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If last year was a year of growth, I would say this year was a test of my endurance, patience, and self-assertion.

#1_ New Challenges

After getting comfortable (and jaded) at Weber Shandwick, I started searching for my next challenge. And boy, did I get myself into a massive one. In June I started my new job in marketing. And I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the difficulties I faced during my first few months on the job — the different style of leadership, lack of teamwork (and team members), and of course, the completely new kind of work I was doing.

I still don’t think a marketer can do PR, or that a PR person can do (or be happy doing) marketing. Nonetheless I am at a good place now at my job; I have the hang of things and know now how to solve problems, external and internal. And I really appreciate my boss, my team, and the things I am learning. I learn something new almost every day at my job. Interestingly, I think I am learning more about people than I ever have at work.

#2_ Hitting Rock Bottom (almost)

In September, while I was on a 3-week business trip in Hangzhou, I hit one of the lowest lows I’ve ever hit in my life.

Each time I go to Hangzhou on business, I get sick in one form or another. Usually it’s a cold. But in September, from the grueling orientation plus the late nights I spent working after training hours, I became very ill with an infected boil. I ended up missing more than half of one of my mandatory orientation programs.

When you’re really sick, you start thinking about what’s most important to you. And you focus on only that, because you’re desperate to hold on to something positive and uplifting. And the only thing I could think in my hotel room, unable to move or even sit up, was how much I regretted not becoming a journalist.

The week following that moment involved three Chinese hospitals, a pregnancy scare, and an attempt to quit my job. But I’ll save the details for another day.

#3_ 55 Hours of Alone & 72 Hours with You

In 2013, this blog was born from my project called 60 Hours of No Human Contact, wherein I cut off all human contact for 60 hours and focused on myself and my writing.

For the first time since then, I found myself desperately needing this space and time of my own, complete freedom from the daily struggles and pressures that were weighing me down.

So I took three days off work, rented an Airbnb called “Thinking House” in Namyangju (a suburb of Seoul), and disconnected. But this time, it didn’t have the same rejuvenating effect as it did in 2013. Here is an excerpt from my real-time log from those 55 hours:

Tomorrow before noon, I have to pack up, clean up my traces here in the Thinking House, and return to Seoul. This getaway was neither effective nor productive, as I mostly just miss my boyfriend. I called him crazy for telling me he loves me only after three dates, but this time apart has made me realize I love him, too.

And I understand now the power of love; I am no longer afraid of what my future holds, and I don’t think it really matters what I do for a living. My boyfriend gives me the confidence to do my job and be satisfied with it. Most of all, when I’m with him, I focus more on what I am outside of my job. He pays attention to the whole me, wants to get to know the entire me. He makes me pay attention to the aspects of myself that I sometimes ignore or overlook when I’m focused on work.

I am writing this now at a bar in Gangnam, entering my 73rd consecutive hour with you, counting down to midnight. Our belated Christmas weekend to make up for the actual Christmas that we didn’t get to spend together.

This adventure we are on together is another challenge that 2018 has brought to me: a challenge of a new kind that I am facing for the first time and still learning to maneuver.

Whatever happens, I am thankful for the punches life threw my way this year, because I know they are making me stronger.

Happy new year, everyone.

He said he almost always had nightmares when he slept over at her place. And that he’d wake up in the middle of the night and see her sleeping next to him, and realizing everything was okay, drift to sleep again.

They wore her blanket down until it was in tatters, the cottony stuffing exposed, sticking out in soft tufts and pulling away from the rest of the thing. When she woke up and he was still asleep, she’d get bored and pull at the tufts. She made snowy peaks rise from the surface. She watched them move gently up and down as he continued to sleep, continued to breathe, his chest rising and falling to a steady beat.

He had a way of reminding her of the rare, exquisite things that she lives for, the weird things that surpass reality. He could bring her out of any kind of gloom, even the indelible sadness of feeling unwanted. And he had a way of showing up with the most delightful surprises, like he did today, without notice but with a wild pink flower in his right fist, mud and roots still attached.

And now she’d seen him again, her friend, and it was happy, seeing him again, right outside her door, that half-smile of his on his drunken face. Worried he might get sick, she gave him some tonic and vitamins. She didn’t have any Pocari Sweat for him; she knew he liked it but she didn’t and never had any at home.

He smelled like alcohol and joy. She gave warmbug a hug and sent him on his way. After all, he was just a tunnel and bridge away.

——

A fortune teller once told me,
“Stay silent and you’ll regret it.”
Except Fortune Teller didn’t know
that I don’t regret
that I don’t believe in mistakes

Fortune came
with a weird boy on New Year’s Eve
He was in black, I was in blue
He could feel me

In the company of old friends
Fortune came
bringing warm, sweaty cheer under its arms
a celebration of something or other
We didn’t understand

And on the drunken countdown
I lit his sparkler and mine
He held my drink, she smiled at us
I wished for what I wanted

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(modified from the Nov 2012 original published on another blog)

Why would I do that? she whispered to him.

He chuckled and said nothing.

She traced the prism patterns underneath them, triangle upon triangle, reds, plums, blues stitched together. The little flowers along the edges had faded and a long rip ran along the top, the part she always tugged on when she was cold. Safety pins held it together.

As she snuggled into his shoulder, a breath escaped his nostrils, landing in warmth on top of her head.

She giggled.

What?

The sun’s tickling me.

——

His stare, the clarity of his eyes shining through, is burned into my memory. The steady, concentrated gaze ensnared me; his whole being and energy seemed to pour from those eyes, and I froze, self-aware and mesmerized, small under the magnifying glass of a much greater person.

With such men, you tumble down the rabbit hole of their single-minded tunnel vision because you trust and feel safe in their confidence and absolute surety that you should be together. And so you fall, and you scrape your knees, and you fall again. You’re bleeding, but you don’t feel any pain. You keep on running beside him.

You float gently in the naiveté of his answers, his childlike inability to describe just what he feels in the face of something astonishing and never before experienced. You play pretend every time you meet, in places where it’s forbidden, because pretend is so much better than real. You venture into smoky, black forests and confront the scary monsters you locked up when you were a kid, because how could anything hurt you when you’re with him?

And so you keep on discovering and conquering like two brave warriors until you reach a crossroads and you don’t know why but you know you have to part. There, you recognize each other’s vulnerabilities and see them not as weak, unattractive, frightful things, but something to protect. Something precious. And for that, if nothing else, you love him.

——