29 Days

There is a huge bee flying around in my apartment now. I have bug spray but it’s bad for the environment to kill bees. More importantly, I have been chain smoking in here and I don’t want there to be an explosion. I like to think of myself as environmentally conscious, but at the end of the day, I’m all about self-preservation.


He slept with someone else. It’s not that he did it, it’s that he told me. I see “we’re just friends,” as a challenge — a challenge I accept and will always lose. Nights like this I just write. It makes me feel better, but it would be nice to cum for once.

The worst part about all this is I was in fucking Tokyo this morning. That is so cool! And I am sitting here listening to Lorde festering over an imagined rejection. That sucks!!!!

I’m 29 days sober. And so far, not drinking has done nothing to fix my life. I feel unworthy and damaged. In Japan, I felt awesome. I felt strong, independent, and that I could do whatever I  wanted. It was a vacation high. I want to blame my misery on my location. It’d be so easy to just say that I don’t like Korea. But that’s not the truth. I am insecure and I’m not getting the validation in the particular way that I want. Which today is from a boy. It’s going to take a lot of work to find self-realized validation and I am so tired. I thought I went through this as a teenager, but substance abuse is a thin veil over self-doubt that I just ripped off.

I like the way he makes me feel. I opened up and it felt right. I make him laugh but now I am not laughing. I feel like my impulse to crack jokes hinders me sometimes. I deflect all forms of seriousness. People love to be around that, but don’t want it as their everything.

Now, I feel isolated. I should be open and honest,  but why have a conversation when you know how it’s going end.  I want to ignore this, but feelings are like radiation. They dissipate but never fully go away.

 

March madness – sobriety edition

I stopped drinking in March. Although I’ve been dancing with the idea since November, I’ve always had one great reason not to quit: I didn’t want to.

I must have given a different reason to each person that asked why I stopped drinking. I needed to quit smoking and it was too hard with a drink in my hand, I wanted to lose weight, save money, I wanted to NOT text people to choke me, I wanted to adhere to my intermittent fasting schedule, I wanted to get up earlier and actually feel ok in the mornings, I wanted to focus on writing, I wanted to focus on comedy and performing (which I hate to admit I’m better at sober), I want to reduce the cripiling anxiety I get from not knowing what I did the night before, I want to be able to drink water in the morning without throwing it up, I want to wake up in the morning knowing exactly where I am and how I got there, I want to know where every charge on my ATM card came from, I want to make genuine connections with people that are not sloppy, I don’t want people to describe me as loud, I don’t want people to think I can’t handle my alcohol, and I don’t want to drop my phone in the toilet. Again.

You get the idea.

“I drank too much” is an understatement for me. I drink until I can’t walk. I wonder if binge drinking is an accident or not. It’s not like I’m thinking “I need to get fucked up tonight.” It’s that one drink becomes twelve.  I’m lucky I live in a safe place.

Alcoholism is romanticized in my head. Hovering an inch or two above rock bottom, an alcoholic’s life could crash any second. My life was never that fucked up. I didn’t betray anybody, I never got fired. Surely, I didn’t I have a problem. What a fool.

So, I was sober for March. This was the longest I have been sober for nine years. I anticipated being uncomfortable at bars. I didn’t expect to be clenching my teeth walking past the soju aisle during bouts of loneliness. Since alcohol is my only vice here, my addiction bubbled up in weird ways. Mostly in the form of anger and compulsively buying similar shades of red lipstick.

On March 31st at 11:50 PM I was counting down the minutes, let me tell you. I wanted to drink so bad. And I did. I drank a shot of whisky and two beers faster then Cinderella could run back to her carriage. It was the best feeling to have a beer with a good friend.

But honestly, I’m scared.

Stopping drinking, even for a month, made me think deeply about why I do the things I do. It made me stare into the eyes of my addictive tendencies and acknowledge things that I never have. I am not perfect and I’m pretty sure I am not swearing off alcohol entirely. But now I know that there is something within me that takes control over my conscious decisions.

The first step is admitting, right?

Dairyfest

My drool woke me up. I have been back in Korea a week but my circadian rhythm hasn’t realized it yet. Turn my ondol on, turn it off. Browse Tinder and hate it. Open the window. My ankle hurts. I twisted it cramming my foot into my shoe at the airport. It’s been swollen ever since.

I don’t know what it is about 5 AM that makes me introspective. Am I thinking the clearest or the least clear of the day? Blanketed in unnecessary anxiety, but it’s fine. A lot of changes are coming my way.

Maybe it’s all the dairy.


I landed in California. I knew I was home but didn’t feel like I belong anymore. Things felt familiar, but not the same. Reacquainted with old friends, familiar scenery and drugs. Life is good but surreal. I took the requisite pictures one would in California. The beaches, dogs off leash, even the Golden Gate Bridge.

Something besides the California sunshine blinded me though. It was the revelation of the network of badass women that I am fortunate to have. Hold on to your hat, it’s about to get sappy y’all.

From my mother to Lady Gaga. The women in my life are amazing. I am lucky to have made connections with such independent women abroad. It took me a year away to realize that I have as strong of a network at home. Or maybe it’s because I just read Orange is the New Black. Either way, I am glad that now I know.

My mom never forced me to practice the piano. Rather, she always supported me trying new things. Oh, you want to play soccer? I’ll drive you to practice. Oh, you want to be in a play? I will go to every performance. At the time, I wondered why she didn’t force me to stick with one thing and become an expert. I was always bouncing around from hobby to hobby. Instead, I became an expert at adapting — the now necessary skill for my chosen lifestyle. Learning new things, and loving it. I understand now.

Intelligent, beautiful women are invaluable on my journey. I didn’t grasp it until we sat down for brunch. The importance of life is the people who listen to your stories without a punchline. It’s people who tell theirs and you genuinely care.

Sure, you can quantify life by age. But the people you love make it qualitative with shared experiences.

Everything has built up to this point and will continue to build to the next. I love to think that I’m independent, but I’m not. I would not be who I am today without these lovely life-changing people who shaped me along the way. At the time I thought I knew, but I didn’t viscerally appreciate. Years of self-doubt, insecurity, family problems, eat disorders, clinical anxiety. They built me up when I was below sea-level.  If you are in doubt that I am writing this about you, I am definitely writing this about you.

And I love you.


I landed in Korea. I knew I was home but still didn’t feel like I belong. Things felt foreign in a familiar way.

The USA took home silver and bronze in Big Air (holla). In Seoul, I reunited with a friend on her last night.

It is crazy how one person can influence your trajectory. I hate to admit it, but I was so scared coming to Korea. Terrified. I connected with Justine deeply, who made my year all OK. Crazy coteacher? Let’s drink some wine. Sprained ankle? I’ll buy you dinner. Also, let’s climb this INSANE mountain, Sinbulsan.

The tragedy and beauty that is being an expat are the people you get to meet and have to say goodbye to. I have learned so much from her. She taught me how to efficiently chop an onion, pack for a trip, and navigate Ulsan. She helped make me a strong person that I would want to look up to as a kid. She is a forever sister. And I hope this post makes her cry.


I’m crying, but I haven’t lost anyone. I am so blessed, even though I hate the religious ties to that word.

I guess, what I am trying to say is: always have someone in your life to climb mountains with.

Lucky for me, I have dozens.

 

한글 for tinder

Korea: A land of culture, beautiful landscapes, and worldwide handsomes.

I’ve gotten some really positive feedback hitting on men in Korean. Expressions like:  “So cute,” “Good job,” and “I’m not Korean.”

 

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Look at them

 

Unfortunately for native English speakers, Korean is not a language that can just be absorbed. It takes persistence, dedication, and motivation to study. What motivates me is skin like porcelain and tinted lips. They are untouchable. They are also scared of my English.

 

I probably should mention that I have been wildly unsuccessful with dating Koreans.  I’ve been rejected with translator apps. A few guys have literally run in the opposite direction.

I am quite comfortable living on the fringe of society. But I want to challenge myself to learn a new language and to further indulge in Korean culture (wink). Dating is an all-encompassing way to do that. I know I’m not the only one swiping on Tinder with a textbook in my lap, so here are some go-to expressions.

안녕하세요

Annyeonghaseyo

Meaning: Hello. Duh

매력이

maelyeog-e

Meaning: charming. I have no idea how to conjugate anything.

dong

Meaning: poop. This is irrelevant, obviously.

잘생겼어요

jalsaeng-gyeoss-eoyo

Meaning: handsomeness. It lets them know that I am serious about learning Korean.

아빠

oh-ppa

Meaning:  father. I think girlfriends use it like “honey.” I really don’t know any Korean at all. I am underqualified to be even writing this blog. The more I study, the more I am like wtf.

 

내 목졸라줘

nae-mogchorachwo

Meaning: Choke me.


So. Things are going well. You hooked up with the person (high five). Is it safe to assume you can drop the ‘요’ and speak informally using 반말? No! Always ask. Some people get offended by the informal language even if you’ve gone all the way. As a foreigner, I’m sure you could get away with it, but it is always better to be polite.

안녕! Bye!

 

A breakup abroad

“You don’t have to wait for me,” I said.

I was laying in his bed on my side. My back faced him as I looked into my relocated fish tank. Ludwig van’s silky red fins rippled in the water and calmed me. He was exploring his new surroundings. In a couple of weeks, I would be doing the same.

“I can be very patient.”


He entered the bathroom while I was in the shower. My friend, the one we were visiting for a few days, must have gone out to collect more firewood.

“Please,” he said stroking his shaft.

Ten seconds later I used the running water to kick his little Jimmies down the drain. Taken aback, yet flattered.


We listened to Hamilton on our way to Disneyland for the last time. L.A. traffic was at high tide and my emotions began to swell. I wore my sunglasses even though it was raining. I couldn’t pinpoint the emotion, but I could pinpoint the reason: it wasn’t going to work out.

Still, I held on.


Every day after work I would call. The time difference was harsh and he would wait up just to speak with me. It was sweet, but I would find myself dragging my feet on my walk home.

He asked me basic questions to imply a surface level of curiosity.

“How was your day.”

“Fine,” was an adequate enough response. I was careful not to share too much because he seemed sad when I did.

“I’m going to Vietnam in May!!”

“Oh… cool.”

or

“I’m going to get a tattoo in a couple of weeks!!”

“No, you should wait. Don’t you want to get one with me?”

I liked this one too:

“I’m going on a trip with my friend for Christmas!!”

“Oh… I thought we were going to spend Christmas together.”

We had obligatory phone sex once a month. We talked mostly about colleagues from a job that I was trying desperately to move on from. That’s how we met and had in common. He still worked there and would relay stories of shitty customers. His details made me feel like I still worked there too. But I didn’t. And I didn’t want to feel like it anymore.


Shangela and I were on the bus to Dong-gu to get some pizza. She was (still is) in a long distance relationship too. That’s how we bonded.

“When you talk to your boyfriend, do you like it?” I was trying to articulate the bitter taste in my mouth.

“Yes…”

“Oh.” Shit.

“Are you excited about him visiting?”

“No.”

“Isn’t he staying for a whole month?”

“No. Five weeks.”


My friends watched me bang my head against the wall all summer. To have him come to Korea, or not.

He already spent the money.

I already have everything booked.

I don’t love him and I don’t know if I even like him anymore.

Rationalizing emotions is futile. These were the thoughts running through my head.

My mother raised me to believe that honesty is the best policy, but that doesn’t vibe with my non-confrontational personality. He bought the tickets and even quit his job. He called to tell me about his new backpack for travel. My head was screaming, “NO! NO! NO!”


I performed my breakup script to him over a Kakao call. This was the second time I’ve dumped some via phone call, and I must say the key to a successful breakup call is preparation. He cried a lot and told me his dreams were being crushed. I hung up and had brunch with my friends.


That was that. Haha, just kidding! I called him to tell him I changed my mind.

“Come visit me.”

And then called him again to tell him not to. I was a yo-yo for a couple of months.


He came up from behind at the airport. He came out of the wrong gate. He bent down to give me a wet kiss which made me realize two things: that I had made a big mistake and I needed to get drunk asap.


Day 2 in the Philippines I told him he had to end his trip early.

“What do you mean?” As if I threw him a curveball.

“Let’s not worry about it now, but you can’t stay with me for five weeks. And you’re not coming to Jeju.” I was proud of myself. Sure, I was being a dick. But I was an honest dick.

Vacation in the Philippines was not terrible. Beer cost a dollar, so.


We arrived back to Korea. We were tired. I had been suffering from diarrhea for four days. He changed his flight but it wasn’t for another, like, ten days.

Readers, this was a test of my character and I failed miserably. In the Philippines, he got a blistering sunburn and it started to peel. Skin flakes were coming off in sheets and floated down to my floor like winter’s first snow. But it was in my apartment and it was DEAD SKIN. I would come home after work and have diarrhea for ten minutes. Without saying anything, I would get my broom and sweep the skin while crying softly on the inside.

Time moved on. But after having diarrhea for a solid seven days, I broke down. Pooping that much does something to your soul. I yelled at him. A lot. About how he shouldn’t have come here despite my pleading.  About money. About his skin.


The morning he left I took him to the bus stop. He seemed sad even though I treated him like shit. After he got on the bus, I went home and cleaned my apartment like a crime scene. For the last time, I swept up his littered skin and washed my sheets to rid his smell.


I learned a few things from this experience:

  • Balance is finding the right volume to watch TV with headphones without causing ear damage while drowning out your ex-boyfriend crying.
  • Your heart is a dumb asshole.
  • TBH your mom is probably right.

Five surprising things about China

China

The look: brown miniature poodle

The sound: Lady Gaga’s Joanne

The smell: Misc. Asian city

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Work it


1. I actually loved it.

I was not really looking forward to this trip, or China specifically. I hadn’t heard the best of things. I read even worse things. I stepped into this country with zero to negative expectations. Boy, was I incorrect — it’s amazing! Maybe low expectations are what made it so great.

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The Bund — it’s less polluted then I thought!

Shanghai is my favorite city so far. It has a unique and charismatic — in the words of Cesar Millan — energy that I fell in love with. A metropolis city full of good food and expensive coffee, I can see why people call it the New York City of Asia.

Noodles for me

Loaded with MSG

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I was applauded getting this photo taken.

The police: handsome and helpful. They made my heart skip a beat and not because I was scared. They were always willing to give directions in exchange for a picture. I don’t know if they have a Chinese version of Cops, but if they did, I would hoard episodes on my nonexistent DVR.

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2. The face of China is a brown mini poodle.

Well groomed and fed, these pups were everywhere. I didn’t see too many strays and the dogs seemed *actually* trained  (cough Korea). Talk about a cute trend!

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3. Disneyland is high tech.

Both a look to the future and one of the best days of my life, Shanghai Disneyland brought the magic. And at a cheaper price! I don’t think I can go back to the one in California because this one was SO. GOOD.

Though the most yelp rave about the ride Tron, and I agree that ride is amazing, the real magic was Pirates of the Caribbean. I have no idea which of the movies this ride was based on, but it doesn’t matter. The ride left my mouth agape.

We broke the day up by watching the production of The Lion King. It was exactly the same as when I saw it in New York and LA — except in Mandarin.

This day was essentially perfect and I learned a valuable lesson: always bring my passport.

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4. Seeing is believing: the air in Beijing.

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The Forbidden City

My first impression of Beijing was that I liked Shanghai better. I stand by it, but Bejing is so oooooooold, I have to appreciate it. For the amount of history it has, Bejing is a small city. It still is difficult to wrap my head around, especially Tiananmen Square. Although I walked past it several times, I couldn’t convince myself to take pictures. I had goosebumps. I guess my history teachers in high school were excellent because I could sense the secondary trauma looming in the air.

OR was it just pollution? Either way, the air was thick.


5. There are literally dead bodies in the Great Wall.

“You are better than the cable car people.”

Our tour of the Great Wall came with a complimentary lunch and pep talk. In some of the renovated area of the wall, they built a cable car for the convenience and to cater to lazy tourists. We were better than those people.

The guide was probably five feet tall. He had a buzz cut, a faded tattoo on his left hand, and a lot of experience climbing the Great Wall. He told us tales of how it took over 3,000 years and millions of people to build it. Each time someone died, they would build over their bodies making their corpse a part of the wall (OMG!!!).

When they say climbing, they mean it. The Great Wall winds up and down a mountainous landscape with stairs of varying depth and dimension. Sometimes there were no stairs at all. It was designed for people to eat it (ie Mongols attacking #GenghisKhan). I was weary, but I did it. Our group was there for three hours taking selfies — er, I mean climbing the Great Wall…

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Meditating on the potential remains of a PERSON.


I thought I would go to China a second time out of mere obligation for such an expensive visa. However, it is a beautiful and historic place that I can’t wait to visit again!

Nostalgia in November

It’s getting cold. Freezing cold.

November was a good month. I took a weekend trip to 전주 (Jeonju) with some of my friends. I got a taste of Korean culture and wore a 한복. (I’m so cool, I can type in Hangul.)

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I summited another mountain with my good friend, Justine.

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Most notably and least picture friendly, I wrote a book. I completed my first attempt at the NaNoWriMo challenge and wrote 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve resigned my contract and am staying in Korea for another year.

Somethings amiss though. I’ve been so focused on building my life here that sometimes I forget the one that I left at home.

Now, it’s on fire.

My thoughts are with the residents of southern California. The Thomas Fire is nothing short of devastating. I miss my family and I miss my friends (and In n Out). Stay safe.

Here are some cute dogs.

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