an artist & storyteller WITH A DEEP SOUL WHO DEMONSTRATES COURAGE AND STRENGTH THROUGH KINDNESS, EMPATHY AND VULNERABILITY
ON BECOMING HER MOTHER’S CAREGIVER AS A TWENTY-SOMETHING YEAR OLD:
"Two years into college, my mother moved in with me. She had had open heart surgery and was going through severe depression. So long story short, I became her caregiver. I guess, it was her transition, but it became mine. Every day as we lived together, I tried to share with her words of hope and prayers to help her see a brighter future than the dark present she saw. I believe she has gotten better over the years because now it’s no longer me trying to instill joy in her world. Now, she gives me a bouquet of hope, joy and humor every single day. We’ve cultivated a weird little intimate home exploding with love.
"LEARNING TO CARE FOR MY MOTHER EACH DAY AS A TWENTY-SOMETHING YEAR OLD HAS BEEN A TOUGH NARRATIVE FOR ME TO UNDERSTAND AND SHARE WITH OTHERS."
I could probably write a book on how she and this transition have shaped me, but overall, learning to care for my mother each day as a twenty-something year old has been a tough narrative for me to understand and share with others. I kept comparing my life to other people, thinking my life isn’t how it’s “supposed to be." I imagined what was “supposed to be” by watching my peers; their worries were about drama in their social circles or moving to a different city to try something new, all things I feel like are “normal” for recent grads. And I was like, “here, I am, alone"... wondering if my mom was going to smile today.
"I KEPT COMPARING MY LIFE TO OTHER PEOPLE, THINKING MY LIFE ISN'T HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE... AND I WAS LIKE, "HERE I AM, ALONE"... WONDERING IF MY MOM WAS GOING TO SMILE TODAY."
I’m learning, slowly yet quickly, that there are no “supposed to's." I will live everything I need to live out in due time. There’s no rush. Of course, I wanted things for myself, I wanted to move right to Berlin out of college and explore filmmaking. But I had a human to watch. My mom didn’t force me to, but I knew I couldn’t leave her alone, it just felt wrong. So I figured, if this is financially and logistically what has to happen, then I need to accept that. That took years. Today, I am proud to live this unique narrative and know my mother’s love so deeply every day of my present life."
On fearing loss:
"In this very moment, I’m most scared of not knowing the future of my mother’s health. But at the same, I have been growing a faith in life that there is always a way around darkness. So although I’m deeply scared, I’m also deeply grateful, hopeful and believe in the power of love. She and I have both made it this far overcoming all that we have! There is nothing we can’t face in this life together if we share our strength and great love."
ON ACCEPTING CHANGE:
"Growing up, I felt like I was always out of my comfort zone. I was born in New Jersey. At 10, I moved to Korea for middle school. At 13, I moved to Seattle for high school. The hardest thing about changing towns was realizing that best friends aren’t forever. When I was in Korea, I wrote letters to my friends I’d left in New Jersey, and when I was in Seattle, I wrote my friends in Korea and would send them gifts for Christmas. But in both transitions, those close friends stopped writing me back and I got sad and confused, wondering, “aren’t they still thinking of me? I’m thinking of them!” I learned early on that time changes things and when you’re not physically there, it makes a big impact. Change became my comfort zone. It taught me how to listen, to observe, to understand varied social cues and to read people fast. It taught me how to communicate and befriend anyone and everyone.
I’ve been based in NYC for about 6 years now. In the last year or so, I've really accepted that I need to be here right now for my mom and myself, which I was in denial of for years, longing to live in Berlin. But ever since I've accepted my own story, even if it wasn’t what I expected or dreamt up, I’ve grown so much. Something right is happening and I’m so excited by it."
"BUT EVER SINCE I've ACCEPTED MY OWN STORY, EVEN IF IT WASN'T WHAT I EXPECTED OR DREAMT UP, I'VE GROWN SO MUCH. SOMETHING RIGHT IS HAPPENING AND I'M SO EXCITED BY IT."
ON A PAINFUL BREAKUP:
"I never thought I’d say this, but breaking up with my last partner was one of the toughest emotional blows. I had been in a long-distance relationship that meant so much to me, and the fact that I had to make myself stop loving someone was so painful in a way that I couldn’t control it. I was stunned at how long the breakup process was and how long my sadness lingered for. My brokenness was just perpetual. My mind kept running through ways we could still try to make the relationship work, like “if we just try this one new thing, let’s see if it’ll be ok!!” Or I’d be standing in line for lunch at Chipotle and just start crying when I wasn’t even thinking about my ex. It was WILD. I was like, “who am I?!”
I had never experienced such emotional disorder in my life. I think I’m rather grounded in my emotions, but that break up wreaked havoc on me in a way I still find baffling! But I found my medicine during that time and that was to create, to write and to share my story. I started to write personal essays through an email newsletter and wrote about what my break up really feels like, which I felt no popular media really captured. The hazy end of that gave way to a rich, empowering creative experience for me through writing."
ON FEELING MISUNDERSTOOD:
"I think my age and my appearance feel very vulnerable to me. They’re these characteristics I can’t control about myself that facilitate people’s impressions of me. Being petite, 4’10” (~145cm) in height and a patient, listening Asian American, people see me as this friendly, young little girl, which is certainly not a bad thing. But I just don’t think that perspective represents who I am at my core. I'm not sure what my core is, but I know for sure that it is way more nuanced and convoluted than “sweet, smiley, cute and nice.”
"i'm not sure what my core is, but i know for sure that it is way more nuanced and convoluted than sweet, smiley, cute and nice."
ON THE FEAR OF NOT BEING ACCEPTED:
"I don’t know why I am so scared of haters, but I often fear not being accepted. That probably motivates a lot of my behaviors. I just want to accept everyone and make everyone feel like they belong, because I, for one, hate feeling rejected. But I’m getting better at it by accepting myself – accepting my desires, my dreams, my style, my voice, and above all, accepting that I’m always in the process. There’s rarely a perfect time I’ll ever be ready to show everyone my bravery. I’ve found that my bravery is when I show up even when I don’t think I’m ready. Bravery is embracing the process, the progress, the transition."
"I HATE FEELING REJECTED. I'M GETTING BETTER AT IT BY ACCEPTING MYSELF... AND ACCEPTING THAT I'M ALWAYS IN THE PROCESS."
ON THE MEANING OF LEADERSHIP:
"I’ve been struggling with the definition of leadership. I feel like our society defines successful leadership as aggressive, hustling, and loud. But I want to show my strength and leadership by cultivating kindness, empathy and vulnerability, not beating someone to the punch. I also feel like when people find out I’m 24, they assume they know my whole life as “a millennial saving money living with her mum.” Someone recently told me at a party, “Ah, 24, that’s when life is easy!” I retorted back, “No, it’s actually quite tough. My mum’s ill and I take care of her by myself!” I was pretty proud of myself in that moment, to own my story and say the truth in my own words, instead of letting them assume that their "easy life at 24" is everyone's life at 24. Maybe I killed the party for a moment, but I think it's time we stop generalizing in social conversations and get fearless with being personal and specific. If we hear more unique narratives, I think we’ll be more open to getting real in everyday conversations and helping everyone feel like they belong no matter what experiences they’ve had."
"i feel like our society defines successful leadership as aggressive, hustling, and loud. but i want to show my strength and leadership by cultivating kindness, empathy and vulnerability..."
ON DEFINING HER OWN VERSION OF SUCCESS:
"I wish I’d accepted sooner that my story isn’t going to look like anyone else’s. Growing up, I used to look to other people’s lives and try to pick whose path I wanted to emulate most: the artist path, the CEO path, the filmmaker path, the writer path, the vagabond path... Personally, I’m very emotional and I make many decisions based on my intuition in the moment. When I decided to leave Journalism school and create my own major of Storytelling at NYU, it was very emotion-based. I just couldn’t get myself to feel ok not exploring cinema, fiction/non-fiction visual storytelling, fashion theory, and letting AP style be the only way for me to communicate to people.
"I've realized my version of success is definitely not going to ladder up to what others might expect is successful BECAUSE I'M NOT EVEN SURE WHAT I CAN EXPECT!"
So as I let my intuition and deepest desires lead me, I’ve realized my version of success is definitely not going to ladder up to what others might expect is successful, because I’m not even sure what I can expect! I need to model my own version of success, joy, strength, leadership, beauty, wisdom. It’s actually quite an exciting time to be alive. I can reclaim and redefine basically everything in my own words!"