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We met by accident
and I wonder what I would be feeling at this moment instead
if I had only gone to New York the previous summer, like I should have
if you were never in that math class, or whatever it was
If your parents never met–there’d be no you
If my parents’ parents never met–maybe I’d be better

We discussed these things sometimes, but agreed nothing happens for a reason
yet in our searches and creations, I made you all of mine
It was as if everything that had ever happened in the history of time
was in preparation for:
the silly songs on the radio I knew you could hear too
every blue sky that was a souvenir
the winter day I was in Maryland with you, heated rooms like heaven
a summer afternoon when you told me you could have liked me a lot

Could have
But I know you did, even when it was wrong
Distance was a shield from truth
And if there was a God where we existed, that God was no musician
Because timing is a thing,
and you were living in a different meter
Eventually, I was only your offbeats

So what if the universe had taken just one, small step in the other direction?
Then maybe,
July wouldn’t have been poems about getting high
August wouldn’t have been picnics and storms in New Hampshire
September wouldn’t have been about longing
October wouldn’t have been about trying to make things different
November, I really should have stopped myself by now
December, I couldn’t
So I kissed other people in January to not forgive, but forget
Because you never showed up in Pennsylvania
Left me half furious, a fourth in love,
a quarter lost on Walnut and Broad

May is just a rainy day or two
and I wouldn’t even be thinking about that
if it weren’t for how I handled you
I’m trying to blame it on the INFJ,
right brain, 1800s piano,
big jet planes
I’m more or less a crazy person
Because girls are persons too
But I think it’s worse than that–
being the other girl,
even the times you never let me know
just kept the two of us beaming
It was because you cared too much, you said
I call b.s.

I don’t exactly know who “they” is, but they say it’s easiest to write while you’re loving someone
I don’t want to anymore
The ink in my pens have been bleeding for your curly brown hair for too long,
and you know I’m a sucker for brunettes
But what else do you know about me now?

You don’t know that I’ve been noticing my breath, planning trips to the South,
listening to Showtek
You don’t know that deep breathing doesn’t work when I’ve let you become the air around me,
that I remember you wanting to travel, knowing you just needed to run away
Next month I’ll be dancing without you at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway
And you will never know that I won’t think about you then

You don’t know that I’ve been writing to remember,
but this time I’m writing to forget
I don’t think I’ll be writing about you again
when I can start to wake up without the contour of your name in my lashes–
I treasure the minutes that will someday become all the time
When shampoo is just shampoo, without your cotton scent
When insomnia is not profound, and pillows are just as pleasant
without the imprint of your head

So maybe this moment is an accident,
along with everything that happened after “Hi”
But no, I won’t think about the “what if”s and “could have been”s
when I’m looking at calendars and maps
Because I don’t need to lose myself in people who are no longer homes,
don’t need to lose my mind
Our parents, the struggle that is math,
New York, and feelings,
they all happened
There is a you
There is an I
And this is an end

Cutie with the gelled hair – 2001

Your face is starting to elude my memory now, but almost any blonde-haired, blue-eyed third grader has got to be a cutie. Isn’t it weird that feelings actually exist at the pure age of eight? Twelve years later and I’m still a kid, but I do have to remind myself of the mental capacity of children.
Anyways, you always gelled your hair back, the dark crevices in between sections of hair like black streaks. It was a terrible hairstyle, and I grew up always, and still, disliking gel-styled hair. I can’t remember what you were like at all, but it must have made me forget about the top of your head.
That year my parents were gifted a religious book titled something like, “What You Say is What You Get”. When they told me it was absolutely true–that what I would say is what I would get–I was elated. So one afternoon while I waited in the car for my dad, I cleared my little throat and to no one proclaimed, “One day I will marry [you]”.
I’m cringing at that memory, but I should be used to my drama and embarrassment by now. In the mean time, I’ve also gotten used to the fact that not everything my parents tell me is true and life takes more than words locked inside of a silver van.

You in the red polo – 2003

I can’t picture the fourth grade you without your summer-colored skin in a red polo. Again, I can’t remember what it is that made me crush on you, and it makes me miss a time when such things could happen without reason.
I still remember your birthday that year. It was supposed to be a happy day even though I didn’t see you. It was simply your day. But that morning I fought with my cousin and hid under the covers in tears. Later that day, my mom made me hold my cousin’s hand on a neighborhood walk. And like she would say many times before and after, “You’re such a good kid.” I don’t know how much longer I can keep that one up.
One time in high school my girlfriend and I jokingly sent you sexy text messages, and we waited anxiously for your reaction. We both laughed when you responded back with disgust, but I was kind of confused. The next year you came out.
You’ve moved to New York City, stopped wearing red polos, lost the baby fat, and found God and drugs. The last time we talked you were on a bus, escaping to Boston. It’ll be your birthday again in two days and I hope you don’t need to escape anymore.

My first slow dance – 2006

We slow danced to classic N’Sync: “God Must Have Spent a Little More Time On You.” I downloaded it onto my iPod that night, and for a while, listened to it before falling asleep. I can still remember the way you couldn’t even look at me because you were that shy. Or maybe I was that unattractive–it’s possible when I look at pictures from the time. In any case, I think you were my favorite to love in the most innocent and junior high kind of love.
It’s entirely your fault that from that point on, December has always reminded me of romance, or the lack thereof some years. That Christmas, our friend’s mom watched as we exchanged presents. Later she told me, “I can tell he really likes you by the way he looks at you.” That still makes my heart melt to this day.
I loved you in this way for almost three years, even when we weren’t together. We’re still friends, and things should have gotten weird last summer, but they didn’t. We went back to our junior high one night last June, lying on the cement ground where we used to sit for lunch. We looked up at what little we could see of the stars in Southern California, counting how many years it had been since we’d last been in that spot. The spot where seven years ago, two counselors told us we couldn’t be holding hands on school grounds. I wonder how much more trouble we’d be in if they ever found out seven years later, we kissed right there. At least I didn’t hold your hand.

The angry one – 2009

Sometimes I still think this never should have happened. I was still trying to forget about my first slow dance from 2006 and you were always mad. Good thing you didn’t know who I was really thinking about, because you would’ve been furious. But rightfully, at that.
We don’t talk anymore but you became best friends with one of my childhood friends after we so thankfully ended. You found God when I lost Him, and when I saw our friend last month, she said you’re not so angry anymore. I sure hope so, because I still remember the time you slammed my car door in my face and followed me home. You told me my dreams were nothing but East Coast fantasies and I’ll have you know I’m transferring to a kickass music school in Philadelphia this fall with a scholarship. I hope you haven’t slammed any car doors or undermined anyone’s dreams, including your own, since then.

Summer fling – 2010

We met at a music camp in a humid and beautiful upstate New York that July. We found out we were both only children, and shared the same exact birthday, blood type, and little freckle on the center of our bottom lips. I tell myself that I started to like you on the bus ride back from that concert in Canandaigua, but I can’t be exactly sure why. It seems that my life lacks reason more than I realize.
One night we were sitting in the dorm’s game room by ourselves when an advisor came in and asked what we were doing. You said awkwardly, “Yeah, we’re just…hanging out…in here, all alone.” I face-palmed inside. A few times throughout that month, you texted me “I love you”, to which I never quite acknowledged, because you didn’t know what you were talking about. I was secretly satisfied though, finally having met someone who could be a little more embarrassing than me.
The last day of camp, I woke up at six to say goodbye, and as you made your way down the stairwell you told me you’d never forget me. I don’t think that’s true because you never talked to me again and the letter I sent you was returned. Sometimes I still wish I had those pictures of you falling asleep to Handel’s Messiah for sentimental value, but I’ve got more than enough of that without any reminders of you.

The real thing – 2010

At times I wonder what our lives would be like if you never got that haircut, because that’s when I started noticing you. And I noticed you first. You only started to notice me after I showed you the personal statement I wrote for college admissions, as if it was some kind of acceptance from you too.
We ended up in a serious relationship for nearly two years, and in that time, I seriously thought that was it. I don’t remember what it’s like to love you anymore, but even with the nasty words we can never take back, I’ll always remember our relationship fondly. We were so goofy and weird together, and I think everyone needs a safe place to unleash that side of him or her. Your family always welcomed me with kindness and love, and when you were seven hours away at school, they’d let me sleep in your bed when I couldn’t go home. I know you hated your school when we were together, but I think now you have the freedom to enjoy it, and now I have the freedom to go to my far-away, dream school.
We met up for breakfast a few months ago, and I wore my camouflage jacket to feel tough. I hadn’t seen you since our break up and I guess I was trying to protect myself, from sadness, or madness, I don’t know. But I didn’t need to. When I saw you, I knew you would never leave me mad or sad again–I would never love you again.
This past Valentine’s Day, you texted me a novel of your confessions. You didn’t know I was on a date, but it doesn’t matter because the guy never liked me like that anyways. You told me you still felt the same way, thought things could work out if we tried again. I was shocked, but I think that was the most I felt after reading all of that. I did feel slightly bad though, for isn’t it sad when someone whose world you once affected so deeply became a someone whose world you had no more impact on?

Somewhere you are not sleeping and
I’m not happy either, you know
It almost looks like I’m bleeding when I wash my hair
Hair so easily interlaced in fingers or forgeries
One day I’ll learn not to choose
The two of us are starting to disappear like this
so I tell myself it’s a beautiful fade
I think this thinking has become my religion
Unreal, but I’m praying to hell
And if the flames existed, I’d throw us in
You, me, and our mess could be the unholiest trinity
as if we aren’t already
But there will be no happy endings here
on the road where you always stop to tell me
I’d better get back, or be fucked, and how could you not know
that it has been done either way
I wonder who prays for the devil, who’s praying for you
The trees tell me they are gods,
especially the ones grown drunk, toasting to the sadness in your green liquor eyes
More like poison, I guess, as we slur our self-righteousness together
I’m trying to get back
Still, it almost looks like I’m bleeding and I am
I am a lot, but mostly not sleeping
All for longing
And how could I anyways, the resort of lost voices and songs
There is a science behind my crazy and I’ll make meaning out of
anything
Like the flowers I pretend to wear on this pounding head
One last showcase before we part
The petals’ goodbyes didn’t have to be about you
But can’t you see?
The flames don’t exist anywhere, but in somewheres they do
Just don’t tell my mother who I can’t look in the eye anymore
that I’ve chosen burning over bleeding
I know I said one day I’ll learn not to choose but
this is what art takes
People unlike me make millions off of
people like you

Yesterday, my friend Alayne and I had lunch together. We talked about her boyfriend moving away soon, my plans for the summer, our shared classes. Then she asked me, “What’s your dream?”

I was a little set aback, realizing that no one asks this much. Instead, college students like myself usually hear questions like, “What are you going to do after graduation? What are you going to do with that degree?” My everyday life is an answer to these questions about short-term goals. Go to class, practice, teach. I’m living in preparation for something I can’t seem to answer right away.

After some hesitation I said, “I think I’d like to live in a big city…keep teaching privately, maybe go into music therapy or teach at a university if I get a doctorate…travel, wear nice clothes, eat good food. Find that someone I romantically and deeply connect with. And tattoos everywhere. “

But what is it that I really want out of these things? They seem pretty attainable when simply stated like so. Yet, I struggle, because there is, of course, more than first comes to mind.

My dream isn’t just to be in a big city where I can live on almost-gourmet foods. I want to be able to do this without any guilt at all. Maybe one day I will be able to eat Lays and steak and carbs and even think about pizza without berating myself.

My dream isn’t just to keep pursuing my music studies and find my secure place in the musician’s world. I want the be in different places, with different peers and teachers, to be challenged enough where I can look back and say, “I never thought I could do this.”

My dream isn’t just to wear nice clothes. It is to be able to love myself even when I’m not in my signature color. To feel confident even when I’m not in my best outfit.

My dream isn’t just to be tattooed, sleeves on my arms and legs. I wish I didn’t have to hide my tiny one from family. I wish my borderline red hair wasn’t borderline disapproved by my family. I wish people didn’t have to be condescendingly questioned for their bodies.

My dream isn’t just to find the right someone. Before I do that—I want to live knowing only I complete myself, and if I’m lucky, someone will come along to extend me. If I find such good fortune, I will then hope for familial approval, and not hope for the questions about marriage and kids, which are already starting anyways.

These are the things that make me a lofty dreamer. But in my lofty dreaming, I understand the world owes me nothing, and it is my call to achieve the attainable, and do my best for the unattainable.

I have heard of The Glass Castle being a New York Times Bestseller, but honestly wasn’t sure of the story besides the author’s nomadic childhood. I was imagining this type of plot to be one of positive energy. At this moment, I am still trying to figure out how Jeannette Walls herself is reflecting on these first few chapters of childhood memories. So far, I have found most of my own reactions to the memories negative, but with room to try to understand.

Any sensible person in our society would be appalled at the several cases of irresponsible parenting. I’d even go as far to say that it was irresponsible of the parents to ever be parents at all, that they shouldn’t have mixed kids into their dangerously messy situation. From the very first sentence, “I was on fire.”, I cringed a little inside, knowing there must have been something off in the scene. And that something off, of course, was Mom or Dad being inattentive while their three-year-old daughter stirs hot dogs over a fire. Eep. Later on, Walls explains her mom’s way of thinking: “Mom always said people worried too much about their children. Suffering when you’re young is good for you, she said. It immunized your body and your soul…”

My parents have raised me with a lot of protection, especially since I am their only child, and their only daughter at that. Because of this, I’ve become a pretty careful person, but do truly appreciate this way they cared for me. Even if it has been a bit over-bearing at times, I like being sensibly safe for the sake of optimal mental and physical health. This is my idea of sensibility–my reality–and reading about a life outside of what I know reminds me that, maybe, no one is right or wrong.

I sit here in my cookie-cutter home thinking of all the asshole moves on these isolated, desert parents’ part, but I don’t think I can even begin to blame them or anyone at all. Everyone of us is stuck in our own realities, a reality that may be a delusion to another. The nomadic life Walls presents in the beginning of her book may be a ridiculous life to me, but that’s all her parents have known. That’s their truth.

But despite the clashing truths of Walls’s parents and mine, I find that core human connection in her dad’s stealing her away from the hospital. He says, “You don’t have to worry anymore, baby. You’re safe now.” Although I don’t agree with his parenting, or him being a parent, or his lifestyle, this sentence warmed my heart. Maybe he shouldn’t have done and been a lot of things, but in this sentence I can feel the most basic foundation of being a parent, and a human at last: love.

It’s 2:40 am and I’m tired. Not that that should be surprising anyways. These days I feel like lethargy is just a part of my personality. Perhaps the only part of my personality I can be sure of for now, anyways.

I’m tired because I’m pretending. It’s all I loved to do as a kid with my friends, pretending we were whatever animals, whatever job, to the point that our parents would ask us to stop pretending so much. But I never did stop.

I’m not actually into cars or hiking. I’m just trying to make this a good date for once. I don’t value intoxicated weekends as highly as you guys do. I’m just here for the pictures. I love electronic music a lot more than you think I do. I just don’t want it to seem so, in front of your lovely but anti-mainstream self. I don’t know how to answer when you ask, “How are you?”. Because I don’t want to know and you don’t either. I’d rather not tell you when something you’ve done bothers me. I’d rather not deal; I’ll let you what you’d want to hear. I don’t agree with half the bullshit you’re speaking. I’ll just play along to keep this conversation going, to be acceptable. It breaks my heart to know you hate your body and maybe even yourself. But I struggle in the same ways some days. I don’t believe in the same things you do anymore (could you ever forgive my liberal, atheistic, hell-bound self for this one?). I’m just keeping my mouth shut because I’m the only one in the family who could cause a shit storm like this. I think I might actually love you, you who I can’t be with. But I’ll still go out with guys who I force myself to like more than I really do, still leave you out of all conversations regarding relationship melodrama.

Would it be less tiring to be real with myself, at the least? Am I strong enough to face my fears and flaws and unwanted feelings for a few minutes before I fall asleep at night? Probably not. But could it be that such a self-acceptance is plausibly attainable? Are we all just pretending in front of the other out of the same apprehension?

I won’t know how to stop pretending on the outside until I figure it out from within. I think I’ll start tonight, when the lights go out. The darkness and all its stillness will wring out those parts of me I never let drip, for the fear of waves I might sink under. But I need to be okay. I need to learn to be okay with my vulnerable self, every single part.

It’s okay that I don’t like rear wings or the itchy feeling in my nose when I’m hiking up my hometown trails. It’s okay that I’m not as into, or really, at all into being drunk as some. I think my liver will be thanking me for that one. It’s okay that I like the music that I like, and it shouldn’t matter that some people not might. In fact, I’d like to start trusting my music-major-validated taste even more. I don’t know if I’ll ever enjoy the “How are you?”s, but it’s okay to not be in a default happy state all the time. It’s okay when people annoy or disagree with me, because I certainly do the same. I don’t know if the world could ever work with everyone  living in a single perspective. And it’s okay to voice how I truly feel, disagreements and all, because I don’t need to fit into the expectation of never having an discomfort-arousing opinion. It’s okay to look the way I am, this color, this curve or not. What am I bringing myself down for? More of society’s expectations? It’s okay that I’m secretly the black sheep of my family, and as much of a burden as it is, I will accept myself even if they won’t accept me. And it’s hard to believe, but I will be okay with or without that guy.

Reaching the surface, just before sleep now. To keep breathing and stop pretending shall resume when I wake.

If you haven’t already noticed, I am Asian. Particularly, I am Chinese, in case you didn’t know the difference. (I was often asked in high school what the difference between Asian and Chinese was. What?)

But I don’t feel Chinese. Even though both my parents are immigrants and are still pretty traditionally Chinese, I honestly feel nothing more than American (or Asian-American, if you insist) on the inside. I failed high school Chemistry. I barely know how to use chopsticks (unless you count stabbing the food). I can’t handle spicy and seafood. I prefer Americanized Chinese cuisine over Authentic Chinese. I have always responded in English to my parents’ Chinese. Have never liked the Chinese necessity to “be the best”, to show no emotion and affections.

The only stereotypes that I accept are that I play piano and am loving school more and more. And I’m short. But even then, I do not agree with the Chinese drive for technical perfection and show in piano and I do not agree with the Chinese sense of worth through grades and scores. I believe in expression and musicality over technical perfection. I believe in learning over studying and memorizing.

But more than all of that, I often find myself secretly embarrassed to be Chinese and to be identified with the culture. I am cautious when I put up pictures on Facebook, making sure it doesn’t seem like all my friends are Asian. When I go out with Asian friends, I am afraid people look at me and only see another typical Asian girl. I feel annoyed every time I see some kind of Facebook post about “Asian Pride”. When I’m mistaken for being half-Asian (or I even got Latina a few times!), I feel perhaps a bit too happy that I don’t look like every other Chinese girl. This school year I started dying my hair lighter not only for aesthetic reasons, but to support my pretend-half-Asian race.  When I tell people I go to Chapman University, I feel perhaps a bit too much of satisfaction in the responses that sound like “Isn’t that a rich white people school?”.

I have always envied my Caucasian girlfriends and the way they shared clothes with their fashionable moms, the way their parents would hug and kiss them with no shame, their matching furniture, their huge Thanksgivings and Christmases, the liberty and liberalness. And amidst all of my internal complaining, my beloved parents have always been doing just as much to love me. They didn’t try so hard in school to just “be the best”. They had me in mind. They wanted me to live the good life. And because of them, I do. I really do.

Even then, I don’t know what it is that is holding me back from being proud of part of who I am. Does race even matter that much when it comes to the “who I am”? Can I be proud of something I didn’t choose? What would it feel like to be the majority? These are questions that I might not ever find a definite answer to, but I must start with accepting a look and culture I can’t change.