Happy Friday evening from on-site campus, another day spent in the temples of academia. This morning I woke up happy and content, rolling around in my freshly washed sheets and marveling at how utterly relaxed and blissful I feel from those few extra hours I was able to catch after a long (but surprisingly short) week of readings, meetings and hours of raging hunger. It was a good week. I had anticipated it, as I scheduled meetings both professional and casual that I had not done in a long time. I understood Maslow’s theory on needs. I get a high from being with good people, no matter how quick my thoughts and emotions traverse from aloneness and loneliness. It is raining outside, and I see my quirky literature professor going home with his blind dog. He is wearing a at that has a hole on the top, exposing his gleaming head. People are strange and wonderful. All I can say to describe this moment is in hues of baby blue.
I’m in a rut. I’m at that stage in life where all the Ted Talks and inspirational speakers on Youtube are adamantly trying to convince me that I’m at the most exciting and wonderful period of my life, where anything is possible if I just believe. Unfortunately, I am having a really hard time believing them, let alone myself.
Last night, I finally met up with a childhood friend after an entire year has passed us by. In the small bossam stall in the crowded streets of Hongdae, the air saturated with noise, smoke, and heat, we spilled the messy happenings of our lives. During this time, she decided that she wanted to drop out of college, plastered her body with Harry Potter tattoos (which I am quite envious of) and learnt how to be a bartender. I, on the other hand, went on an exchange semester in Australia, and learnt more about myself than ever before in my life. All that travelling and relying on myself made me come to a conclusion that I definitely don’t want to be living a life in my major, because just thinking about my future in the field made me lose all motivation for living. I face entering my final year of college with so many decisions and plans of action that are eluding me every step of the way. Meanwhile, my boyfriend finally got his break after years of trying, and got the internship of his dreams, in one of the best motor companies. He says his experience has disillusioned him about the corporate life, seeing his coworkers’ faces sag in the myriad of cubicles surrounding him. In all these various facets of life, I believe we are faced with the same amount of uncertainty and angst, each a little envious and in awe with the life of the other. Increasingly, people are becoming more realistic and vulnerable on social media, in between the festival and foodie pics, they are professing deep anxiety and confusion over the futures.
Confession: I am contemplating a life in art. I know that nothing fascinates me more and gives me more joy than delving into the creative–reading, writing, watching, dancing, and feeling. Sadly, this big decision comes with a price; that while it has no price it furthermore has no monetary value. My dreams of becoming a curator/art historian/writer and editor all require that I pursue a Ph.D without the guarantee of any financial stability. It is a dream that makes loved ones frown and be concerned about the future, my future. It concerns me because I don’t know if the money, time and effort that I am going to be pouring into this future will ultimately lead to my demise, especially when I could have done something else. But deep down, my heart tells me that anything else is not my authentic self, anything else would be any other life but mine.
I am so incredibly blessed that I can even consider this kind of alternative future, and that my parents are completely supportive. I imagine that it is incredibly rare to have parents that actually push you towards such an uncertain future, but this is because they hold me with high esteem. Mother believes that I have a sixth sense when it comes to art, and it is ridiculously hard not to take it to heart. Their level of pride and confidence when it comes to my capabilities is astounding, and I wonder if my worries are an unnecessary complexity where I am talking myself out of something that could potentially be, and ironically not by others.
Earlier this month, as I was projecting the boundless opportunities offered by summer break, I was genuinely excited to have a summer where I could be unapologetically myself and live a creative life. I feel that no matter how much you work, and no matter what kind of life you project unto others, it is just difficult to convince yourself that you are enough, and that you have done something of worth. This month, I dived into a mini exhibition held for my mom, which proved to be tough work but a lot of fun and insight. It allowed me to see the business aspect of the art world, as we were unexpectedly invited to see the behind the scenes of a modern gallery. The entrepreneur is also the one that convinced me that there is an opportunity in the arts, and surprisingly confirmed all my thoughts that I dismissed as just dreams. Since then, I’ve been reading and researching things about living this creative academia. It is both liberating and disheartening at the same time, but I guess these are the doubts that everyone is feeling at this point in our lives. Most of all, I don’t want to waste the opportunities I have, or riddle myself with doubts. I don’t want to be my own biggest enemy. Then again, I don’t want to be my own downfall either. Does anyone else have these doubts? I’ve been asking so many questions on online platforms and on quora, but in the end other people cannot make my decisions for me. Either way, life will go vehemently on without me. I just need to buckle down and decide.
Seeing the moon made me emotional more than usual. I usually see it just before it enters its zone, just as I end mine and come home. I’ve been thinking a lot about art and meaning and purpose in this life, and I saw this moon. Here it was, a slice of a thing, small enough to be as insignificant as a discarded nail clipping. And here it was, being celebrated by people like me. Never wavering, carelessly bold, and still perceived with awe no matter how full or broken it was. They say we are born of the same moon dust. That means I should consider myself with such awe and unbridled love.
I found myself lying, face drooping into the slopes of my pillow, weighed down by all the things I should probably be doing and the things I wish I was doing. My uneven posture and tense legs strain from clenching and releasing early this morning from when I was taking my driver’s for the second time. Later, I struggled to cover the rose of my frost-bitten cheeks with multiple layers of foundation. It still shone through, a harsh and unapologetic bloom.
I tend to find myself fleeting from one place to the next, eagerly checking off the menial things off my diary for comfort. Put money into the bank. Check the dates for performance. Get some groceries–especially some salad. I should really get into that. I then crash into bed when they are done, feeling strangely unaccomplished and disconnected to my self.
I picked off the pieces of my body, the mangled individuals cast here and there over the bed. Recollected myself, and gathered together a self that can writes. I try to make meaning of the empty space. No matter how many times I try to keep my desk clear of the clutter, my pens and books with stickers and orange peels litter the top, and stay there until someone else enters.
I see a message pop up from my friend. We find solace in each other. There are friends you meet in blurs to pass messy nights with, and others with whom you reach out for in the darkness, meandering the unknown hills and edging around the crevices. I talk again about my feelings. She returns the same. I feel that there are many of us out there tonight–we are not lost, but just waiting for the winter to pass us over.
The older I get the more I realize how soft my mother is to words. The last time I met up with her in Korea, she was so furious with my dad, over something he said in passing, that she ignored him for months and was on the verge of getting a divorce, when I told her to confront him and deal with it once and for all. They talked about it, best part is he didn’t even know she was mad. He apologized and she was all good after that. I’ve come to realize that my mom is not that steel hard wonderwoman I always pictured her to be. I remind myself to be kind and send some words of affirmation to her now and then, especially since we now live apart. I’ve done it countless times for strangers in club bathrooms. Reminder to be kind to those who matter the most.
I went to a talk about mental health awareness today, and how it is stigmatised and 40% of Australians think that depressed people are dangerous, when in fact, they are the most targeted. I remember back in high school when I had some of the most tumultuous years of my life, and the crippling anxiety I had after getting gang robbed the second time and having my family fall apart and stitched back together. I would burst into hysteric tears for no good reason. The only reason I went home was because of my puppy and the weird guilt that convinced me I needed to be there to calm and mediate everything. I spent so many days at my sisters because the atmosphere choked me. I always looked to school for refuge, and thinking back, it’s the only reason why it never really developed into medication and doesn’t affect me so much now. School always had gossip and rumors and this and that to keep my mind off of things. I was preparing for college and for exams and having crushes and having fun with my friends… it gave me things to focus on. Even now, I sometimes find myself crying over something trivial, and it used to make me so angry for being weak and emotional. I’m over that now. I may not understand it, but it’s okay. I don’t judge or reprimand myself for expressing something and giving a sign that I feel something about the situation. I want to thank my boyfriend for this too, for always understanding and telling me to continue nurturing myself.
This turned out to be a longer post than intended. I just guess I want to say that I’m really grateful how everything turned out, and to everyone that has stood by me along the way. I took counselling after the robbery, and I am never ashamed to say it. I openly encourage all my friends to seek help if they need it. It was one of the best choices I made at the time, and just being able to speak about it to someone who would not worry as much as my friends or family would was everything. I’m really grateful for all the support my counsellor gave to me (shoutout to Miss Wilhite, I’ll never forget you) and to everyone who accepted me for me and were patient with me during my healing. Mental illness is an illness like all others, should be openly discussed and have support like any other battle.