It’s been a while since I last posted. It’s been weird for everyone the last couple of years, but it’s been weird for me in a slightly different way. Ordinarily, the pandemic wouldn’t have affected me too much. I’m an introvert and loner and homebody; I did have to go through a two-week quarantine once and it wasn’t bad at all (admittedly, Korea’s a pretty good place to quarantine if you can do it from your own place). I’ve spent long stretches where I didn’t leave my apartment at all, and it wasn’t due to a global pandemic. Even before COVID, I felt proud of myself if I left my place at all on any given day, and I still do.
My experience has been different because I’m now living in my third different country since the beginning of the pandemic. The end of the summer before it all started, I quit my job of over twelve years and spent time traveling and taking on odd jobs to make ends meet, including editing work at a television news station and some tutoring and proofreading gigs. I was visiting Seattle when I got a call to come immediately to Japan for work, where I weathered the early stages of the pandemic, teaching online at home and grading papers at bars to get some drinks in before the early cut-off. I went back to Korea in the fall, again teaching online, and at the end of the year, I flew to Hawaii to attend grad school again, where I am currently. Hawaii has been a pretty good place to be in these strange times.
All of these transitions and my current class and work schedule has been keeping me busy, but I did manage to finish the first draft of my novel. I’ve actually been sitting on it for a while because of those typical writer’s insecurities—I’m fairly certain its garbage, which is exactly what I felt about the memoir most of the time I was writing and editing it. I’ve also been distracted by other pursuits—making animations and fixing up a 40-year-old motorcycle—but if the writing was going more smoothly, that’s what would be taking up my time.
One thing that I’ve been feeling lately is the importance of having a supportive community and environment when doing something independent and creative. I get why people get their MFAs in writing or go to writing workshops or communes or whatever people do. Probably the only reason I was able to finish the memoir was because my editor was someone I saw all the time. His classroom was next to mine, and I’d hang out with him and his family outside of work as well. We’re still in contact and I sent him the first draft, but he is thousands of miles away in the Midwest and is busy with his work and family.
Since coming to Hawaii, I’ve been visiting LA somewhat regularly because plane tickets are cheap and my friend and tattoo artist is based there. I admit that every time I visit, I end up jealous how he’s able to surround himself with people who can see and share his vision and support him. A lot of it has to do with his skill—of all the tattoo artists I’ve met, he’s the best by far—but he also has the personality and drive to create that environment wherever he goes. Creatively, there are a lot of things that we agree on and have in common, but socially, we are polar opposites.
There are many projects that I’ve abandoned because I couldn’t find someone to work with, mostly related to my inability to write in Korean well—the Korean translation of the memoir, the Korean version of the guidebook but for students, and now the Korean subtitling for my animations. I’ve now reached a point where I’ve been considering just paying for translation services even if it means I’m taking a big hit financially. It makes me grateful for the opportunities and support I’ve had so far and a little sad that I’m realizing just how important it is so late.