I decided to color my hair red during my first year of graduate school in 2017. I had attended a conference about Asian American psychology that October. Some graduate students and I had been standing in line for a dinner banquet, taking turns introducing ourselves by sharing our names and home institutions. When I shared mine, a fellow gaysian grad student looked at me and said “oh, you’re a *insert name of program stated in an elevated and slightly incredulous voice* student,” eyebrows raised.
I imagine that gaysian said that to me because my grad program has a bit of a prestigious (code for: elitist) reputation in my field. Continue reading →
Can you believe that gay people have to move too? Honestly me neither. Not only do I have to deal with the idealization of mediocre gay white men within the gay community, emotional unavailability/unresolved emotional baggage from the few men I have been interested in, and heteronormativity – I have to sell and pack my furniture and set up utilities and wifi too? Please knock me out and wake me up when Le Sserafim, Blackpink, or Twice releases their next comeback so I can jog to it while screaming along the Charles River.
Obviously I’m joking in that I have a ton of privileges and having to move is a piece of cake compared to hardships other people face in life. At the same time I have felt a wee bit stressed. So, I wanted to write this more casual post as a sort of interlude, in the form of specific strategies I’m using to cope with the moving stress, drawing from various therapy orientations. I love writing therapy-related blog posts instead of wasting time contending with mediocre men!
Did you know that your parents are people? Me neither (I’m joking, kind of) until I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s masterpiece of a novel The Lowlanda week and a half ago. In addition to her stunning prose, I love how Lahiri captures the choices, traumas, and resiliencies that comprise first generation Indian immigrants to the United States. After reading her book I reflected in a more three-dimensional way about my parents and what they gave me.
Even though I write a fair amount about my dad’s absence, he also provided me with a lot. Continue reading →
I signed a lease for an apartment in Cambridge last week! While I felt relieved after receiving the final confirmation email, the stress about moving itself soon sunk in: I have so much random sh*t strung about every nook and cranny of my apartment, I lack any sense of where to obtain boxes to pack this random sh*t once I get it together, and I still need to figure out how to attain furniture for my new place. I have told my friends over the past week or so that I feel stress adjacent – not stressed, because of my intensive use of emotion regulation strategies, though approaching stress, because moving blows.
On one level, I think I may feel stress adjacent because of just how much logistical effort moving entails. However, today, I made a to-do list of sorts to orient myself. Figure out where to get boxes. Ask about the parking situation at your apartment complex. Get rid of old clothes. Make a plan to procure furniture. Find a new hair stylist in the Boston area. Sacrifice your values and seduce a rich man of color to finance your life so you can afford a 1bed/1bath right on the Charles River, an apartment filled with books and far from the man himself.
When I paused to self-reflect on my stress adjacency today, I thought about the urgency I felt throughout my childhood. Continue reading →
I remember sitting at the kitchen table of my childhood home, sometime in middle school or high school, listening to my mom talk about two college-aged Vietnamese kids she knew through her friend circle. They had been dating – a young woman who went to Virginia Tech and a young man who turned down Cornell to follow her. They had broken up, and my mom shared the news in an excited yet hushed tone, even though only she and I occupied the kitchen. I wonder if he regrets turning down the Ivy League, I recall my mom saying. What a waste, she said, to follow someone to a school like Virginia Tech and for it not to even work out.
Whenever my mom praised prestigious colleges and the people who attended them, I always rolled my eyes on the inside. Continue reading →
Growing up, I told my grandmother that I wish she had been my mother instead of my actual biological mother. I said this to my grandmother because she gave me everything my bio mother did not: unconditional acceptance, a safe space to cry, and a celebration of my more femme qualities. When I said this to my grandmother, she would give me a look of fake sternness before laughing and smiling with me about it.
I had stopped seeing my therapist L in 2017. After two years of therapy then, I felt I had grown a lot, such as learning to communicate more directly instead of passive aggressively, to tolerate my more intense emotions, and to process my traumatic childhood. However, elements of our work together still felt unresolved. In particular, I still questioned at times whether L cared for me. Though a skilled therapist, he had not been a particularly nurturing one – which he himself said multiple times – and I wondered what that meant for our therapeutic relationship.
When I saw him last week, I made a comment about how I write about him on this blog. Continue reading →
This week I visited my old undergraduate college. I decided to go see my little cousin who attends that school now; at one point I promised her I would, and I figured better to do it now than when I live a ten hour drive away in the Boston area. About a week prior visiting I reached out to my former therapist L to see if we could meet to catch up and talk a bit about our therapy work together.
I had talked with my current therapist about whether I should reach out to L. Some of my old concerns about L and I emerged – would this come across as too needy, will he think of me as annoying – though I also felt that as a 26-year-old with almost 900 clinical hours under my belt, I was more prepared than ever before to talk about our therapeutic relationship and to address some of my unresolved questions about it. When I reached out, he replied soon after and said that it was good to hear from me and that he would be happy to talk.
It felt surreal stepping into L’s office, the same office I had seen him in five years ago. Continue reading →
A desire I felt ashamed of: I had wanted my first long-term therapist L to attend my college graduation. When I stood on the auditorium stage receiving an award in 2017, I thought less about the work I had put into my academics over the past few years and more about the effort I had spent in my therapy with him. I felt fine that L had not attended, though I had always perceived my desire to see him there as too needy or too much in some way.
“I totally get why he couldn’t attend, because of ethics and stuff,” I said to my current therapist over Zoom a few weeks ago. I had never told anyone about wanting to see L at my college graduation before this. “I feel some shame though that I had wanted him there at all.”
“Thomas, it’s completely normal and makes sense that you wanted L to be there,” she said. “You two really cared for each other.”
Oh my goodness screaming: I matched at H*rvard Medical School for my final year of my Psychology PhD program! The email arrived in my inbox at 5:06AM yesterday, right after I rolled out of bed and brushed my teeth in my Seattle hotel room. I feel excited because this position focuses on conducting therapy and research related to serving marginalized and vulnerable populations in the Boston area, which aligns so well with my values.
In some ways this match process reminds me of when I graduated from undergrad in 2017. Continue reading →