‘My Heritage’ Reading (Using AALR Tarot Deck)

The month of May is both Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) and Mental Health Awareness Month. What other fitting way is there, to celebrate and engage in these designated themes that perfectly coincide with each other, than to do a tarot reading–using a tarot deck from the Asian American Literary Review.  Continue reading

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‘Be Humble’; Rise Up Again

I always come late to the hype. Music, news, fashion–I get too lazy to join in and relish in the collective awe at the moment. For example, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. came out three weeks ago. His single “HUMBLE.” came out a month ago, and most people I know were freaking out over the song and music video. It was only last week that I got around to listening to both “HUMBLE.” and “DNA.” while sitting in a hospital waiting room. This past weekend, I bought the album on iTunes and thoroughly listened to it, from beginning to end. And yes, the entire thing is just… gotDAMN.

Also last weekend was the eleventh annual New York City Asian American Student Conference (NYCAASC) at NYU Kimmel Center. It was my first time attending, which is criminal on my part; as a (former) student of Asian American Studies, an event like this perfectly coincides with my discipline and prospective career. Now that the event is over, and I have had time to process all that happened, here are my thoughts.

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A Reclusive Signal

{Transmitting this message from the sanctuary of my childhood home}

It is not as if I left, when things got too out of hand; it is more like, I retreated because there was no more that I felt I could not do anymore. I wanted to believe that I could become a part of something greater than myself, but when the tides went in a different direction than anticipated, I slowly descended inward… eventually reaching the bottom and accepting my new fate: pretend that I no longer exist.

More or less, I became reclusive, in the truest sense of the word. I felt it shelter to be confined in a space that was most familiar to me, like a womb that holds a small being that has yet to face the world. And I wanted to forget my responsibility to face the reality that I was born into and raised in. As much as I stayed within the confines of my space, I would feel protected, secured, and safe. But much could not be said of what has been internalized and ingested…

The rallying cries, the bits of wisdom, the words of encouragement, the empowering speeches, the writings upon writings for hope and enlightenment—they all rang and echoed in my mind. They stirred my inner being, nudging me to act—join the cause, fight the power, raise my voice… I wanted revolution, I hoped for change, I prayed for the creation of “better”. And then, it fell short…

The oversight brought in a second wave of grief. I felt as if another part of myself died: the aspiring revolutionary that spoke better and louder in writing and swore to help the cause and the people through my writing. The time of recovery went slower than I wanted; I needed to hurry up and get back on track, but I kept stumbling and feeling frustrated. I felt trapped—more trapped than I was willing to admit. I wanted to get out there and show myself that I was not going to fall silent and complacent again. I wanted to be with those that I felt connected to, and join in the harmony of voices that demanded to be acknowledged and recognized for having the right to exist, as I am.

I did none of that. Instead, I chose the coward’s way out: I retreated into my quiet, small bubble and pretended that there were no problems that directly affected me. I dove into fictional worlds because I refused to live in my own very real world. I spent several months in those fictional worlds, wanting to live with the characters in them, but not necessarily becoming another habitant. I remained a voyeur, watching these characters experience their world and doing nothing whenever conflict arose… Much like in social media—watching others live their everyday life and refusing to reach out past the screen.

I also decided to reduce my activity online. I restricted myself to a couple of sites that did not require me to report on my goings-on. Not that I had anything worth sharing, but I was becoming too self-loathing and self-pitying about my own life. I couldn’t help but compare myself to others, how they were living their lives—more fulfilling and engaging than how I was treating mine. So I closed some accounts, logged off in others, and attempted to go off the grid for an indeterminate amount of time. I even minimized communications with fewer people; it was not out of precaution, but out of humility.

Finding comfort in my solitude, by refraining social interactions and indulging in make-believe, I was becoming tranquil—in the false sense. This feeling, this pretending was not going to last long; it was only a distraction from facing real issues. Not just macroscopic issues, but particularly personal issues. How long can I live like this? Is this what I considered “fulfillment”? Did my younger self imagine that I would turn out like this? These questions reverberated for weeks, as I was drawing nearer to one more cycle in my life. After it passed, the questions rang louder, discordantly, inviting emotions identified as after-effects of grief: anger, depression, anxiety, hopelessness.

Amidst the clamoring confusion, I wondered if the number of my age, or the age itself, triggered this flood to come in… Twenty-four is a divisible number and a multiple of 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12 (also 1 and 24, but that sounds redundant). I reminded myself of this fact, doing the math in my mind so that I can find beauty in the number. What really caused the flood of emotions to come are the expectations of that age. I am an adult, a young adult, an adult of this time period. Those of my age—maybe of my generation—are changing things, making waves, pushing forward, and creating innovations. Some are far ahead, others are catching up; everyone is going at their own pace and meeting their end goals, through motivation and inspiration. Where do I fit in?

What good will it do for me to stay in this condition? Within me, something shook. I felt it clawing its way upward to the surface, forcing its way out of the tunnel I constructed. It said, “no more,” and it triggered the alarms inside me. After months of denial and containment, I finally let up… I put all of my frustrations out on the table. I slammed my fists, threw books and papers around, and cried to the point where I had trouble breathing. I had enough of lying to myself, keeping myself from advancing with my plans, and blaming other people for the reason of my condition. Who else could do this, but myself?

I had quit before getting started. I had forgotten to keep myself in check. I had transcribed others’ intents and words into scripts that only came across as insidious and attacking. I read things in a way that only influence the negative thinking. But even when I wanted to stop thinking in that way, where could I find the positives? Either I had forgotten them or discarded them so that living in the bubble would be easier to deal with.

As I draw this transmission to a close, I would like to make one final note. Even though I turned away from the action, I never gave up the intent to fight. During this reclusion, I had to reflect on other ways I could continue and hope that every contribution will turn the tides back. I may not have as much leeway as I used to, I think I have found the way to come back and help out like before. This is one of them.

{End of Transmission… For now.}