When I was little, I wanted to be Mariah Carey when I grew up. Still working on it three decades later. How about you?
Dill pickles are the perfect accompaniment to Chapagetti (짜파게티). Also, Burger King breakfast is unequivocally the one breakfast to rule them all.
BROOKLYN, BABY! Specifically, Sunset Park. Land of bodega bacon-egg-&-cheese (bec) sammies on kaiser rolls. What makes it feel like home? Stoop conversations where my 64-year-old landlord tries to find love on Bumble. Looking out my window to see a squirrel snatching a whole bagel between paws. Eating margherita pizza slices and garlic knots alongside East River to the sun setting over downtown.
Green-Wood Cemetery. For anyone who thinks natural life in NYC comprises of only squirrels, pizza rats and racoons, I tell you this: I have met baby turtles, a flock of wild green parrots (yes, wild parrots in the heart of Brooklyn), egrets with an exceptional sense of balance, many a peregrine falcon, and a beaver named Harriet –– all on my walks around Green-Wood Cemetery.
1) fifteen-year-old city girl with only tarp and rope in hand, solo camping for the first time in the mountains of Colorado, 2) moving from Shanghai to Beijing after an ugly breakup, dragging my whole life packed in two suitcases and finding new work, a thriving community of friends and myself, and 3) moving to NYC. As one of my poet teachers once said to me: “We must break ourselves to allow our work to reach a new level.”
My wildest vision for the future is to convene a salon of seekers and artists around the world –– a space that thrives at the thresholds, and is interested in orbiting around questions rather than answers, interrogating life’s mysteries with a healthy dose of skepticism but not cynicism. Some current side hustles that aim to illumine this space include a podcast produced in collaboration with my husband to take a closer look at the liminal spaces between historic mythologies, faith traditions and poetry. Also, creating poetry videos (PVs) to translate loved poems into a visual & sensory experience. And as always….writing deep into the blue hour.
A most recent luminary that came into my life and sent me down my own poetic line of inquiry is Carolyn Forché, one of our truest poets of witness. She opened me up to the possibility for poetry as a “means to attain understanding, reconciliation, and peace within communities and between communities.” I consider her my patron saint of poetry guiding me as an interdisciplinary poet at the intersection of cultures, language and faith traditions.
Earlier this year, I made the decision to take a sabbatical from work to give myself permission to study and write poetry. It was the first career decision I ever made not out of a place of fear, but a place of possibility. There was an initial euphoria to it, but I struggled in the aftermath without an armor of a job title, benefits, regular income, etc. –– am I still a worthwhile person without outwardly recognizable descriptors? It was (and continues) to be a kind of interior gymnastics to remember to love and value myself for the more core things that connect us and make us human, which in turn has helped me to grow my own capacity for consciousness, care and compassion. To remember how to be endlessly curious about others, who they are sans accolades and armors.
Some of my daily rituals: waking up early and lighting a candle each morning to meditate. Reading or listening to texts / podcasts that offer spiritual direction. Walking around the cemetery. Making space for my body to catch up with my overtaxed brain by working out / dance. Winding down my days with a mug of rose tea with my partner.
In the words of bell hooks: to “embrace a global vision wherein we see our lives and our fate as intimately connected to those of everyone else on the planet.”
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