"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

the call of the mundane

Now Playing: Fast Car by Tracy Chapman (you've got to make a decision, leave tonight or live and die this way) 

All my life, I've been different. Weird. Unique. Talented. Pariah. Extraordinary. Freak.

I've never had much by way of normal. I have a weird body and a weird brain and I'm always compelled to do weird things. Doctors stare at me in amazement, and I've been 'the clever one' for as long as I can remember. I am very, very obviously Asian, but not typically Asian. I've never sat comfortably with ordinary things. I've always had things people can't have, or don't want to have, and I always find it impossible to procure what everyone else seems to have.

I thought I had made peace with my oddities; to the point where I no longer feel comfortable blending in. But the call of the ordinary has been...an extraordinarily difficult thing to wrestle with.

When I was younger I wanted what all little girls wanted. I wanted to be admired and adored and suffocated with love. I've been reading A Song of Ice and Fire and I'm an avid Game of Thrones fan and as much as little Sansa Stark is an insufferably annoying character, I see so much of myself in her. I had crazy dreams because I had given up on the ordinary ones. But I never stopped wanting.

Being a late bloomer is weird. Just when everyone else is getting tired of it, you're just getting started. When life is calling you to difficult, complicated, adult things, you're that little woman with the wonderful boyfriend with a fast car, only you're not such a little woman anymore. They don't give prizes for how long you can stay in bed with someone. Sweet nothings are not diplomas or job offers or career opportunities. But they are so sweet, and wrenching myself out of that reverie has left scars that don't seem to be healing anytime soon.

I don't think anyone has really appreciated how lonely I have been, my whole life. I remember being thirteen, sitting at the back of my new classroom, trying to inhale all the set texts everyone else had already read. I remember sitting alone, reading alone, doing everything alone. I remember admiring, loving, lusting, craving from a distance, not even daring to put words to the abstract ache. I remember how easily a younger and more vulnerable self fell into the most obvious traps, of pretty words and pretty smiles, desperate for attention. I remember using my loneliness as armour, finding such solace in fleeting blue hour romances, never daring to get too close, always wanting to end up alone, because being alone meant being safe. I look back at all the times I have succumbed to the call of the mundane and been burned.

I've wanted to be extraordinary my whole life. It was the only thing that kept me going. I wanted to become so big and tall that nobody would ever touch me, nobody would ever hurt me, I wanted to look down on everyone and spit on them all. Admitting to myself that I really just want to be happy, that maybe becoming extraordinary and becoming happy aren't the same thing, that maybe a lot of the reason why I am so unhappy is because I am so isolated...it's not an easy thing to wrap your head around, when you've formed your whole identity around being different.

I've always rejected being ordinary. It was easy for me to sneer at the mundane, because I never had it. The white middle class life was never something I could aspire to; I grew up always being reminded that I am not one of them. I took it in stride, during my lonely, angry childhood; if I couldn't be one of them, I'd be a whole other thing entirely. But now as I get older, as the challenges ahead are harder and the rewards I reap are not always wonderful in a wonderfully uncomplicated way...I do feel old, childish insecurities creep in. I keep telling myself that armour is not the answer, that turning myself into a block of ice, whilst I probably have every right to do so, will only hurt myself. But people take being warm and sweet as weakness, and there seems to be no shortage of people willing to exploit perceived vulnerability.

Girls my age are not meant to worry about dying alone, and I don't. I really don't. I know how my life is today is not how it's going to be forever, for better or for worse. But loneliness is a real, present, thing, right now, and I'm sick of it being constantly invalidated. I have started on a long, lonely path, and I don't know if I'll make it. And I don't know if I'll like where I end up.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

남자들 (II)


I thought of something to say to you
And then burst into tears

Because I turn, and it fades away
And you're not here

My love was unconditional
But not at the expense of my dignity

It was at the expense of all of me.

*          *          *


I was afraid, you know
During my break

Because you were bleeding
And I wanted to fix you

I wanted to hold you in my arms like a child
And I was afraid you would push me away

It meant the world to me
That you crawled into my open arms

*          *          *


I was drawn to you
Like a moth

Drawn to the flame

But I think tempers that burn so hot
Can burn anyone

And so I died
Joan of Arc

*          *          *

You.  H. 

How afraid I am
I am not afraid of

Tangled bodies
And knotted bed sheets

I am afraid that you will touch me
And it will leave scars

That nobody will see
But me

~ originally published March, 2015

Sunday, June 05, 2016

여름, 햇빛, 사랑

I miss the sun.

I miss the sun streaming through the car window
On bare thighs;

I miss your sunglasses and crooked smile.
I miss the sun.

I miss the sun and the warm black bitumen
On puppy paws;

I miss the amber Perth 4pm on your driveway
I miss the sun.

I miss the sun on the river from the sleepy train
On lazy Sundays

I miss sundresses in a heap on faded carpet
I miss the sun.

I miss the sun.

He slept a summer by my side
But he was gone when autumn came

And now it is cold, and grows colder still

And I miss-
I miss the sun.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Why I will stand by Amber Heard

The recent media shitstorm about the breakdown of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp's marriage and Heard's domestic violence allegations has dug up a lot of old, painful memories for me.

A few months shy of turning sixteen, I started an abusive relationship that ended when I was seventeen. 

A few months after, I was sexually assaulted. 

I clung to my abusive relationship even when I knew it was falling apart, even when I finally accepted, after months of denial, that he was bad news. I defended him when people started asking questions. And I think part of the reason why I didn't cry wolf as soon as I realized I was eyeball deep in shit I couldn't handle is that I knew I would be vilified. 

Not to the extent that Amber Heard has been vilified, of course. Neither of us were rich or famous. But I heard it all, and I was only seventeen. I was the other woman. I was a shameless social climber. I was a clingy, whiny burden. He's such a nice guy.

He's still a nice guy, of course. Some of my friends insist on remaining friends with him, even though they know what happened and claim to believe me. Through our relationship people had been pestering me to break it off, to just quit, to air out all the dirty laundry, but as soon as everything fell apart it was all on me. 

I've learned, as an abuse survivor, and as someone who has listened, patiently, to many, many other stories, that there is always something for people to cling to, some proof that the victim was in the wrong. For me, it was being the 'other woman'. It was okay for this person to abuse me, apparently, because I'd been that woman who he had cheated with. My victim blaming was tied up with slut shaming until eventually, I shut up. I was tired. I was hurt. I had lost my best friend, my reputation, and any notion of a balanced mental state. And as bad as he hurt me, I don't think anything hurt more than that. 

After I was sexually assaulted, the victim blaming started again. I'd been drinking. I'd been flirting. Did you see what she was wearing? Why didn't you say anything? 

I didn't say anything because I was drunk and disoriented. I didn't say anything because I was scared. I didn't say anything because I was a virgin and I didn't really know what was happening. I didn't say anything because I have anxiety and I was intimidated. 

The things that happened after only increased suspicion. I got attached to my assailant, which is very, very common - our cultural sexual narratives are so violent that victims often confuse assault with affection. I didn't act the victim. 

A lot of people also try to minimize it - oh, he didn't mean it. He's so socially awkward, he probably didn't know how to ask. It was only one time, you're over it now, surely? Sure, it's only one time - until a few months later when you do consent to sex, and you can't do it. Then it's only two times, when that happens again. Three times, when you have to explain to yet another partner what's wrong with you. Four times, when you're older and braver and you push another guy off you. five, six, seven, eight times, with your first boyfriend, who is very patient but it's still very scary and unpleasant. Abuse and assault aren't one off things - they don't end when it ends, it doesn't end when they finally walk away, or drive you home, or sign the divorce papers. Scars linger.   

I'm not seventeen anymore, and I'm made of sterner stuff now. But the victim blaming and slut shaming I endured, the relentless attacks on my character that were seen as part and parcel with being 'that girl' who was stupid enough to get herself in hot water - they have left a lasting impact. Whenever there isn't a shitstorm in the media, when the headlines of one celebrity beating up another celebrity are a few months past, people drone endlessly about how victims should 'just leave' or 'just speak out'. But I feel like this 'choice' that we have, to speak out or walk out, is no choice at all. It's a choice between having one person hurt us, or the world. 

I stand by Amber Heard because I see so much of my own story reflected in hers. I stand by Amber Heard because even though she is a rich, privileged, famous woman I have never met, I felt an enormous rush of empathy when I saw the same things that were thrown at me thrown at her, only in a much more public and vicious way. I stand by Amber Heard because I know how hard it is to stand up to the popular kid who abused you, or someone older and bigger than you who assaulted you, much less Johnny Depp. Because it doesn't matter who you are, survivors recognise each other in the crowd, and we can't help but want to hold each other tight - because nobody else does. 

Friday, June 03, 2016


I let go of my own anchor
To be an anchor for you

Do you ever stop and think
Ever stop to ask
'How is she, today?'

'Is she alive?
Does she still have Game of Thrones hair

And frightened eyes?'

I do;
I ask, every day

I read, I think, I wonder

If you have drowned
In a puddle of your own making

Because I am not a liar like you.
When I said it, I meant it

I am not smart like you.

You are a coward
And I am a fool

I let go of my own anchor
To be an anchor for you

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

I am your reanimated

What do you know of death?
No more than me, surely

I was a child when I looked Death in the eye,
And snarled 'not today'

I know what it is to live in spite
I live in spite of Gods and Men

I was made a corpse, but I survived

I know what it is to live, when you should be dead
I know what it is to live, when you dream of death
I live in spite of myself

I am your reanimated
I am your zombie love

I know what it is to lose faith
And yet battle on, battle-strong

There have always been voices
Calling me to the void;
My own is the loudest of all

I was born a ghost
With haunted eyes

It will take more than poisoned words, my love

You cannot break a broken heart
It will take more than what you are to break me.