Thursday, 19 January 2017

january things, or, let's not be afraid to record the mundane

It is January in the year 2017. It is a prime number year, which I hate. I lamented about this long and loudly in the weeks leading up to the new year to everyone who was unfortunate enough to find themselves in my immediate vicinity, until someone got tired of my complaining and told me to get over it, after which I largely kept my dislike of specific numbers, prime or otherwise, to myself.

I am twenty-three years old (another prime number) in January in the year 2017. Twenty-three and three quarters, to be precise the way you are in elementary school when being eight-and-a-half means you are significantly older and wiser than your friends who are only eight-and-a-quarter. I have been twenty-three years old for nine months and in those nine months I have learned a few things about what it is to be twenty-three.

None of those things are very profound.

One of those things is that when you are twenty-three, decisions gradually begin to feel like they have more weight attached to them than you remember them having. What to do, where to go, how to live, who to be. It happens slowly, imperceptibly, like gaining physical weight. You don't feel it as it's happening, until one day you step on a scale at your friend's house and squint at the number, hmm, that can't possibly be right, I didn't feel like I was putting on more pounds -- but if the scale says it, it must be so. Choosing to live in America at this current stage of my life had never seemed to me a big deal -- or even like a conscious decision -- until last year when it began to dawn on me faintly that it was in fact a Big Decision, with Significant Consequences. Most significant of which: having to accept that it meant being far away from family. It is hard to explain why this was such a new realization, after five, six years of already being separated. I suppose it is the difference between being a student and being an adult.


Things that have happened in my life as a twenty-three-and-three-quarters-year-old in January in the year 2017, so far:

I spent the first half of the month at home in Korea, as I've been fortunate enough to do every year since I came away for college. Edwin came for a portion of the trip as well, and did important things like meet my dad, and the Sullivans, and teach my sisters how to play Settlers of Catan, and watch a lot of Korean broadcast network awards shows with my family. I did a couple of things for the first time on this particular visit home, like spending a 24-hour (count 'em) period making a single batch of cookies with Eugenie, and taking Izzie shopping for clothes, just the two of us.

Samie came to San Francisco with her boyfriend, and I spent a full, glorious (jet lagged) day with them, walking along the Embarcadero from the Ferry Building to Pier 39 to Lombard Street. She exclaimed several times about how pretty San Francisco is. It made me realize I have been here for a long time, to take it so for granted as I do now.

I received another email from my high school AP lit teacher Mr. H, in the sporadic but flourishing email correspondence that sprung up between us after I graduated. His email was characteristically pithy; my response was characteristically, uncontrollably wordy. I am twenty-three, the age he was when he taught me and my peers, which is very weird. He is now married and living in Beijing, and I am now flailing about as I try to navigate the unpredictable waters that are post-college young adulthood. He still asks me about the books I am reading, and I ask him about the books he is reading, and on occasion I also ask him things like "how do you do this whole adult thing and does it get any less hard" and he says wise, encouraging things in response like "don't get overwhelmed by it all" and "trust your intuition and trust God" and "get excited about what's going to happen and how cool it will be."

One of the earlier emails in this particular chain was the one in which he had wished me a happy birthday last April as he has done every single year without fail since I graduated. In my reply to that email, I remarked that it had been six years since I graduated high school and I was still receiving happy birthday emails from my AP lit teacher, and that this was how I knew that life was kind to me.

I still know it now, from these emails that are sent my way every so often from a computer in Beijing: life is very kind to me.


I like to think I am becoming more okay with the uncertainty of everything in my life, but I am not sure if that is actually true. What is true is that I am becoming more okay with saying that I am becoming more okay with the uncertainty. I think part of me hopes that in saying it more often, it will eventually become the truth. If you say something enough times, does it become true?

I like tomatoes I like tomatoes I like tomatoes

I forgive you I forgive you I forgive you I forgive you

I am okay with uncertainty I am okay with uncertainty I am okay with uncertainty


I took some time earlier this month to sit down and reflect on the state of my faith, and on where my walk took me over the last year. The two words that impressed themselves upon me were intimacy (as in, a lack of) and idolatry (as in, far too much of). There is still repenting to be done, and still -- thankfully -- grace to be sought and received.


It is January in the year 2017 and I am twenty-three going on twenty-four and a lot of things about my life feel uncertain and still more things feel deliciously sturdy and I am feeling hopeful for what this year will teach me. It is a nice feeling.