radicalization of a fourth grader

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I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got here—the unique series of events that brought be here, today. Sitting in front of a computer. Drafts of scripts to be written. Meetings to prep for. All as I fume at twitter conservatives and centrists and listen to the new Chance album playing softly in my impulse-buy AirPods. Why am I this way? How did this happen? What would happen if I threw it waaay back and retraced my steps to the formative year of fourth grade? Well, I guess I’ll see…

My fourth grade teacher was Mr. Flores. Our class was known to be the “recorder band classroom”, aka we all had to play a $5 plastic flute contraption and sing while Mr. Flores played the guitar. We performed at school assemblies, but also at the mall, which was a big fucking deal. It was in this classroom that I learned how to read music and play the piano at a level you’d expect when you’re learning with 30 other 9-year-olds.

Mr. Flores was a bit major, I realize now. He didn’t teach us anything about the California Missions, as was required by the state law. Instead, we learned how to do perspective drawings of cityscapes. As a nerd, this was annoying because I wanted to learn anything and everything to establish dominance, but knowing what I do now about colonization and religion, I appreciate this gesture. I think he didn’t agree with the erasure of American Indian culture and didn’t want to teach us about it, which I respect. Either that, or he really fucking liked drawing pictures of buildings. Could go either way, but I’m still grateful.

It was also in this class that I felt creativity was rewarded for the first time. We would get happy faces drawn on our essays and stories—the more the better (I think my record was 9). These made me think I was good at something in the arts field—the two dots and upside-down rainbow doodles gave me the direction I so needed. We made illustrated books to go with our stories. We went to lower grades and read them aloud. It was a culmination of different types of art—writing, drawing, performance—and it gave us the chance to explore what we liked, and didn’t like, to do. For instance, I found out that I hated children, even if they were only three years younger than me, but loved combining writing and illustration. You know how the rest of the story goes from there.

Looking back on this year, I wonder if I became smarter. The answer is probably no. You don’t become more conventionally intelligent by blowing into a plastic flute and coloring instead of reading your social studies book. BUT, did I learn valuable skills that benefit me to this day, and do I know how to draw skyscrapers with cool-ass windows? Hell yeah. As I age, I am becoming more aware of, and grateful for, those who have helped shaped me into the weirdo I am. Doing this gives me some insight into how what I do in the present will contribute to my future, and makes me aware of how my actions can affect others. Mostly, it just makes me want to teach kids that imperialism is bad an art is good. So, thanks for the radicalization, Mr. Flores.

birthday goals

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It’s my birthday month!!! And I’m celebrating by not celebrating? I never liked the idea of partying (erm, going to brunch and then having to go to work, then coming back and sleeping by 9pm, if we’re being honest) for more than my set date of birth. But I do like the idea of reflecting on the past year to measure growth and to celebrate the lil things I did to better my wellbeing, so that I’ll do!

In my 26th year of life, I feel like I did quite a bit. I got coffee with artists. I created zines. I tabled at 10+ events. I stated they/them pronouns for the first time. I moved (well, I’m in the process of it) to a bigger place with windows and a normal-sized shower. I wrote a lot. I grew in ways that I didn’t know I could—I learned how to nurture my heart and mind and rested (not always) when I needed to. I meditated. I took walks. I released big ideas into the universe and allowed her to take it from there. I trusted.

Now, I’m looking to expand on what I did before. My theme for this year is SPACE. Holding my own space. Creating space. Knowing when I need space.

In holding my own space, I want to speak out more when I am not satisfied. I plan to push back when someone tries to marginalize me or take advantage of kindness. I would like to be more vocal about the work I am willing to do, and decline the work I don’t feel will promote growth. I’m also going to do that thing at concerts where you don’t let the blonde girl in heels push in front of you and then block your view of Hellogoodbye the whole time.

To create space, I want to encourage artists to be artists. I want to volunteer my time at events that literally provide space for artists of color to perform. I want to let people know that they don’t have to be the most talented to tell their truths. I’m also going to remind myself that helping others succeed does not mean that I cannot succeed. It’s a challenge sometimes, but I’m doing my best to remind myself that there’s room for everyone, and that if we all keep creating, it will become easier for our marginalized voices to be heard. Plus, I think it would just be cool to not be the token Asian person at a zine fest whose “Yellow Fever” zine attracts white dudes for the wrong reason. So, that part is purely selfish.

Knowing when I need space is easy. Acting on it is the difficult part. As a workaholic/compulsive people-pleaser, I often find myself putting other peoples’ wants first. BUT I’m making an effort to do some real self-care this year. I’m going to say “no” to the things I don’t want to do. I’m going to separate work time from rest time, and really follow through (and, like, maybe lock my phone in a box or something, and then throw it into the ocean). I yearn to find moments where I can set aside labels (writer, illustrator, disgruntled employee who doesn’t get a single day off, etc…) and just be a person. I think it’s so easy for people—me, especially—to get lost in work and what we want to be, instead of taking a look in the mirror and seeing who we are now, in all our struggling-but-not-dead, work-in-progress, kale-in-teeth glory.

Cheers to 27!

we are storytellers

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Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!!! I wanted to do an illustration series where I draw the influential Asian-Americans I grew up watching but it’s already halfway through the month and I’ve done exactly zero. So, we’ll try again another time. But other than that, let’s celebrate all things API!

APAHM is a time devoted to lifting each other up. We all have different experiences as APIs—we’re of different generations, have different ancestries and customs, and are all different people. We’re female, male, nonbinary, LGBTQ+. We’re from LA or NY or the Bay and everywhere in between. There is no one API experience, and that means there are an infinite number of stories to tell. Isn’t that exciting?!

This past year has been a whirlwind. We got Crazy Rich Asians, Searching, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and so many others. To be honest, seeing some sort of representation was enough to make me cry happy tears, but it also left me wanting more. Could I relate to these movies? Sure, I guess. But is it possible that there are other stories to be explored? Definitely. And would I love see a TV show about a fourth-generation Japanese-American emo kid who likes frogs and hates dudes? Or about queer APIs? Or the San Gabriel Valley? Hell yeah. And those are just my experiences. There are so many others just waiting to be featured—and they will be, if we keep speaking up.

If you’re API reading this, let your voice be heard. Tell your stories in whatever way you feel comfortable. Draw pictures of your family. Write about that time you felt represented. Make music about what it’s like to live in your city. Cook food that you grew up with. Talk to your parents, siblings, elders. Much of the time, we also live in immigrant communities, where we aren’t the only POC. We interact with others, we blend cultures (eat a lot of great food while we’re at it), and we learn about each other as we live together. This is part of your API experience, too. Share it!

If you’re not API, listen to stories of people who are—as well as other marginalized voices. Find yourself in their experiences, knowing that we’re all just out here trying to make it. Talk to people, engage with others. And if you relate to something, or feel like someone’s work is important, signal boost them!!

We have 16 more days of APAHM, but don’t let it end there. We have the power to share our stories, and we don’t have to rely on a dedicated month to be able to do so. Be loud (I know, we kind of struggle with that sometimes), persist, but also take a nap or a walk when you feel like it’s too much. Then, do it all over again. We got this, y’all.

a happiness exercise

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Happy Spring! It’s time for flowers, and bunnies, and renewal of attitudes and outlooks. In celebration, this month, I am posing a few questions to myself. Why do I spend so much time thinking about things I don’t like? What would happen if I spent more time thinking about things I do like? What is so comforting about dwelling in feelings of unhappiness and envy and that thing where you see a picture of a friend on the beach and seethe with rage because you neither have paid time off nor money to travel? Sound like you? Even just a little? Let’s explore.

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I saw this meme (I think it’s a meme—I don’t really know the definition of “meme”) and very much related to it. I can easily spend an hour fact checking a stranger’s stupid fucking tweet about how “George Soros is funding the migrant caravan” for the sole purpose of being outraged. I often find myself three years deep into a frenemy’s IG for the umpteenth time, reveling in the grammatical errors or problematic captions, before someone asks me what I’m doing and I put my phone away in shame. Sometimes I find myself plotting revenge against the kid that stole my gel pens in 5thgrade and auctioned them off to the bullies in my class. All normal stuff, right? Except that none of these things are particularly happiness inducing. I asked myself, “does being unhappy really bring me joy?“ My answer was, “I think so.” Okay, follow up question: “What if joy can be sparked by pure joy?”

What even makes me happy? As I ponder the answer, the graphic in the bottom left of this journal page is telling me to “Do What I Love” and that’s both comforting and makes me feel like a hypocrite. What do I love, even? I guess I love fighting with bigots, debunking conservative talking points, and reporting Facebook trolls. Ok, bitch. But what do you reallylove?  What brings you joy without the anger? Without the resentment? Without having to click the “Report for racism, sexism, homophobia, etc…” button online?

I love walking on the beach path across from my house before 7am, right before the sun is coming up and when the air is cool.

I love doing edgework on ice, when I’ve paid $7 for the early bird public session, and the rink is completely empty.

I love drawing cathartic comics about anxiety and gender expression, with the local news playing softly in the background.

I love hiking in forests, where the trees are tall and the sun peeks through as I listen to the “We Bought a Zoo” soundtrack in my earbuds.

I love listening to the West Side Story OST (most notably “Dance at the Gym” and “Cool”) and pretending that I’m a Jet gal, dancing and fighting my way through the streets.

As I write this, it becomes easier to think of things to add to the list, and I already feel more open to joy and calmness. I feel lighter, happier. It’s amazing what a difference  even a gentle shift in mindset can make—how simply thinking about things that bring you bliss can change your attitude. So, just imagine what actually doing the things that make you happy can do. Boy, when I get my ass off this couch, it’s over for y’all.

Whether you feel content, or think you’re in the “the only thing that brings me pleasure is hating my enemies” camp, or even a little of both, I ask you to consider this: What does your list look like? What is your idea of happiness? And can you put yourself in those situations more often (and maybe layoff the twitter fights)?

 

 

 

gift of failure

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I’m gonna be real here. It’s been a rough first quarter of the year, y’all. I was waiting to hear back from three separate things, just to get three separate rejections. Each “no” that came in gave me hope that maybe the next one would be a “yes”. It did not happen, LOL. I was sad (also LOL). But what made me less sad was thinking about how far I’ve come since just one year ago. This time, I was able to step back and say, “That sucks. Okay, next.”

A year ago, this would have crushed me. I know, because it did. And I wrote a zine about it. It seemed like my life was falling apart as others’ were starting to pick up. I cried. I wanted to hide in a dark corner until every negative feeling left my body and sank into the ground. I thought about getting a 9 to 5! Holy shit.

I became tough on myself, vowing to work hard to achieve my goals. I pushed myself to get better. I cut out breaks. I drank a lot of coffee. (Sidenote: one time, I read that James Franco didn’t like to sleep because it was just wasting time, so I did the same, and lasted for like three days before I fell asleep for 14 hours straight) It did not work, and also, I totaled my car.

So, I tried a different approach. Thus, began my mindfulness journey. I meditated daily. I took walks on the beach even though I hate the sand. I did things for fun in between work. I asked the universe for help. Yeah, like The Secret. I manifested that shit, y’all.

Slowly, I began to see change. I began to love my journey, and appreciate that others’ journeys are different than mine. When someone had good news, it wasn’t crushing anymore. Did it suck? Yes, tbh, but it didn’t send me into a depression spiral of “why wasn’t that me I’m a loser!!!” I began to trust myself, and trust the process more. I was able to focus on my goals and my adventure, and how much I was learning and growing.

And I did grow. I became a better writer and illustrator and was… happy?? And my work reflected it.

I wrote a script that was a finalist in multiple competitions. I wrote and illustrated four zines. I went to lunch and coffee and connected with people in my field even when I really didn’t want to leave the apartment. And every time I did something small, I noticed I’d get little rewards. It’s possible I’m reading too much into it, and there’s actually no causality between taking a meeting, and then immediately getting an email saying my zine fest rejection actually turned into an acceptance. But, by treating these as gifts from the universe—gifts I received because I’m taking steps forward and learning—it makes me that much more aware of the li’l good things as I continue to stumble my way around.

Yeah, rejection still sucks, but it doesn’t have to suck that much. We learn, we grow, we move on. Even if it’s after some tears and a playlist full of of sad music. We’ll be okay.

friend love

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Friends with benefits?? Remember when that was a thing we used to say? Remember that Justin Timberlake/Mila Kunis movie from 2011? This month, I’m showing love to my friends…who come with benefits like loyalty, the ability to listen, and lots of gossip. Which is, like, way better than using a friend for his dick, in my opinion. But I’ll let you decide.

Cheers to those who got us through the heartbreak. Those who pick us up when our heel gets stuck in a crack and we fall flat on our face on the pier. Those who tell us with ultimate certainty, that teal isn’t our color and will never be. This week, this month, this year, and forever, I want us to be a little extra grateful for our friends. So, here’s a tribute to some of the best there are.

Friends help us out of bad situations. And I’m sure we can name many. For me, my college roommates of three years, Ailsa and Veronica, were there for me constantly. They let me crash in their dorm room the multiple times I locked myself out of mine—when my nocturnal-ass roommate wouldn’t wake up to let me back in. They joined me as we went outside in the middle of the night to practice dance routines, using the reflection in the doors downstairs, hoping no one would complain and/or film us and laugh. They even woke me up every two hours when I got a concussion for a mosh pit, so I didn’t literally die.

Some friends come and go. Sometimes literally. You see, all of my best friends from adolescence moved away, but their impact was lasting.  There was Joyce in second grade, who would invite me to her house, where we took our shoes off at the door and played games upstairs while we ate Asian snacks. She moved about 10 miles east, never to be seen again. There was Patricia in grades four through eight, who loved Supernatural, Motion City Soundtrack, and played the flute. Coincidentally, I loved all of those things, and sat next to her in band, so we were pretty much the same person. She went to a different high school, and I saw her literally once after that at the Santa Anita Mall when we were both home for winter break in college. Then there was Chynna, who I sat with at lunch amongst the anime kids and pokemon players in front of the library in high school. Yes, this happened in high school. We used to sit in her tree house and request “Snakes on a Plane” to be played on KROQ. And then she moved to Arizona. But she sends a hell of a Halloween/holiday card, so what else could I ask for?

Some friends give you all the chisme, like my BFF Gabriel. His grandparents’ house was the place to be in middle and high school, where we’d talk shit in front of The Last Supper painting, without an ounce of guilt. Gabriel is the type that would punch his ex in the face in the most dramatic way possible at a Halloween party and would love to tell the story of how it all went down. I know this because it happened. And he does. Will I ever get VIP seats for the fireworks or Paint the Night after that fiasco? No. But that’s okay.

Some friends start off as enemies, but come around and become your BFF, like Liane. She apparently despised me in middle school (and told me this via a yearbook entry my senior year!!), until we bonded at an all-night fundraising event. And from that point, we’ve been inseparable. She tells it like it is, like when I texted her the third day of college, after I’d taken a nasty shot of vodka, hoping she’d be impressed. She responded that she was very disappointed in me. I was humbled. She also wrapped one of my presents in the same tissue paper I’d given her, which I recycled from a previous gift. That’s how you know your relationship is real.

I urge you to take a quick sec to tell someone you care and appreciate them. Be grateful these friends that have been in your life, and will continue to be, barring an alien invasion or that thing that happened at the end of Infinity War. Forget the dudes and chicks who you aren’t gelling with, and celebrate the ones you’ve been gelling with for years!!!

2019 // no + yes

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2018 is gone, and 2019 is here to stay for the next 350 days! Looking back on how my year went, I have so much to be grateful for: connections I’ve made with you all, fests I’ve tabled at, work I’ve accomplished. However, when I reflect on my year, there are things I’d like to work on, as well. There are situations in which I need to put my foot down, but also situations in which I need to leap into with more confidence, and I think we could all benefit from a little of both.

Let’s be honest, I entertained quite a bit of bullshit this year, and I think many of us have.  I’ve let people with questionable morals remain in my life out of courtesy. I’ve cursed their racist tendencies in my head, and never confronting them because that’s not a “polite” thing to do. I’ve devoted far too much energy to seeing what the fuck they’re complaining about now (immigrants and the war on xmas, usually). Not this year. I’m cutting out the toxic people who do not feel that people of color have the same rights as those who shout “’murica” and donate money to a stupid fucking gofundme border wall (that’s totally a scam, btw. Look it up.). 2019 is the year of no talking to racists, no cordial “hellos” to nationalists, and no pretending like I think it’s okay to be a shitty person. I’m done. Rant over.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’ve also put myself through a lot of bullshit this year.

I’ve taken on a lot of hours at work when I physically could not function (I entered a dissociative state more times than I’d like to admit). I agreed to plenty of deadlines that put stress on my mind. And then I took on more hours of work because why the hell not? And because of all of this, I was mistakenly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis because there was so much inflammation in my body. A few blood tests, many doctor’s appointments, and an MRI later, I found out that what was causing joint pain was the fact that my mind couldn’t stop racing and I wasn’t staying asleep at night. On the bright side, I figured this out before I aged out of my parents’ health insurance plan, ayyyyy.

So, um, this will have to change.

This year, I will not overwhelm myself by saying “yes” until I end up in fetal position, weighed down by the consequences of my bad decisions. I will have to say “no” to putting others first, like I’ve done for so long. I cannot put myself in harm’s way because I feel obligated to help. I do realize the benefits of lending a hand, but I need to put myself and my body first because if I don’t, I won’t be able to help at all. Because I’ll be dead. Or crying. Probably the latter. And, I think a lot of us are guilty of this—guilty of not caring enough for ourselves and having little to nothing to give to others because of this. But, it’s something that’s so necessary and can lead to us being even more present for our loved ones. Let’s put it this way: no one wants to be saved by a firefighter that’s pulled an all-nighter and is chugging a cold brew while working on an essay due at midnight, while they try to pull you out of a burning building. Especially if both you and said firefighter have the cheapest catastrophic insurance plans that cover literally nothing because neither of y’all can afford anything else. Let’s take care of ourselves this year.

Now, there is so much I have to be grateful for. I wrote scripts. I made zines. I was acknowledged for both. I saved money. I donated money to causes I care about. I spent money on things I wanted. I meditated. I felt like I had a purpose for the first time. I got a flu shot even though I was scared. I took walks when I wanted to run, but my body felt like it was eating itself. I ate good food.

I want to do more of this in 2019. I want to say “yes” to things that enrich my life. Yes to things that benefit my body and mind, even when that means I have to take a break. Yes to taking more deep breaths. Yes to sleep. Yes to friends. Yes to cats. Yes to tea. Yes to reading. Yes to talking to my spirit guides. Yes to happiness. Yes to joy. And yes to so much more. I think we can all try to do a li’l of this.

Holiday (Self) Love

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The ho-ho-holidays are upon us! Reindeer! Jingle Bells! Food for literal days because you’re poor and have to ration the leftovers from your family gathering! To be honest, though, as I’ve gotten older, this time of year has started to feel less magical and more like a constant source of stress. I feel stretched out in every direction, whether it’s figuring out how to split time between my family and my partner’s, how I can buy gifts with the zero money I have, or even just worrying about work hours. It’s exhausting, and it makes what was once my favorite time of the year feel like something that’s trying to break me.

The holidays used to be a time when I’d get weeks off from school, a chance to catch up on the “Gossip Girl” or “Supernatural” episodes I missed, and an opportunity to dress nicely and eat a bunch of food in someone’s home with my extended family. It was amazing. Magical. It never felt like it lasted long enough. Now, I feel like I’m trying to budget my non-existent money to afford gifts for everyone on my list on top of trying to organize my schedule to accommodate everyone, all while picking up shifts at work to mitigate the fact that I am both broke af and am maybe looking for an excuse to not attend certain holiday functions.

So, basically, I dread the holidays now lol. Everything I used to look forward to feels like it’s turned on me and is now trying to feed off my misery. But, like, I get it. As we get older and take on more responsibilities, whether that be at work or in other peoples’ lives, the holidays can feel like they’re less about that warm feeling of togetherness and peppermint mocha, and more about how to survive a couple days of panicked shopping, or in-laws, or thinking about how you have to go work on Christmas Eve or on the 26th. For many of us, Christmas can start to feel like just another day to get through.

But, what if it didn’t have to be? What if you could wake up and be excited about presents and family and food (mostly food)? What if you could, instead of expending energy wishing you could be a hermit, enjoy the magic and wonder of the holidays?

This year, instead of thinking about everything swirling in your head, I’m going to try to do just this.

For me, this means that I will try to be aware of what is happening in the moment and showing gratitude for what I have. Rather than think about how early I have to wake up for work the next day and letting that make me sad, I’m going to focus on how much I enjoy being around my loved ones. I am going to listen and have conversations with my family as we sit around the table eating dim sum out of Styrofoam containers instead of worrying about what my partner’s family thinks of my not being with them. I am going to make a gingerbread house while listening to the Hanson Christmas CD (or my curated self-care holiday playlist). I am going to appreciate the holidays and the joy they bring me again!!!

Showing gratitude for the things you are surrounded by is a mood booster like no other, and can help when things start to feel overwhelming. Also, if all else fails, my former therapist told me to find a small dark corner and hide whenever I feel like I want to cry or combust. So, that might work, too.

thankful // zine fest edition

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My zine fest season is officially done!!! Whew. I am so, so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to travel up and down the California coast this year.

When this whole thing started about a year and a half ago, this didn’t even seem like a possibility. At my very first fest, all I had was my li’l copies of Wallagalore, some business cards, and a whole lot of self doubt. Fast-forward to my last fest in Pomona, and I had six (?!) published works, an actual tablecloth, a candy dish, and the same self doubt!!! I have grown immensely as an illustrator, storyteller, and human. I have met tons of talented artists. I have explained to a white man why the fetishization of Asian women is wrong. I feel like I’ve done everything and nothing at the same time and it is all so exciting!

But before looking forward to next year, some thanks are in order.

Organizers/Volunteers

Everyone who puts on these events is amazing. Each fest I attended was so well organized and everyone was incredibly welcoming, even though things get hectic during check-in. In my entire life, I organized one event for 75 people, and wanted to curl up into a ball and cry, so I know this shit ain’t easy. Cheers to those who dedicate their time to organizing such large groups of weirdo artists!

Vendors

Meeting people is awkward. Being assigned a tablemate that you don’t know is awkward. People who make art are awkward. Put all of these things together, and you have a good idea of what zine fests are like. That’s just real, especially for me—an introvert that would rather check every room on every floor of a building before I ask someone where the bathroom is. But what’s also real is that I’ve made some fantastic connections as a vendor.

I started making things to express very specific things I was feeling, like having to eat a ketchup sandwich at age 23 because I couldn’t afford lunch. What I didn’t expect was that something so specific to my life would also ring true in other people’s lives. And what was even more unexpected is that I would… gulp… be able to talk to strangers about how weirdly similar our lives are. Am I still afraid of people? Yes. But do I now know that people at fests are good folks who make great art? Yes, definitely!

Supporters
My family and friends are my biggest fans, for real. If you’re reading this, and have come out to an event to hang out with me or bought something from me, you are officially the best. My friends have showed up at the farthest, most random fests I’ve tabled at. They’ve driven through the desert to get to Joshua Tree and risked getting stuck in a sand dune like half of the vendors did. They’ve found me in the middle of San Francisco, where I was surrounded by waaaay cool Bay Area creators, and one-hundred percent not expecting it to be freezing cold. They’ve been the first to order from me when I announce a new project. They’ve just been there.

My mom volunteers to buy me things I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford, like a rolling cart (I was literally storing everything in an old cardboard box that was falling apart) and a folding table when I was freaking out about how to even get one.  She even showed up at a fest and bought out most of my inventory on what was otherwise a slow, kind of depressing day.

My partner has traveled with me to all of my events, and acts like it’s nothing to drive me, carry all my shit inside, and then go hide somewhere for 8 hours because I don’t want a white man trying to sell my books about Asian-American identity.

Without this core group of people, I’d be lost and sad and would become hungry and grumpy at fests, and I just really, really appreciate them. So, if you’re reading this, thank you times a million!!

For now, I’m going into hiding for a little to recharge while I reflect on how everything ran this year. I’m planning to draw and write and paint and read and go to Disneyland to eat. I have some projects in the works that I am super excited about. I also have some stuff that I’ve been putting off that I am not so excited about. I feel overwhelmed and underwhelmed and everything in between. But most of all, I am thankful for all that has happened, and can’t wait to do it again next year!

Spooky Silly

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I take Halloween very seriously. If a costume requires a custom sweater not sold in stores, I’ll sew it (by hand, because I don’t know how to use a sewing machine). If a character is blonde, you bet I’ll be in a wig even though I have an abnormally large head and even simple headbands give me headaches. And, if I’m Walter White, of course I’m going to walk around with dime bags filled with blue rock candy that I had to buy in bulk somewhere in Commerce. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone that takes this beautiful, should-be-national-holiday more seriously than I do. Unless that person is, like, a literal ghost or something.

I haven’t always been like this. In fact, I used to despise Halloween. In Kindergarten, I was Sailor Moon and dressed up in this fabulous outfit that my grandma sewed for me. I liked the clothes, but refused to wear the wig (26-year-old-me is disappointed rn). It got worse from there. As I got older, I began to think that dressing up was lame and only did it so I could go trick-or-treating. Thus, began a long string of forgettable, store-bought costumes that I chose based on how “normal” they looked. (Though, I was Helena from the My Chemical Romance music video once. Kinda proud of that one.) I prided myself on being mature and serious, and Halloween just didn’t fit that aesthetic.

Then, something changed. In college, I started watching this super low-key, cult-fave show called “Adventure Time.” I was obsessed. It was so weird and unique and just… silly. Watching it made me feel like it was okay to have fun—that it was good to not take oneself to seriously all the time. It’s fitting that my first real attempt at making a costume was when I grabbed a blue shirt, green felt, and puffy paint (also, a hand-sewn white hat from Etsy) and made this:

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I let go of whatever was holding me back. I didn’t care about what others thought. I had fun. I felt free. And I didn’t look back. The next few Halloweens consisted of me dressing up as Walter White from Breaking Bad (yes, with blue rock candy), Mabel and Wendy from Gravity Falls (I also sewed a giant mistakenly two-legged Waddles), Sadie from Steven Universe, and most recently, Webby from Ducktales. I looked for any occasion to be in costume whether it was at Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland or Comic-Con or just… life in general.

I adore the silliness of Halloween and am grateful to have a day dedicated to being creative and leaving all the stress in your everyday jean pockets back at home. I enjoy planning months in advance for what I’m going to make and what wig I’m going to buy and what shoes I can make use of. I find satisfaction in standing in the middle of a thirft store, looking at a still from an animated cartoon and trying to figure out how I can recreate that in real life. I love going out and seeing what others have managed to do with their costumes and how much fun they’re having. Halloween is truly a time of inspiration for me, and I’m so glad I was able to stop worrying about being cool and started worrying more about if my skirt is the same exact shade of purple as it is on a 13-year-old animated character.

What are some of your favorite Halloween costumes? And what are you doing this year? Let me know!