I tried making bath bombs the other day. The adventure is part of my longer exploration in trying new hobbies outside of academia. While these figurines (a penguin, an ice cream cone, a cloud bubble saying yay, a dolphin, and sphere), look pretty, don't let that fool you. After sitting out for two days, they have still not fully dried out (versus the directions which say five hours). Also, the scent of kiwi-strawberry (an ode to my youth) still lingers quite strongly in my home. And the whole process reminds me again, why I'm a terrible baker, chemist, and not-so-great cook.
In Korean, there's a word called 손맛 (pronounced "sohn maht"). 손 translates to hand and 맛 translates to taste. Essentially, the word signifies the ability to measure without measuring— your hand can "taste" the measurements. After decades of honing the craft of cooking, we see elders wield this and be able to whip up dishes with a "pinch of this" and a "dash of that." Well... I have long desired 손맛 but have not invested the time nor acquired the skills to have it. Also, I don't have measuring cups or spoons. As a result, I "eyeballed" and "approximated" every measurement in the bath bomb process. Naturally, the end results are fizzling out. HA! (yes puns, no apologies).
I'm about a month into my faculty job. And with the transition, I've debated quite a bit about how to move with this blog (which in part, explains my absence in posting outside of the Random Roundup). With the new role, a new degree, a new place, and everything else that comes with these things, I feel like a lot of things have changed (and materially, of course they have).
And yet, I also feel remarkably the same. One of my friends and I talked about the Ph.D. a while back and about its anti-climactic nature: one day you are a graduate student, the next day you are a doctor. Nothing has changed fundamentally in who we are, what we believe, what we can do, and yet to the world, everything seems to be different with those three letters. This anti-climactic-ness is similar to how I'm feeling in the present, and where I struggle with the purpose of my blog.
When I was a graduate student, writing about my experience was something I wanted to do as a form of reflection and as a way to normalize the struggles of graduate school. It felt low-stakes because who was actually reading these posts? But now as a faculty member, I think about if I should be writing with the same intentionality, although again, who is actually reading this?
As a form of procrastination, I tend to read lots of books when stressed and/or in a time of transition. Thus, in the months of May, June, and July, I've devoured over 30 books and counting (as the other Random Round Ups have also shown). I also watch a lot of the same shows over and over. Yet, for this round-up, here are three new things I got to do~
A dear friend recommended the "Brooklyn Brujas" series multiple times. And finally, during a random night when I was going for a "light read" before sleep, I picked up Zoraida Córdova's Labyrinth Lost, and promptly stayed up all night reading it. I loved the book for the incredible world-building that happened, and the unapologetic use of language without translation. There are other gems to gush over, but it's definitely one not to be missed and even better: there are two more to read after you finish this one!
Friends know I'm an avid fan of Korean dramas but I've realized that over the years, my tastes have shifted. One of the areas I've grown to love are "slice of life"-type dramas— no dramatic plot line, no horrible villain— just people living their every day life. Hospital Playlist is exactly one of these types and one I've so very much enjoyed. As an added bonus, my shifting tastes have matched my mom so we got to binge this together. And, for folx who want to know where to watch this, they're on Netflix!
Minor Feelings. Whew. I have been eagerly anticipating Cathy Park Hong's Minor Feelings since reading Jia Tolentino's book review. I cannot talk about this book enough. I adore this book; I adore Cathy Park Hong; I adore all of it. And I think, beyond just feeling seen, while reading, I love the writing: the sentence construction, the evocative words, the sharp commentary, the ways the words on the page pierce my very heart and soul. I feel like my life changed while reading this book and is changing still, as I continued to reflect. Can you tell I'm a fan? ;)
I've done a couple of other things too, during this month of a new job and transitioning to faculty life, but for now, I'll highlight these things as my random roundup. Stay tuned for later updates~
It is official. I have completed the requirements of the doctoral degree. I am still having a hard time describing how I'm feeling. Crossing the "Ph(inishe)D" line and being "Ph(inally)D(one)" feels both elating and somewhat of a shock— perhaps I am still expecting for someone to jump out and say "gotcha!" and revoke my degree. I might also be in shock given that the school year is starting in two weeks and I am knee-deep in lesson planning and that transition as well.
But to go back to the dissertation, whenever I read my old posts or look through my Instagram regarding the doctoral journey, I realize I must sound like a broken record because my posts all talk about how important my community has been. And yet to stay a broken record, I can't help but think how true this is. I would not have made it here without the friends, colleagues, femtors/mentors, and family in my life. Several of my committee members laughed and remarked how my acknowledgments might have been the longest they ever read. ... which makes sense, give that they were 19 pages— longer than some of my of my actual chapters. (For background, I wrote them over two years whenever I had writer's block with the other sections of the dissertation). The pages were warranted because this dissertation is truly a labor of love and such an incredible testament and reflection of the relationships that carried me.
Admittedly, dissertating often felt lonely and lonelier still as the pandemic necessitated distance and caution. My community rallied around me with texts, virtual cafes, encouragements, phone calls, and "kat"ch-ups as a way to remain connected. Maybe that's also why this feels... not quite. I crossed the finish line during a (seemingly never-ending) pandemic which means we aren't a crowd of mass communal celebration. But today, with texts and celebrations, and a video round of libations with family, I am slowly getting used to the fact that I have indeed Ph(inishe)D.
I am almost always tuned into noise. I listen to music while I write; I listen to a podcast when I get ready in the morning. I'll likely listen to an audiobook when I'm back driving to places. My life is full of noise and commentary and sounds. I have always liked noise, from ambient white noise to kpop to classical music to coffee house backgrounds to discordant cacaphony.
But over the past couple of months, I found myself having a hard time: writing, thinking, being, all of it. I mean, I've had writer's block on and off for quite some time (as this site can attest). But it's been especially difficult now (... which of course makes sense given the double pandemic of covid and the world continuing to reject that Black Lives Matter). And so I've found myself gravitating to silence as a way to slow down, decompress, and quiet everything around me to be by myself: with my thoughts, my dreams, my ideas that are drifting that I slowly put on paper. It's nice... in a way that is unfamiliar.
So for this post, in addition to talking about some of the things I've enjoyed since my last "Random Round Up," I'm also going to weave in a couple of related articles for some food for thought as well. I am a huge fan of romance books, so I have been counting down the days for Talia Hibbert's "Take a Hint, Dani Brown" to be released. It's the sequel to "Get a Life, Chloe Brown" which was incredible. (Sidebar: I really appreciate the finesse of how Hibbert writes about chronic pain and disability). Also Dani Brown is a PhD student and it was so refreshing to read the struggles of writing and academia. Jasmine Guillory's "Party of Two" also came out on the same day this week (!!!!), and is the fifth book in her series. I've adored every single one of them, including this one where I've especially appreciated how the book described nuances about decision-making. Hibbert, Guillory, (and also Mia Sosa and Courtney Milan) are some of most favorite romance authors (not that you asked, ha!). Yes, I read both books in 24 hours.
As I've been continuing to read (mostly) Women / Womxn of Color, I'm constantly reminded how especially the romance industry is dominated by white authors. Vox's Aja Romano's and Constance Grady's piece masterfully examines the problematic, racist under (and over) tones within the romance industry of publishing and specifically about the Romance Writers of America (RWA). I also highly recommend reading McKenzie Jean-Philippe's piece from Oprah's Magazine, which includes interviews with Jasmine Guillory, Beverly Jenkins, Kwana Jackson, and Alyssa Cole. And within romance, the regency/historical genre is also egregiously white (white authors, white characters) and I've loved Talia Hibbert's blog post critiquing the embedded and assumed whiteness as well as subtle and not so subtle ways authors are anti-Black. All of this feels more apt than ever, along with Twitter threads like #PublishingPaidMe that highlight the gross difference in pay (and book advances) between authors of color and white authors.
While I haven't finished, I'm about halfway through Souvankham Thammavongsa's "How to Pronounce Knife" (here's an excerpt for a sneak peak). I was drawn to it because of this review by Electric Lit's Angela So— especially this part:
...in Thammavongsa’s work, refugees don’t have to be just tragic or sad but can be imbued with humor, complexity, and the unexpected. Most importantly, Thammavongsa doesn’t write for a white audience.
Oof. The review pierced my heart in ways that I knew I needed to read this book. And again, speaks to the ongoing critiques and problems of the publishing industry. I loved Kat Cho's tweets about point-of-view writing (the author, not me). And lastly, to round out this "Round Up" (which I just realized is ALL books), I just started Leah Johnson's "You Should See Me in a Crown," and it has been so great. Poignant, funny, relatable, and overall, such a wonderful read. I'm sorely tempted to blaze through the book, but am trying to pace myself since I am finishing up projects and writing on deadlines.
Let me know what you think about the books and/or if you have any recommendations, and if you're buying any of these books, check out one of these Black-owned bookstores! Oh and for a random non-book thing I've enjoyed, I just finished the last four seasons of Bob's Burgers (tv show). And as the last sidebar: the Random Round Ups have no scheduled posts; I just create one when I have four or five things I want to share.
Today was my graduation. After listening to student protests and angers about its cancellation, my school decided to have it be virtual. We filled out slides, recorded how to pronounce our names, uploaded photos. And today, we were shown a website of pre-recorded videos (some of which included fantastic speakers like our student speakers!). I had friends text me screenshots of my slide and congratulate me. Friends sent me cards, sent me beautiful gifts, called, celebrated over Zoom, and I felt so loved.
It feels weird. For one, I have yet to defend so I am not quite Ph-inishe-D. And for another, the part that is taking up the largest part of my heartache, is that I am still mourning. I know there are so many things going on right now-- the continued violence against Black bodies, the continued existence of Covid (despite people wandering around maskless - please wear your masks!). And in all the global grief, pain, and anger, is also my very personal and localized sadness. This graduation was... nothing like what I had been dreaming about for the past four years, and had been planning for the better part of a year. Even well before this period last year, I had told friends how I was planning the week, preparing how to seamlessly fit my dissertation defense and graduation so people could attend both. I knew the venues I wanted, the activities to do (because you can never get rid of the Student Affairs in me), and the ways I wanted to thank my community. The graduation was as much for everyone, as it was for me.
And I can still do the last part: the gratitude, the thanks. And I will. I will so hard. But today, for just today, I am giving space for my sadness and letting myself mourn "what was suppose to be" while knowing how fiercely loved I am by my community. Which is why I'm so sad to be "celebrating" without all of us in person or closer to one another.
I've had a couple of conversations with friends about how we show up on social media for Black Lives Matter. Do we post? Does it look performative? What should be doing? In reflecting with this myself, I'm sharing this article by Holiday Phillips with an excerpt below:
Sometimes real activism requires us to step up and shout. But far more often, it requires us to carry out simple daily acts that no one will ever see. If, on reflection, everything you do is public, it’s likely you’re a performative ally. Challenge yourself to do things quietly, like changing the things you buy, giving your platform to a BIPOC, or educating yourself on the history of racism without telling everyone about how educated you now are. That way, you know you’re really down for the cause — and not the cause of looking like a woke person.
I appreciate this article in holding the multiple tensions of what activism looks like amidst very visible platforms. And one of the things I appreciated this article gently reminding us is the critical necessity of impact. Yes, we (including me) need to be learning and especially unlearning anti-Blackness, AND, we need to remember that racism, police brutality, anti-Blackness is steeped in the continued divestment of Black communities. So as we post and share, we should (re)invest in Black Lives Matter, metaphorically and materially and concretely. (Here are some resources to do just that).
Note: I posted this in on a different social media platform but wanted to post it here. I'm sure there's another blog post waiting to happen about navigating and managing across different spaces... but this isn't that one.
In understanding what has happened with the death and murder of George Floyd, I am reminded again, of the anti-Blackness that is deeply entrenched and embedded within the Asian and Asian American community. And what I want to stress, is that the complicity ranges. We can easily point to this horrific violence and condemn it when it is an officer standing by as a murder happens, but it’s also much more pervasive.
Anti-Blackness is steeped in the respectability politics we do, where we argue someone is not “professionally dressed” without realizing the history of how things like hair and clothes have been raced and classed (e.g. the discrimination against natural hair). Anti-blackness is perpetuating ideas of assimilation and meritocracy where we believe, deep down in our core, that it was our sacrifices work and effort that brought our successes. (And to clarify: yes, that is true, and also equally true is the systematic divestment of communities of color, especially Black communities; the practice of redlining and refusing housing loans; and even now, the differences in public funding for schools and the related segregation). Anti-Blackness is the individualized focus on people’s behaviors, actions, and missing the bigger system of racism, white supremacy, and how Asian and Asian Americans are used a foil, veil, and weapon to harm Black communities. They are the moments when we agree that a Black colleague was “too aggressive,” without understanding how the trope the Angry Black Person is a strategy to shut down concerns. It’s also the ways we don’t differentiate between racism and anti-Blackness, which are related but also uniquely distinct.
I am still learning how to unlearn these things myself. In researching institutionalized racism for the better part of 4+ years, I have benefited from this system: from racism, from anti-Blackness, while still being harmed and experiencing racial violence . Have Asians and Asian Americans suffered, endured racism, have our own unique struggles as such as being marked as a perpetual foreigner? Yes. We have and we continue to, and Covid19 has revealed it more thoroughly. But this is not the oppression Olympics of who has it worse. This is about shifting the attention from asking “why are certain plants not doing as well or dying in the garden” to understanding “the soil is poisoned.”
I decided to write this because as I am unlearning and relearning, I know many of my peers and friends are doing the same. For my Asian and Asian American friends who don’t quite know/understand, don’t know how to ask, let’s unlearn and relearn together. Please be mindful/do not ask your Black friends, colleagues, peers to explain anti-Blackness. Please do not repost or share videos of a violent death, that because of technology, autoplays on people’s feeds. And even if the tech adjusts to stop doing this, please do not share because death is not something to consume as media or entertainment.
Lastly, I want to note that there are tons of people who say all of this way better than me, have been saying this, and have amazing tools and resources. Check out the BLM resource landing page. And read Soya Jung's "The Racial Justice Movement Needs a Model Minority Mutiny"
I thought I'd do something a little different for the post, in part because I wrote something earlier, felt a little raw about it, and needed to lighten the mood for myself after shelving the draft. So instead, here is a random set of things I've enjoyed during April and May...
I finished reading Elizabeth Acevedo's "With the Fire On High," which originally started out as a book club idea that never actually wound up meeting. But I'm glad I got to read it, if not for anything because I usually gravitate to nonfiction when I'm not reading academic books or books on writing. It was completely out of my wheelhouse (both in terms of it as fiction and as young adult). I loved every page of it. To continue with books outside of my comfort zone, I read & finished Celeste Ng's "Little Fires Everywhere" earlier last week. I decided to read it in wanting to support Asian womxn authors (and continue my intention of having my fun-reading booklist being authored primarily by Womxn of Color). I devoured it in five hours and stayed up much later than intended. I'm excited to watch the show.
Speaking of, I finished Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which has helped fill the sitcom void post Parks and Recreation. This is the TV show I leave on in my background when I get ready for the day (if not listening to a podcast) and what I like to watch when trying to unwind. I can quote most of the episodes. Of course, the season finale was wonderful. And finally, to round out this random four-set, I'm highlighting BTS's "Map of the Soul: 7." Most folx in my life know I'm a fan of Kpop, including this group. With a new-ish release, I've particularly enjoyed this album (though "Wings" and "The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever" are still my favorites). From this album, I've been listening to "Inner Child," "Moon," and "We are Bulletproof: the Eternal" on repeat~
Hope you enjoyed a small, lighter-feeling, glimpse of things I've liked. Who knows, maybe I'll continue this trend of random round-ups.
Before I left New York City, I committed 30 days to saying goodbye. I made sure to grab meals with friends; drank coffee with soon-to-be former co-workers; stopped by my usual cafes and bars to say goodbye as a regular; visited the places I always said I would; threw myself a party (which was lovely); and gave myself a farewell to my routine, history, and groundwork of the place I called home.
Last Friday, I moved my stuff from Los Angeles. I had already been living away for the past however many weeks, to be closer to family in the midst of Covid19. But I left behind much of my things for the rather abrupt departure and with the promise that once things "settle down," I could resume my life in LA. Clearly, as all of us have been watching/reading the news, things are getting... not better. So I drove back, packed the rest of my apartment, and said goodbye to what has been my home for almost four years. So very different than my farewell to NYC.
I've been describing the timeline of Covid19 with friends through the romantic/dating analogy of an orbital situationship you're still invested in. Meaning, the terms aren't define and you're not sure if there's any closure because nothing has been defined, and because you get an occasional bit of news, you're still hopeful. So even as you try to make decisions, you can't have as much closure as you'd like because you are making decisions with incomplete data. But you're still pressed to want to make the "right" decision. As a research nerd, I would say that your conjectures aren't sufficiently significant based on the information you have. And as a research nerd, these hilarious analogies have helped me understand why getting "closure" during Covid19 is so hard: because we just don't know.
I don't know the next time I'll be in LA. I don't know the next time I will get to see my friends. I don't know when the situation of Covid19 will get "better." And I don't know how we'll recover either. I don't know anything. And yet, the world is still moving and decisions still need to be made. And as someone who loves knowledge and information, this ambiguity and the slow diminishing of hope, alongside the very real fears of the safety of loved ones and our failing safety nets, exacerbates the anxiety and tensions of decision-making.
I am thankful for the opportunity to be close to my family-- one that I recognize not everyone has. I am grateful I could move, was able to borrow my parent's car to make the drive and load up my things. Equally, I am thankful I can work from home and that my housing management graciously cancelled my contract. I am thankful and yet, also disappointed in how this chapter is closing. But not closed of course. I will return and have my proper farewell with ALL the Ktown foods, ALL the coastal highway drives, and ALL the things I didn't get to do this time around. I will get the closure I want; I just don't know when.
I started staying home March 10. Granted, I am a homebody by nature, so I (like many others), assumed that the "stay at home" order would be an easier transition. And because I am an introvert and love cancelled-plans (that "buy" me back time), I thought I could continue as is. Looking back on the past 20 days, I feel a little foolish and chagrined at my naïveté. I didn't account for so many things: the fear and panic of groceries and supplies; the frustration of being home when I had to be; the disappointment of cancelled or postponed conferences, vacations, and now graduations. And most of all, I didn't account for grief:
The global grief of systems that have been failing us and failing us more than ever
The societal grief of, what feels like the world being halted
The communal grief of altered/virtual intimacy and sense of community
The individual grief of adjusting to "our new normal" and the guilt of not being able to adjust
The personal grief of lives lost, of lives at risk, of what is next and the uncertainty of it
The grief was unexpected, and one that has been hard to process. Some days, I feel like I can push past Covid19— should push past this— and be my "normal," productive self. I have a dissertation to finish. I have a faculty position to transition. I have publications to submit, papers to write, conferences and grants to apply to. Other days, I feel adrift, lost, and floating. This is the reality I refused to believe and still have trouble accepting. I stare at my wall— conveniently blank like my mind. I putter around my house as a way to "trick" myself in doing something. I take nap after nap and watch TV mindlessly or scroll through the endless Tweets and Facebook posts. And in between these is the cyclical guilt of not being productive/guilt for wanting to be productive in this mess; questioning what really matters; cabin fever; and what feels like anything and every thing else.
And thru it, I find myself coming back to one of my most favorite poems. I don't remember when I came across it, but it's one I've referred to constantly since then:
Grief comes in waves, and I am allowed to feel every ebb and flow (by Alex Elle)
I don't know how to close this blog post. I originally started March with the intention of writing regularly on this platform, but over the course of the 20 days, I couldn't. I just, couldn't. Writing this post, was a way for me to "get back on it" (though I'm not sure what the it is.) But I love this poem and it has kept me grounded as I've meditated about these ebbs and flows. To give myself freedom to feel and to remind myself that grief is a process and not a linear one at that.
In thinking through this blog, one of the things I really want to be able to do, is post on a more regular schedule. But despite making these plans, I always wind up getting stuck. I don't want to post until I have something to say, because the opposite (posting just to post), seems like a waste of everyone's time. In order to have something to say, I have to be motivated to write, which I am rarely... not just for this blog, but for everything now a days. I could easily chalk this up to writer's block (or more accurately, the journey of trying to finish my dissertation and transition to faculty). But to take a pause, I think it really speaks to the concept of motivation. Last week, I came across an Instagram post about motivation and working out. I don't quite remember the exact phrase nor the person whom I can properly credit (and googling "motivation" "working out" was not at all helpful), but the gist of it was:
We get trapped into this idea that we have to be motivated to work out because that makes working out more "fun." But motivation shouldn't be the driving force because we lose it. Instead, we should work (out) regardless and let the motivation come and go, but not let it detract from doing the work.
Or something like that. Again, it was a quick read and I have pretty terrible memory. If you came across it, please let me know so I can do it better justice. But this idea of motivation and the reframe of it not being my driving force, is definitely a huge shift for me. For writing, I like to have myself and my students to reflect on when we write best. And for me, I have to want it; I have to be motivated. It might be a spark, a new inspiration, but if I am not motivated, the juices aren't flowing, the writing is stilted, and I'll usually stop after a couple of (excruciating) minutes. The problem that I have right now, is that I am unmotivated to write. And so I won't. And I don't. I don't write. But I need to write.
Joan Bolker wrote a book called, "Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis." Obviously, you cannot write a dissertation in just 15 minutes per day, but the general gist is a similar critique on motivation: you just need to write. And so I've been. And so I have. And it's been painful. I look at the sentences I wrote the day before and cringe, but also know that in waiting for that lightning moment, I won't actually be getting closer to doing the work. So instead, I'm trying to push through my writer's block, find joy in being consistent, and (re)writing my relationship with motivation. And hopefully this will also translate to me writing more regularly on this blog as well... but no promises made~
This year has been rough for a variety of reasons, both for myself and for my peers. Many of us went (and are still going) through the job market. We are writing and finishing our respective dissertations, applying for grants, teaching sections/classes, creating conference proposals, and on and on and on. And through it all, are the spikes of anxiety, the overwhelming feelings that we are imposters, and different manifestations of our stress.
What I've noticed through personal reflection and observing my peers, is that a lot of us probably fall under the category of "anxious yet highly functional." I'm sure there's a more accurate, scientific term. But what I've seen and experienced within this idea, is how we'll go through cycles of extreme stress that manifest into highly productive/functional behavior on paper— cleaning our apartments, baking, writing blog posts (wink!), bullet journaling (wink wink!), starting a new hobby, etc.— that make us look accomplished... and yet, we're not progressing with the actual thing that causes the stress.
The reason I point this out, is because... well in all frankness, the work will still get done. My favorite phrase that my peers and I trade as comfort is, "You're gonna push through... because you don't have a choice." And it's hilarious, pithy, not-sympathetic, and yet an oddly comforting sentiment that we're gonna get it, because we have to. And in the meantime, check in with your friends. Including/especially the ones who look like they're doing great: because productivity and functionality is never a proxy to wellness. I spent this week doing the checking-in and as well as being checked-in, and I'm grateful for all the conversations on both ends~
If you're following my site closely, you'll notice some changes in design, organization, and content. To be frank, I'm still figuring it out and often grappling with the very real question of: but, what is the point?
In its original inception, the purpose of this website was merely a blog. But then, over the years, I realized that I had picked up a lot of different resources, learned a lot of lessons, that I would feel remiss and irresponsible for not passing down. I'm still beta-testing a lot of aspects, including an upcoming section with "curated" content (i.e. what are some of my personal bookmarks). But in trying to create this, I've been trying to balance both the user-friendly aspect of not being "too overwhelming" while still including all the components I want (like those tips and resources and templates and the blog and and and).
So TL;DR: it's a work in progress and I'm not too sure what I'm doing. But expect changes. And with no warning, but please let me know what you think~
AND if you are interested in creating an academic website, check out my post in the "Tips" section.
And then Parasite took 4 Oscars home. Never did I think this would happen. To watch a film in my first-learned language, the language of my parents, the language of my ancestors. To watch it on the "big screen," surrounded by people who didn't look like me, who for once, were the ones reading the subtitles versus the other way around. To watch it win award after award, including just for tonight, Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Film, Best Screenplay. To watch it make history.
And it is historical.
And yet... I have mixed feelings about Korean culture becoming mainstream. On one hand, I have so much pride. ALL the pride. I teared up during Parasite, realizing I didn't have to read subtitles when I watched the movie. I teared up again, being able to talk with my mom about it and describing how many non-Koreans were in the theaters watching and praising it. Likewise, I cried during a BTS concert (worth it) for similar reasons, and remember with pride, hearing how Epik High was performing at Coachella many years ago (and how they and Big Bang will perform this year). For similar reasons, I teared up during the scene of Crazy Rich Asians, when the actresses and actors are eating food with chopsticks— my mainstream utensil. I teared up at the opening of Always Be My Maybe, when Ali Wong's child version takes off her shoes and puts them in shoe cabinet when she enters home. That was my mainstreamed childhood.
Yet on the other hand, I can't shake the memories of my childhood: of being bullied and made fun of for repping my culture and my food. Most children of immigrants have countless stories of their lunch boxes and the ensuing conversations (and pain) about how it "smells weird" or "looks weird" or exclamations of "how can you eat this"? So to see it now as prominent articles and features on food(ie) blogs, results in both immense pride, as well as immense confusion and honestly resentment. Because I will never not remember my childhood and the ways my food, my culture, my pride were and still are at the margins... yet are becoming mainstream and trendy.
To be frank, these are half-formed thoughts. But here is where I am at: still uncomfortable with the process and trying to understand if this process is progress.
I just came out of a zoom call where we talked about applying to dissertation fellowships. In sharing what I know now, I realize how much distance I have between past me and current me. For one, as I reread the application, I had a moment where I didn't recognize my own writing (am I the only one who has experience this? Ha!) For another, despite it being a little more than a year, I forgot the turbulent feelings of trying to craft my proposal.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from my supervisor a couple of years ago. She recommended that I be in a constant state of learning. My supervisor explained how easy it is to forget what it's like to learn, and how hard learning actually is. For that reason, she said I should constantly take classes, particularly in areas where I lack natural talent or aptitude-- so that I would remember the feeling of not getting it, especially if everyone around me does. And to never forget what that feels like, because that should be the foundation of me as teacher. And so I've learned how to knit (albeit poorly), learned how to cook (ish), learned how to drive stick (which I no longer remember), and this season, will sign myself up for tennis.
A year, particularly this past year, has felt both long and short. And in this span, I forgot what the process was like. In some ways, it makes sense given that I'm in such a different stage of dissertating (and working on a project that I have already proposed), but in other ways, I am sad to realize how I forgot the feelings. As a result, my input for the conversation felt more generic, more stilted, and more ambiguous than I would have liked. And the further I come along in this process, the more I'm afraid of forgetting that it was like to first start, and the more I realize I need to remember and put myself in situations to reflect and remember.
As a millennial child (now adult) of two immigrant parents, I know that one of my roles when I come home every year, is checking on their phones and other household technology. In addition to unfamiliar evolutions of smart screens and wireless everything, my parents contend with unfamiliar (and arguably unnecessary) jargon in a language not their own. This is expected.
What is also expected, but heartbreaking and angering every time, is coming home and listening to their experiences of being dismissed or brushed aside while doing these things without me. This past weekend, they shared about how the Verizon attendee rushed my dad's phone process, speaking quickly and saying that everything would be figured out, and brushing aside their questions. Right before this, they dealt with an older white woman who belligerently said that my parents cut in line despite them waiting far longer than her. The white woman was serviced first, as no one including my parents wanted to cause an additional scene. The Verizon attendee, who my parents stressed was not unkind, hurried my parents along, so that they came home with nothing synced or transferred from their cloud. When my parents asked questions, they were told that it would work out— what is this it? they asked me afterwards. I didn't have an answer either. (I was Googling the Costco and Verizon, trying to figure out how to write a review). They noted that the older white woman's every question was answered and her session continued even after my parents finished theirs and browsed the store. In retelling the story to me, they smiled and laughed, and then together, we looked at different options online for what case we should buy for my dad's new phone.
I come back home once a quarter— twice, if I am lucky and my schedule is forgiving. I used to complain about going home to help with technology, and it's a common joke amongst comedians about helping our parents in this area (Kanan Gill's bit is especially hilarious). But over the years, as I hear these stories and have also seen them real time, I now wish I was here always. Not because my parents need a savior; they're actually good on their own (much to my annoyance of having parents who are slightly too independent) and can hold their own in any argument, both in English and our home language.
But I wish I was here always because there are times when I know my parents are tired and willing to settle... and I am not. I am privileged with not only having English as my first language, but also having the energy and the anger, to demand for something better. I am sure that we could argue this is not about race or language or agism. We could say all these things. But the hurt of being dismissed (and even worse: demeaned) is a universal feeling (that is often raced, classes, languaged, and more). I wish I was here always, because the equity-minded, justice-oriented labor of what I do, the world and work I want to create, is one I want for my parents to be the first to enjoy. And the times I am away doing these things are the moments they experience the opposite.
One of the commitments I've tried very hard to keep while being a grad student, is still reading "for fun." More specifically, I've tried to read at least 1 book a month that is not an academic book or something assigned on one of my syllabi. Last month, in a fit of "what am I doing in my life," I impulsively purchased a bunch of books from my continuously full shopping cart— the ones I convince myself not to read because "I don't have time."
They're beautiful. The books. All the books.
And have beautiful covers with beautiful prose and beautiful syntax.
I started Ali Wong's "Dear Girls" two days ago and have had such a blast reading it. After finishing this post, I'm going to continue reading it today, as a treat to myself while curled up with a blanket and a good cup of tea. Happy Saturday~
I've been in the process of applying to jobs and post-doc opportunities. All that to say, the past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of documents, edits, and long days of revisions. In addition to this whirlwind of work (yes alliteration), it has been cyclones of self-doubt (close enough). And with this self-doubt of not feeling good enough, prepared, or ready, I found myself deciding not to apply to several positions.
I'm lucky enough to have friends and fem/mentors check in as I was doing this. They reminded me how privileged counterparts didn't even hesitate and were still applying– that these feelings of being an imposter or "not being good enough" are often intersected with gender and race (as well as class, first-gen status, and more). To that end, their advice was simple and sharp:
As a note, I want to clarify that we should be discerning about applying to positions: don't apply to places you have no intention of accepting. (That wastes everyone's time, labor, and mental energy in an already stress-filled process.) But I do think this advice is helpful: the notion of just going for it.
I think I've spent much of my time in graduate school underestimating the ways risk-taking feels overwhelming. I am, by nature, already risk-averse. The doctoral journey has been, if not anything, an intimate and incredibly vulnerable time of putting my self, my work, and my very ways of knowing out there. I've learned to respond to critiques, move beyond rejections, and try not to take things personally. But none of those lessons have made the risks feel any smaller or less scary. Instead, with each bridge I'm expected to bungee jump from, I'm still nervously (and anxiously) forcing myself to trust the process and rope that is holding me, which is likely a metaphor for the community that keeps me grounded.
I have a fear of heights. I also get motion sickness rather easily. I don't know how the "no" extends to my bungee-jumping metaphor, and I'd rather not think too closely about it. But the overall message is one I'm trying to embody in this application cycle: to discern, but to also stop stopping myself, and just apply. Let them tell you the no, don't tell it to yourself.
I have a colleague in my program who, in June, will describe how it means that fall is just around the corner, which means the year is almost over and we'll soon be in 2020. The time jumps are both hilarious and incredibly anxiety-producing, but I love the process all the same. Yet, at the same time, as our program's orientation started today (and signaled the first week of classes), I can't help but wonder: where did the summer go?
In some ways, I had a fantastic summer. I celebrated dear friends who graduated, cheers'ed at birthday dinners, visited my family, coordinated a wedding, attended a different wedding, ate cheese curds, tried to like deep dish pizza (*cough, thin slice is still supreme), and more. I flew out to new cities, visited old friends, went to Korea, and the list goes on.
But in other ways, my summer was not-as-fantastic. I had moments of crippling anxiety in conducting my dissertation, with the soft whispers of imposter syndrome as I began the job application process, and the endless loop of cleaning and organizing as forms of "productive" procrastination.
Fall is now here— for some on the semester system, it's been here. I didn't accomplish nearly half of what I had hoped during the summer, but I am thankful that I tried out a new system to detox from the productivity-guilt mentioned in a previous blogpost. Since then, to stay organized, I replaced my miles and miles of to-do lists (that I never accomplished and because of that, felt like somewhat of a failure) and instead, created a FOCUS(to-do)list with 4-5 bullets max. Did I still have a gigantic list of things to do? Yes, but on Trello where I didn't stare it in the face every day. I also made sure to mark major deadlines on my GoogleCalendar. But for the most part, this focus-list helps me feel accomplished each day and excited for the next, because I know I can complete the tasks at hand. It's been a nice shift in perspective I'm hoping will keep up past 2020, which means by then we'll be in 2030 and then 2050~
After a couple of weeks of travel, I've had the opportunity to catch up on bookmarked readings and explore all the links friends have sent me. Several friends of mine, all unrelated to one another, have discussed how nice it would be to share the recent stories, articles, books we've all been enjoying. With that in mind, I wanted to share two authors whose articles I've been reading. Both authors are Women of Color (a new intention I'm trying to have for my reading lists) and both recommendations came from dear friends of mine.
Yesterday, AERA 2020 conference proposal were due (the American Education Research Association). We finished the quarter-system a month ago, two months before that, another round of conference proposals were due, and in two months, another round of conference proposals will be due again. Manuscript deadlines are often rolling, and pretty soon, we will be starting the academic job market season and post-doc applications, dissertation fellowships, and grant proposal deadlines will be just around the corner.
Did you feel anxious after reading that paragraph?
I do. And it has felt easy, for each run to exhaust myself, hop down. grab a drag of water, and then say: on to the next run, next project, next deadline, and not stop. Not stop to let my muscles (both physical and mental) rest. Not stop to catch my breath. Not stop to be still and enjoy the world outside. It feels easy, not in the actual work, but easy because my mentality is already in that mode. I'll admit I'm tired, while still punching in the speed and incline level for the run I'm about to do.
I think academia slowly socializes us to be non-stop marathon runners, with the finish line always moving just out of our reach, with a landscape of guilt for wanting to take breaks along the way. The sense of urgency for our research, especially research on critical issues, oppression, racism, violence to communities of color—these are real, and I am not advocating for us to ignore pressing issues or ignore our communities through coded language of "self-care". But what I am advocating for is the detox of guilt and a reimagination of the grind. Small things I've been trying for the past couple of months include:
In a year, I read somewhere around 100-200 books. I don't have a TV and I use reading as a form of escape, and I especially like reading outside of academia. It also helps with improving my writing :)
When I'm trying to concentrate, I like having background music that's super dramatic. For some reason, instrumental music is instrumental (pun!) in helping me concentrate. Most of the songs are Korean-drama OSTs (original sound tracks), w/ a few classical music scores in the mix!
I don't categorize anything other than my "random round-ups" because it takes too much work (insert laughing emoji).