Earlier this evening, after much ado, I realized that I hadn't posted any Snippet since 2012. So long that I had forgotten what I called these series.
I used to have my titles all mapped out. They are slipping now, along with pseudonyms. Someday publishing a memoir based on this blog is gonna be that much more challenging! (Ha, ha.)
See, I made the grave mistake of starting to semi-migrate to social media (in this case, Facebook). There is more response there, quicker feedback, more instant gratification. But that's just it. After that instance, good luck searching your page for a fond memory.
I should have known better. Blogging is the path to immortalizing! "You fool!" I scream, as I kick myself. I can do that, you know. I'm plenty flexible.
I love stumbling upon fond memories, too, by the way. Moments long forgotten, if not having been put in words on virtual paper. (RJ and I are so clever! Dyanmics don't get better than this.)
My diaries are gone. My early drawings and writing (good writing, I might add,) gone. My stamp collection. My beloved books. Tremendous sadness descends upon me when I recall these losses.
But there is this blog. It's all I've got. It is not a complete portrait of me. But it's the closest semblance of a hopefully evolving mind. And isn't that much, much more gratifying for a narcissist than some stinking site that, as my (also lost) friend [insert pseudonym - I don't know what I used to call her - if she's been featured here] describes, is "neither social, nor a medium"?
Subtle racism is arguably harder to deal with than blatant racism. You don't quite know how to react. "Wait a minute," you ask yourself. "Were they being racist just now?" You're not sure you're entitled to be angry.
The worst kind of racist, arguably, is the racist who is not aware they are being racist. To them, they are just stating facts.
I am a racist. I am not the worst. I catch myself having moments, a thought, a reaction here and there. And I say to myself, "Whoa! You're racist." I agree, acknowledge that I am biased, question where that came from, realize the sentiment is not logical, and encourage myself to be less racist going forward.
You also find racism in the least expected places.
Last week I was at a semi-exciting business lunch with associates that we feel very fond of, people we think of as our friends even if we haven't exactly spent a lot of time with.
In our entertaining party, a supervisory figure of Hispanic decent named Jory* had just seen the movie Black Panther. The only time I'd come across the term was studying American history in high school. Yes, a bit out of touch with pop culture and the latest and hottest.
I asked Jory how he'd liked the movie, not even having a clue what genre it was, much less the synopsis.
He praised the action aspect. Then he lowered his voice. "If you don't mind me saying so," Jory said. "Black people are just a little... [self-important]"..." And he went on to explain that they "complained too much, a lot more than [other minority groups]."
I was incredulous. What just happened there? Inside I was screaming, "Perhaps they are vocal because they get killed a lot? More than the other minority groups?"
But I just sat there with a half smile frozen on my face.
Man, internalized racism much? Awkward at a lunch meeting, to say the least. Inappropriate? Very much so. Could I have handled it better? I totally would have liked to, but I am not the kind to make a scene. Besides, not sure of the best route about the scenario.
I was later reminded of an art school episode in my 20's. Because your version of world history is as good as the textbooks that were selected for you and the world view they projected, I was just learning about the Holocaust for the first time. The notion of genocide - singling out a group based on race/ethnicity and hating anyone and everyone in it so much as to scheme to eliminate it for all eternity, to make that your mission and to find glory in it... To this day I cannot process. Sorry but the Jews look as white as the other folks. The depth of horror and sadness I felt was awakening.
One day at break, seemingly fed up with all the Holocaust curriculum, an indignant Taiwanese friend spoke up.
"How about how the Japanese slaughtered thousands of Chinese civilians during WWII?" She cried. "How about the Rape of Nanking?"
I was incredulous. I was no stranger to the graphic details and the tension between the two countries that spanned over a generation or two. As a child I heard plenty of recounts of what the war was like, that the Japanese military made a point to torture and cause suffering, and acted like they enjoyed it.
And yet I never thought ALL Japanese were evil. Heck, I never even thought ALL Japanese military members were evil. Over time I learned that given a certain political climate and regime, one could be coaxed into unspeakable acts in the name of patriotism and self-preservation. Never say never. We are all capable of being pushed beyond that line. Which is why we should make a point to understand EVERY point of view instead of pointing fingers and wallowing in self-pity and spewing vitriol.
"Nobody talks about that!" My Taiwanese friend protested then, referring to the injustice that the Chinese had experienced during WWII.
Well certainly that subject has been amply covered. "And YOU can talk about it if you choose," I thought. "No one is stopping you."
But of course I didn't say anything. I don't like confrontation. And also don't think for a second you can enlighten someone in a casual afternoon chat in the courtyard of a rented building complex that shadows as a reputable institution.
It is not a competition! I would have said. Through history, the human race has hurt and killed its own breed in the name of greed and power. When it comes to war and genocide, it's an old tale over and over. If only we can look beyond race already. I don't know about you but I am tired.
Sometimes I do think humans are destined to self-destruct. Because you would think centuries later we'd be doing better by now in a global sense, treating each other better, uniting more, dividing less. But no. We haven't changed much.
Really grateful we are not immortal because can you imagine the desperation and depression?
On the day of my death I'll be like
Adios amigos! I'm outta here. You deal with this shit.
A typical immigrant, I desperately wanted to blend in from day one. One thing that I have not been able to get over is my "accent". In fact, as soon as someone brings up the word, I cringe.
The second time we met, RJ said, "Your speech... I cannot place it."
Smart move not to have said "accent". While my "accent" has been called exotic, unidentifiable, intriguing... (guesses have run the gamut of Scandinavian to vaguely European) instead of feeling unique and flattered, I feel self-conscious and inadequate.
All I ever wanted to was to sound American.
Over the years RJ has assured me that I sound "fine". "You speak clearly," he says. "And well." And I write well. I speak and write well for an immigrant - no, I speak and write better than some native speakers.
But somehow it is not enough. Sometimes, some woman would come on a late night talk show, and I'd point to her and poke RJ, excited and inspired, "That! I wanna sound like her!"
Since I was little it was observed that I had a talent in languages. I picked up foreign words and accents at ease. Mastering grammar in a foreign language was very intuitive for me. Rules could be applied universally. My brother has joked that foreign languages were hard to grasp because they were "meaningless sounds". But it was easy for me to assign meaning both visually and tonally.
Languages fascinate me. Why have this sound mean this particular thing? A group of people had to agree and apply the sounds in daily life. The process is utterly curious. I should've studied linguistics. Then there's Sign Language too which is on another level of fascinating.
But if I am so talented in languages, why can't I master my fucking accent?
I remember watching MTV in Germany that one summer in my early twenties: these German kids being filmed in Germany, and their perfect American accent. I was so jealous.
For years I prided myself in "blending in", or so I thought, among fellow Americans. Then there are betraying moments when I hear a recording of my own voice and I am defeated: that's how I sound?
Riley, one of my closest guy friends at a time - we've confided in each other many personal things, he's cried in front of me over his grandma's death, we've gotten over painful breakups together - at the end of our friendship, before he was moving back to Canada, casually joshed (I forget the context now), "You know, your accent, whatever you call that..."
Boy, if that wasn't one of the most wounded moments of my life. I thought I had "passed". I thought he was my friend.
My accent. Thirty years, this cross I bear.
Yesterday, I read an article in the New York Times Magazine dated July 23, 2017, on a voice coach who helps clients master accents to get (or secure) parts in Hollywood.
The idea is not novel. I've joked that I want a voice coach to "correct" my accent. BTW this it totally the difference between learning a language in a classroom than through immersion, through interaction with native speakers, the way a child learns how to speak. This is why my English will always be hodgepodge and mishmash, whereas this other language which I shall not name (other than my native tongue) I (used to, for over 10 years) speak fluently and without accent, as I was told by native speakers.
One of my best friends, IA, who was an English major and has been an English teacher all her adult life, has attempted to enlighten me with this school of belief that we mustn't label and judge "accents". There is no right or wrong accent in pronouncing the English language insofar as the cultural and historic circumstances make for an organic evolution. She even went so far as to say that grammar falls under the same umbrella of leniency.
No, no, no! I couldn't accept that. Surely there was right and wrong in pronouncing something! There are rules! One of the reasons I love grammar is that there are rules!
In the aforementioned article, the author Ryan Bradley writes about Gillian Anderson, "a rare case of an actor who is naturally bi-accented" due to her upbringing. In the U.K. she sound British; in America, she sounds American.
"It might seem like an act, but it's her personal history, which is exactly what an accent is: an ever-changing assemblage of sounds based on where we've lived, who we've known and our perception of how we should sound based on our surroundings."
I was blown away. It was a revelation. I have also expressed my speech and identity this way: I am everywhere I've lived and all those I've spent time with, and so is my speech. Now I see: it was never "perfectly American", whatever that ideal is, and it never will be.
Perhaps it is time to come to terms with my personal history. And in time, perhaps I can do better - celebrate it.
Recently someone I work with and have befriended asked me, "Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?"
I was hurt. "Yes," I began. "I have lived in the U.S. since age 16..." and continued to explain.
The point is I shouldn't need to explain. An immigrant is constantly having to prove him/herself. If you're not "from here", just how American are you? Are you American enough? Somehow, you learn that you are never American enough.
My friend was probably just not assuming one way or the other. But she could've prefaced her question with "I am not assuming one way or the other", or, better yet, asked instead, "What did you do on Thanksgiving?"
She didn't mean anything by it, I believe. I thought she was a cool person. When you have never been an outsider in your own country, it must be hard to imagine what it is like.
This is the only country I have known and loved. This is the only place I have lived all my adult life. I grew up in a colony with a serious case of identity crisis. I never had a strong sense of where I belonged or who I was. Nationalism is something I have never experienced. This frees me from feeling particularly superior to another race or ethnic background, allowing me to fit right in in America.
And now I don't know America anymore.
I blogged recently that my mother was expressing regret about having sent my brother and me away at a young tender age. It turned my world upside down. If she's questioning her decision, I'm questioning my life. Was it a mistake to have come to America? Was my whole life a mistake?
I don't know how to adult elsewhere. My coworker and I recently pondered this aspect of existentialism: in adulthood, you need to have basic functions. Home is where you know how to pay your utility bill, we concluded.
It is true. A business associate who lived in Oregon for decades moved to Mexico a couple of years ago, to the surprise of a lot of people. It was close to Christmas. Apparently in that town the only option to set up your power is to physically visit a certain government branch in person. But the government was on sabbatical because, hello, Christmas! Them Catholic. Big time. So no power for two weeks. Couldn't cook, had to light candles, no internet. And by the way even if you had internet you couldn't pay your power bill online.
When one is younger one's sense of adventure tends to be stronger (at least true for most people). As one ages, fear sets in. Starting over is fucking scary.
When I was in therapy I was congratulated for having had the courage to leave my ex, move upstate, and go back to school. In hindsight, damn! Being in your early 30's - that is still young.
And yes I am glad I left the guy when I did.
I don't like to dwell on the past. But who is without regret? Even when I advocate against regret because it is a giant waste of time, it is hard not to feel a tinge of bitterness about lost youth. It is true youth is wasted on the young. I thought I had time for mistakes. I thought I'd be beautiful forever.
The more I know, the more I realize I don't know. I just can't deal. A country I used to be so proud to call home. Now I am ever more aware that you don't know who your friends are. Heck, you can't even trust your government to be doing their job to serve the basic rights of its people.
These days it is near impossible to know how to feel about the future. I feel utterly helpless and confused both on a personal level and a cosmic level. I feel like the America we live in today is a nightmare and we can practically hear a time bomb ticking. And it may be an atomic one. Planning seems pointless. Everything seems pointless. Life itself.
Of course, once again, I've been told that needing life to have meaning is an INFJ thing.
Just... one day at a time, I guess. Cuz what else you got?
I have been labeled many things: Depressed, Bipolar, Borderline... Lately I welcome INFJ and HSP. Apparently I feel deeply and am drawn to intelligent minds. Here I shall remain true to me in an absurd world, resolving to relate to my fellow humans and find bliss in life.