Where to Go from Here

Terrified.

Sick to my stomach.

Fearful.

In shock.

These are not words to follow a presidential election. At least, not an American one.

Yet here I am as the ballots are being counted and it’s nearing the time when the candidate I didn’t vote for will likely be in the White House in two months, and I am deeply troubled.

As a former ‘news person’ I’ve had some ask me how this could’ve happened. There are lots of hypotheses: erroneous polling, overly confident headlines, and an intentional overlook of a demographic that is often looked down upon – the white low-income class. They don’t satisfy.

I have to wake up to my alarm tomorrow.

I want to look forward to walking down the aisle, cradling my first child in my arms, seeing a new country for the first time.

I dream of a world that isn’t so broken or hate-filled.

It seems bleakly impossible.

Tonight I prayed a prayer that only God could give me. I didn’t pray for understanding – I may never get that. Instead, that impossible prayer begged for trust, for comfort, for wisdom, and most importantly – for strength to know how to keep living the values and beliefs I have – when everything else turns inside out around me. Our call isn’t to flee. Our call is to be a part of the change we still believe in, no matter who is our President. 

Terrified.

Sick to my stomach.

Fearful.

In shock.

But now it is time to do/think/share/hope/love more than we did before.

#imwithher #imwithUS #Election2016

maine flag

A Letter, Better Late than Never

I am ashamed to say that in my more than three decades of existence, I have not read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s letter from the Birmingham jail.

The shame doesn’t end there.

As a privileged, educated Christian who is a minority but often treated like the majority, I cringe at knowing the injustice that existed less than a century ago – and the fact that injustice still exists now.

I cringe because there are still Christians who “stand on the sidelines” and while they mouth the right words when facing inhumane circumstances or possibilities for sacrifice, the hands stay closed and the eyes are dull.

I cringe when recognizing the disgust with the church has not diminished; in fact, the faith I believe in is frequently dismissed by outsiders because we are no longer extremists as Jesus Christ was. Were we ever? Could we be?

I know myself, and I see the potential for such standoffishness in me. Yes, me who graduated from an Ivy League university and chose to work part-time at a news station, dreamy about telling the stories of the voiceless. Yes, me who has grown up ‘churched’ and reciting Bible verses her entire life. Yes, me who left a provocative career for one that seems less ‘glamorous’ in order to ‘do good.’

We’re all frighteningly capable of indifference. Today I saw a man ahead of me who appeared to be mentally unstable based on his loud ranting and stumbling gait. I set my teeth, determined to walk straight past him as a sign that he was a human being and not a ‘body’ to avoid.

Then a well-dressed gentleman stranger walking from that direction passed me and suggested kindly, “Hey, you should cross the street.”

I crossed.

When the lesser-dressed man caught my eye from over the hood of a car, I gave a weak smile. He grinned and kept on singing and leaning against a pole, and I walked the remaining block to work, wondering if I had given into irrational fear by creating a distance of 10 feet rather than 10 inches between us.

 

This letter is to me. This letter is to you.

“The question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of justice, or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 1963

At the Table with 엄마

The last time I was home, you became privy to three vignettes about my father, a brilliant architect and loving Korean father (you don’t understand how much of an anomaly those last three words that can be).

2015’s visit showcases my mother, a woman conservative in her thinking and mannerisms but liberal in the ways she shows her love.

In contrast to the pasta of less than a handful of ingredients, my mother’s Korean dinners are always “just” a main dish and “just” a 찌개 (stew) and “just” a few 반찬 (side dishes) and then “just” a few more things. Each time she cooks at home, the serving dishes don’t stop coming.

Not just any meal

Not just any meal

My father had planned an elaborate golf outing for the three of us. Mind you, what I attempt with a golf club should in no way be referred to as ‘playing golf.’ But on the dawn of our tee time, it was just my mother and I heading to the course as he unexpectedly succumbed to a sudden onset of the flu. The other days spent traveling Jeju Island were exclusively ours, as he was unable to travel.

“Let’s take a picture!” – 엄마

“Okay.” – 인애, as she busily prepares the selfie stick.

“Do you want a picture of you?” – 엄마

“No.”

IMG_8380

[minutes later]

“Oh this is all so pretty. Let me take a picture of you.”

“No, I’m good.” – uninterested daughter

 

The incorrigible mother  decides that she’ll then take photos of her eldest daughter as she walks down an icy hiking path.

“Look at me! But look natural!”

“How am I supposed to look at you and not fall?!”

Her handiwork

Her handiwork

 

We have a tradition of saying good-bye until the very last minute at airports. These are fairly frequent for our long-distance family, unfortunately. In years past, the clear glass partition that separated residents from travelers allowed for visible hand-waving.

 

Recently Incheon International Airport decided to frost up the glass… but that wouldn’t deter my mother.

 

IMG_8448

IMG_8447

How do you not love a face… an eyeball like that?

I love you, 어머니.

IMG_6596
Quote

The Commitment to Fulfillment

“But your fulfillment in life will not come from how well you explore your freedom and keep your options open… Your fulfillment in life will come from how well you end your freedom.”

– David Brooks, NYT

It has been quite the roller coaster ride, these last 15 months. An obscene amount of travel, reunions with friends old and new, and all the soul searching one could wish for (and yet not want at the same time). I’ve journeyed through valleys and stared up at a sky blanketed with a self-made fog of hopelessness. Elation has rushed through me as I realize near strangers are willing to take a chance on me out of the goodness of their hearts and the immediate connection we forged. And still – as of this publication – I am unemployed.

One could say I gave up the world of fame and recognition to be in this place of uncertainty. ‘You stepped down from being an anchor in air-conditioning… to being a reporter in the elements?!’ ‘You walked away from a glamorous career where free haircuts and holidays at work are the norm?!’

It’s not the one-way ticket most people envision booking.

 

Yet David Brooks’ recent commencement address at Dartmouth reminded me of words my own father shared with me in one of his epic birthday card messages.

Freedom is not always being free from something, but being free to do something. And as Brooks so wisely detailed, true fulfillment comes from understanding that limitations such as commitment can provide you with what you really want.

IMG_6593

And so:

I am committed to seeking my next path in the Bay Area.

I am committed to being invested in my community (though which specific one is still to be determined).

I am committed to loving my family, friends, and those who I shouldn’t have any reason to love.

I am committed to giving God glory because “by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.” [1 Corinthians 15:10]

 

Once again, the estimable David Brooks.

“You have to give to receive. You have to surrender something outside yourself to gain something within yourself. You have to conquer your desire to get what you crave.”

IMG_6596

 

My chains are (not) gone. I’ve been set free.

IMG_5141 cropped

Beautiful Feet

I wanted to share a letter I wrote to the staff at Kiva on my last day of my internship (today!). It took me some time to get the thoughts out, but it felt necessary to make them public too. Now that I’m entering the world of unemployment again, it’s a reminder of why I gave up what I did to try to do what I want to do.

I’m definitely at a loss for words with this email.

As I mentioned in All Hands this morning, the last 5 months have been extremely influential. It has been a privilege to be part of a team that is filled with joy, passion, vision and… lots and lots of delicious sweets from the TOW (I kid you not, when I say I’ve gained so much, I also mean in the form of physical weight).

Yet the powerful impact each of you has on an individual – the individual mother who has been told she can’t financially back her own family, the individual immigrant who refuses to let limited English capability hold him back, the individual intern who’s trying to figure out her next professional footing – is widespread.

Isaiah 52:7 says in part, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news…”

I realize that Kiva will see many interns come and go, and it’s easy to get lost in that shuffle, but I wanted you to know this: You are bringing such good news to our neighborhoods and the world. Thank you for climbing the mountains with me.

Stay in touch,

Innae

slippers

The Heels Have Clicked

Back in another airport. Are you sick of reading those words yet?

As I wait to board a plane to the coast where I spent the last dozen years, it is no triumphant return.

For better or for worse, I have made a vow to California. This visit East is to say farewell – at least, for now. There is reluctance, trust me. I am fearful of what it means to make a decision to stay in a place with no definitive reason to do so. There is no job offer enticing me to stay in the Golden State. I still find myself impatient with some of the slower-paced San Franciscans. When fall hits, I am going to be longing for the rock-your-world foliage of the Adirondacks and wishing deeply for the plentiful apple cider of upstate New York.

Yet thanks to some pretty fabulous weather, a grandmother who brings me bananas after I fall asleep (ask me about it) and a church community that has given me roots and growth at the same time, I can’t deny the longing to stay here. Blame it on the drudgery of wanderlust, or the allure of start-ups and playground-like offices. It’s not quite ‘home’ yet, but the potential. Oh, the potential.

IMG_3898

Sonoma

IMG_3598

San Francisco

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay

 

And if I were holding Toto and wearing shiny ruby slippers, I have a feeling I would open my eyes after three heel clicks and find myself facing the Pacific.

#nolongerinnaefarawayplace