The other day I took a break from doing research and listened to “Red Flavor” by Red Velvet, a summery, shimmery K-Pop song from 2017. While this masterpiece of a summer song filled my mind with its dynamic beats and addictive melodies, I reflected on the overall quality of my life because instead of being able to do useful things in the external world like cook or put together furniture, I introspect. One of my best friends and I finished a super fun rewatch of Avatar: The Last Airbender a few days ago, and I ordered my other best friend a colorful customized cake for her 25th birthday. I enjoy the taste of food without guilt – shout out to fruity yogurt with citrus-flavored snacks – and savor the stretch and tautness of my body when I play tennis. I feel connected to my online community and bask in my vibrant red hair. When I thought about all of this, I realized: wow, I feel a lot of joy in my life right now.
At first, I felt some guilt for feeling joy. A pandemic ravages the world, white supremacy still reigns, and masses of Asian Americans have yet to mobilize against anti-Blackness and unlearn our internalized racism. What right do I have to dance around to “Red Flavor” in my living room while drinking orange juice out of a solo cup and messaging one of my best friends on Twitter? What right do I have to feel joy?
After sitting with the emotion for a little while, I recognized that I can do both, both see and take action against injustice in the world and celebrate my own happiness. My biological family traumatized me for 18 years and then I spent the next few in therapy recovering from PTSD; without a doubt I have experienced mind-suffocating despair, hopelessness, and sadness. At the same time, I built a beautiful life for myself from the ground up. I went to therapy and processed the heck out of my shit, I formed healthy and communicative and wonderful close friendships, and I figured out my life purpose and launched it into reality. I think some people get so accustomed to sadness or negativity that happiness feels threatening. At this point in my life I just wanna soak all the happiness up, like a queer Asian pink-colored sponge in the sunlight.
I also love my happiness because it eschews traditional norms embedded in heteronormativity, patriarchy, and white supremacy. I feel literally no need to date a man, especially a white man. I attach none of my self-worth to getting married, white people approving of me, and winning awards given that awards are often bestowed to those who play by white supremacy’s rules. Instead, my happiness looks like: speaking up and taking action for racial justice, providing compassionate and feminist care to people in my communities, and spending meaningful time with myself and my close friends.
In some ways it feels strange to share my happiness so boldly in this public space, perhaps because Asian Americans are taught to be quiet about our affairs, and gay Asian men are often characterized as submissive, especially to white men. But I’m here to say fuck that shit, because I love myself and my life and the friends, mentors, and therapists who helped me help myself on this path. While I’m sure I have more ways to grow and that I will face more obstacles in the future, I want to celebrate now. In this moment, I feel joyful.
How do you make space to honor your own joy or happiness, or how do you feel about trying to do so? What from this post resonates or not? Also if you’re a fan of “Red Flavor” please leave a comment describing what you like and/or love about the song because I am currently so obsessed – the breathy sigh in the prechorus, Wendy’s high notes, how the garbled voice saying “red flavor” actually compliments the song so well, and much more. Until next post!