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!

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!!!

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).