The Safety of Silence

Photograph of a person holding their finger to their lips

I’ve been thinking recently about the safety of silence and the cost of that safety.

I have always been an over-sharer and as a second-generation Asian American girl, this was probably the greatest of sins.

I should not take things outside of our home, of our family, of our closest circle, of our culture.

In my adult life, if I wanted to preserve what I had worked so hard for, it was better to self-censor.

If I want to keep myself and my family safe, it is better to be careful what I reveal.

This is why I am so tired.

Because at the core of myself, I have always know that freedom and liberation can only come through community.

That to fully accept myself, I have to see myself in community.

That I cannot nor should I try to solve all the things on my own.

But, I’ve been socialized that my worth is found in my independence, in serving others, in doing all the things to earn the love and respect of those around me.

I’ve been socialized to stay silent, humble and grateful.

And while I am humble and grateful, I no longer wish to be silent.

I have lived in so much fear and shame.

Fear that if you really knew who I was, you would not love me.

Fear that I am really just a disappointment.

Fear that if I said the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time, everything that I’ve worked so hard for would be taken away and that those I loved would suffer the horrible consequences.

Shame for choices I made to survive, that I wouldn’t hold against anyone else, but that I cannot escape from within myself.

Shame that reaching out meant showing weakness, that I could not care for myself.

Shame that my need to set boundaries might take away opportunities to ever be seen.

I feel so often that I have lost so much: my language, my culture, my connection to my family.

I feel so often that I have lost so many of the best parts of me.

The silence has been killing me.

I am slowly learning to speak my truth, that every post doesn’t need to end with a silver lining, that every truth may not be easy, that trust is hard but important.

It is slow.

And so hard.

But it is better than dying.

I am slowly reclaiming, relearning, unlearning and listening to the wisdom of my ancestors within me, taking steps to honor the beauty of a deeply scarred young person within me, finding time to embrace the most vulnerable parts of my humanity.

It is slow.

And so hard.

But it is, I know, the only path to freedom.

There will still be moments of silence, times to be silent, choices to be silent. I can embrace that too.

It is slow.

And so hard.

But I am not my sins and I am not my silence.

I am simply myself.

Because Writing Heals

Photograph of the corner of a table with a person's hands poised to write in a journal

I keep saying this, but thank you all for loving me.

Every day, in this season of abundant grief, stress, and exhaustion, I come back to two things: writing and the love of my community.

Every day, in these past few days, someone will text or dm or e-mail or leave a comment on a tweet or post, to remind me that I am not alone.

Every day, those in my innermost circle are reminding me to care for myself, to drink, to eat, to rest, to move things off my calendar, to honor my humanity.

Every little thing helps.

Yesterday was SUPER hard. I was in a lot of physical pain induced by the stress of the situations of which I cannot speak. Today has been incredibly stressful as well as I am waiting for updates that have not appeared.

There have been meetings I could not cancel, but I have brought my humanity to them, and it has opened up space to lead in spite of my suffering.

There have been meeting I have been able to cancel, but which I wouldn’t have without pinky promises and the insistence of those who love me.

And I have found solace in sleep which my body has needed so desperately to heal.

I wish I could give you more concrete ways to help because I know that so many want to do more than they feel like they are doing.

Those may come another day, but not today.

Today, there is exhaustion, and gratitude, and the need for you to continue to take just a moment to remember me and my family in your thoughts, prayers and words.

Today, there is a wish that you might take opportunities to show grace to those around you and to contribute to those in your community.

Today, there is respite in writing, in knowing that I did not do all the things, but doing any of the things is enough.

Every little thing helps.

Someday, I may meet you, and in that moment, even if I do not recognize you, I hope that you will know that you’ve made a difference for me profoundly in this moment.

Someday, if we already know one another, we will see one another again, and in that moment, even if there are not words to express it, I hope you will feel my gratitude that you held me up during this time.

Someday, things will be different, hopefully better, and I will be able to find more than solace and respite, but peace and joy.

Thank you for loving me. Thank you for standing with me (and my family) in this moment. Until we reach that better time.

Silence, Stories, Stress and Solitude

Photograph of a person holding their finger to their lips

“Leave the pity and the blame
For the ones who do not speak
You write the words to get respect and compassion
And for posterity
You write the words and make believe
There is truth in the space between”

Tracy Chapman, Telling Stories

There are many spaces in between what I can and can’t say about all that is currently happening in my life and around me.

For the safety of those I love, I choose silence at this time.

But silence is exhausting when healing is found in writing and community.

What I can say is that I am a doer, a thinker, a humanitarian, and a person of faith.

Everything around me is challenging all of those identities.

The stress of things I can’t control are taking a toll on my body, making me pause.

This stress is taking a toll on my sleep, making it hard to think.

All that is going on is showing me the darkest sides of systems, structures, societies and power, making it hard to hold tightly to the humanity of those embedded in these institutions and those that thirst for power without the consideration of others.

But also, this time is reminding me about the beauty of humanity in so many ways, and the very, very tender humanity of individuals who have caused me much pain in the past. I am holding it all. But it is hard.

That which is causing my stress is making my faith all the more challenging and simultaneously all the more important.

I am so grateful to those reaching out. If I don’t respond, please know that your love is seen and felt and acknowledged in the best way I have the strength to do in any given moment. Because of the situation, I cannot safely post my truth publicly at this time, and responding individually and privately can be overwhelming.

I am so grateful to all those asking how they can help. The situation is incredibly complicated and materially, we are making it at this time. I have my reasons for holding back on asking for particular forms of support so I ask for your trust. I’m also so very bad at knowing what I need personally so thank you for those who are just taking things from me.

For those that are praying for me, sending good thoughts, encouraging me to rest, it may not seem like you are doing so much, but you are holding me up.

I am grateful to be seen and held in this time, by those closest to me. I am so grateful for your love.

I hope there will be more to be hopeful about soon.

But until then, thank you for loving me still, in the midst of my exhaustion. When I cannot say more. Until I can speak.

I am writing the words to make believe that there is truth in the space between, where I am residing tonight.


Intention, Community & Moving Forward

Photograph of golden sunrise over mountains

Sometimes, we just have to keep holding on, and moving forward, in community.

This has been an incredibly hard week for so many reasons.

There is still so much uncertainty.

But today, I am beginning to see light and beauty again.

And I am grateful for the community of friends, family and strangers that have walked alongside me while I struggled.

Earlier this week, I wrote about feeling like I failed my son. However, while the door closed on that assignment, it opened a door to give feedback on curriculum at my son’s school, and in creating a book list specific to his context (a public academic magnet schools with a 70% Asian American; 19% Latinx student population) and building from existing themes and texts, I was also able to share this list with others via Twitter.

The list was sourced through community.

It was shared through community.

It was added to by community.

I was able to really consider how to navigate a system designed to reproduce itself, to make a crack a bit wider, to support not only the students in my son’s school and community, but also my extended community online.

Thank you for lifting me up.

There are other things still going on, both personally and professionally, that are both hard and hopeful, but I am grateful that it is not all hard.

I am learning to embrace moments of hope and joy even amongst, or especially within, periods of deep grief and struggle.

I am learning that when you put things out in the universe, that which is yours will come and find you. And that for which it is not time or for which you are not meant can be accepted.

I am learning to be rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering and persevere in prayer.

I am really learning to be patient in it all, to continue to bring humanity to every situation, to make space where I can’t see it, at first, to step into spaces, and try, even when I feel like I may fail.

I could not do any of this without the strength of those in my community, who have been thinking of me, loving on me, praying for me. Holding me and holding space for me.

I am deeply grateful.

I am moving forward.

One step at a time.

One day at a time.

Moment by moment.

An Open Letter to My Sister

photo of purple flowers and a fountain pen laying across sheets of paper with writing on them

Dear Sister,

Today was not your day, but I keep praying that you will see another, a better, brighter day that will bring us together.

I cannot know what you are facing, but I know that I am waiting. I am holding space and holding my breath until we can be together.

I am afraid. I imagine that you are too.

But we are both brave. We have faced our fears in the past and we will face them again.

We do not face the same challenges. We may not hold the same dreams or cultures.

But we share love and hope, a desire for a world where we can live freely.

There are many holding space and holding their breath, for you and for me, and collectively for all of us, to find the freedom we seek.

They are good and beautiful people.

They are my community and they bring me so much strength.

I hope that you also are surrounded by a community that strengthens you and loves you when you feel alone.

Today, I shed many tears because today was not your day.

But tomorrow will be a new day.

We will continue to hope, to dream, to move forward, to do what we must to survive, because we do not have any other option.

I believe we will find freedom.

And we will find each other.

Not today, but someday.

Someday soon.

Until then, know that I am waiting. I am holding space and holding my breath until we can be together.

I love you.

Your Sister.


The Chasm

Photo of two sides of a mountain pass

It’s been a day, Friends.

Today, Derek Chauvin was convicted on all charges related to the murder of George Floyd. While this is a clear legal victory, as many (including me) have noted, it is not justice.

We don’t live in a just society when the killing of unarmed Black men and women happen on a regular basis at the hands of police.

We don’t live in a just society when people are being shot while they are going to work, at home, at school, at their places of worship, almost daily.

We don’t live in a just society when we begin to assassinate the character of the victims almost immediately after they die because we value our rights more than humanity.

So, it’s heavy even though there was a legal victory today.

Today, I also felt like I failed my child.

My 15 year old brought home an assignment on upstander memoir. I wasn’t happy with the reading list provided, so I offered an alternative title, The Song Poet by Kao Kalia Yang as an alternative. That alternative was rejected despite my son’s attempt via e-mail to explain how the book fit the prompt.

My child has read one book, in 10 years of schooling that had an Asian protagonist (in 5th grade, Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shardbut in his 3 of years of secondary schooling at his middle-high school, he has read only novels written by white authors, and only one by a woman.

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that #RepresentationMatters could pretty much be my middle name so really, this is not acceptable.

I was done today after my son received the e-mail that he could not, in fact, do his project on this alternative title, for the reason that the book had not been read by the teacher. The other books on the list, while not only by white men, had problematic portrayals of Muslim culture that I felt reified Muslim fundamentalism in ways that were troubling.

I wrote a direct and clear e-mail to the teacher about the importance of representation and my concern about the curriculum and his denial of my child’s alternative text (after I google searched for his email address and realized he was on Twitter and had most recently retweeted a tweet that blamed critical race theory and remote learning for making American students stupid among other incredibly problematic tweets).

He was nice about it, let me know that there were some diverse text that had gotten cut out because of the pandemic, and then let me know that, for him, teaching thematically around our “common humanity” and asking students to put “themselves in another’s shoes” was more essential than identity, although identity should always be considered.

It was a very diplomatic answer.

He also canceled the assignment, basically taking away the opportunity for extra credit from all students because two parents raised concerns.

I’m so tired.

I wonder how many times kids of color have to put themselves in another’s shoes without ever seeing themselves represented in texts?

I wonder about whether our common humanity when always filtered through one worldview is really common or is simply reproducing the dominant culture.

I wonder about how my child is in a room with a teacher who believes that antiracism is indoctrination, but that conversely seeing the world only through a white canonical lens is building empathy.

I am so tired.

And I feel like, in so many ways, even though this is my life work, if I am failing my own child, am I really making a difference?

I offered proactive alternative solutions — facilitating a book club with representative texts, integrating more diverse book sets into the curriculum, advocating for more diverse texts in the classroom.

I can take next steps — leave the school, write the school board, use my platform to launch a protest, keep working with new generations of teachers to ensure that they do better.

But I am SO TIRED.

I am tired of trying to justify to people that young people need their identities affirmed. I am tired of fighting and finding views that I wish I could unsee.

And my exhaustion is on top of so many things that I am not at liberty to say about my life right now because I worry about endangering people I love when I speak out.

The physical stress and strain of today on top of so many days is too much.

That’s it. That’s the post.

I’m just so freaking tired.


A photo of a rocky shoreline

I am at a loss on so many levels…

I have not remotely recovered from all the things that have happened in the past month, to my family, my community, to those I love and hold dear and so also to me. And then more happens around me and I don’t know how to carry it all. I just keep moving forward.

There is so much violence and loss for so many. None of it makes sense.

There is such a sense of helplessness.

I grasp for the moments of joy that have come in unexpected ways, big and small throughout this time. But that doesn’t really make sense either.

I am slipping.

I am struggling.

And when I think I get my footing again, when I manage to feel like I might make it, that we will make it to the other side, the ground beneath my feet begins to shift again.

There have been so many lifting me up. I am blessed by a community that deeply loves me.

But, it feels like we are standing together on this rocky terrain, and that at any moment, any one of us may fall.

I am so tired.

I am surviving.

I am trying to hold on to what is not there.

It is hard.

I am trying to believe that it is all going to be okay because that’s my nature, to hope.

But I am also making space to struggle, to slip, to allow myself to fall, to be okay with survival and not more, to accept what is not there.

It is hard because I have trained myself to open and close my heart on a dime; to cry and minutes later to hold myself together to lead and love; to be there for others and forget myself. It is hard to seek an integrated self when your whole life has been built on a compartmentalized existence that has helped you to survive.

I have trained myself to keep going.

But I am forcing myself to pause.

To feel.

To acknowledge what is so.

To acknowledge what is so far away, but what I want with my whole heart. To feel the distance between my heart and my reality.

I write these words because sometimes honesty is more necessary than hope. Even though it is often more painful.

But if we cannot reckon with ourselves, we can’t hope to stand on solid ground.

And if we cannot feel the fullness of our grief, we cannot move through it.

Living Tensions

Taut grey rope with green water in the background

It has been such a week, after such a week, a series of such weeks over this past year, and a series among a lifetime of such weeks.

These weeks teach me about the living tensions and holding space for the abundance that makes up life even when it is so incredibly complicated.

This week, love and grief emerged for me in waves, in tidal waves, in gentle waves, like the ebb and flow of the sea. They came for me and I was not ready for their power. They came for me in their beauty and destructiveness and all I could do was to be swept away, and brought back. I could fall into them and hope to reach the shore.

This week, laughter and tears flowed. I surprised myself by laughing at long text threads and exclamations of a five year old (my favorite five year old), at everyday moments. I surprised myself by sobbing for a young girl that I once was so long ago who lost her mother and was told there was a time limit on her grief.

This week, the stress of anticipation was balanced by the strength of community. So many times this week, I wondered whether I should speak, what I should say, if I would hear from my sister, if I would know someone killed in a mass shooting, if it was safe to walk outside, if I could make it through a meeting or a workday without the familiar feelings of nausea and anxiety coming upon me to remind me that I was not free. And yet, in those moments when I was most afraid, I would receive a text or a message or a tweet from someone expressing love, or living in the present. I would hear the joyful laughter from down the hall. I would be shown grace.

This week, I drank 64 oz of water everyday (thank you, Joy, for my water bottle to support this). I breathed deeply when I felt the anxiety rise. I let myself cry and feel. I wrote in paper journals. I felt the depths of love in so many ways that I will always be grateful for, and I felt the depths of grief in equally powerful ways that remind me of my humanity.

We live so many tensions.

It is not easy.

But it is, in many ways, the beauty of humanity.

We can move towards liberation, but only in community, and only through navigating tensions, holding space for all that encompasses the complexities of our humanity, holding ourselves and each other accountable, while also showing grace to ourselves and each other.

I am living the tensions. I am working to embrace them. For in the tensions, I know I find my full humanity.