Society/Pop Culture

[Worldwide Handsome Day, 2019] In Seoul (demo ver.)

Two years ago, I was in the middle of what I have now come to learn was an untreated depressive episode, compounded by major life changes: new job, going back to school, my band breaking up. I was turning twenty-five, an age where I felt people are supposed to have at least some their life together and have something to show for it. Instead I was starting over. I was lost. I was scared. I wanted to give up.

A friend introduced me to KPop, figuring having something else to focus on would help. Instead, I fell down the rabbit hole that is Bangtan Sonyeondan, and fell “in love” with my bias, Kim Seokjin and his solo song, AWAKE. Listening to the lyrics–ones he’d written himself and pushed for, having been rejected 20 times–made me feel like someone had finally understood where I was: knowing I would never fly, but wanting to run a little bit longer.

That year, I would release the first original I would write in Jin’s honor. It was called “Golden,” and it promised that, though I knew Jin’s “legs might get tired” from “chasing down the sky,” the love he put in the world would be worth the exhaustion, because it would always come back to him. I truly believed that for him.

In hindsight, I guess, I also wanted to believe that promise for myself.

“Golden” started something of a tradition: every year, I would record something in view of a December 4, 12AM KST (December 3, 11PM Manila Time) release. It would be a song that was for Jin, but also for me–a recap of the year that was, of the things I was learning, of the person I was becoming as I kept running, just a little bit longer, the way Jin sang that he would.

This year, I find myself in a similar place as two years ago. I am facing major life changes: withdrawing from school, applying to a new course, my job growing in new ways, leaving the org I co-founded. I am turning twenty-seven. I still don’t think I have my life together. I still doubt I have anything to show for the years I’ve spent existing. I am still a little lost. I am still scared.

But I don’t want to give up anymore.

While I am, in many ways, the same girl as I was in 2017–lacking in many ways, making a lot of mistakes–one thing has changed over the years. I’ve slowly learned to let myself believe that I can be better. That I if I just keep running a little longer, when I look back, the distance will be like I flew from where I was to where I’ve ended up.

A few nights ago, me and my two “PD-nims,” Carl and Nik, had discussions on projects for 2020 and 2021. Nothing’s solid yet, but there’s something. I won’t pretend that I don’t still grapple with the negative feelings, the fears and frustrations, that haunted me two years ago. But I’m more hopeful now.

In 2017, I found a song someone wrote for himself, and it gave me hope. This song, written two years later, is a product of that hope, of that idea that if you can just run a little bit longer…things can get better. And they do.

To Kim Seokjin, who will never read this: thank you for your song, which felt like a hand to hold when I needed one.

And, to everyone else who has been a part of this journey so far: thank you for listening. Let’s keep running together, for just a little bit longer. ❤

~ Frankie

“What’s on your mind?”: frantic, overshare-y thoughts on me vs. my facebook feed

Here’s a confession: every time I add a new Facebook friend, especially one who I’m keen to impress for whatever reason, I am seized by a sudden fear that my feed–filled with selfies, KPop, classical music memes, and makeup–presents a picture of a vapid, self-absorbed, “me”-llennial (as the Gen-X and Boomer thinkpiece-writing keyboard warriors like to call us).

I mean, it’s not an entirely inaccurate picture: I curate my Instagram; take tons of photos of myself, healthy drinks, and quinoa bowls (or a combination of all three); and don’t exactly have anything on my feed about saving the world, or being profound, unless it’s posts about how profoundly dumb I am at my job.

Sometimes.

(Long-time friends and co-workers, I know that because you are loving, caring people, you don’t like it when I call myself “dumb” but:

1. You haven’t heard my so-called “inputs” during video-call meetings with our Facebook account manager and, 

B. Let me have this moment. It is the closest I will ever come to being a standup comedian.)

Recently, I accepted a (surprise!) Facebook friend request from someone that I was extremely keen to impress (for reasons I do not think I can ethically discuss), and was overcome with the existential dread that comes with realizing that, outside of occasional “conversations” where I make two to three awkward, nervous jokes (tops!), said person’s idea of who I was, as a person, would be based on this narrow field called a Facebook timeline. A field, which, I’m going to be honest, is less about what fuels my introspection and more of whatever floats my boat when I’m not having an existential crisis about work or turning twenty-six in a few days or whether or not I have been setup for massive failure and anxiety because, when I was younger, I was told I was “destined for great things,” but now here I am at ALMOST THIRTY still living with my mum and auditioning for KPop reality TV.

Oh, hello existential crisis. Let’s pretend I didn’t see you coming.

Thing is, if you meet me in meatspace and maybe give me five minutes of your time, you’ll know that despite the fact that I have the rapid-fire, awkward yappiness of a toy-sized dog with a bladder problem, I’m not just shallow, self-absorbed, and frivolous. I have deep opinions on things other than the necessity of sunscreen (though if you say you don’t need to use SPF I will fight you) or whether or not Kim Seokjin has secret abs. And I know that’s not just me: some of the most articulate, interesting, and profound people I know have the feeds of bored thirteen year old memelords. Because, yes, at heart, they are bored, thirteen year old memelords…but that’s not all they are.

I don’t know if this post had a point when I started it, but in writing it, I’ve kind of, like, realized stuff. (Yes, that was a Kylie Jenner quote. And yes, that was a shameless bid to look #relevant.) Specifically, in a culture where we pre-screen acquaintances via Facebook “stalking” (in the words of an acquaintance, “It’s not stalking if it’s public information.” And no, that acquaintance was not Joe Goldberg.), maybe we should take feeds** with a grain of salt. Facebook–Messenger or the main page–can’t really take the place of an IRL dinner and sangria (or coffee and donuts, whatever) when it comes to figuring out who a person really is, what they’re interested in, and whether or not they’re actually interesting.

Which is to say, at twenty-six, maybe instead of mooning over green lights on my Facebook contacts list, I should actually give people a chance to get to know me in person, and to get to know them in person too.

Maybe 2k19 is the year I decide to get out more. 

Maybe.

(Fat chance.)

~ F.

**No promises about profile photos and captions, though.

1 Timothy 4:12: scattered thoughts on being young and setting an example.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this verse lately.

When I was younger, I read it as a vindication, something I could use to beat old people on the head with (not literally, of course) when they patronized me for being young and ignorant. The NIV translation is even more effective for this sort of thing; it reads: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young…” and that “Don’t let” feels forceful, powerful, defiant in the hands of an angry teenager who thinks that grown-ups just don’t understand.

I’m twenty-five now, and while in some ways, I’m still that angry teenager–I think they call it “moody artist” now that I’m closer to thirty than my teenage years–I’d like to think I have a better grasp of what that verse is supposed to mean, one that’s made me less likely to use it as an immediate and violent comeback, and more as a call to–forgive my choice in words–play the long game.

At a meeting I was in last week, someone said something that stuck with me. They said, and I paraphrase: “If you aren’t married, with children, in debt, and struggling to keep a business afloat, you have no right to complain.

The angry teenager in me couldn’t help herself: I retorted with, “Try living with a mental illness.” This sparked a mini-argument where I, the lone twenty-something notorious for being emotionally unstable, was pitted against a table full of “adults” who were, by most standards, further along in life and life experience than I was. Most of them chose not to engage with either me or the original speaker, but enough was said that I left the meeting angry.

That I am, to be honest, still fighting that anger, even now.

In the initial rush of “righteous indignation” after that exchange, 1 Timothy 4:12 popped into my head, and I was tempted to wield the initial half of it as a weapon against that old enemy: grown-ups who just don’t understand. But before I could march over to the person and “rebuke” them, I suddenly remembered the second half: “…but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

Timothy was a young leader in charge of shepherding a multi-generational church in a culture that placed the old above the young in status. In this situation, Paul does not ask Timothy to use his calling or his position to exert his authority. Instead, he asks Timothy to set an example.

A friend and I had a conversation recently about the things he didn’t like in the music industry, one that boiled down to me encouraging him to make the change by being everything he felt the indie scene should be. We see posts about this on the internet all the time–be the change you wish to see in the world, and all that–but lately it’s hit home that the best way to fight things you don’t like is not to rant or shout them down: it’s to just be different.

I don’t often feel like a good example of what is like to be a Christian or a leader. Actually, scratch that: I never feel like a good example of either of those things. I will be the first to admit that I can be impulsive, stubborn, arrogant, and self-righteous: things that lately I’m becoming more aware of. Heck, I know that my initial violent reaction was, for all of my good intentions, colored with self-righteousness. And yet the charge is clear: to ensure that no one “despises me for my youth,” I need to overcome all these things and set that example in speech (good luck), in conduct (for real?!), in love (oh boy), in faith (you’re kidding, right?), and in purity (does a ring count?).

Funny, though, that this realization feels less like a rebuke and more like an encouragement. I know what I am, and what I’m not, but lately that knowledge has stung less. When God points out my self-righteousness, my anger, or my pride, I don’t feel like he’s condemning me at all. Instead, it’s like dance class, when the teacher tells me my back isn’t straight yet or I need to watch my turns: an implicit acknowledgment that we will get there, together, eventually.

I got angry at what that person said in my meeting last week, because it felt like someone was invalidating my struggles, telling me my problems were not “real” in comparison to more grown-up concerns like taking care of kids or working on one’s marriage. But looking back, how many times have I invalidated someone else’s problems because they weren’t to the scale of my own? How often have I worn my own issues–child of a broken family, bullied throughout grade-school and highschool, rejected by relatives and peers alike, struggling with mental unwellness–as badges of honor, as marks of experience that somehow make my opinions and perspectives and issues “more valid?”

I’m still sorting out my anger. That’s probably why I wrote this, to be honest: because I don’t think it’s right to say that if you’re not married, with kids, in debt, and running a business then you have no right to have your problems be seen as real problems. But I will be the first to say my way of handling the issue–picking a fight in front of a bunch of other people, turning it into me vs. the grown-ups who don’t understand–did not help things. I recently finished reading Wikichurch by Pastor Steve Murrell, and in it he emphasizes how generations need to labor together, but it’s hard to when one side is saying, “You’re inexperienced, ignorant, whiny babies who have had everything handed to you because of our hard work,” while the other is all, “You’re obsolete dinosaurs who ruined everything, and now we have to fix it.”

Picking fights won’t help. Beating people on the head with the first half of 1 Timothy 4:12 won’t help. Instead, the calling is to be better, even when the truth is you are an inexperienced, ignorant twenty-five year old with a truckload of issues and bitterness and character flaws.

But hey, as Paul says in another letter, “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Here’s to, hopefully, learning to set better examples.