Search high and low, follow every social media platform, every path you (don’t) know; or, Of Names and Mountains

So apparently it took a pandemic for me to get an Instagram account. It’s over @shiningathetop – which might have you wondering why I’m not at the usual carotidartistry. Allow me to save you from what I’m sure would be endless sleepless nights of wondering. At the root of it, of course, is the fact that I resisted getting an account for so long that both my traditional username (which, for the record, I’ve been using since I needed a new, non-embarrassing handle for the resurgently popular Les Misérables messageboards in 2012) (no shade to the other account here, you got there first, it’s fair play, I should have known better as a former LiveJournal user) as well as any variant on my professional name that wasn’t excessively Early AOL Chic were all taken. So I was stumped for a bit, until my brain turned up a question that artist Chloe Rozo once posed, which asked that if you were to get a dream tattoo, what would it be? Now, I am far too commitment-shy to get a tattoo, but I’d considered the question and spitballed a geometric abstraction of the meaning of my birth name, something that I hadn’t thought about in a long while.

The meaning of my birth name is, as you might have now guessed, allegedly “shining at the top.” I say “allegedly” because neither accuracy of records nor cultural competency were particularly hallmarks of the international adoption scene of the mid-1980s. But where’s the fun in letting rigorous accuracy get in the way of some good personal mythology? So, no, while my very healthy ego has been supportive to me during these trying times, this isn’t based (entirely) in my sense of personal superiority. There’s also a lot of personal stupidity and pig-headedness. Realizing that this name was available to me set me reminiscing about the opposite of quarantine and the ultimate in distance: my trip to South Korea in 2017, after I’d finished working on an opera for the Japan Society at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan.

It was my first time returning to Korea since birth, and I knew that one of the things I needed to do while in Seoul was go hiking around Bugaksan. Simply due to the dates of the job, I was arriving at the tail end of chuseok when many attractions would be closed, so I’d planned that I’d go whenever the first day of good weather occurred. That ended up being my first full day there. So, with no experience with the transit system whatsoever, a three-year-old’s grasp of the language, and no actual hiking gear, I set out from my adoptee lodging house, got off the bus too early, learned the hard way that google maps doesn’t work for walking directions there, and had already walked for heaven knows how long before I even reached the entrance of the park. Up I went, climbing so many stairs, passing signs warning about wild boars, climbing more stairs, and then running out of stairs but still having farther to climb, all the while reliving my childhood memory of the martial arts instructor at Camp Mujigae telling us how taekwondo has so much kicking because Korean people have strong legs because they had to climb so many mountains. I honestly had no idea where I was actually going, just that as long as I could still go up, I’d keep going. And then at some point, sweaty and dusty, literally climbing hand and foot up rocks, I reached a peak. I ate my convenience store kimbap and then just sat alone for a long while.

Based on the map I found when I came back down, I somehow deduced that it was maybe Bohyeongbong Peak, but honestly, I don’t really know. I was very informed and civilized for the rest of my trip, dressing up to go to the palace and visiting many museums and participating in many other cultural pursuits, but somehow, stubbornly walking along the side of the road to get to a park to climb up a mountain past the point where the path stopped – without specifically aiming to, I feel like I started out that journey with peak me. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing for me to be keeping in mind.


Yeah, me, too, buddy.

“Is it anything and everything you hoped for?” Black Panther, PyeongChang, and me.

Last week, Thursday was a major holiday in my world. The atmosphere was already high from the Olympics running in PyeongChang. And it was the Lunar New Year (i.e., “Chinese” New Year, which is a fine name for it if you’re actually Chinese, but pro-tip: maybe don’t repeatedly ask an Asian what they’re doing for Chinese New Year if they’re not, you know, Chinese). And on top of that, it was opening night for Black Panther. (Thank you to the marketing folks who realized that old people with early bedtimes get very excited about movies, too.) And not only was Black Panther just, you know, Black fucking Panther, but two schoolmates from graduate school had major roles in it, one of which was their first movie role ever.

Basically, Thursday night was the night of Turn The Fuck Up.

As you might have heard by now, this was a movie event where the hype did not match the reality – because what was expected was a movie that brought a black heroic narrative into the mainstream and didn’t fuck it up, and what was delivered was many steps above that.

(And here’s where I say: if you haven’t seen Black Panther, stop reading this and go see Black Panther because spoilers and also treat yourself.)

There are plenty of people with insights and opinions about Black Panther who know a lot more about the subject matter and/or film in general than I do. Here are a few of them:

My thoughts about Black Panther don’t really matter, to be honest. But what Black Panther means to me does matter, if only to provide just one more example to illustrate how wide-reaching the effect of this movie is.

I’m not sure how many other people who were little non-black POC girls in the early 1990s had this experience, but I remember poring over the American Girl catalog and trying to decide between Revolutionary War era Felicity, the settler immigrant Kirstin, bougie Victorian Samantha, and spunky WWII Molly. The Revolutionary War was already my jam, but immigrant stories touched me in a certain way and also Samantha had the best clothes. So I hemmed and hawed as I tried to decide which American Girl would be the one that went in my letter to Santa.

Then, Addy was released. And I went full Issa Rae:


I did, indeed, become an Addy girl and proceeded to be a Civil War history nerd for a good five years or so, which is a lot of time when you’re in elementary school. And not just within the American Girl oeuvre, either – I’m talking As Seen On TV boxes of historical flashcards, family trips to Gettysburg, hats. I eventually shifted over to the French Revolution, but for me, growing up in a white family in an overwhelmingly white community, Addy had started my connection to Black history. This didn’t make me woke by any means but, in hindsight, it raised my awareness and investment above the sadly low mainstream level.

Now, let me pause right here and emphasize that I have no claim to either the historical trauma of Black people in the United States of America or the present-day injustices still endured. I may feel drawn to increase my awareness and knowledge not just because I believe being an educated citizen is a moral duty but also due to finding a personal resonance, but it’s just that: resonance, not identification. Is there a Black culture equivalent of “weeaboo” that’s public-use-acceptable by non-Black people? I just barely dodged the former during the anime phase my adolescence, so I hope to hell that I would not be foolish enough to pull those tricks as an adult.

The relationship between Black American culture and Asian culture, both American and abroad, has long been interesting to me. While Asian-held anti-Black sentiments are far too common and I can guarantee that you’ll pretty much always peep one East Asian motherfucker at any given white supremacist rally, Eddie Huang (of restaurant and Fresh Off the Boat fame) is a current publicly-identifiable face of a notable affinity and exchange that has been going strong for decades. Korean hip-hop artists are coming to more prominence now (the artistic and moral integrity of the commercial music industry is another topic) and, well, the Wu-Tang Clan exists. Samurai Champloo. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.

But curious to me in my specific experience, I think back to lunchtime during my freshman year of high school. My elementary school was so overwhelmingly white (at its most diverse point, the 500-student population had six non-white kids, myself included) that there really was no choice when it came to demographics, and my middle school was so small that my entire class fit at only two lunch tables (boys and girls, which I still regret in hindsight). But looking back at the start of my high school career, when I came in not knowing anyone to a class of 70-odd young women who mostly also didn’t know each other, I can’t help but wonder what led me to end up at, to put it bluntly, the Black lunch table.

It certainly wasn’t a conscious decision. But when you’re the odd one out, you often gravitate toward other odd ones out. And in many parts of the U.S., there is that little voice inside of you screaming to get out of that sea of whiteness.

(Jordan Peele was, in fact, correct about Get Out being a documentary.)

There was a lot that was conscious decisions and deliberate awareness in my anticipatory lead-up to Black Panther. It was a fact that the team was good and could be counted on to do good work. It was the fact that this movie was placing Black culture to the forefront in an unprecedented way. It was a fact that the teaser trailer had more women in it than the whole of the MCU. It was the fact that I had gone to graduate school with two members of the principal cast, one of whom was actually a year-mate with whom I’d worked on a number of shows. All of this meant that I signed up for ticket sales alerts months ahead of time and bought my opening night tickets for my second-choice showing as soon as I got home from work on the ticket release day in January because my first-choice showing was effectively sold-out after only four hours. I wanted to see a good movie, and I wanted to give my financial support to it.

I think that there are things that goes further back and deeper down for me, though. Continue reading ““Is it anything and everything you hoped for?” Black Panther, PyeongChang, and me.”

Listen to the tune that keeps sounding in the distance

This is the dream I dreamt…

I was carrying on with my own business in a small local town. There was a sense of impending threat. There was some sort of war going on, a factional one, and our community was at risk. We told ourselves that

But as we were walking through the forest, I looked up and saw a dark object in the sky, tiny and far away. From it came hurtling a bright spot that rapidly grew larger enough to discern as a fireball. It struck what probably was the next neighborhood over. I just knew that there was another one coming, so I began to run, keeping my eye on the sky – and sure enough, before I even had the chance to get much of anywhere, another fireball appeared, aiming straight toward us.

We all ran.

I was in a traditional-feeling, wood-and-paper-constructed shop of some sort with others, and we knew that after those bombings, the actual invaders couldn’t be far behind. There was a loud tumult outside, and I ducked into the bathroom just in time to see the ruling faction march in and begin rounding up my friends the shop people. I stayed tucked in the bathroom for a while.

When I peeked back out, my shop friends were being paraded back into the main shop area as prisoners and the invaders were being installed s the new bosses. I slipped outside and began walking briskly down the street. A white woman with a high quality camera was passing by, so I latched onto her and began asking her technical questions so that I would hopefully be less noticeable.

It wasn’t until after I woke up that I consciously realized that one of the strange things about the dream was how the people populating it were mostly Asian. And that spurred the realization of how that stood in contrast to what was apparently usually the case.

I thought about that dream as the airplane carried me from Osaka to Seoul, and I found that my personal anxieties (of not fitting in, of facing hostility) had disappeared when faced with the more mundane bigger picture. This was a people. This was how life went on in the face of nuclear geopolitics.

Descending below the clouds to finally see the bridges stretching across the Han River, a swell of emotion reminded me of my first international flight (that I could actually remember), when I was 20 years old and went to England to do research for an academic project. Back then, I’d been caught off guard by a fierce gut reaction to seeing the lights of Newark International Airport shrinking below me. I felt a strain on that binding tie that resists disloyalty, like I was abandoning someone and needed to articulate, if only to myself, that this was not goodbye, that I would be back. Now, I again felt something on a very physical level, a relationship between body and land, only this time, it was the surreal experience of making the return to somewhere I had never known.

I thought of the dream again a couple nights later. After spending the day swanning about in hanbok at Gyeongbokgung Palace, I’d found some maduguk for dinner (#goals) and was going to hop onto a bus back to the boarding house where I was staying for this leg of my journey. But when I got to the bus stop, I changed my mind, remembering that there had been an impressive statue in the large boulevard leading toward the palace.

And so I kept walking.

As I continued into the city, I heard music, amplified but live. It was a mesmerizing blend of traditional and wild, the spirit of jazz flowing through a drum and solo instrumental voice that would not allow itself to be called a melody. It was not far at all, still well within the sight of the palace where the wide boulevard was lined by art museums, that I discovered an outdoor concert, where the musicians onstage were powering a calligrapher wielding a giant brush who was painting hangul writ large. Indeed, I recalled, it was Hangul Day, the holiday celebrating Korea’s literacy of its own creation. I concluded that this must be some sort of public concert held in celebration.

I joined the crowd, standing on the plaza off to the side yet also right up front, because how great was that, stumbling onto a free concert? But as I stood there looking at all of the people, my dream returned to me, and all I could think of was watching those balls of fire in the sky, so tiny at first but growing larger and larger and larger as they approached their inevitable targets.

This is how I’m going to die, I thought.

As it turns out, I did not die at a hangul concert in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace. And after that night, my dream drifted back into the realm of curiosity rather than looming as prophecy. How much of that really, I wonder, was actual Korean nuclear anxiety and how much was it an American import of the Las Vegas massacre that had occurred just days before? (Oh, the irony of my grandparents’ fears for my safety traveling abroad, I had thought, when the real terror lived at home.) Was it, like me, just some neurotic blend of the two?

A couple weeks ago, I had myself a two-show week at the Public Theatre. First, I was fortunate enough to see my friend Ceci Fernandez playing the lead role in Tiny Beautiful Things, regularly played by Nia Vardalos. While I wouldn’t call the play a life-changing work of dramatic writing, it was a wonderful, heart-expanding communal experience, like a church service comprised solely of homilies.

But what was unsurprisingly disturbing and yet, more prominently, unexpectedly affirming for me was Julia Cho’s’ Office Hour in the tiny Martinson Theater a few days later. This energizingly theatrical work explored the story of a college professor trying to get through to a student in her writing class whom her colleagues have warned her has all of the signs of a school shooter. Notably in this extremely American story, both the professor and the student are Asian.

On my way out of the theater following the play, two older white ladies walking in front of me were discussing the show between themselves and one commented about how she felt that all of the guns were confusing and distracted from “the cultural issues.”

Reminder: this was a play about a potential school shooter.

But I could only guess that the faces that woman was seeing could only belong one story, that of the “culture clash.” Indeed, in one conversation, the professor discusses how her parents didn’t want her to become a writer – ah, yes, of course, the strict and traditional Asian parent! Clearly this was what explained these two lives in crisis that we were watching. Whence could the rage – the rage that was so shocking to see depicted on stage but the existence of which was so viscerally, familiarly real – come but from that? Those people and their culture issues!

I left those people behind me but kept the story with me as I walked out of the theatre.

(You still have a little time left to catch both shows – Office Hour runs through December 3 and Tiny Beautiful Things through December 10. And while I highly recommend Office Hour, please do heed the production’s warnings about gunshots and gun violence.)

I miss the mountains

On the night before Halloween, my last night visiting my family at my childhood home before finally, after more than a month, returning to my own apartment in New York City for long enough to justify unpacking my suitcase, I had a lot to get done. And so I picked up a folder of paperwork to sort through and spent about a half-hour sitting on my bedroom floor and staring at the wall in blank despair. Realizing that this was accomplishing nothing, I very deliberately flopped flat onto my face and fell asleep drooling onto the carpet.

I suppose you could say that the process of returning to regular life has had its challenges.

I’d thought that I’d pushed through the worst of during the prior week, when I’d spent a twenty-four hour period maniacally re-obsessing over the entertainment of my college days in a self-aware but completely unironic attempt to find comfort in the familiar, winding myself up into an increasing tizzy until my brain at last rocketed into outer space, passing beyond the realm of reality’s grounding pull to that weightless expanse with no secure anchor. That evening was a memorial service that, as unhappy as I was that it was necessary, I had been grateful that my schedule would allow me to attend.  From my friends on the internet, I crowdsourced a chorus of echoes that yes, I should go to the memorial service. My lovely friends encouraged me and assured me that I would feel better for having attended, which then made me feel bad for having led people to assume that it was the person’s untimely death that was giving me so much angst and not just my own solipsistic doubts about the objective existence of reality.

(Side note: this is called anxiety. Specifically, anxiety manifested as depersonalization and derealization episodes. If you feel yourself experiencing this, it is a condition, not you, and it can be addressed.)

The memorial service did make me feel better, if not for the expected reasons. It was a service for a theatre man, largely for the theatre community. As such, the service was naturally followed by a reception with a lot of, for lack of a less gauche term, schmoozing. And I am, if anything, a natural schmoozer. With a cup of red wine in one hand and some brie on multi-grain bread in the other, I felt myself coming back to life as I cruised the room – not on auto-pilot, no, but able to fall back on habit, able to do something that came easy to me.

Honestly, “schmooze” makes it sound a lot tackier than the reality of the situation. In the theatre industry, unless you are one of the rare birds that works as part of a resident company, much of one’s life consists of forming close professional and personal relationships with people over the course of a month to maybe, for those on one of those few long-running shows, a year and then being uprooted to start a new project in a different place – maybe across town, maybe across the country. Staying in touch with people you like as an adult can be difficult enough to fit in around everyday responsibilities even when everyone is working on a relatively similar 40-hours-per-week schedule. When you regularly work 54-hour, six-day weeks and don’t necessarily have the same day off (and also live in New York City, where public transportation means that it can take you over an hour to go to a friend’s apartment 10 miles away — if the MTA happens not to be breaking down), socializing beyond those with whom you’re currently working in the same physical location can become quite the arduous task.

(Which isn’t to say “boo hoo, boo hoo.” It’s a trade-off, of course. But just because a negative trade-off is accepted doesn’t magically make it be not negative.)

As a result, when there’s an occasion for a mass gathering – whether it be an opening or a rally or, you know, a memorial service – one takes advantage of being present with others and being able to reconnect. Sure, that might mean “please remember that I exist so that I come to mind when there’s an appropriate job opening,” but even that desire to pay for rent and groceries has some element of “I want us to be in the same room together.” Or at least “I wouldn’t mind being in the same room together.”

Trust me, after a certain volume of experience, one encounters those who don’t meet that standard.

But it also didn’t feel inappropriate for the celebration of Michael Friedman’s life and the shared grief at his death to have a post-show reception. “Even after,” I remarked to a colleague whom I hadn’t seen in a while, “he’s still bringing people together.”

That was something that struck me about the service. While naturally there were performances of his songs and mourning for all of his music that we would never hear, what people talked of most was how he made them feel. Not with his artistic creations. Just with himself: watching him, talking with him, being with him. It was inspiring to hear people articulate how they could be so deeply moved by simply knowing a person.

Something that I’d been struggling with since returning from my travels was the end of the freedom of accountability from anyone. The last week of my trip had been completely solo, and for an intensely introverted person such as myself, the experience of being accountable only to myself and my own time – and in a foreign country, no less, where I didn’t know the language, so no one could speak to me, even if they wanted to  — was a beautiful thing. In the words of every “Are you an introvert or an extrovert?”  description, being alone “recharged” me. But despite the energizing implications of the word “recharge,” it also calmed me. The muscle underneath my right shoulderblade that had been twitching for nearly a year loosened up, and I’m pretty sure that the overall height of my shoulders dropped by about half an inch due to lost tension. Maybe the “What careers should you consider?” computer quiz that we took in my junior year of high school was on the right track when it recommended that I should look into working at a funeral home.

Hearing about Michel’s impact on people, however, was aspirational. Imagine, being a person like that! To have such a positive effect on people’s existences! And while of course Michael was an extremely singular individual, what he did as a friend and brother did not require being an athlete or a genius or some other characteristic determined in the lottery of birth. To be good, to be loving, to lift people up in your interactions with them – those were things that could be developed and were within reach.

Of course, as evidenced by the first paragraph, this didn’t solve everything for me.

Even now, I can’t tell if the experience of that memorial service tempered, albeit briefly, or further inflamed the rabid bite that had attacked me suddenly in my travels and been festering since: the conviction that all art is bullshit.

(This thing is a problem when you: 1) work in the arts, and 2) aren’t paid enough money, 3) for something that you don’t have to be doing.)

I mean, I’ve long been of the conviction that art is not inherently worth taking so seriously. This is, I should qualify, different from the capital-t “The”” capital-a “Arts,” in my mind. The Arts are, of course, an important cultural means for developing good humans, which as a result contributes to having a good society. And I’m not talking about didactic art teaching proper lessons (though art is an effective teaching tool), but of the practice of art, as creator or consumer, being a method of developing self-honesty, empathy, critical thinking, and communication. To say nothing of the value of bringing delight and beauty into people’s lives. Hell, I’m even a supporter of bad art, in the same way that I’m a supporter of “useless” research: sometimes you need the space to have the misses in order to be able to have the hits.

At the same time, if you don’t get a scene just right, the fact is that nobody is going to die. I mean, unless you’re working for Cirque de Soleil and being off by an inch actually does mean that someone might literally die. But I’m talking about not having the money to get the prop that is precisely the correct era, not having a lighting cue land with exactly the right timing, not having a transition run perfectly seamlessly. Of course one wants to respect both the artists and the audience by doing the best work possible. At the moment, however, that humanity begins to be the price paid – when the body-harming sleep deprivation starts, when the anger and abuse boil over, when the spirits of those involved are diminished – it seems proper to remember that what is being performed is not open-heart surgery with someone’s life directly and immediately in our hands.

It turns out that too much hiking solo up mountains and lurking around Buddhist temples wormed something into my brain. I’ve long been what one might call a positive nihilist (i.e., nothing inherently means anything existentially speaking, so it is both our power and responsibility to give and determine meaning), so maybe it was where I’ve been heading all along. As I wandered down stone pathways accompanied only by the sounds of the wind and distant chanting, I found myself feeling wearied at the thought of spending so much time and worldly money on… what? What were we pretending to understand or presuming to try to understand? Doing this, doing that, adding on, adding on, adding on… It all seemed so unnecessary.

I was able to largely put this to the side when my life consisted of solitary exploring, but this increasingly troubled me as I returned to Real Life, the life that revolves around the art that people do.

Granted, it is normal for me that the approach of a first rehearsal brings with it the anxiety of the unknown, even after all these years. In a normal state, however, that manifests itself as merely a hyper-energetic neuroticism, like that first day is an approaching freight train that I’m driven to climbing up the walls in an effort to avoid being crushed. Normal, too, is a certain measure of avoidance. (Note to reader: just answer those emails even if it’s been “too long,” you’ll feel a lot better and you know it.) But this time, it was as if the walls were gone, and rather than being successfully avoided, the push just sent me tumbling into a void.

And that was how I, a thirty-something professional, ended up face-down on the floor, inhaling the pink synthetic fibers of the rug that had been picked out for me when I didn’t even know the words for colors.

First rehearsals come; first rehearsals go. The immediate crisis is over. Like with the memorial service, upon finding myself actually in the situation, familiarity bred competence. And having some sort of sure footing allowed me to feel more human, rather than merely a well-dressed fleshbag full of screaming. The present situation is not one that I can merely deal with, but one that I’m grateful for and honestly, one that I am sure that I will enjoy. I know where I’m going with this. I just can’t say that I know where my path will take me once my current itinerary runs out. Maybe I’ll just continue in the same direction, and maybe it will be with purpose or maybe it will be out of ease of habit.

Or maybe I’ll finally succumb to that voice that has for years whispered into my ear: run away, run away, run away.

I’m not sure from what. I certainly don’t know towards where.

I went away, and I’m not sure if I returned with something more or if I left something behind.

I don’t understand a word they’re saying

“Excuse me? Excuse me??” an older man kept repeating in English at the bottom of the steps leading into Ueno Park. I hesitated. Responding to strange older men is generally not the best life strategy, but given that we were in Tokyo, there was a decent chance that he was simply a lost foreigner who needed help, so I turned back.

“Yes?” I asked.

“You speak English!” he exclaimed with a hope that made the color drain from my deceptively Asian face. He pointed to a nearby booth while brandishing his cell phone. “Can you help me with the phone? I can’t make it work, and when I called the information service, I couldn’t understand…”

“…..sorry, can’t help you, buddy, I’m from New York City.”

Yup, that’s me. You might be wondering how I got here. It all started a few days ago, when a flood of verbs began happening…

Got to the airport Saturday afternoon before the baggage counter opened, waited as the fourth person in line, and watched the staff all line up in front of the counter and bow when they played the service opening announcement.

Brought yoga pants to change into on the airplane because I’m pragmatic but also not a barbarian.

Started off my plane ride with a beer, because why the hell not.

Watched The King, which I enjoyed greatly and would recommend to anyone who likes political thrillers that use humor more than grimness, the 1980s and 1990s, friendships that end in tragedy, and okay maybe don’t like that it’s a sausage party but the women that do appear are awesome (one isn’t even connected to any of the main characters except as a professional!) and definitely should have had bigger roles. Also watched a rakugo performance and a bunch of Japanese sketch comedy, all without subtitles, and understood maybe 5% of the words being said but frantic screaming tends to translate itself.

Didn’t sleep a wink of the 16-hourr flight as part of my master plan to get myself onto Japan time as quickly as possible.

Touched down in Tokyo on Sunday night, and my phone was really, really convinced that I was in Beijing. I think my phone is a racist.

Collapsed asleep in my hotel bed after having been awake for nearly 24 hours – but not before a shower and a sheet mask because post-flight skincare is serious business.


Woke up before my alarm and ate at the complimentary breakfast buffet. Consumed natto for the first time. Did not have my Asian card revoked.

Walked to Akihabara the next morning to pick up a prepaid sim card n Bic Camera. Picked up some more sheet masks, but ones with samurai mask designs. Went through quite an ordeal trying to find body lotion in that store with aisles and aisles of face creams and body cleansers and hair treatments. Am pretty sure there were more varieties of vaginal cleansers than body lotions. Grabbed some onigiri from Family Mart and returned to the hotel to get my things for work.

Entered the performance venue, the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, for the first time that afternoon. Was blown away by how ridiculously good the staff is, as they rushed to flawlessly execute scene pre-sets that they’d only observed us working out once before and I was left not having to lift a finger, and the beautiful acoustics of the Recital Hall, which worked absolute magic on music that had already sounded good in the NYC venue.

Wandered the streets for dinner, where I felt a little intimidated by my inability to read the menus and ended up in a little Japanese table bbq joint that had an English menu available. Put some pork cheek and chicken giblets and mixed vegetables over hot coals and didn’t give myself food poisoning.

Another day at the office today, this one with an early start. Went to the Ueno Zoo over lunch break with the production manager (and her affianced), where we saw many animals but especially a monkey, whom we dubbed the Tech Monkey.


It was 100% Done.

Bought a ticket from a vending machine and put it on the counter for dinner at a tiny tanmen restaurant. Started tech proper onstage after dinner break.

Climbed down the stairs into a basement bar after work that night. Pointed to items on a menu I couldn’t read. Drank a three-herb mojito that had smoke (likely a freezing agent, actually) poured into it from a giant metal canister and something that I still don’t know what the fuck it was. Watched my friend receive a rose mojito featuring rose smoke that was sucked from a vape pen and injected into the glass with a giant syringe.

Decided this morning to go for a run around Ueno Park after breakfast…

But mostly, I’ve been lurking around the inside of the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. And there’s nothing to bring out the mundane in being halfway across the globe as spending most of your waking hours working in a dark theater.

Which isn’t to say that it hasn’t been fun so far. I imagine that things will pick up over the next few days, though, as the show reaches completion. Not only pick up, but also slow down, with my brain being able to truly absorb the reality of where I am and what I’m doing. I had a small taste of that this morning, as I wandered through the streets to a shrine near the hotel. I had just enough time to not have to rush, but I was on my way to work, so it wasn’t a big tourist expedition.

It was just being somewhere completely new. And I’m looking forward to more.

But one day, I’m walkin’ to JFK and I’m gonna fly

Once upon a time, chances were good that you’d probably die before your first birthday. If you managed to stay alive for one full trip around the sun, people were ready to party. (Not such a bad thing to remember when you’re feeling down about what you haven’t yet done – on a historic scale, if you’re reading this right now, you’re kind of a rock star.) Nowadays, we’ve overall improved our infant mortality rates, but it’s still pretty rad when kids stay alive. In Korean culture, the celebration of a child’s first birthday is called doljanchi, or “dol” for short. There’s family and feasting, but most notably, there’s fortune-telling: the doljabi.

For the doljabi, the kid is placed in front of a table with various symbolic items – a book for being intelligent, long thread for long life, money for wealth, etc – and the parents encourage the kid to pick an item with varying levels of leading and interference. What the child grabs is what their future will hold in store.

A friend of mine’s daughter just had her dol, and she apparently did a noodle fake-out before grabbing the bowl of rice. (Seems to me like homegirl was hungry, which is #real.)  Between that and my own approaching birthday, when my mom came to visit me this past weekend, I asked her what I’d picked in my doljabi. She couldn’t remember about the items on the table… but she did remember me grabbing something else. My paternal grandmother, a well-heeled women of the rural business class, was there and wearing a long string of pearls. I had eyes for nothing else. In fact, the main photo of me from my dol is me in my hanbok, pearl necklace in hand.

first bday 001

Alyssa K. Howard: snatching the pearls from rich white ladies’ necks since 1986.

So I guess that my future was going to be fabulous and a little off the set path. And you know, I can’t say that that was wrong.

In less than a week, I’ll be in Japan. We had our final New York performance this past Saturday. Since then, I’ve been doubling down on trying to make myself awesome.

A couple years ago, I actually won one of those giveaway things that you enter on the internet that signs you up for a dozen mailing lists. It was a pretty sweet prize, and it included some classes/treatments at Exhale, a super posh spa and fitness center. Scheduling my appointments and classes got me entered into their system as a customer, so even though I never go back unless they’re having some sort of special event of free-ness/cheap-ness, as far as the computers are concerned, I’m a person who can actually afford This Lifestyle.

As a result, the other week, I got an email with a birthday offer of 40% off of one of their spa treatments, which would bring the price down to my splurge level. So I was like, heck, sure, it’s my birthday and I’m about to have my big trip and want to look hella fine. And so, I booked myself a facial.

Now, I feel like facials are in that category of things like dental cleanings and haircuts, where it’s like, okay so you’re going to help me here, but you’re also going to examine me and ask me about my daily routines and judge me. But the esthetician, a lovely blond woman with a marked Eastern European accent, might have actually left me glowing as much from the compliments as the actual skin work. She asked me when the last time I’d had a facial was, and I honestly cannot fucking remember and said as much but also that I do a simple weekly DIY facial at home. And she just seemed… very proud of me. Which, in turn, made me feel incredibly proud of myself.

I know how to do the skins!!

After the skin examination, she again expressed approval, noting that I had very good elasticity along with a little bit of clogging around the t-zone area, but really I should just keep doing whatever I’m doing. And near the end, she did extractions, which if you’ve never had that done, is really just point of acute pinching pain. Before she started, she was very clear that I shouldn’t try to be a hero and needed to let her know if it was too much, etc., etc.. Naturally, my response to that was to endure the entire process in even more stoic silence than usual. Afterwards: more praise.

However, I did not receive A’s across the board during this experience. One of the final steps was having a mask sit on my face for a while, during which she gave me an amazing shoulder and neck massage. But as she was working me over, she kind of laughed and said, “You need a massage more than you need a facial!”

All that I could say in response was: “…would you believe that I had a massage yesterday afternoon?”


As a matter of fact, my massage therapist, whom I at this point am actually referring to as “my massage therapist” because I have become that person who has gotten to a first-name basis due to regularity of appointments, gave me a hug as I was leaving the other day and told me to have a good trip and come to see her again when I returned.

(Actually, it only took two visits, months apart, for her to become “my massage therapist.” I’d very much appreciated her work during my first appointment, booked at random, so when I found myself in need again months later, I returned to the same midtown chain and specifically made my appointment with her. She greeted me when I arrived, and when she was taking me to the therapy room, she asked me if it was my first time there. No, I told her, I’d been once before, but months ago.

The massage started, her hands lighted upon my shoulders, and she gasped: “Oh, I remember you.”)

The self tune-up continued today as I got a haircut, that great cliché of life changes and new beginnings. And I am about to go and put myself under the razor.

Because sometimes you’re a female-bodied person who decided that No-Shave November would be a worthwhile exercise in personal development and then just never stopped. (Or re-started, I suppose.) I have nothing against the grooming practice as a preference, but I vividly remember the moment of adolescent indirect bodyshaming that led me to begin shaving (“I wouldn’t even want to be next to a girl who didn’t shave her legs!” my twelve-year-old classmate declared, as I prayed that no one could tell that I had ignorantly violated this terrible taboo of which I was just now learning), as well as now having the perspective that it is neither universal nor timeless. I would have liked to have done a full year… but I guess that also gives me the opportunity to practice not being tied to arbitrary amounts of time for their own sake!

It’s just about time to do the thing.

I’m thirty-two now. And the next time I appear here, I’ll be on the other side of the world.

America, you great unfinished symphony

Aside from being just barely twenty-four hours out from running a 102-degree fever while fully medicated, this evening is about as perfect as can be. I’m once again in a rocking chair on the porch, with fireflies starting to glow in the twilight. A neighbor across the street has country music radio playing. As much of a city slicker that I am now, I grew up a moderate country bumpkin, so it does make me feel nostalgically at-home. I was from the sort of area where one could reach a decent level of suburban civilization (for instance, a grocery store) within a half-hour drive in the correct direction, but ten minutes in the other direction would land you in a cornfield. Summer was about county fairs. Autumn was about not getting shot by deer hunters. I was about a generation and a half removed from shooting squirrels in the backyard for dinner. And I could probably count the number of black people I’ve ever observed in town on one hand.

(The Asian population felt more prominent, thanks to a couple just down the road who had both an adopted Korean child and an adopted Vietnamese child, as well as the number of mirrors in our house. I couldn’t have pointed out any other Asians in town, but proximity and frequency can be hella amplifying.)

These days, I feel much more comfortable in non-homogenous spaces. The tyranny of the majority can be truly insidious, having a negative effect even when there is no active malice or ill intent. Nevertheless, I do have great fondness for my hometown. Established in 1772, it was originally envisioned by the eponymous leader of its original settlement as the possible capital of New York state. A bit laughable now, given that it still doesn’t even get cable, but I do believe that growing up in a place with history can affect you.

Pretty much everything I ever dreamed of came together in the musical Hamilton.

Not that Hamilton fever had gone away, but you might have noticed a definitely spike this week. First, a new Prizeo fundraiser sweepstakes was launched, where donations are rewarded with entries to win tickets to the opening night of the U.S. tour’s Los Angeles stop. The #ham4all viral campaign took hold, with people donating and singing their favorite song from the show, then challenging others.

As if that weren’t enough, they also dropped a music video for “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done),” a track (and my personal favorite, actually) from the Hamilton Mixtape album.

My own Hamilton story risks being yet another tale of my unbelievable good fortune, but that’s pretty much been my life, so why not lean into it?

Colonial and revolutionary U.S. history had always been a favorite of mine. In addition to my general interest in political and revolutionary history, it was also local history to me. It wasn’t until I was older and more exposed to the world that I realized that my awareness of things like the Battle of Saratoga or the intricacies of the French and Indian War were geographically-specific and not general knowledge. I also was, quelle surprise, a huge theatre geek from a very young age. One of the highlights of my amateur theatre career was playing the Anti-Federalist murder victim in a site-specific interactive murder mystery dinner theatre piece called “It Spoiled His Constitution.” (For you fellow Hamilton fans, the specific site was Schuyler Mansion in Albany.) This shit was running through my veins.

So when I heard that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer and star of the recent In The Heights, was working on a project that was a rap musical about Alexander Hamilton, my favorite founding father?

I immediately refused to get my hopes up so that my heart wouldn’t be broken when the show got mired in development purgatory or, at best, had a critically-acclaimed and very short off-Broadway run, becoming a piece of elitist theatre nerd trivia. Even as the project expanded and each new bit that I heard excited me, I purposefully tried not to get too involved.


It was surprising and joyful to me, then, when I heard that it was being produced at the Public and selling very well.


Selling too well for my freelancing ass, in fact. One of the downsides to being a freelancer and working on a gig-to-gig basis is that I generally only know my work schedule a few months ahead of time and don’t have the luxury of being able to take time off. This can make being able to commit to future events, such as buying show tickets, quite difficult. With Hamilton at the Public being sold out months before it even opened, I pretty much gave up hope of ever seeing it.

And then one night in late January, I was alone in my bedroom of my apartment shitting around on the internet like the antisocial millennial that I am, when  friend messaged me, asking me if I was busy tomorrow. Well, I hedged, I was meeting another friend for brunch that day, which was way up on the Upper East Side, so that would take a while, but other than that, I wasn’t doing anything, what was up?

It turns out that her girlfriend had misremembered the dates of when she would be visiting family in California when she had bought them their Hamilton tickets. Her being in California? Now. The date for their Hamilton tickets? Tomorrow.

I threw myself into my computer keyboard to tell my friend that I was actually free as of six hours ago and would be so for the next week.

And so the next day, my friend and I caught dinner at Duck’s Eatery, which I highly recommend for Public-proximity dining, and just barely slid into our seats as the lights dimmed and the now ubiquitous first seven notes played. We didn’t even have time to read our programs or scan the audience around us, which would have told us that we were seeing Javier Muñoz (the current Broadway Hamilton) performing the role for the very first time and that Lin-Manuel Miranda was in the house with us, his first opportunity to see his work from the outside. The show wasn’t yet open – they were still in that preview period where they would rehearse during the day, integrating any changes from the writer or creative team, and perform the updated version of the show that night. So what we saw was not quite the finished version of the show’s off-Broadway incarnation.

Finished or not, it was one of the most moving, electrifying theatrical experiences of my life.

Shortly after seeing it, the production’s third and final extension was announced. My upcoming work schedule miraculously had one performance that I would be able to attend, so I sneakily bought a pair of tickets while at work and later called my mom to inform her that she was coming to see a show.

It was important to me for her to see it. Not just because I knew that it was a brilliant work of theatre that would be historically notable to have seen. But also because in many ways, the show was me.

I had been obsessed with immigrant stories as a child. In my American Girl phase, Felicity’s Revolutionary War and Kirstin’s immigrant stories had been my favorites. I heavily favored historical fiction of tales of coming to America. Fievel was g-ddamn important to me. I would scream that Neil Diamond song at the drop of a hat.

And yet, despite there being the obvious commonality of, you know, coming to America, I had never considered myself an immigrant.

But Hamilton made me realize that maybe I am, and that felt right.

The night that my friend had messaged me had actually been the day after my arrival day, or the anniversary of my arriving to the United States. Maybe making the journey hadn’t been  my decision, but had it been for other young immigrant children? I just hadn’t had anyone in my immediate family who shared that particular experience. In hindsight, now that I’m older and understand more, I wish that I could have spoken more with my maternal great-grandparents, as logically impossible as that would have been. (I was either very young or not yet born when my great-grandmother died; I was still barely more than a toddler when my great-grandfather passed.) They were Armenian and had immigrated in the early 1900s, as one was wont to do. I wish that we could have shared more of that.

And that was a slightly more specific personal epiphany on top of the more general sense of reclamation of American history and identity that has been expressed by many.

Which isn’t to say that I discount criticism of Hamilton or its place within our culture. I can’t blame those who have no wish to claim part of an identity that was violently forced upon them. I understand those who would prefer see the stories that truly are untold (Hercules Mulligan smuggling information? more like his slave, Cato) rather than recasting the ones that are already floating in the American historical consciousness. But I think that Hamilton is just one exceptionally well-crafted show that has never intended to be the one answer. It’s not the show’s fault that the collective culture enjoys seizing upon a singular answer to all of our woes. Hamilton has clearly had a positive impact on many people who haven’t generally been the beneficiaries of such artistic, emotional, cultural bounties. What we need, then, is to treat this as the opening of the door to more stories.

I’ve written before (at great length) about the impact that Les Mis has had on me. Among other things, I recollected how I had unironically imagined a future career for myself in which I graduated through all of the roles in The King & I. Seeing Lea Salonga in the Tenth Anniversary Concert on PBS changed all that and literally changed my life. That was my first huge epiphany of identity, immediately and directly concerning my theatrical pursuits but also seeping into my overall being in more generalized ways. Having a place is something that was neither destined nor has always been expected. With my life of good fortune, I’ve always had that little bit of constant immigrant awareness of gratitude for simply being here. I know that the dice have not rolled so favorably for everyone, including those with originating circumstances similar to mine. But the elements of chance and change involved have left me all the more incredulously thankful for how my story has played out.

And so yes, may America sing for you. It’s a dark time for many who live here or are otherwise impacted by this nation’s actions. And it’s certainly not the first dark time, or even the darkest. But I claim this identity in defiance of those who would challenge my legitimacy, and I am determined to continue to strive toward those ideals that mean so much to me, even when we fall lamentably short of the very words declared by no less than the Statue of Liberty. We’ve always fallen short. We always will. But let’s do so while striving for something higher.

And that’s the story of tonight.

Sent Me Off to a Foreign Land

[tw: suicide]

When I was scrolling through Facebook (which means I was probably on the toilet, quite frankly, because that’s where my attempts to discipline my life by blocking Facebook on my computers have gotten me – you’re welcome, all of my friends whose posts I’ve liked throughout the day) and saw that the Love Life of an Asian Guy had posted the headline “Deported Korean-American Adoptee Found Dead of Apparent Suicide,” my first thought was “Oh no, what a tragic end to Adam Crapser’s ordeal.”

Turns out, this was a different Korean-American adoptee who was deported to a country he’d never known because his U.S. parents had failed to attain their child’s American citizenship. This was a man named Phillip Clay. Crapser attended his funeral. Crapser, just the other guy, in this case. The other guy — of how many others?

Adoption is just another way to create a family. Just as a biological parents can be insufficient in meeting the needs of their children, or even abusive, so, too, can adoptive parents. The idea that adopting a child automatically crowns parents with some sort of unassailable halo is toxic and insulting.

My parents were not great because they adopted me. My parents were great because they surrounded me with books and items from my birth culture, with my Korean-ness always in sight, not just when I looked in the mirror. My parents were great because they threw me a traditional first birthday party, so that I didn’t miss that rite of passage. Because of all of the summers of Korean culture camp, where despite the overwhelming whiteness of the rest of the year, I grew up thinking that I looked normal. Because they supported me in all of my weirdness, whether it was staging fashion shows in the living room or devouring an inordinate number of advanced level books or screlting Broadway showtunes 24/7 or hating to wear skirts or re-enacting the Paris uprising of 1832 in my bedroom (repeatedly).

I grew up with the naivety that being loved and holistically supported was the norm. As a child does, I assumed that my experience was simply the way of the world. It wasn’t until I entered adolescence that I slowly began to learn that even those who dwelt in locations and material conditions very close to mine sometimes  lacked what I appreciated but, nevertheless, took for granted.

This isn’t to say that there haven’t been issues, some of them specifically adoption-related and some of them specifically cultural/ racial. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also gradually learned of the full humanity behind the family I grew up thinking could do no wrong (except when I got yelled at for reading after bedtime because it was always abundantly clear to me that I being unjustly persecuted). My political inclinations have been shaped by not only my own convictions but by an externally-sourced experience – how the world reacts to its perception of me — that they haven’t shared, and as I’ve become more active within our increasingly loud society, differences have become more undeniable.

There is so much in one’s life that is outside of one’s control. The family into which one is born and the family into which one is adopted are both games of chance. I bested the house and won big. I know that not everyone has, in families of whatever making.

Still, the notion that parents could fail their child on a matter of paperwork absolutely enrages me.

Beyond that, of course, are many other failures. The system of laws that becomes its own ends rather than the means to a just society that exists to support the well-being of its people. The cultural inflexibility to accept an outsider. The lack of mental health support for someone who needed it. But as far as I’m concerned, at the root of it all, the neglectfulness of those parents is tantamount to murder.

And on top of my anger for that man’s lost life, there is a completely self-centered part of me that is angry at those people for casting a shadow on families like mine, families who were great not for the act of making themselves but for everything that happens from that point onward.

Because apparently being American adopted and raised isn’t going to stop me from getting it on with the Asian family honor. Between that and all of my years in Catholic school, the Game of Thrones Shame Nun better keep one eye open on her job security.

Who Knows Where This Road May Go

I sat on the park bench and dialed the number. It was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon, the perfect temperature without needing a bit of breeze, people drifting past with their strollers and dogs and not the slightest hint of urgency. But I felt like I was on a conveyor belt approaching a point of no return.

I’ve always been wary of commitment. I don’t have any tattoos, not because of any moral or aesthetic objections – I just can’t imagine making a decision that will be with me for the rest of my life. I am terrible at watching television shows and movies because it just seems so much to make the decision to devote however many hours of my life to focusing on this thing.

The names of my birth parents is something that I would never be able to un-know.

I’d be losing the mystique that had covered my past like the fog had blankets the Hudson on cool, misty morning. The sun would be out forever, and I almost certainly wouldn’t be a wizard.

But when I was a little kid, I wanted to be a detective. Or maybe a bit more glamorous, an international spy, but still solving mysteries. A person whose business was information. Who would find the truth.

My mom was out gardening, but her partner picked up the phone and I chatted with him about inconsequential things while she came inside. She was expecting me to call, so she had the papers ready.

I often get absorbed, in passing, by other people. So many one-time intersections of time and place, with me trying to love them for being lives that exist and being astounded by how much I know that I don’t know about them. At that moment, though, I was bemused by how much everyone around me didn’t know about me. All of those people right next to me with no idea of what was happening for me at that moment.

It felt strangely like starting a research project. She read the information that had been noted for me, names and places, and I copied it down in the notebook that I had brought with me, the one that I use to jot down fragments of song lyrics. Sometimes I would ask her to repeat things or to spell them out. I commented multiple times on the old style of Romanization that was being used and how I’d need to reinterpret the spelling.

And I talked about the midnight brunch event that I had attended over the weekend. The opening night for my friends’ opera company that I was excited to go to in a few days. The delicious pork spare ribs that I’d cooked a few days ago.

When I got off of the phone, I stared at the page. Then, seized by a whim, next to my English-language notes, I wrote their names in Korean. That was when I cried and didn’t know why.

As I did another round of walking through the park, I had, of all things, “Honor to Us All” from Disney’s Mulan stuck in my head. Or sections from near the end of the song, at least. “Ancestors, hear my plea, help me not to make a fool of me, and not to uproot my family tree, keep my father standing tall… Please bring honor to us all.”

Because you know what it included in the information? That my birth father was “university graduated.” Because of Asian-fucking-course. I’m already making plans to print out the rankings from U.S. News & World Report and putting a circle around my top-ranked liberal arts college. And asking someone to ship me some school memorabilia from New Haven, evidence of my graduate degree from Yale, which I feel confident of being relatively universal currency.

That all presumes that any of this information leads anywhere. I’m well aware that this may be a cold case. But I’m glad that I hadn’t asked before I would definitely be taking action of some kind. I wouldn’t have wanted to know just for the sake of knowing. It’s immense to be aware of the extent to which someone can be a stranger to you. I wouldn’t have wanted that awareness without it having anywhere to go.

It was sunny that day when I sat on the park bench to get the wire on the situation. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. For the most part, I did. And as for what I didn’t know – well, you gotta be okay with that if you’re getting yourself into this business.

I was ready.

And now I finally have my mystery.

In My Own Little Corner of the Sky

In t-minus-4-months, it will have been thirty-two years since I first set foot in Korea.

Well, “set foot” isn’t strictly accurate, unless I dropped out of the vagina running. In four months from now, it will have been thirty-two years since I was born in Korea. In a much less hashtaggable period of time (eight months and two weeks), it will have been thirty-two years since I left Korea.

In just under five months, I’m going back.

I think that it’s a pretty common fantasy for kids that they’re secretly royalty or a Jedi or otherwise of some elevated lineage. I was too young to imagine a giant showing up and declaring “YER A WIZARD, ‘OWARD,” but let me tell you, as someone who was adopted, this fantasy was particularly strong. It wasn’t that I was unhappy in the life that I had – much to the contrary. It’s simple that for me, it wasn’t a conspiracy theory that my bloodline was not that of the ordinary life that I lived. It was cold, hard fact. And maybe I read too many books, learned too many myths of heroes who were bigger than their circumstances by virtue of their births, which were unknown to them. Even if I weren’t adopted, I’m sure that I still would have been very vigilante when I turned thirteen, fifteen, sixteen years old, alert for any sign that my powers were manifesting or a secret portal was opening or a messenger from another realm was attempting to reach me.

Looking around now, I’m not entirely certain that it happened without my noticing it.

While not having been completely devoid of low points, I have overall lived an extremely charmed life. I landed into a family that has given me incredible love and support. I was encouraged to develop skills and talents by teacher and mentors. I had the resources to attend amazing schools – both of which were the only schools to which I applied (yes, I am that asshole) — for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I see myself now in New York City, the city that I have always loved, with a life full of health, a career in the field of my choosing, and amazing friends.

And a little over a month ago, I received an email from a dear colleague inviting me onto a work project that would be traveling to Tokyo.

Having traveled for work a few times before, I jumped immediately to the practicalities: confirming that I would be able to postpone the date of my return flight so that I could extend my stay in the region. For a while. Because I was not going to get so close without making it to Korea.

The next thing I did was swear off drinking for the next four months for the purposes of wealth, health, and vanity.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the only “diet” I’ve ever been able to put myself on is my “don’t be a degenerate lush” diet, which is basically just not drinking alcohol and then being embarrassed by what a noticeably positive impact that has on multiple areas of my life. And for a journey like this, it just struck me as the obvious thing to do. (I did build in a couple of exceptions to my abstinence: it’s waived for anything that was planned before I made the snap decision to hop on the wagon and also if I’m being provided with the libations for free at a special event for work, which is what I like to refer to as “professional drinking.”) The reason that it’s only spanning four months is because I obviously need a month to make sure that my tolerance back to a respectable level. I mean, I’m going to Korea.

I’ve realized that I’m experiencing the emotional equivalent of the stereotypical “I’m going to my high school reunion and need to show everyone just how pretty and successful I am,” except that it’s a 32-year reunion and instead of a high school, it’s an entire nation-state that I need to impress by being aggressively intelligent, aggressively talented, aggressively attractive, and yet also independent and unbowed by conformist norms and thus aggressively interesting.

Which is all to say that I’m really trying to impress myself. To create a reason, to satisfy my narrative-seeking brain, that I have this charmed life, because if there’s a reason, then maybe it won’t all fall through, like part of me is convinced must happen.

Yet despite that, here’s my confession: there is still a part of me that isn’t one-hundred percent convinced that I don’t possess the power to fly.

The category of “In My Own Little Corner of the Sky” will record my exploration of personal history as I embark on a journey to my birth country of South Korea.