time for that bi-yearly blog post.
a few months ago, someone I found very attractive was briefly showing interest in me. for probably many deep emotional reasons I don’t feel like over-analyzing, I had a hard time accepting their words of flirtation. not surprisingly, they found someone else in front of their face and left me to return to my normal life of no one attractive talking to me. I was comforted in the familiar feeling of not being “the one” for them. 2nd place, second string, bench warmer, temporary, fleeting, for now, a place holder. ah, rejection, nice to see you again. come on in, make yourself at home. this is my comfort zone, the spot at the empty table of my very own pity party. for some reason, I always imagine myself wearing a pointy polka-dotted birthday hat when I think of the words “pity party”.
filled with angst that I knew would fade shortly, I rushed through the motions and feigned heart break of losing the attention of a hot person so I could move on with my life. after that month long distraction I re-focused my precious time to more important things. not handsome korean men but plants.
I rest my fingertips lightly on my glowing keyboard. time to meticulously carve out a blog post. 「久しぶり」 I say to myself, one of the japanese words I have down pat because I say it constantly. if only I said all japanese words constantly, I would be fluent by now. my year 2.0 in japan is beginning, apparently. I haven’t seen much from my bedridden state. the 31st of december 2014, I came down with a debilitating flu, rendering my body heavy and unstable.
I’ve scrolled through my instagram feed with varied levels of envy as people snap photos of their firsts of the new year. first food, first trip, first memories of 2015. I know my year will begin soon, I’ll catch up. I lay on my side and pull the covers up to my nose and imagine what is in store for me in the coming months. 2015 will be great, if I could just get out of bed. my spirits are high, this isn’t the end. I’m not kicking myself for not washing my hands enough during cold and flu season, because kicking would require energy I don’t have. to feel so weak and useless is so frustrating. it only reminds me to motivate myself to keep active so I won’t feel like this again when I reach 80.
lying awake at 4am stiff and unable to sleep, I think back at 2014. what an emotionally juxtaposed year that was. from aimless depression to near enlightenment. 2014 was concurrently the lowest of lows and the happiest and most content I’ve ever been in my life.
I had an urge to be apart of something. I figured that’s what we are meant to do, as creatures we all conglomerate towards each other with varied similar interests, longing to belong. searching for soul mates, deep friendships, meaningful relationships of any kind, we humans crave it. as appealing as being hikikomori sounds, they’re still communicating to others via the internet. realizing I had no community, I felt obligated to join the bigger picture somehow.
I met a friend involved in the tokyo art scene as an aspiring art director, working at galleries. suddenly some opportunities arose and I decided to push myself to accomplish something. what, I didn’t know. I knew I needed deadlines or I would never get anything done. everything else was up in the air. I kept putting off picking out what photos I wanted to submit to the independent artist exhibition. a week extension, a week more procrastination.
I finally forced myself to view my collection. I picked out what I was drawn to, and narrowed it down. I picked similar color tones and an atmosphere that made me feel a vague nostalgia. the images began to tell a story together. they were taken over the span of a year, but together they told the story of an alternative future world in one day. they were of mundane images of tokyo, that japanese people ignore every day. I was fascinated with the city as an outsider. I thought my story could show that tokyo isn’t always what it seems, that if you change your mind, there is another universe right in front of us. I liked the images on their own, and I liked them even more as a storyboard to a sci-fi anime from a past future. such as a retro 1950s nuculear family prediction that we have already surpassed (2010 and no flying buicks, sorry, ’50s) I named it “retro neo tokyo”. a new tokyo future from the past. an alternate story telling of tokyo. to make the mundane exciting, to bring attention little details that I hoped japanese people could look at closely and re-examine.
I used to say “I’m not boy crazy, I’m romantic possibility obsessed”, as my clever defense against other’s mislabeling me “boy crazy”. their lack of understanding why I always be instant-crushin was a thorn in my side and a misunderstanding of my character. it’s true though, that I am on a constant crusade for a connection, a heart-skip moment, any eye-contact that results in sparks, an accidental brush of the hand that creates shivers, and excitable night conversations that go on for so long the morning light makes us realize we must stop exchanging words so our bodies can recharge since we’re not immortal (unfortunately).
So when I hone in on a cute boy across a crowd of disgruntled, sweaty sad faces, I am merely anxiously awaiting for the butterflies to hatch in my belly and flutter around, hoping our pinkies are tied with an invisible red string that only fate can tug at. there are many variations of romantic exchanges, from subtle secret moments to full-blown once-in-a-lifetime epic tales that are retold again and again in movies and supermarket pulp novels. I want to experience the whole spectrum.
I lost myself. where was I for 6 months. I remember being on top of that 12 story building, watching the first sun rise of 2014, resilient thoughts of hope, unwavering inspirational images flashing through my mind. “this is it, this is the year everything goes right” I told myself. everyone said similar thoughts aloud, and I believed them.
somewhere I lost myself. it’s half way through 2014 and 6 months I spent without a job, aimlessly floating, forgetting what I was doing hour to hour, day by day until it become month to month. a collection of empty days, lined up like dust-covered beanie babies. whats the point. I imagine sand running through my fingers as a clear representation of where my time went. what did I accomplish? my memory is shrouded. I went to Seoul, ok. I came back to Tokyo and waited. and waited. waited 6 months total to receive my visa I applied for in January. nothing could start, nothing could begin. not without the visa. I had to look through my instagram feed to double check if I did anything. apparently, I did some things. saw some people, ate some food. that’s a relief. why do I feel like I am sitting here with nothing to show? 6 months, I could have studied Japanese. I could have watched more movies. I could have gotten into shape. all that time, what did I do? all the things I want to do but was too listless to do it day to day. a collection of moldy, moth-eaten, polyester pointed-collar clothes from the 70s. worthless.
it dawned on me that all of my favorite anime characters have the same traits in common. although they are the main heroes of the show, they sleep a lot, eat too much, and have their mouths wide open yelling obnoxious things to annoy all those around them. I admire them all. probably because they inspire me–I can relate to being lazy, hungry and loud… but I want to work on being a hero too.
I decided to make a tribute of my idols and wear my fan art to Seoul Fashion Week. I was coming out as a geek in the most fabulous way I knew how. cameras and watching eyes everywhere in the middle of fashion week… and hopefully some secret stylish nerds that might come out to me. I was a geek peacock, trying to attract like-minded and attractive people. I was so happy to be wearing my favorite things I was passionate about! loud and proud, just like my anime heroes. I am an otaku and it’s not a secret! I wear my heart and my art on my sleeve! it was also the most fun I’ve had drawing in a long time. permanent marker on soft leather was a feel-good match.
I found the jacket at a vintage market in Seoul called gwang-jwang. the market was full of booths crammed with musty cheap clothes and a surprising array of cute boys closing up shop. I spotted this long, white jacket hanging from a ceiling. the boy of the shop was speaking all the excitable english he knew how, and insisted I try it on. it fit like a glove and I knew immediately this was it. but I took my time prancing around in it so I could spend a little longer talking with the boys of the booth. I originally imagined a cropped jacket but I realized I needed to go large to fit my vision. it was overwhelming since I hadn’t drawn in months. 2 days before fashion week began, I finally put pen to leather, laying out across my friend’s heated floors till 5 am, skipping dance parties to create my masterpiece. I MADE THIS! ah~ I’m so happy~
starring Spike Spiegel, Usagi (aka Serena), Vash the Stampede, Ryo Saeba, Luffy and Goku. I drew hidden things all over the jacket like the awkward crow from city hunter under the collar and sailor moon eyes on the cuffs. several cute boys have wanted to wear and steal my jacket. most people don’t believe I drew it myself. 5 out of 6 Japanese people don’t know what Cowboy Bebop is, and that is a strange problem.
sitting inside our neighborhood all-night indian food restaurant that my roommate and I frequent, I watched the devastating blizzard wreak havoc on Metropolitan expressway no. 4. I was finished with my hot cassis and only had one thing on my mind: to film.
I watched through the window as the unforgiving winds continued to barrage endless amounts of snow in front of us. for a moment I imagined being out there in the shit. breaking (another) umbrella, getting pelted and stung in the face by ice crystals, my nose running, my feet wet and freezing, and not being able to feel my fingers. the thought was not welcoming.
I had my camera on me with my initial intentions staying clear. I really wanted to take a shot of a shrine I saw covered in snow on the other side of the highway. the thought of crossing the tundra of hell only faltered me with doubt for a second–I decided I hate regret more than I hate blizzards. I have reoccurring nightmares about regretting not documenting something that catches my eye. I’d rather be cold and uncomfortable to get the shot then at home, warm and lazy, without photo. this is how I’ve always lived my life and I should know myself by now.
recovering from a cold, I woke up late to a discouraging text. it was snowing outside. I had yet to see it with my own eyes due to the opaque windows of asia. with one eye open and only using enough energy to move my thumb, I tapped on the weather app of my iphone. yep, it’s snowing outside. I had to have a conversation with myself. I closed my eyes and saw 2 paths: I could stay laying facedown on the floor for another hour and not do much all day or–I could get up and meet maria in k-town to eat a sweet sweet sweet potato despite the advancing blizzard. last weekend our plans were foiled by the first snow, and damned if I wanted to let that happen again. I decided to go on a sweet potato adventure.
color catches my eye. light, shapes, textures, reflections, shadows, something off, something alone, something empty. the things I like to take photos of always involve one of these aspects, but they always start and end in color. I’ve noticed when I edit photos now, I try to color correct based on emotion. “how did it feel in my memory as I took this” is how I decide which adjustments to change.
it’s winter, it’s cold. it didn’t feel that cold outside, but when I think of winter, the light is dim and cool. let’s make the shadows blue and the highlights orange. compliment colors, for a light contrast. lower the saturation, but don’t make it muddy. my blacks have all been void of depth lately. I think it’s a style choice, a photography fad lately. but the underexposed images feel closer to a foggy memory and becomes instantly somewhere you long to be, in the back of your mind. you might be able to feel like the image was something you really saw but can’t exactly recall.
I have some anxiety. an anxiety of troubling others. I don’t want to be a bother. because of this outlook, I used to be drawn to japan for this matter. most of society here is always keeping to themselves, staying out of the way and apologizing for creating the smallest amount of inconvenience to someone else. they rather take on a burden than burden others. I always related to that. I found boisterous, thoughtless people to be the absolute worst. I try to think of others because I want to be thought of in return. it’s not always the healthiest way to go about your life, as some things need to be said rather than bottled up. I am learning this slowly and painfully. I am already hyper aware of myself and that is not something I would gloss over easily in my list of flaws I will forever work on.
this anxiety also appears in my photography. one of my ridiculous worries is taking a photo of someone and they don’t like it. it’s selfish of someone to probably react in such a vain way of disapproving someone else’s art. maybe the camera tells too much truth? yes, you do look like that, with your face at that angle with your mouth open wide in that light. maybe your arms look a little fat here, but this is just a photo. would you look at the composition and the things around you? can’t you accept the photo as a picture and not as the “worst representation of your insecurities” image? people only focus on themselves.