- I got my first vaccine dose this week. I was prepared beforehand for an immune response, which has so far been barely noticeable. I was not prepared for the emotional response. Sitting in the monitoring area after my shot, I noticed myself sniffling and was briefly concerned until I realized that it was only that I was crying a little bit. I've been saying for a while now that I don't mind waiting, that I'm not sure I'll ever actually be ready to go back out into the world again. And that's true, but it still felt like letting my breath out for the first time in a long while.
- I think something that has been eating at me both with the virus and with the anti-Asian violence is that I just don't know how much danger I'm actually in. I'm not sure I can know how much danger I'm in, really. By any objective measure, an educated, affluent, professional, fifth-generation Japanese American is at much lower risk for both than someone with closer immigrant roots, or who has a blue-collar essential job, or who is of a different Asian ethnicity. But lower risk isn't the same as no risk. The richest person I've ever met died of COVID a few months ago. People not too far from my neighborhood who look not too different from me have been picked up in ICE raids. And I've been punched in the face before by someone who was calling me a chink and telling me to go back where I came from.
- It's been 26 years or so since the last time I was punched or kicked or shoved or spit on by someone who called me a chink. That wasn't the last time I was called a racial slur, but the last time the slur came with physical violence was almost two-thirds of my lifetime ago. And, at that, I never suffered worse than a bloody nose or a few bruises where it didn't show. I don't know that it makes much rational sense that I feel as much fear as I do. But I guess feelings don't have to be rational.
- Yesterday, Arden Cho shared a story on Twitter about a time when she was 10, when a teenage boy beat her into unconsciousness, knocking out two of her teeth and hospitalizing her. I think the thing that caught me the most was when she was talking about now, and said "I honestly didn’t realize I was living with all this trauma, I thought I was okay. But seeing countless videos of violent attacks has triggered a lot of these memories and it’s been so heavy and painful."
- I saw that thread because my friend Grace shared it, adding "As Asians we are taught to hide our pain & be grateful it wasn’t worse. That lifelong training has taught us & others that our pain doesn’t matter."
- I guess what I'm saying is that I don't know if it's okay for me to feel afraid right now.
- I can't help thinking, too, about how tenuous Asian American solidarity is and has been, how often the exclusion and perhaps even danger comes from within this so-called community. When my mother's mother first came to Salinas, she was met by a community of nisei and sansei who were skeptical of war brides. When I was a kid, my Japanese/Filipino American cousins and I would laugh at people for being fobby. And it's not like it's over. One of the first things the algorithm showed me when I signed up for TikTok was an Asian American comedian whose whole schtick seems to be making fun of Asian immigrants' accents.
- Nobody can give you permission for your feelings, and if you find yourself seeking permission it's important to ask yourself whether what you're actually seeking is exoneration.
- It was Friday when I started writing this list of bullet points and now it's Saturday. I think I'm too tired now to bring it to a real conclusion. Instead, I will just transition abruptly to a photograph.
This Is a Picture of a Bed
Here are a few things that mattered to me recently:
- Jad Josey is so good at writing wistful flash stories that are full of longing. His story "You Will, You Will, You Will" was just lovely.
- Beth Nguyen wrote a nuanced and very personal essay about choosing a name. I know others have made different choices with their own names, but this seems just the point to me: that it is a choice. I'm glad and grateful she shared hers.
- Noah Cho wrote about his grandmother's hands, and how things can be unsaid but still communicated and understood. As always, I loved it.
- Jason Fitzroy Jeffers wrote about Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero," apocalypse as revelation instead of ending, and what true freedom might look like.
- Finally, Maggie Tokuda-Hall hosted Sarah Gailey in a Drunk Safari IG Live last night. It was the hardest I've laughed in recent memory, and exactly what I needed.
As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. I just noticed that my shoulders were pulled up toward my ears. Check in with yourself: is there a tension you can release? If you can, I hope you will.
Thank you, and take care.