journey

Horoscopes, God and trying to drink from the caffeine-free fountain of happiness

Photo by Chansereypich Seng on Unsplash

When I met Carter, I assumed that because he was a Scorpio we were meant to be. To add to this, his Myers Briggs personality was INTP, supposedly the ‘golden’ other half to my own personality type. When I told him about our supposed magical compatibility, he scoffed, asked me to massage the invisible knot in his upper back, and then proceeded to text me like I was his overdue homework. Needless to say, despite all the stars in the astrological sky aligning, our companionship was less than stellar.

I guess now would be a good time to tell you my star sign is Cancer. “I knew it! That’s the first sign that sprung to mind!” — is probably what you were not thinking. Growing up I would read out of a giant horoscope encyclopedia like it was the bible and dream of being the peacekeeper it said I was destined to be. Did I really share innate qualities with the 19 million living humans that shared my birthday? Not to mention, the other millions of humans who were born between June 21 and July 22? Because if so, there would probably be a lot more peace.

Perhaps it’s silly to believe horoscopes can determine your future, decipher your past, and explain why the occasional crap you roll around in your present day never seems to cease. Perhaps it’s silly to believe that I’m most romantically compatible with Scorpios like Carter who needed a sports massage, not a girl with weak wrists, to eliminate the immortal knots in his back. Perhaps I shouldn’t change my name to Moonchild and wear jewel-toned sweatpants on rainy days just because the psychic in a magazine said so.

My very miniscule obsession with horoscopes stemmed from the fact that a star sign doesn’t require anything except existence. Contrary to cultural and religious cards that I was dealt at the conception of my life, a star sign doesn’t have pre-requisites. I found out they could fill, at least a little bit, that void of direct guidance from God.

So yes, the crux of all this preamble is that actually my relationship with God is on the rocks and that scares me.

God seemed to be a constant fixture of my life growing up. My birth was God-sent, maybe not prayed about to begin with but definitely prayed about afterwards. I was given a name and a blessing when I was brought to church for the first time and it seemed I spent as much time on Sunset Road chapel as I did at school.

I turned to God every day. I would talk to this mysterious being, imagining him sitting on a throne as I poured out my heart and soul to him every night. I begged him to give me guidance and to help me through difficult times. I thanked him for all the little things I was given, including the trees and the bees and the beautiful sea I grew up next to.

Then I was introduced to Jesus. The son of God, a man who was perfect, understood all my pain and suffering because he chose to. Because he loved me, I would be able to overcome my pain, my mistakes and my weak physical body and thus reach heaven spotless.

But unlike horoscopes, belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing deity is a little bit more complex.

Because when your horoscope tells you that you are going to have a successful marketing pitch that will be approved by the whole team, you don’t get a migraine trying to figure out how it could be so inaccurate because you are just a waitress and you don’t think suggesting a new soup really counts.

On the flipside, when you feel like God tells you are going to meet people that will change your life, and that you should look after them, you get a migraine when you realize they just want your money and will stop at nothing, even you, to get it. Sounds overdramatic. But this happened, and it wasn’t pleasant.

That is when you wonder whether God is inaccurate. Or possibly non-existent. Because I can take full responsibility for my own actions — if something bad happens because of my human mistakes and my naiveté, then fine. I mean, that sucks, but it’s fine. But what if you got some kind of undeniably powerful spiritual experience like never before? What if you simply cannot deny that you had an experience that defied logic and science, and was a direct God-given instruction? You would follow it right? But after following it, what if it felt like it completely destroyed the ground under your feet? How do you explain that? Can you just believe, just like before?

I’m aware that people reading this include my fellow Mormon friends. I’m aware that I spent 18 months telling people to trust in God and keep holding on, even though it’s hard. I’m not saying I don’t believe, I’m saying I’m hurt. And in order for me to process that hurt and move on, I had to take responsibility for the events that transpired, and believe that people are people and bad things just happen by chance and by consequence. It wasn’t planned by God, or anything like that. The spiritual experience, though I believed at first was undeniable, needed to be denied and deleted.

So, I stopped wanting to get answers from God about a year ago. When I met God, I assumed that because he was a Heavenly Father I was meant to be his child. To add to this, his son was perfect, supposedly the ‘golden’ antidote to my own personal sins. When I told God about my gratitude of being raised in the church, he blessed me, asked me to serve a mission overseas and tell the people of my miraculous witness of his Son in my life. Needless to say, despite my fiery testimony and tenacity, my success in being heard and accepted was less than stellar.

Perhaps it’s silly to believe that a God above can determine your future, decipher your past, and explain why the occasional crap you roll around in your present day never seems to cease. Perhaps it’s silly to believe that I’m most romantically compatible with other Mormons despite the cultural and racial divides that seem a bit too big to cross. Perhaps I shouldn’t change my name to God’s child and wear longer shorts on Summer days just because the apostle in a pamphlet said so.

My belief in God stemmed from the fact that being his daughter doesn’t require anything except existence. Contrary to cultural and socioeconomic cards that I was dealt at the conception of my life, it seemed like God didn’t have pre-requisites. I found for the most past, being God’s child, could fill, at least a little bit, that void of not fitting in with my community, not fitting in with my ethnicity, and the country I was born.

But maybe I was wrong. Maybe in order to drink from the fountain of happiness (which according to Utahns, is made out of caffeine-free soda) and achieve identity and belonging, I should just stick with star signs.

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journey, self-esteem, Uncategorized

I’m not going to write you a love song

 

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Writing is edited, proof read, spell-checked, and read over and over again. But real life is not. Sara Bareilles is not going to write you a love song. And nor will I. The last year or so has not been a love song. And it’s a bit hard to write about it.

I have suffocated 61 blog post drafts, starving them of the air of publishing that they crave. They weren’t perfect. They didn’t have enough references. They were too personal. They were too ugly. So I’m giving myself an experiment to write for 1 hour and publish whatever I come up with.

I haven’t written in a few months. I used to pride myself on how words could just flow out of my fingers and orchestrate what I felt were linguistic melodies. But I hit a stump. I made a couple more “friends” and “followers” who I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my innermost opinions and thoughts. Whilst writing may seem like an art form, rarely is it describing something perfect. I write to describe the misshapen, the ugly, the unfit, the things you don’t post on Facebook for likes. I only write when the sun is fast asleep under its cover of night, with the only sound being the clank of every keystroke on my laptop.

But what if the things you are feeling are so devastatingly ugly, that it feels only right that no one should see it? To a degree that no human being, nor a God above could knock on your door and read the profane slogan on your cheap t shirt and think, “Oh yes, I still respect her for purchasing that.” In fact, rather than inspire and uplift, it disturbs? When you worry about reactions of family, you worry about friends, past professors, people you’ve dated, bosses and people you’ve connected with on LinkedIn. What do they think of me? Am I marketing myself properly? Am I showing the world that I am a product ready to be purchased, in exchange for love, money, companionship and a career? Am I authentic? Am I too filtered, am I too real, too Mormon or not Mormon enough?  Am I too single or am I too taken?

I started my blog as a method of self-help. When I felt like all the things I had worked for prior to my mission popped like insects under a magnifying glass, I still had writing to save me from feeling like an absolute failure. I had not danced for over a year when the stage used to be my solace. Refused to dine in the kitchen that I had grown up cooking in, refused to take out the weeds of the garden that I had grown up getting dirty in. But I had a laptop with the letters S and H missing and that worked for me.

In my 61 drafts I wrote about my battle with the pill box that couldn’t fit the number of pills I took, about escaping my problems via Boeing 747 and feeling unable to speak my mind to the people I loved. I wrote about how heartbreak hurt more when it was between God and I, not between me and a boyfriend.  I wrote about how I felt jealous, crazy, hurt, lost, lied to, betrayed. I wrote about how NCMOs made me feel like a bag of dehydrated bones – not because I was being used (or rather, not because we were using each other), but because I was heartbroken at what I thought was going to be, but realizing I was looking at Instagram and not the real thing. And that maybe they couldn’t see me either.

But it wasn’t all bad.

I wrote about how love took on itself many different disguises, and was mimicked by many, but I found it and it was just as stunningly beautiful as I had known it to be before. I wrote how God and I are on speaking terms now, and whilst He still speaks to me in a language that is non-audible, I’m beginning to understand sign language.

I wrote about how The Atonement really did heal me every Sabbath Day, without fail, and if nothing else makes sense and giving up coffee in the morning  just cannot be done, then know that at the center of all things is a Christ who suffered your sufferings.

I learned from Paulo Coelho, via my roommate, that if I just spoke my feelings, in conversation, I would be able to get proof that what I was thinking was true. I wrote about how even though gay and transgender people will probably always face a straight and narrow path in the LDS church there are many in the church with hearts that understand, even if that doesn’t change more pressing concerns and anxieties.

I wrote about how if you try to learn Korean from a friend she will end up teaching you more ways to speak than just Korean. And that if you make a goal to talk to a stranger every week, that stranger who you met at a vending machine may just give you and your friends a ride to a party, free of charge and with plenty of entertaining conversation topics.

I wrote about my pilgrimage to Mormon mecca, and how it was not as holy as I had expected, but it was home at first sight and I finally felt like I belonged somewhere, and that I was not strange for believing in a being that was all powerful and all mighty but perhaps could not create a rock that He could not lift.

I wrote about not having the garage that has five mountain bikes, well-used fishing rods and sleds but rather beautiful old photo albums, flat basketballs and well-read encyclopedias.

I wrote and I wrote. But those 61 drafts of real real real life will probably remain unpublished and unread (at least for awhile). Writing is edited, proof read, spell-checked, and read over and over again. But real life is not.

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journey

Playing games in a mental hospital

There are a couple of games you get tired of quickly. One is noughts and crosses. Once you’ve exhausted all options you realise that whoever places their mark in the middle is going to win if they want to. Another is scrabble. It was entertaining for a season to see people get a kick out of spelling out swearwords and nonsense but after a while its just not that funny. Connect 4, however, no matter how repetitive, was one of Carl and I’s favourite games.

I know I don’t really need to explain to you how to play Connect 4. But just to debrief, its a simple, two-player game where you take turns dropping colored coins from the top into a seven-column, six-row vertically-suspended grid. The aim of the game is to connect four of your own coins of the same color next to each other vertically, horizontally, or diagonally whilst also blocking your opponent’s attempts to do the same. In combinatorics, it is found that there are 4,531,985,219,092 ways to connect four of your coins. Most people only need to suss out a couple before they find a winning strategy.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have Connect 4. We had some shady little knock-off, something along the lines of 4-In-A-Line or Link-Them, which ticked me off a little every time I read the box. We had a shelf full of random games, gimmicky figurines and romance novels but this time when I went to collect the games, Link-Them was missing. To my great chagrin I fished out the old dingy card set which I knew had a few too many aces and not enough Jacks. But Carl was optimistic as always and didn’t really care that the cards that he was snapping were not of the same integer. With Connect 4 he never actually won anyway, he just liked the coloured coins and dropping them into their slots.

It wasn’t a date, although it wasn’t uncommon for volunteers to be asked to get married, perhaps on the hospital lawn before morning tea. He probably didn’t remember that I had been visiting him for weeks and was a bit confused why I was sitting across the table from him, avoiding placing my elbows where day-old coffee spills and drips of mayonnaise laid to rest.

What Carl didn’t know was that I was secretly attempting to ‘play Connect 4’ with the personalities that inhabited his frail body. As irreverent as that thought may be, it was fascinating, riveting but equally devastating to see him fight with the minds that all wanted control over who he was inside. It pained me to see him day by day never getting any better, not really getting any worse, but stagnant at a four-pronged fork in the road every second, minute and hour of the day. He was never visited  by family and the hospital had on and off been his home for several years. But he seemed content at least, and pretty okay with his life.

Carl One looked a little bit like this. Incredible, creative genius. Whatever Carl One said was pure mushroom magic to him but unfortunately, unintelligible utter gibberish to the rest of us normal human-folk. It was a shame that we did not understand because he probably had come up with ideas that would have shaped humanity but instead they incurred more crosses on his check board and time in recreation therapy.

Carl Two, however, was a vindictive professor that would tell him things that should never be thought of let alone whispered in public.

Carl Three was intensely competitive, a superstar ping pong player and training for the next Olympics. He was “almost there” he told me. Just “a little more practice”. Carl Three was in cahoots with Carl Two, you couldn’t really have one without the other.

And my favorite Carl was Carl Four. Kind, caring, and a little aloof. Carl Four would read rule sheets most people ignore in board game boxes, would open the door like a gentleman and always encourage me that I would one day become a good ping pong player…even though we both knew I should never be allowed near a ball that bounces and I was a disgrace to my ethnicity.

Strangely enough, the four Carls, whilst unable to come into agreement with each other, were capable of seamlessly orchestrating escape plans that actually worked. When I came into the hospital one afternoon Carl had been sent into intensive care, as he had gapped it across the hospital lawn to a restaurant, ordering and demolishing a three-course meal, only to disappoint the waiter with his cashless pockets.

Sometimes I would wonder why the hell Carl was in the mental hospital in the first place. What had caused his mind to birth people out of fractions of himself? What had happened to him? What did his family do to him, and how dare his parents treat him like this! Or more importantly, how on earth was he going to integrate back in to a society that struggles to even accept ‘single’ personalities, let alone a quadratic one?

But my job wasn’t to think about Carl and his future and how he would, if ever, return back to the real world. My only job was to keep him company and occasionally find him clothes to wear when it was cold.

And whilst Carl lived there day by day, abandoned by family to choose his own expiration date and adopted half-heartedly by volunteers like myself wanting to get an edge on our resume, it didn’t matter to him that he wouldn’t ever get married or find a job or reach Nirvana. It didn’t matter to him that he never won any board games because at least he was amazing at ping pong. It didn’t matter to him that gas prices were increasing and there was a housing crisis on the rise or that half the population had not turned up to vote because he was so grateful to me for getting him a new puffer jacket and it would be great for Winter although Carl Two was adamant it was unnecessary. He was (mostly) content.

Carl played Connect 4/Link-Them/4-In-A-Line all the time. But out of the 4,531,985,219,092 ways to win, Carl was not able to find any. But somehow he was happy anyway.

 

(Names have been changed.)

 

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journey, Uncategorized

Happy Father’s Day: I’ll carry your cello

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Photo by Charlie Hang on Unsplash

It’s Father’s Day in New Zealand, and to be completely frank, I’m 11,379 kilometres away from his grave, I’m constantly sweeping up the broken fragments of memories I have into a paper cup with holes punched in the base and I know I don’t really look like the girl he called his daughter.

Emo #rantover.

A disclaimer, I’m not actively grieving. I had a really amazing day today, and I’m incredibly grateful for where my family is at now and the wonderful additions that I couldn’t live without. It’s crazy to think that families are constantly evolving, and there is alot (alot) of good that can come out of difficult, tricky, awkward situations, if you so choose to let that good grow.

But I was inspired to write this after seeing a couple posts on Facebook about Father’s day.

Okay, so maybe up until last year or so it was a day I would squirm in my seat at church, while children gave balding men paper-cut out ties coloured in with budget crayons and Cadbury roses taped on top.

But maybe I learned something from his death that was valuable.

I played the cello when I was 13. I was 149cm, barely able to go on the rides at Rainbow’s End and too naive to know that the reason why I was benched was because my performance was possibly sub-par, and not because we had too many players on the team.

Somehow, the music department thought a bunch of us were worthy of a “music scholarship”. We had to fill out a registration sheet before class started saying what instrument we played, and nonchalantly I ticked that I was a pianist. I was probably the laziest piano student alive, and when class began and they found out there were 15 pianists out of 25 students, they decided to pass out the other, less popular, instruments. And so 4 of us got cellos, and free lessons. I think minus 1, we all detested the cello. Hence the dubiousness of us being worthy of the scholarship.

The cello is an awkward instrument to play. It’s big, you essentially straddle it, chicken wing-it and attempt to make some music.

I took the cello home every Friday and returned it back to the school on Mondays, so that I could “practise” on the weekends. Because it was heavy and awkward to carry, my mum would pick me up and drop me off in her car every week. It was a hassle and a half because we lived barely 15 minutes away on foot, and traffic around pick-up/drop-off times at school was heavy.

One Monday morning my mum couldn’t take me to school for some reason so my dad was enlisted to complete the task. We headed to his old Toyota Previa van, loaded my cello and hopped into the car.

But it wouldn’t start.

I looked up at my dad who in frustration, turned and twisted and tried to start up the car.

10 minutes passed.

Then he looked back at me and said, “I’ll carry your cello.”

It was ticking now on 8.45am, so I was already late to class. There were two possible ways I reacted to this, and I’ll give you an option to choose what happened.

  1. I thanked my father for his kindness, and we walked all the way up Sunrise Ave together, as we talked about my friends and my teachers and then when we got to school, I thanked him again, gave him a kiss and a hug and he went back home.

or

2. I bitterly stormed off up Sunrise Ave, my father trailing behind with my cello. I tried to hide my face as I saw other students, other parents dropping off their kids in cars, thinking how embarrassing it was to walk to school with my father. At age 13 even. When he handed me my cello I mumbled a thanks (which meant no thanks) and he walked off back home.

It was probably two weeks after this incident, that I saw him take his last breath. And I have spent the past 8 years reflecting on it.

As a child, as a teenager, and even as an adult, for some reason it is difficult to understand or grasp how grateful you really should be. You have an idea of the ideal: that there is something you are entitled to, for being a child, a student, a wife/husband or a parent.

Sometimes you may think:

  • my boss doesn’t treat me right
  • people don’t organise plans as well as I do
  • she doesn’t love me like she used to
  • they don’t drive like I do
  • they should make their bed the way I do.
  • I put more effort into this than anyone else

which all translates to simply:

I deserve better than this. 

And maybe you do.

But maybe you should just appreciate everything you have been given and work with it. How painful, it was to realise this after he was gone. But how sadly beautiful, to realise how lucky I was to have him in my life, maybe only after he was gone.

So to my dad, I don’t know if my blog is read up in the world you rest in but I want you to know that I’ve gone months without feeling sad about your absence and then suddenly it will hit me like a truck running a red light. I want you to know that I will make it my goal to see you again, what that really entails is a mystery to me but I think… it will all work out. Happy Father’s Day.

Love from Kelly

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Friendzoning my Asian Heritage, journey, self-esteem, Uncategorized

Friendzoning my Asian Heritage Part 3:  Asians…they really do look the same

10900121_10206171513272886_6090044855332663958_oI had walked past the stores many times before. I was fresh off my LDS mission, feeling like an alien in the endless cityscape of Gangnam. Huge buildings blocked out the hazy sky, orange taxis ran red lights and millions of South Koreans were folding away receipts and selfie-stick-ing. What I wore in Korea a year and half earlier was now horribly outdated and needed to be mourned, cremated and scattered in the River Han. Shops were endless and if you wanted to find authentic, true love you would, in the form of deep fried swirly donuts and ttokbukki spicy rice cakes. Love at first sight it was.

Mina and I’s lunch date had turned into a shopping trip, and after an attempt to try a discount outlet store, we headed to the main street where the real shopping could begin. There was no guilt, because this was Korea! Swipe your credit card, breathe in. Grab your purchases, breathe out. Phew.

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“How do we get to those shops up there?” I asked Mina, pointing over to the multi-storey shops with flashing signs. I thought I had visited every store in Gangnam, but had failed to open my eyes just a little bit wider and see that most of the buildings had several levels.

“They aren’t shops, I’m pretty sure most of them are plastic surgery clinics. Do you want to get it Kelly? Maybe for your eyes?”

As a 21 year old this question was getting quite old. But at 10 years old it made me want to projectile vomit at whoever was talking to me. Volunteering to have a middle-aged man in a white coat snip my eye lids and sew them up like it’s Year Seven soft tech?  I can see quite fine, thank you very much.  My eyes do not need any kind of correcting.

However, that didn’t mean I was void of insecurities. And at 4 years old these seemed to bubble to the surface. My peers ensured that I was aware of how different my face was by pulling their eyes, (or for a redundant effect, pulling mine) and blurting out incoherent supposed Chinese.  “I spy with my little eye” had snarky, under-the-breath connotations whenever we played it. But I had looked at myself in a mirror, told myself I was a solid 5 and eventually they got used to seeing a face that didn’t look like theirs.

But it wasn’t just the eyes that were different.

I could see that some people were like Coco Pops, some like the color of my cereal milk Pre-Coco Pops and some like speckled sandpaper. Examining my own body, I looked like my unvarnished wooden fence. A little yellow, a little white, a little dry and flaky. Probably suitable for burning.

But this would not do. No way. I needed to research this more and find out why my looks had so impacted on the quality of my 4 years of life.

My go-to source of all truth and knowledge was my kindergarten teacher. If anyone knew whether chocolate chips or chocolate buttons would taste better in cookies, if there really was a God or whether the universe’s expansion was accelerating… it would be Cris. I studied her face, wondering how in the world did Cris’ nose connect to her eye brows and if this was necessary, why didn’t I have it? No matter how hard I tried to tell lies to all my friends my nose wouldn’t grow and I had to revert back to my honest, God-fearing self.

Eventually my fascination with the differences between my facial features and their facial features became deeply rooted in the ventricles of my heart. It accompanied the thousands of comments I received the next years of growing up about how my body didn’t meet people’s expectations:

 

Age: 4-10 Theme : weight

“You face is too chubby. You look like an onion. You have to eat less if you want to peel those layers off.” (props to whichever Korean person said this to me, it is both rhetorically sound and cutting edge)

Age 12-15 Theme: the woes of puberty

“Those pimples are there because you touch your face. See?” *old woman touches the pimple*

Age 15-16 Theme: weight

“I’m on a plastic cup diet. You should try it. Basically you fill this little cup half with rice, half with something else and that’s what you can eat in one day.”

Age 16-17 Theme: eyes

“If you stretch your left eye with your left hand, and stick your tongue in the side of your right cheek, your eyes will get bigger.”

Age 18 Theme: weight

“I’m sending you a video with a 10 minute daily routine that gets your legs in the ratio of 5:3:2, thigh: calf: ankle. Tiffany from Girls Generation does it.”

It wasn’t too long before I was poking plastic rods into the crevices of my eyes and carefully patting down double-sided strips of tape that increased my eye size by 1 meagre millimeter. Only an all-seeing eye, a fellow Asian eye would notice the tiny sliver of tape holding together two folds of eye lid skin like its life depended on it.

But I got tired of that pretty quick. Purposefully forming an over glorified wrinkle on a face is a lot harder than you think.

And the exercise, all of the space-age routines just weren’t giving me the shape of legs that I was supposed to have by now.

And the weight, it just didn’t seem to budge no matter how hard I restricted my diet and counted my calories.

Maybe, a permanent solution didn’t seem that extreme.

“So what do you think? Are you going to get it?”

 

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journey, Uncategorized

A quarter life catch up with Deity

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If God decided to have a quarter life catch- up session with me next week, I would assume it would follow a similar format to my prayers but the protocol would be to:

  1. firstly meet up in His office,
  2. talk frankly face to face about how I’ve been doing the past 21-22 years
  3. debrief on a couple of things I am very thankful for
  4. ask some questions

and then maybe I would listen to His response.

In terms of a couple of things I am very thankful for, the list is as follows:

  • Letting my skin soak in semi-hot sand in Summer and Instagramming it in winter.
  • Returning to good terms with Auckland Transport when I saw their USB ports on the NEX buses.
  • The silent banter between me and the person on the other side of the pedestrian crossing. We both know we could totally cross it even though the little man is a flushing red, but we don’t want to be those impatient millenials who don’t save unwanted gifts like our parents.
  • Conversations with café customers. They would ask me what the muffin flavours of the day were and I always would have a pointless squint at the cabinet followed by a quick freak-out because I couldn’t keep telling them it was chocolate and pear.
  • Self medication via meme tagging
  • Incredible best friends. Especially a soul sista who let me vent every Sunday night, nap in her room, draft friendzoning messages together and eat non-stop. I borrowed her parents and siblings who treated me like family, and deserve far more than high-calorie brownies.

My interview with God would most likely end then. I would be ushered out. Its not that He wouldn’t want to keep talking, its just that He knew what questions would be asked next and it wasn’t the right time to tell me the answer. So I would walk out of that interview room, take off my heels and half-heartedly wash the makeup I had carefully applied before locking my bedroom door, laying there on the pilling carpet for days. I would ignore the fact that I was putting my face where my feet treaded and yearn for an answer, swallowing my screams at Deity for some sort of sign.

“If I’m supposed to be learning something here, could you please tell me what that is? Because I don’t want to keep doing this anymore. I’ve had enough. Game over. I’m ready to walk out.”

I waited for a couple of minutes. No answer.

That was it then. No more talking to God.

I remember I ran outside to sit on the stretch of grass infront of the property in the middle of the night. Why couldn’t He answer me? He had answered me before. I’m sure of it. I testified of it. I spent 18 months trying to tell people about it!
I leaned into the cool grass, which provided me more security than my room with walls that seemed to be made out of crepe paper. I would watch as one or two cars would cruise by, unscathed by the events of the day, silently passing through neighborhoods that weren’t theirs.

And then I would close my eyes and cup my hands together and try asking Him. Maybe?

Just one more time.

 

 

 

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journey, Uncategorized

Don’t try to become a doctor

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the dream is out of reach

[I’ll write more about Friendzoning my Asian Heritage next time.]

If I could go back in time I would go back to three years ago and shake my younger self. I would tell her just 3 things:

  • Please don’t make awkward situations more awkward by stating the awkwardness.
  • Don’t try to flirt with that guy (its not worth it)
  • Most importantly, don’t try to become a doctor.

[*A bonus point, if I did get a few seconds before my time warp portal got absorbed by the universe, I would tell myself to stop shopping at Cotton On. You will only end up with a disposable wardrobe. And please stop wearing aztec leggings with a shirt that doesn’t cover your butt.]

Being well acquainted with my eighteen year old self I would have tried all the above whether I was visited by a wiser, heavier future self or not. I still would have thought my life was written in the lyrics of a Taylor Swift song and to this day I make it a point to comment on the air density and percentage of awkward it contains.

And I would have definitely still tried to become a doctor.

Contrary to stereotypical Asian parenting of wanting your child to be a doctor, accountant, engineer or lawyer, my mum didn’t plant these career ideals in my head. She was fairly opened minded, as long as it involved hard work. Unfortunately, I did all the planting myself and it would take me a mind-fracturing year to come to terms with the fact that I was a terrible gardener and all my ‘plants’ i.e. dreams would die due to lack of sleep, reading articles en route to class on the bus in a haze of motion sickness and listening to classical study music that I hated.

But I just wanted to be a doctor. It seemed to match my interests in my life and the subjects that I was good at in high school. It was my ultimate goal, and full of hope and confidence I enrolled in my classes as a pre med student.

It took me 3 days to realise that I had made a mistake.

Day 1: was admin. Despite older students telling us the first day wasn’t anything important, my friends and I all showed up half an hour early so that we could get a good seat. Turns out the rest of Auckland thought the same. Out poured the test dates, course outlines, telling you to get an expensive textbook and forewarning you that you are likely to use the counselling service. It seemed easy enough.

Day 2: the lecturer seemed to zip through everything from high school in under 5 minutes. We went through the structural organisation of the body, 11 body systems and their major components, levels of cell organisation and basic tissue types. I think I understood the word ‘body’ by the end of the lecture and gave myself a pat on the back.

Day 3: was just about the same amount of information, only this time it was more indepth about the different tissue types and the cells that make them. I sat next to the summa cum laude of a rivalling high school and I pretended to laugh at his banter and science jokes. It was like his own specialised grammar, for a language that I had never heard of. He was deeply emotionally connected to these cell types, and I was in awe at his indepth notes and sheepishly looked back at my half-asleep squiggles that had managed to barely stretch themselves over a page.

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There were many Day 3’s that year. I sat next to him quite often, probably because I thought I could absorb his genius via osmosis. Obviously I didn’t understand how osmosis worked.

Needless to say he got into med school and I didn’t. We both got fatter though so I guess we all gained something from the experience.

Apart from weight, I gained some other notable things too:

-acceptance: that I can remember heartbreak like a fresh cut and I can forget body parts with a breath of air.

-gratitude: for my incredibly supportive, kind, forever cheerleading friends and family

-loss: you don’t always get what you want, no matter how much you want it.

-an experience of competition: Things are not that different to the Olympics. There will always be someone who will run faster than you despite your raw talent, work ethic, teachers and other resources.

-a knowledge: that sleep is important

-a realisation: that I needed a wider perspective, to other career and life paths

-and last but not least, an understanding: that God loved me, and didn’t care that I got a C- or not.

Okay maybe a little bit.

[disclaimer: I change identifiable information of the people.]

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Friendzoning my Asian Heritage, journey, Uncategorized

Friendzoning my Asian Heritage: When you can’t speak your own language

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This is Part 2 of Friendzoning my Asian Heritage. You can read Part 1 here.


When I was in kindergarten I became fascinated with Legos. At home my brothers had a huge red bucket full of them and I loved to build and make stuff when they weren’t. I picked up some clear neon Lego blocks and assembled them into a crescent, holding it up to my ear and speaking into it like a telephone. I gave it to my mum and asked her to speak into it.

But mid-question I paused.

I realised I didn’t know how to say telephone in Korean. My mouth opened but the word only came out as telephone.

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I ran a command prompt but the word could not be found. It had been deleted from my vocabulary several days before. It was gone. Poof. Goodbye.

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Words have a profound effect on me. But more than the words used is the delivery. What do your eyes say when your mouth says, “I’m sorry, I’m not really interested in you”? Can you feel your hands curl into fists by your side when you want to Make A Point? Do you scan their body first and see if they’re in shape or not? Perhaps this is what got me through being Korean and being illiterate because body language was how I communicated when my words could not.

Being illiterate was something I never addressed until earlier this year. But in terms of most of my speaking life I tried my best to avoid all forms of the Korean language. But life has its funny way of constantly booking me in for tests of language that I didn’t sign up for.

Answering the phone in Korean was probably my worst nightmare. It would start by gauging whether the person calling was Korean before the phone even rang. If I had the courage to pick it up and it was indeed a Korean, I would reply “Ah…yoboseyo!” (and then make a mad dash in my house to find my mum to hear the rest of whatever they had to say. Equally when my uncle or aunty would make their usual once-every-two- years phone call I would struggle to tell them exactly how old I was and make a guestimate. My favourite number and only number I could remember very well was 9, so I was always some derivative of 9.

Sometimes it came in handy. The Jehovah’s Witnesses knew we were a Korean family and for some reason would always send Korean Witnesses to knock on our door after school when my parents were just on their way home from work. I wasn’t allowed to answer the door anyway because I was some derivative of 9 and there were creeps in the neighbourhood. The JWs would knock and I would tell them through the unopened door I couldn’t speak Korean as they stuffed pamphlets through the side window (the irony in this is that this was very similar to what I did on my mission a few years into the future).   

It was only till I started high school when my illiteracy seemed to form an uncomfortable itch on my back where I couldn’t reach.

My first teacher Mrs. Kim in high school was Korean. She was the epitome of what I wanted to be when I was older: beautiful, tall, well-respected, happily married and incredibly intelligent and kind. Like many other Asians I sustained the easiest A in my high school career through my bra size and my teacher told me I had no boobs like her. I had asked her to help me wrap a sarong over my uniform for a luau Youth Dance and she had looked me up and down. From then on she became my mentor, confidante and friend.

But there was something distinctively different between us.

She made spelling mistakes. While she spelled all the elements of the periodic table correctly (she was even named after a scientist) there were elements of her sentences that did not make grammatical sense.

But it didn’t really matter. Everything about her translated well amongst Korean students and English students. I admired that about her, as I had always been the token Asian friend and would play down my ‘Asian’ behaviours rather than be one who celebrated, immersed and blended the cultures and people into one.

One of her responsibilities was to lead the Korean Cultural Night. She put me in the MC/presenter script writing team. I loved writing so this seemed like a great opportunity. They needed Korean and English speakers as the event would attract a non-Korean audience too. But the group texts were always in Korean and at the time my phone was a Nokia brick phone and dealt even worse with receiving Korean messages than I did. All I got was little boxes. I was too embarrassed to admit that a) I had a brick phone in a slide phone era and b) even if I got a new phone I still wouldn’t be able to read the messages. I decided to pull out of the team.

A couple years later I decided to try again, but this time through dance. I was in the dance troupe at school and had always loved contemporary Jazz dance. But I was under the influence of the Hallyu /Korean Wave of K-Pop, Korean dramas and celebrities and the opportunity to do K-Pop dance seemed new and exciting. My friend asked if I could make her trio of dancers into a quad squad for an item for Korean Night 2012 and I gladly accepted. It would be my transition into the Korean community! The girls seemed lovely, and the dance seemed jumpy enough to look cute and outfits edgy enough to look sexy.

But our self-appointed dear leader took it upon herself to never speak to me face to face. Whilst there were only four of us, she spoke to me only via our mutual friend and I struggled to take her seriously. Ten minutes before our performance she turned around to me and for the first time directly talked to me. This was it. I said to myself. After all the countless rehearsals where she wouldn’t speak to me, we would finally unite because of this wonderful moment. We would fist bump and dance like this was the most important night of our lives.

“Kelly. Stand behind me. Don’t move. I don’t want anyone see you dance. Okay?”

What?

I decided not to heed her advice and stood so that I could clearly be seen at all times. I also decided from then on that the Korean entertainment industry was not for me. And maybe the Korean community wasn’t really for me either. I never really clicked with those girls anyway. This was my destiny, forever floating in between two cultures, never part of one, never completely comfortable in the other. But If I couldn’t be comfortable in a culture, then where did I belong? What constituted my identity?

I looked back at my biology study guides across my desk, Korean eyeliners and shadows, my hundreds of tabs opened of NCEA past papers, online clothing stores and Korean celebrity gossip. I stared at my used anatomy books on my book shelf. I don’t know whether it was a conscious decision or if this moment was when I was sure I would become the ultimate Asian career stereotype.

Respectable. Prestigious. Difficult. Rewarding.

I will be a doctor. 

That’s who I’m supposed to be.

 

 

 

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Friendzoning my Asian Heritage, journey, Uncategorized

Friendzoning my Asian Heritage

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This is my seventeenth attempt at a blog. So before I press delete forever again, I’m determined to think of this as a practise corner of the internet where I can try out different writing styles. You have to start somewhere right? Even if it’s super awkward. Feel free to read and criticise constructively (or not). We’ll see how it goes!

This post is about growing up as a Korean-New Zealander.

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Growing up I got confused with all the different Korean greetings. I’d bow and tell the people who invited me over, “Goodbye, have a good trip” and would bow and tell guests leaving my own home “Hello, stay at your home safely”, pink-faced with embarrassment as they corrected my mistakes. Korean culture was never second nature to me, and at times I just really wanted to friend-zone my cultural heritage. I like you… but not enough to keep you around. Let’s just awkwardly say hello when we bump into each other but not take it any further. Yeah? Sound good to you?

To be honest I largely rejected my Korean heritage as a child and at a ripe age of four, I swapped my kimchi and banchan for crust-less sandwiches and tiny boxes of raisins. I stopped calling my mother “omma” and she became “mum”.

My parents were supportive of me always. Mum spoke to me in Korean, Dad spoke to me in English. Pioneers of their own sort, they traveled extensively and already lived in the United States where my oldest brother was born and where Dad studied and Mum worked. They then moved back to South Korea for a few more years where my other brother was born. Finally, they decided to ride the massive immigration wave of Asians to New Zealand in the 90’s. That’s where I came into the picture.

They had great expectations for all of us kids. Most importantly they wanted me to be Christ-like: honest, kind and faithful.

Buuuut a pretty close second to that was to be smart: highly academic, very involved with extra-curriculars, savvy with money and to put in more effort in my work than other kids. “Rich Kid, Smart Kid” and “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” stared at me over my childhood years on the book shelf and whilst I never read them, the titles were enough for me to get the picture. A bit on the competitive side, my parents challenged me to improve every time I brought home my report. My first teachers would write:

Kelly is a delight to teach and is well-liked by her peers. She contributes well in class and cares for her friends. Kelly often struggles to finish what she has started but has potential to excel if she focuses on her tasks. Kelly also struggles with her hand-eye coordination and running during Physical Education. 

“You need to be in the top 3 Kelly,” Dad would say.

“You need to do maths homework 3 pages a day,” Mum would say in Korean, handing me several work books and a skipping rope.

“Also, you should be careful when you are around Sarah”.

Sarah was my best friend. Also a Korean-New Zealander.

It wasn’t Sarah’s fault really. She had confided in me that her sibling took pictures of her naked to make fun of her. We were six. I was alarmed that maybe Sarah’s sibling would take pictures of me and told my parents. They didn’t jump to any conclusions but advised me to play it safe. But it still scared me. Or maybe it just gave me an excuse.

 So as quickly as I traded my words I traded my friends. For some reason the Korean girls always stuck together so not hanging out with that particular Korean friend pretty much meant social suicide on the Korean front. I disbanded myself from one of my only connections to the Korean community and ran (haphazardly, almost out of breath) across the playground to play tiggy with my pale-skinned, round eyed, nose bridged friends.

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