a letter to my mom

today is my mom’s birthday, and as a token of my gratitude, here is a short letter to the OG female figure in my life. happy birthday mom, and happy galentine’s day.

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dear mom~

remember when i’d sneak into your closet and play dress up with your clothes? there was this one bright red skirt i loved — adorned with a delicate print of tiny black flowers, it was long, flowing, and beautiful, like you. i would clumsily rummage into your makeup drawer and  experiment with your rouge cream lipsticks, while click-clacking all over the bathroom tiles in your black boots. even at the tender age of five, i still recognized your impeccable taste in fashion and discerning eye for beauty.

as i strutted around the house in your black boots, i would tell you how much i wanted to grow up so i could have my own closet full of red skirts and black boots. you’d laugh and tell me i was foolish, because i’d be grown soon enough. you were right, mom. now that i can and sometimes have to wear heels, i’d much rather wear flats. heels can be such a pain and leave blisters on my feet. rouge cream lipsticks get messy and leave stains everywhere. flowing red skirts are only socially acceptable for dates and special occasions. being a 25 year-old woman isn’t an easy course, with its myriad of societal rules and customs, blisters and lipstick stains, misadventures and detours.

for all the times we’ve fought and cried together, you’ve reminded me again and again that girls grow into strong, passionate women who work hard to achieve their dreams. we must find and ardently chase after what we hold dear, and our revelations about our mistakes and flaws will only teach us to become better versions of ourselves. wherever there was potential for growth, you would empower my sister and me to explore and commit to that potential. for all the times i’ve lost and fallen, you’ve stood steadfastly behind me, guiding me to move forward because there are more beautiful, lovely things to be discovered out there.

thank you, mom — for supporting me, for believing in me, for waiting on me, for loving me, and for teaching me to become the woman i am today.

with all my blessings and love,

mc

city lights bookstore

march 2015.

Here I spent an entire afternoon submerged between the wooden bookshelves, a sunny and warm afternoon that should have coaxed any San Franciscan into a day of lazy and haphazard exploration outdoors. The day that had been perfectly set up for a day of exploration became a day meant for idle strolling and pleasant chit chat.

Instead of going to a stand-up comedy show at Doc Rickett’s, I made a detour. I ventured into your space and became mesmerized by your books. I rediscovered my passion for European literature and philosophy, immersed myself in the pages of Sartre and Kundera and Kafka, and eventually mustered the strength to detach myself from that celestial corner of the bookstore to explore other unknown parts. Books on relativity, art and faraway places waved cheerfully at me as I passed from shelf to shelf. Philosophy and the humanities pulled me into their warm embrace over and over again, as I traced my fingers over beautifully composed poems.

I explored almost every inch of that bookstore, all three stories, on that sunny and warm afternoon that lapsed into dusk when I finally stepped out to the real city lights adorning the intersection perched atop San Francisco.

the existential identity of america

the week i turned twenty-five, my life was rooted in the ordinary. even the existential questions concerning identity, the questions that are supposed to arise when one reaches that quarter-century-mark, didn’t quite faze me. i was mostly preoccupied with figuring out the nebulous rules of bluebooking for my upcoming legal research memo due the day after my birthday, with outlining for final exams, and with pre-empting any further coffee and tea stains on my leather-bound casebooks.

above all, i was assured in my moral values: of empathy, tolerance, respect, kindness, and inclusion. i was confident in this value system and in how i perceived and related to the world.

that was the first week of november. the air was becoming crisp, the leaves had taken on golden-orange and copper hues, and new york was settling into that season of wistful optimism meets nostalgia between autumn and winter.

on election day, november 8, i was barely able to focus in class because i was so excited about the election. i genuinely believed in the possibility of being able to call a woman the elected leader of my country — a woman who had dedicated herself to public service and fought tirelessly for this nation’s ideals. i had, however, become so desensitized to all of the negative and hateful remarks in the media portraying the campaigns over the past several weeks and months that much of my excitement and passion for the election had been diluted. these were personal and hurtful remarks by and against both sides, engulfed in a sea of negativity that i found discomforting. for me, the prospect of  america moving on from the election so that  “normal” life could continue largely overshadowed the prospect of a woman elected to preside over the world’s leading liberal democracy.

at around 4 pm, i met my friend in washington square park to head over to javits center, where hillary’s official election viewing party was held. as law students with pages of reading we had yet to finish, we (or at least i) had contemplated whether we should go to the convention center at all. he persuaded me rather convincingly that we had to see the historic glass ceiling for ourselves, and en route to this architectural and metaphorical feat, i couldn’t help but take in the sights of new york city that night and create an abstraction of my experience at a symbolic level. here i was, i thought, walking past the stone arch at washington square, to riding the subway, to passing the beautifully lit empire state building adjacent to the new yorker sign in the sky, where these symbols represented a progressive world of opportunity and change, and it was in this world, this amazingly beautiful and fast-paced and entrancing world that i was going to witness history.

the security surrounding the periphery of javits center was incredible. i had never seen a political spectacle of that scale, and the number of people, the sheer energy, the helicopters overhead and news trucks at ground, and the NYPD officers and sand trucks in the area astounded me. my excitement and passion for the election were returning and growing by the minute.

after returning home early, with the intention of getting some work done, i proceeded to check the new york times and five thirty eight forecasts while playing CNN’s coverage of the exit votes. that excitement soon turned into anxiety. as the meter showing trump’s chances on the new york times forecast continued to increase, my sense of apprehension rose. the rest of the night is history. somehow, in the middle of the night, the veil of the world i thought i knew had shattered.

i woke up the next day in another world. new york was grey and its clouds were distressed with tears that rained down onto eeringly quiet streets. in a city where the hustle and bustle is accentuated by the purposeful and aggressive rhythm of new yorkers, it almost seemed as if these tears were shed for a broken and divided america.

in hindsight, the question of how the world had appeared to have undergone an utterly cataclsymic  metamorphosis was clear. this year had been a precipice for transformation, one so profound that a revolution was bound to take place. in my own life, i moved to a new city and started a new chapter, while in the rest of america and the world, small events had been taking place all along that solidified the birth of what felt like a deeply traumatic scar. i guess the changes for me and for the world came before we could even rationally perceive them, as we fervently tried to hold onto the vestiges of the past that still remained.

home, for me, is california. in the aftermath of the election, the california i called home had isolated itself in polarizing anti-trump rhetoric. people were furious, upset, and despondent, and some protested by taking over highways to forcibly demonstrate. their fundamental disagreement with the election outcome made evident the intensity and rawness of their fear for their livelihoods under the president-elect. i hurt for those people at home, many of whom i call friends. immigrants, racial minorities, LGBT, and women felt a fear so raw that it shook the very  core of their beings. they denounced the bigotry and hatred exhibited by the president-elect and his campaign as a danger that threatened their existence and safety.

yet as much as i hurt for those back home, i soon realized the day after the election that the isolationist dialogue in california had blinded me from the discussion in the rest of the nation. it took something as simple and profound as talking to my classmates who shared heartfelt personal anecdotes of their family and friends from places they called home, where there were others who were celebrating the outcome because they sincerely believed that the president-elect they voted for through the elaborate democratic process of america’s political system could represent them and address their concerns. whether that entailed his promises on abortion or on jobs, there was something fundamental about the opportunity he represented to these relatives and friends of my classmates.

for a girl from the liberal heart of california, this was a powerful lesson. i saw my newfound friends in law school struggle with the dichotomy between their personal convictions and the political leanings of their loved ones. friends who came to law school out of the dream to reform civil rights and become government prosecutors suddenly found themselves in an alien world where it didn’t seem as feasible to pursue these passions. when we graduate in a trump administration, would we still choose to work in government in the pursuit of justice — whatever that means a few years from now? meanwhile, i saw how the calls for california’s secession and refusal to accept the outcome of the election only further secluded my home from the rest of the world. it was, and still is, a stark and disturbing dichotomy in which the battle lines have been drawn in ways where fellow human beings have become the heroes and villains by a mere measure of political belief.

new york city  — and law school — have taught me that the world is a far bigger place than i had ever envisioned. voicing our opinions and standing up for what we believe in are rights we can and must practice affirmatively.  turning twenty-five, in turn, has handed me a sobering yet empowering realization of the world i live in. with these sacred rights we have, we don’t turn to flee and cower from a confrontation. we fight. we use our rights as tools to work tirelessly for what we believe is the greater good. i know all this sounds incredibly sappy, but it is in times like this year, in which there have been such profound moments of breaking and falling apart, then reflection and healing, that we understand the depths of our passion, vulnerability, and finally — strength.

to another year of learning, growing, and loving.

travel musings

there is something romantic about traveling across a foreign country. when one is suspended in time and space within a vehicle, the landscape beyond the glass windows slowly unfurls itself to the traveler. airplanes and boats impress us with the grandiose beauty of the sky and the sea; cars and trains reveal the vibrant scenes discovered at the ground.

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i read once that the journeys we spend traveling from one place to another can in themselves be considered as definitive spaces. this idea intrigued me. we often consider the routes between a certain point A and point B as merely insignificant travel time, a commute towards a destination from an origin that lacks the quality of physical actualization that we attribute to the places to which we are traveling. these places are real. they are concrete entities that we can call a space, populated by the tangible: people, animals, buildings, flora. the process or very act of traveling is too abstract to constitute a space. travel, at its most intrinsic core, is not real.

by conceptualizing travel as a space, however, we can give it significance and an entirely new perspective on our own travel experiences. the hours spent on the subway to work, on a plane to an exotic getaway, or even while walking in transit to meet a friend — all these are spaces, with physical boundaries primarily defined by the fixed path taken to the next place.

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travel is perhaps one of the most intimate spaces we can occupy. at the times we travel alone, we have only our own thoughts, and maybe our private interactions with music and the media, to explore in that space.

i’ll be posting more on what i’ve seen and learned while traveling for the past month. 🙂

 

the bum life

i recently came across these articles regarding the blog writer’s decision to quit her job, and her experience has helped to validate my own.

http://lindaeliasen.com/version-history/2015/9/28/on-quitting

Two months without a job taught me what I really want from my career

during the first few weeks of unemployment, i was ambitious with how i wanted to structure my time. i thought i had to rigidly discipline myself in crafting new skills and gaining knowledge in areas that i thought i was supposed to pursue, and not necessarily ones in which i found personal meaning. i thought i had to enrich my life and surround myself with people who could push me towards new frontiers, challenge my comfort zone, and encourage different activities.

but what i’ve found is…it’s okay to do only the things i love and with which i feel comfortable. it’s okay to stay within my comfort zone instead of constantly taking spontaneous risks that i don’t intrinsically want to pursue. my happiness, i discovered, centers on stability and staying grounded in the people and activities that naturally lie within my comfort zone. and it’s okay for me to be happy that way, without radically pushing against the limits of familiarity towards new experiences. i learned that it’s okay to be a comfort-seeker, homebody, and a low-energy introvert. it’s okay to spend long stretches of time by myself doing things i enjoy such as reading at cafes and bookstores, exploring random neighborhoods, and going on long hikes alone. it’s more than okay to passionately devote myself to new cooking experiments, listening to music for hours, and painting in a uniquely impressionistic fashion because such activities are not extraneous hobbies, but rather important units of time invested in creative self-expression. these are the things that make me happy, and i shouldn’t have to seek what external conventions deem are required for a twenty-something when i am already conscious of my intrinsic sources of happiness.

i’ve also learned that patience is an essential virtue, particularly during one’s twenties. patience is integral in the development of a relationship, in the timing of particular circumstances as they unfold, and in the slow but inevitable growth of character and understanding of self. patience is also intricately connected with faith, and i’ve begun to see the importance of having faith in and trusting in myself and in others over time. people, relationships, skills, values, and hobbies — all these must be nurtured, not coddled; respected, not threateningly undermined; and gradually cultivated, not aggressively transformed overnight. while some feelings and interests may fleetingly come and go, those passions that are meant to stay, will stay. fortune does not occur out of sheer luck or coincidence; instead it is built upon a foundation of patience, hard work, and trust.

in the the past few weeks, i’ve clearly spent a great deal of time with myself while engaging in an internal monologue that has been both ridiculous and quintessential (such as — how can i achieve a meaningful life? can’t i have another decade between my twenties and thirties to get better at this adulting thing? am i even allowed to postmates anymore while i’m unemployed?). at times, i’ve desperately wanted to get back to work, questioned moving to new york, also questioned going into law, questioned a whole series of life decisions, and generally, cried and had a few too many meltdowns.

being funemployed is hard. it seems like a blast, but suddenly launching yourself into a stage in your life in which you have the complete ability to manage your own time (aside from financial circumstances that may externally affect that capacity) can be overwhelming. self-discovery is a tedious process and making the conscious decision to quit your job in order to actively control that process is as admirable as it is daunting. leaving a job towards uncertainty, especially, can be the equivalent of starting a new career that I’ll sappily entitle “Finding Myself”– in which you are the employer, the employee, the client, and multiple other roles, while overseeing an investment portfolio consisting of assets allocated to achieve the best possible you.

taking the time to evaluate self-growth is necessary and important, but i think the mental and emotional hardships associated with this process are often underplayed. it is no easy task, and certainly it is a continuous process that, ideally, evolves constantly. to all those who have, are, or even may be contemplating taking a break to pursue this process, i commend you and support your endeavors with much respect.