manufacturing hope in status updates

a hopeful visualization of the future as a facebook profile

Three years ago, in my darkest months of 2013, in order to manufacture for myself some small light of hope, some small relief from the reality of my depression and the depression of my reality, I set up a Facebook account and profile for my imagined future self, living and posting in circa 2016.

 

I added to this page my dreams and my wishes in bits and bytes, in the form of photo posts and status updates, a visualization of the future I dared to want, built with Facebook and Google images, designed with ambition and hope.

 

And here we are now.

 

Now as I write this, falling into the latter half of this final day of 2016, I am lying on cotton cushions shaded from the high Sri Lankan sun, pondering adjectives and memories; I am trying at every sunrise to learn my turns on the glassy blue-green waves of the Indian Ocean. I have one dozen sentences in Sinhala to speak with locals as I swat at the flies competing for my food; I have a book in Russian on my bed to attempt and often fail to read at night. I sleep next to a red suitcase of scented mosquito repellent, sunscreen and hair oils, two bikinis and two rashguards, some books in languages I can not yet read, a set of tightly rolled black hand wraps for muay thai, a pair of decrepit, mismatched dancing shoes, their battered heels still with some glitter, along with the roll of duck tape I use to fasten them onto my feet, and, of course, some various means of recording my intentions, my reflections: two withering spiral notebooks, a leather journal, one MacBook Air.

I have a one-way ticket to fly, at last, to Kuala Lumpur.

And I am, after all, writing a blog.

My mother called me late at night

Late at night, my mother called me…..

I do not have a close relationship with her. I barely communicate with her.
I only speak with her perhaps three or four times a months over the phone…….
or in short, pithy emails.

My mom and I used to fight a lot when I was in Korea.
She is a strongly traditional, authoritarian Korean mother.
I am rebellious and head-strong.

I worked to make my own money ever since the 8th grade,
…in a country where 30-something-year-olds still live their parents…
to maintain my independence and justify my distance.

But now that I am studying in America,
it is my mother and my father who are paying for my education at USC.
I was only able to earn a half-tuition scholarship…
and my parents are constantly struggling to pay the rest for me…….

I am humbled, but frustrated because I am now dependent on my parents…
I am grateful, but scared because sometimes my funds run so low…
I am ashamed and sorry because I know I have become a huge burden on my whole family…
I am driven because I am determined to make millions and compensate my parents, to ease my mother.

But we are so distant. I cannot share with her my frustration, my gratitude, my ambitions.
And she is so worried. I cannot let her know my troubles, my fears, my unconventional life…..
.
.
.
.
.
Late at night, my mother called me.

She asked me why I am so busy all the time.
She asked me what I was doing right now; I mumble “I’m working.”
Working on what, she asks. She knows I’m on vacation from school.
“Uh. Just stuff.”
She starts fretting about paying for tuition, and if I am getting enough to eat,
if I am doing okay in school, if I can afford all the text books,
if I am safe in that country full of crazy people with guns…

I cannot tell her that I am teaching dance, and that is why I can’t answer her calls at night.
I cannot tell her that I am putting together a small company, and that is why I am busy.
I cannot tell her that I live close to Taco Bell and Wendy’s, and that is how I eat.
I cannot tell her that I ask people for rides, and that is how I am safe.
I cannot tell her that I dance everyday, and that is why I am tired.
I cannot tell her anything, because she will be so, so shocked…..

I cannot tell her that I cannot tell her anything, and that is why my emails are so short.

So I finally blurt out, when my mother called me so late at night, the only thing I could tell her…

“Just… Stop worrying. When I graduate, I will make a lot of money, and give you some.”

It is not the sweetest thing one might say to one’s mother…
I couldn’t even say “I’m sorry” or “thank you.”
But for me, it was the most emotional, most vulnerable, and most honest blurt that I have ever blurted to her.

She cried.

For the first time ever, I wasn’t able to hide that I was crying too.

 

 

originally written : 18 août 2009 / Los Angeles