My open ending

By Nhi

This is my final post on this blog. While I have been absent from blogging publicly for a year (and admittedly guilty for not following through with our blog goals), I want to come back to tie everything in an open ending – I am graduating from college in a week.

Four years ago, when starting this blog, I wrote:

The idea is simple. We wish to discover, write, draw, talk about hobbies that shine like little lights in our lives. We also want to share with you stories and photos about people and things that we consider lovely enough to light up this world. Yes, this blog will make us live slower, enjoy more and love more.

Many things have changed (or rather, evolved) from this simple idea for the past four years, but at the same time, things seem unchanged. Both of us still use this simple philosophy to navigate through tangles of life, embracing its uncertainty and complexities with curiosity, depth, and appreciation. While I can’t speak for my friend, today, I still pondered over the delicate beauty of flowers’ petals in an unusually late spring. In that still silence of the inner peace, warm rays of afternoon light pierced through busy beats of life, surrendering me into appreciative moments of photographic memories. And my heart remains pure and passionate.

I started out this blog, or rather college, wanting to be a writer, reader, photographer, video-maker. I ended college, aspiring to be someone else – a more whole self with all of those identities mixed together for a particular purpose I found meaningful and worthwhile. It is not that I no longer want to be a writer, a photographer, or a video-maker. But I have learned the for what of all these skills. The answers to these for what are what move me – keeping me up at night, pushing me to move fast, overcoming those little disappointing moments and going forward.

And by no doubt, it will help me grow. I am, just like many things in life, work in progress.

I recently read The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen and it is unexpectedly a read that responds to where I am in life (it is an important book – go read if you haven’t). I have been struggling internally for the past six years with my identity in America, and this book helps me see through my dark moments of uncertainties and embrace my own limits. This is me, I realized, I have an identity. I have never paid attention to how little I know about myself, because I have always tried to be spontaneous – a more socially acceptable way of saying that I want to break away from the conventional, reject social assigned identities and not be tied down to any social groups. I didn’t want to be seen only as a student, a millennial, a woman, an international student, a Vietnamese, an Asian female, or a Communications professional. I want to be seen as me, when I am with you. But in that exciting process of trying to be different selves and let people bring out different sides of me, I also don’t know who I am and accidentally reject other people’s identities. I want to see them with more than what their identities with me tell. And then along the way, I get hurt, feel lonely, hurt people, get confused, and think with no direction.

But that is okay. For all the learning and relationships that have become a by-product, or rewards, of this ongoing process, I am grateful and appreciative.

All this talk about confusion aside, on a more simple note, I have found Anne of Green Gables, nature, Passenger music, children, and simple kindness to be my source of inspiration.

KINDNESS

Naomi Shihab

…Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

And I have also found people who I learn, unlearn, and re-learn about. My best friend, the person whose identity is a part of mine and mine of her, for the past 8 years, even though we haven’t seen each other in person 90% the duration of our friendship. Our deep friendship is simple and kind. I hope I have been as good of a friend to you as you are to me. My parents with whom I will forever be indebted to and respect, while working through our complicated differences and delicate moments of closeness. My longtime friends, who have remembered me in ways I don’t remember myself, and stay with me while loving me in their own ways. My mentors who I respect and love with my sincere heart, because they have taught me once about my worth, and what it means to be a growing self. My brother who had no idea that his presence has changed my life forever. I would never be who I am today without you. My grandparents and family, who I won’t be able to give back to as much as they have given me. I choose to give back to the world because I am indebted to you. My new friends who I have shared a part of myself with while being unsure which part is me, and they sincerely appreciate me for reasons I haven’t fully captured. I want to keep you, so I can share more parts of myself, and grow together with you. Different people who have taught me that we can change the world in our own way. Whether it is through helping people directly, writing, listening, caring deeply only about those who matter, sacrificing our own ambitions to take care of your children, being kind, smiling at a stranger, having good thoughts or being happy. We all contribute in some way, even when we don’t know it. 

I will by no doubt keep creating even when I am no longer publishing on this blog. For those who have been following, I write this for you.

Many thanks,

Nhi

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february 2017 and personal awareness

by Nhi

Tonight is a night that fills me with emotions and a desire to share my thoughts through writing. Quiet night, warm drink, calm heart. I am writing and listening to these melodies.

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Birthday thoughts

Nhi

Birthday isn’t a special day for me; it is always so similar to other days that I don’t find the need to celebrate, receive wishes, presents, or do something to reward myself. So, I decide to do nothing different from my usual routine. I will still have a busy day like many others, going to teach, finishing work, and talking with friends.

But, I like the idea of birthday. It is one of those days when you feel like you are thought of by other people, or even missed. You feel somehow a little more important, even though it is fleeting. If I were more connected with my Mother, I would tell her that I think my birthday is my Mother’s day. That, my birthday is not my day, but hers, because she had to go through so much pain to give birth to me this day 21 years ago. I want to tell her how thankful I am, and how I appreciate all of the things that she has done for me, how I am so sorry that I couldn’t be more open about myself with her (yet), and how I think of her a lot, care for her, and cry so much because of her.

My family always remembers my birthday, without being reminded. My grandparents, my uncle sent me wishes from last weeks. This is the time when I feel guilty most, because I don’t think that I have ever been aware of everyone’s birthday in my family. I have been away from home for four years. But that shouldn’t be an excuse. I have written down a note, forcing myself to ask my parents the dates of birth of my relatives. If it is not action, it is not love.

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Evaluation versus Interpretation of Art

By Nhi

“Even though I watch a lot of Korean soap opera, to be honest, I consider them bad art,” I said, thinking about my unhealthy obsession with Korean dramas for many years.

“I don’t watch soap opera. But I can understand why people watch them. For example, if you work in a hair salon for many hours a day, and you have all of these family responsibilities, then soap opera is a great escape. And sometimes, bad art is great. People can connect with it, ” my friend said.

***

As everyone in my family didn’t grow up in an artsy environment where they had access to an education that valued art or received encouragement to pursue aesthetic pleasure, they also raised me in the similar way. Rather than looking at art with seriousness, I used to view it as a hobby unworthy of evaluation and inferior to ostensibly important subjects at school, such math or science. Yet, I was luckier than my grandparents or parents, in the sense that Internet, which they did not have until the 1990s, helps me travel through time and space to find excellent art works, and my education in the later half of high school and college nurtures art appreciation. The observation of my family is not meant to chastise my origins, but to appreciate those as the context giving me the advantage of cultural awareness and wider knowledge of how art influences people, no matter where they live and how they think. Knowledge obtained through my background and my education helps me grow to look at art evaluation and interpretation with reverence and full expectation of complexity.

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A Starter’s Thoughts on Film Photography

By Nhi

New York City

After several months of reluctance and unfocused attention on an old film camera sitting at a corner of my small room, I have finally taken this little “toy” out of the gray bag, fiddled with it in my clumsy fingers long enough to finally absorb the marvelous beauty of something so ancient and distant to my existence. A film camera? How could I have got used to this bizarre feeling while growing up in a world full of fleeting moments created by digital cameras and smart phones that make the arduous job of capturing beauty seemingly easier than it really is?  Why would I nervously look at this strange item and endure the searing insecurity of my photography skill, while I could opt for the easy option of choosing the best one from many photos shown immediately on my digital screen? What creates this unwanted excitement that thrills me, persuading a frugal college student who likes to limit her food expense to fifty dollars a month into finding every reason possible to justify the money spent on rolls of film and developing them?

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The film camera that I am using now is a Canon AE-1 Program, which was first introduced in 1981.

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