Category Archives: Personal

Look Back at it

“You can name your emotion as an emotion,” my therapist L told me, in one of our first sessions six years ago. I showed up in his office beat up and bruised, at least on the inside: a close college friend and I had broken up a few months prior, my friendships with a few folks from high school had imploded, and I was experiencing mental breakdowns in several different buildings on campus. I asked L how to cope with emotions that felt overwhelming, and he directed me to an exercise called cognitive defusion, which I started to enact alongside mindfulness meditation on a daily basis. I practiced these mental health techniques rigorously, often multiple times a day, and in conjunction with weekly sessions with L, my PTSD symptoms started to dissipate.

Flash forward six years later to now: I have spent over 800 hours in L’s position, as the clinician sitting across from the client. Continue reading

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Die Alive

“It’s hard to imagine you sleeping,” a casual friend of mine said to me over dinner a few months ago. She stated this in the context of how I like to move, how I like to get things done. Indeed, as a fifth year PhD student, I have published a little over a dozen peer-reviewed publications, I have read and reviewed about 80 to 90 books a year for the past decade, and most importantly I try to engage in consistent self-reflection and self-compassion to improve as a friend and a person. When anyone mentions my “accomplishments” accomplishments in quotes because I’m literally just a Gaysian nerd who wants to sit on my couch and read novels all day lol and also “accomplishments” don’t determine people’s worth I feel a desire to crawl into a pink-colored cave and never come out, which my therapist calls “modesty.” People often ask me though: how do you do so much?

On one hand, I have a lot of privilege. I present as male, and I grew up in one of the ten wealthiest counties in the United States. Without a doubt these factors influence my achievements. I want to own their influence and take action to deconstruct the systems that create these forms of privilege in the first place.

At the same time, I do my best to minimize distractions. Continue reading

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Filed under K-Pop, Personal, Pop, Society

You Wouldn’t Be You

I have seen my current therapist, a white lesbian woman, since June of 2018. When we met on Wednesday a week ago, I brought up an exchange we had during a pre-COVID session. Back then, I had told her once about how when one of the straight guys I played tennis with drove me home, I felt a strong physical attraction to him to the point where I would have wanted to make out with him if he had identified as queer and provided consent.

“I’m so jealous of you because when I told you about that, you literally said that you would have wanted to vomit if you had been sitting next to him,” I said, smiling. “I don’t know if there’s anything I wouldn’t give to be physically repulsed by men, honestly.”

“I get your frustration,” she said, laughing. The session contained a lot of positive energy. “But if you weren’t attracted to men, you wouldn’t be you.”

I have felt annoyed when my therapist has made similar comments in the past. Continue reading

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Dynamic

I love my closest friends just as much, if not more than I love Jeni’s ice cream, “Lovesick Girls” by Blackpink, sashaying away from mediocre white men, “Feel Special” by Twice, and celebrating the joy and empowerment of femme people of color combined. Thus, I feel annoyed when I see social media posts like this one:

On one hand, I get it. I do have friends, who I care about and respect and appreciate, who I see or talk with on an infrequent basis, maybe once a month, every few months, or a year. These friends share similar values to me in relation to social justice and compassion for other people. I like the flexibility of checking in with them on a nonrigid timeline, and I recognize the benefits of having casual, yet still meaningful social support in addition to my relationship with myself and my relationships with my two best friends.

At the same time, I feel angry and sad about the notion that we should never have expectations of our friends, especially our closer friends. Continue reading

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I Didn’t Choose This

A few days ago, I started to cry on my daily jog while listening to “Feel Special” by Twice. I had been thinking about someone I know facing a ton of racism in their life, obstacles that no one should have to go through. The lack of control this person experienced in relation to racism made me think about unfair situations in my own life, in particular growing up with my abusive mom as well as my attraction to men. I didn’t choose either of these things, I thought to myself while jogging in circles around the big lake near my apartment, tears falling as dance pop flowed from my earpods. Running around in nature while processing my feelings felt healthy and cathartic.

Sometimes I think other people feel more uncomfortable talking about my abusive mom than I do. Continue reading

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I’m Real

The other day one of my best friends found out that if you google my full name and the word “blog,” this blog shows up as the first search result. When she messaged me this, I freaked out a little bit. Though I feel confident and secure in myself and in what I share on this blog, I still got shaken up by the notion of someone within my “professional” circle stumbling upon these posts especially my posts that involve strikethroughs and mentions of railings, anyway.

When I sat down and started to process my slight fear, I recognized that I felt concerned about people judging my competencies as an academic based on this blog. Continue reading

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You Look So F*cking Good

As a former anorexic, on rare occasion I struggle to figure out what I look like. While 9.87 times out of 10 I could not care less about my appearance, I sometimes feel the urge to figure out and then control my physique especially when life gets stressful. On a trip to Boston a few weeks ago, my non-severe body dysmorphia manifested in interactions like these on one of the gayest apps to ever exist, Grindr Continue reading

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Silver

Last week I went to my local hair salon and got my roots done. The process involves several steps. My stylist: applies a scalp protecting fluid all over my head, paints my roots with bleach in meticulous detail, washes out the bleach, heals my hair with restorative shampoos and conditioners, and finishes by applying toner to get the color just right. After almost getting my hair burned off with my old stylist in early April 2021, I appreciate my current stylist’s level of skill and attention to detail, especially given the difficulty of turning my natural black hair to light blonde in one sitting.

When I went home following my appointment last week, I looked at the mirror after my hair had dried and saw silver. Continue reading

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Safety

Several years ago, I judged one of my two best friends because she worked in marketing. She and I met through a part-time job we shared in undergrad, and we bonded over our enjoyment of writing and our shared Vietnamese ethnicity. During undergrad, we did not talk much outside of work, and we did not grow into best friends until a few years after we both graduated. We had different social circles back then, with hers including a boyfriend of several years. I also used to evaluate people more based on their jobs, and I thought more highly of people whose professions directly involved helping others or promoting social justice.

Our friendship intensified beginning in late 2018 to early 2019. This best friend and I love ourselves no matter what any man thinks of us, which introduces an element of irony because men helped bring us closer together. At that time, I found myself in a situationship with an academically successful, artistic, emotionally unavailable Asian man. She was in the midst of navigating a situationship with an exciting, chaotic, and uncommunicative man who shared her sense of humor. We texted each other support about these men; even now, we laugh about how she texted me while holding her phone underneath a boardroom table during an important meeting to roast the guy I found myself attracted to back then.

In May 2019, I took a risk with our friendship. Continue reading

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The New Era

A few nights ago, I had a dream in which I laughed with my old therapist, L. I laughed with him about my messy situationships with men and the mediocre dates I’ve went on since we last saw each other back in 2017. When I woke up, I reached over and wrote about the dream on the piece of paper I keep atop my bedside drawer. I felt gratitude and nostalgia both for L and for my current therapist, who I may stop seeing if I move in 2022 for the final year of my PhD program.

This dream made sense because L acted as one of the first people I ever talked to about more seriously dating men. Continue reading

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