not written by me

This is a list compiled by our high school senior year English teacher, he was a thoughtful introvert who stuck to his guns about many values. My classmates always muttered he was a better person than a teacher, I still don’t quite understand what they mean. His class is probably why I graduated with a major in English.

I read this list whenever I need some wise reminders. I hope this inspires you, too.

Important Announcements for the Class of 2013:

  1. Life is a gift.
  2. No one said it would be easy. Don’t make big decisions because of fear.
  3. Sing.
  4. Trust is faith’s very muscular brother. Trust is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  5. Miracles are everywhere—look for them.
  6. Think about heaven. Think about eternity. Think about souls. Think about poetry.
  7. Avoid… Airborne electricity. Fame. Pride. Gossip. Bitterness. Makeup.
  8. You do not need to fill every hole; many of them are beautiful valleys.
  9. The audience is bigger than you know. Imagine your life as a movie.
  10. Racism is green snow trying to kill purple ice. Consider ugliness as a problem with your eyesight.
  11. Love is not math.
  12. Facebook is neutral; YOU are amazing.
  13. The best cure for depression is focusing on other people’s needs.
  14. Practice being satisfied with THIS.
  15. Color is Evidence. Music is Proof. Eyes are Windows. Hands are Doors.
  16. Those who seek will find. Those who do not seek will find something else.
  17. Prepare yourself for intense criticism from people who love to point out what is missing in you.
  18. Stop being so critical about things that don’t matter very much.
  19. Competition is relative, not definitive.
  20. A new rule for yourself: don’t sit at the same table with the same people all the time.
  21. Also, be comfortable enough to sit by yourself.
  22. Read more than you watch, and practice holding back some of your thoughts.
  23. Secretly give some money away to people who need it more than you.
  24. Smile at fools and don’t let them get your goat. invest in wise friends and give them your goat.

Nice to meet you, Death

17 Jan 2017

Aunt Sharon said as I graduate from high school, I will be entering into the age when friends are getting married left and right. She said she was entering into the age when friends’ parents are dying left and right. This was mostly true. I had several older friends who already were in serious relationships and engagement photos popped up every other month on Facebook. The death part seemed far away. I still had another solid thirty-ish years to go. I thought death as an idea far far away in this land of abstraction or something that only happened to my favorite characters on Game of Thrones.

Little did I understand that life and death happened all at once. I hear about suicides a lot. I live in a city of suicidal people. I attend one of the highest ranking universities in the city. “Oh, not anyone I know of,” I’d say and move on.

It was T-5 days until graduation production week in the theatre department. Everyone was bustling about finishing last minute touch-ups here are there. Someone happened to check their phone and saw a news of a girl who hung herself in her dorm room. It was a theatre student. She was a senior. She painted this set. Her creativity was poured out on this production. I used to see her running around in her messy short ponytail with a paint brush and a impromptu cardboard palette. I saw her and I thought she’s cute–her hair even matches the set’s color scheme. The only time I talked to her was when I needed to move a furniture prop out of the way. She did not have the face of depression. She looked like anything else but death.

Fast forward to the end of the production. Show must go on, everyone said. It did. She was remembered and everyone wailed out her name at the final curtain call. It was dramatic.

Fast forward a few more days. My dad gets a phone call from Korea. I can hear the choking voice of my uncle uttering that grandpa is now in heaven. Dad chokes out a word saying he’ll fly in tomorrow first thing in the morning.

I’m tired. It’s Christmas. It’s midterms. I just finished a show. I have another show to run. I want to sleep. I can’t feel. Information overload. I am numb.

I have told people around me that I wouldn’t bother crying if any of my extended family died. This was a feeling that I had to process through and I have stopped condemning myself for not being able to feel. I came to terms with the fact that mourning would come if I lost something that was dear to my heart. My extended family wasn’t, and that was OK.

So to say that I cried for my dead grandfather a few hours after my parents left is a total nonsense. The recipe for my meltdown consisted of exhaustion, fear of more exhaustion to come, and sleep deprivation.

After a burst of insanity, I whispered to God: “Just let me see snow, please? You will let me get a little taste of snowy hope when I’m there for the funeral. Promise me.”

With the promise of snow and a heart so ready for culture shock (that I stopped calling them culture shock because there are no such things anymore), I stuffed my largest backpack with my thickest winter coat and my cashmere scarf. I flew to Korea by myself more expectant of snow than a funeral.

Fast forward to the week right before finals, a couple weeks after Christmas. Fanny sends me news saying that a junior from our department jumped off one of the taller buildings on campus. We only know of her but not well enough. I run to tell my mum, she said we should pray for the family and my school environment. I go to bed with my heartstrings in knots.

I thought the slushy snow in freezing -3 degrees Celsius was a promise of a happiness for all. My sign of hope was supposed to be applicable to everyone around me. People just needed to stop dying.

“Stop dying!” I complained. “Enough is enough. Not all things have to come in threes. Stop being a work of literature, you’re no fun to read.”

Before I flew out, Patty told me that God was going to show me the mysteries of life. The crazy complicated yet sweetly simple thing called life happens as death intervenes from time to time. I’ve learned with these threes that we just keep moving forward. It did not matter if it was the most wonderfully festive time of the year, three people around me stopped to breathe forever.

Someone once said you can’t have just happiness and numb sadness, if you numb the bad, you also numb the good–both happens. I’m beginning to grasp that idea of everything taking place at the same time. I’m allowing myself to feel. I’ve learned that taking a smiley reunion photo with our extended family at the funeral home is acceptable. I’ve seen that cracking a joke during the trip to the cemetery is permissible. I’ve found out that feeling ecstatic for the snowy weather is forgivable. I’ve learned that paying a respect to someone doesn’t require love but patience and an open heart. I’ve discovered that show must go on even if everyone is mourning for a dead person. I’ve realized that we still had to take the final exam even though she died–lucky bastard. I’ve allowed myself to be a little bit irrationally jealous over people who were dead because of the exams they don’t have to take. I’ve also let myself live a little more, breathe a little more often, to smile a little more often, and cry a little more often.



29 Mar 2015

In linguistics, I’ve learnt that there is this thing called lexicon in our brains. Kind of like a mental word bank–all the words you know or heard of by now.

I clicked into my brain, just like I would with my laptop. I double clicked into this folder called lexicon. It showed me three subfolders–well, three large ones and couple of other smaller ones. There was a show all option, so I entered.

There it was.. all the words that I picked up from the streets and from the skies. From flying high and digging the ground. All the words I did not ever want to know. Words I speak like they are the air I breathe out. Words that morphed into a thousand blades and pierced every millimeter of my heart. Words that turned me into a hurricane. Words that turned me into a princess. Words that turned me into a poisonous viper. Words that froze my bones and words that melted my soul. Words

Why are they so important to you? Asked God. Why do you think they are so important to you?

Because you spoke the whole word into being. Each word that vibrate off your mouth became. And I know that each word becomes too, because I’m your princess. But it’s so hard to break through those words. It’s so hard because they became. And they are. And they still hurt. I don’t know what they are anymore.

I want to delete these words.

But there’s no recycle bin.

There’s no shift key nor delete key in my brain.

But I have you, could you replace those words? Could you help me rearrange those words? I know…. I know that some words will always be there because it’s in my head. But could you help me speak? I want your mouth, I want your eyes.

I want your lexicon.



18 Apr 2014

“You’re going to discover that conversations are best at 4 am. The heavier the eyelids, the sincerer the words. Those are the talks you’ll remember. It’s ok not to know the answer and silence is not awkward. It’s shared, so share it more often than not.” —Jeff Stuckel

On the second day of October in the year of twenty-fourteen, I woke up and saw a ray of sunshine peeping through my window curtains. It was 7am. I thought about you and wondered whether the stars and the moon over there would be just as pretty as the ones that I saw last night. Thinking about you made me smile. I hope you too will smile at 7am but I know you won’t—your mouth will be too busy making grumbling noises and your hands will blindly search for the snooze button on your tiny square alarm clock—I pray that you won’t hit the off button instead. You overslept through your 9am class way too many times.

The kitchen beckoned me to come fill the house with the scent of coffee. I routinely followed what felt natural: opened the bottle of coffee bean grind, put it in the coffee filter, poured water, and switched on the little nob. Then my hands reached for the whole grain toasts in my fridge—I took two out and popped them in the toaster. I glanced at the clock on my wall, 7:10am; you’re probably having dinner with friends on the other side of the globe. My breakfast time, your dinner time—the world is too funny of a place sometimes. I giggled at the memory of having to slap your butt to get you off bed and feed you breakfast. A funny yet familiar smell nudged my nose. My toast turned black. With a sigh, I scratched out the burnt part then gobbled it down with my black coffee.

I realized I was running late because I was daydreaming too much. Your slow morning pace has rubbed off on me. “What’s the point of rushing?” you’d remind me, “You just end up forgetting everything because you forget to relax. Just take it slow.” I brushed my teeth, washed my face, dried it with a towel, took ten minutes to be indecisive about my outfit, stuffed my backpack with whatever belonged there, and headed out the door with keys in one hand my phone in the other. I put on my earphones and tapped on the little icon with video camera next to your name on my contact list. Thank God for technology.

I held my phone tight as I listened to the dialing sound. The words “pick up” echoed through my head as you picked up the call on the tenth dialing sound. Yikes, I counted. I wonder what kind of impatient freak that makes me.“Hello, hello!” I greeted you as I waited at the side walk for the light to turn green. I stretched my left arm so you could see the view and my face at the same time.“Hey you, heading to school? Dude, I just had the worst Chinese food down town. I miss Taiwan so much. Send me them danbings please!” you complained with the frown that I am so familiar with yet can only now see on my tiny phone screen.

“I feel very happy this morning.” I said after asking you how your Americanized Chinese food was and how your day was. “I feel fabulous just because.” I shouted, forgetting the fact that I was on a crowed morning bus. Some eyes turned toward me but most were glued to their own phones and books. “You always feel great in the morning,” you retorted. “You’re such a morning person. I hate you.” you complained.

“What is this nonsense, you love me so.” I winked. Then we said our good nights and good mornings and settled the fact that night owls and early birds attract each other.

Evenings make me exhausted. The evening sky is beautiful and the glistening city lights replace the stars but all these beauty is overwhelming and I am so ready to sleep by 10pm.Evenings also make me overly reflective and overly emotional. I miss how your brain just suddenly wakes up at 10:30pm and starts asking me the deepest and most mindboggling questions I could never answer with my caffeine-free night mode. I miss giving you a hug before I drift off to the world of dreams. I miss giggling about the stupid tiny things, like you accidentally growing a ketchup mustache.

This long distance thing works well. I am a morning person and you’re a night person. We seem to be in the right time zones. You will never see me sleepy and incoherent at night and I will never see you grouchy and fuzzy in the morning. I will never tell you all the bad stuff from last night because I want to share with you what my new day has in store for me. You will always tell me about the wonderful things that have happened during the day.

This long distance thing is killing me. I never get to tickle you awake and see your drool filled mouth and your thunderstruck hair. You never get to hear my incoherent confessions during our heavy eyelids talk sessions. We will never share that mutual silence that we know that can never be awkward. The beautiful silence that acknowledges the fact that we feel safe by just knowing that I know you are there and you know I am here. I miss that peaceful silence that hums us to sleep.

It tickles my mind that soon you’ll be living the same date as I just had. It’s 11pm. As the moon shines through my window curtains, I ask myself questions that you would have asked me if you were here. Isn’t it weird to think about the fact that someone who shared a day in the same space every day for three years is now having completely different days on the other side of the world? That was a really lame question. I’m still working on coming up with open ended crazy questions. I’m just so sleepy, dearest night owl. Goodnight, and see you later tonight.