epiphanies and creativity

My dad always told me that there are just some things in life that I just have to do if I want to get anywhere. He said this when I wanted to drop thermodynamics (and did) and he said it as I studied for the GRE (which I then stopped because I wanted to get a job instead). And for a while now, he hasn’t said it. But now, as I get ever closer to what I want to do, I hear his voice say it with almost a look of resignation like ‘when will this girl get it, why does it take her this much to understand.’

Because seeing others that are doing so well at my age, at an age younger than me, achieving this that and the other, I realize now what my weakness is:

I’m not disciplined enough.  Continue reading “epiphanies and creativity”


To Put Oneself Out There: My Music


When you see this picture, what does it make you feel? What part of you resonates with it, what does it make you want to do, where does it make your thoughts wander?

For me, at 11pm, this picture brought with it ukulele chords and a sense of reaching, stretching, like the elements of the picture were reaching for the horizon point rather than streaming from it. So I picked up my uke, pulled up Garageband, and recorded a loop of what I heard in my head, then sang over it. And played with some fun microphones and then one thing led to another and then, at 2am, I finished a song I felt pretty good about.

I don’t believe that I have talked much about my own music besides this random post in 2015 where I didn’t follow up with my words (typical). But from then and now, I have accumulated more songs that I wrote and my knowledge of GarageBand has grown and also just I’ve seen some of my friends put themselves out there and just be brave in doing that, in showing their brain children to the world, that I decided I should try it too.  Continue reading “To Put Oneself Out There: My Music”

room to breathe

Ever since I think middle school, I liked being busy. I distinctly remember rushing to do something during lunch time, I think, and I was running from the science classroom to somewhere else and my science teacher told me very sternly, “Ashley, you don’t have to run around.” Or, something along the lines like that, something like ‘it’s okay to not be in a rush’.

And I think that being busy, running from point A to point B made me feel good, like I was important because look, I had all these things to do. I still even remember one day in sixth grade when I went to two birthday parties back to back. I shouldn’t have because it was exhausting, but I remember feeling proud that I pulled it off.

But now it’s different. It’s the end of my first week of classes as a senior and it was the busiest I’ve ever been in my life and I felt it drain me mentally. Today I woke up late and already felt drained. I didn’t want to get up, didn’t want to do anything although there were things to be done. And then I went to a meeting and did some homework, which was good and pulled me out of my thoughts, but quickly the sense of feeling drained came back and with that, soon, my thoughts felt heavier and my appetite disappeared and then, cue the existential crisis etc etc  Continue reading “room to breathe”

The Growth of an Artist and the Honest Vulnerability of Their Work

Okay, for the record, I never thought that I’d be writing a blog post about Taylor Swift. And yet, when I finished my homework and checked YouTube and saw that she dropped her new single after a three year hiatus, I was curious and then promptly shook.

(man, I didn’t think I’d use the word shook in a blog post either but let me explain)

I didn’t see this coming. I don’t follow Taylor closely and I don’t really know what she did during her three year hiatus, except that one lawsuit against that DJ. I think there was some beef between her and some others? Not sure.

It seems like this is the product of fermentation of what happened because the words are hard hitting and the song is extremely well crafted. And very unlike anything we’ve seen from her before. Sure, there were other angsty-style songs but this style is fresh and more relevant to today’s music, so maybe that’s what throws me off? But also, I was getting kind of K-Pop vibes? More than that, though, the atmosphere the song created is really well done like wow.

And the artwork for the lyric video further accentuates the beating heart of the song and the repetitive nature of the chorus gives a glimpse of someone who was pushed over the edge, crazy, maniacal, but going to get what she wants, what she thinks she deserves as vengeance.  Continue reading “The Growth of an Artist and the Honest Vulnerability of Their Work”

Here I Am; Reflections

It’s truly incredible how a single email can affect a person.

Last summer, I was suggested to try signing up for a translation class. It was a grad class, but maybe it would work out for me. I got to meet with the professor of a class who is highly esteemed and during the meeting, essentially I was told that I was highly under qualified, which, fair because I don’t have much experience in the class.

I left the office determined to prove myself to the person somehow and also majorly intimidated by this person who exuded, in my eyes, confidence and intelligence and authority.

Fast forward and through networking that I can’t take any credit for I got to be an intern at the International Writing Program, in a legendary organization that is this year celebrating its fiftieth anniversary of bringing established writers from all around the world to Iowa. Over the summer I did research for a podcast on this year’s Residents and got to interview the Ida Beam Visiting Professor (who is really incredible and I still can’t believe that they let me interview her cause wow she’s really cool). It’s only day two of senior year and I’ve been able to finally see the writers that I’ve been reading about in person (and tonight I even got to show the Indonesian writer a bit of downtown Iowa City) and I also just got mentioned in the Honors Newsletter as an undergrad research participant.  Continue reading “Here I Am; Reflections”

Let Them Shine: JJ Project’s “Verse 2” Album

For a while I waited for this album. Not necessarily this album, but an album like it, that would finally let JB and Jinyoung do whatever they wanted and let their voices shine and resonate where they’re meant to.

I didn’t ever really follow Got7 closely. I randomly reviewed their album for a class and that made me pay more careful attention to the songs’ structure, style, and the members’ voices. I felt like JB’s voice in particular was strained at points to hit high notes in songs that are often trendy/following the latest music craze. I was frustrated because I knew that his voice could sound better, richer, smoother, if only he could do what he wanted to do with it, craft a song around it rather than fit it into something.  Continue reading “Let Them Shine: JJ Project’s “Verse 2” Album”

17.07.26 quelque nuit blanche

“And I guess that’s where I’m torn.

I see too much magic.”

I wrote this when I was a freshman, three years ago. It was after a conversation with my roommate, where I had a meltdown and was crying, frustrated that I had even a hint of a desire to not be an engineer when I had the ability to be one, to do math and science and do them well. I felt like I was being selfish.

I’ve kind of (read:occasionally, when I’m feeling more confident about myself) gotten over the guilt of feeling selfish. But still, it persists. And on top of it, worries about the future, worries about if what I’m doing now is leading to what I’ll be doing later, and this sense that I’m supposed to/going to do something with my life. Something significant, meaningful. Some thing.

“Music is a service, not a transaction…it does something to create community…the actual purpose of music is an offering.” (Yo-yo Ma)

Reading this felt like something slipped into place.

I’m not a brilliant musician, I don’t think. I can’t whip up something magical or breathtaking like some of my other friends. But I can write music. And I can collaborate and hold my ground with other musicians. And that is where I thrive, in the midst of creating community, intimate creative community, raw community. I feel the most vibrant (?) when I’m having a jam session with my friends and creativity feels like a presence in the room, a common thread pushing us out yet simultaneously pulling us in.

And what now, then? This question is a constant as of late. So what? What now?

And yet, after talking to a dear friend who called me because she could tell that I was distressed, I feel a bit better, like something is alleviated, like it’s going to be okay.

We’ll just have to see from now, then. Where this takes me, where God takes me.

Thoughts on Not Fully Knowing Korean, on the In Between

I was never confident of my Korean language ability.

It wasn’t because of something someone said to me; rather, most Koreans would exclaim that my Korean was good, but I think that might have done with them knowing that I’m Korean-American and thus not expecting me to be able to speak in Korean at all.

No, I always felt like my lack in Korean was a handicap. I stressed out when I watched something without subtitles. I even remember watching a movie with my parents and reading the subtitles on a different screen, my eyes darting back and forth between the actual movie and my subtitles.

Recently, I’ve tried to intentionally not use subtitles. And let me tell you, it’s like an itch that I constantly want to soothe, but then I remind myself that when I’m talking with Koreans or watching a show with Koreans, I can’t pause that moment. I can’t pause life and make it feel comfortable to me, I can’t jot down vocab in the moment and force everything around me to bend to my Korean language proficiency.  Continue reading “Thoughts on Not Fully Knowing Korean, on the In Between”

A Stranger’s Belief

I felt underqualified to be there. People walked around in nice clothes while I wore a nice shirt and jean shorts. Over there, an established businessman talking to a professor. And over there, business cards being exchanged and collected into an impressive stack. I didn’t really have much to offer; I’m an undergraduate rising senior not in business, engineering, or medical school, but in International Studies and on top of that, hoping to be in a creative field, writing, to boot. So when I’d get swept into a conversation, they’d turn and ask who I was, then usually turn back to the conversation they left briefly to see if I was of any interest. Usually, not. Which didn’t really bother me as I knew, going in as an undergraduate with a creative bend, would be the result.

Still, to be among so many brilliant people was exhilarating. Just hearing a Mandela Washington Fellow explain their business or what brought them to Iowa City for the six week long program gave me new ideas to explore and a burst of energy and inspiration. I got to meet a radio host from Zimbabwe, a chef from Liberia, farmers from Benin, someone in the medical field from Angola. My world simply grew larger as I listened to them speak about their country and their profession. In short, I was in awe.

But then one time, after I brought out my French to some Francophone Africans, when someone asked me what I did and I responded (in short) that I liked to write about culture and identity, he asked me to send him some short stories.

I froze, not sure if I heard him correctly. I awkwardly chuckled, saying that I did more poetry than short stories and without missing a beat, he told me to send some poetry then, instead.

I have never been asked before to send my writing to anyone. I usually send my writing to friends or to apply for something. Never had a stranger been curious in the fact that I write things.  Continue reading “A Stranger’s Belief”

Implications of BTS winning a BBMA

Screenshot 2017-05-22 21.08.13.png

Last night, history was made. Today as I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, all of a sudden, I saw video clips by CNN International, Buzzfeed, NowThis, and other such websites that had seven familiar faces on them. And then, the articles, one after another trying to figure out who BTS is, how’d they even get here, what is ARMY, etc etc

BTS, or Bangtan Boys or, in the original Korean, 방탄소년단, were the first K-Pop group to be invited to the Billboard Music Awards ceremony. They won the Top Social Media Artist, a position that also had artists like Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, and Shawn Mendes. PSY was the last Korean artist to be invited, in 2013, for his smash hit “Gangnam Style”.

As someone who instinctively analyzes everything and is in a major that encourages such mentality, I naturally saw this as both an exciting event as a BTS fan and also as a social scientist in training. Allow me to unwrap the BBMA win and it’s implications in several fields: Continue reading “Implications of BTS winning a BBMA”