Symphony of Beating Hearts

a writer's blog

“Writers don’t write from experience, though many are resistant to admit that they don’t. I want to be clear about this. If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.”

American activist, writer, educator and commentator, Nikki Giovanni (via ingridrdiaz)

To be Late or Absent?

A procrastinator’s favorite dilemma. When the clock strikes 9:15, do I rush out to catch the last hour and half of class? Or do I refuse the inevitability of the ruffled remorseful entrance, and choose to chuck the ticking timebomb out the window and go back to bed?

Well, today there’s a twist— I sit on my desk and instead formally record the apologetics of the chronic late. Being chronically late is an art. You can’t bear to be chronically late unless you have mastered the art of not giving a fuck about the ticking circle that every one of us is conditioned to freak out about from day one in this world. You can’t do that unless you ignore the embarrassment you feel of disappointing someone who’s waiting for you, ignore the embarrassment of profusely apologizing with your glance to the students grunting as you pass by them looking for the last seat, swearing never to get yourself in that position again. You have to forget the fact that you’ve made yourself a liar, too, by agreeing that you would have been there at 3’o clock, when you’re not. 

So why the fuck am I late? What in the world is stronger than all those negative, stinging social cues that bite on my heel and try so valiantly to get me on that 8:50 bus? 

The paradoxical thing is, one is chronically late precisely because one hates wasting time. In the beginning of the semester, you leave your dorm at 8:30, you never know how long it will take to get there. Next week, route becomes routine, you even unconsciously trim your path down to the last step so that it no longer takes you 30 but 20 minutes to get there. Then you can afford to leave at 8:40. Next week, you wonder if it really takes you 20 minutes. If you break out a jog, maybe it’ll take you 10. So you try leaving at 8:50. And sometimes you’d be right, in a superhuman feat it could take you 10. Whatever the circumstances were, from then on, your clock will adjust again to that best-case scenario, and you will start leaving your dorm at 8:50. There’s no reason not to. Of course, most of the time it will take longer than you thought to actually get to class. Does it matter? Not at that point when you’re already walking. You’re already late, what can you do? Try to walk faster, I guess, but then your sly reason kicks in, hyper realistic only in this kind of moment, telling you that there’s nothing you can do to the fact that you’re late, so why don’t you “make the most of this situation” and stop feeling bad about it. 

Stick with me, I’m trying to poke at this and see if this contains some morsel of truth about the fate of humanity. The chronic late are not late because they are lazy, or like to sleep more, or slower at things in general. Hell, they get up just as easy as everyone else when they need to ( or more when they feel like they need to— the real question is, why don’t they feel like they need to wake up at the right hour). The chronic late are late because they are overly optimistic about their abilities in displacing themselves. Perhaps, like the old Chinese legend, they believe they can shrink the ground like an accordion. The chronic late are late because they refuse to feel bad about changing up a routine, challenging a rule to see if it holds up, getting bored about being a good student and push things up against the wall a little. The chronic late are late because they hate to be anal, or anxious, or anything that belies a desire to conform just for the sake of conforming — just when leaving at 8:30 stops becoming a necessity and becomes habit, the chronic late will question, why not 8:40? Instead of leaving at 8:30 because that’s what you always do, you’d always ask, why not 40? 

And when you show up later and later to class, at one point you will realize, with a disorienting jolt, that suddenly you’re at that point where you’re too late to even merit going to class. And that would be an unacceptable limit for the chronic late, because you really do want to go to class. When you skip class like that, you will spend the next hour feeling truly remorseful and recalibrating your priorities and internal clock deadlines.

You’ll start leaving at 8:30 again for the next class.

Growing Up Doesn’t Really Mean Much

Like every adult, I know I have needs. Personal needs. A need for fulfilment. A need for excitement. A need for intellectual stimulation. Sexual needs. Needs for friendship and love. A need for music. 

And as time went by, I became such a unique individual that no one other than myself can fully know and satisfy those continuous, complex, arbitrary, and yet essential needs. Paradoxically, I need so many things to survive and keep myself going now as an adult, whereas when I was a baby all I needed was food, shelter, safety, and my parents. 

Unfortunately, to my parents I’m still that baby. It’s unimaginable for them to think of me as a grown-up with such complicated needs that only I can fill now, that even surpasses their understanding. 

To my parents I’ll always be that baby. They want to protect me. A baby cannot be political. A baby cannot be strong. A baby cannot be independent and tough. Most of all, babies cannot be sexual. In a baby world, that reasonably means the baby will put itself in danger. Parents have every reason to be protective against those things.

That’s why it’ll probably be heartbreaking for my parents to learn everything about me— all that I am, all that I’ve done, all that I now know. It will shatter their world. It will weird them out. It will be like getting to know a stranger.

I’m afraid that they will deny it, and instead of bridging the gap between the baby me and the grown-up me, they will reject the grown-up me. Even if they do accept the grown-up me, I’m worried that they will sadly look back at my baby days with nostalgia, the baby they understand, and long for those days. I’m afraid that they will regret the person I’ve become.

Thinking about these things makes me feel melancholy, a swirling unsettling mix of things I now know and things I’ve felt from the beginning of time. I love them painfully.


이곳이 타락의 메카
내 사랑이란 죄의 댓가

후회로 갇힌 섬이라도
심장을 도려낼 벌이라도

그대와 눈뜨고 숨쉬고 싶어
내 날개를 버린 걸

things i dont wanna forget

- seeing that my external hard drive is without a case, my dad just casually digging around to find one somewhere in the house for a good 30 minutes, coming to my room from time to time to see if a case he found fits, and ending up giving me his

- looking at a pic of me as a naked little 1-month-old baby, my mom saying that she has never stopped loving me from then.


I’m a hybrid

Just some ruminations from Paris.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. 

Phillipians 4:8

Even the bible teaches us to find and focus on what’s pure and authentic from our deepest core, our identity that is revealed in Christ. For me, being authentic means rebelling against the world’s fixed “cadres” — french for “frames”.. that fixes people, molds people, pushes people to become identical cookies in a pan, and lose their true colors on the face of fear of dissimilation, fear of rejection, fear of being shunned by the powerful in the world. Fear of being called a failure.

I see frames when I see young girls looking at the camera with a gaze of Marilyn Monroe, guys who buff themselves up and exaggerate their “ruggedness” and toughness as if those characteristics validate their sexuality. At Harvard, when we talk about internships and career plans. In Korea, where difference means wrong, and shame is imprinted into your heart by the most trivial eccentricities: if your boyfriend happens to be black. If you’re a woman with muscles. If you’re a man who doesn’t want to go to military. Or, at a most basic level, I’m sure people can resonate, if you’re a “Korean” who can’t speak Korean. Those things don’t rest as simply “differences.” They become sin in the eyes of the majority who’s not. Why? Because that will ensure and confirm that they’re right. How easy is it… when you’re in the “in group” automatically by just being a certain skin color, sharing a language, sharing a largely recognizable practice of culture, custom, including but not limited to marriage. So that people no longer have to work for their righteousness by real actions and real virtue, that I believe transcends cultural customs and the temporal, locational specificities of societies?

When all is stripped away, what remains? Will you be proud of what you see in the mirror? Will you place value in the eyes of others , always searching, always anxious, always swaying, or will you find it within yourself that you can carry around anywhere you go? 

After 22 years of travel, after 22 years’ worth of conversations and interactions, assimilations and dissimilations, embraces and alienations, loves and battles, excitements and disappointments, searches and revelations,

I look in the mirror and am comfortable seeing a hybrid, not entirely Korean, not entirely American, not your typical princess but also not really a “bro” either, someone who is angered by and challenges the conservative but also not entirely letting go of the idea of discipline and morals, who listens to Katy Perry but also loves Beethoven, a drummer AND a flutist.  Who loves both. In their own ways of course.

add a little bit of French to that mix and there, you’ve got me, boston-based Korean hipster with a tinge of French philosophy. All I want to do is every day “do the right thing,” with a moral sense that evolves and grows with new understandings I learn from the bible, the people i meet, the thinkers i read, the places i visit. After all, what does it mean to not be self-absorbed in the world, but to be open and humble, engaging the world each day with a genuine desire to influence and be influenced?


Favorites at the Rodin museum.
Fucking awesome.

i feel silly reblogging my own post but since I like this so much.