be more intentional.



though, hi, uhm, long time no see, you might need some context.

at the beginning of december, i moved back to brooklyn to start a new job in digital content at a korean skincare e-tailer, and i had to leave my puppy behind. it was an easy transition into nyc life in many ways — or it was an easy transition in every way but one: i. miss. my. dog.

i hate going home to a gom-less apartment, so i spent three weeks avoiding going home. my friend had a cat, and that helped and didn’t — it was nice to have a cuddly friend, but i couldn’t cuddle said cuddly friend because i have cat allergies (which i’m starting to lean into and embrace instead of fighting) — also, oh my god, cat litter smells, and i’ve been put off cats forever because i am just not clean enough to have a cat, to deal with the constant shedding and the litter everywhere. it’s not worth it when i can’t even cuddle the cat or give it scratchies or clean its damn litter without fear of my eyes getting itchy and watery and bloodshot and my sinuses going haywire.

(cat litter triggers my allergies so much more than the damn cat does.)

anyway, so, i miss my clean hypoallergenic puppy who loves to snuggle and pees and poos outside (for the most part), and i miss having his furiously wagging tail greeting me every day, and i miss his warmth and softness when he sprawls out by my leg at night. i miss his sweet little kisses. i miss the goodness that is a dog that loves you, and i miss the goodness that is caring for a dog and letting him know you love him, too.

i love new york city and being back home, but i miss my dog so much, i can’t even count the number of times i thought of giving NYC up and going back to LA because i was sad and lonely and hurting.


let’s see — 2018.

when i started planning this post last week, i thought i’d do a series of seven lists, each containing seven things. i wasn’t sure what those lists would be about, except for maybe two, so here is the first one.

7 things i’m grateful for from 2018

  1. gom and som — we got gom when i was on the cusp of a dangerous depressive spiral, and gom kept me alive this summer. he was always so cheery to see me, always wanting snuggles, always settling happily in my arms or my lap, and i only made it through the summer because i had to care for him, had to feed him and take him out to go potty and train him. i only made it through because he needed me, though the truth is that i needed him far more than he ever needed me.

  2. moving back home and getting a new job — this happened through such a series of serendipitous events, i’m still kind of stunned. a friend put me in contact with her sister who worked at the company, and i interviewed with freelanced for this company in may, but then they dropped out of contact, so i figured they’d hired someone else, someone already local in new york. as it turns out, i was right, but that person wasn’t the right fit, so i was suddenly offered a job in october, a salary reached, a start date of december set — and, then, at the same time, another friend decided to move out of her brooklyn studio to move in with her boyfriend, so that was that — a job i’m good at in a field i love and a studio i can afford in an area of brooklyn i like — it all really worked out too well.

  3. that memoir workshop through catapult — i didn’t intend to take this workshop; i applied for another one with nicole chung; but, instead, catapult asked if i’d want to take this memoir generator, said that the instructor (christine h. lee) had read my sample and loved it. if i’m being brutally honest, i agreed to take the memoir workshop because i was so totally flattered that christine liked my writing because i’d been reading her memoir and had been amazed at her ability to blend science and memoir, to touch at the heart while also explaining the clinical. i’m so glad i took this workshop, though; not only did it confirm that i have both personal stories to tell and the voice to tell them, but i also had such an awesome, brilliant cohort that has led to some pretty damn stellar friendships.

  4. essay acceptances — the catapult thing also has led to having two essays accepted, two essays i’m working on with editors. that’s both thrilling and absolutely terrifying, but i am SO EXCITED and grateful to be working with these editors as they are both really badass, smart, brilliant asian-american women.

  5. friendships — this has been something i’ve been realizing more and more over the last two-three years, but i am so lucky to have such wonderful people in my life. “in my life” doesn’t always mean a physical presence, either; the thing that keeps me on instagram is the community. there are people i’ve known for years now, people who have been with me and stayed with me though the really painful times that were the last few years, and i hope to meet more of these friends in-person this year and am accordingly planning trips to london, chicago, ann arbor, charleston, and DC.

  6. traveling, having the means and curiosity to travel — i’m lucky to be able to travel, and i never take it for granted. in 2018, i went to mexico city for the first time, and my family took a big trip to alaska, and i went back to san francisco and portland. i went to brooklyn twice. i almost made it to austin twice, but the forces in the universe wouldn’t let that happen. in 2019, i hope to do a fair bit of traveling as well, even while working so much, but i’ll be keeping things more local, planning to go up to boston fairly regularly, going to hawaii potentially for my dad’s 60th, making my one big international trip to london this time. and, god damn it, i’m making it to austin this year.

  7. creativity and ambition — there are times when i get down and discouraged and can’t write, and 2018 was a year of massive discouragement and stagnancy, especially with fiction writing. i almost threw away my book; the only reason i didn’t is that i had a new puppy who demanded all my attention, so i couldn’t sit down at my laptop long enough to find all my files and delete them. near the end of the year, though, i started thinking more about this book of stories i’ve been working on for eleven years now, and i kept coming back to a few big changes i wanted to make. and i read ted chiang’s fabulous stories of your life, and the best thing about that book was that it made me miss writing fiction. and then, over the last weekend, i watched all of the haunting of hill house, and that, too, made me miss writing fiction so much.


look, i’ve gone five photos without my dogs. let’s go back to looking at dogs!


it’s funny having two puppies because they have personalities of their own. gom and som look so alike (they’re brothers), but they’re so different, their personalities almost totally opposite from each other.

som does everything with a flare for the dramatic, whether it’s changing positions when sleeping or drinking water or chasing after a toy. he plays well by himself, able to amuse himself, and he has a lot of curiosity and a lot of fear at the same time. he used to dislike cuddling, wanting to be on his own, but, recently, he’s taken to demanding snuggles, wanting to be close and held. the funniest/cutest thing about him, though, is his ability to sleep wherever and whenever — it he’s tired, he’s going to sleep; he’s going to find whatever bed is closest or go into his crate; and he is going to sleep.

when he was a little puppy, he’d sprawl out on the floor wherever he was and sleep. we’d have to be careful not to step on him or kick him, which made it kind of a challenge to cook sometimes because, if he happened to get sleepy in the middle of the kitchen floor, well, that’s where he was going to sleep. nowadays, now that he’s four months old, he’ll go find a bed or his crate, but that’s adorable, too, the way he makes a beeline for bed, for sleep, the way he ends up hanging off the bed, his feet maybe hooked over the edge while he sprawls out on the floor.

gom, on the other hand, is more sensitive. he wants to sleep around me or around my parents. if we get up while he’s sleeping, he’ll get up and follow, even if we’re just getting up to use the toilet — he’ll follow and curl up outside the bathroom because he wants to be around his humans, wants to know they’re there.

gom, in general, is more even-keel with less of a flare for the dramatic, but he also has more anxiety. he has a lot of separation anxiety, which i also share, but he’s more sensitive, more emotional, more moody. sometimes, i wonder if it’s because he was left alone in a garage as he was being weaned, and he was the only puppy, no litter mates, and i can’t imagine how scary that must have been, to be a two-month-old puppy taken from his mother and put in a giant, dark garage by himself. whether it’s that or just personality or a combination of both, gom doesn’t like to be alone, will play by himself only if we’re around, much prefers to crawl in my lap and chew on his toys there.

his kisses are sweeter, too, more gentle, while som goes energetically for kisses, licking our faces with vigor. som’s also the one who’s always stealing gom’s bones and toys, and i keep telling gom to be a meaner hyung, to assert his authority and take his bones and toys back, but gom’s a sweetheart and will cry and bark but let som keep chewing and playing away.

god damn, i miss my dogs.


i’m on a flight back to brooklyn as i type this, and, while it’s nice to be in LA to visit, it always feels like a literal weight is being lifted off my shoulders when i leave — or maybe it’s more accurate to say that there is no better feeling than my plane landing at JFK, the lightness and comfort that fill me because i know i’ve come home again.

that second list then, 7 things i want to do in 2019:

  1. create more and challenge myself creatively — i want to come back to this space and create more content, more book content and food content. i also want to keep building out my food zine, and i want to start editing video finally and start vlogging.

  2. go back to my stupid book — 2018 was a year of letting the book be, and i’m still conflicted over whether or not i’m glad i didn’t end up trashing my book, like i was dead-set on doing in may and june. i think i am glad in ways that gom saved me from that, and i am excited to go back to writing fiction, to these changes i will be making.

  3. travel — i’ll be staying fairly close to new york this year, doing a lot of “micro” trips, but i’m still planning and hoping to make it to london and barcelona. and maybe oaxaca. i want to go to oaxaca so badly.

  4. be kind to myself and take care of myself — my instinct is to work, work, work, to keep creating and doing and going, and it’s been a process being okay with doing nothing. maybe that’s one reason i hate watching TV — i feel like i’m wasting time i could be writing or creating or reading, which is stupid, i know, but weekends like this last one of 2018 when i did nothing but watch the haunting of hill house — that was good, too. sometimes, doing nothing is a gift — and nothing is ever nothing, anyway. TV stimulates the creative brain as much as anything, and inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere as long as you’re keeping your eyes and brain and heart open.

  5. DATE!!!

  6. keep a clean apartment — i am not a dirty person, but i tend to clutter and can get super lazy with cleaning, putting it off instead of cleaning every week. i’m living alone now, though, and, as it turns out, i like cleanliness, and i like clean spaces. my mum is fastidious about cleanliness, and i used to complain about it, but, now, i miss it so much, how clean my parents’ house is, especially now when my studio is a mess, in that in-between phase where someone’s moved out, people have had to come in to paint and fix things, and i’m still not quite moved in yet, living on bare bones furniture while i wait for an ikea delivery and all my crap to arrive from california. i’m trying to keep a clean apartment, though, to stay organized and tidy up every week and not put my laundry off until it absolutely must be done.

  7. practice more gratitude — it is so easy to take shit for granted. one of the things i have in my bullet journal is a gratitude list every month where i write down at least one thing every day i’m grateful for, and, sometimes, that exercise is so hard, but i find that it’s also often so helpful, especially when i’m having a particularly shitty day. does it always work to turn my mood around? no, but i always appreciate the effort, and it’s something i want to keep being more intentional about this year.


here’s one last photo of gom who wishes y’all a happy 2019. make it be a good one.


this is all we've got.

the snow stopped, i murmured to myself. it felt as if a long time had passed. snow erases everything. sometimes, it covers up things that can rot and disappear. for a little while, snow helps us to remember the memories we keep scattered in our hearts. and now the snow had stopped. (park min-gyu, pavane for a dead princess, 10)

2016 was a year of heartache; i didn’t know my heart could hurt like it did.

i didn’t know it could hurt so much from fear, anxiety, and disappointment. i didn’t know it could hurt so much just being who i am in a conservative setting, to look into the future and see the continued aggression and rejection, and i didn’t know it could hurt so much on account of my country.

i didn’t know my heart could hurt so much from sheer longing, not even for anything impossible but for things that seem so basic, so human.

i didn’t know my heart could hurt so much, to want so much to love someone, to want only happiness for her.

i didn’t know the human heart could be so easy to decimate, so difficult to kill.

if my heart feels destroyed, my brain feels so muddled these days. i’ve been trying to write this post since december 17, when we had snow in new york, and, now, it’s december 30, and i’m trapped in california because 2016 is the year the idea of rock bottom lost all meaning. i have things i want to say, but i’m not sure where to start, and all the anxiety from being stuck here is bleeding into everything.

all i want right now is to go back home.

i suppose, though, here’s a brief summation, that 2016 was the year of instability, of looking for and failing to find a full-time job and gain, with it, a measure of stability and assurance that i haven’t totally fucked up. it’s the year i finally met the challenge of semi-regularly producing content and trying to find a voice of my own, and it’s also the year i stopped caring about trying to fit into a specific niche or satisfy the implied requirements of what makes a good social media presence of a particular ilk.

2016 is the year i was constantly surprised by people’s capacity to love and reach out, and this means a tremendous amount to me because 2016 is the year i learned to carry anxiety with me everywhere, the year when spaces that were once familiar became treacherous. it’s the year i looked my sexuality in the eye, recognized it for what it was, and outed myself on social media, which wasn’t something i planned to do, ended up doing the night of the election because of terror, fear, and rage. 2016 is also the year i excised god from my life and walked away from faith — and the two combined means that 2016 was a year of constant tension and strain and worry.

it’s liberating to be out, but it comes packaged with a whole lot of uncertainty and fear. i also have the added baggage of having grown up in a conservative christian community, and being out means that i honestly don’t know where i stand with many people, if and which relationships are dead, what consequences my conservative christian family might face from their community because of my orientation. it might be a stupid thing for me to be worrying about, but it is there, and it is a thing that has kept me silent or talking in what feels like code, hoping people (allies) read between the lines or (non-allies) miss the hidden language altogether.

it’s been a lot to carry, trying to rebuild my world without faith and to navigate life outside the heteronormative mainstream. i feel almost like i’ve been reborn, and it has been exciting to claim this part of myself that i’d neglected and dismissed for so long — but that makes me angry, too, the narrowness of the world of my youth, the ways religion continues to repress and shame and harm with ugly violence fueled by blind hatred.

and, so, 2016 is the year i learned that silence is not an option. i ended up outing myself in a pique of rage and panic because this country had basically made it very clear on november 9 that it didn’t matter whether i was in the closet or not — it was going to come after me and my rights, anyway, so i might as well speak up, and i might as well fight.

which goes to say that we might be looking right at 2017, and i might be feeling completely muddled and broken these days, but we’ll find the words to talk about all this shit in the months to come.


my goal for 2016 was to read 75 books, and i did not meet that goal, coming in at 65 (i think). i feel like i fell short of all my reading goals this year — didn’t read 75 books, didn’t read anything in completion in korean — though i did blog more, so i did write more about what i was reading.

it’s not to say that 2016 was a bad reading year. i don’t think any year in which i read and attempt to read diversely, intelligently, and thoughtfully can be a bad reading year, but it is true that 2016 was largely an uninspired reading year. i struggled considerably with staying engaged, staying interested, not with specific books per se but with fiction in general. for the most part, though, as unpleasant as it is to be uninspired, that was still okay because i diverted a lot of my focus into reading more food writing and more cookbooks, into exploring what that intersection of literary writing and/or journalism and food looks like.

this is not a comment on the books that were published in 2016 — or that i read this year because i read some amazing books that moved me and challenged me and helped me find hope amidst the shit (my next post will be about 10 specific books). i’ve struggled with some very real fatigue this year, though, and it’s a fatigue that has almost entirely to do with whiteness and straightness, despite 2016 having been a pretty good year for writers of color. it’s encouraging to see the industry being better, trying to look beyond its white straightness, and yet …?

maybe this fatigue is an inevitable by-product of both this election cycle and this election, all the ugliness it exposed to be alive and well in this country. maybe it’s an inevitable by-product of the disappointments in my own life, of not finding a job, of struggling so much to survive, to pay the bills, to write. maybe it’s also an inevitable by-product of all my interpersonal and social anxiety.

maybe it’s all of it.

in his year in reading essay for the millions, kevin nguyen writes:

if you believe that books have the power to do good, you also have to believe that they can do just as much harm. after the election, there was no soul searching on book twitter. no one questioned the power structures of publishing. can we talk about how one of the big five publishers is owned by news corp? often the publishing of things like bill o’really’s twisted histories is justified as a means to support literary fiction. but does anyone asks if that trade-off is worth it?

it’s easy to romanticize books and to make them out to be great cultural pillars, and that’s not to say that they aren’t. it’s crucial to recognize literature’s place in the world and its ability to shape thought and, yes, do good (and to stop trying to kill humanities programs), but it’s easy to lose ourselves in this idea that, because we read, we are good, we are somehow superior to other consumers of other modes of culture.

we make a thing out of a flawed industry, even going so far as to make the big 5 out to be these great underdogs in the world of amazon and internet media, when big publishing is exactly that — big — and just as guilty of making bad decisions, of failing to adapt and make changes, of sitting around and talking about a topic (aka diversity) instead of trying to do something about it. just because publishing’s business is books doesn’t mean it’s an industry that’s not guilty of indulging and overexposing celebrity, of selling out, of making questionable compromises in the name of what — money? reputation? power?

which is not to dismiss the agents and editors and publicists and marketers and designers and the army of assistants and HR people who try to acquire great work by writers of different colors and backgrounds and orientations and bring beautiful, thoughtful writing into the world. i know that there are great people working in publishing today, and i love the work that they do, the dedication they have to literature and literary culture. as a reader, i am indebted to them, and, as a writer, i hope one day to be published by them, to place my book in their hands, to have them on my side.

and yet there is something about always having to make this kind of statement that feels odd — like, how we must always go out of our ways to say that, yes, we know that not all white people are racists and we know that not all men are misogynists or assholes who commit violence against women, not all christians are homophobic bigots. to have to make that concession is simply another way that power exhibits itself, this seeming need to protect the power-holder’s fragility and indulge its self-defensiveness, all just to be able to say that shit is bad and shit needs to change.

making a criticism is not making a blanket statement that everything in that setting or grouping is bad. things are not so clearly either/or, and contradictions exist within everything — and, as such, 2016 was a good year for writers of color, but 2017 needs to be a better one. we need more writers of minority groups telling their stories, whether through journalism, fiction, or personal essays. we need to be asking ourselves if the trade-offs are worth it, and we need to admit that books can do as much damage as good. we need to question why we read what we read, why we write what we write, why we publish what we publish, and we need to look at where voices are being cut off and shut out.

we need to ask how we can do better, whether as people who work in the industry or as writers or as readers because it will take all of us to create change and move the world to a better, more open place.

i don’t mean this to sound condescending or like a lecture, but i do want to throw the challenge out there because, again, silence is not an option, and, similarly, indifference is not an option. we don’t get to not care anymore, and, as such, i hope to see more in 2017 from publishing and the literary world. like i said, there are people out there doing great work, so i don’t think this is a vain hope.

ultimately, 2016 is the year that being able to recognize myself in literature started to mean a whole fucking lot, and i will do as much as i can in my own limited ways to bring more attention and awareness to great writing by minority writers. it is the least that i can do.

if 2016 was a year of heartache, 2017 is the year we lose each other.

early next year, i’m looking at a move to the bay area, back across the country to california, that fucking state that just won’t let her goddamn claws out of me. it’s a mess of a situation where no one wins, not me, not my family, not anyone involved, and it’s not something i’m really thinking about in any substantive way yet because to do so would be to descend into rage and desperation.

i know exactly what a move back to california means; it means a return to rootlessness and restlessness and continued self-loathing. it means not letting myself settle down because my singular goal will be to leave as soon as i can because the longer i stay, the greater the damage, and i’m already in pieces.

to some, it might sound strange and irrational because a state is a state, it’s just place, somewhere to be, who bloody cares? a cage, however, is place, too, and place is a weapon, a trap, a hell, and, as a queer woman of color, place matters a lot because place is directly attached to safety, and safety is something i don’t take for granted.

there’s that saying that a wounded animal is the most dangerous, but i wonder to whom the danger lies. is it the wounded animal that is in danger from herself? or is it the person or thing cornering her that is in danger? when you trap a wounded animal, who will she harm — you? or herself?

if there’s something to remember, it’s that things do not exist simply in clear binaries. it is possible to love someone and be disappointed in that same person, to acknowledge someone’s goodness and generosity as well as that person’s narrow-mindedness and flaws. it is possible to love someone who harms you, not in a stockholm syndrome sort of way, but in a genuine way that recognizes that we all fuck up and we are all capable of causing great harm but we can also admit that and work to heal wounds and rebuild trust. 

it is possible to be so completely, humbly grateful for what someone does for you and find yourself suffocating from that same gratitude, and it is possible to care for someone and love that person deeply and trigger that person in all the worst possible ways. it is possible to believe that you are doing the best for someone and wreak so much damage that that person will flee from you just to have even the smallest chance to heal.

it is possible for things to be okay even while they’ve fractured beyond repair.

it is possible not to want to live and also not to want to die.
it is possible to listen to someone speak and not hear what that person is actually saying.
it is possible to have an open heart and draw lines and conditions that close up that same heart.

it is possible to be, to commit acts that so completely oppose each other at the same time, and to believe in a world of perfect consistency is to be naive.

when i think about 2017, i see nothing. i have no hopes, no expectations, just silence and darkness, a low thrum of hopelessness underneath it all. 2017 already looks like regression, ten steps backwards, and i can already chart it out in loss. 2016, in many ways, is ending with lines drawn in the sand indicating the limits to certain relationships, and 2017 is starting not with calm and anticipation but with my anxiety and depression keyed up as high as they can go. 2016 might have tracked the decline of my mental state, but 2017 is already tearing at the shreds, causing more damage before the year has even begun.

i have one goal for 2017, and it is to move back out east, whether to new york or boston, by the end of it because i will not live and die in california, a state that i despise and that has never been kind to me. i know where home is, and, by the end of 2017, i will be back home.

38 in 2015!

i went to 38 book events this year and did a lot of hearing authors twice.  i heard kazuo ishiguro twice, jenny zhang twice, jonathan galassi twice, patricia park twice, marie mutsuki mockett twice, meghan daum twice, jonathan franzen twice (and i’m still kind of kicking myself about that because i should’ve just gone to the b&n event, too), and the anomaly to that is that i heard lauren groff three times because she was on two of the panels i attended at the brooklyn book festival* before i went to hear her at bookcourt.

(* i counted the brooklyn book festival as one event for my tally of events attended.  i did count the two talks [toni morrison and patti smith] i attended at the new yorker festival as two events, though.)

mcnally jackson and bookcourt are tied with 7 events attended at each, followed by greenlight and housing works with 4, then the 92Y with 3 and AAWW with 2.  11 events were attended at other locations.

not too shabby, i say.  in 2016, i shall endeavor to attend more!  :3