05/29/17 3:32pm, sitting at the supper table with LaoLao reading Einstein’s Dreams

Reading novels like Einstein’s Dreams, texts that survey human life and distill it to simple actions of arbitrary and interchangable men and women — always put me in an odd state of mind. The Bible. One Hundred Years of Solitude. I can’t quite describe it. It takes me out of the present, takes me out of engaging truly in interactions: persons are people, and everything is somehow mechanical, a board game.

05/21/17 8:51am, on the plane from DC to Beijing

It’s the end of a semester and I’m sitting on a thirteen hour flight listening to nostalgia-inducing but not necessarily inherent nostalgic music; rather, it’s music that I listened to while high just about a year ago from now — the end of freshman year, last year — and listening to it now makes me think of all the very many things that are different in my life. it’s quite appalling to think about: how very many things change over a year and how although I now know that, did know that a year ago, how I can still think through my year and how I got to the state of being in which I am right now and still somehow be appalled at everything that has changed in all the ways I could never have predicted: people in my life that I had never even imagined I would even meet, people who were so very different in a good way that they had effects on me that I could not have predicted, such that I am now not only a person that I did not think I would be a year ago, but I am also a person that I did not even fathom could exist a year ago, let alone in myself, with life philosophies and paths and hopes and dreams and pride and humility and interests and sadnesses and reasons to live that I wouldn’t have even started to understand a year ago.

I guess I should get used to this, but of course, I am sure, I will again be appalled come this time next year.

05/25/17 6:27pm, on my bed in Beijing, China

I want to love China. I want this culture that is somehow supposed to be mine, which I am supposed to represent — I want to be able to cherish it, to have Asian Pride, to bring it forcefully crashing against whiteness, against assimilation.

But here’s a secret.

I hate China.

I hate the hyper-humble performative act. I hate the objectification of women, of children, of anyone really. I hate the easy fulfillment of roles stratified solely by age and gender. I hate that every single type of person has an articulated ideal: three days here with my grandmother and I already know exactly the person I was supposed to be: conscientiously neat, quiet, domestic, impeccably caring, studious, successful. Even what I eat: it’s never enough, and if it’s enough, perhaps maybe then we can criticize the ratio? I hate being called ‘mei nu’ by strangers, as if the most important part of my being such that it must be included in my title is that I must be ‘pretty’. I hate sitting in between two adults and hearing the same conversation about my round face but long legs and eating habits and my too-hyped piano playing and my university and how well I care for my grandmother.

It took being away from family to fully realize how oppressive the culture is, and yet it took even more time away from family to realize that it may not be oppressive at all. Who am I to say what is right? But I can say this: I can say what is right for me. I am American. Narcissistic individualism and tanned skin run in my veins. I don’t want to be Chinese; I never can be Chinese.

And the only thing I suppose I can hope for now is that one phrase I heard from someone not too long ago: that this situation — my self-loathing but hyper-aware being — is the flawed but necessary transition to a better ideal come next generation.

on the walk here

JS is sitting on the steps outside my dorm when I walk out. I see him out of the corner of my eye: a solid pink sweatshirt and a penny board. We throw each other an obligatory wave and head nod.

***

Vignettes of the weddings I would have had with each of my past somethings:

At JKm and I’s wedding, I would have fake-fought to wear something bright — a sunshine yellow sundress. He would protest enough over me embarrassing him in front of his family that I would pick out something white. Something innocent. I would have struggled to mingle with charming, docile small talk — or who knows? Maybe I would have been good at it by then. I would have hovered with his grandparents in the corner, clutching to some conversation about contemporary art.

Barefoot, wearing some sort of wildly appropriated sari for JS. It would have been in India, or Puerto Rico, or Africa — anywhere but here. His friends would be hugging and kissing and my friends from back home would be uncomfortable. We would smoke weed. We would sit cross-legged on the floor.

WB and I would be back home, on the beach, with everyone from high school, or come to think of it, maybe no one from high school. I don’t know who I would be. I was in such a transition period during the period of us: I realize that now. Perhaps he was also, or perhaps I dragged him into mine. Maybe I would watch him joke around with his white, wholesome, cool church community, or maybe not at all. We were so different than we were two years ago; was the feeling the same? This I know, from the start until now: at the end of the day, we would have sat in silence, watching the sunset.

I can’t yet tell what HJ and I will be, except that I think I feel very much myself. I wonder how the legions of radical feminists can each individually choose to make that nod to gender roles and still make grand statements about the collective push against them. I couldn’t wear a white dress now, I think, that low bow to tradition.

I’d be down for a brightly color-blocked skirt, I think.

***

On the walk here, there were pink flowers covering the floor. They look better there, I think, than they do in the tree: a soft sea in grey light below leaves.

native speaker

a cultural difference in love; a gap that not only cannot be crossed but is mistaken for its antithesis

a forcing of an identity: one which I do not want, one which I am born into and out of, one that I will never escape and so: I must embrace it, turn it inside out, understand

an understanding of the quiet, of the frustrated silence, of the obnoxious loudness borne of overcompensation; unthreatening femininity handed down as an heirloom, a protective amulet, a lucky charm which we, the new generation of Americans, either hide under our pillows or crush with our Converse, our Vans, our olive skin a protective shield against the smooth pale softness that would connect us to our alien doppelgängers, those of the anime and brand-name knockoffs and that despised docility

a new hardened vigilant position against those Americans I so long to be; a sharp explanation of their privilege, an internal conversion of perceptions of ineptitude to that of a differing experience; an understanding that some reasons are not individual but collective, though frustrating that distant collectivity of our kind may be, it is still our kind and our kind is not wrong; I understand this now; I understand that the desire to learn must not be sparked by intimidation but by a curiosity, one that I have the permission to expect — should expect — to be reciprocated