MYSELF

 
Photo by Kat Chen

Photo by Kat Chen

taking photos lately reminds me of my shortcomings

Sometime last year, a target optometrist asked me how long i've had my "condition" and if i've done anything about treating it. i asked her what she meant, it's not like someone ever said anything to me, other than i have pretty bad vision and i should wear glasses. she then proceeds to explain to me that i have swollen and damaged optic nerves, which explains why i failed the peripheral vision tests she made me take. basically, she broke the news to me that i either have early onset glaucoma, or that i have it. she showed me photos of what circular light looks to people with unimpaired vision, vs. people with impaired vision, vs. people with glaucoma.

"well, fuck!" i thought the rainbow halos and glares were normal. it's not like anyone ever told me. So i went to an OPHTHALMOLOGIST and the verdict was in: i have an old person's disease, and i have little to zero peripheral vision in both eyes. that explains not reacting to things that are to the side of me, and why sometimes on painfully bright days, i can't see a thing for minutes to hours at a time.   

anyway, on some days where the weather is beautiful and i want to take photos, i can't even see what i want to see through the viewfinder. i have to guess that my settings are right, and that they won't be over or underexposed. a lot of my photos now are underexposed compared to what i've taken in the last five years. every sunny day is a constant reminder that this is what i have to deal with. it's either if i want to sign my life away to medical costs to "mend" what is lost (i can't have lost vision returned to me, that's the joke) or guess if my photos are going to come out the way i think they might look.

ah, well i guess like i said before, i can't accept that i am ever doing enough, and i'll have to keep working myself to the grave to ever feel like i even deserve anything at all. my shortcomings are a reminder that i just have to work harder than ever, even if i don't think i should get an award of any kind.

how final fantasy xv helped me cope

despite it's faulty gameplay mechanics, ffxv taught me a lot about grief. especially dealing with grief. i won't say much about what happens in-game, but i will say that the unconditional love that the four bros have for each other despite their clashing coping mechanisms helped me understand that i should not feel guilty for dealing with my own losses. people react to death in different ways, and the ugliest form is denying someone else's coping for grief. ffxv has such obvious themes of grief, and how to navigate feelings through self-criticism, reflection, and not pulling others down with you when you have to face the truth, the fact that people will leave in ways that will scar forever. 

anyway, i'm upset that people can flat out say that ffxv was a bad game. i acknowledge its faults but are they really paying attention? whenever a character has to handle their own shortcomings, the entire face of those situations change with tone, music, and vibrancy. when the boys support each other and pull each other out of their grief, color and life bleeds back into gameplay. which to me, is an accurate visual and auditory representation of what coping with grief or dealing with depression is like. how life appears less vivid when we are navigating feelings around loss, and how those colors gradually return when we find out what our own security blankets are.

this silly game about four bros going on a roadtrip that went irreparably wrong taught me how to navigate my own feelings better than most people in my life have. 

learning how to enjoy myself

being forced to grow up at a young age basically meant that the losses that i'll end up cutting are what the romanticized childhood is supposed to be like. now that i'm older, am i supposed to make up for what i never had? i don't even remember how young i was when i first started being my entire family's INTERPRETER, or filling out forms that basically meant signing away our dignity for survival. comically, if i didn't have the role of secretary, i don't think any one else could have. the thought of being responsible for the well-being of three adults and two children (including myself) at at least the age of 5 is so fucking hilarious to me. 

It's one of those things that just had to have been done. I'm just writing it down for my own sake that because this week has been nothing but bad, and this reminds me that I was put in this situation for as long as I can remember.  anyway, i'm slowly learning how to enjoy myself. i'm checking my emails less often, sometimes ignoring important phone calls, stopping letting people rely on me for things they can deal with on their own, and finally fucking finally, i'm able to kick off my shoes and lay on the ground with my dog and telling her that maybe today will be a good day. 

birthdays

i am very sorry that i am not emotionally present for myself when i "should" be, but this is hard. there is no room for happy birthdays, just time to reflect on what i've done, and patting myself on the back for barely making it without you. 

i don't really have it in me to celebrate birthdays anymore. counting trips around the sun seems kind of pointless and lacking, especially when you associate your birthday with the loss of someone that you loved. i am still coping, and coping is very difficult to do when everyone is watching you. i am not going to use that excuse to explain why i've been bad. i am just very sorry. is it too much to ask for to be left alone? i wish my lack of presence wouldn't upset people, i don't really care if it does, but it would be much easier. i need a break. april is awful. 

however, if it wasn't for gina, i would have never continued taking photos. and if it weren't for my partner, my dog, and my friends i would definitely not have made it to another year. i am so, so, so fucking tired of mourning. do you know how hard it is to wake up every day knowing that someone that meant everything to you is no longer physically around? it's very hard, and i promise that i will probably never fully heal from that loss. but i do promise that i will keep writing letters to gina, keep taking photos, and keep taking care of my dog. i don't have it in me to be happy that i made it another year without her, but i have it in me to take care of what i need to.

Mothers

I WAS ALWAYS JEALOUS OF OTHER PEOPLE WHO HAD A HEALTHY, NURTURING RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR MOTHERS. THIS IS BECAUSE I NEVER KNEW MINE, IT'S IMPOSSIBLE FOR AN INFANT WHO HASN'T REACHED THE SIX-MONTH MARK TO REMEMBER BEFORE THEIR MOTHER LEAVES. CANCER IS A TERRIBLE THING, AND MAYBE IF IT HADN'T TAKEN HER AWAY, I WOULD KNOW WHAT TO HAVE DONE FOR ALL THE TIMES I QUESTIONED HOW TO DO THINGS TO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF. SOMETIMES MY DAD WOULDN'T HAVE THE ANSWER, AND NEITHER MY GRANDMA. I THINK IT WOULD HAVE ALWAYS BEEN NICE, BUT THAT'S A DREAM I COULD KEEP HAVING. 

I WANT TO THANK ALL THE IMMIGRANT MOTHERS OF MY FRIENDS WHO TOOK ME IN AS THEIR OWN. I WANT TO THANK THEM FOR PROVIDING ME WITH NEVER-ENDING MEALS WHENEVER I VISITED, THEIR SING-SONG GOSSIP ABOUT THEIR OWN CHILDREN, AND TREATING ME LIKE I WOULD HAVE A SECOND HOME. I WANT TO THANK ALL THE IMMIGRANT MOTHERS FOR THEIR OWN JOURNEYS COMING TO AMERICA BECAUSE WITHOUT THEM, I WOULDN'T KNOW JEALOUSY AND LONGING FOR THE TENDERNESS OF HOME-COOKED MEALS, EAR CLEANING, AND SCOLDING.  

THANK YOU ALL FOR HELPING ME PRACTICE MY VIETNAMESE, MANDARIN, AND CANTONESE. 

THANK YOU FOR HAVING SUCH A SPINE OF STEEL FOR ADDING MY OWN WEIGHT INTO YOUR HOME.

fathers

who figured that the day i would realize and be aware my own father's mortality would come in the form of an empty apartment. moving out of our home of 16 years where the walls were adorned by old photographs, childhood to adolescent accomplishments, chinese paintings, and textiles would be replaced by four barren, off-white walls. i feel a lot of sadness and guilt when i see that change. like here it is, the day has come where growing up truly means growing away and apart from your parents (in this case, my dad). 

i don't know why i'm trying so hard to fill those spaces for someone else. i have this need to buy more indoor plants and succulents for his balcony than he can handle. trips to the thrift store are now trips to find colorful and vibrant pieces that will mask the inevitable loneliness that my dad will experience without me or my brother. i'm not sure if it's even related to his mortality, but i've been thinking about it non-stop since the first day my dad moved into his new apartment.

what makes it worse is that it's an apartment complex meant for seniors, who also no longer live with their children, and maybe even their children's children. last night, we went to visit my dad to show him his new plants (a cordyline and an aphelandra) and am ambulance was outside with a small crowd. a lively old man told ben and i that this happens often, and a lot of people will go in and out. i know that some day, this will happen to my dad, and i really don't know how i can possibly prepare for that phone call with the news, or if it's on a day where i'm visiting. he may seem lively and outspoken now, but time does really fly by. i always notice that there's more grey hairs covering his black each time i see him. it's heartbreaking. 

i wish i could have done more for him up to this point, but i'm barely making it on my own. i shouldn't feel guilt, but whenever i see those four white walls, i can't help but to feel that i failed something that i could have succeeded in had i tried harder. i still want to take him back to vietnam to see his mom and his family again. i want to take him out of that apartment, regardless if i fill the empty spaces with life and color, or with nicer things that aren't necessary, but an upgrade. i don't know, i just hope i can get there before it's too late.