A crevice on the pavement clasped tightly
onto an Abraham Lincoln, its
bronzed beard blotched by callousness, its
face touched by countless fingertips, its
body soiled with germs. Created in 1992,
it had wandered from hand to hand to pavement,
tread upon by indifferent feet. “Liberty” - it read
as it shouldered streams of people’s weight.
Rendered invisible by its worth, 
no one stopped to claim it —

Until your curious eyes spotted it. 

We were walking on the sidewalk when you picked
it up and held it against light. It was
inspected by your eyes, your lips forming
a question mark – was this worth keeping?
As you and honest Abe faced off, I thought
about how you would tuck yourself away, 
like small change in a pocket. There
were fingerprints indented into your
impressionable skin that no amount
of soap could wash off. People had thrust
their hands into your chest to plant their germs
into your heart—erupting into black
swarms of viruses fueled by shame. Trampled
by words and spoken to with fists, you had
wandered from hand to hand to pavement. 
The ridges of your lips had cried out
for Liberty since 1992.

The one person you could not embrace was yourself. 

Disgusted, you released your hand — the sound of copper hit-
ting the ground was softer than the explosion
of my heart. You walked away, and I caught up,
hands full, the right holding your hand learning
to trust — the left cradling the penny. 

A letter to the people I love

To the friend who sends me letters in the mail,
thank you.
Thank you for reminding me that I am cared for.

To the friend who cooked soup for me when I was sick,
thank you.
Your kind action healed my body and soul.

To the friend I wronged,
thank you.
Thank you for forgiving me with such grace.

To the friend who hurt me,
thank you.
I took the elements of truth from your harsh words and grew from them.

To the friend who opened yourself up to me with such raw vulnerability,
thank you.
You've given me the courage to share my own story.

To the friend who believed in me when I didn't even believe in myself,
thank you.
I repeat your words to myself when I'm discouraged. 

To the friend who was there for me in my darkest months,
thank you.
Thank you for reminding me that I am worthy of love.
 

It took a community of people to ripen my heart and teach it how to love.

The Other Side of Things

There's a saying: "Good men go to heaven. Bad men go to Pattaya." Pattaya, Thailand is where many tourists go to solicit women. Some farang (foreigners) settle down in Pattaya and find themselves a Thai wife. A typical crowd of people in Pattaya is peppered with old, white men. 

Who am I to judge.

I've been volunteering at two organizations. One is a preschool education program that helps prevent child trafficking. The other is a living center for neglected and abused children. When I see the beautiful and naive smiles of the children, I feel so sickened by the fact that anyone would abuse them. The evidence of their abuse is still there: the burn marks of iron meeting flesh; the emotional wounds from being sexually assaulted at just age 9.

The city is littered with bars and places to solicit a woman. Some women were tricked into this lifestyle; others just want to make ends meet for their family.

Right around the corner near where I volunteer is a brothel in the guise of a massage parlor. Through the windows, the interior looks pristine and ostentatious, with white walls, golden chandeliers, and large, curving staircases. But nighttime brings darkness and women can be bought for 90 minutes at $100.

The most popular tourist attraction in Pattaya is Walking Street. It's lined with food, bars, and "ladies of the night." And for those who swing the other way, men of the night can be found too. And for those with utterly perverse tastes, children can be found in discreet, hidden areas.

Somehow, in the midst of this despair, gentle waves of hope trickle in. I've met some incredibly inspiring people who dedicate their lives towards anti-human trafficking: a man who left a comfortable life in Italy; a brave young woman from Singapore; an Australian lady who co-founded an organization for children; a Thai woman who would walk for hours a day into the slums, finding neglected children and taking care of them. 

"Greater thing have yet to come 
And greater things are still to be done in this city
"

Life After College: Freelancing and Finding Friends

Hello dear loved ones! If you are reading this, I very much suspect you are someone I care for. Because I haven't been good at keeping in touch with people (I'm generally quite bad with long-distance communication), I thought it would be good to write an update! 

I miss college dearly but am adjusting to the swing of adult life. After graduating, I did a design bootcamp, moved to Seattle where my parents currently are, and launched an online magazine called Quirk! Though working on the magazine has been an arduous task, I'm passionate about it and am so proud of my fellow editors, grateful towards the contributors, and thankful for every single reader. 

Let's have a little heart-to-heart. We can pretend it's just you and me, sitting across from each other with a cup of minty green tea in my hands and a cup of coffee/tea/IPA/your preferred beverage in your hands. While we're at it, let's throw in a few pretend scones and macarons so we feel fancy.

I do believe job searching can be quite damaging for the soul. I worry about the future and am constantly face-to-face with my inadequacies. I worry if I'm good enough. I have the audacity to dream big dreams but am also burdened by the anxiety that my dreams won't come true because life isn't always so kind. 

As I've been transitioning into a fully-fledged working adult, I'm happy that I'll soon be earning enough money to support myself. Yet, I'm also feeling somewhat empty as I've been stripped of my identity as a student and am embarking into an unknown chapter of life.

I've been applying for User Interface design (web/mobile design) jobs online and hope to move to California because of the warmer weather. Four years of Chi-beria was more than enough for me! So far in my interviews, I've gotten feedback such as: "Your portfolio was in the top 3 of over a 100 applicants, but unfortunately we chose a candidate with more experience" or "We really like your portfolio and it was refreshing seeing it after sifting through so many applications, but we're looking for someone with a bit more experience." 

So, in order to gain more experience, I've started freelancing! I'm designing an app - basically making the very first prototype. I think it's a really exciting project, and I'm grateful for the opportunity. The great thing about freelancing is that I can work from home and set my own schedule. When I'm a mom, I think freelancing would definitely be a good route to go so that I can still spend time with my kids. I'm enjoying freelancing for now and I have grown affectionate towards Seattle, but will still be on the lookout for a job in Cali. I'm interviewing for a job in LA right now, so we shall see how that goes.

As I've talked to other recent graduates, I've come to realize that there are actually many of us who are floundering about. There are some of us who are at jobs we love and feel good about the direction our careers are going. There are some of us taking a gap year. There are some of us at the crossroads of making a major career decision, such as whether to go to med school or pursue the arts. There are some of us waiting at restaurants, there are some of us doing internships, there are some of us trying out something new for the first time, there are some of us at jobs we hate, there are some of us going back to school because we don't know what else to do. If you are a recent graduate and feel uncertain, confused, or perhaps even like a failure, I just wanted to let you know that you're not alone. I hope you can find comfort in knowing there are other recent graduates who can relate to your situation and with whom you can mutually encourage and support. I know it's hard when people ask what you're doing with your life after spending thousands on a college degree, but keep your chin up and don't be ashamed. Don't give up!!! You got this!!!

Throughout all of this, my faith has played an integral role in the way I've dealt with the situation. Because I trust that God is in control of my life, I can have peace. Because I know God loves me as His daughter, I know I have value. Because I believe God has perfect timing, I can enjoy the moment I'm currently in and am filled with joy.

I may not be able to control my circumstance, but I can control my attitude.

If you're a senior about to graduate, you might be wondering about the social aspects of life after college. Making friends is definitely harder post-graduation. I moved to Seattle and barely knew anyone. My parents had a more active social life than I did, and I was dragged along to their dinners and was so tired of small talk. However, through church and friends of friends, I've found people whose company I genuinely enjoy. Yesterday, I went to a board game cafe, which is basically a cafe where you play board games. It was the most fun I'd had since moving to Seattle! It was great hanging out with people my age instead of my parent's friends HAH. So slowly but surely, I am happy to report that I am making friends here.

Thank you for powering through this - these thoughts have been weighing heavily on my heart for the past few months. Your pretend cup of beverage is probably finished by now. I hope this was encouraging for at least some of you who read this post. Thank you so much to those who have been a constant source of support. I really appreciate it. Thank you to those who have been so vulnerable with me. I'm humbled and floored by the love you guys have poured into me. Here's a big hug from me to you before you go! HUUUUUUUUUG! I miss you all so much.