Go West Young Man -- Chapter 0: An Introduction, Burning Season.
Finally found some time to sit down at a cafe. Slamming through some edits, drafting some journal entries/blogs, and working on the NBC Asian American project that's coming up. But work is work, and this small little adventure of mine was compelled by a need for some mental and emotional recovery.
Leave it to illnesses and physical handicaps to force me into a state of weakness where it compels me search deeper. I got food poisoning the other day, and spent an entire day in Cambodia bed-ridden, and strutting about the dusty streets of Siem Reap to stretch my legs. I look back and realize it was therapeutic... I guess. The chaos of Siem Reap gave me this strange mixture of comfort and anxiety, maybe it reflected and resonated with the chaos within. However, as glamorous and exotic as it may seem, this isn't and state of wholeheartedness I fight so vigilantly for.
Language. It's always been the most elusive thing to me. When I close my eyes and sift through thoughts, I always imagine myself drifting through clouds and floating aimlessly, language is always the lifeboat that pulls me to shore. Ironically enough, language comes easy in places where I literally can't speak the dialect.
It's burning season here in Thailand. Fascinating. Huge acres of land are lit up in flames in preparation for the up and coming rainy season. There's been a huge drought in Thailand this year, the worst it's had in decades. I spent the first leg of my journey in Mae Sot, splitting up from my best friend Scotty (who I'll be writing about more in future posts), to go and work with my friends at Outpour Movement (who I also will be writing about more in future posts).
I rented a scooter and spent the short time I had revisiting places I had been, and exploring streets and alleys I never went to. It's one of my favorite cities in the world.
Mae Sot is located on the border of Thailand and Myanmar, and serves as a gateway for migrants, refugees, orphans, sex-trafficked victims, drugs, black-market goods, and all the craziness you can dream of. It's a melting pot of misfits and bandits, men and women from all cultures, backgrounds, and religions, struggling to find voice and to live life. More to come in future posts.
Flash forward to the 3-4 weeks to the present, and I find myself sitting in Cambodia. Things are slowing down temporarily and I wanted to take advantage of this small moment and run some things through my heart, and take some things up with God. Language is the lifeboat, and He's has always been the captain of the ship.
Taking sips of my cold-brew in Cambodia and starting the dialogue, it hit me like a train. I realized how emotionally callous I had become this past year in the name of survival. I remember sleeping out of a sleeping bag on the floor for 3 months, not owning a single piece of furniture, and folding all my clothes out on the floor. Meanwhile, I left the security of a full-time job and literally followed my gut and leapt into free-lance. Flash forward a few months, and I got so sick that I was out of commission for 3 weeks. It was only then when I understood the panic and sleepless nights of being so-absolutely-fucking-broke. I envied the kids and peers who still had the luxury of supportive parents, and took it personally when I saw people living more privileged than I.
But I made it. And I survived. And I'm still pushing forward.
I take a day once a week to talk with God and ask if He's proud. The answers always rhetorical, but lately I've been asking why that's so important to me. My dad turned 70 a few weeks ago, and I consider how things would've turned out if I stuck to law school. I left for this trip contemplating life and death-- who I am, who I've been, and who I want to be. I left for this trip hearing a lot of ugly rumors circulating around the block about me. I look at the people I surround myself, and I'm proud to say I have amazing, successful, honest and good men and women in my life. And I wonder what I'm doing wrong that allows this shit to stand.
Probably wasn't the best idea to drive up to a bunch of spooked out farmers holding machetes and flame-throwers, hang out with them in a pitch black field of ash-- but I did it anyway. I sat there for a while, spacing out and wondering what would grow in the next few months. I sit and wonder now what this trip means to me.
It's been fun. Being young and twenty. I'm glad I'm not religious anymore, and I'm glad I've learned the liberty of being free. Moreover, my travels have given me something I think a lot of Christians miss, the reward of humanity, the greatest gift of God.
I get a huge grin when I think of the word 'contrarian." It suits me so well, always rocking the damn boat. Jesus was a contrarian. The difference is that I have to learn not to be a dick when I challenge norms. But those that have known me know that I've gotten better. At the end of the day, people are people, and society today runs on pretense and assumptions. Always shooting the messenger with the message. I choose to live better than that, and to surround myself with people that have an earnest heart to see optimism in humanity.
When I go home, things are going to be different. I've decided I'm finally closing a chapter of my life and am choosing to open something else. I've always set the man I've wanted to be as an end goal and marker, and I realize life doesn't work that way. I look back and don't regret anything, but I do realize that I've spent a few years being someone that I'm not, and investing value in areas and relationships in my life that do me harm. It's the little things that count.
Lastly, my mom turned 68 last night. And I realize both she and dad deserve more. I think about their legacy and how I can preserve it. The ashes blew up across my face as I stared out into the fields, and I asked "why story-telling?" And as softly as the wind blew, I heard it:
Huge ups to my sister Tiffany Yoon for some of these pictures of me. I love and miss her very much, and I'm sorry I couldn't' be there for your birthday! Please support her by following her cake business @cremeanddough
Also please check out Outpour Movement. I'll be writing more about Mae Sot and their org in future posts!