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.

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.

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).