my experience

my experience with honesty

"you’re a good guy."

"no. i’m not. i’m really not."

i’ve never been good at receiving compliments, but then again i’ve never met anyone who was really good at it.

whenever someone shoots a compliment my way, i do my best to deflect it. most of the time, i deny them. that’s not true of me. no, really. i assure you, good sir and/or madam, you are quite mistaken.

i not only deny compliments, but i paint myself in the most unflattering of lights possible.

if i were forced to stand naked on a public stage and ridiculed, i would join in with the crowd. with every jeer or insult, i would amplify each one by subjecting myself to further degradation. i would grab the flab of my stomach and shake my head in disgust, agreeing with the crowd’s disapproval.

but with every jab, i claim to do it in the name and virtue of honesty.

i pride myself on it. but to be truly honest, i am being dishonest.

every single self-deprecating comment directed at me by me is done in the name of self-preservation. every “honest” evaluation is a piece of armor i’m putting on to protect the very thing i am supposed to be making vulnerable.

i build up walls around me because i’m afraid of not living up to the standards those compliments set me up for. 

i just don’t want to let anyone down.

my experience with alone

i’ve never been happier to see my dad than when i was in elementary school. 

my mother had started working, so there was no one at home waiting for me, so i had to stay after school at the day care program with strangers.

it was ok. they gave us fruit snacks.

and they would unleash us outside where the baseball diamond and playground was. kids would run around, play kickball, or read. 

i didn’t really know any of the kids at the after school day care program, so i usually settled at a spot against the brick building. i’d sit and watch kids play. i’d pray for rain so we could go back inside, but mostly i waited for my dad to come pick me up. 

it never crossed my mind to go and play with the other kids. i figured they were doing alright without me even though i wasn’t. 

so i’d stand against the brick wall and kick at it with my heels until i saw my dad walking towards me. i’d run to him and hug him. he probably thought i really loved him. 

i was just glad to see a familiar face. 

my experience with marriage

my mother always makes it a point to mention how little she thought of my father when she first met him.

they had met through a mutual friend and according to my mother, he was “head over heels” for her and she didn’t give him a second thought.

the story goes that when my father found out she didn’t like him, he went on a sobbing and drinking binge.

however, before he left for America, he called her and asked if they could meet. she said yes. when they met, my father told her that he was going to America. this caught her offguard.

mostly because this had nothing to do with her.

"so what?" she asked.

"i’m going to write you," my father said.

and with that, he was off to Guam, then Texas, Los Angeles, with a stop in Chicago, and finally settled in Virginia.

all the while, he wrote her.

apparently, he wrote well because she wrote back.

my mother said she was approaching the “age of marriage” and my father was in America, so he did what any love drunkard would do. he arranged for her to meet his mother in Korea.

when my grandmother met her hopeful daughter-in-law, she was sold. it was the smartest thing my father had ever done. naturally, he proposed.

"i’m coming to Korea in May. that’s when we’re getting married."

and so the date was set. 

and nearly 30 years passed until i heard my mother tell me how she felt about my father.

"i don’t love your father. when you and your sister get married, i’m moving to Korea. i can’t live with him."

they just had a fight. i was checking on my mother. she was lying down in my sister’s room watching a show on her tablet.

i went downstairs and told my father to apologize.

he refused, so i left. i got in my car and drove.

i was angry my mother didn’t love my father, angry he didn’t love her enough to apologize, angry i was a product of such a loveless union.

i was driving and along with my tears, i had rubbed out my right eye contact. my vision became lopsided, the blurriness in one eye affecting the other, so i was forced to turn around against my will and go back home.

i quickly went upstairs, passed by my mother and went to the bathroom. i ripped open a new lens and put it in.

as i was rushing away, my mother saw my face and asked if i had been crying. i ran down and went out the door. i got in my car again and drove away quietly, staring at the road, each eye unaffected by the other.

one way

my love is a river.

it goes towards you, my ocean.

my love would be tainted 

by your love for me. 

but it is not there and it hurts 

only as long as i am alive.

but when i die

oh, how wonderful it is to know

and love with purity. 

love, unaffected by your uncertainty.

even if the ocean rejected the river, 

could it run the other way?

my love joins you to become your glory. 

this love will never return to me,

there is no me to return to. 

whether you receive or turn away 

this love, i thank you for i’ve lost

my life only to find it. 

to love with the love of God. 

my experience with the one

i have delusions that i’m supposed to be with a certain someone. 

due to a steady diet of romantic indie films and rom coms, i imagine meeting my future other at a bus stop somewhere on a rainy day. most likely a coffee shop. on a rainy day. and most likely looks like zooey deschanel, rashida jones or greta gerwig.   

so when i see a zooey, rashida, or greta, i hope that she’s happy and that she finds the right guy. 

my experience with church

i grew up going to the biggest Korean church in Northern Virginia. the congregation was made up of a few thousand Korean immigrants, including my parents.

like most Korean immigrants, they were blue collar workers. my dad was a dry cleaner and my mother worked at a deli. we lived in a 2 bedroom apartment where me and my sister shared a room, but not toys. 

we never missed a Sunday until the Blizzard of ‘96 hit and that one time my sister got pneumonia; we spent that Sunday in a hospital instead. otherwise, it was youth group service, which consisted mostly of hand motions and trying to sit still for the 15 minute sermon. i don’t remember any of the sermons except this one illustration. 

the leader was this bubbly woman, who never seemed to be out of pep. she put her hands together and interlocked her fingers as if she were praying. she stuck both her index fingers up against each other and rested both her thumbs against her index fingers. the index fingers were the steeple and the thumbs were doors, you see. she wiggled them for effect. she opened up the doors and spread her palms apart. 

there was no one inside.

she then interlocked her fingers so that her fingers were inside between her palms, the top of her fingers zig zagging in front of her knuckles like a zipper. she put her steeple up and her doors in place. when she opened up the doors, there were people inside now. wiggling and alive.

that was a real church.  


“Why are frogs falling from the sky?”


Why are frogs falling from the sky?”

my experience with the Gospel

there was a bible tract available for anyone to take at church.

i was bored one sunday and decided to read it. it was a small, rectangular black and white comic about a man who suddenly died and went to heaven to be judged by God. 

watch it here.

i remember the priest exclaiming, “He was a good man” as the man’s soul left his body and levitated towards Heaven.

besides being concerned that my entire life would be premiered like a movie in front of God and His angels, i was pretty fearful.

i didn’t understand the Gospel of Jesus or sin.

all i knew was that good people went to Heaven and bad people didn’t. 

looking at the tract now, i see it’s full of truths and that i distorted those truths as a child.

good people believed in Jesus and did good things.

bad people didn’t.

it was easy to separate the good and bad. i thought i was good with some bad sprinkled in.

now, i find it incredibly difficult to separate the good and bad inside me.

Christmas is the day i’m reminded, ever so clearly, that Jesus is good. only good.

my experience with complaining

the internet has been a breeding ground for many things.

instant connection, instant entertainment, and above all: instant complaining, including this one. 

people criticize everything. 

before, complaints were left to comment cards and customer service. 

now it’s on every YouTube and Reddit page.

it’s not that people merely point out imperfections in a movie trailer or a product review or song cover, people make you wish you never even tried in the first place. 

which is incredibly disheartening and sad. 

that’s my complaint.