Vietnam Post #5: A Love Story — Diary of a Baba
Posted on September 14, 2019
I took a pause on my writing after hearing the news of my uncle’s sudden passing. Thank you all for sending love and condolences last week <3.
I starting writing this when we were in Da Nang and Hoi An celebrating our 9 year anniversary. I felt the love in the air and enjoyed the early morning reflection time. It is not easy to put into words but here it goes!
Happy 9 year anniversary to Mychi, my love and partner in all things. It all started 14 years ago with a bit of chance, some Friendster magic (yes, I said Friendster!) and faith in each other and our community, we began our love story. For me, it has been a story of learning how to be a true partner, how to love myself, love my community and how to keep my eyes on the prize towards our collective liberation.
(Selfie of us in our younger days on one of our first dates at Stinson Beach.)
When love meets our moment. We met in 2005 during one of my most challenging years in organizing. I was barely into my 2nd year at CPA and I had already burnt myself out. Locally, we were running multiple factory and restaurant campaigns against bad bosses and starting new multiracial working class formations on a local and statewide level. With Bush’s re-election, we were trying to do some new kinds of Asian American movement building. By the end of the year, I led a delegation of workers, youth, and organizers to protest the WTO in Hong Kong and to exchange with China labor unions and NGOs. Ironically, (or not) this was seen as anti-China/Chinese in the Chinese immigrant community.
(Image of a younger me speaking at one of the many rallies and protests in Hong Kong during the WTO. This one was in solidarity with the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS))
“I was young(er) and a martyr. I “enjoyed it,” so I thought. But digging deeper, I was really empty and striving for purity and perfection, which eventually turned into exhaustion, unhealthy habits, anger and rage.”
I was young(er) and a martyr. I “enjoyed it,” so I thought. But digging deeper, I was really empty and striving for purity and perfection, which eventually turned into exhaustion, unhealthy habits, anger and rage. I was always “on” which meant my guard was constantly up. I protected myself from anyone from getting close, yet I encouraged everyone else around me to let others in. I felt like an imposter of my own words and was pretty damn unhappy.
Note: I’ve changed a LOT, but moving on…
When I met Mychi, I was skeptical, at first (I mean, she was too.) I was a busy ass organizer and she was a medical student beginning to interview with schools across the country for a residency.
Then, on our first date, I felt something different.
I got the jitters, I laughed and I had… FUN. (What?!) I felt silly and, yes, awkward. I felt connected and… I felt like I could be myself, my best self. Still, my reflexes resisted this goodness because this is not what I expected (or maybe I didn’t deserve it?) but with a good nudge from a long time friend, I trusted my instinct and gave myself a chance to love.
(Image of our first date in San Francisco 14 years ago. I tried to give her a tour but I got lost a couple times and maybe my car broke down too. The SF bay and Alcatraz Island is in the background.)
I opened up to Mychi, who gracefully cared for the anger and rage that I carried. At first, I didn’t know what I was feeling but I realized that it was acceptance and unconditional love that fed and nourished my soul in all kinds of ways. This sparked and catalyzed a powerful journey for me. I said to myself, “I need more of this and I deserve this! And damn the movement really needs more of this too!”
Note on the Friendster magic: We technically met on Friendster, which was post AOL and pre-MySpace and Facebook. It is now a gaming site in Asia, go figure. I messaged her while she was on a medical rotation in the Bay Area. She accepted and the rest is history! (Sorta…)
Those days, I used to only think in days, weeks and months, now the scale of my thoughts are also in years and decades. At the time, I felt like change was not happening fast enough, nothing was working out and we were not “winning” anything, practically. And after years of battling my class, gender, and East Asian privilege and guilt, I tried to be the “downest” Asian mf on the outside but was a mess on the inside.
I still remember the moment when I lowered my guard — just a little. I was alone in the office over the weekend because I was supposed to lead this delegation to HK but I didn’t realize until several days before that my passport had expired! I felt… hmm… dumb, ashamed and horrible, like a huge pit in my stomach.
I called Mychi and admitted something, something I didn’t dare to say to anyone else at the time. I said, “I feel like a total failure.”
“I called Mychi and admitted something, something I didn’t dare to say to anyone else at the time. I said, “I feel like a total failure.””
There was a bit of a pause… then she embraced and cared for the admission and gave me permission to release the weight of what I was carrying. That tiny act of compassion allowed me to re-center on my purpose. Mychi was there when I needed her the most. She didn’t understand the impact at the time but it was BIG!
Note: After extensive of research, I got my passport in 24 hours through a fastrak method at the SF passport office, which I do not recommend to anyone but that is another story. Also, the HK WTO protests in 2005 were some of the most transformative moments in developing my internationalists politics.
(Images of the WTO protests in Hong Kong in 2005. There is a picture of the mainstage, a pictures of the peasant farmers facing the stage sitting down with their fists up, and a picture of a solidarity protest in front of Giordano.) (H/t to Tony Luu)
Love met our moment but it was not a guarantee. I was a busy organizer and she was a new resident doctor. We were long distance for four years, which felt like forever but we were held and supported by our respective communities. Our love story has not been linear nor has it always easy the last 14 years but that acceptance and unconditional love gave me the strength to love myself even harder, and others around me. It made me a better partner, friend, and comrade.
(Selfie of me and Mychi at the beach our recent trip to Da Nang and and Hoi An.)
We also come from different worlds, different sides of the tracks, but this is also how we complete each other. I see (and feel) the refugee resilience in the family and witness the strength of that blood in Collin too. I’ll admit there are times I don’t know totally understand things but I feel the deep deep connection and love. We are indeed a good team. We embrace each other’s imperfections, lift each other up, and provide for each other in so many ways.
AND, we also brought a beautiful child into this world!! Collin not only dreams in cars and trucks, he is thoughtful, tells funny jokes and elaborate stories. He also has super-visions and super-feelings and, of course, superpowers. Collin is a reflection of us, literally. He absorbs our energy and looks to us for love and protection.
We also draw a lot of strength from Collin without knowing it. He expands our hearts and deepens our compassion. He makes us laugh and makes us believe in the capacity of little humans. Nowadays, when he is down or makes a mistakes, he knows he can rely on us for nice big hugs (aka the “Collin sandwich”). As much as he needs those hugs, we need them too. They are like our power ups. We often don’t realize how powerful, interconnected and regenerative our love is for each other.
(Various pictures of me, Mychi and Collin on our last trip. One picture is the three of us in the swimming pool, one is in the gondola during a rainy day and the last one is a goofy picture of me and Collin after a cooking lesson.)
From ripples to waves. I would not have the courage to share all this if not for others sharing their whole selves: their rage and rants, their mistakes and struggles, their joys and wins in life. In no way did this happen overnight. This was not the norm but over time I’ve seen our community and movement transform in such beautiful ways. I know that even my transformation through the years has transformed others around me and vice versa. The internal work is simultaneous with the external work because in the end they are two sides of the same coin.
Love is a lot of things. It can be so healing, choiceful, and powerful. It can also be painful and scary. But, more than anything, love is a journey and a process.
For me, love has been learning to love myself and others at the same time. It has been learning how to create boundaries not walls with each other. Love has been about surrounding myself with people who LOVE me and build me up. It’s about not giving up on each other or giving into the darkness of the times.
Love is also about staying on point and on purpose! For example… top on my mind right now, is getting Trump out in 2020 and making some fundamental shifts.
Okay coming back… This is just one love story and just my take, for that matter. This sabbatical has been such a gift. It has been our time to catch up and return to each other. It has been time to ground ourselves.
To Mychi, THANK YOU for being on this journey with me. I’m in love with you, your beauty, humility and optimism in life. I’m also in love with your conviction to right the wrongs in society, awesome attention to details, deal finding hacks, quirks and hang ups, ALL of it! You are an amazing human and I’m grateful to have each other and our community as we brace this world together. Thank you for choosing me (on Friendster) 14 years ago and choosing me everyday <3.
(Selfie of me and Mychi taken on our anniversary in Da Nang)