dog person misses dog, unpacks a stupid number of books.


as my parents pulled away from the curb, my dog stood in the passenger’s seat, paws propped on the door, looking for me. i like to think he saw me through the window, through the glass, because his ears perked up with recognition, but the car was pulling away into traffic, and he was disappearing from my line of sight as i was disappearing from his.

i cried on my way up the escalator, through the security checkpoint, to my gate. i cried off and on during the five-hour flight. i pulled up photos of my dog from puppyhood to now and cried over those i edited them.

two days later, i started my new job, and it was a lonely first day. the company is tiny (so tiny), and i didn’t really talk to anyone and found that weird and disorienting and discouraging. i tried not to stay too late because i could feel the onslaught coming, because i didn’t want to cry in the office on my first day, and i managed to make it out and onto the subway before i started crying. i cried on the train ride home. i cried in the market where i went to buy some basics. i cried when i got to my apartment.

i cried so much that night, my eyes were painfully swollen the next morning, that i had to sit and ice my eyes before i could put my contacts on, that my eyes were red-rimmed the whole day. i cried some more that second day, too, on the street outside my office, in muji, in the office bathroom.

that first week, i thought a lot about quitting, about just screwing it and going back to LA — hell, i hadn’t shipped any of my stuff yet; i hadn’t signed a lease; and i hadn’t received my relocation bonus yet. it would have been easy enough, resigning and packing my suitcases back up and hopping on another flight across the country, and i thought about doing just that so many times, i don’t honestly know what was stopping me from doing it. i could have easily, and, maybe, a few years ago, i might have.

the thing is, though, that that same week, i went to dinner with friends for my birthday. i had brunch plans for that weekend and dinner plans. i had a reading i was going to the next week. i had more people to schedule catch-up meals with, DMs and text messages going back and forth of, we should meet up! when’s good? i was talking more with my coworkers and realizing that initial weirdness was that my boss had parachuted me in over their heads, had never put us in touch for them to have a chance to vet me and get to know me, and i really liked them.

because, yes, i did like my new job and the work i was doing, and, yes, i was happy to be back home in new york city, but the thing that kept me here was that i have a community here — i have people, and, as it goes, i love people.


after three weeks at this new job, the holidays roll around, and our office is thankfully all working from home. i fly out to LA, taking a stupidly late flight that gets delayed for hours because i want to see my dog sooner than later, want to cuddle him and his soft fur even if it means arriving at 1 in the morning, which, really, becomes 3 in the morning becomes 4 in the morning.

he seems hesitant to see me, and i wonder if the punk even missed me at all. i spent the last three weeks crying because i missed him so much, but he doesn’t seem that happy to see me, and i wonder if he’s forgotten me — but, damn it, aren’t dogs supposed to remember you even years later? something about your scent? no?

he’s more excited to see my brother later that morning, and i’m offended. goms! i love you! i tell him while he’s happily in the back seat, wagging his tail furiously while trying to climb on my brother’s lap. i’m in the passenger’s seat, alone because my dog abandoned me to greet my brother ecstatically.

maybe, though, it was hesitation because gom soon re-attaches himself to me, sleeping at my feet when i’m working, whining at me to sit on the floor so he can climb up on my lap with his toy, sprawling out against my leg at night. he follows me around everywhere, sitting outside the bathroom, wanting to go on car rides, pawing at me for whatever i’m eating and acting offended when he doesn’t get any.

som follows gom, so som gets in on the cuddles, too, jumping out of his crate in my parents’ room in the middle of the night and running down the hallway, pawing at my door to be let in. he runs over to where i’m sleeping on the floor on a futon, ignoring gom’s possessive, annoyed growls and barks, and curls up on my left shoulder, away from gom who sleeps on my right. there’s little that feels safer, more comforting, than two puppies curled up on either side of you, one (som) flopping around dramatically every time he wants to change positions, the other (gom) happily content to stretch out against your side because you’re his human and you’re right here where you’re supposed to be, and, yes, he missed you.

one of the biggest lies i told myself for over a decade is that i was a misanthrope, an introvert. i told myself that i didn’t like people, that i liked being alone, going things alone, and that was all my way of protecting myself.

for over a decade, i hated myself because i hated my body because i was told over and over and over again that my body was too big — it was grotesque, monstrous, and it needed to be whittled down in order for it (and, in extension, me) to be made acceptable. one of the consequences of that was this lie i told myself, this wall i built around myself so i didn’t have to feel like i had to put myself out there because that would mean opening myself up to rejection. what if people really were repulsed by me? what if no one wanted to be friends with me because i was so big and ugly and disgusting? what if i really were a monster?

instead of facing what felt like inevitable rejection, i retreated. i read a lot, saw movies alone, sometimes went days without talking to anyone other than small talk with baristas and cashiers. i always had roommates, and, sometimes, we’d chat, but i’d soon shrink back to my half of the room, plug in my ears, and pretend to study.

it’s not that i was totally friendless — i had two close friends whose friendship was invaluable, one of whom is still my best friend today. i had a handful of friends from high school i’d see every so often, even though we’d been scattered across the state for college. that was pretty much it, though, and, for years, for over a decade, i convinced myself that that was enough, that i was fine, i’d be fine, i could ignore the fact that i was often crying myself to sleep because i was lonely, that i felt so much sadness when a day, two days, three days had gone by and i hadn’t had a real conversation with a human being.

to be honest, i don’t know what changed. i moved to brooklyn for law school. i made it one year in law school before withdrawing from school because i was so depressed and suicidal, that was the only way to save my life. i’d spent that year retreating, too, because i still felt so monstrous — i’d just spent a month in japan and korea, had fled korea a week before planned because i couldn’t take the open judgment about my body anymore — and i hadn’t even wanted to be in law school, anyway.

i withdrew, moved out of law school housing, and maybe that was the change because withdrawing from law school was the first proactive step i took into pursuing the thing i wanted to do, the thing i knew i did well, and that was writing.

having a dog is a great way to meet people.

when you take your dog on walks, you’ll meet other people taking their dogs on walks, and not everyone is the same, but most dog owners like to stop and chat. if you don’t meet other dog owners, you’ll meet other dog lovers, especially when your dog is like mine and loves people, wants to meet all the people, flops over almost immediately for belly scratches.

i like meeting all the people, and i’ll stop and chat with anyone who wants to stop and chat and give my dog scratchies. so far, though, my dog has not been successful in getting me any dates, but maybe one day soon he’ll learn that that’s why i take him on walks. heh, am i joking or not? >:3


scenes from a move.


in december, i moved back to brooklyn after two years in los angeles … which was exciting and happy-making but also OH-MY-GOD-BOOKS-I-HAVE-SO-MANY-BOOKS panic-inducing.


apparently, there’s been a controversial topic buzzing around bookish social media — and i say “apparently” because i’ve been hearing about it tangentially but haven’t looked it up myself.  marie kondo, declutter-er extraordinaire, has her new show on netflix, and books are among the things she helps clients get rid of — and, apparently, that is a horrifying thought, getting rid of books.

if you’re unfamiliar with marie kondo, she’s a woman from japan who helps clients declutter and live more organized lives, and her method (the konmari method as it’s called) more or less comes down to holding the object in your hands and asking, does this give me joy right now? it sounds kind of hokey, but i kind of like it because i like the principle underneath it — don’t surround yourself with things that don’t bring something positive to your life in the present.

in other words, be intentional about what you keep in your space. to expand on that, live intentionally.

there’s a fair amount of privilege in the konmari method because there’s definitely privilege in being able to pare down, to live in the present, not to worry about future hypothetical concerns that might arise. people hold onto things for various reasons, whether they’re sentimental or financial, and i’m not going to be one to say that the konmari way is the way to go — like so many other things in life, the konmari method is inherently neither good nor bad. doing the konmari method doesn’t make you a better human being than someone who doesn’t do the konmari method.

living minimally doesn’t make you better or worse than someone who lives maximally.

all that said, i didn’t use the konmari method when i was packing — i’d done it before, years ago, with clothes, and had honestly kind of forgotten it had been a thing. i mention it because i thought it was kind of funny that this “controversy” erupted so soon after i’d brutally pared down my collection, getting rid of at least half my books by sending them to people (i did a whole thing on instagram) and donating the rest.

my reason for paring down my books was mostly practical — moving is expensive, and i wanted to reduce costs as much as i could, and books made up the bulk of my crap. i managed to get my books down to 15 books boxes and 3 letter boxes, and i’m so grateful for usps media mail because that also helped me cut costs a lot, coming out to roughly $300 to ship my books alone.

then, there was the other part of it, the part of me that no longer sentimentalizes books and has little regard for the book as Object, the part of me that’s tired of carrying around this bloated collection of books i’ve been accumulating for so long. i hadn’t read most of these books, which is fine because all readers have to-be-read piles and i find nothing bad about that, but the thing is that i knew i wouldn’t read most of them — i’d acquired these books because publishers sent them to me or because i thought i should read them at one point or because i’d bought them on impulse for whatever reason.

that last reason was largely why i’d amassed so many books; i’d pick up a book here just because, then another book there just because, and so on and so forth, even though i didn’t have any urgency to read these books i was collecting — i just thought, eh, i’ll read them one day. i’ll be in the mood for this one day. i’ll be glad i already had this one day.

(maybe there is something critical to be said about massive to-be-read piles …

… but that’s a topic for another day.)

i didn’t sit and hold my books in my hands one-by-one, asking myself if they brought me joy. i moved quickly through my piles, dividing books into three piles: books i definitely wanted to keep, books i maybe wanted to keep, and books i’d give away.

i also had a clear goal when i started — to create a strong, honed-down core collection that i would intentionally build out in the future — and i knew i wanted my library to be a great resource for asian diasporic literature and korean literature-in-translation.

having those goals made it easier to prune and to prune fairly quickly. i donated books i’d read but knew i wouldn’t read again, and i donated books i knew i’d never read. i donated books that didn’t add to this library i was imagining in my head. i donated books that i knew i was holding onto for stupid reasons, like they were written by an author who was thought of highly (i.e. nabokov) or by an author people found daunting (i.e. proust).

i let go of any notions of “classics” or what i thought at some point i “should” be reading, and i went with my gut — and i have to step in here maybe to add that i was only able to cut down my collection as quickly and painlessly as i did because, fundamentally, i trust my taste. i know what i like. i know how i want to expand my reading. and i have the confidence not to care what anyone else thinks because i know my taste and i know i can trust it because, as egoistical as this may sound, i know that i know good writing.


there’s all the book stuff, and there are all the meals with friendly faces, but this is what moving really looks like.

moving is having to leave my puppy behind and missing him so intensely, it hurts physically. moving is not being able to eat peanut butter or cheese or hard-boiled eggs because my puppy likes to eat peanut butter and cheese and hard-boiled eggs. moving is being that weird emotional woman wandering a grocery store, tears welling up in her eyes because she misses her puppy and there are all these weird, random trigger points because her puppy likes food. moving is getting puppy updates from my parents, facetiming with gom and cry-laughing as he tilts his head from side to side, confused because he hears me — or saying, goms, stay still!!, because he’s following my mum’s iphone around, trying to smell it, to find me, because he’s confused, he knows i’m there, but i’m not.

moving is wondering countless times a day if i’ve made a mistake, if this — this apartment, this job, this life — is worth leaving my puppy behind.

moving is avoiding going home after work because i hate going home to a puppy-less apartment.

or maybe none of this is about moving. maybe this is just want it means to give your heart away.

sometimes, i wonder if people must find it comedic or pathetic that i have so many feelings for my dog. before we’d go to sleep, when he was curled up on his blanket in the corner of my bed, i’d scratch his ears and whisper, goms, i love you; do you know how much i love you?, to him over and over again. he wouldn’t know what i was saying, but he was relaxed, sprawled out, limbs akimbo, and i’d take that as his way of saying, yeah, yeah, psycho human, i know, because dogs only sprawl out when they trust you, when they know they’re safe.

buzzfeed reader is doing a series of posts about debt, and you’d think i’d find a lot of it relatable because i carried a lot of debt (and debt was the main reason i ended up going back to los angeles for two years), but it was the piece written by a woman about going into thousands and thousands of dollars of credit card debt for her dog when she was diagnosed with cancer that resonated most intensely with me.

even before i had a puppy, money was what stopped me getting one, though, back then, i thought i was a cat person and really, really wanted a cat. if i were to get an animal, though, i knew i was committing myself to a life with that animal, which meant that, inevitably, at one point, money for health issues would enter the picture. i never said it in so many words to myself, but i knew — i could be that woman who went thousands and thousands of dollars into debt for her animal. i could be that person. and, just like her, i wouldn’t regret it.

having said that, though, one of the reasons my puppy is in LA with my parents is money. it would cost me roughly $600-700 a month to cover doggie day care, food, and other various daily expenses, and that’s not an amount to sneeze at. another reason (and the more pressing reason, honestly) is that my job has an expectation for ridiculously long hours, so i’m typically out of the house for 12 hours, and i’d feel so guilty leaving him for so many hours of the week, even if he were in doggie day care and having fun playing with other dogs.

i miss him, though, and i miss him intensely. my dog wasn’t just my dog but my emotional support animal, and not having him inflates all kinds of other anxieties and leaves me on high-alert all the time, on the watch for the familiar signs of an onset of another depressive episode, of another spiral, of another low. i’m afraid of how i’ll cope when that happens again. i’m afraid of going through another episode of depression and suicidal thinking without my puppy.

and, yet, maybe you’d never think that looking at me because that’s the thing with brain things — you can’t see them, so you should never assume.

here are things my dog has taught me about myself: that i have a deeper capacity to love than i thought i did, that i am able to care for another living being in a manner that allows him to thrive, that i will make the sacrifices i need to ensure his happiness. that i can thrive and care for myself and live, even when things feel so impossible in my brain.

getting a puppy taught me a tremendous amount about myself, and i hope i love another person half as much as i love my dog. a friend who is a fellow dog human has assured me that i will only ever love another person has as much as i love my dog, and, at that, i laugh and think that whoever that person is, what a lucky person to receive even that much love, indeed.


and, so, after weeks of packing and cleaning and getting fabulous meals with wonderful people, i made it to brooklyn with two suitcases, my stuff in my parents’ garage in LA ready to be shipped — after two years, i made it back home.


a year ago, now.


a year ago back home from one of my long walks around prospect park: i loved these walks, these loops i'd make around the park, and i took a lot of them last year in attempts to clear my head, get outside, and breathe. i'd watch the seasons change, wonder if i was changing as time went on or staying in the same place as i so often felt i was (and, admittedly, still feel i am), and it was an extraordinarily difficult year last year, and these long walks did a lot in keeping me alive.

right now, there's a heat wave going in LA, and it was 102 in koreatown today, so i miss all this something fierce today, the colors, the cooler temperatures, the way the world just feels different when the seasons turn. autumn brings with it crispness, newness, apples and apple cider doughnuts and the coming of winter and snow, and i'd hoped i'd be back in this by now, back east, back home, but i'm not. i'm still here, though whether that should be a i'm still here, though, is up for question.

anyway, more photos, fewer words today. more nostalgia, less ... anything else. the weekend brought with it rejection, and i've been feeling pretty numb since, but i did apply to my dream job today and query three agents, so that's something, i suppose — that counts for something.