About Time

Importantly, I finally went to a cat cafe and it was amazing. Just being in the presence of a large number of cats…. it was a dream. They were all very soft, pretty friendly, and just in every possible sense a sight for sore eyes. I went with a couple friends to the one they liked, having found it much better than the others in our area. We just sat and chatted and played several rounds of Clue (because the cafe was well-stocked with board games). Though I am loathe to use hashtags for pretty much any reason, the manifold interactions of our game and the kitties inspired me to once use #catsofclue. It was an awesome way to while away the hours of Sunday afternoon.

I would post pictures, but I didn’t really take many and all I took were just on Snapchat. Mostly, I just enjoyed the atmosphere and lived in the moment. Hope you have a few cat moments to live in this week.

On Saturday, I had finally been roped into doing a service project with church. I had been avoiding it for no particular reason. In high school I did a lot of community service stuff but haven’t been that active since and it’s been kind of weird. I was generally dreading the work on Saturday but when I got there it was so good. It was basically a soup kitchen sort of deal and I didn’t even have to interact with people much. I was upstairs washing the enormous cooking dishes in the shower room. I got to know some cool people and even went out to lunch with them afterwards which, you may know, is really saying something.

It felt good to actually be doing something for other people rather than just spouting my nonsense on here about helping people and doing hard things. The project is only once a month but I definitely intend to go until I leave Korea. It was just so easy, even in the very, very hot heat and very, very humid humidity. If I can’t spare a few hours once a month then I would be a very different person than I’d like to think myself.

So it’s summer break and, naturally, I have an extra extra class (having already been teaching an extra one all term). I recognize that there are plenty of worse situations out there for summer school stuff but I will not let that fact detract from my desire to complain, not in the slightest. Allow me to explain what my schedule will look like for the next couple weeks.

On Mondays and Fridays I will go to work at 2:30 (actually, that’s when I must be there, I will certainly be there before then) and teach from 3-10. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I will arrive at 12:30 (again, I will actually be arriving before then) and teach from 1-10. On Wednesdays, blessedly, I will arrive at 2:30 (probs actually right around then) and teach 4-7.

There are breaks; between three hour classes we get a fifteen minute break and a five minute break every hour (though we aren’t meant to leave our classrooms during the short breaks, so they’re only kind of breaks).

Today was my first day of that, about a ten-hour day with the last nine spent actually teaching classes. Less than ideal. But livable. I’m not psyched to do it again on Tuesday, which is also my birthday. But whatever, can’t win ’em all.

You have two different kinds of work outlined, then. One for pay which is draining and one for free which is enlivening. I won’t deny a touch of hypocrisy in preaching service, but I’m working on it.

Not to be served, but to serve. Good luck to us all.

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Learning to be Proud

So last weekend I made kind of sudden plans to get approximately eight months’ worth of social outings in. To be honest, I didn’t really even make plans. But I ventured.

It was what I want to call Seoul Pride but is actually called the Korea Queer Culture Festival and on Saturday afternoon there was a parade. I had never been to anything of the sort and figured it would be a different opportunity as my first out thing to do. So I thought I’d go down, check it out, and go home. Hour, hour and a half probs. In the event, I was there like four (it may not sound like much to you, but it was ages for someone whose maximum socializing is typically under an hour daily).

The first thing was that it was raining. Raining to the point where I abandoned the idea of taking my raincoat in favor of only an umbrella, which I typically abhor (because I’m a Washington snob). So I get to Seoul Plaza, where everything is happening, and it’s raining. Good thing I have an umbrella. Then it’s raining really hard. Because monsoon. And the nature of crowds+Keegan+umbrellas is that I get soaked because there are so many umbrellas and most of them end up stabbing me in the neck at some point and gushing rain down my back and shoulders. But whatever, being soaked meant I wasn’t too hot (which I definitely would have been otherwise). By the time the parade started, about two hours after I arrived, it mercifully stopped.

The second thing is that I ran into a coworker and her friends. As I said, I had made no plans and didn’t really have any expectations. There were some booths, a pretty good sized crowd, and loud music. Not really my scene, was planning on making an appearance and jetting. After I had browsed all the stalls and picked up a rainbow fan from France (I think it was the embassy handing them out, there were several Western countries in attendance) I was heading back to the subway when, in the middle of the crowd, I saw someone I knew. So I attached myself to their group for a while, did some more browsing of the stands, and ended up– surprise– marching in the parade.

The third thing is that there was a protest, though it was admittedly small in accordance with the event in general. As we slowly made our way from Seoul Plaza onto the street, there was a large-ish stationary float thing and the first protest signs I had seen in both English and Korean. I recognize that I say this from a place of great and multifaceted privilege, but I felt strangely wonderful when I saw it. I can’t really describe it, I just smiled and almost laughed. I felt kind of giddy. I’d never been personally protested before and I didn’t expect that to be my reaction. But I guess that it just felt good to know so deeply, with truly every atom of my being, that loving Jesus and loving myself is good and right and complementary.

Overall, I think it was an excellent experience. I didn’t really know what to expect, both because I had never been to anything of the sort and because we’re in Korea. But my general feelings were that it would probably be smallish and restrained-ish but that if there were any out queer people in Korea, they’d be there. It was a decent crowd, I guess, though the parade only blocked off half a street along its little route. It was enough to make it into a Huffington Post video and article, so that was kind of cool. There are plenty of other little details I want to fix in my memory (for example, the zillion dragonflies hanging out) not really because it’s a memory I want to cherish (I was underwhelmed) but because it’s a memory I want to remember.

The reaction to last week’s post was not what I expected. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t sure what I expected. There was a part of me that figured other people would get what I was talking about but another part of me somehow imagined that I was the only one, that somehow the stream of life had stranded me in some wayward eddy.

I am relieved that the latter was not the case. Hearing from a number of people how much they identified with what I wrote felt empowering, in a way. I’ve had a couple conversations with different people in the past while talking about similar topics–the difficulty of finding friends, of feeling like you belong, the fear of being left out. I confessed to an adult in my life that I often feel like I’m better friends with people than they are with me, if that makes sense, and she responded by saying that she felt that way too sometimes.

It’s liberating to realize that there is some element of universality in our experiences. I don’t want to dwell on it too heavily here, perhaps at some later date, but I did want to take a moment to recognize how important it is to talk about things that are hard to talk about. When we share ourselves with others, I think we will often find that the sharing doesn’t end with the self.

In stating a similar sentiment, with much sincerity, John Green addresses his love for fiction by saying,

I understand in the abstract that I am not alone but reading good fiction helps me feel un-alone in, like, the deepest ways. It makes me feel like even my inexpressible fears and demons don’t separate me from humanity.

That also neatly sums up my views on reading.

If my post last week could help you feel any of that, in any small measure, then I am honored.

And as for the rest of it… here, queer, not alone.

Alonesickness and the Aching of a Tender Heart

The following post I wrote in early 2016, in a particular mood resulting from a particular time and experience. It does not reflect my normal state, nor a state which I tend often to find myself in. But part of me writing this blog is striving to be genuine to myself. If this were a normal journal, it would be over because I’ve already written it. But this is a blog and, having written it, I felt like it ought to be shared. Nothing of note happened this week and I think enough time has elapsed. I mean no disparagement to the friends and family I hold very dear. I simply reflect on my personal experience as an individual often alone, rarely (but occasionally acutely) lonely. Anyway, here goes.

Who do you talk to when you’re lonely? The first people that come to mind–close friends, confidants, parents, siblings–are out. If you felt like talking to them, you wouldn’t feel lonely, would you? I’m an introvert, distinctly so, and I don’t often feel lonely. I once saw a little comic explaining introverts and one frame said, “Often alone, rarely lonely.” And that’s very much true for me. But sometimes, usually in the evenings, often when watching a show or reading a book with a particularly poignant friend moment, I’ll feel a low ache in my chest. Perhaps cry a couple tears. Sigh. Lie awake.

It’s unfair to my friends to say that I lack a solid friend relationships. Because my friends are the absolute coolest. They outshine other friends by many units of whatever scale it is that measures the brightness of stars. Sorrynotsorry to everyone else’s friends.

But still. Every once in a while I’ll get a feeling that I can’t shake. That I lack the quintessential ‘best friend.’ Or even the non-quintessential one. There are a variety of things that go on in my life and I’ll think, “Ah, I need to share this with X.” A funny quote (or a depressing one), a conversation, a feeling, complaint, or joy. Other things, though, I’ll think, “Ah, I need to share this with….” and no one fits the bill. It’s not that I need to share everything with someone, necessarily, but that I want to be able to share anything with a particular someone. Maybe that’s a byproduct of my voracious consumption of story-media. In stories, there’s so often the friend character that the main character knows is the one. Their relationship isn’t perfect, but it’s clear. And when they’re upset late at night or excited about good news or just bored and want to chat, there’s no hesitation. It’s obvious who they’re going to call. Maybe it’s my own inadequacy in not knowing who to call. Maybe the people are actually there and I just can’t see them properly.

Then there are other lonelinesses where I know who I want to talk to, but they’re thousands of miles away and electricity is an insufficient parody of real life-to-life contact. Sometimes the distance, the pixels of written words easily deleted, makes communicating hard things better, softer. But other times every mile is like another fracture in an already tender heart. And it’s not homesickness exactly, but an alonesickness that strikes, perhaps, even deeper.

I don’t know. Probably these words won’t make it to my blog. But I’m writing them all the same. Sometimes the only person I can talk to when I’m lonely is myself. And so I’m here, writing. Writing words that can’t take away the hurt, but can soften it. Make it intelligible. Baring darkness can be painful and scary, but it can also be a release. A freedom. And even if I never publish this, having real words–at least, pixels on a screen–is a way of revealing. Sometimes loneliness is crushing, paralyzing. And here, even though I’m still alone, I’ve summoned up another spirit of myself to talk to and for now, that is enough.

Amsterdam (almost) and Angry Crying (almost)

Of the five working days since last week’s post, I’ve had four half days. So congratulations to me. Since many of the middle school students were taking tests at school, my later classes were canceled.

In that time, from Friday night, I’ve read five books and gotten more than a quarter through another. And though they haven’t been hefty, dense ‘literature,’ they’re certainly been plenty large and not the light and airy teen fantasy drivel we all know I’m often susceptible to (and not ashamed to be. usually).

And it has been magnificent. I think I may have given some impression before–I really, really love reading. And I’ve done a poor job of it the past several months. I’ve read some, but not as much as my free time should have dictated. There’s something wonderful about sailing through books like they’re as light as so much breeze. Immersing yourself in another reality for hour after hour, and still thinking of it as you go on your way.

If you’re interested, I first completed the All for the Game trilogy by Nora Sakavic then the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. I’ll give you a quick rundown because they are the worlds I’ve been living in all week.

My sister’s introduction to All for the Game was essentially ‘made up sport…angry boys…bad parents.’ She did warn me that the first book was only alright but that the second two more than made up for it and I heartily agree with that assessment. As someone who really actively doesn’t care about sports, I was wary. But it truly is about the relationships. I’ve never wanted to angry cry so fiercely for such an extended period of time (though in the event no actual tears were shed). I feel like other people must know what angry crying is–when you are so angry that all you can do is cry–and that’s basically these books. Just… bad things happen in the world and it’s awful. I actually hated most of the characters most of the time, but they grew on me. And are growing on me still. One of those things where I was just coming around when the trilogy suddenly ended and I just wanted more story (my sister was kind enough to direct me to some little things the author had written post publication for that very reason). By the end, the main character’s love/hate interest/story was my everything and I just needed more.

The other was significantly less emotionally fraught but was a mature(r) fantasy adventure and I got caught up in it as well. Overcoming prejudice, overcoming issues, but mostly exciting twists and turns in an elaborate heist and the efforts required to finally get paid. The world was all fantasy but it had some very clear models and the setting was probably my favorite part. Something like eighteenth century Amsterdam was the main deal with plenty of Sweden and Russia thrown in, sprinkled with Roma, some miscellaneous East Asian something (Chinese?) and culturally ambiguous black people. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I feel like I could live in Amsterdam, I loved my week there so much.

So there’s nothing else to say for this week. I’ve for real spent it all reading. I did also want to say that yes, monsoons are real. I haven’t really seen much different than, say, summer storms in D.C. but it’s definitely monsoon season here. Maybe I’ll do something else next week. But I kind of hope not.