December 2008


I had definitely heard this song before, but I didn’t really find out what song it was until that one night in Seoul. So whenever I listen to this song on my iTunes, I’m reminded of this night, and I smile. Good memories, haha.

I think it was a Saturday. I was interning at SK with Jerome M. We decided to meet Saturday night and go to a few bars and clubbing around Hongdae. Man, I remember how freaking bitterly cold it was that night. Wow. Seriously, never has an evening’s temperature stood out so vividly in my mind. It was seriously like the analogical knife. The streets were almost deserted because people were thinking twice about vernturing out into the cold streets, much less party. They were probably all sitting on their heated floors at home, watching Gag Concert or something. 😛

I even remember distinctly what I was wearing that night. My working/intelligent girl glasses that I bought for W8,000 (~$8), my short-sleeved black and charcoal-striped turtleneck shirt, my black Uniqlo skinny jeans, and my vintage Gucci mod-style black and white heels. Why the hell did I wear glasses to go clubbing?! I will never remember the logic behind it. xD

Anyways, we meet at Sangsu Station and decide to go to a Japanese bar first. Had some hot and cold sake and that one Japanese food that has what looks like brown tissue paper sprinkled on top (it’s so thin, it waves in the slightest wind, so it looks like this strange food that you think could be found at the bottom of the ocean, haha). Then we decide to go hit the clubs. He takes me to a couple of his favorite around Hongdae, like Tool and oh, that one place… can’t remember the name. Both are deserted when we go in, then people slowly start coming in little by little. I was not feeling it whatsoever, so we leave the second bar we’re in and go to Ska 2 because it was free entrance that night or something.

It’s pretty crowded, and the music is fun and dancey. Then the song comes on! It’s a song that normally you wouldn’t even think you would be able to dance to, but hey, whatever, it works. Then somehow, we end up meeting a group of old high school buddies who are having their annual reunion at Ska 2. They have a table reserved and everything. Jerome’s a pretty personable guy, which is probably why we got pulled over to sit with them, haha. We talk to them, everyone is either drunk or pretty far gone or in bubbly good spirits. There are two other girls there, both American girls. We talk to them, eat the guys’ refreshments, blah blah blah. Jerome suddenly says he has to go, but I decide to stay because I like these people. He leaves, and ends up taking my camera (which I didn’t realize until later).

After awhile, all of us leave the club into the freaking cold winter. Our cheeks are red within minutes, haha. By then, it was probably like 5:30 or 6:00 AM, so the subway has been running for about half an hour or so. We all split up and go home, taking the subway or walking, all calling out byes to each other, them meeting us for the first time, but still so friendly and concerned about our safety, them splitting up and escorting us girls to our respective modes of transporation, walking away into the bitterly cold pale pink-red glow of the sunrise, breaths billowing out in front of us, hands thrust deep into our pockets, shoulders hunched.

Man. I miss Korea. No danger at all. No obligations. Just good, friendly fun. That night is still so vivid in my mind; I don’t know why it stands out so much. Thinking about it, there were plenty of more memorable nights during my year-long stay in Korea, but this somehow stands out. Looking through the pictures makes me smile. I’m so simple-minded, haha.

It’s one month until my 21st birthday today.

First of all, before all else, I want you to read this speech, given by Guy Kawasaki, one of the top marketing brains at Apple. You’ll be more prepared for my rant. And, hopefully, your outlook on life may have changed a little.

So this week I realized that one of the main topics my brain churns over is… the prospect of my future.

I realize I have many things going for me.

1. I am Asian-American, therefore a minority, therefore stand out from many audiences.

2. I am bilingual.

3. I have enough talents and know-how to succeed in this world.

4. A lot more, but that’s not the point of this post.

But how, though?! That’s the question that’s been dogging me for the past… oh… year, I’d say. Going abroad to Korea really changed me. It’s made me start to think more deeply about things I didn’t really elaborate on before. I definitely stressed about my future, but I didn’t elaborate on the specifics on what I wanted to do. Now, after coming back from Korea, I’m quite sure I want to go into fashion… but that goes against everything my parents worked for, my parents raised me for, and everything my parents even came to this country for.

Immigrant Korean parents expect only four things from their gyopo children:

1. Successful job (successful enough to generate subtle bragging rights).

2. To become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or “insert any other six-figure salary paying job”.

3. A great marriage. (Most often involving $$$$.)

4. Grandchildren.

I know that this makes immigrant parents sound horrible and selfish, but if you think about life from their perspective, it all makes sense. They came to this country to seek a better future than the bleak one they saw back in their home country. They toiled, shedding blood, sweat, and tears to try to provide a better future for their children, so that towards the end of their lifetimes, they could finally release their hold, sit back, smile, and say, “We have done well.” So can you blame them for expecting their children to become great, successful people? The only consistent, stable cases of success and a secure life they’ve seen is by being a doctor or some other occupation related to the sciences. (And this in all is not untrue. Doctors ARE successful, and they ARE high-paying, stable jobs, unless you like to kill your patients.)

As Asian children, we feel are compelled to listen to our parents so we don’t feel like we are failing them, breaking their expectations of a rosy American dream, we want to make them happy after a lifetime of working until they almost shed tears of blood… all this effort to prepare a better life for their children. I know I’m not the only Asian kid that feels this. I know there are countless other Asian kids out there agonizing over this. Some have succeeded in overcoming it, and doing what they love. Some have given in to it, and become what their parents expected them to be. Some have failed, and are more lost than ever. Just look at the high figures of Asian-Americans going to UC schools, then being put on academic probation or dropping out and returning home within their first year of registering.

I don’t know. I don’t know how to tell my parents that because I’m a second generation immigrant child, I have a totally different value system than they do… or ever will. How? How do I explain? I’ve hinted but… *shrug*

Thinking about it, I really don’t think I can ever 100% explain to them. They won’t ever completely understand why a doctor isn’t always a better job to have than say, a fashion designer or artist. For 99% of immigrant Asian parents, a job in the arts is worthless. Starving on the streets for your artwork? We didn’t work half our lives away in a foreign country for that. Go back to law school. Just my luck that the stereotype of artists the world over is lazy, promiscuous, starving, and drugged up.

I’m honestly quite sick of school. I just… want to go into fashion. It’s not all about “DO WHAT YOU LOVE” anymore. It’s a bit more complicated than that. There’s a whole different set of logistics involved now. However, I feel  like fashion is something that I love that I can most definitely DO, and DO SUCCESSFULLY. It’s my passion, I realize! If only I had the chance! If only I had the opportunity! I don’t have all of the details worked out yet, but God knows I would work like a dog to be able to succeed in that field… more so than the major I chose now. My effort to work in that field would make my parents never again question my focus or how lazy I am…

Ironically, I found my passion in one of the most academically-focused countries in the world. Ironic.

I went to a UC school for a party at my friend’s place yesterday, and I have to honestly say… I’m kind of glad I didn’t go to one. In every school you will visit, I can safely guarantee that probably 40%-60% of Asian students will have majors in the sciences, particularly majors that will be most helpful to them in – you guessed it – medical school. I could sense something in them – a sort of vacancy and acceptance of the fate that their parents expect of them. So many kids blindly taking premed classes… all for a vision their parents have instilled in them from the beginning. Thinking of nothing else except O-chem and the next party where they can trashed to momentarily forget about the stress of their parents expecting straight As and the pressures of maybe doing something they didn’t want to do. I could have been one of them. If I had gone to one, I wouldn’t have experienced the many wonderful and different things I have experienced at my so-called sub-par school on a full scholarship today. I have met a wide variety of people that I know I wouldn’t meet as easily in the future. I have thought a wide range of thoughts and learned about myself. I’m not sure now if I would’ve had the same experience at a UC. I dunno. It’s kinda hard to explain. UC-goers, please try not to get offended too much. It is just my opinoin. I am one Asian-American in almost 3,800,000 Asians in America. (Since that’s a 1980 statistic, I’m sure it’s increased drastically by now.)

After weighing all the advantages and disadvantages of going to medical and law school, I think I can safely say that I am not cut out for them. Sure, if I applied my mind to them, I would probably do quite well. But then again… I’m notorious for not doing fantastically well in things I have no interest in. On the other hand, I am renowned for doing well in things I AM interested in. See where this is going?

I’m not trying to make it seem like I’m bashing on Asian premed majors or saying that Asian parents are selfish and controlling. Parents are parents; they love us unconditionally, and want us to succeed so that we won’t have to suffer the way they did in the future. However, that ambition fueled by fierce love for their children can turn into controlling behavior and unrealistic expectations. Often times in immigrant Asian households, children will have no say in expressing what they want to be when they grow up. They are influenced to be doctors. I was influenced to be a neurosurgeon. Not anymore.

I’m just saying that… we Asian-Americans are not ALL genetically-equipped to be doctors, lawyers, or engineers. We are able to become artists, counselors, teachers, entrepreneurs, cooks, singers, actors, whatever, and still SUCCEED. Trying your best is a given. We should not try with all our might at something that we’re just not good at, or interested in. That’s one definition of insanity: hitting your head against the wall repeatedly, expecting a different result. We should not feel obligated to anyone to follow their expecations of our lives blindly, without questioning and exploring.

I want to go to fashion school. I want to be a designer, if that’s not too late. I think I’d be good at it, I think I would enjoy it immensely, and, if it’s too late for designing, I can always combine the business degree I’m earning while gritting my teeth with fashion merchandising or something related. How can I make my parents more accepting of this life plan? How can I convince my parents to send me to Parsons or FIT, especially if it’s going to cost thousands of dollars, precious dollars that they don’t see any returns on???

I guess I’m lucky that I will be getting my undergraduate paid for. Heh. I guess that was prepping me for spending money on continued higher education elsewhere.

I don’t know exactly where I’m trying to go with this. I just know that I am frustrated, and worried about my less-than-satisfactory grades from a lack of enthusiasm for my major, and scared about failing in life, because that is my ultimate fear: failing at life. I can only pray that God understands what I’m going through, and guides me in whatever way He can. Going to Korea changed my life, and not for the better, according to my parents, as they will probably think once I really gather my courage and tell them I want to do fashion. I’m bracing myself. I don’t know even know what my game plan of the process of telling them is going to be. Bah.

I’m done for now. I’m sure I’ll write more about this in the future. Stay tuned, whoever’s out there that’s even remotely interested in reading about my life, lol.

I guess I just want us Asian-Americans to think outside the box.

P.S. Plus the fact that I seem to be constantly reevauluating my self and cultural identities… even subconsciously. Scary. More on this later.

P.P.S. This blog, in part, spurred this rant. Fascinating woman, her writing is great, as is her career advice.

[1] This is a great secondary source to get more scope on the Asian-American community.

…can’t come fast enough (June 2010, hopefully). Because, when it does, I can UPDATE THIS THING MORE without having to worry about a statistics practice packet due tomorrow. Ugh. Also, I can’t wait to return to Korea. See what it’s become.