happy anniversary, wallagalore!

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Exactly one year ago today, I held my book release party for my strange li’l novelette, Wallagalore! That’s right—it’s been a whole year since we all crowded the tiny but mighty (and semi-air conditioned) Women’s Center for Creative Work to eat tacos and take pictures in the photo booth! It’s kind of crazy how fast time has gone by and how quickly my lil community has grown since then. It’s also kind of crazy how much my life has changed.

Before I released Wallagalore, I feel like I was loosely associated with the people around me. By that I mean I sometimes went outside, sometimes talked to people, and mostly didn’t follow up if I said, “we should get coffee.” To be fair, I still suck at the latter, but at least I’m going outside more, and I now feel connected to people and places and to what brings us together.

On the night of the official release on April 18, I tabled at Tuesday Night Café as the featured visual artist. I knew I was going to have to say a few words about my work, and myself, and was kind of dreading it. I’ve never liked to talk about my experiences even though my work has always been deeply personal.

Whether I was writing about my fascination with religion (and the satire of such), feelings of not being good enough, or neuroticism when it comes to hating when people move my belongings, I was always able to safely distance myself from everything, convincing people that I wasn’t, like, that attached to things. I did this so people wouldn’t ask about what inspired my stories because talking about oneself can be strange and embarrassing and uncomfortable, am I right?

With Wallagalore, I couldn’t quite do that. I pulled from so many parts of my life that I couldn’t deny that, yeah, that’s literally my dad, or that yup, that’s my actual job, or even that yes, I really did get kicked in the head in a mosh pit and got a concussion. In a way it was scary for me to be putting so much of myself out into the world for people to see and judge and eventually ask me about. But in a way, it was also somewhat liberating to not have to deny that everything in Wallagalore is me.

In the few moments leading up to my two minutes on the TNC stage, I hastily scribbled down some words, trying to describe Wallagalore in a way that would have universal appeal. I’m not sure I accomplished that, but I did talk about my parents. When it all boils down, Wallagalore is about family. Underneath the breakup and Mormon hipster and escaping a murderess from Nebraska, it’s about my relationship with my dad.

From then on, I knew how to talk about it, and learned that this family dynamic—pretty specific to Asian-Americans—was something that resonated with azns and allowed us to bond over our unaffectionate parents. I was amazed that this little story that felt so weird and nuanced and specific to my life was helping bring together a group of people that felt the same weird, nuanced, specific way.

Because of the response to Wallagalore, I’ve released three other illustrated publications, each dealing with things quite personal to me. I’ve attended a handful of open mics and zine fests, and I am still blown away when people tell me that they feel the same about “yellow fever”, or trying to act “so happy for you”, or about their post-grad, twentysomething “crises”. I feel like I meet amazing storytellers at each event I table at, which is pretty great considering I hate people, like, 95 percent of the time. I’m working on that, but hey, it’s only been a year.

If you’re new here, welcome. If you’ve been with me for a while and were at the release party, I appreciate you so much. All of you are integral parts of my community, and I hope that we continue to lean on each other and share each other’s strange li’l stories.

P.S.
To celebrate the anniversary, I’m discounting Wallagalore on Amazon for the rest of the month– get it for $8 here!

24 day crash

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I check Instagram out of habit (or because I’m a masochist, but probably both) and see that people close to me are nominated for awards, getting new jobs, and making money doing things that I do for free. I “like” the posts to feign enthusiasm, then I look at where I am, sitting in my car in between work shifts, using the 48 minutes I have to try to make something happen that will make me feel like less of a failure. Yet, every time I try to catch up, I feel like I just tumble more towards the end of the pack.

I am not used to being behind. Hell, I’m not even used to coming in second place.

I think about high school, when the only thing I was rejected from was Prom Committee, and that’s because I was too busy doing other extracurriculars that didn’t involve choosing what color balloons would go best with a “Night on the Red Carpet” theme. I think about college, when I could stay up until midnight working, and then wake up at 5am to continue where I left off without a hitch—all because I once heard James Franco say that he thought sleep was wasted time. I think about everything I’d been able to accomplish before, and get frustrated that my productivity seems to be slacking in comparison to my peers, and I hyperventilate, thinking that I’m not good enough, smart enough, strong enough.

I wake up. I’ve fallen asleep again, goddamn it. Time to go into work.

These feelings started a while ago. They continued onto the next day, and week, and month, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like I could use a nap. I think about taking it easier, but when I think I might follow through, I see another post on Instagram telling me I have a lot to do to catch up.

Soon, I find that I’ve worked 24 straight days in a row. That is 24 days of work that pays, work that pays less, and work that doesn’t pay at all. On this 24th day, I feel tired, but not much more than usual. I have been out since 5am, fit in a lunch date with a friend, and make it back to my apartment to rest for a few minutes before it’s time to leave again. I toy around with the idea of taking an eight-minute nap, but decide against it because I know I won’t want to wake up.

I leave for work when it’s time, and still feel tired, but this is normal. As I continue on the road, it feels less normal. It is painful to stay awake, but I am sure I can will myself through it. I think, “if I can just make it halfway, I’ll be good to go.” I think, “I am physically and mentally weak if I pull over.” I think, “Maybe I shouldn’t be listening to NPR right now.”

I can no longer tell if the fact that I cannot hold my eyes open is normal or not. On the one hand, it makes sense that I’m tired, seeing as I’ve had a long day. On the other, it doesn’t make any fucking sense because I am an adult—not a child who needs to be put down for a nap every day, yet here I am: a 25 year old who cannot deal with the fact that she is falling behind in life, lacks an apartment with the appropriate amount of space to shelter a cat, and is about to lose her health insurance.

CRASH.

I wake up and I’ve hit the cement divider on Crenshaw Boulevard. I put it in park, turn on my hazards, and sit. My left ear is ringing. I smell smoke from the side airbags that deployed. My glasses are surprisingly still on my face, despite falling off like clockwork whenever I look down, or jog, or watch a movie. Of course those fuckers stayed on this time.

I call my boss to tell her I can’t make it to work. She gets my shifts covered, and I don’t feel relieved as much as I wish I hadn’t lost out on at least $50.

I call my boyfriend and tell him I fell asleep. I start to cry because I feel like garbage. Garbage that couldn’t drive three more fucking minutes to get to her workplace without hitting a goddamn cement slab. He tells me he’s on his way to come get me.

I call my mom and tell her what happened. She asks if I’m okay, and I say, yes, like it doesn’t matter. I am stupid and tired and feel even more stupid and tired as I think about what just happened. She keeps telling me she’s glad I’m okay, and I want to tell her I don’t care that I am. But I don’t because that’s probably not what she wants to hear after her daughter just collided with a cement block at who-knows-what speed.

A car stops behind me—it’s an old Lincoln, and I’m not going to guess what year because that’s not my thing. I don’t even know it’s a Lincoln, really, until the guy who’s driving it tells me. His name is Steve, and he’s from Louisiana, visiting his mother in the area. He’s pretty old, so I start to wonder how old his mother is. He asks what happened. I get out of the car to tell him, seeing the damage for the first time. It’s not nearly as bad as it feels, but I still break down and cry more out of frustration that after all of this, THAT was the damage.

He puts out flares to direct traffic away from me as I open my trunk and hood because apparently, that’s what you’re supposed to do when you fall asleep and veer onto the shoulder, into a five-foot-tall wall. I then sit inside the car, and he tells me about the flares—he had just gotten them today from a friend who found them in his garage. They are from 1971, which he finds hilarious. I don’t know if that’s old in flare years, but I laugh along. I hope he doesn’t tell me “everything happens for a reason.”

He recites the AAA number off the top of his head because he doesn’t have a smart phone. We get a tow truck out, and he waits with me, entertaining me with car facts and instructions on how to put flares out. I can tell he’s trying to keep me distracted, which would usually bother me, but I’m too tired to be difficult at this point.

I look at the clock and think, “maybe if this is done fast enough, I can make that second shift and not be out an extra $25.” Then I think this is maybe what got me here in the first place, so maybe I should just call it a day.

Everyone texts me, saying they’re glad I’m okay, but all I kind of just want to die, tbh. I tell them I’m fine, though, out of courtesy. Little do I know that I’m about to be given a rental car with no power locking doors or electric windows.

emo girl mixtape // 2009

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sad girl playlistThis post is accompanied by this playlist of sad songs that I made when I was heartbroken in 2009. Listen to it as you read along, for the whole experience (and for some throwback emo tunes). If you want more playlists + content like this, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter!

“I hate myself more than I ever led on / I’m burnt out / at 22”
TORTURES OF THE DAMNED, BAYSIDE

It is 5:00pm– a half hour after I ruined my life. Possibly for good. Definitely for the rest of senior year.

To relieve my pain, I have rolled three of the chairs at my grandma’s house together and I am laying on them like a bed, face down. My earbuds are in and these lyrics blast through, drowning out the noise from the evening news on the television. Typically, I’d be hovering around the kitchen, wondering when dinner would be finished, or getting the plates set out on the table. But today, I don’t feel like doing anything except lying here, listening to this melodramatic song on repeat.

I guess I should stand up, unless I want them to think something’s wrong. I mean, there is. But no one has to know that.

“I’m noooooot ooookay / I’m not okaaayyhaaayyyhayyyyy”
I’M NOT OKAY (I PROMISE), MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE

I am now driving back home when I turn this song on. I like it because it reminds me of the stickers from the top of CDs— you know, the ones that keep the case sealed. I collected these, sticking them on he wooden door to my bedroom, like a collage to show the world that, fuck yeah, I own 117 compact discs. And fuck yeah, those are all loaded into my 16gb iPod so I can listen to my non-conformist music whenever I want.

When I visited his house for the first time, I noticed he, too, had a collection of stickers, but on his wooden bed posts. We’re meant to be, I thought. I asked him about it once, and he nodded and smiled. This wasn’t an uncommon reaction from him, as on a good day, he managed to utter three words to me or anyone else.

“And I can’t make it on my own / because my heart is in Ohio / so cut my wrists and black my eyes  / so I can fall asleep tonight, or die”
OHIO IS FOR LOVERS, HAWTHORNE HEIGHTS

Whoa now, getting a little dramatic there, aren’t we? Heartbreak sucks, but today– a couple hours after I texted, “I like you” to him, told him not to look at the text until I said he could, and had to painfully pry the head shake “no” out of him when I asked if he “liked me back”– mine is not Hawthorne Heights bad. But I’ll spend a couple more hours being dramatic because it still sucks.

“Stop burning bridges / and drive off of them / so I can forget about you”
TELL THAT MICK HE JUST MADE MY LIST OF THINGS TO DO TODAY, FALL OUT BOY

I wanted nothing bad to happen to him. On the contrary, it was I who was dumb. I made up signs and symbols that said we were meant to be— like the fact that we both wanted to go into the film industry (In truth, I hadn’t wanted to until I heard that he did). Or that we both liked the same music (I beefed up my The Shins collection and pushed my From First to Last to the bottom of the pile of CDs in my car I left there, hoping he’d see them and want to swap). In doing this like this, I created a fictional narrative, one that could only end badly for me when reality came crashing down.

I can want nothing bad to happen to someone, yet sing along to this song that implies the opposite because I am sad. I am giving myself that.

“If you leave / don’t leave now / please don’t take my heart away”
IF YOU LEAVE, COVER BY NADA SURF

It’s been 16 hours. I have watched three John Hughes movies + He’s Just That Into You because tbh, I hate myself right now. I feel like Duckie at the end of Pretty in Pink, watching Andie run off with Blane as this song plays in the background. Duckie and I are alike because we kept prodding, even though it was clear our feelings weren’t being reciprocated. But Duckie was smart because he didn’t say, “Did you know that I like you?”  and get a shrug in response. Duckie didn’t say he wanted to make short films in an attempt to get closer to Andie. Duckie got that girl with the puffy sleeves at the end, and I am sitting here with no one; nothing.

I haven’t left that oversized green chair I set up in the middle of my room in hours. I figure if someone asks me what’s wrong, I’ll just pretend I’m asleep. That sounds like a good plan.

“Take the pain out of love / and then love won’t exist / everything we had … is no longer there”
EVERYTHING WE HAD, THE ACADEMY IS…

I never liked this song, but it’s starting to grow on me.

“Even if I spend 2004 / listening to Morrissey in my car / I’m better off alone than I would be in your arms”
POPULACE IN TWO, FROM FIRST TO LAST

A couple days have passed. My From First to Last CDs are back at the top of the pile in my trunk. I’ve started to take some of the plastic cases out to make room in my car, and in my heart, which is easier to do now, knowing that I won’t win him over with my impeccable music taste.

I sing along to this song at the top of my lungs. In this moment, it is 2004, and Sonny Moore is my Morrissey. I suddenly feel a little more alive. Better listen to this song 46 more times.

“Swing, swing from the tangles of / my heart is crushed by a former love”
SWING, SWING, THE ALL-AMERICAN REJECTS

A week later. The songs about death are still in rotation, but less so. I still want to die a little (a lot), but now I know I won’t, unless I get hit by a car or contract ebola, like in that movie with Dustin Hoffman that we had to watch in health class that one time.

I have stopped avoiding the route that leads to his house. I have stopped taking bites of the communal chocolate ice cream straight from the carton because that’s what females are supposed to do when dudes wrong them. I have stopped feeling like my whole world rides on us getting into film school together (spoiler alert: I did, he didn’t), and living happily ever after with two cats and maybe a dog, and probably not a kid.

“Although we’ve come / to the end of the road / still, I can’t let gooooo”
END OF THE ROAD, BOYZ II MEN

I can actually let go. I am fine. The only person this song reminds me of is Seth Cohen on The OC (That’s a lie, but I’m trying to speak truth into existence). I feel stupid. I feel sad. I feel everything at a time when I want to feel nothing. But I am mending. I am starting to laugh about the whole situation with friends over boba. I am starting to feel like a functioning 17-year-old again, whose only worries should be school and boys– oh, wait. I am starting to make new playlists in iTunes to preoccupy myself when I feel like trash.

I still listen to My Chemical Romance, but because I’m, like, really into horror right now (this will pass), and not because I actually want to die and/or be on the foggy brain meds my favorite bands sing about so often.

I think I’m okay (I promise).

 

 

 

budding luv

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Happy Day After Valentine’s Day! This is the day I head over to CVS on my lunch break, scoop up the non-Conversation-Hearts candy on clearance, and adopt the stuffed animals that didn’t find a home this year. I know V-Day is a sort of meh, and that we shouldn’t spend our time and money celebrating such a commercialized holiday (down with capitalism!), but I think it’s still kind of fun to dedicate a day to love—whether it be friend love, self-love, or relationship love. Today, I am dedicating this to the latter, and will tell you a story not many people have heard before.

People ask me all the time about how my dude and I met. I usually say at our campus job at USC, where we drove drunk students to parties, and international students to their homes 2 miles away from school because they didn’t know any better to not live where there are no street lights. But the truth is, it’s much more nuanced than that, and a few coincidences had to be strung together to make us happen.

We met in Fall 2011, but were not on each other’s radars at all. Like, at all. For instance, I once got a concussion that left me with poor short-term memory and nasty headaches, but I went to work anyway, and he told supervisors I should probably go home and not be responsible for peoples’ safety—but he doesn’t remember ever doing that.

In Spring 2013, I became fast friends with a girl because we were both scholarship recipients, Asian-American, and from the San Gabriel Valley. Months later, I walked into a large class, and that same friend called me over and told me to sit with her, as I was trying to get settled in the dark corner by myself. My dude just happened to be sitting with the girl’s group of friends (along with his ex, who tried to ruin my life on multiple occasions, but that’s a different story), and from then on, we were forced to acknowledge each other every Thursday night in USC’s Norris Cinema Theatre from 6 to 10pm.

After chatting during class and at work for weeks (in part, thanks to this event), he invited himself over to my apartment, where I was in my Jonas Brothers: Burning Up Tour t-shirt, getting ready to watch “Helvetica”—the documentary about fonts. He said he’d be over at 3am, after he got off work. Tooootal “Netflix and Chill” move, which I’m now rolling my eyes over, but at the time, I agreed.

He made his way over, but we never got to watch the documentary, because we were busy talking until the sun came up, which is when we left to pick up breakfast burritos at 23rd Street Café (a gem!). We then came back to my apartment, but didn’t eat because I saw that my favorite episode of Supernatural was playing on TNT. (It was the season 5 finale where Sam jumps into the devil hole and Castiel resurrects Bobby, FYI.) I started dozing off, and my dude told me I should probably just go to sleep. So, I went in my room, knocked out without saying anything, and woke up alone hours later, with my breakfast burrito safely tucked away in the fridge. The rest is history! And burritos. Except that time we both went gluten-free—it was the inside of burritos only.

I’m sure we all have a delightfully quirky story about some kind of love, and I’m dying to hear yours, so share yours in a comment below!

new intentions // 2018

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I’m pretty sure most of us have things we want to accomplish this year. You know, typical things, like losing weight, accomplishing a career goal, or laying off the spells you’ve been casting on that one girl that tried to ruin your life in eighth grade by telling everyone you were a poser and didn’t even like screamo music.

Though we set intentions to achieve commendable results, I find that most resolutions are quite negative, in a literal sense. They involve taking away—whether it’s food, free time, or the simple enjoyment that comes from chanting while surrounded by nasty Myspace wall posts you printed out, while Underoath plays in the background—and that can make it harder to achieve. This year, I propose we focus less on the negative, and more on the nourishment of mind, body, and spirit; to fill up on the good, so there’s less room for the things we wish to change. My thought is, the more we fuel ourselves for growth, the more naturally the positive will fall into place.

Food

As someone with a history of disordered eating, food is important to me. Like, really important. Like, I think about food 90 percent of the time important. I’ve researched almost every diet from high fat to low fat; no-carb to eh-carbs-aren’t-that-bad; high-protein to you-can-forage-for-berries-in-your-backyard, and have realized that they all have to do with eating less of something—whatever that may be.

In the past three years, I became so obsessed with limiting my food intake that I gained weight from not eating enough. I gradually started to feel and look weaker, which was accompanied by a myriad of health issues, including joint pain and low blood pressure. It’s been incredibly frustrating to feel like I’ve been working so hard, and still have things start to fall apart. Throughout this process, though, I’ve begun to realize how important food is, and not just in terms of limiting it.

The times I’ve felt strongest recently are the times I’ve focused on fueling—on adding more food. Food that’s good for the body. Food for nourishment. Food that helps me grow. If you intend to eat better this year, instead of obsessing about limitation, it may be helpful to focus more on adding good, so there’s less room for the things you wish to avoid. Also, I’m not a doctor, so don’t sue me if you eat so many leafy greens that you turn into a head of romaine.

Work

It is 100 percent okay to strive for more and chase your dreams in 2018. Go for that promotion. Be the last one to leave the office. Improve your personal assistant efficiency by 43 percent. Other job stuff (that I wouldn’t know because I don’t really have one??)!

I think it’s great to be on that work grind, but sometimes when we devote ourselves to more work, we lose track of taking necessary time for ourselves to recharge. If you’re rolling you eyes at this, I get it. I work four part-time jobs, and only half of them provide stable income. If I’m not at work, I’m applying for a fellowship, or sketching a book, or chauffeuring children, or updating my website. I understand that we’re all busy trying to accomplish things while still faced with the task of paying our student loans, rent, and bills from the one time we decided to see an endocrinologist that said nothing was even wrong and it was all in our heads.

As a fellow busy person, I realize that it can often feel more stressful to take a break than to keep working. I also realize, though, that if you don’t take time to rest, you can burn out, and then you won’t be able to work or pay rent. And then you’ll starve and/or freeze to death, probably.

If you’d rather not die, let’s tackle this together. When we’re writing things in our shiny new planners with our colorful pens, let’s be sure to throw in a quick lil 30 mins of reading, meditation, or even a quick Netflix break. Then, when the time comes, we’ll set an alarm, and get lost in whatever we’re doing to relax, and won’t check our phones until the buzzer goes off.

Taking this time might sound kind of stupid, and like it’s not doing anything, and yes, I’ve fought with my therapist over this numerous times before she eventually quit on me, but it works! Happy us = more productive us = a “more efficient at coffee runs” us.

People

No one likes toxic bitches in their lives. That’s just true. It may seem like it’s easy to just cut them off, but it’s become increasingly challenging to do so because of how we’re all connected through the internet.

I’ll be honest—I have a social media problem. I can easily just not go outside if I think the girl who did me dirty is going to be around my neighborhood, or stay away from Panera because I know a bitch who loves white people food, but staying away from them online is a whole different thing. Sure, I can block people, but if I did that, I wouldn’t be able to roll my eyes at their dumb af Instagram stories, stalk their current location via the Facebook mobile app, or screenshot their tweets with pronoun agreement errors. (This isn’t just me, right?) The issue with these actions is that by continuing to do things like this, I haven’t cut them off at all; I still let that negativity seep into my screen and affect my life. And I’m trying to stop it.

In 2018, I invite you to spend more time with people who are not toxic bitches, and I’ll try my best to do it, too. We will satisfy our hearts with friends who would never talk behind our backs and tell everyone that, “like, actually, I think her hair is ugly and weird.” We are going to hang out with family members who make us laugh, and would never start a passive-aggressive Instagram war where if you like something first, she won’t like it after that. We will go outside and connect with people in our communities who are doing good, and not trying to turn all of your mutual friends against you by telling everyone you (justifiably) called her a racist.

If we fill our days with positivity and light, we won’t have free time to hate-stalk, and that’s best for you, those around you who would benefit from your undivided attention, and especially that chick that called you a poser.

visible // invisible

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For me, the year 2017 was full of moments of feeling seen and unseen, often juxtaposed in a way that made me both hopeful and frustrated. As I recapped my year, I started to realize that, at the center of my highs and lows, was the issue of identity. In this essay, I explore who I am as a person of my craft, and as a member of my community, and I’d love for you to do the same (if you’d like!). I think we all have a pretty good sense of who we are in general, but to delve deeper is something from which we may all benefit. So, as you read through this, you can keep these questions in the back of your head:

 – How does your work reflect who you are, and when, if at all, is it necessary to change your work to reflect who your audience is?

– When do you personally feel visible and invisible, and how does that affect you/how you interact with others?

-How does your craft and your community shape who you are? Is there an intersection of the two?

Or, you totally don’t have to, and you can just read! xx

 

craft

I released my first self-published book in April, a project that was 100 percent mine—my vision, my mistakes, and, overall, my unique learning experience. On the night of my book release party, I sold out of copies to a full house. I connected with folks I hadn’t spoken to or seen in years. I ate tacos, and got to take leftover watermelon-cucumber agua fresca home. This was a high point that was only outshined by the fact that the official release day had yet to come.On that release day, I had the opportunity to table at Tuesday Night Café and connect with new people and artists (and also got the flu, which destroyed me for two weeks after). Through the relationships formed here, I was able to table at more open mics and connect even more with likeminded members of the Asian Pacific Islander community. I talked to people about their stories, and how that related to the story I had just put out, and how we could help more people tell theirs. I felt inspired. I felt like I was making a difference. I felt visible as an API artist.

Since, I’ve felt the buzz from these events naturally dwindle until silent. In that time, I’ve taken meetings that left me questioning if I’m good enough to be seen.

I’ve felt the attention in the room dissipate when I say that I’m fourth-generation Japanese-American. I’ve seen people not want to hear my experience because I’m not an “immigrant” in the way they think of the word. I’ve felt unheard when they ask what I’m writing, and I tell them about my pilot that explores anti-blackness in the Asian-American community—their eyes glazing over because they aren’t the ones out there experiencing what this means. Many aren’t aware these stories exist, and aren’t interested in hearing more, if it doesn’t fit their idea of what the Asian experience is.

It’s a frustrating thing, to be Asian and American at times when people see you as either, or. The fact that I am both, but am often unacknowledged as both can make me feel invisible as both an API and an API artist, and I am just starting to learn how to navigate this strange af space.

community

Let’s be real. The internet is a great way to connect activists to others, organize events, and start social media movements. Through Twitter and Facebook, we pass on the phone numbers of representatives whose votes can be swayed, disseminate information about rallies and protests, and increase awareness of causes that need more attention. Sharing and participating in these conversations can make us feel like we’re making a difference, and often times, we are. However, keeping our activism limited to what we do online and through the phone can be mentally draining and can feel unrewarding at times.

It can be frustrating to call senators and ask that they vote against a bill, and have that still not be enough to stop it from being passed. It’s frustrating to share a hashtag in hopes of raising awareness of police brutality, only to have police officers be acquitted again. It’s frustrating messaging a friend on Facebook about their problematic views in hopes of changing them, but have them go right back to reposting Breitbart articles. It’s fucking frustrating. And it’s easy to feel like you’re working your butt off to make a difference, but when the results are not tangible or instant, you can feel like you’re losing yourself in a sea of twitter users fighting alt-right bots and conservative housewives, with the only satisfaction coming from the “likes” you get when you tweet gifs @realDonaldTrump. It’s so easy to feel invisible.

I’ve found that when I’m overwhelmed by all of this, it’s refreshing to ditch my electronic devices and go out into the community to interact with people face to face. And, to be honest, it’s weird to speak about this because it’s something that’s pretty new to me. Yet, in the short amount of time I’ve been involved, I feel a change in the way I perceive others and the ways in which I approach how I try to make my voice heard.

When you go outside, you get to see the faces of the people you’re fighting for, and those you’re fighting alongside. It’s helpful to see how your actions direct real, human beings, taking you out of that “what I’m doing isn’t affecting anyone” funk. It’s not always fun to get in a car and drive to a community meeting, find free parking in a loading zone after 6pm, and look for a seat next to someone you don’t know, when you could just sit at home and retweet Shaun King and John Lewis.

I get it. Been there. I am always Team No Pants and Tweet and Chill.

With that said, some of the most rewarding experiences of this past year have happened because I decided to go outside and make myself uncomfortable. I’ve gone to a mosque to support my Muslim brothers and sisters after they received death threats. I’ve spoken to others about how I use art as activism, and how they can, too. I’ve simply listened to stories of those who feel oppressed in a very different way than I do. No matter how big or how small an action is within the community, I’ve found it worth it, and I let it inspire me to keep fighting and to take those steps outside into the world to make a difference.

I’m not saying it’s easy or the wrong approach to sit behind a computer screen. In fact, the way social media is used today calls for, and inspires change, and I think we should keep using it. However, when you start to feel invisible, it’s a great idea to go out there and make yourself visible, while at the same time, putting yourself in a position where you’re able to see others. Plus, you might make a friend or two, and we all know you could use more friends.

 

final thoughts

I would ultimately love for these newsletter essays to be about how we can become more comfortable in our own skin, and challenge ourselves to recognize ways that we aren’t, and ways that we already are. With this confidence, I’d love us to go out into the world and make ourselves visible. Grow as a person of your craft. Grow your community that will support you, and you, in turn, will support them. Grow as a human being.

That’s the goal. There is always a chance that I won’t have something to say in a month, and will have to document a story of how I peed myself in public again. Fair warning.

Balance

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I’ve always struggled to find balance in my life.

I like to work. I like pushing myself. I like trying things that people don’t expect someone to be able to do. It’s not because I was taught to strive for perfection by my parents as a child (my therapist just couldn’t understand this one) or because I want to be the best human being in the world at everything that was ever invented. I just like doing things.

Years ago, I saw an interview with James Franco in which he said that sleeping was useless, and that he got as little shut-eye as possible to stay productive. I tried this, and found out that sleeping is not useless, and that you will actually turn into a grouch who can’t stay awake in a class that you thought was “basic science” but actually turned out to be a crash course in astrophysics.

So, maybe that as a wash… but once I figured out what schedule worked best for me, I stuck to it. I spent the majority of college waking up at 5:30am, heading to Starbucks, writing until 9am, going to class, working at my campus job, and then coming back home to sleep so I could repeat everything again. During this time, I was also not drinking water, not eating regularly, and was probably a little bit miserable.

When I graduated, I decided to take a break from work. I made the conscious decision to not apply for a full-time job because I wanted to create, but instead of writing, I ended up busting out my Nintendo 64, and played Pokemon Puzzle League for hours a day. I did eventually get a part-time job, if only to supplement the snacking I did when I worked my way up to becoming a Puzzle League Champion. My balance shifted away from work and more towards relaxation (though let’s be real: PPL was actually anything but relaxing).

Two years passed, and I still hadn’t created anything like I had planned. I started feeling guilty. When people asked me what I was doing, I would say “nothing,” but in my head I screamed, “not enough!”

That’s when my Wallagalore journey started. I set out to just make something. I wanted something tangible that I could hold in my hands– to prove to myself that I could get something done. I had been playing around with the story idea for a while, but made excuses to put it off (aka I got really into taking walks on the beach in the middle of the day and looking at famous instagram cats).

When I finally did put myself to work, my balance shifted again. This time, it was like being back in school. Up until recently, I was working three part-time jobs while writing and illustrating Wallagalore in between shifts. I was also exercising for at least two hours a day, not eating enough to a point where I damaged my metabolism/suffered from joint issues, and just felt exhausted all the time. I felt guilty when I wasn’t being productive–still afraid that I wasn’t doing enough.

But it was enough. It was always enough (Except maybe when I was playing Puzzle League and couldn’t beat the Elite Four). I know this because I got the flu the day Wallagalore was released, and got absolutely knocked off of my feet. I couldn’t sit up, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t do anything. And absolutely nothing bad happenedNothing combusted. Nothing was destroyed. It was okay to take time off. I actually think I needed a little break; I just didn’t realize it.

As of now, I work two part-time jobs, have two rest days from workouts, and illustrate and write for projects part-time, but take breaks when I need to. I still feel a little guilty when I spend a few hours riding Mission: Breakout! at California Adventure instead of sketching comic panels, but I’m starting to feel better about it. If this is balance, it’s a little weird, tbh. But I’m working on it.

2017 Resolutions

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I will not hate-stalk people online

Three years ago, I became obsessed with my boyfriend’s ex girlfriend (we’ll just call her The Devil). It started off innocent enough–I just wanted to know where she was from, her height, her weight, and her aspirations of life. That escalated into me needing to know where she lived.

Instagram used to have this cool thing, where on someone’s profile, you could click a map icon and see where all of the person’s pictures had been taken. It’s supposed to be used so you can see the different countries and states the person has traveled to… but if you zoom in enough, you can see the cross streets of places that pictures was posted from. I knew that the location on the map with the highest number of posted pictures was typically where that person lived. So, from there, all I had to do was two-finger zoom as much as I could to see where The Devil resided.

Unfortunately, her profile was set to private. But fortunately enough, I knew her friends’ names, and they were not set to private. Like anyone else would do, I found all of the pictures of The Devil on other profiles, and made a note of where these pictures seemed to be posted from most often. After enough time and dedication, I was able to determine, with confidence, that she lived on the corner of Wilshire and Warner in Westwood.

Now, what was I going to do with this information? Would knowing what restaurants she reviewed on Yelp make me a better person? What could I have done in the time it took me to set my Linkedin profile to private just so I could see where The Devil interned in 2011? Why am I still doing this to myself, even though I found out she lives in New York now, and will have no further impact on my relationship? So many questions, and more, which is why in 2017, I will put an end to my hate-stalking.

I will stay off conservative social media

Y’all heard of fake news. It’s that thing where “writers” will come up with an attention-grabbing headline with a couple words in all-caps (like “DEADLY” and “BELIEVE” and “CHRISTIANS”) to get you to click on the link. Once you’re there, your met with a poorly-written article with spelling errors, completely bonkers conspiracy theories, and ads for penis enlargement.

This past election, up until now, I’ve been using this as a source of entertainment. I sometimes like to search through the #deplorable and #trump hashtags on Twitter just to find out what these people are sharing for the day.

I’ve learned so much about how Bill Clinton has this thing called “Sex Slave Island” where he keeps prostitutes, and how Obama is actually converting America to Islam and replacing our currency, and how Trump has literally been sent to us by god. It’s super entertaining until you realize that half of America isn’t in on the joke, and some “writer” is capitalizing on their refusal to use critical thinking skills. Plus, it’s an incredible waste of time.

I’ll be trying to get some work done, see that someone has posted another “article” from a clickbait “news outlet” and I’ll be done for the afternoon. I get stuck in these cycles where I keep clicking on their “sources” (usually just another article from the same website with absolutely no proof of anything) for hours until I get so frustrated that I have to stop myself and walk away from my computer. And if I do happen to be able to pull myself out of this hell hole, there’s always the comments section, where people have managed to come up with ten million names for Obama, like OldBummer, O-Bore-Me, and of course, the n-word.

So, not a real good use of my time. And in 2017, I’m giving it a rest.

I will be kinder to myself

I consider myself a kind person. I tip well, am polite, and generally try to not hurt anyone’s feelings unless I’m subtweeting on Twitter. But sometimes, I can be not-so nice.

For instance, whenever someone asks me to go out and I don’t want to, I’ll tell them that it’s my mom’s birthday dinner that night. Almost every time. By this logic, my mom had 10 birthday dinners last year. And I’m not even making an excuse so I can do something with other people; I’m saying this because all I want to do is sit on my couch and watch The Goldbergs on a Wednesday night.

Also, sometimes, when I’m bored, I like to report The Devil’s Instagram profile as “inappropriate” to spite her for being set to private and making me work harder to stalk her. My bad.

Also, also, sometimes I stare at people will judgment-filled eyes because I know they voted for Trump. Oops.

But the person I’m the worst to is probably myself. I’m tough on myself and don’t like to make mistakes, but I’m working on it. And I’ll start by showing myself kindness when I inevitably mess up all of these resolutions.

When I accidentally spend an hour trying to figure out what The Devil was doing in 2008, I’ll give myself some slack.

When I get sucked into an afternoon of leisurely reading about how Hillary is actually dead and has a body double because the Clintons want to unleash satan on America, I’ll be forgiving.

And when I don’t want to go out with people and would rather sit around in sweatpants and see what Barry Goldberg is up to, I’ll give my mom another birthday dinner and won’t feel guilty for putting myself first. Yay, 2017!

 

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I’m not a sensitive person.

I spent four years of college in a room full of writers giving each other “notes” aka when you sit and listen to everyone tear your script apart. I have a high pain tolerance and once refused to go to the doctor, not knowing that my wrist was fractured. I’m, like, 90 percent sure I can right-hook my way out of a potential mugging because I take kickboxing once a week. (I do also have an unhealthy amount of empathy for inanimate objects and often cry when I see children taking care of their stuffed animals, but that’s not the point.)

That being said, men make me uncomfortable. (And I hate to give them credit for it)

I tend to avoid going on walks by myself with my arms and legs exposed because I’m scared or street harassment. I’m afraid to smile or take off my sunglasses because I don’t want to hear the sexist, unwarranted comments from strange men. I’m afraid of how some remarks and actions are being normalized, and are considered “not a big deal.” I’m afraid of that thing that’s happened multiple times, when I ignore a man’s “compliment” and he calls me a bitch for not saying thank you or wanting to drop to my knees and suck his dick. I’m afraid of even saying anything about this fear because people will tell me that this is just “boys being boys” or “locker room talk.” To that, I say a polite, “Fuck you.”

You’re telling me it’s just something that happens that we should accept because boys can’t be expected to control their penises.

You’re telling me that I should just “get over it.”

You’re telling your children that they’re being too goddamn sensitive if a man on the street wolf-whistles at them, or even lays a hand on them.

No one, especially men, should be able to make women feel powerless.

This is not about the “issues” in politics. It’s not about guns or the economy or taxes. This is about being a decent human being. This is about being good role models for young ones. This is about stopping this cycle of men making women feel uncomfortable, and people just accepting it as a part of daily life.

I’m sick of people brushing off this behavior as normal.

I’m sick of those who divert attention away from it, like it’s something we should just move on from because it’s not convenient to address.

And I’m fucking sick of thinking that I have to wear a sweater when it’s 90 degrees because I don’t want to be honked at by a goddamn douchebag in a fucking Dodge Charger.

American Idiot

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This is the first entry in a series in which I talk about what albums have had the biggest impacts on my life. First up is Green Day’s American Idiot. 

In 2004, my grandparents had just gotten Fuse– a television channel dedicated to playing rock music and shows about rock music. Around this time, MTV and VH1 also created channels that would play only music videos 24/7, and would play My Chemical Romance’s “Helena” at least twice an hour.

My mom kept Living History by Hillary Clinton on her nightstand, and my dad still refers to George W. Bush as “Dick Cheney’s Puppet.” We’re from a suburb just east of Downtown LA. My high school was pretty liberal, with 97 percent minority students, and I knew zero white kids until I went to college. I could tell that people around me felt disillusioned about the country and the war around this time, and I had no idea what was going on.

Then “American Idiot” was released in September.

The music video for the titular song took place in a warehouse with a green american flag hanging as the backdrop as the trio played through the angsty pop-punk song. Halfway through, the flag started bleeding and a rush of bright green liquid flooded the warehouse, soaking the band in, what I assume was, Nickelodeon slime. Chaos. Plus in the first 30 seconds, they said the word “fuck.” This shit was cool, and I could watch it every 10 minutes if I switched between the music video channels with enough finesse and luck.

The lead singer, hunky Billie Joe Armstrong, sang about things like political tension, poor leadership, media, propaganda– all words that I’d been hearing, but Green Day made it all make sense. People around me, and around the country, were angry and frustrated and felt disillusioned and I finally got it. All it took was a punk rock opera about a suburban kid who runs away and finds drugs and a girl and eventually ends up back home where he started.

American Idiot is the first CD I remember buying with my own money at the old Tower Records near East LA College. My dad took me (like he did on Friday nights), and to my surprise, he didn’t say anything about the “explicit content warning” on the front. I gave him my money to pay for it as I hid, thinking it was illegal to purchase a CD with bad words if you were under 18. As soon as I got home, I put it in my pink Hello Kitty portable, anti-skip CD player and let it consume me. The words, the story, the political commentary. I didn’t take it out until I’d memorized the words to all 9 minutes and 8 seconds of “Jesus of Suburbia.”

The album made me rename my Myspace username to Billie_Joe_Obsessed, and to use good ol’ HTML change my profile colors to black, red, and green with a heart grenade as my custom cursor. I took the CD booklet out of the plastic cover and stuck it in the front of my binder, so everyone could see how fucking punk rock I was. I wore a studded belt and bucked it to the left side to be more like BJA. I hated myself for not having anxiety and panic attacks because that meant I couldn’t write badass songs about my experiences (In hindsight, I probably did this to myself). I gave the radio two middle fingers for playing “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” when “Letterbomb” was clearly sooooo much better.

This album changed who I was, how I dressed, and solidified my thoughts on politics, and life as a girl from a lower-middle class neighborhood with dreams of sticking it to the higher-ups. Don’t worry–  I’ve mellowed since, and not just because you can’t alter the HTML on Facebook or Instagram.

American Idiot is anti-establishment, but in a badass Bernie Sanders way. It called for change. It got me thinking. It got me involved. It made me want to make cool shit that could change minds. And I still feel that way to this day, when I listen and sing along the whole time, from the start of “American Idiot” all the way to the end of “Whatsername” (or “Governator” on the deluxe release).