Hi, hello. I hope you are well, amidst everything that’s going on.
I hate that it sounds like an empty platitude but I find myself holding onto threads of hope during this time. The increased racism saddens me. The staggering death tolls, the dearth of PPE, and more, is disheartening. I’ve been signing off my emails and communications recently with, “I hope despite everything, we all find community and grace” because I want to believe that we all find human connection despite the physical distancing and learn to forgive ourselves. We’re all trying to do our best, dammit. (Though please, stay at home. Just stay there.)
There’s a Cut Q&A with Esme Weijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias, in which she talks about the name behind her blog, The Unexpected Shape, “The unexpected shape is the unexpected shape of our lives — the boundaries that we were not expecting to live with, but that we end up having to live with.” While Wang is talking about the new boundaries and limitations set forth by chronic illness and other limitations, I think about that phrase now. Three months ago, I was not expecting my life to be like this, but here we are. Online school isn’t the same—technology never really works the way you want it to when it’s important to and I wonder when our lives will go back to the way that it was before. A friend just told me that her medical school extended virtual classes until September and all I could think was “Oh no”.
There’s a certain degree of privilege in the way that certain things from before all of this still hold true—I still watch online lectures (albeit some have moved to Webex), my exams are still occurring as scheduled and my side projects are still occurring. I still have toilet paper (I have a Costco-sized package of toilet paper and as a party of one, toilet paper packs last forever), I still have food, and I still have a roof over my head. Despite this, I still grieve because I have memories of life before all of this—unscheduled grocery trips, meeting up with friends, and little banal acts of normalcy.
I’ve wanted to do a life update for a while now and I finally sat down to write something. I realize that whatever I’ve written are really snippets of normalcy before everything that’s happened.
I started writing again mid 2018 but they started coming out in 2019:
This was actually an old piece that I did for them that they decided to publish last year. Cleveland is an underrated city (and yes, I’ve seen the hastily made Cleveland tourism video).
I wrote a fun post about DIY projects that college students make using makerspaces over the summer. My college makerspace was a place that I always wanted to spend more time in. Before graduating, I did end up printing some 3-D pieces, which I was quite proud of and throughout the years, I did some laser cuts of things, as evidenced in this piece.
Diversity and representation have been on my mind in one form or another for the greater part of the last decade. I wrote a piece for Zora Mag, a publication by Medium, about the challenges that women of color face in medicine, from even before they step foot into medical school. It ended up being a Medium featured piece on the homepage, which was quite exciting. Fortune also linked it in a newsletter, which was also incredible.
I drove to a sunflower farm with friends during late September of last year and it was honestly underwhelming but the photos that came out of it were nice.
Road trip down South
A video popped up in my news feed about the longest pedestrian bridge in North America and I decided I needed to go over my winter break. Never mind, my fear of heights. The novelty of the longest pedestrian bridge at 680ft (207m) was enough for me to drive down to Tennessee. Yes, I drove through Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia for a bridge. A bridge. To be fair though, we visited other places, but that’s less of a hook.
The most surprising thing about the Smoky Mountains was how winding and sloped the roads were. It was beautiful but also there were times that I got stressed out from driving due to the single-lane roads on the edges of the mountains. On the way out of the Smoky Mountains, we went to the Gatlinburg Sky Bridge and my fear of heights did not get any better. It’s fun and worth it but there were quite a few moments where I questioned why I did this. It’s a narrow bridge and it swings when there are a lot of people on it, which did not calm my nerves. I went at night so I couldn’t see the glass floor but I could hear the coins that people threw down and how long it took before it bounced (140ft/42.6m high at midpoint). Adrenaline junkie I am not.
I also wanted to go to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, which is in Virginia (which is a focus of another piece to come), so we did that on the way back and also went to the Grand Caverns, a limestone cavern.
Eric Nam Concert +Edgar Allan Poe House
A friend and I went to Eric Nam’s (a Korean-American singer who’s active in the K-pop scene but is now trying to break into the American music scene) Philadelphia show. I ended up going to the Edgar Allan Poe House with her which was nearby (cue weird poses where I think I’m an angry raven– those photos will never make it onto this blog). We grabbed a bite to eat beforehand at Nan Zhou Noodle House in Chinatown.
I.W Gregorio’s This is My Brain in Love, comes out April 14th. It’s a YA book that we all need—it talks about mental health, belonging, being Asian-American and more. I’ve been peddling it to all my friends and acquaintances. It’s a fun book and a great read. Many aspects of it are familiar –Jos’s relationships with her brother (there’s a scene where Jos is woken up by her younger brother who needs homework help) and the Chinglish that is sprinkled throughout the book. Plus, there’s a worthy cause—Jos is trying to help her parents’ struggling Chinese restaurant before it goes under. Ilene is also a practicing surgeon and the author’s note in the end of the book is incredibly honest and brave as it details her own relationship with antidepressants. Mental health is stigmatized within society and especially so within the healthcare community. Ironic, isn’t it? Mindfulness and other buzzwords permeate medical education to a point where there are memes about it but there’s still a long way to go.
I also finished up Little Gods (January 18th, 2020; HarperCollins) by Meng Jin and it’s heartbreaking as much as its beautiful. 17-year-old Liya brings her mom’s ashes back to Beijing and she learns the truth about her mom’s life. In an interview with NPR, Jin says, “I think that children often don’t see their parents as full people. They see them as parents first, right? And that’s really what Liya discovers throughout the book, is that her mother was a person with as much strange individuality as herself.”
Somehow that covers most of my life highlights and now we’re back to the present. Normalcy now is best described as a mostly productive day despite everything. I try to stay off social media to keep my mind on school but sometimes I’ll fail and read a headline or two. Mutual aid groups have sprung up left and right. I am heartened by it. Over social media, I talked to a few high school classmates over coronavirus help. I hope that we remember kindness after this is all over. I also hope that we remember the essential workers after—the grocery store workers, the postal service, janitors and more. Without them, where would we be?
Amidst everything, I hope we all find community and grace.
For tips on staying in, check out Girls Night In‘s Stay Home, Take Care website: https://www.stayhometakecare.com
For easy home gardening ideas, check out this twitter thread (scallions, bok choy, etc): https://twitter.com/katchow/status/1246511573998481414
For a list of mutual aid groups near you, check out this Google sheet: bit.ly/PandemicLocalResources
How are you dealing with it all? What are your snippets of normalcy?