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.

#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.