… I am afraid to trust my words, as if they are an entity to themselves, as if I could mangle them if I touch them. Maybe that’s because they seem to just pour out of me when I enter this zone of beauty – no, of life – and thus seem sacred. It must sound very pretentious to say that my writing seems sacred, but it’s not the really the words themselves; it’s the experience. …

Monday, November 14th
… I think it’s our human need to be understood & accepted that leads us to tell the people in our lives all sorts of things. We want to unload our most selfish, self-indulgent, and shameful thoughts on them, in hopes that they will absolve us from our burden, so that we can be light-hearted again, just like children after having confessed that it was us who has broken that glass jar.
But humans aren’t gods. We aren’t all-accepting, all-forgiving. We are often impatient and pre-occupied with our own lives. Other people unburdening on us feels intrusive –
I know all this and yet – and yet I find myself wanting to revert to being a kid and dump all of my problems on someone else’s shoes. The first person I think of is my mother, of course, perhaps also b/c I’m reading To the Lighthouse for my class and I am fascinated & daunted by Mrs Ramsay. …

children in the zoo

They asked my name. I let the sound of my name roll through my mind, but it sounded off-key somehow, as if I had hit a black key while playing a C major scale. Even though I only knew a handful phrases in this new language, I could hear that my name did not fit into this new melody.

I thought I was watching a movie, seeing all these kids with their light hairs and blue eyes and exotic facial structures – I couldn’t say what was different, aside from the obvious color difference, only that it was different –, just as I had seen them in the movie theater or at home on DVDs. But in truth, it was me who was on display, and they all gawked at me like I was some strange animal. I think the reality hit me then and there like a sack of flour thrown on my head. I was the stranger. I was the different one, not them. For the first time in my eleven years, I saw myself from the outside, as if my soul had left my body and was critically examining it: black hair, black eyes, exotic facial structure, darker skin. Just, somehow, different.

They asked me what the name of my best friend was. What did it matter? Her name sounded just as wrong as my name. Just as off-key. Just another thing to single me out as different. I hated my voice as it came out in whisper, because her name was tainted now. I would think of her name and not think of us hanging out after school, waiting for her mother to pick her up (and me secretly wishing that I could borrow a ride); not remember the afternoons we spent screaming in laughter; nor would I feel warmth rushing through me when I thought of our history, our friendship. Instead, when I thought of her name, I didn’t feel anything. She felt hollow, so incredibly far way both in physical distance and in myself, as if I had dreamed her up and now that I was awake, she was gone.

The world was a cold, lonely place. I lost my name, my friends, and my past in the course of maybe five minutes. They weren’t gone forever, of course, but they were covered, and it was only much later that I found the tools to carefully scrape off the surface as to damage neither the first layer nor the hidden painting underneath.

But discriminations feel similar, independent of what you are discriminated against. So when I feel like I am the unluckiest, unhappiest child under the sky, I think of the other black, Asian, Latin-American, indigenous people; of people of ethnic minorities; of women; of Muslims; of people of religious minorities; of people with disability; of people of rainbow colors; of people from abusive families; of people with poverty; of people with mental illness; of people with physical illness.
I think, too, of the people who couldn’t understand my experience but who did listen; people who made me feel welcome; people who didn’t make a big deal out of the difference; people who respected the difference; people with smiles, people with kind words.
Solidarity gives you strength, but small gestures of acceptance and friendliness smooths the sharp, jagged edges of pain. Sometimes I think growing strong means feeling more pain; without the occasional healing, we’d all go mad. Kindness is not a luxury; it’s a necessity.

December 2016 – Part I

Friday, December 2nd
… Our relationships are fragmented. Friendships aren’t bound to geographical locations anymore. We literally have friends from all over the world, friends whom we see maybe once a year if we are lucky. … We are still able to build on these friendships. Time may chip away at the foundation little by little, but we can renew a coat when we see each other again.
But we are always so busy catching each other up on the major events that have happened. As consequence, I have no one to turn to with the everyday tales – no one to fully share my life with. When I need a warm shelter from an emotional turmoil, I have no immediate number to dial, because first I’d need to renew some intimacy bridges with my friends before I pour out my woe to them.

Tuesday, December 6th
Return to mindfulness, Day Zero. …

Thursday, December 8th
… My body and I have a difficult relationship. At most, I tolerate my body. I have not grown to love it in all of its angles and varieties. I still hate my body in photos. My immediate thought is, no one will want to hug this ugly body.
Bodies are so… messy. So loud, burpy, slick with all sorts of liquids and semi-liquids. Bodies smell, sometimes terribly so. They make all kinds of noises.
But bodies are also wonderfully soft and comforting. Surprisingly agile and adaptive. They are an extension of ourselves, because they are so expressive. They are very intricate and delicately balanced out. The tip of our tongue leans against our palate and teeth to create sounds that have the tremendous power to release us from this agonizing isolation.

Friday, December 9th
… The best thing about the performance was this incredible and instinctive connectedness. As the showtime came nearer, we started to open up more, to rely on each other, to support each other. Audience didn’t really matter, only to the fact that their presence helped to bring us closer. Before, during and immediately after the performance – we were close and connected in ways that differ from the immediate & almost automatic love of family, or the easy and comfortable friendship, or even the quick surge of love between lovers.
Our connection was more instinctive. Intuitive. A smooth flow of bodies and consciousness. There was no judgment, only compassion. No one hid or shied away from the group. It was a big, warm hug, cozier than a sunny wintry morning with a cup of tea and a good book in front of a fireplace, safer than being in my mother’s arms.

Tuesday, December 13th
… Being strong means going through the life being who you are (or who you think you are), trying to not kill your heart but instead trying to feel its every beat. Being strong means allowing your heart to be torn into pieces and putting them back together, and letting that change you. Strength is the humble acknowledgment that we can’t control all of our lives, that unfair things will happen, that by chasing after happiness, we lose the present moment. …

Wednesday, December 14th
What is gender? What does it mean, in this 21st century, to be a woman? A man? By now, these have become personal questions for each of us, since there is no generalizable answer.
I find myself torn between wanting to assume the “traditionally male” behaviors and wanting to keep the integrity of femininity, whatever the fuck that means. Perhaps I should stop labeling/gendering everything I do, and just do whatever strikes my fancy.

Friday, December 16th
… I was afraid to have opinions, because none of them were “fully” informed, and I feared people would criticize me for it. The only thing that has changed is that I have begun to just acknowledge the shortcoming in myself & everyone else, because our opinions are always going to be partial, incomplete, subjective, unfinished.

December 2016 – Part II

Sunday, December 18th
I can already feel it happening. The slipping. The slide into conformity. The strange metamorphosis that takes place inside me at this strange place called airport. …

Tuesday, December 20th
…An oppressive force that kills my creativity and causes me to be (or at least try to be) the Angel of the House. It’s no wonder my sister can’t create anymore. Her time and energy are demanded and allocated already. The scary thing is that this culture? system? makes you want to be the Angel, so you give up your time & energy voluntarily.
… I don’t want to hide who I am, but I am camouflaging already, on auto-pilot. As my grandma went on about finding a husband & etc., I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I have met a person who is making me feel all these tender feelings, and that she’s a girl. …

Wednesday, December 21st (Yule)
… Family is all-consuming – you are a part of the bigger puzzle; each of us has a role to play and burden to share (we all lay out our burdens and divvy up). Opinions to ask for, advices to be sought after, even if you have no intention of heeding them. Even when you are far away, physically, your place is reserved for you. Once you come back, you are expected to slide into your role seamlessly. The only alternative, so I feel, is to alienate yourself from the web so much that you are finally cut off, and the gap you leave behind is filled quickly enough.
There are things that I have to necessarily hide, but these deceptions/half-truths don’t torment me as much anymore. Perhaps because I’ve finally accepted that demanding from my family to accept me unconditionally will create too much of a weight on this fragile web. …

Thursday, December 22nd
… I was thinking about whether ‘angel of the house’ is an appropriate term cross-culture, then I realized that there already is a Korean term for this phenomenon: 착한 여자, or ‘good woman’.’Good woman’ has, in the Western societies, a sexual connotation, but in Korea, ‘착한 여자’ is a woman who neglects herself, denies herself rest and pleasure, and spends all her time and energy on taking care of others’ needs. Critical voices have already commented on the toxicness and impossibility of such an ideal, but the truth (as I see it) is, our [Korean] cultural expectations breed such women. It’s couched in terms such as kindness, discipline, filial obedience, but the result is the same ‘착한 여자’. …

Friday, December 23rd
This is the place where I stopped growing. Each time I come back, no matter how much maturity I have gained in the mean time, I revert back to an 11-yr-old, all irrational irritations & too easily bent under the family pressure (while exerting the same pressure on sb else and so keeping the family “together”).
You are to take up a free-time activity that can be put down at a moment’s notice. Nothing that requires your concentration, for that’s needed somewhere else. Grandma never had the leisure to write any of her thoughts down, so she resorts to speaking. Whenever she lies down to rest, when any of her children/grandchildren are over for a visit, she tells us stories – but more often grievances. There are so many unvoiced stories inside her. …
Sorrow. There is so much sorrow here. Sorrow and guilt. …

Monday, December 26th
… It is funny – almost scary, even – how one becomes attuned to the moods of the others in the same microcosmic community. There was something off about Dad tonight, he didn’t plop himself in front of the TV as usual. Whether he knew it or not, he craved human connection, so he sought it from us – his gezin. And perceiving this, it was impossible to leave this island of community to attend to my own things. …

Tuesday, December 27th
Saints are boring. They certainly aren’t humans. To sacrifice oneself – the body, the mind, the soul, the time – for others is very ego-less, but it also lets one off the hook about developing oneself. …

Friday, December 30th
… It’s a curious culture, ours. Or theirs. Or anyone’s. I think there is a certain advantage to living with their primary family, i.e. the family they are born with, until they found a family of their own. There’s less loneliness, for one. A certain psychological stability. But certainly, there are also disadvantages – not using all the years (20s, 30s, 40s even!) to develop their own identity, to experiment, to find out who they are, to grow used to solitariness (even if they never get married & live with their primary family forever, some day their parents are going to die).
… It still feels like my heart’s being torn, that moment of saying goodbye, the instant of physical separation. The moment when the reconstruction begins, the self dissolves, and my head enters the schizophrenic zone again. …