twenty two

Today I learned what middle school Ashley would have never grasped.

On your birthday, truly, nothing is special. It is, but it also isn’t, in that too often we overlay the ordinary with some special meaning, that being to celebrate. I believed in the act and magic of this for years, relished that on my designated day, I could do whatever the heck I wanted, because I was the birthday girl, because for one day, I was the star.

Nowadays, I don’t believe in that anymore; I’ve been crushed by the so-called magic of expectations too many times, the worst being on my twentieth birthday when wounds were still fresh, then stepped on, and left to wither under a smile that only few can decipher as fake. After that meal, I cried and didn’t feel special and felt like a fool for expecting the world to acknowledge the day of my birth.

Today, I woke up late in a place I didn’t want to be at for my twenty-second birthday. I thought and I hoped that by now, I’d be on my own in some exciting city; instead, I’m in Peoria, Illinois, passing a month since I moved in with my parents. And yet, how God has been gracious in how this time has taught me to be less stubborn and more brutally honest with myself. It’s been a mix of some pretty dark lows but also some necessary reflections, discussions, and light.

I knew that today wouldn’t be special and I didn’t want any fake attempt for it to be. My mom unintentionally helped with this; when my phone went off with dings of notifications and birthday texts, she moved the phone to another room so I could sleep as late as I wanted. So I woke up at ten, washed up, and strolled downstairs. My brother Chris made me a cup of coffee (twice because I’m picky), Mom made a yummy brekkie sandwich, Dad was out mowing the lawn.

It was simple, and I loved it.

Our neighbour Brenda came over to share some Japanese noodles and Chris told her it was my birthday and she wished me a happy birthday and apologized that she couldn’t give me a hug because she was sweaty from gardening. My mom took five noodle bundles, three soba and two white noodles, and we went back inside and Brenda went back to her garden.

I didn’t want to get my phone, wanted to prolong getting it, but I had to see if the hot pot place an hour away (alas, not all places have hot pot as near as Iowa City does) was open for lunch and if my request to reschedule an interview went through. I walked upstairs, dreading opening my phone to see all the notifications. And sure enough, there they were.

As I came back down, scrolling through the birthday posts on Facebook, I marvelled at how years ago, I prided myself on how many people posted on my wall. Now, the spectacle of it was gone and more of a cultural expectation of sorts. And so I scrolled on, and on, and on.

Right as I came back to the dining room and took a seat, I paused.

A paragraph, and a picture.

And then I cried. And not too far after that, another paragraph with a picture I didn’t know was being taken.

I cried again.

I don’t take compliments well, or at all. They generally have no effect on me, and I’m not sure why, but when I do, I’ll write about it then. But these words, penned by two deeply caring precious friends, weren’t compliments, really.

They were more like gentle unraveling things, peeling back and shining light on something more real, less glamorous, harder to compliment.

Through their words, I felt seen. There was no part that felt fake or required; rather, it was as if they peeled back their minds and memories to show how they saw me all along, and it was rooted, and it was real. And it’s not like the paragraphs are Pulitzer prize winning things (though they are beautifully phrased); no, instead, those words were me. They captured in them some shimmering human quality and in so, became real, wonderful, and powerful.

The day is still ahead of me. It won’t be perfect. A squabble might happen, simply because when there’s four grown adults together, it’s likely.

But either way, I feel special.

Veni and Vici, you two are absolute gifts to me. Thank you for your words and, well, making me cry well after they were written, haha. You guys are blessings and lights in my life.

And everyone who posted or reached out, thank you. Regardless if Facebook told you or if you knew beforehand (lol hi Steph), you took time to pause and type out at minimum at eighteen word message. I’m guilty of not even doing that for some birthdays, but you, you did. Thank you.

Twenty two, I have no idea what you have in store. I have fairy floss images and mirages, of course, but what I’ll be doing even next week? No idea. But with the support from my family who makes eating out such a fun, loud experience (seriously why are we always so obnoxious when we go to a restaurant?-), my dear friends who have seen behind the light I cultivate and spoke life into the melancholy, and the acquaintances and social media friends who step in randomly and cheer me on regardless, I think, and maybe I know, that I’ll be okay.

[written at 1pm]


[written at 10pm]

Hello all. It’s been a long long time since I wrote on this blog, and I think that this might also be my last. Don’t worry, though, I’ll still be writing and sharing things but on a new blog/website, one that will function as a portfolio of sorts and a side blog.

But I felt like I had to end somehow and this felt right.

I started this blog the summer before my freshman year in college, so perhaps this is meant to be. Tomorrow, I have some job interviews (!!!!) and for the first time in eighteen years, I’m not a student. It’s a weird place to be in, but one that I know I can’t replicate again, so I’m trying to enjoy it, or at least soak it all in.

I feel like I must apologize to some people in how I upped and left. It did feel shameful to move back into my parents’ place but now I see that it is not and that either way, I shouldn’t be so bothered with other people’s perception. I’m still working on it. But that fear and heaviness stemming from it is why I didn’t give some people updates on my life. I knew that people had high expectations for me because I did all these cool things in undergrad and I felt that telling them that I moved back to Peoria was disappointing them and extremely underwhelming. And perhaps it is. But that’s only the first layer; I have learned so much on a personal level this past month, stuff that doesn’t’ translate onto a resume or a simple relationship. So I resolved that, eh, people who think that way of me probably aren’t invested enough into my life to probe deeper and will just dismiss me. In which case, why worry about them?

But still, the awareness of the stigma associated with living with parents weighs heavy on me and has distorted even the good friendships. It’s made me respond later and delay talking to friends and giving updates because I felt like a fraud, a scam. All that during undergrad and now look at her. What a waste.

And yet.

And yet, people speak life into this melancholy. And yet my parents deal with my extremely stubborn self. And yet God is good. And yet my friends respect me, cheer me on in all my creative projects, check in on me, send me encouragement, remind me that it’ll be okay and that my time will come.

Post-grad is weird, guys. It’s simultaneously a whirlwind and a desert. I don’t get it. But I’ve been writing and living my way through it and I know that this weird period will end. And I know that I do have things to be proud of, things that happened and that can’t be taken away.

I have my own chapbook live, in physical form, in audio book form. I curated my own exhibition along two brilliant creative minds. I somehow got to work with writers and the Chiara string quartet. I made my own little EP.

I did all that, and none of it can be taken away from me.

So, yes, I’ll be fine. I just need to keep repeating that to myself and letting my family and friends into the heaviness and melancholy and marching onward.

Dear blog of mine, thank you for holding all the memories and thoughts.

Dear upcoming twenty-second year of life, let’s see all that you’ve got.

And dear reader, as always, thank you for coming by. I created this blog to write but also to connect because maybe somehow in the thoughts on my mind translated onto scribbles on a screen, someone will feel comforted, entertained, or less alone.

Thank you, and from some part in Chicagoland, good night, friend.



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”

The Power and Responsibility of the Internet

I think I’m going to integrate TED talks into my life more. I realize now that I watch a lot of random videos as break (usually funny videos/music videos/reaction videos) but I can surely also fit in a video to make me think and to expand my world in my YouTube break session.

I watched this video today titled “Ten Reasons to Stop Apologizing for your Online Life”

Continue reading “The Power and Responsibility of the Internet”

I Love Asians Sign?!?!?!

When I walked back to my study table from the restroom something caught my eye…

It was a loud, blatant sign that said I LOVE ASIANS. And guess what, folks? It was on the laptop of some white guy. And I’m pretty sure that sitting across from him was an Asian chick (His friend? Girlfriend?). Either way, just…really? REALLY NOW?

Sorry for being blunt but that’s honestly disgusting. This is a fruit of Asian people being fetishized. Seriously. Like you’re going to use the same sign to say things like I love bacon, I love Beyonce, and then you’re going to use it to say that you like a certain group of people? Continue reading “I Love Asians Sign?!?!?!”

Reconstruction of the Blog!

A big hello to all my lovely readers~ I hope your day is going well because you, my friend, are a wonderful person, don’t you forget that! 🙂

*This post is mostly administrative. I’ve changed how I organize my posts in (I hope) a better way to navigate between all the topics I write about on my blog.*

Slice of My Life has posts stemming from my personal life. Things like faith, random thoughts, and updates about how my studies are going. Brain Children is the branch containing my material: poetry and prose. Brain Sparks are very different than the Brain Children tab. Brain Sparks has posts that are a result of my brain being interested, or sparked (ahahahahaha clever Ashley, clever) into following a rabbit trail to some topic. Academia has posts that are mostly reflections about what I’m learning in class. It’s a new category and I’m hoping to fill it up more and push myself to think more critically about what I’m learning in class. And last but not least is Hallyu, where I both analyze and fangirl Hallyu in all it’s spectacular glory and layers.

I hope that clears things up a bit more! And hopefully this new layout of the blog will make it easier to find something interesting to read~

Happy reading! Enjoy your stay on Wings, Ashes, and Lights and please do come back to visit!

Thank you thank you thank you for swinging by~ 🙂


Shine Some Light!

Do you ever have that moment when you see someone but you’re never sure if you should wave or say hi or not? What if they don’t see you? Or worse, what if they do but ignore you? Or, even more than that, what if you get into an awkward conversation that seems obligated?

Being back on campus, I’ve definitely seen some familiar faces and have hesitated or not done anything. But just now, I was pleasantly surprised.

Continue reading “Shine Some Light!”



-wait, did I? I mean, don’t take it personally dear firewall-free Internet, but it was kind of nice being away. It’s not you, it’s me. *starts laughing because it sounds like some breakup line*

I wrote that I’d write posts while I was in China, didn’t I? And that I might get back onto my blog to make sure everyone knew I was alive? I mean, I technically could have with the magic that is VPN, but I didn’t. I was honestly way too busy with everything and it felt nice to be away from it all. Now, this isn’t to say that I haven’t spent some of my time back scrolling through social media (I have, I so have). But at the same time, now after having my first delicious taste of traveling the world on my own, I’m more keen to explore my world more rather than wasting time in front of a screen.

Continue reading “BACK FROM CHINA”

It’s Been a Year!

Today I was greeted with the pleasant news that it’s been a year since I started blogging! Crazy, isn’t it? It seems like it’s been much longer, probably because of university and all my posts in between. I mean, this is my 162nd post and believe it or not, I actually have 110 people following my blog. I didn’t think that I was that interesting, so thank you to each of you 110 beautiful people for following Wings, Ashes, and Lights. I will work hard to make this blog with your time 🙂

This was my first blog post. I didn’t really know what I was getting into, and actually it wasn’t my idea to start blogging. My dad was the one who planted the seed in my mind when he saw me being a slug at home during the summer. (ah, well, not much has changed in that sense though…) It fermented it my mind for a while and then one day when I was wallowing in my boredom, I decided to actually do it. And I’m so glad I did.

This blog is my way to organize my thoughts on anything that sparks my interest. My followers have probably gotten used to my posts oscillating from religious rants to fangirling over kpop to poetry to travel stories. And although this blog isn’t perfect, I’m extremely proud of where it is now. It’s like keeping an online journal and it’s cool to click through my past posts and see how it was in that moment of time. Although I’m not a pro yet (still don’t really know what all the side buttons on the dashboard mean…), I’m going to strive to get there.

So again, thank you to everyone who stopped by this blog to read some tidbit of mine. Whether you clicked on this from Facebook by my incessant posts, stumbled across this while looking for kpop reviews, or just clicked on my link perchance, thank you. Here’s to another year then, of Wings, Ashes, and Lights!

Who Remembers Zack and Cody?

I was scrolling through Facebook (mindlessly. again…) and was trying to find something to write about. I told myself to post once a day some sort of writing to keep me exercising my brain and avoid being lazy. And lo and behold, the random posts of Facebook gave me something interesting to talk about.


Raise your hand (yes, you) if you ever watched The Suite Life of Zack and Cody when you were younger. (pauses) Yup, pretty much everyone reading this blog. I mean, who didn’t love the show? All of the twins’ crazy antics, Cody being a nerd and the more sensible one, Zack being the wilder child (I still remember when he pronounced bleach ‘bleckk’ XD), and the hotel staff, and London and Maddie breaking stereotypes by being the Asian airhead and blonde smart girl…

Ah, memories~

Continue reading “Who Remembers Zack and Cody?”


Today is officially my third day of summer, folks! I’m back in Montreal and it feels right but slightly off. Not in a bad way but it’s like my environment remained the same but now it’s occupant (me) is different. Ah well, I should have expected this.

This is the first summer that I’m excited for. Or no, wait, perhaps a better way to say it is that I’m really excited for this summer because I have things I want to accomplish:

  • Research/learn more about Korean history, Asian history. This was started from my Korean Civilization class I took last semester. I feel like my brain has been expanded and now I’m craving to learn more and educate myself about the history of my motherland and issues around the world. It’s like it’s waiting for me to discover, for the taking.
  • Learn Mandarin! (and maybe some Japanese along the way) Because I’m going to Beijing in July to take two classes at Peking University! I will dedicate a post in my Adventures Abroad tab about this opportunity later~
  • Record my songs/compile them into an album, because wow I actually wrote a good number of songs during Freshman year, come to think of it.
  • Exercise! Well, I mean, my entire family is going to do this so that’ll be a fun project.

My end game overall is to come back to Iowa better than when I left it. This summer needs to be effective and efficient. If anything, this post is just a note to myself, something to keep myself accountable because I really need to be smart about how I use these three months until school starts again.