the truth about belonging




"The truth is the truth. Rarely pure and never simple."  ~ Oscar Wilde


May has arrived like a prophesy, a kind of epic invitation to choose what comes next.

Two nights ago I had a very rare and very vivid death dream. The terror of the dream was not so much the fear of dying, but the inevitability of it and the acute recognition of the impending loss of everything I've ever known. There was something coming for me on the other side of the door, and my hands pressed it closed for just a second longer. I felt something close to acceptance wash over me just before the final moment. Right then, my consciousness seeped in to wake me. My heart was pounding, but slowly the intensity of the feelings softened into something more steady and recognizable... I'm about to leave an old version of me behind. I've dreamt of doorways in pivotal moments before.

This essay by Arundhati Roy which I first encountered via Kerri Kelly a couple weeks ago, has also been swirling through my head ever since. It's a beautifully heartbreaking piece and worth the read. More to the point, it's a poignant call to action.
"Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. 
We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it."

I'm standing in the doorway of my portal, and the false constructs I built my life upon are starting to fall away.


Last week I resigned from the Embody Love Movement board.

It was one of those decisions that was both a bit terrifying yet wholly liberating, bringing me closer to what's true and also further away from what has always felt safe and familiar as I reimagine my work from the ground up.

What is undeniable for me now is, my identity and sense of belonging are no longer tied to whiteness. 

While this may seem like a simple or even obvious statement to someone who hasn't walked in my shoes and just sees an Asian person from the outside, I can tell you it is no small revelation. This idea disrupts everything I once believed and strived for. Which is to say, I now see so clearly how my entire life has been lived in search of acceptance and belonging inside of whiteness and white spaces -- and even more distilled down to its core and heart-wrenching truth was my fear that not belonging to whiteness ultimately meant I did not belong to my own family.

I've made a comfortable home and life inside spaces upheld by dominant white narratives. As a Korean adoptee, it was my only path forward. My life actually depended on it. But over the last decade or so I began to reclaim myself piece by piece. Inside circles of like-minded women, I started excavating and putting back together all the marginalized parts I had hidden away in order to blend in with the masses. It's so strange that the biggest missing piece was also the most visible one - my Asian identity. But it also makes complete sense, as it was the one part of me that I have always believed threatened my belonging the most.

Beginning the search for my Korean birth family has more fully integrated what has long been silenced and missing.

So today I am wondering with a wide-open heart, what would it be like if I chose to defect from the dominant culture of whiteness to lean in and center my own multifaceted identity? What if I stopped trying to educate, integrate, diversify, change and lead from inside whiteness (realizing, of course, I/we will always live inside the greater cultural narrative of whiteness). What would it feel like to bring my work and passions to a space that actually reflects what I look like and upholds who I am?

Last spring, I left my all white yoga studio even though I loved the community there. It was the beginning of this iteration, this new alignment within my own body where my insides finally were starting to match my outsides. I needed to be surrounded by other brown/queer/non-normative people. Now, a year further along on my journey and feeling even more sturdy and complete in my own skin, I feel even less inclined to bend and collapse myself to fit into spaces that only mirror partial aspects of who I am and require me to abandon the rest. This essay by Rachael Rice unabashedly names how "sisterhoods" and (white) women's spaces are problematic in this and other ways. I urge you to read it even if it's uncomfortable - especially if it's uncomfortable - and consider its message as well.


The difficult truth about belonging is that it is not about being welcomed and invited through the door.

Real belonging hinges on the intersection of cultural systems, deeply rooted social beliefs and individual location upheld by invisible lines of access. You can not create true belonging without dismantling all oppressive systems within, which is impossible to do. This is true within all communities and groups, large and small, no matter how intentionally and with love and kindness they are created. It is true inside my own family. There are ways I will never belong, that I am not meant to (I realize now), which also does not make me any less beloved.

Belonging is also never all or nothing. It is as complex and nuanced as each one of us are as individuals - it touches every part of our identity born through our unique experiences.

After a lifetime of needing to belong to/with/for others, I'm considering for the first time in my life what my own meaningful definition of belonging is.



Last Friday, I bought a URL.

Back in 2015, I shared the first inklings about my Be Seen Project in this post. I knew it would be about sharing marginalized voices but I didn't quite yet know how or what or why, as there were pieces of myself I still needed to reclaim. I'm much closer to knowing what it is meant to become.

As all of this percolates and integrates, and you think about what your own initiation into this next phase of life might might be, I will leave you with this:

"We don't get to chose what is true. We only get to choose what we do about it." -- from the Beautiful Creatures series I'm currently reading.

The shape of our world is certainly waiting for what we choose to do next <3



2 comments:

  1. So much of this resonates, especially after attending Resistance Served in February and really feeling what it could feel like to be in spaces that intentionally centered on blackness. It really changes you. <3

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    1. I can only imagine what a powerful experience that must have been! I'd love to hear all about it someday, and talk about *all the things*. xoxo

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