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In Brokenness, There Is Beauty

I took a break from Instagram because my head space was unhealthy. I was constantly comparing myself to other people, putting myself and others on a ladder where I was at the bottom.

But what I was pining for was not real. In our hands, we can curate our profiles in a polished, filtered way. I am guilty of this too (unfortunately, one of my friends will dig through my old pictures and unearth a document that would compromise my reputation. But that’s what friends do). It’s so easy– we can delete, edit after we post, and filter our pictures.

So what you and I see daily are just galleries. Pictures frozen in time, edited with contrast, shading, brightness, cropping, and the right angle. We’re trying to make our lives into art pleasing to the eye, appealing to the senses. 75% of what we take in is not visual; it’s mostly our thoughts of what this image means (we’re on the fringes of art history territory here).

“Who are these other people?” and “where are they?” are the quick, common questions, but social networks won’t let these questions exist for long. 9 times out of 10, people are tagged and the location is posted. But the most important question is, “How does this make me feel?” And to be honest, most of the time I think, “I wish I could have that.”

It’s hard to admit. I try to put up this front that I’m perfectly fine. We all do. Our walking, physical forms too, are art. If you’re like me, you might spend too much time caring about your hair and clothes, even what bag you carry because you know 75% of what people see when they look at you is their perception. How you make them feel.

Why am I trying so hard to put up this facade, just so someone can think highly of me?

I am just like these people whose lives I pine after.

We’re obsessed with something unattainable. We want everything to be good, just fine, amazing, #goals.

After a week-long break from Instagram, I’ve learned that life is messy. And that’s art too.

I will never post a selfie of my face in tears, the aftermath of a long fight with my mom, which made me doubt my future and God’s provision. Even though it isn’t visually public, I will never forget that night and that week. But God still wrung my heart of its soaking bitterness and frustration that cloaked my eyes from seeing his goodness. And in the end, reconciliation– of my heart and our relationship– mended everything. Life was so, so messy at the time, and I couldn’t fix it, but this showed me how much more adequate God is than I am.

We are scars etched upon flesh, eyes ringed with tears, hearts singed with rejection. While these remain, our flesh and hands shield them from view.

We’re storing both beauty and brokenness– at least that’s how I think we see them, in opposition to each other. But beauty arises from brokenness. It’s buried within the cracks and fragments, and we’re blind to it at first glance.

I’m thankful for these moments of brokenness because they have taught me that beauty is not just confined to physicality and aesthetics.

These oppositions should co-exist, and not fight against one another. Let us embrace brokenness. You don’t have to share your brokenness in a picture, or a post, but express it in words. On paper or to a friend. The process of brokenness is art itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For All The World To Read

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Something has recently come to my attention– creating art, your own original product, is hard.

Putting out you work to an audience, even an audience of one, is terrifying.

People-pleasing runs deep. It’s in my nature to care what others think of me and readjust myself based on their words. During my journalism internship, I’ve been hyper-aware of this crux. I can’t run away from my audience and craft; instead, I have to face them.

Words are my channel of expression, but they run through ceaseless currents, contorting in positions while I contemplate. The written word is my favorite, because it allows me to edit and delete. It’s more polished than me speaking whatever’s on my mind–a stream-of-consciousness waterfall, stumbled words, and frustration that I can’t tell you every single thing on my mind.

Within the realm of written word, fiction has been my preferred medium, because it’s so flexible. So many authors have broken writing conventions, like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, the stream-of-consciousness pioneers (Mrs. Dalloway is based on Ulysses btw).

Journalism is a different kind of field. It’s based on facts, sources, and checking your facts for the third time. Your standard news is succinct, objective (it should be, but every news outlet has an agenda and affiliation), and accurate. Flowery language has no place in a crime story.

I’ve been struggling with balancing the lines of journalism and creative writing. Ever since I was young, I wanted to be both a novelist and a journalist. My naive 5th-grader self did not know just how vastly different and challenging both would be.

The hard thing about following your passion is that it can be discouraging, especially if you’re going into the creative arts. Not only are you exposing parts of your mind and soul, but people are criticizing your work. You can either choose to ignore it or take it to heart.

During the editing process, I have to accept the criticism and revise accordingly. Being in workshops and working with my internship editor have taught me that criticism is more beneficial than hurtful. Honestly, I can be delusional with my writing and think that it’s just fine. Also, I just get really lazy and dislike major revisions. But by putting my personal feelings aside, I’ve created better versions of my work. My fellow artists have encouraged me to never settle for mediocrity, but instead, to strive for excellence.

I’ve also realized that writing is not an act of self-indulgence– it’s a two-way street between the creator and the reader. I can assume that the reader knows what I know, but 9 times out of 10, the reader is not a search engine or encyclopedia. It’s a human being learning something they had no prior knowledge of.

I’m thankful that I’m on this arduous path. I’m constantly adjusting my perspective to be more positive.

Instead of asking myself the question, “What did I do wrong?” I’m asking, “What can I learn from this experience?”

 

 

 

 

 

A pool of tinted turquoise amidst the heat of the desert- Arizona

Thoughts While Flying Over the Mexico/Arizona Border

A journal entry from May 28th:

We are flying over the deserts of Arizona. I have never been to Arizona, but Dad, Daniel, Uncle, and Grandfather have gone to hike to the Grand Canyon– one thing on my bucket list, but it terrifies me. My clumsiness might be the cause of my eventual death– a wrong footing on a trail without barriers or railings– and I fall, my body in free flight, plunging towards the ground. I’d be conscious that the end is near. Would I even be worrying about the arrival of the impact if I was free-falling?

Besides this great fear, as I looked out the window, seeing the wide expanse of desert, I wondered about living in that kind of environment. You would be in a land-locked state, without an ocean or even a gulf to assuage the anxiety that indeed, there is an escape route, an aquatic passage that is also an unkept ecosystem with its own rhythmic operation and inhabitants. The multitude of mountains would both relieve me and frighten me. They’re an entity providing some company, just an inkling, standing silent and stoic. But the plates would shift under the pressure of any earthquake. They could disintegrate and crumble– no longer mountains but sad minuscule rubble, lamenting for the company of neighbors packed together to make a home.

Where are the rivers, ponds, reservoirs? There is no green; chloroplasts, the building blocks, are extinct. Oxygen must be scarce at the expense of lacking photosynthesis. But still, people carry on here, inhaling and exhaling in rhythmic beating of seconds.

The clouds are sparse, spread apart by even distances. Some are just wisps of faint white. The larger clouds resemble mounds of packed snow that stand on the side of roads after being plowed. They sit in the low rides of the mountains. Maybe if they melted, then the rivers I wish for would transpire.

One part of the desert stands out with its sunburnt flesh resembling a chemical stain in a Petri dish. Maybe the sun shone longer on this patch to inflict some sort of punishment for a horrible deed here. Maybe it is stained pink from a moment of prolonged bloodshed.

I am certain that though this pigment is attributed to natural geological occurrences instead of a distant unknown history, these opened scabs thirst for water. When rain arrives, I wonder if the land weeps for joy, or erupts in miserable sobs for the soaking sun in which a desert thrives.

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A pool of tinted turquoise amidst the heat of the desert- Arizona

Snapshots- 2016

In an effort to document and reflect on what’s happened during the first half of the year, I’m sharing some pictures I should delete on my phone to make room for more storage (oh the woes of being restricted to just 16GB)

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As much as I want to live in California, I would miss snow too much. I’m Lorelai Gilmore when it comes to snow; it blankets everything in magic.

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Best performer, ever (besides Beirut).

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Upper East Side

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Brooklyn’s murals are en pointe

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The Met’s architecture had me swooning

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Sculpture room at the Met

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More architecture appreciation for the Met

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The Courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery

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Flexin’ at a cool alleyway near La Colombe

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From The Portrait Gallery. Northern lights were a symbol about anti-slavery during the Civil War.

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Carpe Librum- a hidden, unassuming street in D.C. The profits go towards an educational non-profit.

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Finally got to go to Vigilante in Hyattsville *praise hands emoji* It lived up to the hype, except my latte art wasn’t quite on par with what I’ve seen in pictures (mine was supposed to look like the cup in the middle)

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Dear February and March,

I apologize for lumping the two of you together in one letter. You two are very different, though you belong in the same season, winter. February, I think we lament your arrival more than we do so for March, because you, along with January, are the soldiers of winter. You inflict snow, blistering wind, and under 30-degree temperatures upon us. I have met only one person who enjoys biting-cold weather, but you February, you are not everyone’s favorite. March is perhaps the most anticipatory month, besides May and June, because it ushers in the beginning of spring. But March, you are inconstant. You’re not quite there, and winter still lingers within you.

It was during these two months where I wrestled with the future the most. Everything seemed to accumulate. At first, it started in currents of emails and flyers– internship announcements, job openings, career workshops, basically all the adult things. Then, a sort of theoretical paranoia implanted itself in my mind– and my mind is the perfect breeding ground for worrying. Here is an example of one of my many internal monologues. Shakespeare, read it and weep.

Shoot, when’s the last time I had an internship? Oh, like two years ago…I should get on top of that. Oh look, here’s a journalism internship with NPR. That honestly would be the dream. But I have very little experience. And it’s NPR. National Public Freaking Radio. And there are so many other people who have more experience, they’ll probably get it. This is so competitive. I won’t try. Ok, on to the next one. Ooooooh ok, this internship seems right up my alley. It’s about refugees and I can use my writing skills to good use. But it’s unpaid. Hmmm so should I go for something that will give me good experience and is something I’m truly interested in while sacrificing getting paid for it? Why are internships unpaid? Shouldn’t this be illegal? I mean, we are almost doing real jobs and we’ll probably get menial work assigned to us. I hate work culture. I don’t want to be an adult. Can I just move to an idyllic Norwegian island and write stories and novels in a cabin with a view of a fjord? That would be amazing.

My non-linear thought process is a blessing in that I always have new ideas, but it also leads to talking myself out of certain things. I can make unfounded conclusions. And often, I hide some of these thoughts to myself. But if I do come to a decision, I steadfastly hold by it. February and March, you catapulted so many decisions towards me- where to live next year, what I seriously wanted to do with my life, how to become a better, more mature person, and how to be content in the present. You taught me to communicate better, and though I communicate well in the written word, it is in the spoken word where I fall short. Silence is my steadfast companion in times of fear, when not revealing actually releases a flood instead of containing the waters. It is only when the flood lets out that I realize my past errors in not voicing my honest thoughts to the people who matter most. I am still learning in this area, but it will take me longer than two months to inhabit a lifetime of verbal clarity.

February and March, your coldness could not freeze the warm thoughts that blossomed from the synapses firing and dopamine coursing through my brain. My wandering heart was met with short travels to big cities, feeding the flame to travel further. I was not able to study abroad like I had always wanted, but still, sweet minuscule moments bloomed and blossomed.

And most importantly, February and March, you taught me that I have to work hard for what I want. Yes, God’s hand is involved in directing me to checkmarks that’ll lead me closer and closer, but I have to put initiative into my dream. Hearing that my story got published was the fruit of my labor. It validated my gift for writing not just to myself, but to others, my audience who will ultimately be reading and judging my work. There are so many people out there who are thirsting for stories, a spark of fiction speaking reality, but they will never circulate if I don’t produce anything. God the ultimate artist and creator; I can never have the artistry that compares to his. But he gave us creative gifts, and I know more deeply I am to use my gift for greater purposes, to write fiction with deeper themes so people can know themselves and others deeply. This is where I thank my non-linear mind for providing these stories.

April, I don’t feel as ambivalent towards you. I think it’s because you’re truly spring, and I welcome that. But I think it’s because I have emerged from one of the hardest yet rewarding seasons of my life, and I feel more ready to take on what you have in store for me. One thing though, please grant your mercy towards me as the pollen count is bound to be higher than before.

Yours truly,

E. Y. K.

 

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Dear January

Dear January,

Back in December, I really did not know how to pinpoint my feelings for your impeding arrival. You’re the arrival of a new year, which means new year resolutions (and I lost track of how many people updated statuses with “new year new me”). Ever since I got to college, I stopped doing new years resolutions because I’m not good at setting and reaching goals. But deep down, I kept on thinking of one thing that I wanted to maintain throughout the whole year– writing more. Writing everything, anything, anywhere.

January, to be honest, I was afraid of you. I’m afraid of you every year. You’re my winter break, continuing from December, making up one whole month. I was afraid of all that time, that it would be wasted from being idle, feeling sorry for myself, and not working towards this goal I had put out for myself. Last January was one of the hardest times I had been through. It was a time of healing, patience, and wrestling with solitude, a foreign feeling. I knew you weren’t going to replicate that unique time period again, but I also knew that you would reappear in different forms and figures, revealing yourself sneakily and erratically. I wanted to be able to move past you.

But I learned that I can’t just trudge through the moments when I feel so alone. Many times, I was just by myself. I couldn’t help but feel an inkling of envy when I saw friends in far-off countries, looking like they were having a better break than me. Some people were studying abroad, which was a dream I had to sacrifice. January, you could have made me wallow in my feelings and feel sorry for myself, that I wasn’t out in the world embarking on grand adventures that I had always wanted, but I didn’t. What made me appreciate the present, was realizing that there is only one of me. My DNA, my family, my friends/relationships, my experiences, hardships, sequence of events, and perspective are all entirely unique to me. I actually wouldn’t want my life to be exactly like someone else’s, and I don’t want to be anyone else, despite the little pangs of envy I feel from time to time. My present condition and position in life are what they are because I am living through another season full of lessons to learn. And from there, it’ll lead me to another step, another moment that God has been building me up for.

There’s this one word that God has been weighing on my heart for so long- “patience.” I have always disliked that word, because it reminds me of my weakness. I am very impatient. I think it’s something that I inherited from my family, but it’s also evidence of my fallen condition. I’m patient with people, but I’m not patient towards myself and towards things that I want so badly, to immediately satisfy my self-gratification. This reflects how I want to play God and how I lack faith that God will work in my life. I knew I couldn’t work on patience by my own means, which were already pretty weak and lacking. I prayed for God to give me patience while I lived through you, January, and for the rest of the semester.

And then God blew me away. It was the snowstorm that restored my hope. I’m like Lorelai Gilmore– I LOVE snow. It makes everything look magical, like the ground and trees are covered in a sparkly fairy dust falling from the sky. December was so warm that mostly everyone gave up hope on the existence of snow. But I’m very optimistic and hopeful. I knew there had to be, at a minimum, just one giant snowstorm during the winter. And it happened, when no one was expecting it. Yes, the snowstorm caused some accidents, even a few deaths, and lots of shoveling, but to me, it was God’s way of showing me, “I am the I AM. Why have you doubted me? I am the God who knows so deeply the desires of your heart, and I am the God that grants you those desires, with wisdom, with my ultimate will.” I was in awe. I was humbled. I knew that even though this semester is not what I originally envisioned for myself, I had a newfound sense of faith that God would give me patience, and He would bless me still.

January, you have passed. I learned a lot from you. I actually did accomplish my goal to write more, and more, and more. I learned that I had to work towards my dream and to move past comparison so that I could use my time for myself. At the very end, January, we had a snowstorm that blanketed everything in white, reminding me of wishes fulfilled and renewed faith.

February, I really don’t have many expectations for you, but please, be good to me. Scratch that– stretch me and mold me even more. You don’t have to be good to me every single day, because there is someone greater who is good to me all the time. God is good. Always. 

Yours Truly,

E.Y.K.

 

A hand-written original poem. I appreciate the creativity, but it prevents me from reading the original words of the text.

Marginalia

For once, I escaped academic procrastination: I ordered used copies for 5/16 books I need for my two English copies (I have yet to order the 11 other books).

I have moved on from my book snobbery phase. Lately, I have learned to value used/secondhand copies of books, not just because they’re cheaper (which is a significant factor for when you’re buying your own copies), but because they contain physical and visible remnants of the past reader’s experience. Some of the used books I have contain hand-written dedications to the past owner, which then makes me yearn for someone to gift me a book (**hint hint**).

One of the books I bought, Paradise Lost by John Milton, was marginalia heaven. I was amused by the quirky and honest comments, mentioning how Milton was confusing, and I appreciated the past readers’ questioning of religion, of God, heaven & hell, the Devil & sin. I wonder how influential Paradise Lost was on these readers: did it answer some of their questions about religion/Christianity? Did it give them a different perspective? Or did it confuse them?

Marginalia allows the reader to process their individual identity and thoughts- in this case, Paradise Lost allowed someone to come up with their own personal theology and deeply examine what they think of religion, whether they expressed it to others or not.