Finale of Seem

There is a poem by Wallace Stevens, The Emperor of Ice-Cream, that I memorized during a poetry course at university. The message of the poem, in general, borders on hedonistic with its encouragement to enjoy life while one can. I wouldn’t consider myself a hedonist in really any sense so the poem sits a little awkwardly with me though I thoroughly enjoy it.

There is one line that came to me as precisely appropriate for this week. The narrator commands us: “Let be be finale of seem.” We are urged to let reality shine through illusion; to truly be who we are and relinquish, as much as we are able, the seem in our lives.

In preparation for Seattle Pride on Sunday, I finally got around to binging Queer Eye on Netflix. I knew, through the grapevine, that I had to get through at least the whole first season and the first episode of season two so that was what I did last Saturday (I have since finished season 2). And I was not disappointed.

The show is not at all my style. Though I have no qualms about watching awful television, my tastes strictly exclude reality TV of any sort. But I thought I’d make an exception for this, seeing as I still haven’t seen any Drag Race (my gay culture now is a strong desire for Antoni). The show is indeed worth a watch and I’m glad I got around to it.

Though not every episode made me tear up, it is consistently not about superficiality or selfishness or vanity (though it’s hard to avoid them altogether). It is about learning to love yourself, to value yourself, and let that then pour out of you into others.

Anyway. I did go to Pride and let me tell you, I was not adequately prepared by the Korean Queer Culture Festival last year. I brought my Korean/French rainbow fan from last year (it being the only rainbow thing I own) and met up with a friend who lives in Seattle. I also happened to run into a couple other friends by chance, which was fun.

Here’s the thing: I am no longer in the closet; I have no problem reconciling my faith and sexuality. Even so, there are plenty of moments of fear and anxiety. Times when I’m not sure how someone will react to something I’ve done (for example, getting a manicure and having rainbow nails) or something just feels awkward and you let it slide (for example, if someone asks whether I have a girlfriend, I typically answer ‘no’ instead of ‘I’m gay’).

Pride is what gives a time of freedom from that. Some people use that freedom to bicycle naked in a parade, which… you do you. For me, I just stand there, sometimes smiling wildly, feeling all fluttery when I see people holding hands.

Honestly, the parade wasn’t that interesting. I don’t know if it’s possible for me to be that interested in a parade of any kind. But the pride, the Pride, was what I came for and what I felt. What I feel. It’s less about what happens and more that it happens. Less an event and more a feeling. A collective sloughing off of seeming, if you will.

Someone put it this way, loosely: sometimes, pride is the opposite of humility but sometimes, it’s the opposite of shame. And that latter is worth celebrating.

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Same Year, Same Me?

I don’t think I’ve ever needed a vacation as much as I needed this one. It’s 설날 (Seollal). Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Happy year of the dog, everyone.

This week had a bit of a stressful start. I was trying to apply to a job that I’ve been procrastinating on since I’ve decided I really want it (the more important something is, the more I procrastinate, see: dissertation). I also had to go to the pension office to apply for my lump-sum refund. And you know how I feel about official things, especially involving money and bureaucracy.

In the event, however, it was incredibly easy. I thought that I would have to go all the way to Gangnam (an hour by subway) but there was another office in Seodaemun and that was a great discovery. Also, I walked into the building, went up to the ninth floor, and from the time I stepped out of the elevator until I stepped in again was under twenty minutes. A massive relief. So my pension refund will be a nice thing to get once I’m back in the US.

Other things that have been going on this week include packing. No one likes packing, I’m pretty sure. Packing for a fun trip can be fun, but packing your life is generally The Worst. I haven’t accumulated much here, and I’m going to leave a lot behind, so I’m trying to condense everything into two units instead of three. We’ll see how that goes. It’s frustrating because I need to wear clothes all the way until I leave–and even after that, too!–so I can’t pack all of my winter things. It’s not frigid here, but it’s still plenty cold.

On Wednesday, I had a fabulous day. It consisted of three stages. First, I played a computer game and packed intermittently which actually got me way further than I anticipated. So it was lazy and enjoyable but also super productive. Second, I reread a book (most of the book, I skipped around since I read it for the first time just a couple weeks ago). Third, I started a new Netflix series, Legion, and stayed up really late watching most of the season.

Today, I finished Legion which was excellent but I’m not sure if the forthcoming second season will be as great. I also met with some friends for lunch, noraebang (Korean karaoke-ish), and a VR café. It was a super relaxing and enjoyable day all around. I’m bound for bed early because there’s a special treat in store for tomorrow. Details and pictures to come next week.

Anyway, trying to think some thoughts for the close of my Korean year. I’m sitting here, with my partially packed suitcases on the floor, things in piles waiting to be packed or thrown away or recycled or given to friends. It’s one of my least favorite feelings–the empty room you’re still living in but only for a little longer. My room is far from empty, yet the almost-gone feeling is already seeping in around the edges.

When I sit down and try to think of what I’ve done and become this year, it seems underwhelming and, to be honest, disappointing. I had hoped to grow in faith, sociability, adulthood, who knows what else. And maybe I have in some ways, in some categories, in some situations.

I’ll tell you, before I started Legion I finished the Netflix series The Good Place about the afterlife and I’m trying to, I don’t know, just think about being a good person. I think I am, generally, so I’m not feeling down on myself or anything. But it’s that tension again between contentment and complacency. I want to be happy with who I am and still strive to become better. Not sure that this year has made me much better.

In one of my posts just before coming here, I contended that no experience is ever wasted. I still hold to that, and this year has definitely proved itself valuable. I came out to my whole family and people just generally which I mention casually but was a big deal for me. I learned a whole lot of skills on the job, dealing with children and adults. I succeeded in some small disciplines that have made small but noticeable changes in my life (ex. today was day 236 on my Russian Duolingo streak, having finished all the lessons a bit ago).

Mostly, I tried and failed a whole lot of things. And then I tried again. I imagine most of us have heard the “if at first you don’t succeed” spiel. I guess I’m starting to think that it’s not actually the succeeding that matters, but the trying. Willfully, and sometimes gleefully, making bad decisions is probably part of the human condition. (Sorry that I just used the phrase ‘human condition,’ I am what I am). But figuring out how you want to live and trying to get there, at least sometimes, I think that’s a great deal of what counts in the end.

So here’s to that. I have one week and two days remaining in this country. I keep returning to the C. S. Lewis poem that I memorized a few weeks ago: “to this moment’s choice/ Give unfair weight.”