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”


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”

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”

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”

To Be a Mother


This is a picture of the four generations of women in my family: me, my great-grandmother who just turned one hundred, my grandmother who still does research for nursing and flies back and forth from South Korea to the US, and my mother who, quite frankly, watches over us all.

For the longest time, I felt like I was missing out on the whole mother-daughter thing. People and friends around me went on and on about how they were like best friends with their mom and I didn’t really feel like that. My mom and I had, in fact, not the smoothest relationship for a while. But then, God stepped in and how my mother has changed has been an incredible testimony for me that God exists and is real. But more than that, I realized that the women in my family are actually very strong and extremely resilient.  Continue reading “To Be a Mother”

All Things for Good

I’ve been meeting with professors within the past week and it’s been an incredible time to just pause and realize how much I’ve grown since freshman year and how things have unfolded so beautifully to now. All I can really say is that God is faithful cause I could have never organized these things on my own.

Last Thursday I met up with my chemistry professor from freshman year. Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, I’m still not the biggest fan of chemistry, but I’m a big fan of this professor. In fact, I wrote a letter to him that I actually got to give to him in person during the Honors Society induction ceremony (he was the key note speaker; not even surprised). He was so touched by the letter that he treated me to coffee and he told me about his journey to become a chemistry professor and let me just say, passion is unbound. His excitement was contagious and his voice was incredulous as he described how happy coincidences lined up to lead him to where he is now.

Continue reading “All Things for Good”

And so here I am

And so here I am,

where I wanted to be / while I longed to know that

a. I would get over the past

b. I would find a morsel of something that resonated in me

c. my hopes were not in vain and would be rewarded and fruitful

Now everything seems sharper, clearer, even if the horizon is still slightly blurred

but it’s beautiful now, the mix of colours shifting, dipping into each other, mesmerizing, tantalizing, shimmering in hope, drenched in promise

Continue reading “And so here I am”

A Full Heart

My heart is so full.


I didn’t understand this phrase when I first heard it, but I get it now; my heart is so full and it’s a beautiful, wonderful, marvelous thing.


My heart is full with names, faces, smiles, laughter, memories, the taste of strawberry ice cream, the sweat from an intense game of ping pong, laughter as I learn the Arabic alphabet, the satisfaction of properly picking an apple, the sweetness of a long overdue cupcake run, the warmth from a smile from a stranger, the slight crinkle in eyes that hint to a fond memory.


I didn’t know that I could pour out into so many different lives and absorb this much. I’m amazed that my heart has this much capacity, and it doesn’t feel like I’m going to dry up any time soon; it rather feels like I’ve only scratched the surface. There are so many wonderful people in the world, people that God wants me to meet, people with fascinating stories and beautiful smiles.

Continue reading “A Full Heart”

A Letter to my Chemistry Professor

Dear Professor,

When I heard your voice at the cafe, I felt as if I was somehow transported back to my first semester freshman year, in your Chemistry class of one hundred odd Honors students. I remember how passionate your voice was as you taught us about bonds and solutions as if they were the most fascinating thing in the world, which, to you, they were. And although I have never liked Chemistry, when I heard the excitement and reverence in your voice as you shared with us a snippet of your field of expertise, I started to respect and honor Chemistry for the first time. I still do not like it to this day but I can respect it for the field it is and the people who have dedicated their lives to the field.

I wanted to thank you for teaching Chemistry so passionately, but you were in a conversation with another professor. I hope that this letter will be enough to share with you the impact you had on my life, in a way that you probably didn’t anticipate.  Continue reading “A Letter to my Chemistry Professor”

my catharsis + rambling

It’s frustrating when you want to talk to someone out of instinct, but then you


I mean, of course you can

but the ability to do something versus if it’s right (appropriate, fitting for the time being)

is something very different than permissibility.

Things change so fast, don’t they? When once, not too long ago, you let yourself pour out, no inhibitions because you trusted someone because you knew that they would be there to care, no matter what (or so they said)

and then one day, that’s taken away from you-

what do you, what are you supposed to do

with all the words hanging in your mouth, ready to burst?

Should you just let them expire? Don’t those thoughts and emotions deserve some moment of life?


Continue reading “my catharsis + rambling”