One man. Two pianos. Three ashtrays.

This was the stage for trace, a one-man written and performed by Asian-Canadian actor/playwright Jeff Ho. Jeff Ho, who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Toronto, draws upon his own lived experiences to present the story of three generations of Cantonese women and their experiences with survival and immigration.

Ho’s great-grandmother flees the second Sino-Japanese War to Hong Kong. His grandmother “Ma” marries into the Ho family and becomes irreplaceable in supporting her mother-in-law, ill husband, and daughter. His mother becomes an accountant but moves to Toronto with her two young sons in hopes of a better life.

Upon Mother’s return to Hong Kong, the three women confront each other’s failings. Each have deserted family and upset expectations of duty. The plot advances through monologues and memories of each women.

Ho transitioned seamlessly between the three distinct female protagonists. The three women had conversations but it was all easily differentiated as each women had a characteristic posture, tick, and voice. While trace weaved in and out of the lives of these three women, trace made full use of the stage and lighting effects to indicate memories and create a sense of progression in the plot.

One of the most curious intricacies of the play that has stuck with me, even as I write this months later, is the tension between Ho’s presentation as a man and his portrayal of all three women. trace is the story of women, yet it is presented by Ho. However, Ho omits all other traces of men from the play as male voices are replaced with snippets of Ho on the piano. In this way, Ho balances out his presence and pays respect to the female owners of the story.

I learn more and more that while experiences of being a visible minority or being a migrant draw me to diasporic experiences like trace, my experience differs greatly from others’ experiences. I flinched hearing Ho apply certain accents to his characters. Some sounded too comically stereotypical and not genuine. I feared that others might take this presentation as accurate, when I thought it wasn’t. This fear may be for naught though as I reflected on my reaction and concluded that perhaps, perhaps that presentation was accurate from Ho’s experience.

And so, I applaud Ho for his stellar creation and performance of trace. I am elated that I am able to see and celebrate the work of an Asian-Canadian artist and would encourage others to enjoy and support the arts too.

My Declaration of Independence

Out of chance, I started exploring romantic relationships again. It’s reminded me of the fears that I had when I started my first relationship.

The biggest fear I had back then was of losing my identity. I was less concerned about that this time around since I have a firmer grasp of myself now and knew to not cede the things that I value about myself.

Although I didn’t have to fight for my independence within my own head, against the expectations that I believed my partner might have, this time I found myself fighting for my independence against remarks voiced out loud by people around me.

Those remarks were not intended to hurt me. No, they were fairly common remarks that can be freely said without harm.

It was being in a relationship, which led to these remarks being said to me, that grated against my sense of independence. The remarks reflected assumptions about what the priority of a person in a partnership should be: your partner.

The first remark happened after I mentioned to my friend that I had taken a long time deciding whether I should keep a certain dress that I bought. Knowing me, he knows too that I historically rarely wear dresses. He also knows from that I typically am a decisive person who makes judgements quickly. This friend had also seen me on a particular outing with someone he knew to be outside our usual group of friends. Although he knew naught of my relationship situation, my friend implied romance and joked, “Who are you trying to impress?”

The answer that I can articulate now is, “I am only trying to impress myself.” I like receiving compliments, but in the end the only person I considered when making the purchase is myself. I only care about how much joy I derive from the purchase and how value I get from it. My clothes and appearance had nothing to do with any romantic relationship or potential suitors.

The second remark came from a dear friend who celebrated my romantic adventure with me along every step of the way. Unsurprisingly, she was overjoyed to hear of how things progressed for me. On one occasion where we were casually chatting and expressing our appreciation for each other (yes, such overt gratitude is a common part of our conversations), she opined that it would be nice to spend more time with me. Except, she noted, I had another special person in my life that I probably would be spending time with instead.

My crafted response, which I cannot remember if I delivered then, is that me being in a budding romantic relationship should not displace the relationships that I already have and treasure greatly. Other suggestions in society and popular culture that reflect this expectation that people should prioritize their romantic partner over all others befuddles me greatly. I do not see why romantic partners should occupy the top tier of my attention all the time. I do not see why my family and friends should receive less time when a romantic interest enters my life.

With or without a partner, I want to fiercely be known that I am who I deign I am. No one else has a say in who I choose to be. I want people to know that I make decisions for myself, be it in what I choose to wear or who I spend time with. I want people to know that if I choose to enter a relationship, I still am my full, whole, person, and not some fraction of a partnership.

This is my declaration of independence.

Always Be My Maybe: the Asian-American film that I didn’t know I needed

First things first: I’m not Asian-American, I’m Asian-Canadian. If you’ll allow me though, I’ll sidle under the Asian-American umbrella for a while given the similarities between Canadian and American cultures.

I am supportive of movements to increase diversity in popular culture, even if I have had mixed impressions of recent celebrated examples. The revealing of futuristic, high-technology Wakanda in Black Panther almost had me in tears as it imagined an alternative world where blackness was associated with progressiveness rather than regressiveness. Meanwhile, Crazy Rich Asians left me disappointed as it reduced “Asian” culture to filial piety and pitted it in an apparent antagonistic relationship with “Western” culture (to be more precise, liberal values).

Having watched the Christmas-themed romance movies on Netflix, I know some Netflix romance movies are simple plots without much depth. As such, I was hesitant to click on Always Be My Maybe (2019, directed by Nahnatchka Khan) since it looked like it fell along those lines. However, for the sake of showing support for Asian creatives, I tucked my chin in and decided to watch Always Be My Maybe.

Sasha Tran (Ali Wong) and Marcus Kim (Randall Park), the childhood friends and romantic duo in the film, are polar opposites. Sasha is a rising culinary star, jet setting every few months to open new restaurants across the U.S. Marcus is stuck in time, working for his father’s air conditioning company and playing for the same high school band at the same venues. The challenges in their relationship emerge partly from her desire to advance her career, no matter the miles she must travel or the places she must move to; whereas he is reluctant to leave his familiar surroundings, venture to new places, or fade into the shadows behind Sasha’s glaring brilliance.

When I found out hat the glasses that I bought last week looked much like Sasha Tran’s, I was very pleased. Sasha’s character resonated with me.

Sasha is uncompromising in terms of her career. She is dead set on rising higher and skips to another city in a matter of seconds, even if her relationships might suffer.

I too see myself working in a number of great metropolises, far from Canada, for parts of my career. I know that the jobs I want demand separation from my family, who are based in Canada. I believe that I won’t be here in Ottawa for much longer than two to three years more as I will endeavour to jump to a different city to pursue my interests.

As I plan my future, I wonder if these numerous moves will nip multiple relationships in the bud. Like how Sasha and Marcus’ relationship is extinguished again when Marcus refuses to New York with her, I wonder if my focus on myself will lead to a similar event in my future.

On another line of similarity, I wonder if being too successful like Sasha is unattractive. I know better now, but up until even a year ago I suspected that my successes frightened off potential dates.

I am not trying to toot my own horn, but I have been told by friends and mentors how impressive my experiences and skills are. My academic transcript lists a record of achievements. Assuming then that I have somewhat decent social skills, given the fact that I am able to maintain friendships and acquaint myself with new people relatively easily, I used to ask why I was single for so many years.

For me, the praise that my friends offered was like a double edged sword they regaled my performance, but doing so seemed to create a distance between myself and others. Was I untouchable in the minds of others? At least one family member has expressed that they feel dwarfed by my presence, a presence weighted with awards and reams of recognitions.

Recent interactions have informed me that being too successful should not be a cause for concern in terms of relationships, but watching Marcus turn away from Sasha due to her accomplishments reminded me of the fear that I once had.

There are other parts of Sasha’s character and the film that I don’t identify closely with, so it befuddled me why the character captivated me. Furthermore, Always Be My Maybe is not the first film to feature a successful woman who is determined to put her career first. The Devil Wears Prada is another one that comes to mind, as Anne Hathaway’s character gives her personal life up for the fashion world.

The only reason that I can think of so far as to why I see myself in Sasha Tran (and not because we have similar looking glasses) is that she is Asian like me. She’s tiny in stature but unstoppable. Her hair is black and her skin is not fair like the lightest shades of foundation. She is elated when someone brings her the news that they’ve got some sort of stinky tofu soup waiting for her. I see now the effects of visually representing diversity on screen, for I think if Sasha Tran looked more like a Sasha White, I would not have cared to write this. Identifying with Sasha Tran made me realize how far all other female characters that I’ve seen in films are from myself. Sasha Tran was the Asian-American female representation that I never realized that I had lacked.

I really enjoyed Always Be My Maybe. I’m hopeful that it signals a continuation in the trend of putting Asian-American creatives and Asian-American stories in the limelight.

When films inform how you react to your ex

I started work a few weeks ago. The position right in my area of interest and is exactly what I dreamed of. I was excited to start.

Months before I entered the office though, there was one small matter that would pop into my head and make my heart pump just a little faster in nervousness, before I laughed it off. It was the fact that my ex-boyfriend worked in that building.

Our relationship was fairly short at four months. We agreed to part ways as our paths diverged significantly: he was a few years older than me and moved for further schooling, whereas I had just started university and would be staying in one place for a few years. It made sense.

I was quite upset after it ended because he had promised to be friends, but didn’t live up to it. There were increasingly infrequent and eventually no responses to messages that I sent in the month after splitting. I understood the logic then that it was to create that distance. Still, I am a stickler for promises and evidently was the one more reluctant to let go.

I didn’t know and still don’t know how to handle exes.

I was in the same town as he was a few years ago, which was a few years after we had broken up. It took me three months before I messaged him and asked to meet up. He was kind in offering his help to me. It was pleasant enough.

However, I seem to have forgotten how alright it was chatting to him that time. This year, when I discovered that it was very likely that I’d run into him at my new workplace, I gave a cry of anguish in front of my friends. A definite overreaction, given that my most recent interaction with him went well.

I haven’t had any relationship other than that one, so I have no past experience to go off on. Aside from the little that people around me happen to mention about their exes, all I have are films, dramas, and popular culture. Popular plots in chick flicks inform me that exes are to be detested. They inform me that running into your ex is awkward. They also inform me that exes and all memories associated with them are to be wrapped tightly in a veil as dark as a blackout curtain, sealed with a hefty padlock, and buried so deep you forget where those memories are.

Throughout my first week at work, my heart accelerated into the same little pitter-pat of nervousness whenever I pressed the button for the lift. Being stuck in a confined space with my ex was the worst possible way that I could imagine acquainting him to the fact I was working in his building. There’d be no escape and a limited time to provide the low-down of why I was in the building.

About seven work days into my job, I finally ran into my ex at a lunchtime presentation. As I waited for the presentation, the thought that he might find this presentation relevant to crossed my mind. Lo and behold, he entered the room a few minutes before the presenter did. Thankfully, he reacted much quicker than me and greeted me with a quick, “Good to see you.”

After the presentation, I awkwardly waited for him to finish catching up with a colleague, before informing him that I was working at the building. He made a joke that made me laugh.

I didn’t know what to think of the interaction immediately after. One of the most reoccurring thoughts that day was how I didn’t feel like myself, nor did he look like the person I once knew. I’ve started wearing eyeshadow to work lately and I sometimes overdo it as the lighting in my place is a bit dim. I have been rocking a very feminine all-over-the-eyelid pink look, when I’ve only done black eyeliner for all the years before that. As for him, his style was essentially the opposite of how I remembered him and how he looked like in the last Facebook photo that he uploaded months or years ago. I remembered how he put intense thought into his styling and cut his hair close, so the mismatched blazer and trousers that he wore as well as his longer hair surprised me. The utter difference in how we looked from when we were dating affirmed the distance between our past selves and between our current selves. The separation between now and then convinced me that I could have future interactions with him and not think too much of the frustration I had in the past.

A few days after the encounter, I was able to put together a narrative for this encounter: it reminded me of the good things about him. In a few brief exchanges, he expressed his kindness and his humour, which were some of the reasons why I enjoyed spending time with him so much. For that, I’m glad to have run into him.

I wonder if it’s strange to thank your ex for reminding you of the laughs you once shared or the joy you once experienced. I wonder if many people can run into their exes and be alright with it. I wonder if people feel the same distance with their past self, use that distance to keep looking forward, yet still accept their past relationship.

I wonder these questions because these are the experiences that I’ve had, but are not reflected in the media that informs me how relationships work (in the absence of any relationship experience that I have). It amazes me that I had such large reactions in anticipation of encountering him at work, as if out of a drama, when the whole thing was far from an ordeal and in fact has become a fond memory that I can smile on. This suggests to me how incredible the power of media and culture is. I’ll be sure to remember to not necessarily look to the representations of relationships (and their aftermath) as guides in whatever future relationships I have.

A decade of disliking dresses

,,,and how dresses became a form of self-expression

I excitedly told my friend that I got a dress in preparation for my summer job. She tagged along with me to the mall as I searched for tights to make my dress office-appropriate.

“How do you purchase tights?” she asked me.

I told her that I had no idea as it was my first time purchasing skin-toned tights for a dress. I had no skirts or dresses among the business clothes I owned. I always wore trousers for conferences and past office jobs.

She inquired why this was so. Her question made me think.

I’ve thought about it. My answer is that I have since learnt that it is alright to express both my femininity and masculinity however I like, for expressing any point or end of the gender spectrum does not compromise who I am.

I disliked wearing dresses throughout my teenage years. I believe that I found them too feminine. My refusal to express femininity began towards the end of elementary school, when I began to disregard practices often considered feminine, including the concern for clothes and appearances.

When I was about eleven, I began heavily leaning on a particular sweater that my mum got for me. I wore it so frequently that one of my uncles thought that my mum was spoiling my brother and ignoring me, as my brother had a vast array of clothing, whereas I always showed up to family functions in the same green sweater. Afterwards (months or years, I cannot recall), my mother pleaded with me to at least wear a few other items for her sake.

I started tying back my hair in a low ponytail from that age as well. By many people’s measures, the look was not flattering, especially as I had started wearing glasses recently as well. I began to look like the stereotype of a studious bookworm. I carried on with this appearance throughout most of my high school years.

Alongside rejecting feminine practices of maintaining the appearance of many girls my age, I rejected the most undeniably feminine articles of clothing: skirts and dresses. For almost every special occasion in those years from age eleven to seventeen, I donned trousers.

My rejection of what most girls my age did with their hair or wore was purposeful. I was well aware that doing this marked me as different. Family members and peers alike had suggested that I ought to wear more feminine clothing sometimes or be more feminine. I proceeded with my hair in a ponytail, classic-framed glasses, and trousers despite their remarks.

The painful part of recalling my memories on this subject is that I recall the sadness that I experienced. Part of this sadness was a result of the suggestions of others to be more feminine. It was frustrating when someone, a female cousin my age who was by all looks feminine or a male classmate of mine, suggested that I ought to do something (feminine) that I didn’t feel comfortable with.

At the same time, part of my sadness was from my own disappointed hopes. I would also dream of wearing dresses and being girly. I dreamed of high school debuts and finding romance. I looked enviously at my female classmates who showed their beautifully slim legs when they wore shorts, while I wore longer bermuda shorts and capris. I thought that dresses with lace detailing around the neckline were beautiful. I spent hours poring over pages of dresses like these online in preparation for events in my high school graduation year. I watched hours of beauty guru videos on makeup and hair, without trying out anything that I saw.

I chose not to realize these desires to express femininity because I was afraid of people making a big deal out of my change. I was afraid that expressing femininity would risk the identity I had presented. For as long as teenage me could remember, I believed that I was known for being sensible, with my hair perpetually tied back and with my disinterest in shopping. Suddenly appearing in a dress or even changing my haircut would signal some significant change about me and my priorities.

The few rare occasions where I did wear a dress or skirt confirmed my expectations about the reactions of those around me. People remarked on the change. The remarks were all compliments, but that didn’t matter in my head to me. What mattered is that people noticed that I was not myself. Being feminine had disrupted their sense of me.

Worse still, I internally felt very much like what others observed about my exterior: that “you’re not yourself.” Each time I wore a dress or skirt, I felt like I wasn’t myself in not a particularly great way. I had fun on those occasions, but I subsequently wore those dresses perhaps once or twice more. My discontinuation of wearing feminine clothing reflected my discomfort with being disassociated with my identity, which I had built upon a rejection of femininity.

I think that understanding that it is alright to express my masculinity and femininity however I like, rather than to attempt to meet expectations of others, is how I stopped rejecting dresses and skirts.

A few years ago, I learnt that gender is a spectrum rather than a binary. This helped me embrace my discomfort with dresses and know that it is alright to prefer trousers.

Still, I shied away from dresses. I adopted make-up and heels, even on casual occasions, but only to build a clean, simple look with an edge. I was still hesitant about expressing a greater degree of femininity in my appearance.

That is why purchasing a dress for work in this almost decade-long period of refusing dresses is a big difference. This movement towards more feminine clothing accompanies other recent increases in feminine practices. In contrast to the how I have not put on more make-up products than eyeliner and face products in the past years, the past few weeks have proven quite different. I have been spending time on one odd day or two every week doing my hair and make up. I have used my flat iron, which I have owned for five years, more times in the past few weeks to curl my hair than I have ever curled my hair ever in my life. I have whipped out the makeup guru cult-status Urban Decay Naked2 eyeshadow palette that I got three years ago (probably expired don’t do this at home, readers) and used it almost every week this past month. That’s an exponential growth in use as I’ve probably used it the same number of times in the past three years.

A Queer Eye episode has helped me articulate why I am more voluntarily presenting my femininity lately. In the episode, the Fab Five assist a gay man, who hesitated wearing more “feminine” clothes for fear of being associated as being gay. They offer advice and reassurance that it is alright to dress however you like on the gender spectrum. The message they convey to the client is that dressing yourself to feel and present your best, genuine self is what’s important; rather than dressing to protect yourself from what you think that others may think of you.

In essence, I feel now that expressing my femininity does not risk my identity. Thus, from understanding that it is alright to not express femininity though I am a woman, I have evolved to knowing that it alright to present myself as sometimes feminine if I so choose. Without this fear of how others’ perceptions of me will change, I feel more liberated to express all sorts of me. I wear dresses when I want. I do my hair when I want. I practice my eyeshadow when I want. I put on bright red lipstick or a subdued matte shade like an Instagram influencer. I do all this even when I have no one to see or when I have people to see; because I want to.

The same me will also spend hours looking at Vagabond shoes (not a paid endorsement) because I adore the masculine shapes they put into shoes sized for women. For a presentation in class, I will adopt a trend donned by K-pop male singers of wearing a turtleneck under a partially-buttoned blouse, all atop a smart pair of trousers.

I will express myself in feminine and masculine ways because I want to. I have purchased a dress for work because I want to explore what styling options I get with a dress. And most importantly of all, I purchased it because I can feel like my own self in that dress.

A big shoutout and thank you to the friend whose question about why I haven’t worn dresses prompted this post. She’s always been a dedicated reader and supporter of this blog. She has provided the inspiration for several of my recent posts – she’s the same friend who got me thinking about why I feel that I am not ready for a relationship. I am grateful for her thought provoking questions. Not only do they get me thinking, her questions show that she’s a very thoughtful and curious person who is genuinely interested in the things that I do. Sending you love, you know who.

Self-sufficiency as a cover for fear of relationships

A friend asked me recently if I was looking for a relationship. I responded that I’m not really looking for one and gave her the reasons that I’ve been giving the past few years. The most prominent of my reasons for being solo is I am working through challenges that I believe should be solved before I enter a relationship.

I deeply believe that I must be alright being by myself. I must be able to resolve my insecurities in order to live my life, regardless of I am living alone or alongside someone.

Entering a relationship could also compromise my ability to address my challenges. There is nobody but me that can overcome these challenges. Unlike movies featuring people facing extraordinary circumstances falling in love and making each other whole, I do not believe that relationships can help a person fix a part of themselves. The fixing has to come from within the person themselves.

Also, the problems that I have when I am alone would burden any relationship I enter. My problems demand my time and attention. I believe my challenge of learning to love myself would be particularly prohibitive, for I cannot envision being able to love another person without being able to love myself first.

Though I have organized these reasons succinctly, I in fact had a hard time explaining why I felt the need to fix myself before entering a relationship. It shows how I instinctively fall back on this argument about working on myself without understanding why.

The other danger with my instinctive argument about needing self-sufficiency is that the conditions can never be met. The goalposts signifying that I have “fixed myself” are constantly moving.

I considered a few weeks ago that perhaps I was at a stage that I could enter a relationship: I didn’t hate my own body, I accepted my lack of productivity, I accepted how I sometimes poorly manage my stress, and I continued with living.

Still, I hesitate about seeking a relationship. Fear poses several obstacles on this front.

I am afraid that I may be in love with the idea of romance rather than the person. I am afraid about messing up socially as I stumble through the mire of cues, responses, and reactions along the way to a relationship and in a relationship. I am afraid that my sense of transience will mean that relationships are not worthwhile as I do not know where I will be in a year’s time, or that any relationship I enter into will be founded upon an uncertain base of not knowing where I will be.

These fears are things that many people have overcome, so they are really all figments of my imagination. Despite how fears are often more fiction than fact, fears still pose very real obstacles.

From this, I surmise that my fears about entering a relationship have also encouraged me to believe that I ought to focus on myself. Explaining my reasons for not seeking a relationship in positive terms, namely that I am doing this for my own benefit, sounds much more pleasant than explaining it in negative terms of fear. I do not regret spending time by myself these past few years, nor do I think that I will stop trying to work on trying to be okay by myself in the near future. However, this experience of articulating my thoughts has revealed that fears influence my insistence about achieving self-sufficiency.

Aspiring to shine solo

I thought Jennie’s “Solo” would become my anthem.

I am an avid K-pop fan. I am partial to the entertainment company and girl group that Jennie belongs to. More importantly, it’s a song proudly exclaiming single status, which is something I thought that I too held with pride. The chorus translates to, “I’ll be shining solo.” The rest of the song is about not having to deal with an exhausting and draining relationship anymore (which probably explains why a word in the chorus sounds suspiciously like “bitch” in English), but the focus for me has been the chorus.

I’ve aspire to achieve the state that Jennie expresses in her chorus: I’ve been trying to embrace my single status. Though I cannot explain my hopes for relationships at this time because I have not sorted through the muddled thoughts I have on it, suffice it to say that I’ve brandished my single status as almost undeniably conclusive.

During a French class where we had to practice future tense, a classmate asked me, “How many people will be in your family in 10 years?”

I froze, partly because I had to think of the answer in French, but partly because I had to think about my prospects of meeting someone and setting up a family. After a pause, I answered, “One. I’ll be a strong, independent woman.” I held up a single finger as I told them my answer through a grin, although my grin felt slightly forced. As I ended my answer, my shoulders slumped in laughter and embarrassment as I tried to make light of my low(est)-ball prediction.

Though I’ve been solo for a few years, I think it more likely than ever that I’ll be alone in the future, based upon the very lack of relationship in those years. I’ve also thought more about how I can “be shining solo” because I have recently moved to my own place and away from my family.

Living alone was supposed to be great. No roommates to encounter awkwardly when there was friction and plenty of space to be myself. I was aware that some of my fantasies about my lifestyle becoming more desirable life (such as enjoying a fantastic work-life balance as my gym and yoga place would be nearby) with the move were fantasies. I did not realize that the ideal situation of being alone was a fantasy too.

A few months into having a place to myself, I am tired of being alone. Sometimes, I go the weekend without chatting to anyone except a barista. Sure, I have all the flexibility in my schedule for school work, but on those weekends where I do not schedule any social activities, I lose myself. Without any commitments, I go through the day following my whims.

The time I feel the loneliest is when I eat. Though I enjoy cooking and believe cooking and eating at home is the rational decision to save money, sitting alone for meals is boring, in large part due to how I eat at my desk. I do not have a dining table, so I eat most meals at the same place as where I work. I have recently started to change my eating perspective by purposefully moving my chair and converting the end of my desk into my eating space. However, even worse than the repetition of eating at the same place as where I work is that the isolation sits heavily on me. It has hit me in the last few weeks since I am forbidding myself from eating at my computer as an effort to revive mindful eating practices. Without the distraction of a YouTube video or Netflix series, there is not much I can do but notice the silence.

It is a huge contrast to eating at home, which my family always does together. We’d have the news on, the only thing allowed on the television during dinner, as my parents supposedly were listening to it. As we got older, we ended up frequently talking over it to catch up on each others’ days.

These days, I am alone. The lack of a computer screen at meal time is successfully making me pay great attention to my food. It has also helped me be mindful of my thoughts as I have taken to writing in my journal on the side as I eat. Yet, living alone sucks for the same reasons.

Living alone, I have only myself and my thoughts for company. Now that my thoughts are much more audible due to my mindful eating, I have realized that I am not ready to be “shining solo”.

“Shining solo” demands me loving all of me, from the parts that I am comfortable to the ones that I am uncomfortable with. This is because I will have to spend time with my insecurities and my disconcerting thoughts when there is no one else for company. I cannot say I will shine solo as I do not feel ready to deal with all of me.

Indeed, as I worked away at my food one meal, taking care to cut my vegetables into smaller pieces in an effort to pay greater attention to the sensations, I was struck with a thought. Could I live with myself as my primary companion for the rest of my life? Eating the majority of my meals and going by whole weekends with only my inner dialogues? Could I do this for the next ten, twenty, thirty years, and beyond? I could not and still cannot say yes to any of those questions.

Like my bodily reaction in French revealed as I exclaimed my single status, my attraction to being proudly single is a front and a fantasy. Proudly proclaiming that I will be single is more of a hope that I can someday fully be comfortable with being myself rather than a statement I truly believe in.

As such, Jennie’s declaration that she’ll be “shining solo” doesn’t resonate with me. Unlike the confidence she wears throughout the music video, I don’t have the same guts to affirm I am going to love me enough to be by myself.

Still, I am working so that I can hopefully say one day, “빚이 나는 소로 (I’m shining solo).”