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.

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!!!

#goals

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It’s time to take action. I’ve been talking a lot about ideas and things that make sense theoretically, but I think now’s the time we work on making things happen.

I’m a goal-driven person, and always have been. One time, in first grade, we had a “fun” competition in which we were supposed to read and report on as many books as we could. I stayed up all night for a week, reading any book I could get my hands on, fueled by my desire to be the best. Well, I came in second place. As a result, I was the second person that got to pick a special prize from the treasure trove of first grade wonder. I chose an out-of-the-plastic-bag Beanie Baby from McDonald’s. I’m sure there were better prizes (mostly because my teacher was like, “are you sure about that?”), but it didn’t matter. I set a goal, didn’t quite make it, and was rewarded with sweet, french-fry-scented Beanie Baby loot.

The same thing happened in sixth grade band, when we had an assignment to draw as many treble clefs as we could in a week. I wanted to do 1000, so I spent all of my free time drawing the little squiggles on college-ruled paper. I ended up doing 12,060. Yes, twelve-thousand. And sixty. My prize was a “what the fuck you weren’t supposed to take it that seriously” look from my teacher, and, like, 500 chewy fruit candies I got poured into my arms in front of the class. I like having goals. I like doing better than I set out to do. And I maybe kind of like to win. Embarrassingly so.

That being said, this month, I’m back on my bullshit, setting goals and motivated to accomplish things. I wish I could say I’m tackling them like I did in first and sixth grade, but honestly, those goals were achieved in a tornado of anxiety that someone was going to be better than me, and I maybe don’t want to be in that headspace again.

My goals today concern my wellness and growth, and instead of working as fast as a 6/12 year old possibly can, I am taking it slow, micro, and allowing room for/and even welcoming error. I feel like I’ve been thinking about so many things in a strange, cerebral way without actually trying to change or improve, mostly because I so easily forget about things, but also because sometimes goals are overwhelming—especially ones that concern big ideas where you might not even know where to start. So, this time, I’m taking those ideas and distilling them down to small, manageable, physical things I can do every day (erm… every day I remember to do them, that is).

I want to practice compassion.
I think I’m a nice, pleasant person that lacks patience. It’s a tall task to ask myself to empathize with every stranger’s every situation, but it’s more manageable to stop myself from rolling my eyes at the person in front of me at the post office that didn’t put a zip code on their package. I also want to be more compassionate to non-humans. It’s easy to smile at dogs and pet cats only when they want to be pet (but is it, really??), but what’s even more conducive to my goal is to not kill bugs in the apartment, and instead, trap them under a cup and toss them outside (gently).

I want to be more present.
Ah, the goal of every basic girl that has a lotus tattoo and posts pictures in yoga poses on IG. But, I really do seek to be more present for people. I’ve noticed that during most of my conversations, I am thinking about the past, present, future, my dinner, and wondering how long until I can walk away. This leaves me feeling guilty, and wishing I had taken the time to truly connect with that person. Luckily, this can be remedied by listening with intent. I want to slow down, make eye contact, and listen with no ulterior motives or distractions, knowing that the veggie stir fry I want to think about can wait until the conversation is over and the moment has passed.

I want to grow as an artist.
The OC and SF trips really inspired me to experiment more with that I’m drawing and writing and making. It seems that every time I feel inspired, I don’t quite act on it, and end up forgetting I was ever interested in watercolor painting or abstract drawing or doing anything that I don’t usually do. But hey, now that I’m putting it out there, let’s get into it. I am going to draw more. I am going to look at more work by different artists. I am going to read new things. I am going to keep a notebook and pen handy everywhere I go, and not just in my purse shaped like a strawberry.

If you also have goals and have a plan to achieve them, I’d love to hear! Or, like, not, if you’re uncomfortable with sharing. But I think we’re on the right track here. Let’s get going.

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.