May 6, 2010


 A fault is fostered by concealment. --Virgil

 There's man all over for you, blaming on his boots the fault of his feet. --Samuel Beckett

The other night one of my closets friends came to me crying, currently going through a difficult time with a breakup. Instead of rage crying most of us are familiar with, she blamed herself for the difficulties her now ex-boyfriend had put her through, knowing full well what he did was wrong, but feeling responsible for him following through with his actions. Most of us would be appalled and tell her that, yes, she is being stupid because it isn't her fault and curse his name until it no longer held any meaning. But I couldn't bring myself to do that.

As she sat across from me, hiccuping and arms flailing, trying to finally verbalize the thoughts and emotions she had kept to herself since the relationship had ended, all I could see was myself, perhaps only two years ago, finally telling someone why I was so bitter and so unhappy, and why I couldn't just simply "get over it" because I felt it was my fault. The cheating, keeping me from my friends and family, demanding that I give up my education because it interfered with his life (and, hey, he got along just fine without college), telling me I was worthless, the only thing he would remember about me was having sex with me --the night after one of the many times he had broken up with me and gone out with another girl, had come home and tried to have sex with me while I was sleeping-- not paying for anything, yet telling everyone I was living off of him, yelling at me for something the dog had done, for something the government had done, sending him off to Iraq. For the American citizens not appreciating him the way he wanted to be when he came home.

I sympathized with his sense of loss and confusion, and blamed myself when he became enraged with me or treated me poorly because if I was a good girlfriend, a good person, he wouldn't be so unhappy with me. It took me years to accept that I was manipulated and taken advantage of, and that while the love I held for him at the time was genuine, his wasn't, that isn't what love is supposed to be. However, it's still difficult to accept that, being the stubborn and proud person that I am, I was shaped and controlled by someone other than me. At some point I had given up my free will in order to appease him, and it's frightening knowing that I'm capable of doing such a thing.

We look at these girls and we call them stupid and silly for not getting out sooner and putting up with behavior that they should know, and do know, is toxic. Perhaps the most haunting part of surviving an abusive relationship is simply surviving, knowing that at one point you were stupid and silly and the guilt and shame that comes with that realization. This isn't something where you tripped and fell or said something completely inappropriate, as embarrassing as those situations are, they pass and are forgotten with time. Abusive relationships do not. The memories always resurface when a new one is being foraged, "Is he a good guy, is he going to hurt me?" "Should I comply with what he says this time, is this a healthy compromise or am I falling into the same habit?" "He's angry, is it my fault?"

And not just with relationships, with everything. The loss of self often has me questioning what kind of person am I, can I be the person I want to be, and my own self worth. If I continue to look at myself as a victim I give up my agency and give him power, which is exactly the opposite of what I wish to achieve. But bearing the weight of everything that's happen to me is cruel, it's like excusing him for what he did and never having to suffer the consequences, and there's simply no excuse for his part of the ordeal. My scars aren't going to disappear because one drunken night he left a message saying "sorry and stuff" and that he reportedly feels badly about the way he had treated me.

The damage, there's so much of it. I suppressed much of it for so long because I simply could not function trying to piece it all together so soon after we had ended. I'd spend my days as busy as possible, in class and out with friends, and my nights gasping for air between sobs. It took a year, even with the help of family and friends, to build the mental stability necessary for me to face the shame and guilt that had built up over time and to finally tell someone that yes, I am a statistic, and this is what happened to me when I should have said "no."

What I do know is that my friend is stronger than me. Despite everything she's been through, she is still one of the sweetest and caring people I have met. While I sit embittered and wishing death upon my abuser, only now finding my life satisfactory three years later and thinking maybe one day I will be happy, she's smiling and loving, and moving on to the next chapter in her life.

April 5, 2010


We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone. --Orson Welles

Language... has created the word "loneliness" to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word "solitude" to express the glory of being alone. --Paul Tillich

For the last three years I've purposely stayed single, for the most part, after my first boyfriend. I dated, I had a brief month stint, and generally just had my fun like a free woman. I did this for several reasons, and all of them for me. My first love left me heartbroken, scared, and defeated. I could have easily jumped to the next relationship hoping that would heal me (and in many ways, that's exactly what my one month courtship was), but I decided not to.

I decided I needed to become a stronger person on my own, to be able to stand on my own and face life on my own because I can't depend on someone else to do it for me. I can't draw strength from someone else when they may never come along. I became more assertive, I was having relations with guys on my terms doing what I wanted.

But mostly I just didn't want to be with someone. I wasn't ready emotionally, I wanted to be on my own and live for me, to rebuild my goals and dreams that I had lost sight of. Focus on my school work, what I wanted to do with my life, and how I was going to make myself happy. But overall, I was afraid to be with anyone. I was afraid of having my heart broken again and being left. So much so that I wasn't sure I ever wanted to be with someone, ever wanted to be married and in union for forever (well, until the divorce, anyway).

All around me my friends were pairing up and getting married, but it didn't bother me because I had chosen to be alone. I didn't mind being the third wheel, or the fifth, or whatever because I was happy in my seclusion.

But time, as always, heals things. My heart is mending and I'm starting to yearn for more than just me. I'm not sure what to think about this, or how to feel about it. I'm not sure if I'm betraying myself for now wanting someone to be part of my life because I firmly believe in creating my own happiness. Am I becoming a weaker person for seeking out another? Do I really need someone else to lead a more fulfilling life? And is that really me who thinks a more fulfilling life comes with someone else or is that just culture projecting itself on to me?

Unlike my other entries, I don't have an answer for myself. I don't know how to quell the rising confusion and conflict currently happening to my mental and emotional state. Perhaps it's just hormones, maybe it's my internal clock, or maybe we all really do need someone in order to lead fulfilling lives. I'm hoping that ten cats will be able to do the trick.

April 4, 2010


The identity of one changes with how one percieves reality. --Vithu Jeyaloganathan

Shakespeare without Othello, Lear, Macbeth and Hamlet would be all too much like Hamlet without the prince. --Brand Blanshard

 Perhaps one of the issues I think most about and directly impacts my life is my sense of identity. Back in 2004, fresh out of high school and entering college, I had a rather large identity crisis. While raciallyKorean, I spent the entirety of my life up until that point with the mentality of being Caucasian. It wasn't that I forgot I was Asian, that's rather hard to miss during daily visits to the bathroom mirror, but I wholly identified myself as an American, a white, middle class American girl that happened to have almond shaped eyes, rounded features, and very straight dark hair.

People who I grew up with, people who happened to know of me, they knew I was adopted. They knew my parents are white. We never engaged in those somewhat awkward conversations regarding my childhood and family simply because it was already known, and I wasn't treated as being Asian, but as being white.

So you can imagine how completely foreign and unsettling it was for me when upon college my peers began to ask me where I came from, what Korean traditions I observed, and which of my parents is the foreigner since my full name is, as a Japanese girl once said to me during my time at UW, a very American name. There have even been times where people have remarked on my fluency in the English language, it's difficult for me now not to laugh when I tell them I have a Bachelor's in English.

I never considered myself Korean, though I never had any qualms with people calling me as such in the past when describing my physical appearance, but it was hard for me to accept being referenced as the token Asian Girl in my classes. Harder still when I moved to Seattle where the Asian population is so large that it's just assumed I speak Korean and eat kimchi.

For the record, I speak German and I dislike kimchi.

What made this difficult for me is because I view myself as American. I identify with white middle class America, but since everyone else recognizes me as Korean, should I also identify myself as such? Or do I rebel against that on principle and ignore everyone else's rather valid perception of me? And if I can't convince people that their perception of me being Korean is incorrect, then doesn't that mean I should accept some amount of Koreaness to my identity? And if I do that, had I spent all of my childhood and teenagehood in an oblivious lie?

My head spun around these questions for months until I learned to adapt. No, I don't have to identify myself as Korean because, yes, I am American, and while I'm racially Korean my ethnicity is very much American. But since my race clearly suggests otherwise, I need to accept the stereotypes that come with it and that these questions about my family and the answers that coincide with them will be a constant, and will inevitably affect those who surround me who identify me for who I am, not my token position.

That said, I do have a hard time playing nice when people refute the idea of me claiming to be American when they expect me to say I'm Korean. A Frenchman visiting San Francisco went so far as to suggest I couldn't be American since I don't look English. And my favorite game is telling people I'm not adopted when they ask after revealing that my parents are white. My friend once irritatedly told me I was being rude for responding in such a way, but in all honesty, it's rude to challenge what I claim to be my identity. I feel that if I have to accept outside perceptions of me, the least they could do is recognize that when two white parents legally have an Asian child, that means the child is adopted, without me having to clarify that for them.

The worst, though, is when people give me tea as a thoughtful gesture. Unfortunately, I hate tea.

January 6, 2010

Life After High School

Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world.
She took the midnight train going anywhere. –Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey

I mentioned before that I used to live in a small city with a town mentality and moved to Seattle for a sense of self reinvention, amongst other things equally as important, but not my primary concern. It’s been two and a half years since I made the trek across the mountain pass in an SUV drawn U-HAUL and I still have a hard time accepting the fact that I live here, am staying here, and at this point have a right to call myself a Seattleite.

And yet here I am still boggling at taking an interstate to work every day, even the fact that I justify using the interstate in order to leave it at the second exit is something I never thought I would do.

And this, mind you, is just driving on I-5. Taking the bus downtown in the early hours of the morning watching the Space Needle travel in and out of sight, exiting at Westlake Station and joining the hoard of bodies grabbing their coffees and entering skyscraping office buildings—well, I’m sure you’d understand that I have a hard time describing my sense of awe. It was even worse when I traveled down there to meet up with a friend for lunch on their lunch hour.

Even worse when I worked at Pike Place Market over the summer. If there is anything more symbolic than the Space Needle, it would be Pike Place. So seeing the Needle in the morning and spending my day in the market? I tried not to think too hard about it so I wouldn’t implode.

Also, I can see the Space Needle from my bedroom. It’s tiny and partially obscured by the building next to my apartment complex, but I can still see it, and I grin wildly every time. (I can’t imagine how ridiculous I would be if I lived in New York and could see the Statue of Liberty on a daily basis.)

I’m wondering how long it will be until I stop caring that I’m here. I would venture to say never, considering how I’m still ridiculously sentimental over I-5 (of all things), but I felt the same way about UW once. Ambling through Red Square to Odegaard, sitting in the Quad during cherry blossom season, working at the HUB, and hearing the bell at Denny ring every half an hour…towards the end of my colligate career I forgot the sense of impressiveness UW gave me the first time I set foot on campus.

I took for granted what I was doing in my life when I know of so many others who are struggling to not quite make it back in my home town. They didn’t have the ambition or the drive, or maybe even the want to move out of the basement, to make anything more than minimum wage, and spend their days pretending to be in a metal band and popping people in the newest rendition of Grand Theft Auto, arguably the closest they’ll ever get to experiencing a life grander than what they know. It’s not as if they couldn’t where they are, but maybe it’s where they are that coddles them into being nothing. That doing something more or being something more than a dreg scares them into remaining at the bottom of the cup.

So I sit here, writing, not to be smug, but to be thankful. For who I am, what I am, and the opportunities I decided to take a chance on. For, most of all, realizing what I needed, even if it came calling in a parade of the worst transit design known in America, wrapped in a torrential downpour, and tied off with landmarks that still leave a twinkle in my eye. My life isn’t for everyone, and there are better lives than mine that I can’t wish to aspire to, but for now I need this city, it’s an addiction, and I hope it enthralls me for years to come.