“As she stood in the nursery waiting for her cousins’ return she sensed she could write a scene like the one by the fountain and she could include a hidden observer like herself. She could imagine herself hurrying down now to her bedroom, to a clean block of lined paper and her marbled, Bakelite fountain pen. She could see the simple sentences, the accumulating telepathic symbols, unfurling at the nib’s end. She could write the scene three times over, from three points of view; her excitement was in the prospect of freedom, of being delivered from the cumbrous struggle between good and bad, heroes and villains. None of these three was bad, nor were they particularly good. She need not judge. There did not have to be a moral. She need only show separate minds, as alive as her own, struggling with the idea that other minds were equally alive. It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you. And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an equal value. That was the only moral a story need have.”—Ian McEwan, Atonement
“Finally, progress comes from being willing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. We need to ask ourselves, ‘How would it feel if it were a crime to love the person I love? How would it feel to be discriminated against for something about myself that I cannot change?’ This challenge applies to all of us as we reflect upon deeply held beliefs, as we work to embrace tolerance and respect for the dignity of all persons, and as we engage humbly with those with whom we disagree in the hope of creating greater understanding.”—
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a speech to the human rights body of the United Nations on International Human Rights Day.
View the full speech over here or read it over there!
Although I shared my "staying in" story some time ago, I thought that it might be fun and maybe even a little informative to tell a couple of “coming out” stories in honor of National Coming Out Day. I hope that you enjoy these stories as much I enjoyed writing them.
Story 1 of 2: Up and Out of the Rabbit Hole, or The Very First Time I Ever Told Anyone (Besides My Dog, Dukerson Pooper) That I Was Gay
There are a few things that I remember about this night: It was the very early morning of July 13, 2008, the day of little sister’s birthday. I was at my friends’ apartment in Tempe, Arizona, and it was still rather toasty even though it was very late at night, which is typical at the height of summer in the desert. I remember that three of my closest friends, with whom I had attended much of grade school, sat with me on a small balcony, and we were enjoying cigarettes, beer and a relaxed, decadent summer vacation before they began their freshman year of college and I, my sophomore year.
Beyond those things…I really don’t remember much.
The actual conversations or circumstances that prefaced my first ever coming out are unfortunately very blurry. I know that I was very drunk. Consequently, I only have hazy visions of the moment that it actually happened, when I first spoke the words “I’m gay” and then mentally braced myself for the halting impact of one or more of the following:
A. Homophobia B. Disgust C. Rejection D. Accusations of deception E. Denial F. Sadness G. Anger (I’m pretty much just listing Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief now)
But instead, I encountered:
A. An initial bit of inebriated confusion B. Surprise C. From my friends, a comparatively underwhelming but deeply appreciated response of understanding and kindness D. For myself, a sobering, “Oh my god, what the hell did I just do” sort of feeling that now that I look back at it is pretty incongruous with how relaxed my friends were about it all—a feeling that would describe a lot of my coming out experiences with my friends
It went pretty well, even though back then, I knew that I was freaked out about how real everything suddenly became. Before then, I had never acted upon or really verbalized, out loud or even mentally, the fact that I was gay. I knew that I had been attracted to men and that compared to my attraction to women, the attraction to men came more naturally and powerfully. But I had honestly never thought of living publicly as a gay man—I always thought that it would be something I would gladly suppress so that I could have a perfect wife and make babies the old-fashioned way and we could all live our wonderful, heteronormative lives in a beautiful cottage somewhere. Happily ever after—duh!
Instead, I remember that this was a period of having to accept a lot of difficult things. Having a group of friends who knew that I was gay, and finally saying it out loud, meant that I pretty much had to toss the idyllic snow globe of a life I had originally planned for myself out the window and let it fall and shatter upon the cold asphalt of reality. It meant that, should I want to experience romantic love in all its filmic glory rather than some sort of forced shadow of it, I would have to figure out how to meet and date men. I opened up myself much more to the possibility of adopting children or surrogacy. I knew that I could experience discrimination. And I knew that one day, I would eventually have to tell my family.
As I came out to more and more close friends (who all took it verywell!) and I learned more about LGBT lifestyles and families, these sorts of realities became gradually easier to accept. The wealth of support I received on behalf of my friends is something for which I was and still am profoundly thankful. Without them, I don’t know if I would have made it through this period in which I came to understand myself—and the rest of my life—as a gay person. In retrospect, the hesitations and fears I had before about coming out to them seem, quite frankly, dumb. I know that so many people aren’t as lucky as I am to have such loving and compassionate people in their lives, and one of my hopes in telling stories like these is so that the reality of being gay becomes one that we welcome and embrace rather than suppress or reject.
And so, we come to…
Story 2 of 2: The Longest Three Minutes of My Entire Life, or The Time I Came Out to My Devoutly Catholic Mother and Hyper-Masculine, American Football-Loving Father and Brothers; presented in dramatic form
[It’s the evening of January 3rd, 2010 in BRUCE’s house in suburban Phoenix. Bruce, his MOM, his DAD, and his SECOND OLDEST BROTHER (henceforth referred to as THE S.O.B.) are eating dinner on this quiet evening, the night before Bruce returns to college for the spring semester of his junior year. Urged by his friends and sisters who already know and accept that he’s gay, Bruce has been contemplating telling everyone sitting at the table, as well as his San Diego-inhabiting OLDEST BROTHER, Gerry, that he would love nothing more than to shack up with Ryan Gosling and watch Breaking Bad while eating In-N-Out for the rest of his days. His parents and brothers are essentially the final important group of people to whom Bruce would like to tell that he is gay. He figures that after he does this, his parents and the S.O.B. will pretty much tell everyone else in the extended family…and that he’ll deal with that when it comes. Nervously, but quietly, he chews and gulps down some stewed cabbage before he begins to speak.]
BRUCE: So, I heard you were all wondering if I was gay.
[Everyone else at the table continues their wordless, searingly drawn-out consumption of their dinner. Bruce’s heart begins to thump so loudly that the water in their cups quivers slightly. Everyone wonders when the toothy maw of the T-Rex from Jurassic Park will violently breach through the roof of the kitchen.]
BRUCE: So…did you want to know? If I’m gay?
BRUCE: Well. Uh. I am.
[No one utters a sound. The only thing heard is the clinking of metal forks on ceramic plates. Bruce is about to pass out.]
DAD: Do you have a boyfriend?
MOM: You’re being safe, right?
BRUCE: Uh, I think so.
[A beat, as everyone continues to eat.]
THE S.O.B.: So, can I call Gerry and tell him?
There were a couple more questions and a phone conversation I had to have with my oldest brother, but again, I felt very lucky that this experience went relatively well. Thankfully, the visions I had of being yelled at and kicked out of my house with my mother weeping uncontrollably at the doorstep never came to fruition. Yay!
But what distinguishes this story from the other is that it’s very much still a work in progress. Kind of like the coming out process as a whole.
I consistently experienced support, healthy curiosity, and at the very least, respect, when my friends and sisters learned that I was gay. Not to say that everyone was jumping around in celebration, but I felt like I could be open with all of them about being gay and they would gladly be there for me for experiences like, say, dinner with my first boyfriend (Mr. Gosling, just say the word and I’m yours.).
Being open with my family about being gay, like my first coming out experience, presented a whole new set of difficulties with which I continue to contend. Perhaps the most difficult of these challenges has simply been helping my family to understand what it’s like to be gay, to comprehend the things that I—and millions of other gay people—have to face and deal with in regards to raising a family or just walking onto the street outside of a gay nightclub. I have to show them that me being gay doesn’t mean that I’m doomed to wind up with AIDS or that my children will develop severe mental and emotional deficiencies because they have two dads. I have to encourage my brothers to stop calling certain football players “faggots” in front of my nephew, no matter how much I hate Tom Brady.
It’s sort of funny and strange that we call it “coming out” because it implies that once you’ve made that step out that door that everything’s done, like you’re suddenly breathing in fresh, cool air and feeling the pleasant brightness of the sun on your skin. But I don’t know a single person who has had just that experience alone. As LGBT people, we’re frequently jumping in and out of the closet, coming out to new friends and shying away from people who we think may not be as tolerant or accepting. And once we do come out to certain people, their myriad responses can range from warm compassion to the threat of serious physical harm—or worse.
It is my hope that my stories and that the stories of others (which can be read or watched on sites like I’m From Driftwood—imfromdriftwood.com—and the It Gets Better Project—itgetsbetter.org) can help both gay and straight people to better understand what it’s like to be both closeted and proudly, openly gay. These stories show what it’s like to feel different, excluded, and scared, at times. But I think these stories also have an incredible power to show how being gay can also mean feeling unbelievably loved and uniquely special. I believe that only through undertaking the challenge and having the courage to tell, understand and appreciate one another’s stories can we ever hope to ensure that everyone enjoys the dignity, equality, and happiness that they deserve.
So, I applaud National Coming Out Day and the millions of people who boldly come out…
…to respect people for who they are and who they choose to be, …to challenge bigotry and ignorance, …and to champion love in all its forms and colors.
Happy National Coming Out Day!
P.S. For those of you looking for references to help your friends and family to understand more about LGBT people and their experiences, PFLAG—Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, pflag.org—is an excellent resource.
P.P.S. If you take away anything from my stories, let it be this: don’t tell your friends and family important things when you’re drunk! Show them and yourself some respect and do it while you’re sober! You’ll thank me for it later, I promise.
…I will challenge myself (and any other crazies that wanna join me) to accomplish everything in Katy Perry’s hit song, “Last Friday Night.” This means that I will have to accomplish several things in various time frames:
Dance on table tops
Take too many shots
Kiss someone and think that I forgot
Max my credit card (:[ :[ :[)
Get kicked out of a bar
Hit the boulevard (I’m thinking Las Vegas Boulevard)
Streak in the park
Skinny dip in the dark
Have a menage a trois (woo)
Be unsure about the legality of an action
Say that I’m gonna stop
The following Saturday morning:
Host a stranger in my bed
Suffer from pounding in my head
Find glitter all over my room…
…And pink flamingos in my pool
Smell like a minibar (so, like, alcohol, I guess)
Find a DJ passed out in the yard
Discover Barbie on the barbecue
Have a hickey or a bruise, and be unsure about which of the two it really is
Try to connect the dots
Be unsure of what to tell my boss
Think that the city towed my car (:[ :[ :[)
Find the chandelier on the floor
Rip my favorite party dress (awww)
Have a warrant out for my arrest (:[[[[[[[[[[)
Need a ginger ale
Have pictures from last night end up online
Be screwed (oh well)
Struggle to remember last night, as it is a blacked-out blur
Assure myself that it ruled (dayum!)
Finally, next Friday night:
Do it all again.
(Hopefully, I can work a Kenny G solo up in there somehow)
No, Icurrently do not have plans to attend medical school.
No, I currently do not have plans to apply to medical school for this round of applications.
No, I have not entirely ruled out the possibility of applying to and then attending medical school, should I be accepted.
No, I am not mad or upset that you asked or were curious about my post-graduate plans.
Yes, I am planning on one day making some sort of contribution to the advancement and enrichment of society and utilizing the myriad skills and lessons I learned while attending my ultra-expensive university. It would also be great to give back to the family and friends who have given so much of themselves to me.
But no, I do not have every single aspect of my entire life planned out at this very moment.
No, I am not sorry for failing to conform to whatever expectations you built around my career when you first met me and you learned my plans and you became familiar with my talents.
Yes, I am somewhat lost.
But no, I will not apologize for letting that happen. I learned so much about myself in college and I’m actually really proud of the way that I challenged myself to strive for something beyond what I was used to, beyond what I planned for myself, beyond what you may have planned for me.
Yes, I’m a little scared.
But yes, I am trying to figure some things out.
Yes, I believe in myself and my abilities.
Yes, I think I’m strong enough to make it through. I hope you do too.
And yes, I am always appreciative your support and your friendship.
(P.S. Yes, I took the MCAT. And I killed that shit.)
Things change. This is not a new idea. This is something that happens all the time, in a variety of places, in a variety of ways. Change can be great. It can be terrible. But it happens, undeniably, inevitably, and all that we can hope for is that we have the capability to adapt to that change, to adjust our patterns of behavior so as to best deal with the revolutions that occur around us. If we strive for a return to a prior state, well, I guess that’s perfectly acceptable, but the wheels of time are rarely forgiving of that attitude. Openness to change…it lends itself to the possibility of failure, to be sure, but it also ensures that we take any risks at all, that we make any progress at all. And in our youth, I think that willingness to fail, to explore new ways to do things, that openness to just try, is invaluable in helping us carve out what sort of goals we would ultimately want to accomplish for ourselves throughout our lifetime. Exploration is risk, but ships were not built to sit safely in the harbor. This openness to vulnerability is what has enabled me to post these thoughts on the internet at all, let alone live safely and healthily in this country as a gay Asian-American man.
I have had the sincere pleasure of being a member of one of the most forward-thinking organizations at my university. It is an organization that was founded on the tenets of activism, integrity and enthusiasm—a belief that people who follow the ambitious passions in their hearts and trust in their informed judgments can persevere to effect change in their communities, maybe even the world. I love that within this organization, I have not only been able to meet some of the most kind-hearted and inspiring people I have met in my entire life, but that I have also been able to collaborate and conversate with a collective of like-minded individuals who believe in the power of effective leadership in addressing the issues and problems that we face as a generation—as the human race.
I guess what I’m having the most difficulty contending with in regards to this organization, which I treasure quite dearly, is the deeply institutionalized resistance to change—or even just trying out something new—that I feel has characterized the organization ever since it emerged from the glorious, hallowed period of its inception. As a relatively new member of the organization, I have felt—and often been told explicitly—that I have missed the so-called “golden days” of the organization, that I never got a chance to experience the truest, purest form of the culture that the organization once used to have. I have seen the incoming members fall prey to the same sort of condescending legends—many of us have been made to feel as if we are steadily moving further away from the organization as it once was, at its absolute best. We are constantly comparing our experiences with the organization with the experiences we feel cheated out of. We are embittered, discouraged, and disillusioned while the members of the old guard look out upon the organization and lament about the way things once were.
But ultimately, I think we are wrong in feeling this way. I hope I may be so bold as to say that the golden days are yet to come.
We say that we must adhere to standards established by those before us, that without those standards, we have nothing, that we are undeserving of respect and legitimacy. I contest that, given the youth of this organization, and quite frankly, a disconnect from the national council that claims its jurisdiction over us, we have full license to revisit and revise these standards as we see fit. The nature of our organization, the very idea of it, is such that it thrives upon the diversity of the leaders that it is meant to empower and the ideas and hopes that those leaders may have. To expect all future members of the organization to fall in line perfectly with our own ideas is short-sighted, and personally, hazardous to us as leaders striving for positive change. We must entrust ourselves with the ability and the responsibilty to maintain those standards that, throughout time, remain applicable and relevant to our organization. We must not be afraid to abandon those principles which we have tested and seen fail or have simply become replaced by more pertinent values and standards. And throughout this formative period, we must continually have the unabashed freedom to discuss and explore the role and purpose of our organization in our campus community, in our development as leaders, and in our lives as a whole. It is always remarkable to see the profound loyalty to the organization that our members have, but I want to entreat them to wonder if they truly love the organization and believe in all that it could be, or if they solely love the organization as it existed in 2009.
Lastly, to the leaders of this organization, I want to encourage them to keep facing their challenges with their heads held high, and I want them to know that their efforts to work with this group of energetic and diverse leaders have not gone unseen. I applaud their endeavors to spearhead new projects and goals, and I caution them to not let themselves be trapped under the foot of dogma. Their work will undoubtedly leave its mark on the foundation of this organization, which, as we’ve seen tonight, is still being constructed, maybe even envisioned. And considering we’ve only been around for three years, I think that’s totally fine. But we all have to do what we can to help build upon that foundation and, hopefully, emerge as a family after all is said and done.
my actual response to the question: "may you stay forever young?"
see: booker t. washington, sigmund freud
Hope gave birth to three children.
The first of these children, a boy, loved his mother very much. As an infant, he eagerly drank from his mother’s teat, and grew to be very strong and determined, with a virtuous compassion and understanding for others. He observed many injustices in the world and was optimistic in his power and the ability of others to address them, and so, while it was painful, he left home, having had his fill of his mother’s milk. He went out into the world, observed the inequalities suffered by minority populations at the hands of the majority, and worked hard to educate the minority so that one day, they might achieve full representation and equality with the majority. In his efforts, the son faced many trials at the hands of the discriminatory majority that tested him greatly, but ultimately helped him to grow. In spite of his struggles, he remained optimistic that the minority and majority populations would one day live in harmony. He failed often, but brought himself up from these failures with a steadfast determination to move forward in his fight for equality. He saw challenges as opportunities, rather than roadblocks. And every so often, he would return to his mother and be nurtured by her love and care. Hope herself felt very enlivened and invigorated by the accomplishments of her first-born son, whether they were small or large. Finally, years after he had left home, the son died in his weeping mother’s arms, satisfied with his life’s work and believing in the possibility for progress to his final breath.
Hope then gave birth to a second child, a daughter. As an infant, this child hated the taste of her mother’s milk. Once she was old enough, the poorly nourished daughter fled her home and also went out into the world. Hope was devastated by this abandonment. Now free from her home, this child lacked the sort of faith that her elder brother had had in his struggle to obtain full equality. Instead, the child only saw people suffering from deeply institutionalized oppression that pervaded nearly every aspect of society. She saw people embroiled in miserable struggles to repress, sublimate, and project their unconscious desires while being crushed by the foot of societal rules and the pressures of mass conformity. Achieving equality, economically or politically, appeared to be a futile form of appeasement to the daughter. Thus, she scoffed at her brother’s work, seeing his achievements as short-term remedies that attempted to address or rationalize the symptoms of discontent and ultimately ignored the underlying cause: widespread, abject repression of desire. Hope’s heart grew very heavy with sadness and disillusionment when she learned of her daughter’s pessimism. Many years later, the estranged daughter died far away from home, having never seen her mother again and embittered about the future of human existence to her last breath.
Hope gave birth to one more child, another son. This child greedily suckled for many years from his mother’s breast. Always filled with his mother’s milk, he was optimistic that all would be right in the world, and that all of the evils faced by people—inequality, discrimination, violence, repression, mindless conformity—would eventually resolve themselves. Thus, he never went out into the world. Out of his brimming optimism in the capabilities of others, or perhaps out of fear, he never bothered or cared to leave home, and so he remained a child in his mother’s home. While he never encountered the dark oppression that burdened his older sister, he also never felt the joy or the pride his brother experienced out of triumph over hardships. While Hope nurtured and loved the hungry child, she herself became very weak, lacking the nourishment she had received from the fruit of her firstborn’s accomplishments and exhausted from having to continually feed her younger son. Eventually, the child could sense his mother’s debilitation, and decided that he had had his fill of his mother’s milk. He left his home and pursued greater equality for all, just like his brother had once done. He began to age, lived a long life full of challenges, failures, and successes, and died in his weeping mother’s arms.
Hope gave birth to many more children. Some turned away from her, never believing in the possibility for progress. Some loved her greatly and worked tirelessly to stem the evils that they perceived in the world. And others tried to hold onto her for as long as they could without ever trying to do something about the injustices they observed, but eventually she had to let them go, because Hope alone could not sustain them forever.
“The evidence shows that the movement of marriage away from a gendered institution and toward an institution free from state-mandated gender roles reflects an evolution in the understanding of gender rather than a change in marriage. The evidence did not show any historical purpose for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, as states have never required spouses to have an ability or willingness to procreate in order to marry. Rather, the exclusion exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed.”—from the ruling on prop. 8, which decided today that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry in california
the coming-out was quick. when it happened, there were a few breathless moments that seemed painfully extended, but once the words were said, it was pretty much over. both my friends and family respectfully and graciously acknowledged it, asked a few questions, and then i was free.
it was the staying-in that felt like it lasted forever.
the realization that i was gay came gradually; i didn’t just wake up one day and suddenly have homosexual urges. from perhaps the age of nine or ten, i would see handsome men in films or on the television and feel a little mesmerized, or i would coyly gaze at a cute boy for a little longer than i expected i would. these longing looks were quickly averted before they could be noticed. with time, the frequency and length of these stares would increase, and the intensity of the feelings in my chest would manifest itself in the clenching of my teeth.
i learned to mask these feelings. my parents and older siblings would tease me about my friends who were girls, asking if i were interested in any of them, and i would casually drop names of a few classmates who had pleasant features that i found reasonably, but not heart-thumpingly, attractive. my family’s hopes for my future; my brothers’ machismo; my mother’s religious beliefs—all of these were what i perceived as rational, if unfortunate, reasons for me to stay in the closet.
i came to realize that my family’s hopes were my own. they wished for me to grow up to marry a nice girl, and i desperately hoped and prayed for the same thing. it wasn’t so much that i grew up thinking being gay was wrong, but rather that being straight was right. it’s not that the fairytales and disney cartoons i worshipped show gays being violently punished for their misbehavior, but rather that straight people, the princes and their glowing maidens, are rewarded with happy endings in glorious palaces and castles. i felt powerless to rewrite those stories for myself.
so, to achieve my fairytale ending, it became necessary to lie. saying it that way makes it sound like i was on a mission, and in a way, i was. dating a girl was a goal for me, something to add to my list of to-dos on my road to a life acceptable by my standards and those of the people whom i cared for the most. i regrettably deceived girls into thinking i was interested in them, not out of malice, but because i wanted so badly to actually be interested in them. eventually, the person i lied to the most was myself. i consciously and foolishly told myself that these excruciating desires to be with men would cleanly resolve themselves once i found a girl that i could feel truly passionate about; that nothing else would matter once i found my own princess who would gladly inhabit a palace or a castle with me. thankfully, my attempts to build relationships with girls all failed—although back then, i was thoroughly ashamed and disappointed in myself for failing as a man, at least from my limited perspective. to this day, i still feel terrible about the girls to whom i swore such deep commitment, and yet failed to even feign interest in; about the indisputable fact that i lied to them so intimately and for so long.
it’s almost funny how relatively quickly i transitioned from thinking that i would have to hide my sexuality for the rest of my life to looking forward to living with it happily and publicly. within the span of sophomore and junior years of college, i decided that i wanted to come out, actually followed through with it, and went on my first date with a guy. surely, there were lots of cultural factors; the rise of queer eye for the straight guy, the release of brokeback mountain, the proud announcement of lance bass. the film milk was particularly instrumental; it’s probably the reason why i’m writing this in the first place. admittedly, alcohol also made it a lot easier for me to finally verbalize that i was gay.
perhaps the most rewarding part of coming out—and i can’t really say if it was a cause, or the result—wasn’t that i could finally love men openly, but that i could finally, truly love myself for the person that i really was. when i think of the shame and the guilt or the fear and the sadness, i also reflect on how much happier and more confident and hopeful i feel than i ever did before. for me, peering deep into the closet has been just as valuable as the moment when i finally stepped out of it.
…i continue to feel surprised every time someone in my life shows me how much he/she cares. i’m so thankful to be surrounded by such devoted, considerate, and loving people. you all deserve to know my gratitude, and i’m going to work much harder at expressing it.
these days, a new cell phone means a new phone book—a new list of names and numbers that you can access easily with the press of a button. many cell phone providers conveniently offer to reprogram the numbers from your old phone into your new one. having little to do while my family was partaking in the chaos of after-christmas sales, i decided to reprogram the numbers into my new phone manually.
as i went through the list, i noticed that there were several numbers that i didn’t really need to store in the new phone. of course, there were the numbers of the acquaintances and the partners for school projects that i didn’t really talk to after the first time i met them or we had worked together. but there were also the numbers of people who had at one time been my close friends.
i hesitated to let go of those numbers, i think because it meant that i didn’t really foresee a time when i would try contact them, or that they would even try to contact me. i thought about things that kept us apart—distance, time, forgetfulness, school, differing social groups. and it was surprisingly disheartening.
but then i looked at what remained after i chiseled away at the old numbers in my digital phone book. i scanned the names, recalling the last time i had seen each person—maybe a couple of months, weeks, days, even minutes. i thought about the next time i would get a new phone and would have to select from this batch of numbers and decide which ones i would keep. i thought about the numbers that i would add in the future.
i guess what i value the most are the numbers that i had kept since my first cell phone: the numbers of my siblings, parents, and best friends. people who have supported me, loved me, taught me, made me laugh, kept me going—and continue to do so to this very day. and i felt pretty glad. i think that with time and change comes the need to let go, to clean out our phone books of the traces of people we’ve somehow lost touch with (or maybe even lost completely) along the way—but i think what matters is making the most of the time with the people who stay with you throughout it all; those people who are on speed dial, whose numbers you could dial with a keypad without having to check the number under their name. and with things like facebook, twitter, skype, and mobile phones, the connections we have with these people should be stronger than ever, even if we leave them to go to school or to go back home. and of course, there’s always the chance that we could find ourselves reprogramming the numbers of the friends we once thought we had lost back into our phone books.
happy holidays, everyone! i wish you all the best in the new year :)
one thing that i’ve noticed upon coming home to arizona is that i’ve given more scrutiny to the individual behaviors of my family. it sounds almost clinical or psychological—but it’s not a process i actively engage in for some sort of cold, scientific purpose. i think it’s just part of being away from them for so long; i feel like i’ve become more sensitive not only to the things that make me miss them, but also to the things about them that i don’t miss at all while i’m at school in los angeles (or in the case of this past semester, australia).
what i’m interested in is what i do in response when these things make themselves evident. i catch myself chastising my siblings, parents, or friends, either out loud or quietly to myself, when they do something or act in a certain way that , from my perspective, is wrong or disrespectful. i feel a sense of entitlement, like my self-supposed worldliness enables me, even obligates me to tell them what’s right from what’s wrong.
i guess what i struggle with is this protective desire to better my family, to make them more cultured, to make their lives more enjoyable, to broaden their sometimes narrow worldviews (again, from my perspective). but the fact of the matter is that i am one sibling away from being the youngest member of my whole family. relative to the older five members, what the hell do i know?
honestly, and i don’t say this to gloat, i think the answer to that question is: a lot. one thing that’s nice about having a large family is that we all bring so many unique perspectives to the table. random facts: my dad joined the u.s. navy in the middle of college while in the philippines, so that he could raise money to send back home to my grandparents; my older brother and older sister have been in relationships for almost ten years each; my little sister is the youngest of five children; i’m the only one who’s attended university in los angeles. these aren’t necessarily earth-shattering differences by any means, but they illustrate something i think i understand a little bit better: the members of a family all have different experiences and think and act in different ways that may sometimes clash. i think what makes the family strong ishow they stick together through it all.
so while i definitely don’t think i should try to force my ideas about what’s proper on anybody in my family, i don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to share them, as long as i do it tactfully and respectfully. i’m lucky that they know it’s just out of love.
“…in new york, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do…”—
…except get married, if you’re gay.
if the past has shown us anything (see: the civil rights act of 1964), it’s that the rights of any minority group, whether it be a minority defined on the basis of ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion, shouldn’t be up to a majority vote.
time to speak up; hence, the blog reset. i hereby declare a preemptive new year’s decade’s resolution to regularly post something on tumblr (or whatever blogging tool comes out in the next ten years). i can’t be quiet anymore!
if anything, it’ll be good practice for the writing section of the MCAT
i think one of the scariest parts about blogging is sitting yourself down and then flipping through the catalog of emotions and experiences, looking for what you think is relevant or noteworthy, both for your own reading pleasure and for that of others. for me, it felt like the catalog i began once i arrived in australia was filled to the brim with a myriad of feelings, from overwhelming excitement to daunting fear. it’s challenging to write this blog itself, because i still don’t know exactly what i want to talk about. i guess i’ll start from the very beginning.
the immersion began from the moment claire and i stepped off of the plane. having been in the air for the past fourteen hours, we headed for the restroom—or rather, the toilets—and then looked for the exit—or rather, the way out. noticing these disparities between australian and american english, as well as the chilly weather outside of the airport, i arrived at the first of multiple realizations: we’re in a different country. not entirely different, or even very different; but definitely somewhere foreign, somewhere new. somewhere where the weather is at its coldest in july and where i have to look to the right before i cross the road.
almost immediately, i felt a mingled and intense surge of emotions and feelings: excitement, breathlessness, fear, happiness, anticipation. it’s strange to describe this, because it felt nearly visceral, but everything had a certain glow, a sort of aura of unfamiliarity and newness. i even vaguely recalled feeling this way when i visited england and france, or when i first arrived at USC.
we jumped on the bus (from the left side), fresh from the plane ride and ready for another three hours of travel to canberra (with an accent on the can, in contrary to the manner in which i previously pronounced it) from sydney, which lies to the north. although we were unable to see a lot of sydney because of very high freeway partitions, we noticed some interesting things: houses resembling those i had seen in the british or french countryside; rolling, grassy hills layered with trees; an awkwardly long (but narrow and low ceilinged) tunnel. upon arriving to canberra, we were greeted by a friendly student who drove us to our college (australian for “dormitory”), where we quickly settled in. we rushed to enrol (yes, only one l) in classes, obtain student IDs, and then begin our first weekend in australia.
yeah, so there’s a lot i’ve skimmed over/totally ignored. gotta start somewhere. i’ll elaborate on specific aspects (e.g., canberra itself, what uni is like, etcetera) later. i’m just glad to finally get started.
i feel like i started off the blog very quickly, at the very cusp of summer, with the renewed energy that comes with staying up until the early morning and waking up in the late afternoon. although i said that i’d blog about my preparation for australia, i’ve actually done the most of my preparing in the past few days, with only2 days left to go before i board my flight.
i enjoyed the freedom to procrastinate. and that renewed energy only compelled me to seek other pleasures of summer, like finishing then we came to the end and watching vicky cristina barcelona. (both were excellent.)
but i just felt hesitation whenever i thought about my future travels, like figuring out what i wanted to do in australia would require tedious, almost scholarly, research, through the purchase of cumbersome travel guides and skimming of foreign websites. and now, everything feels rushed, and crammed together like the clothes in my bulging suitcase.
but i don’t know that it’s all bad. as much as i wanted to plan out every minute of the next six months, i’m reminded that traveling should be about adventure and spontaneity. and while i know better than to completely abandon making any plans, i’m sure that i’m going to have an amazing time.
i remember seeing some of keri smith’s works (products like wreck this journal and tear up this book) at urban outfitters, and was pleasantly surprised to find that she had written something that would be very appropriate to my travels in australia. in how to be an explorer of the world, she boldly and artfully claims:
"everything is interesting. look closer.”
i think that all too often, we (myself included) lose sight of just how interesting everythingreally is. things may not always be discussed or presented to us in an obviously intriguing manner, but i think that if we really just pump the brakes and take a minute to think about it, there’s a lot that could hold our attention.
i’m still contemplating what i want this blog to be about, but smith’s work really helps—it reminds me that i want to use this blog to document what i find notable or perplexing about the world around me. going to australia is a convenient excuse to do this, because it’s a totally different place with a totally different culture and a totally different group of people, but it’s no different from the place i’m in now in the sense that i should be able to explore this place and think about it critically. and of course, i should be able to find things that i think are interesting.
my favorite part are the guidelines for being an explorer of the world. rule #8 is particularly pertinent:
“document your findings (field notes) in a variety of ways.”
this is the travel blog of my dearest friend, claire, who will also be going to australia with me! make sure to check her blog often—it’s definitely gonna be way more updated and brilliant and descriptive and interesting than this one, haha.
a real update soon! i want to describe how this trip came to be—and claire is definitely an integral part of that story :)
the last time i went on a major trip outside of the country, i went to england and france during my junior year of high school. when i boarded the plane that would take us from france back to the u.s., i thought to myself:
“wow. what an unforgettable experience. i’m gonna remember this for the rest of my life.”
unfortunately, beyond what i can remember by looking at the few pictures that i took with my digital camera, i really don’t remember much about that “unforgettable experience.” i can remember what the paris skyline looked like, but i don’t really remember what standing on the top of the eiffel tower felt like. i remember that we ate authentic fish and chips in london, but i don’t really remember what it tasted like.
i don’t know if the “let’s-see-how-much-we-can-do-in-two-weeks” nature of the trip, my poor memory, or just the fact that it’s been three years is responsible for my inability to remember that trip. it’s probably a combination of all three. i wouldn’t expect this issue to get better with age.
HENCE, THE TRAVEL BLOG.
in case you don’t know, or if you couldn’t tell from the ridiculous title of this blog, i’m studying abroad in AUSTRALIA. for four months. that’s way longer than two weeks. so, this blog isn’t only gonna contain what i see and what i eat; it’s gonna be a document of what i feel; what i taste; what i hear; what i think. yeah, it sounds a little corny—but that’s okay. i want to rememberevery single detail of this trip. i hope you’ll read this often and enjoy reliving the experience with me, even if i italicize and bold my words excessively.
so, in the weeks leading up to my departure, i’ll be making posts about how i’m preparing to survive in another country for an entire semester. i’ll talk about places i want to visit, things i want to do, any traveling tips i come across, and how much i’m freaking out/hyperventilating/sh*tting my pants/crying as july 15th approaches. STAY TUNED, MATES.