Myself Reviewed, Revisited
Over the years, months, I give myself the challenge of ‘writing myself’. I tell the same story— my own— and see how I change it, focus on different elements, write with an alternate frame of mind. It is not an act of erasure or of rewriting what is already known. Rather, I have found it to be a way of engaging with myself, building a sense of self which is rooted in realities, truths. Thought I would share a few from recent times.
extract // December 2019.
“You will always remember what you were doing / when it hurts the most. There is so much / I need to tell you – but I only earned / one life.”
- O. Vuong, ‘Untitled’, Night Sky with Exit Wounds (2017)
When you live with no grounding but your own self-made patch around your feet, you can both hurt me deeply and hurt me not at all. Nothing is mine and everything is mine. The year might have taken some people and things from me, but it has not taken me. Loneliness and distrust have not broken me. Heartache has not taken the love I have to give from me. The political chaos has wavered and uprooted my national identity and sense of self and pushed me under but it’s navigate-able— though that navigation is met with blunders and fear for future. My motivation and care towards academic work might have hit some lows last term, but the passion I know I have for paving my own career has not left me. A friend left too early this November. A family friend left last spring. A family friend’s son is in hospital. Grief is not something anyone can teach you. It forces you to your knees and you either pick yourself up or you don’t. It is a lesson in vulnerability with no classroom, just blank—. I started to have an appetite for everything and anything— as if I were out to consume myself. I did so much and did so little. I lost track of time and myself and others. I left the UK as soon as term finished, exhausted.
In the last three months I’ve found immense warmth in friendship— friendship in people and places I never could have predicted. And perhaps something a little more than friendship. Not to mention those who, together, we have taken the blows of distance and live life on different pages. Some didn’t work out but perhaps they will later on. Letting go isn’t me giving up, I just want us both to breath. I wish you the world. I hope you’re doing okay.
short review of Tessa McWatt’s Shame on Me - March 2020.
“To be so wounded in the water was a blow for someone who had believed that learning to swim had freed me.”
“At the heart of othering is fear. ‘Whiteness’ fears its shadow. We fear that the other will fake what we have; in the extreme, this fear becomes hate for the sake of hate, a racialised sadism strips our humanity.”
“To answer ‘writer’ when I’m asked what race I am is true not because I want to avoid the issue of race, but because I want the questioner to think about why I need to be your brown girl in the ring. I am not your yellow lotus, your angry black woman, your Pocahontas. What happens on your skin? What happens to you when you are touched?” – excerpts from McWatt, Shame on Me
“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” - Ellison, Invisible Man
When I first came across this book many months ago, I knew I had to read it. It has spoken to me in ways I didn’t think possible. McWatt is the figure I wish I knew about when I was thirteen. I think about the way she tells her story: through parts of the body, like fragments of a whole. And I think about my own relationship with my hair, my nose, my eyelids, and how I have been approached by others with questions/‘compliments’ I have never known how to answer. “You are very beautiful for an East Asian. You must be mixed.” “Are you adopted? Your English is impeccable for a foreigner.” “Did you ever get surgery? Your eyes have double lids.” “You have a nose bridge!” At eleven, I was so invested in working my hair into a high ponytail/bun, I ended up hurting my roots. I know I wanted to be white. I feel a deep-rooted shame when it comes to thinking back on my naivety. That I could have given in to such a toxic discourse. I didn’t understand how other girls could do their hair this way and that, while my baby hairs flew this way and that. I wanted waves in my hair. So, I let it grow during my teens and it grew healthily, but at seventeen, I cut the bullshit short. This is why representation is so important. The stories we make available to BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) diasporas can provide an inexplicable kind of support, nurture. I WISH I knew better (and earlier!) than to base my existence on the white examples around me.
extract // March 2020.
I’m 22, an English Literature graduate and currently doing a Masters in Advertising and Marketing. I’m based in Leeds at the moment. My parents left Hong Kong more than 30 years ago, if my maths hasn’t failed me. I was born in HK, but as soon as I was allowed to board a plane, they returned to Japan with me. I was a reason to return “home” but I was also part of a life elsewhere already. We then lived in Sweden for six years. In my head, Sweden was where it all began. I don’t really have memories from before. But it’s funny, because Japan feels so much like home. The language is one I don’t understand but its intonations, I get it. I learned to ride a bicycle on our Swedish balcony; I crashed into our neighbours’ brick wall sledding down the driveway; we celebrated lantern festival under the northern lights. My dad locking me out of the house because I wouldn’t stop throwing a petty tantrum. I went to school in snowstorms and in a one-piece snow suit. I was as tall as the snow. My brother was born there. His name is a celebration of tall white birches. We then spent three and a half years in Germany. Our house was at a dead-end road by the forests. I remember the green (and running away from home). Our neighbours’ tom cat getting stuck in a tree, amongst other things. And then we got up and left mid-year to Paris. I didn’t really say goodbye. Moved flats twice. Built a life there, have called it home the longest and yet it still doesn’t feel like home.
A third-culture kid. Originally from Hong Kong but raised in Tokyo, Gothenburg, Frankfurt, and Paris. First language, English, and my Cantonese is the classic "can speak but can't read or write it". Recent Masters in Advertising and a Bachelors in English Literature. Favourite people/places for inspiration/wisdom: JG Ballard, Alexander Chee, Bauhaus, Edward Hopper, Zadie Smith, Tessa McWatt's Shame On Me.