In the depths of the pandemic in an unsettling post-election holidaze, I’ve had exceptional moments of clarity. What about you?
What’s kept you alive and well these days? The comfort of home or loved ones nearby, whether through touch or tech. The emergency fund that helps you enjoy the break of the daily grind and break the norm as we knew it. The exposure of political and social patterns we readily ignore or perpetuate.
Call it a breath of fresh air, or rather Covid, but chaos is the perfect time to recognize the sense from the noise.
At the beginning of this year, like many beginnings of years, I made a commitment to pursue my genuine self. Each year, I have a greater understanding of who I am and who I want to be. In 2020, my commitment was to create and release my debut hip hop album and share my poems as a hip hop artist. It happened. I ended up releasing two musical projects: Current Virus and The Book of Cosmosis. These two EPs catapulted me into a creative flux and empowering collaboration with local underground artists. In this stage of creation, a range of romantic and rabid mind states propelled me with momentum.
Now, in December 2020, I review my goals and progress as if it’s another end of the week. It takes thorough reflection and analysis to see how far we’ve come and how much further there is to go. How far we’re on track and how much we’ve wavered. To check in is to calibrate and redirect as needed.
When I finish a project or job, the notion of identity and belonging slithers back into my mind as doubt and insecurities. The all-too-friendly imposter syndrome gets in the way of the pure joy in doing the things I love. For a second, or a month, I take a break to feel and process these emotions. For the gajillionth time, I come back to my purpose to write and share.
These moments of clarity are forgiving, more so today thanks to the committed rounds of therapy. These moments must be forgiving, because what the fuck was this year? These moments remind me that not everything is as it seems.
In fact, we can create our own realities, manifest our success, and accept the deranged and unexpected ways life can take us in our pursuit.
God loves ugly, says Slug of Atmosphere. Don’t let the elevator take us down, says Prince. Hang-ups do not define a kid, says Sa-Roc.
Please celebrate your success in movement, progress, and growth – whatever it may look like.
Where: Segovia Hall at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles
Why: Celebrate the launch of the third issue and network with AAPIs (Asian-American and Pacific Islanders) and allies
Where my AAPIs at?! I’m excited to be performing a spoken word poetry set for the 3rd issue’s launch party for Asian-American collective Slant’d Media.
Slant’d was founded just two years ago in 2017 by Katerina Jeng and Krystie Yen, who were frustrated at the lack of Asian-American voices and presence in the American story. Slant’d started out as a magazine, fully funded from their initial campaign on Kickstarter, and has now reintroduced themselves as a collective to share and celebrate our stories. In addition to an annual “anthology-meets-art” publication, Slant’d now offers community gatherings, an online store, and a revamped subscription program.
The launch party will take place on Thursday, November 21st 8-10pm at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. It will feature performances by other LA-based Asian-American artists DJ Mish, Jenevieve Ting and Jensen Reyes. There will also be a story slam around the theme of “taboo”, when attendees can share their experiences. Light refreshments will be served. Buy tickets here!
my favorite holiday. My costume of choice is derived from societal mockery
infused with insanity plea, an attempt to indulge in how crazy I feel
sometimes. Clown make-up optional.
It’s strangely consistent with the dynamics of horror and history in our commodified cultures. Horror stories are inspired and fueled by historical tragedies from which we hail the terror despite the sad realities that come with it. It becomes difficult to distinguish right from wrong, treat from trick, history from fantasy.
I decided to visit Salem, Massachusetts to break up my Boston trip for a Raw Artists show. After weeks of decidedly depressed endeavors, I needed an escape from the daily grind and familiar surroundings of a modern suburban poet. Gratefully, my art show coincided with the best month of the season, and I jumped at the opportunity to visit the site of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials.
says “Make your own magic” in a seemingly light-hearted tone against
a periwinkle background. None of the links work. There is no downloadable guide
to Salem here. Simple icons state friendly topics like “Modern
Witch”, “Literature Nut”, and “Halloween Enthusiast” and
lead to nowhere.
website is obsolete or the city of Salem would rather not indulge in their
fascinating yet horrible Salem Witch Trials history, you will not get the
information you need here. The place to explore the Halloween capital is HauntedHappenings.org.
After a one-hour
ride from Boston, I was walking among hanging apparitions, distorted faces and
bodies, and haunted or not burial sites.
My goal was to pay homage to the innocent murdered women and men of the Salem Witch Trials, and my first stop was the Witch Trials Memorial. This is free to the public in an outdoor space surrounded by trees and lined with benches engraved with the names of those hanged and killed for the crime of witchcraft. Etched into the stones bordering the space, there are quotes from the accused during the trials.
I do plead not guilty.
Oh lord, help me.
I am wholly innocent of such wickedness.
He knows I am innocent.
It is alongside the Old Burying Point Cemetery, where Judge Hathorne, who led the convictions and deaths of the accused witches, lay and where all the accused innocent were forbidden to be buried. You must pass the food vendors and the Wax Museum to get here.
after, I stood outside the Salem Visitor Center peering over at the man in
black, complete with headset microphone, handlebar mustache, and top hat
adorned with bones and shrunken head. This will be interesting, I thought,
slowly easing into my fascination of the horrors of Salem history by focusing
on our tour guide, Dr. Vitka.
The Salem Voodoo
Vampires and Ghosts Walking Tour is run by Spellbound Tours, described on TripAdvisor as “the
only tour company in Salem that has actually done paranormal investigation in
all the sites they visit”. I had booked my ticket immediately.
starting the 2:00 pm tour, Dr. Vitka explained that supernatural occurrences
relate to the life or death of the deceased. So, don’t get too comfortable. We
would be visiting actual haunted sites, verified through several accounts by
locals and visitors, and should be ready to photograph and document our
experiences even in the midday sun. He suggested that if any of us were
spiritual, now would be a great time to protect ourselves by reciting any
prayers or mantras. A flashback of my own experiences with spirits made me
freeze, and I quickly prayed for protection from evil energies that may try to
follow me home.
this prayer a few minutes later as we stood over the final resting place of
Giles Corey. Is it still a “resting place” if he was pressed to death
while cursing the community of Salem? At that time, the law did not allow a
person who did not plead to be tried in court, and the punishment for not
pleading was the process of placing boards, followed by heavy rocks and
boulders, on the accused. Corey was killed in this manner, refusing to shout
out in pain and demanding more weight before eventually dying in the third day.
His last words: “I curse you and Salem!”
Dr. Vitka, the curse came true. There are records of Sheriff George Corwin, who
killed Corey, and succeeding sheriffs dying suddenly with no prior health
issues. A more recent example is from the early 2000s when a security guard
working with Dr. Vitka began to feel chest pains and shortness of breath while
standing at Corey’s death place. A couple months later, that security guard
died suddenly, again with no prior health issues.
Another story that caught my attention
was that of the first woman to be accused and hanged during the Salem Witch
Trials. Bridget Bishop was considered a tramp, hoe, slut, enter any derogatory
word for a woman who developed a promiscuous and flamboyant reputation. Accused
of bewitching married men, Bishop was also found with small dolls in her room
and a third nipple. The dolls convinced the public she was practicing voodoo,
and the third nipple was then a sure-tell sign of witchery. She was hanged on
June 1692, kicking off the subsequent executions of 13 more women and six men.
In Salem, anyone who accused another
person of witchcraft was rewarded the estate and all belongings of the accused
if they were found guilty. For the cases of Giles Corey, a notoriously hateful
and violent man, and Bridget Bishop, an orchard-owner and three-times married
woman, the townspeople jumped at the opportunity to accuse these social
outcasts and ultimately condemn them to their deaths.
At 3:45 pm, I rushed away from Salem’s
center and speed-walked 10 minutes to catch my 4:00 pm ferry. Snapping last-minute
photos of creepy decorations bordering niche souvenir shops and rustic homes, I
wondered how Salem’s history impacts us today.
I love Halloween and the paradoxical lightheartedness attached to the fucked-up realities found in human nature – there’s little time to consider the lack of seriousness or severity while crafting the perfect costume or reading the greatest horror novel.
As I sat on the wet and white benches on the Boston Harbor Ferry gaining speed and taking me further away from Salem back to the throws of modern-day city, I thought about the similarities between then and now. Human nature doesn’t change, though individuals can seek to grow. Witchcraft is back, but in a different light. And lastly, history tends to repeat itself, though it may not be so familiar at first.
You define the elements that create this
environment, break it down into understandable parts, then make a plan to
change what you can control.
My chaos these days comes from an emotional
clusterfuck in the heart of transitions and a global dramedy of tired topics.
It’s tough to be segmented and regimented when personal matters, career
aspirations, and global disfunction clash and bombard our daily lives. Maybe
you have additional circumstances to work through like mental illness, taking
care of ailing family members, or surviving trauma. Maybe your chaos is consumed
by just one impactful situation.
Everyone’s chaos is unique. We have our own
collections of stressors and realities that impact our ability to think clearly,
solve our problems, and lead peaceful and happy lives.
To tackle my own plate of seemingly
well-organized shit, I did an exercise to break through the noise of my
thoughts, obsessions, and anxieties so I could start making moves about what
actually matters to me.
My goal in this post is to help you find peace in chaos by sharing 3 steps to clear the air, hone your focus, and regain control.
1. Define Your Chaos
Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides these
Chaos (n): as a state of utter confusion
Peace (n): a state of tranquility
Ask yourself these questions:
do you feel? What is it that makes you feel confused or out of control?
at the elements that make you feel this way, which parts can you control?
brings you peace?
Throughout the day, we feel an incredible
amount of emotional flux. We can learn to control many of these thoughts but
only with practice. Mind control is the name of the game. If you don’t decide how
you want to use your energy, our environment will make that decision for us.
As much as we are sidetracked and bombarded by media, business, and pop culture of what, when, and why to think, we are responsible for our own thoughts and actions. Sometimes, all it takes is defining exactly what it is, part by part, by taking an honest and scrupulous analysis of our emotions.
2. Break it down
So now you know how you feel, but it’s still
messy. How can we isolate why or how we continue to feel this way?
Here are some ways you can start to get a
handle on your brilliant mind.
Really. Do it. Mindfulness is trendy, and for good reason. It answers a need that is all too present in our fast-paced, technologically-fueled, convenience-centered lives of 2019. When you don’t have the day’s to-do list running constantly in your mind, or you’re not running from task to task, or you spend more than 5 minutes away from your phone, you can then give your mind a chance to breathe. This space allows your brain to explore topics lingering in the back of your mind and help you recognize subconscious thoughts, how they behave and fluctuate, and ultimately how they affect conscious thoughts and your day-to-day happiness.
Start by writing in a journal of that day’s events. Your brain will end up making connections through the process of writing that you may not have observed otherwise. For instance, you may note that a friend said something to you that piqued your interest or how much a stranger’s smile boosted your confidence. I also challenge you to try writing in a stream of consciousness style, or freewriting. This is essentially writing without stopping to think or plan what to say. This helps gets your subconscious thoughts on paper and allow you to assess and pinpoint where the feeling of chaos is coming from.
If you find yourself regularly thinking about past events, take some focused time and energy to observe what happened with as much of a non-biased eye as possible. There is no point in repeatedly reliving the event and related trauma, so give yourself the time to assess so you can move forward. Review it thoroughly, bravely assess those emotions you felt and continue to feel, and note how you would like future situations to improve. Then, move on. Let it go. It’s true that whatever you think about most becomes larger and, many times, overwhelming, creating a situation that some may refer to as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Focusing on past regrets or shame will keep you not only in the past but in a constricting mind frame that hinders real growth.
Plan for the future you want. Visualize the
person you want to be by thinking of a situation that made you feel bad, unworthy,
or less than your true character. Rewrite that scene in your head as the person
you ultimately want to be. Visualize, and assert those actions into reality. Use
detailed steps and develop routines to ensure consistency.
Take care of yourself. When people have
problems, we tend to nurse them with the sweet array of vices around us:
alcohol, drugs, tv, sex, gossip. Whatever your poison, recognize that your
physiology affects your emotions. If you are sleep-deprived, you may feel
aggravated and groggy, which blocks your ability to be patient and think
creatively with an open mind. If you are eating fast-food every day, your body
doesn’t get the nutrition it needs and puts your body and mind in a slump. If
you are always on the move, you may not be listening to signs your body gives
you. Remember to take breaks, use meditation to be aware of how your body feels,
and never forget to include activities that bring joy.
Whether it’s making tough decisions like
taking a hard look at your harmful habits or saying goodbye to toxic friends, the
decision to find peace is on you.
I am going through these steps as honestly
and as paced as I need, so that I could become the person that I want to be. If
you end up going through these steps or would like to share your opinions or
experience, please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.
Planned Parenthood’s Day of Action is this Saturday,
September 14th. It calls for women around the country to stand up
and resist the string of abortion bans passed in several states this past May.
Since I left my operations manager job in June, I have been
committed to join the nonprofit community. Fed up with the utter disregard of
data and logic in public policy, I was also fed up with my limited action
regarding a cause I cared so deeply about. In college, I had interned with
Planned Parenthood and thought fondly of those days passing out condoms, educating
students on available resources, and reaching out to the community through phone
banks and community events. My internship was cut short because I ended up
studying abroad in Barcelona. The year earlier, I had passed up an opportunity
to intern with the Feminist Majority Foundation so I could, again, study
A pattern emerges. If I had not opted for travel both of
those times, I would be neck-deep in the fight for reproductive justice by now.
Instead, I am an observer, and that’s luckier than it sounds. I’ve been able to
work most times and usually had health insurance. I also live in southern California
where Planned Parenthood clinics have been readily available. But in fact, being
lucky and privileged doesn’t create the observer. I observe because, like most
of society, I am caught up. My daily grind, hobbies, family, friends,
The first principle of emergent strategy in organizing is that
small is good and small is all. This means that your small actions everyday
create the whole and ultimately create an organizing, ownership mindset. When I
received a Planned Parenthood text offering free training for supporters who
want to get involved, I jumped to take the 1.5-hour online training. There was
valuable information, like the principles of emergent strategy, but when I
searched for events near me, the closest one was Utah. Liberal California does
not have any events set up for the Day of Action. There is nothing yet planned
to show prochoice advocates and representatives where we stand. This also
displays an invisible amount of support for our sisters in Utah, Alabama,
Georgia, Missouri, and others.
Disappointed, I decided to spread word about the event on
Instagram in hopes of attracting enough like-minded passion to gather a group
of demonstrators for Saturday. The engagement was weak; I received under 15
likes and 0 comments. That post had no action, but there were tons of action
for upcoming show notices, comedy routines, and Instagram influencers selling
their products or preaching their truths. Their talent and drive are no less
impressive or inspiring, yet it felt incredibly disconnected from current
events where people, not just women, are losing their rights.
The avid ignorance we live is supplied, or at the least,
supported, by the modern-day trap. We are bombarded with information. We
consume news on the daily, or rather by the minute, as we hang by our
connections to our phones, regular pop culture stations, and routine methods of
mastering the day. Many of us do not seek out the information to act on the
abuses against us or our neighbors. The information is not hard to find; it simply
does not jump off the screen like your favorite artist’s latest American tour or
the independent comedic actor cleverly mocking the status quo. Many times, the
information that can truly have an impact on us is smothered by attractive
people displaying the hottest fads in make-up and fashion.
A faded (or jaded) pink with block letters with the
excitement of a copy machine company has no character, no wow factor to engage
and, thus, inform. It sounds silly to slap on a trendy 90’s style sticker, but
it would probably boost views and, thus, visibility.
It was disturbing to find a petition on whitehouse.gov from
May 2019 addressing the constitutionality of the Alabama abortion laws that
passed. The goal was 100,000 signatures against the ban. Only about 1% of that
goal was met.
I’m not proud. An issue that has been so hotly discussed
among my female friends was not getting the time of the day on direct feedback
tools provided to us by the White House. Despite the uproar on social media and
conversations at the round table, an easy opportunity to click and inform our
representatives was unequivocally dropped. How many more opportunities continue
to be missed?
There are many ways to get involved.
Contact Planned Parenthood Action Fund to attend
events near you, stay updated on state litigation regarding bans, and receive
training to become an organizer in your area
Volunteer at Planned Parenthood and other
low-income healthcare providers
Volunteer as a clinic escort
Contact your representatives at the local and
Sign petitions, and let your voice be heard
Mainly, pay attention. If you do not approve of an abortion
ban or other policy, seek out the resources to speak up and stand out. Our
world has become accustomed to the human rights abuses that happen every day,
and it’s scary to recognize how far we have come to know yet still ignore the
need to act. It is much like our response to shootings, global warming
disasters, and indiscriminate black murders by law enforcement.
Now, publicizing information is not merely enough. It must
flash, wow, awe, so that it is mobile-accessible and visually stunning. A sad
and desperate truth that calls on each of our own decisions and questions how
we show up every day. It is critical, starting with the small, to take
ownership of our decisions and assess if we are truly doing all that we can to advance
Anti-abortion bans are currently blocked in Alabama and
Missouri with a dangerous bill in the works in Arkansas. Last month, Planned
Parenthood was forced out of Title X funding. Hundreds of health clinics,
beyond those with Planned Parenthood, risk shutting down if they do not isolate
themselves from abortion-related services.
Planned Parenthood’s Day of Action will come and go, yet the
ongoing fight for reproductive rights continues, even at the sight of trends or
memes. It will take personal accountability to levels that our dedicated social
media timelines never asked of us. This is not a time to scroll and like or
even post and gripe; it is a time to find out the answers and solve these
If you haven’t been to a RAW Artists showcase and you love art, you are missing out on a colorful and eclectic night filled with more kinds of art than you’re used to in one venue. There’s musicians, dancers, performance artists, makeup artists, fashion designers, accessory designers, a runway show, and more! Yes, there is a bar. Helps all the art go down.
With travel comes tests. With family comes drama. With humor comes ease. I wrote this in the computer room on the 16th floor of a hostel in Myeongdong, a bustling discount shopping district infused with tourists from China, the Philippines, and of course the USA. It wasn’t a computer room as much as two computers on a dirty white table in the hallway between a couple rooms. Kind of like how Step Inn wasn’t an inn as much as a hostel. The power of marketing compels you! I sat there graciously ready to write and physically and emotionally manifest peace in another space, any space, outside of the tiny room my parents and I were staying in.
There was no use having a bad attitude for not anticipating the hostel/inn discrepancy along with my dad’s history of high expectations and low patience. Who am I to interpret cozy as good enough for my parents? Call it the immigrant family trap, model minority rap, of wanting the best for a pair who have roller-coasted around both extremes of the economic ladder in Korea and the US. All so I could write this post.
Before arriving at the Step Hostel, my parents and I stayed at my grandmother’s home for one night where I saw glimpses into my dad’s past. A black and white photo of him with his parents, his twin brother, and older sister was placed on my grandpa’s desk. My dad must have been no more than 14 years old and was in the middle of laughing, his mouth wide open, and I laughed at all the times he scolded me to keep my mouth closed in photos. As I took in my late grandpa’s room with his clothes still hanging on racks and documents lying about his desk, I wondered if he looked more and more at that photo as his time neared. In the hallway, there were three glass cases with military ribbons, medals, and the like. I quickly snapped photos before considering the metaphorical peace and dignity I was stealing by resigning them to tiny squares on a screen.
The day before, we went to the burial ceremony, which involved a 3-hour bus ride both ways, incessant bows, obliging naes, and feeling fed up then resigned about the tense nature of a formal, buttoned-up family who never quite listened or understood one another. At least we were well-rested and, well, alive. Lucky enough to have the time to pay our respects; lucky enough to leave afterward. No more getting told to get married or work somewhere for 10 years. No more expectation of female servitude, at least in close quarters. When you know there’s a limit, anything that may bother you is more tolerable and then at once you may become a saint or, God forbid, the perfect granddaughter – a feat I don’t know if any of conquered while my grandpa was alive.
Since I was 12 years old, I have lived by this maxim.
Stasis is death.
Because in my pre-teen angst, nothing was more deathly than resigning to a life where comfort besieged all.
As I got older, I used this to high power my decisions choosing to make mistakes rather than stay in the same place afraid of what may come. The strategy was not misguided, just not directed enough, and I developed a habit of going forward sometimes blind to the heart and guts of my whole operation.
And so I pursued my love of learning and grew my chops in quality management and operations. This was not the wrong decision, but it prolonged what I already knew. I was not scared to make the wrong choices, but I was scared to make the inevitable one that fit my oh so contemplative soul.
Last month, I left my disturbingly high-paying job at a distribution center to pursue something, anything, closer to my heart. My priority right now is to write – my first love, my first heartbreak.
I was overjoyed walking out of a role I knew no longer fit my determination and clear-sightedness. At the time, my nephew, who I helped raise for the past six years, was planning to move to Seoul, Korea to be with his dad.
The apt choice, an easy one, but only in retrospect. I spent the next week and a half hanging out with my nephew and reconnecting with my older brother. The drama is not mine so I won’t share it but through that previous time, with my whole body and mind, I was finally able to forgive.
When my mom and I stood at the escalator before security check at LAX, trying to wave happily and not let our overflowing eyes be too obvious, I locked eyes with my nephew. At 12, he was a wise one after moving around from home to home adapting to changing circumstances since he was born. His face froze briefly as he realized I was going to cry, then he smiled softly as if to comfort me as he rode the escalator up with his dad.
A week later, my grandpa died.
A decorated 3-star general from the South Korean military and patriarch of my dad’s side, he was a serious man who I didn’t really get to know. The last time I had seen him was when I was 12 years old, the year of my maxim decree. Now, 18 years later, I was going back to Korea for his funeral.
Quick planning helped my dad get a flight out that night, and my mom and I got one for 2 days later so it wouldn’t cost extravagantly more than a month’s rent.
Before I left, I reserved movers to leave my expensive Rancho Cucamonga apartment for a rent-free room at my parents’ condo in Buena Park. Everything was changing, and at that point, I wasn’t sure if it was good or bad. It was all – transition, death, and rebirth.