Latest Posts

Why I Write

I haven’t been able to write as much lately. 換工作後, 每天都在讀時事, 在寫分析報告. When writing becomes your everyday, it becomes harder to write for yourself, 靈感也會受影響. 這次回台灣, 回家, 讓我有重捨紙筆的衝動.

我, 為何寫作, 簡單而言是為了表達某種情緒也是為一種興趣. 卻也不只如此. 寫作是一種推理與邏輯的探索, 為了鋪陳敘事加以分析, 探討處世間的議題,考驗. 但當然也可說這是自私的行為, 只是要說想說, 沒洞察是沒人想聽, 浪費時間的. 這是我對寫作的理解, 我思考的演變, 是隨著成長, 多年的練習, 寫出的淺見. 我對文字還是只略懂皮毛, 寫作也就平平如此, 話語上也一直不擅表達情感. 最終還是只好用寫.

Honestly, I don’t even know how it started or why I started. English was not even my native language. I wasn’t entirely comfortable in it until middle school, and yet, that was precisely when I started writing poetry. It was like putting together a puzzle. I liked the intellectual challenge, I liked to become good at things that I’m not good at. I wanted to prove to myself that I can. First, how do you convey how you really feel without saying a lot? 這可能跟文化背景有關吧? My grandpa was a man of few words from what I remembered. It pains my heart to think that I can’t remember as much, considering I wrote my college essay about him.

結果, 詩詞寫得越多, 我越想寫一些散文. 高中時, 碰到了兩位非常好的恩師, Ms. Wong 和 Ms. Atsbury. 不僅讓我了解如何去用判斷性的思考, 也同時讓我英文文筆突飛猛進. 當然, 因為不是母語, 還是有瑕疵. 而當時, 如果要用中文寫作根本不可能. 讀可以畢竟是母語, 但諷刺的是英文已經夠難了, 我無暇思考如何運用某種程度上, 更難的母語. I had no idea how to even make it flow together and it reflected in how I was – confused. As a third-culture kid, I struggled with my cultural identity and language is such a big part of culture. 面臨的是內心不停的抗爭, 我不知道如何去擁有去 assimilate and harmonize the disparate and opposite perspectives. 所以個性也有點極端, 黑白兩面.

在人生中, 第一次回故鄉居住, 回到老家, 認識了台灣, I got to know a bit more about where I came from. I started to see myself from a different perspective and find my peace. Sure, I still didn’t belong anywhere, 但學到如何屈伸, 也得到了渴望已久, 更為成熟的親情. It’s a sort of recognition I wanted from both my grandmothers, that I belong, 也得到幾位大哥的照顧與認同. 家人讓我有根生的感覺. It became acceptable to be different because they love me anyway. I will always be 阿福聯. 回去兩年, 收益良多.

In my life of twists and turns, 我沒想到我現在可以用中文. I turned to experimenting with writing in Chinese six years ago. I started to incorporate pieces of it into my work – something more representative of the amalgamation that is me. Spoken word became more of a medium I explored. 從 “三歲離開台灣” 到 “回家“, 每一篇都是我獨特的中西合併, 語言摻雜的作品. Again, it functions as a mental puzzle. Every rhyme, every cadence was a hurdle to overcome. 如何讓中英押韻, not just random add-ins, 一種和平的共鳴, like the peace I started finding. I know, from all the people I met, 也有很多人像我, 文化背景混亂. In some respects, I hope I am showing them ways they didn’t know, to express that’s it’s ok to be a kaleidoscope of things. We all carry pieces of places and people we have been. If I can move you, just a little, 那也算值得了.

This is why I write.

回家

I must make decisions for regret
For my decision isn’t mine
The multitude of spacetime
Allowed only in the silences of timespace

Set forth
By the past
Formed
By the present
Limited
By the future

I made a decision to regret

拿著吸塵器
我打掃著似曾相識的客廳
一張黑沙發
石牆上一排欄杆
右前方廁所的燈亮著走廊

Brrrrrm om om om

就在這時
他們回來了
茶几上放下一桶切過的蘋果
表哥坐在左邊的書桌
繼續打著沒結束的電動
我收好坐在沙發的一邊
外婆微笑著
在旁看著電視
一起吃著那蘋果

How I longed to see her
As I woke up I knew I will soon be back
Next Thursday
Then I remembered

原來一場夢

Time flows
Right through your soul
As the wind blows
Softly through your cloths

What is this feeling

The Years

On the windowsill, my cat sits staring back at me — staring deep into the dark blue abyss of the night sky lit up by the skyscraping lights. I cough, he blinks. It isn’t a flinch but a look of curiosity at his sick man, feeling the icy chill of a wildfire spreading in his body. I should turn on the lights but I can’t. I couldn’t, bedridden alone. My mind is filled with foggy, gray memories of times long past but shouldn’t dreams be in color? I remember being eighteen gazing with wonder at the green plains, the first snow on the lawn just before dawn, ready to be carved by hands and shoes. Yet somehow, the memory of those years stops there. Just the pristine white snow. Next thing I know, I was in the shower, head down and angry. Angry and sad. Sad and broken. Or was it unfulfilled? I do not recall. 

The mind fog carries me through the next ten years. There was the heat and the humidity somewhere in the mountains of the island I call home. I was stuck sweeping leaves. No, it was not at a grave. It was asphalt, paved to make way to nowhere. The only way out was on a train to grandma’s. Every weekend, I made the trip. Well, almost. There were the drunken nights out snacking on street food and breakfast. I indulged in things I couldn’t but could afford. The years with alien experiences dug Nazca Lines I still can’t rub away. Again, I can’t remember how or why. I remember stumbling. Occasionally, some mistakes were made, tears were shed.

I am not a time traveler. Memories serve no purpose except to inform and reform your person. Did you know that every time you recall the past, you inadvertently alter it in some way? It is never stored the same or booted up the same. Did I really jump off the cliff and somehow didn’t die?

Fifteen years is fifteen years. Somehow I’m still here. I am trapped by myself. I am surviving, maybe this is the beginnings of a thriving. 

My cat meows and interrupts. No, he is right, I am getting ahead of myself. Everything can fall apart. There is no destination for this journey. So I continue to write about every stop along the way. Rather, I try to write. Sometimes, it is simply too overwhelmingly painful. I give my all, bare my heart only to be told, “I’m sorry”. I don’t hide, I know who I am now. I am an amalgam of experiences, composed of stories that I hold to be true. Complicated, but I am just looking for harmony. A simplicity to comport my complexity. Authentically carry me. Maybe I’m Holden. I look back to the pink sunsets along the soft, black sand beaches. The crystal blue sea, washing and rinsing — remaining ever so clear.

I just want to bike along with the breeze. I want to sit on the riprap and stare at the sea.

I wonder what my cat sees.

Ramblings

In the dark of the night, under the faint city lights, my fervent thoughts whisper through my alcohol-soaked mind. My thoughts scream; nightmares that remain primordial and waiting to unveil. They linger, throbbing in the ebb and flow of my breathing. Deep inhale; a slow exhale creeping into focus. My thoughts chatter; an intricate description of a tomorrow with loved ones and passion projects to be. The futures I want to achieve, the verses I want to shape for my creative works – all dancing on the edges of my periphery and begging to be captured.

Is it hate or regret? Is it hope? All I know is change. All I have is change. Two weeks here; a month there. I know you. I don’t know you. A fellow foreigner in a strange land but you left, just like the others, yet again. It’s restless. We both know how we must struggle to make a stand, to claim a place amongst the supposed numerous opportunities. We are framed. A year has passed. I chose to move on, looking for the fit promised but unfulfilled. The world can be cruel. It builds up hope in time, only to lead you down a darker alley. 

Don’t gaslight me for your incomprehension and your failure to be punctilious. Choices, even a single word said in a different inflection, can leave an uneasy impression. You claim to respect my background. Yet, you question the outcome. I will not apologize for your incoherency. It is not out of rudeness or bluntness. I will not stand to be bent by injustice or bias. Don’t gaslight me for being grammatically correct.

The things we carry and will carry. I see them here. I see them there. That building changed, the scaffolding finally removed. I have walked past it for years. The soft scent of the neatly folded, discolored paper on which you wrote your gentle words before we ate together. Were they genuine or were they signs of the imminent? It was budae jjigae. Here is that old cookie box, made of tin, containing mementos from yesterday. Postcards of everywhere and nowhere; it’s a blue hippopotamus. Thank you for the encouragement, “get back up after you get knocked down”. I remember a framed puzzle by Jimmy. The past marks my journals, the last of which took six years. Spilled ink runneth like tears on the page. Of joy. Of sadness. Of hope. Of loneliness. Of successes. Of mistakes.

Four years ago, I came over. Today, I resign; have I arrived?

突然的期待 卻也還是等待. 說得出口的幾句 有沒有含帶背後的情緒. 離開, 自立, 成家. 最近日出之時, 我無法睜開眼. 我要的是豔陽. 冬去春來不過是入秋的氣氛. 一樣的風. 一樣的雨. 幻覺 家的天空很閃爍. 這裡只有記憶和未來. 現在的一切 閉眼就消失. 只有呼吸才存在. 我還在.

Ramblings while reading in a bar or in a subway car. Ramblings taking a cold shower to relive the freedom I found sweating. Ramblings over soju and mezcal, some combination of alcohol. Ramblings of a titillated mind. Wanderlust for lust; I’m focused. I’m scattered. Everything everywhere is beckoning. 歡迎光臨.

Discourse on Fate and Free Will

Some ten years ago, Nathan and I were sitting on the floor of our college dorm in St. Louis, waxing poetic about nothing and everything at 3 AM. On this particular night, which I remember vividly, we were focused on the topic of fate, destiny, and free will. Over the years, I kept thinking about what I described and my thoughts have changed much on the subject. Personally, fate, destiny, and free will all fit together as pieces to the greater whole of life. So how do they fit together?

The idea is really quite simple, despite debating all night about it. Fate is generally the idea of things happening as preordained by some higher power. Destiny is that specific or necessary events will happen – set points in life like having three kids. An apt analogy would be a book. Fate is the existence of that book while destiny is the chapters of that book. Free will, then, is the unwritten or forgotten details in between the chapters. This seems contradictory, because is free will really free will if it leads to the same conclusions regardless? The argument is that this is the same as having the parameters we face everyday. If I don’t have the ability to invent the next generation of renewable energy sources, then I don’t. No amount of free will can bring me that outcome. Likewise, if I cannot dunk a basketball, then no matter how much training I choose do, I still won’t be able to jump high enough to do so. Therefore, free will is the ability to choose and make decisions within the given parameters. Fate and destiny are those parameters.

In some sense, fate and destiny is akin to socio-economic background and personal characteristics. The place you are born, the culture that you are born into, the economic condition that you had growing up, and the way you act all have influences on outcomes later on in life. Some are able to rise above it because of choices they made. Others choose to remain where they started. Of course, chance and luck has some part in this as well. Some people want to rise above but are unable to and they can’t explain it. This unexplained lot in life was traditionally attributed to fate and destiny. In this framework, fate and destiny encompass luck as well. It does not mean hard work and merit has no place. As some have suggested, luck can be created. I believe that to a large extent, certain choices and effort in certain aspects can generate luck. For example, your destiny might be living abroad but where you live and what you do may be the luck from certain choices.

If free will can create luck and fill in the blanks between chapters, then can destiny be changed – can the chapter titles be changed? When I first discussed this with Nathan, my answer was yes. Your choices can alter the trajectory of your destiny, though you are still bound by certain parameters. As you progress through life, those parameters can slowly shift. So, destiny can be changed but not to a drastic degree immediately. Small changes can accumulate into a significant difference in future outcomes. Today, I am not sure if I will give the same answer. This is the question I am still pondering and this was the question that we spent all night debating. The framework I believe in does provide leeway for overcoming destiny but it can also be interpreted to be immutable. In the end, I still lean towards destiny being open to change but your fate is yours.

The book is cast in stone, the chapters are alterable, and the details are up to you.

The Stories I Write Are Stories

The darkness stretches before my eyes; the sunset is just beyond the skyline. I know, I know but I don’t see the light. The rain is pounding. It is rattling on the windows. It is pounding, pounding, pounding; it is unrelenting. I find it soothing – the drip drop against the awning. The world has changed. I see the high rises with lights on all night. I see the bright skies shining from below, instead of twinkles of white. It has definitely been a few months since the air was dry. It has been a few months since I cried.

It is cold outside. My fingers swell up from the cold. I can barely hold on the railing so I go inside. There is a bed. It is not my bed, but it is my bed. It does not matter, it is time to sleep because I need to dream to remember. I need to see. I smell the past in the sheets I brought from across the sea. I close my eyes and I see everything. I hear the words “最想念的人是你, 別走.”

I open my eyes. I cannot think in Chinese. I cannot think. This bilingual, third-culture bullshit has me reaching again. That recurring nightmare that haunts me. “別走 寶貝 別走.”

The rain is pouring. A hole opened up in the sky. I can see the moon, hiding her light. She is hiding the ceremony of purity. She is hiding that which can rescue me from fear. Is this punishment or deliverance? I am looking for salvation, but I cannot dream. Sleep only brings fear. That fear is fueled by three simple words. That fear lingers behind the strain of my eyes. Bloodshot, as I get up and check the mirror. It is not yet midnight.

I have to think. In the darkness of my eyes, in the blinds of my mind, I switch, I switch, I switch. 妳好嗎? 我到了 妳卻離開了. 還是其實離開的是我. 說過不走 妳當時拉著我 我卻沒牽住妳的手. 到底是到了還是倒了. 這傾盆大雨中 妳還在嗎? 我分不清 這到底是不是夢.

I cannot think anymore. I close my eyes. I sleep.

Sunrise awaits, in a few days.

This is Not the End

You die at sunrise; you died in your sleep. Every night, you dream. Every time, you fall in a little bit. Six inches under, six inches deep. Just as the sun is below the horizon, your destiny is in the East.

Rise from the last day’s ashes; you find yourself sweating, unable to breathe. Is that fear I see?

Yesterday’s knowledge congeals into baggage. Today is another day for mistakes. Tomorrow, you know nothing.

So you died in your dream, over and over again, chasing what you want to believe. What you want to believe is the gravity holding you down, the air above. What you want to believe is tomorrow. Tomorrow, the sun will rise. Yet, at sunrise you are dead. You see nothing in the light. You see nothing as the night fades from your blinds.

There is only one thing you see. One person you actually see. Who am I seeing? Who I am seeing? The one person you see, staring back blindly, blinking.

The face is familiar, the smile is peculiar. Dimples? You see. It is nothing but someone from your unpacked baggage. It is something you tucked away in the West, someone you unpacked in the East. You stare back with your fingers tracing. You outline the hair. You outline the chin. You outline the chin.

You realize, who you see. You see fear in the darkness in the eyes. You see fear in the darkness. You see fear. You see.

Tomorrow, the sun rises.

2017-10-21 15.40.19.jpg

New Beginnings – Columbia

The past month has been a whirlwind, from my departure from the City of Los Angeles, my cross-country roadtrip, to my first week at Columbia University. A lot has changed. I am no longer engaged in building public policy or writing feasibility studies.

Everything has become a blessing after the hardships I endured the last eight months.

There is much truth in the idea that new beginnings allow you to do something new and be someone new or even to feel something new.

I have never worked so hard or felt as assured in my life, from handling grad school coursework to really trying to organize and bond our cohort together. This change really came from the lesson during my time at DCP, especially the last months. The importance of knowing the people you see and work with everyday cannot be understated. Babak, Cally, Nina, Jason, Iris, and Angela you taught me so much during the last few months we spent together. I cannot thank you enough.

2017_IMG_5607_DeptPhoto_EH_Cut.jpg

What a ride it was – City of Los Angeles, DCP 2017

Though everyday has been pretty much a 9 AM to 9 PM affair, by personal choice, it has been such an eye-opening experience. First, of course, are the amazing classes. I really forgot how much I loved the sciences. Our professors are also amazing lecturers and teachers. They are all incredibly approachable and engaging, both inside and outside the classroom.

33964662_10157223319144179_6510844213674901504_n.jpg

COLUMBIA SIPA MPA-ESP BABY!

However, the most important thing is my cohort. My classmates are such inspiring people. Everyone comes with such strong experiences in so many different backgrounds and disciplines. Though it has only been a week, it has been a blessing to meet and know every single one of them, not only by name but also to have had at least one conversation with each. I am so thankful that they have responded positively and helped organize the many social events we have had in the last week to bond.

I will keep it short for now cause it’s getting late.

Much love to everyone. Don’t stop striving for greatness.

Flowers for Algernon – Knowledge and Distrust

Where do I even begin to discuss this book? With everything that has happened over the course of my life, the impact now is more profound than if I read the book any earlier than I did. To put it simply, it is about the journey of a man who undergoes an operation that lifts him from ignorance to knowledge.

The book contains a multitude of themes I have yet to ruminate over, but here I want to discuss the issue of knowledge breeding distrust. As Charlie becomes smarter, he wants to learn more to know more about himself. Through that process he realizes that the people around him all have something to hide; they all have imperfections. He becomes ashamed of himself as well, because of his own past and imperfections. His coworkers at the bakery, though they take care of him, laugh at him because of his lack of mental acuity. The professors who performed his intelligence enhancing operation are not motivated by his well-being but rather their own professional advancement. His mother tries her hardest to make him smarter, yet it is because of her own fears of producing an abnormal child. The moment his sister demonstrates normal intelligence, his mother sends him away.

Yet, that is not to say these people in Charlie’s life are bad and deserve punishment. We all have that capacity for evil, we all have that darkness within each of us. Furthermore, we are all constrained by our own personalities, circumstances, and pressures. This point is worth repeating, as it is representative of the people in our own lives, and it is something I have struggled with.

I struggle with the balance between the need to know, to trust, and to forgive/forget that arises from knowing humanity’s darkness. Perhaps, my own pursuit of knowledge (in the general sense) is much like Charlie Gordon’s: impartial, manipulative, and selfish. Like him, I need to know and I need to know why. Do I really need to? Even when the why is given to me, I question its truth, unable to trust myself and to let go of what I know.

Some things are best left alone, some things are best forgotten, and some things are best forgiven. Yet, I have struggled. I empathize with Charlie’s insecurities driving his need to know and to prove himself, leading to destructive personal relationships after his ascension to intelligence. He ends up being fired from the bakery where he worked for seventeen years. He destroys the relationship with Professor Nemur who developed the technique that led to his intelligence enhancement. He fights with his own selves, past and present, until he realizes his own imperfections.

In a way, knowledge is suffering. How true that statement can ring. The moment you find out about something, you will never unknow it and it often leads to distrust of those around you. The more you know about the dark side of the world, the easier it is to fall into a dark spiral of distrust, especially once your realize your own darkness. The moment Charlie finds out about his coworkers behaviors towards him, he finds himself unable to be friends with them. When he finds out that Nemur is not as smart as he claims to be, Charlie no longer respects him. Thus, this destructive cycle goes on until Charlie finds the emotional maturity and intelligence to empathize, as shown by his love and relationship with Alice Kinnian, who treats him equally from the beginning to the end.

Charlie grows up emotionally and finally tries to balance knowing, trusting, and forgiving because he is no different from any one. He sets out to mend his relationships, to find some semblance of peace before the end.

Charlie Gordon says, “[I]ntelligence and education that hasn’t been tampered by human affection isn’t worth a damn…Intelligence is one of the greatest human gifts. But all too often a search for knowledge drives out the search for love. Intelligence without the ability to give and receive affection leads to mental and moral breakdown, to neurosis, and possibly even psychosis.”

So where are you on your journey?

There is more to be said, but I need to compose my thoughts.