Tag Archives: mumbling

On Goodbyes

31 May

It has been very hectic several weeks recently, mainly because I’ve been running around to say goodbyes to everyone leaving Singapore. Yes, I do know that Singapore is an ever changing economic hub that is more or less transitory destination for many people (sadly), and a lot of my friends have been here for graduate school education for 2 years, so there was nothing unexpected. But after several trips to the airport (which is on the opposite side of the town from where I live, by the way), I got to think more about what this human ritual that I can never get used to is about.

Really, there’s nothing “good” about goodbyes, and nothing “fair” about those farewells.

You may already know that I’m not such an expressive person (my Asian upbringing, hint hint) when it comes to emotions. I’d rather hide behind my strong, tough facade, and many people have found it troubling (and hopefully fascinating too), because I appear to have the bubbly, loud, “American” personality at first. But I really stink at how I truly feel and care about the people that I love, and it has been an interesting journey with many of my close friends due to such personalities of mine. But the only time that I actually express my feeling is when I cry. I get embarrassed by it a lot, but often I can’t help it. In Korean, they say that I “have lots of tears.” Yes, I do. I have lots of tears, partly because of the regrets from not showing the others how much I care and love them, partly because I am not sure when I’m gonna see them again.

But the biggest reasons why I can’t help but being extremely sad is my fear of being detached. For someone who identifies herself as a “lost child of the world,” I feel very attached to the sense of attachment, if this makes sense at all. I always try to create a “home” wherever my next destination is, and the home, the family, happens to be the friends that I make. I attach myself to them, and I dwell on the sense of belonging. The whole appearance of independence that I pull off actually comes out of the security that I have from this home, and it is the only reason why I am not fragile. In many ways, they have become a part of me.

So no, a piece of myself leaving me is not good and not fair. I hate it so much.

Then I look back at all the goodbyes I was forced to say. Tons and tons of them, with my own family in Korea, best friends from middle school to go to the States, college friends that I bonded over intellectual and not-so-intellectual conversations with Chinese food and cheap drinks, ex-boyfriends who wanted too much or too little from/of me, people that I loved so much but never managed to let them know fully, and most importantly, the person I used to be. I leave a piece of me behind whenever I have to say goodbye to my homes, my people, my loves.

And over the pain of not-so-good, unfair state of things, I still stand straight, chin up, and walk on, hoping that it will be a new day tomorrow that brings me a bit of healing.

Day 30: Finally the Last Day!!!

18 Mar

So this is FINALLY the last day of my 30-Day Project (although I’m posting this a couple of hours after Saturday)! Spending my entire evening packing my luggage –yet again— to head to Singapore (yes, I have a job now), I asked myself why I began and held on to this project over the past one month or so.

Yes, of course, I wanted to do something productive with my time, and I wanted to commit to something for at least for a month (although I don’t think I’m over my “commitment-phobia” issue, just yet). But as I went along, I realized that it was more than that. I was re-learning about what I had been passionate about and who I really was. During the past 2 years or so, I had been studying public policy and utterly confused about how the discipline could actually be connected to my passion, to the things that really mattered to my life, from my home country to academic origin as an anthropologist to social justice and human rights issues. But by writing about something everyday, whether I had something that I was dying to write and talk about, or I was going through internet endlessly seeking some inspiration, I always found something that I could write about. Some postings were over 1,000 words and others were only 200 words or so. But everyday, I thought about what I would write (throughout the day), then sat down in front of my laptop in the evening, then I produced, sometimes to fulfill my “public duty” or other times, to bring my thoughts together.

And I learned how to be myself in front of others. Yes, I promised that I would write on women and gender issues, and I think I was pretty good with following the theme. However, when the whole thing comes down to the essence, I was selfishly and shamelessly writing about myself. I rarely talk about my personal stuff with others, and many of my friends find it difficult to get to know me, because I rarely share anything personal. It hasn’t always been intentional, but it has been more of my personal habit of protecting myself, perhaps overly. But here, whatever the topic of that day was, I always related it to my personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. During the process, I remembered lots of my life stories. My life hasn’t been that long, and my memory can be very selective (just like yours), but I had to collect them together in order for me to survive. I was working on a “storytelling project” for a very, very selfish reason of telling my stories to others via this internet means, and ultimately, re-narrating them to myself, so that I can locate where I am in my life.

Chimamanda Adichie said that she once thought that a good writer/storyteller is someone who had gone through tremendous tragedies in her life, and when she realized that she didn’t have anything standing out in her own life, she mourned for the lack of tragedies (However, she later realized that the power to tell different stories can be much more powerful, while there is always the danger of telling a single story). I was worried at times, too, and even afraid. I don’t particularly feel that I’ve had many challenges in my life that I could tell others with interesting flavors. And because I was like this, I always had the thoughts behind my back, asking “who am I to make comments about the others’ stories as if they are my own?” This was perhaps related to my old habit of self-consciousness that I mentioned earlier. But I chose not to be afraid of judgments, because I know that I (and my thoughts) cannot be loved by everyone, and I want to accept that it is OK not to be part of the harmony that other people demand.

BUT I would like to think that some of my stories were different (from what? I’m not sure), yet genuine. I hope that some people were able to relate to my thoughts and experiences, and find themselves in my stories. This habit of writing is likely to continue (although probably not on daily basis), and I hope that I will have many more stories and dreams to share with others.

And I give a gentle, self-congratulatory pat on my back.

Day 25: Growing Up to Be a Woman, Not a Girl

10 Mar

While I have been online aimlessly, looking for some sort of inspiration for my posting today, I ran into this “call for submission” on the Huffington Post. It was a call for video on “The moment I knew I was a woman, not a girl.” Really, when did I become a woman from a girl? Interesting question to ask myself. I mean, there is no clear boundary in between, but I know for sure that I’m not a girl anymore (well, I still have my kid moment time to time). So I started to look back in my life.

I would say that it was the time when I learned that I had almost no money left in my bank account during graduate school. I declared to my parents that I would not get any more money from them unless I was desperate and borrow some (to be paid back later), and other than the money I received for the initial settlement in Singapore, I refused any monetary help from them. It was horrible to think that I had to count every single penny in my wallet while the grad school stipend was not enough. Often, I was looking for the cheapest product at the grocery store, and there was absolutely no possibility for shopping just for fun. I have had a part time job or two since I was 16, but this time, I really needed every single dollar that I earned for mere survival. In times of emergencies, I did borrow some money from my parents, though, and until now, I owe them about 3,000 dollars for the period that I had been in graduate school, which I’m planning to pay back after I start working (very soon!).

Now I ask you. When was the time that you became a woman, not a girl? When was the time that you became an individual who is fully responsible for your actions and thoughts without depending on or blaming others? It is still terrifying at times to think that I am the only person with all the duties, but I guess we all would have to face the exciting and challenging times.

Day 23: Maybe There Is Still Hope for Love

7 Mar

I often say that there is nothing permanent but plastic. Yes, on many things in life, I’m a pessimist, and yeah, maybe I’m jaded. I tend to apply this theory on love, especially when it comes down to the romantic kind. While I do enjoy chick flicks and what not, it has been often hard for me to think and feel that it is something everlasting. Maybe I think it is from the over-commercialization of love that I have observed, or maybe all the breakups and divorces that I have witnessed around me.

But I recently ran into a story that is made into a documentary movie in Korea called “Planet of Snail,” and I saw a tiny possibility that my thought could change. The documentary is observing a couple’s life. The thing that is special about this couple is the fact that both of them are handicapped. The wife had some spinal issues when she was younger, causing her to be very short. The husband cannot see or hear due to illness when he was young, although he can speak. The wife learned sign language, and she communicates her thoughts with him with her fingers, holding his hands. It takes tremendous effort for the couple to change a light bulb, because she is too short and he cannot see or hear. But they make it work together while she speaks to him with hands, and he sees the light bulb (and the world) through her.

The husband is an aspiring writer, and his sentences that are shown in the trailer are simply beautiful (and you will know what I mean if you are someone who appreciates Korean literature and language at all), full of imagination and freedom. And I firmly believe that his words are coming from his connection with his wife. Their words might be limited in human language perhaps, but the love that I saw in these people was something more than tangible words that any “normal” human beings can produce with their limited imagination.

After all, the things that we think are important in romantic relationships (with the potential contractual institution of marriage) –how we look, how much money we have, how well one can express his/her love for the other, how many friends the potential partner has, what kind of talent one can show off— may have nothing to do with love, because they ultimately don’t matter when it comes down to what the two people in the relationship share. What made me want to watch the trailer for more than 10 times was the “love” that I have never seen before. They opened different worlds for each other and saw the possibilities that one could not even dream of by himself/herself. They are completely in love with the universe they are creating with each other everyday.

IF this is not love, if this is not permanent, what is? I heard people say love is all about courage, and these are probably the most courageous people that I have seen in a long time.

(photo from Yonhap News, http://media.daum.net/entertain/enews/view?cateid=1034&newsid=20120307091810906&p=yonhap)

Day 20: Quote Lingering in My Thoughts All Day

3 Mar

Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, a good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-dressed, well-groomed, and unaggressive. ~Marya Mannes

This reminds me of the popular phrase at Duke when I was still a student there: Effortless Perfection. How many of us are STILL pursuing this so that we don’t have to feel guilty about being human?

Day 16: Being a 20-Something Woman Is…

28 Feb

When I was little, maybe when I was 5 or 6, I fantasized a lot about being a grown up, being 25 ot 26 perhaps. I thought, how great would it be to have a job I love, earn money and spend however I want? How awesome would it be to wear make-up and high heels? How happy would I be to be married and have 2 kids, hopefully a girl and a boy? How would it be to be a woman, not a girl? Well, these were the images of adults that I got from TV and my surroundings.

And 20 years later, here I am. I am pretty far away from the person that I dreamt of when I was 5 or 6.

I haven’t had a full-time job until now because I have been in school, basically just spending money and barely getting by to pay my bills, thanks to some of my part-time jobs. A job I love? I would be happy for any job at this point, because I know that I should not be depending on my parents. I’m too old and proud for that.

I wear make-up a handful of times a year, part of it because I am too lazy to put it on and remove it at the end of the day. I mean what’s the point? I wear my high heels fewer times than I wear my make-up, because they hurt my feet that happen to be slightly wider than they should be.

I am, not very surprisingly, still not married and not intending to get married anytime soon. For this, I have yet to get into a decent relationship where I can be happy and confidant about my commitment (“trial and error” they say, although I would have preferred fewer of them). Of course, I’m not intending to have children any time soon.

And despite my age of 20-something, I still feel like a girl, and I chuckle a bit when I think of myself being a woman. I don’t feel that much more different than when I was 16, in terms of recognition of my own age.

Basically, I haven’t achieved anything that the society has expected out of 20-something year olds.

But am I unhappy for not being able to be that woman that I wanted to be (or others said that I should become) 20 years ago?

Looking back, I am actually rather happy about the unexpected outcomes in my 20s so far than being disappointed about the things that I haven’t achieved (yet). I mean there is room for improvement always, and I am not a model citizen anywhere, but I think I’ve done alright.

I did not expect to live in and travel through various different countries. I have eaten different types of food from East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Americas, and Africa, and honestly enjoyed all of them. I have become an aunt to many babies, whether they are my cousins’ or friends’ kids, and felt that I am really not just a kid anymore. I re-learned how to eat with my hands in Ghana (First time? It was when I started to eat some solid food, probably when I was 1 or 2, just like yourself) and practiced the same habit for Indian food. I got to speak and appreciate two languages and have enjoyed literature in both languages. I became friends who are of different countries, cultures, and religions and shared so many different views towards the world that we are living in (and really, it’s quite mind-blowing). I reconnected with my own culture and have made peace with myself that I can belong to all as long as I am proud of them all.

And I achieved all of the above without achieving any of the things that I imagined 20 years ago. My 20s has been filled with much more unexpected joy and learning, although some were more challenging than others. I haven’t had as much money as I would have worked, but hey, the extent of relationships that I have developed, all the food that I’ve tried, all the books that I read, and all the places I’ve traveled to enriched my experience tremendously. I am not a professional woman, not a beautifully decorated woman, and not a partner/wife/mother that I imagined I would be, but I wouldn’t give up all the experiences that I had for anything.

And most importantly, I still dream of more journeys that I can learn more about myself, about others, and about love, regardless of what others have to tell me what I should do. Being a 20-something woman has been awesome like that, and I hope I can say the same 20 years later reflecting back on my 20s.

Day 14: Nicholas Kristof Depresses Me

25 Feb

I’m gonna write something that is not directly related to women’s/gender issues. It is more on a particular writer and international development, but it is my belief that these are interconnected issues as many women (and men) of the world are still very much excluded from achieving better quality of lives and human rights.

I have read quite a few of Nicholas Kristof’s writing, and I even read a book written by him and his wife, Half the Sky. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, he is a big time NYT columnist who has been writing extensively about women’s human rights in developing world.

But can someone tell me why his “courageous acts” never fails to appear to me as journeys based on “White Man’s Burden?” Watch this video first.

http://video.nytimes.com/video/2011/12/03/opinion/100000001203762/win-a-trip-2012.html

It just makes me feel uncomfortable that he often (dangerously and surprisingly naively) claims that people who might be ignorant but means well should get out of America (or whatever their comfort zone might be) and explore the developing countries. While these people may infinitely benefit from the life changing experience, I believe that their short visits are quite invasive to the daily lives of the people in the developing countries who have to live with poverty probably for the rest of their lives whether they come or not. Their visits may even give these people false hope that making personal relationship with them could possibly lift them out of poverty. I have seen such efforts, and it is quite heartbreaking and uncomfortable.

The “natives” or “those unfortunate women” being the elements that satisfy the voyeuristic pleasure. It doesn’t sit quite well with me. But then, isn’t all development literature coming from more or less that viewpoint? Aren’t we all, the citizens of developed countries (and those who are fortunate enough to get out of poverty or to be born in well-off families in developing countries), just talking gibberish about what poverty and injustice are to those who are subalterns (the entities who do not even have autonomy)? And who are we to call them subalterns? Or should we forget all of these “unproductive” arguments and just move on to come up with better solutions?

These questions ought to be constantly debated, and they are never going to have awesome answers for me (that could clear my head eventually), but those debates are honestly quite exhausting…