41. happy holidays/return of the babies!

December 25, 2010 § 1 Comment

 

clueless baby:

robot baby:

so after my super huffy-puffy angry post i had a bout of reckless snowboarding the following day and fell really badly while going too fast and landed on my head and ended up with a concussion and some memory loss.  apparently i couldnt recognize my dad (when he called me over, i responded with ‘sir, why are you yelling my name?’), didnt know what year it was nor if i had graduated or not, and continued to ask the same questions over and over again (think dory in finding nemo. no memory of anything past three seconds).  for a couple of hours i forgot the anger towards my mom (only after reading my previous post did i remember), the pain i brought to a good friend, and the fact that i waas a jobless bum in korea.  and im not gonna lie – it felt goooodddd to be free of emotional baggage and to live moment-by-moment in a reality in which the past, present, and future encompasses a mere three seconds.  i still cant remember what happened during the hours immediately after the fall but im feeling better now minus a dull headache plus some major muscle soreness throughout my right side.  oh and i still cant lift my head by myself its as if my neck lost all desire to hold my head up.  -.-;;

soooooo yeah. i dunno. its kinda funny. well, not really. brain injury, no matter how transient or healable, is no laughing matter but the sequence of events is a bit dryly humorous.  super serious and angry and hurt –> reckless action –> fall on the head and temporarily lose proper brain function (aka reminder that at the end of the day, you are human and what you think is so important in one moment can be completely abolished in the next)

so what do i learn from all this? im not sure.  dont take life too seriously because you never know when youll smash your head and lose all that you think you know?  or maybe you should take life as seriously as possible because you never know when youll smash your head and lose all that you think you know.  or maybe it was all just a sequence of random unrelated events and there’s nothing to learn. well no, one thing i learned for sure: wear a helmet when you snowboard! and dont be reckless because youre angry.

anyways.  have a great holiday season everyone!  stay safe, stay warm, stay healthy, stay happy, and be thankful.  ill see you all in two weeks after i get back from some countryside to learn chinese characters from some korean guru dude.

i leave you with more babies:

<3

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40. my mom thinks im a failure

December 22, 2010 § 2 Comments

Warning: this is not a happy entry. don’t bother with it if you’re looking for holiday spirit.

I’ve been a fool.

I thought this trip to Korea and this whole getting-in-touch-with-family thing would be good for me, especially because I’ve been devoid of it for most of my life.  And in some ways, it has been great.  I’ve been getting to know my dad better, learning to love my mom during her time of sickness, and spending quality time with my brother.  I’ve been slowly establishing a home for myself so that I don’t have to be so scared to fall flat on my face in the ‘real world’ because ill have people to support me and a home to come back to.  I’ve been building a lot of self-confidence during this gap year and for the most part, my parents have been surprisingly supportive.

Or so I thought.

Growing up in a society that mandates their students to choose a life direction during high school and stick with it throughout their lives, Koreans are not so keen with the idea of experimentation.  Switching majors in college is next to impossible, and there is no sense of equating work with happiness and a sense of purpose.  Work is work, work is a means to gain money, and you need to do it as fast as possible.  Looking for a sense of purpose and happiness is foolish, and taking some time to redirect your life path means you’re physically or emotionally flawed.

While my parents definitely have had their apprehensions due to their cultural values, their time in the United States made my time off a bit easier to swallow.  I was under the impression that they trusted my decision-making skills enough to be supportive.  This felt really good – having other people believe in you, even if you don’t yourself, is an unmatchable catalyst for initiative and self-confidence.

Last night my mom and I had a heated discussion about something very small.  I really didn’t even think it was that big of a deal and was ready to concede my point of view because it made her so upset.  By the end of our discussion, I thought we had come to a decent compromise.  She was still upset, but I figured she was over-obsessing and that she would calm down the next day.  However, she wakes me up early in the morning to have another “discussion.”  Except now I realize that it’s not even about the initial subject anymore.  She brought up many points that say nothing short of “you are a disappointment.”

A list of inadequacies:

For one, she expressed that she sees my trip to India was a way for me to run away from larger society because I’m too scared to face the “real world.”  In all honesty, she’s not completely wrong.  Of course I’m scared of the real world (see post 25 for elaboration) – if it is anything like what I’ve experienced in the past, how can I expect the future to be any better? That’s why I wanted to get out to gain some different perspective, to challenge myself and finally do something that I’ve wanted to do for a while.  But I see now that my mom turns a blind eye to the accomplishments I’ve had and personal growth I’ve experienced while working with Pratit and being home.  Instead, what she primarily sees is a coward too scared of American society.

Secondly, she thinks that my taking a gap year is intended to punish her for the many years she didn’t adequately care for me and tells me I need to stop living in the past and move forward.  What the hell have I been doing for the past couple of months?  I’m trying to set aside the past pain by rebuilding our relationships so that my mental health is better equipped for the future.  And really though, my actions are not taken to spite her.  They are not directed towards her at all.  I’m too selfish for that.  My actions and inaction are directed towards me.  Why the hell would I spend the time and energy to feed her guilt if it does me a disservice??

And finally, she tells me that she wants to be able to be proud and parade around town telling everyone what a success I am and what a great job I have.

This. made. me. furious.

I was actually shaking with anger.  If you know me at all, you know I don’t feel angry easily. You know I don’t feel anything very easily. So when she said this even I was surprised at the insurmountable anger that bubbled up inside me.

Here’s the thing – excuse my language but she’s full of shit.  This sense of pride she wants to feel didn’t happen during middle school when I got all A’s like she wanted, it didn’t happen during high school when I was one of the few girls in my class to win a senior award, and it definitely didn’t happen when I graduated from a brand-name university.  It didn’t even happen when I was published in the New York Times.  So why in the world would it happen if I went to go work for some big-name company?  I can be the goddamn president of the world and fly to the fucking moon and she would still find some inherent flaw and reason to be upset.

The funny thing is that all this is nothing knew. I realized that seeking approval and affection from my parents was too much to ask – both of them grew up in poor and loveless households where they had to fight for survival.  Their own parents were too busy feeding mouths and had no means to concern themselves with matters of the heart.  Having never received proper love themselves, both my parents never learned how to give the kind of love and affection we all instinctively yearn for.

But let alone approval, I knew I couldn’t even ask them to understand my predicament. They grew up in a different world with different values and cultures.  My mom is always reminding me that people will try to rip me off, that the world is a horrible place, that there are glass ceilings and boundaries that I will never overcome no matter how hard I try.

I know she is well-intentioned.  I know she wants me to be prepared and wants to protect me from hurt.  But why are you such a downer and why cant you look at the positives for once? Why can’t you for once just tell me congratulations on beating the odds and coming as far as I have?  Why cant I be an idealist and think that the world can be trustworthy and that people aren’t out there to kill your soul and rob your pockets all the time?  Is that just stupidity?  Am I just that naive for thinking the world can be good?  Am I a fool for believing that people can be happy with their lives and their work if they seek to find what they love?  Am I really being that ridiculous??!??  (these aren’t rhetorical questions. if my head really is too far into the clouds, id appreciate a good slap back to reality).

The lack of approval and understanding is something I’ve come to terms with before.  But this time there was an added layer.  Despite all her talk of open-mindedness, she’s actually ashamed of me. She thinks I’m failing.

She used this metaphor to describe her views: she’s been building up hope from me with little pebbles to make some kind of monument or house or whatever but now she thinks that its all crumbling away.  I’ll do you one better. I’ll be the one to smash that thing to pieces. That building had no foundation and all it was a facade and a cover-up for a hollow person underneath.  And right now, I’m rebuilding myself on my own terms. It’s a shame you don’t like it.

When asked about my future plans, my mom would advise me not to tell the members of my dad’s church that I’m going to studying yoga for a month.   Why? Oh, because they wont understand, because Koreans are conservative and closed-minded.  They are going to think something is wrong with you either mentally or physically.  but that’s no matter because I, your mother, is more liberal and can understand you.  But just make sure when other people ask just say you’re studying philosophy or getting a teaching certificate or something more sensible.

And I thought okay, that’s pretty logical. I don’t like explaining the details of my life to every other person anyways. Little did I know, little did I realize that yes, the other people might think it’s weird and problematic for me to do what I’m doing but SHE THINKS THE SAME WAY.  My own mother thinks something is wrong with me because I choose to take the road less traveled for a year.  She makes excuses for me in public because in reality, she’s just as judgmental about my decisions as the next Korean traditional.

This is where I had my moment of incredulous laughter.  You know, this whole time I’ve always thought something was inherently wrong with me – that I was too broken to be loved, to be liked, to be appreciated.   Now I realize this wasn’t something that I came up with on my own.  I’ve been fed this message my entire life.

In conclusion:

I know my entry is really bitter and spiteful. Even so, at the end of the day, I love my mother because well, she’s my mom.  despite her flaws, she’s the closest I have to a best friend and when push comes to shove, she is there for me.  she is also a woman of amazing willpower and dedication.  she’s crossed insurmountable boundaries to provide for those she loves and no one can take away the pride she’s accumulated from scratch.  but I realize now that there are things that even she is just incapable of understanding due to her own upbringing and cultural codes.

I can’t look to either of my parents for approval.  I now know I cant even ask for understanding. and expecting mental support is just ridiculous.  I need to understand their limits and stop setting myself up for disappointment.  they provide for me with my basic physiological needs (food, housing, money), which I am more than grateful for. I know I’m lucky to have two living parents at all and I know that even taking this gap year is a luxury most people can’t afford. I’ve asked for a lot already and I need to stop asking them to fulfill my psychological needs because it just ends up hurting both sides. those of you who grew up in loving households and have parents who are supportive of your unique tendencies and love you for who you are, be grateful. its not a given.

you need hope, faith, and confidence to move on with your life, especially if the next step seems scary and unknown.  It’s great if those around you can provide enough support to boost your self-confidence and dampen your self-doubt.  but if that is not an option for you, realize that you have to think the world of yourself because no one else will do it for you.

don’t let yourself be knocked down by the words or thoughts of others, even your own mother, because you’ll spend your whole life trying to pick up fruitless pieces.  build yourself up on your own terms with strong foundations.  you may come off as arrogant.  your grandfather may scrutinize you for not being a proper investment return. a friend might call you a pretentious snob.  your mom may think you a disappointment. the greater public may think you’re weird. it doesnt matter. just realize that all these people are well-intentioned and love you in their own way. but when it comes to your own sense of self, Dr. Seuss was right –  be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

thank you for reading my angry post.  happy holidays  :)

39. vending machines

December 18, 2010 § 6 Comments

 

drinks…expected.  coffee…sure why not.  cigarettes……. eh?

38. japanese lights

December 16, 2010 § 1 Comment

 

sparkly shiny things shaped like giant whales and hearts make me happy :D  (click to enlarge)

 

37. reflections

December 15, 2010 § 5 Comments

ive been pushing this off for a while. heres a recap of my weekend visa-renewal-trip to hiroshima:

yes, that is a giant whale-light in the middle of the street

-the moment i landed at hiroshima international i made a dumb mistake.  this is what i get for embarking on a trip with half a mind. long story short, i ended up overpaying for an unnecessary cab ride and beat myself up as i watched the meter nerve-wrackingly increase for half an hour (note to future travelers: the hiroshima airport is NOT in hiroshima -.-;;).  but when we entered the city i just started getting really happy.  the air just changed. i dont know how else to explain it.  it was nighttime and the area was just…calm. peaceful.  not forcefully so – it was just still.  the architecture was touching and i saw this row of fabulous christmas lights.  i checked into the hotel and went for a late night walk.  as i walked through the streets and watched little asian babies run happily around the lights and couples taking cute pictures, i just got really happy even though i was unbelievably stressed right before the trip. this sense of calm lasted throughout the weekend.  yay!

 

joy

-even the hotel made me really happy – my room was small and quaint, with great attention to detail. soft robes, a steaming sauna on the top floor with amazing shampoo, cute little japanese/american breakfast buffet, and smiling faces all around.

written language is a squiggle that we assign with meaning. weird.

-people there just seem so pleasant and caring.  theres a sense of bettering the society for all instead of the self.  maybe its because i was in hiroshima, a city with a history of significant trials and tribulation, but it just felt so nice. and. parts of japan are so blatantly strange that i feel normal. but even those that would normally be considered ‘deviant’ in the States or Korea seem to be comfortably so and accepted by the larger society as one of their own. or maybe all this is in my head because i cant understand the language.  but i dunno. strangeness is embraced here and i just felt good. inspired. like everything was going to be okay.

wtf?

-is it ironic that i feel like i belonged in a place where i had no contacts nor spoke the native tongue? it was a surprisingly nice feeling – in the States we’re taught that being different and standing out from the norm is a good thing, and while I agree that everyone wants to feel special, the competition-based US mentality makes it so easy to overlook the joys of a shared cause and being in the company of people with common sympathies.   Standing out and being independent is great, but as humans we sometimes want, no, need, to feel less alone.

before and after the a-bomb. disturbing.

-visited the hiroshima peace memorial, a park-and-museum complex designed to commemorate the tragic losses during the atomic bombing at the end of WWII.  it was weird. ive always have a lot of inner conflict about weapons of mass destruction.  on one hand, the resulting tragedy is a horrible testament to how people can inflict unbearable pain and loss onto others.  on the other hand, the weapons themselves are so extremely elegant – the science and engineering behind each is astonishing, the detonation itself and the resulting progression of clouds and light are visually stunning, and there is something utterly beautiful about the delicate potential for destruction and power, the fact that your life as you know it is uncontrollable in that you can be gone in a split second contrasted with the fact that you also hold the power to make your life as you will.

 

after the detonation, the dust and ash remnants fell from the skies as precipitation.  survivors refer to this as ‘black rain.’ here you see a wall stained with black rain from the hiroshima bombing. crazy!

and in not so many words:

why yes, i do like men with my salad and alcohol

theres a lot of stuff in japan.

i really wanted this jacket but i couldnt justify the cost.  took a pic instead.

breakfast buffet at the hotel. odd mix but delish!

okonamiyaki, the signature dish of hiroshima.  noodles with vegetables, meat, and egg atop a flat pancake drizzled with some special sauce and green onions. a korean at heart, i ordered mine with kimchi :)

happy people + happy music = happy world japanese engrish?

-went for a midnight walk during my second night there and came across a row of street performers (click for video).  in addition to curious babies, confused animals, and the first snowfall, simple live music is something that makes me pause and smile.  musicians, especially street ones, are so happy and passionate (2nd video!) and loving what they are doing exactly at that moment – how can you not feel all warm inside?

 

love love love japanese apartment architecture and store designs.  every corner was like a little treat.  its like a real live disneyland with much more creative yet sensible design.

-and the city was contrasted with amazing layers of mountains fading into the distance.

-i want more japan!



36. hello hiroshima, pt. 2

December 14, 2010 § 2 Comments

 

I.

II.

35. lets get physical

December 12, 2010 § 4 Comments

boys are creepy.

i used to have this absurd fear of getting raped.  or being physically violated.  or just being physical.  i grew up in a christian household and every Sunday i was sent the same message: sex is bad. bodily desire is evil. you are a horrible person and will spend a lifetime of terror if you appreciate your physicality.  and when i was young close girlfriends shared horror stories of significantly older men taking inappropriate actions against them and i decided early on that all men must be walking penis machines who are ruled by the desire to get into your pants.  i wish i was exaggerating, but that is literally what i thought for a long time.  this left me uncomfortable with even the smallest sign of physical affection from boys – all the fibers in my body froze and i held my breath in terror when anyone would hug me or touch my arm to guide me across the street.  this discomfort seeped into my relationships with girlfriends as well – i still have to fight the urge to shrivel up into a ball when my childhood friends hug me.

the fact that i went to an all-girls middle/high school didnt help the situation.  my only exposure to boys during my teenage years came in the form of a few guys at my church whom i considered brothers moreso than “real” boys.  while the other teens were experimenting with different tactics to gauge, maintain, and expel an assortment of platonic, romantic, or physical intimacy, the closest i got to experiencing social norms was to observe people through their myspace profiles and xanga entries.

all in all, i entered college with all the fear in the world of being touched and none of the experience to handle the opposite sex.  as i started meeting guys at parties, this was my greeting: “dont rape me.” seriously. or, another favorite, “are you scheming to take advantage of me?” or some variation of the same message: dont you dare even think about touching me without my permission.

mr.Z, an oddball boy who somehow gained my trust as a non-predator and with whom i frequently consulted for a male perspective, advised me not to do that because id scare all my prospects away – but i couldn’t help myself.  my dreaded fear of being touched created a dire need to do anything and everything in my power to prevent physical contact.  even when i was mindnumbingly drunk and felt a desire to experiment, that little voice in my head always stopped me short of acting upon those impulses.  needless to say, mr.Z was right – i never did end up hooking up with anyone during college. no day-after regret for me. no walk of shame. i win!

…or did i?

on friday i went out for the first time in months.  XYZ, a public speaking and leadership group i joined, held a christmas party at a local restaurant/bar downtown.  we then ended up going to dinner and then hung out at a bar stockpiled with foreigners. i found myself in a situation where i was meeting new people, dancing, drinking, and letting the music fill my being.

i didnt notice him at first.  upon first glance i did recognize his face from an XYZ meeting and thought he was harmlessly cute.  but then again, unless you are super aesthetically unpleasing to the eye, i think everyone is cute.  well actually i take that back. i even think ugly people are cute.  anyways, point is, i didnt think twice – during dinner, he was doing his own thing at his table and i was getting to know my table and cracking jokes with a bright and energetic girl from Miami.  Same thing at the bar – my long island count was increasing and i was feeling really happy to be dancing away in my own lala land where the music was good and i was slowly but surely making friends.

sometime during the night he came up and talked to me – he was smiley and nice and my buzzed self was thinking ‘oh yay! new friend hello!’ so we hung out and talked for a bit. our group then decided to head towards a second bar.  more friends yay!  i remember exchanging some fun banter with a new yorker (i realized im very comfortable around big city minority americans. also, this is the point where my memory becomes unreliable for specific details).  we go to the second bar, it turns out to be subpar, and we end up at the universal late-night favorite: mcdonalds. yum.  and then somehow i found myself at a quaint hookah bar with this cool white girl to have a deep conversation about exactly what i cant recall (something about american perspectives on korea and the cultural discrepancies between the two?).  thats when i looked to my left and realized that the same guy was sitting there, listening patiently and chilling out.  i felt rude for having such an A and B conversation and i remember apologizing and asking him if he was comfortable, and he replied that he was having a good time. the three of us shared a bottle of wine and continued on with the conversation.

as the night was coming to an end the three of us headed out to say our goodbyes.  i was still buzzing but was coherent enough to get myself home (maybe that was drunken overconfidence speaking, but its not like i havent been in these situations before ^^* ).  flash to the next scene and i find myself walking arm-in-arm and leaning against this mystery man at 4am.  i know, sounds shady.  but something very strange happened that night – the usual internal alarm system that screams “alert! alert! creepster man wants to get in your pants go dump him NOW” was oddly quiet………it was replaced with….apprehensive comfort? in the back of my mind that little voice was still keeping a critical eye and getting ready to bust out my obnoxious self-defense moves at any sign of shady business, but that wasn’t necessary. we exchanged some pleasantries, smiled a bit, he caught me a cab, and texted to make sure i got home okay. and that was it. and it was nice.

hm. now im confused.

you know, in the past, this kind of situation, especially one that would involve such unexpected physical contact, would have freaked me out and my impulses would tell me to run away as fast as possible, even if i had any lingering attraction to the guy in question. but this one was a bit different…a bit gentlemanly? i dont know.  i got confused.  i was definitely wary, but i didnt want to run away like i usually do. he was nice. or maybe he was just that good at “the game”. who knows. point is, i had two key takeaways from this experience:1. although he did a good job in easing into my comfort zone, there existed a more significant key contributor that i haven’t mentioned: self-comfort.  be confident and appreciate yourself enough to be okay with the idea that someone kinda likes you.   for a long time i thought people who are interested in me and enjoy my company must be psychotic.  i thought/think this because sometimes i think my inner self is so crazy and unlikable that anyone that is interested in me must be even more problematic.  this is basically the rationale behind my last post – i realized that you guys read this thing because you want to. no one is forcing you to take the time to read my blabber. you guys…are interested? people out there…like me?  that. is. weird.  throughout my post-college journey ive been trying to change this self-defeatist mindset around to become more comfortable in my own skin and to embrace the parts of me that ive kept hidden. while i still have a long way to go to achieving inherent self-confidence, i know this budding sense of self-comfort is helping me to accept the affections of others instead of automatically pushing it away and running in the opposite direction, whether it was coming from a boy or a girlfriend or even family members.

2.   about men being walking penis machines – i think i have to give you boys some more credit.  the thing is, guys are visual creatures and in some sense, your brains are hard-wired to impulsively want to plant their seed into every pretty little thing that passes them by (girls, we’re not much better – think about your extreme undulations of emotional crises during PMS season that leave everyone, including yourself, a bit confused).  but here is the shocker — some guys know how to keep their penis-brain under control.  some guys actually try. its definitely not easy for them, but its not impossible.  looking back on last night and reflecting on the multitude of good male friends i made during college, i realize i’ve been unfair.  not all men are pigs. somewhere out there are trustworthy people with character and morals.  its our job to learn to differentiate from the ones that can and the ones that cant, between the ones that are strive for self-control and the ones that are too weak to try.

hmmm maybe not.

that last point isnt to say that everyone (girls included) needs to be automaton-self control machines that never act on impulses or passions.  in fact, acting on our impulses and passions make for some of the best moments in our lives.  but they also make for some of our worst.  the trick is to be wise about when to let that passion take over and when to tame the animal inside us.

in conclusion:

yes, during my time in college i managed to avoid any post-hookup regret and i am more than grateful that i wasn’t the unfortunate victim of a sexual assault.  but my extreme fear of being known made me completely oblivious to and unappreciative of the beautiful side of affection: the comfort of a farewell hug from your best friend, the healing properties of massaging your sick mother, the communion of sharing a meal, the warmth of a genuine smile, and the unexpected calm of a gentle hand to the small of your back.

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