Category Archives: thoughts from my heart

Canadian-ish

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During one of my trips to China

Being Canadian has always been a badge of honour for me.

Growing up, people would always ask me “What are you?” or “Where are your parents from?” and I would answer delightfully with “Canadian”. Then, the response from the inquirer would be something like, “No, like where are you REALLY from?”

It hurt. Because I thought that my answer was delightfully correct. Isn’t Canada a cultural honeypot? Being a literal representation of that Canadian mishmash was supposed to be a celebrated part of our culture.

Time and time again, I had to answer strangers’ intrusive questions. Sometimes, I didn’t mind. Sometimes, I really minded. Why wasn’t my answer enough?

When I just wanted someone to leave me alone, I would answer their question with what I knew they wanted, “I’m half-Chinese.” Which I hated. I loved my Chinese heritage, but I resented that I was constantly telling people that I was Half of something.

When I was feeling facetious, I would say, “Half-Norwegian.” No one stops a stranger to find out if they are Norwegian or Swedish, or Scottish.

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We didn’t fit in at Chinese school.  At Chinese dance, I was always too big and too tall for the costumes. The older women always commented on my size. We drew our eyeliner differently to make our eyes match.  At Chinese school I was told, “It’s ok, your mother is only white.” I would listen to Chinese people standing right next to me, guessing whether it was my mother or my father who was white. They assumed I couldn’t understand them.

In public, people would often tell me that I looked like “that actress from that show”. I learned to start naming other mixed actresses. We usually looked nothing alike. We were simply the same race: Half-Oriental & Half-Caucasian.

Looking back, I resented these interactions. I learned how to laugh them off- I didn’t want to come across as a crazy person. Most of these people were well-intentioned in our interactions.  Now, I use it as a way to discuss race, culture, and bias.

Ny brother and I were in college when a friend of ours coined the term “Scandanasian” for us. Most of the time it was just a funny joke. To me, it felt perfect all of the time.  Being Scandanasian felt good because it no longer denoted being “half”, but being fully whole.

I wasn’t really aware of the hurt that these interactions caused  me until I lived in Hawaii. Midway through my time there, a local stopped me on the beach and spoke to me in Hawaiian pigeon. I looked at him confused. He apologized and said that he thought I was a local Hawaiian girl. As I reflected on that experience, a lot of realizations began to flood in. Suddenly I understood why I felt like I belonged there. I still cry to think about how at home I felt on that island. It was the first and only time in my entire life that I had not looked different.

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Until that moment, I hadn’t realized that I had never truly felt like I belonged anywhere else. (when it came to my appearance, obviously.) I never thought this was important before, but in hindsight, it obviously had some kind of an effect on me. (If you’ve ever travelled in another country and felt like you stuck out like a sore thumb, this is the best example I can give to illustrate what growing up mixed-race in Saskatchewan felt like.)

I grew up celebrating my differences. I loved my heritage. I love lefse. I loved being in China for Chinese New Year. I loved being in Oslo for Suttendemai.  But it’s also good and honest to recognize that being different didn’t always feel good.

The reason I’m writing this is because it’s important to share stories like these.  We’re not trying to cause division, or make people feel bad for being curious. I remember watching a video a few years ago in which other mixed-asians joked about how they didn’t fit in, and I related to it so strongly. The more we talk about stuff like this, the less weird it is. It also means that we can relate to each other more and more.

A key thought to have in mind is to remember that Caucasian people aren’t singled out and asked, “Hey what’s your race?”. I’m sure it happens as an afterthought when someone has asked a POC already, but it’s not going to be the driving force to start a conversation. One of the major differences here is that not all Caucasian people will have been stopped by a stranger to discuss their race, but every visible minority will have had to discuss it with a complete stranger (who is probably Caucasian) at some point in their life.

I’m not telling you that you can’t ask people about their heritage. We want to celebrate everyone’s differences and where they come from in this beautiful and diverse country. I have had some wonderful conversations with people who are genuinely inquisitive. I’m not saying that asking people questions is bad.

I am saying that commenting on someone’s appearance is never ok. We don’t ask someone how much they weigh. We shouldn’t ask someone how tall they are. We’re careful not to guess at whether someone is pregnant or not.

Let’s put it this way: If you did ask someone how much they weighed and they answered it, would you then argue with them and say, “No, there’s no way that’s what you weigh.” This is ludicrous, right?

All I’m suggesting is that we put a bit of that societal effort into how we interact with each other when it comes to visible minorities. Obviously, we all have differences, and it isn’t bad to talk about them. What is damaging is forcing someone to give you an answer that fits your satisfaction.

If you are going to ask someone where they are from, take their first answer. It’s their choice to tell you who they are.

It’s not un-Canadian for me to ask us to be more decent to each other. It’s the most Canadian thing we could do.

My answer will always be this:

I’m 100% Canadian.

Single and Thriving

love ehjae

A Beautiful Spring Day

 

Women have to be on high alert at all times. “Is this person socially-awkward, friendly and harmless or should I be calculating an escape to stay alive and safe?”

It was a Beautiful Spring Day.

I was watching my step,

Carefree.

Careful with my camera.

Don’t fall. Don’t fall.

Suddenly I hear it,

That shrill sound. That whistle.

Call of the predator. 

Unwelcome.

Uninvited intrusion

into my Beautiful Spring Day.

Now I’m alert.

No longer focused on my steps.

Which escape route should I take?

Is this man harmless or unsafe?

Are his friend accomplices or amused witnesses?

I could fight him,

but could I fight three?

Why is this street so quiet?

Where is my phone?

Where did all of the pedestrians go?

Ignore his words while you calculate your escape.

Could my dog jump out to help if I needed?

Would I be heard if I screamed and–

I know that I’m pretty.

I don’t need your compliments.

I didn’t dress for your pleasure.

Finally at my car.

Lock the doors.

Drive away.

I just wanted to enjoy a Beautiful Spring Day.

 


 

I was outside at 4 PM this afternoon. It was a decently busy street. Several cars and pedestrians had passed by and I was just finishing up taking some photos for a real estate listing. I had just put my things into my car so that I didn’t have to worry about them while I took the last few photos that I needed. I walked about two car lengths away from my vehicle to get the right angle and as I was taking the shot, I heard someone whistle at me and the hairs went up on the back of my neck. There is an innate survival instinct that lives inside of women. We have learned to quiet it, “Don’t be such a crazy person, he’s just being nice.” But it should be allowed to roar.

This man stood between me and my car. He stood too close. He looked at me too eagerly. He asked questions that were none of his business. When I stepped back to reclaim my personal space, I saw two men standing in the area from which he had come. They were just observing.  I looked around. Suddenly, I was I was keenly aware of several details. My phone was in the car with my other belongings. The once busy street was eerily silent. I had opened the windows as wide as they would go for my dogs. I calculated best, worse, and the worst scenarios and started to envision my plan of attack. Would I throw my camera in his face, race around him and jump in my car? Should I tell him to shut up and risk angering him into violence? Was he just an awkward and harmless old man, brought up with the misguided belief that the way he was talking somehow pleased women?

Dear people who think that the world is “too sensitive” and that “you can’t even say hi to a pretty girl these days”,

Get over it.

We’re learning to listen to the lioness inside who roars to protect us, and she will not be silenced.

 

Dear Church

Before you read this, I want to make it clear that I am not addressing a specific church but rather a specific group of people that exist within all churches. 

It’s been a while since I entered the doors of your building; any of your buildings. Your houses of worship have slowly but surely morphed into a treacherous place. Every day I grieve the safety of your spaces and being with your people.

I used to fit in so well. I sang your songs. I prayed your prayers. I hung out with your people. I memorized your scriptures. I loved your songs. I loved your prayers. I loved your people. And I LOVED God’s word.

Many of your members have probably written me off as having abandoned my faith or turning my back on Jesus. The truth is that it seems like many have turned their backs on love, faith and kindness, and usually these members are the loudest among you. I have slowly watched as the belief systems I clung to and admittedly ascribed to with adamance and self-righteousness have fallen beside me. Slowly, all the theology has stripped down to a simple and desperate plea to God that His two greatest commands were still true. “Love God and love your neighbour”, while watching your members consistently choose to prioritize beliefs and principles over other people.

I can relate. I get it. I grew up within your doors. I know these scriptures on which this theology is built. I understand the vehement march for TRUTH.

I know part of it is my own fault. I’ll admit that. It’s impossible to become close with others without vulnerability and I’m no longer comfortable being vulnerable. What causes my vulnerability doesn’t fit into the category of “acceptable things to struggle with as a Christian”. I didn’t know this category existed until I found myself in this dark space and I had to wade through the thoughts and structures that had formulated through years of youth group, Bible School, Bible studies and like-minded peer groups. No one told me there was such a category, not outright. But we were taught these ideas from a young age.

The thing is that while I still know these things, I have changed. I’m hurt. I now personally understand the nuances and complexity of being human.  I’ve felt really uncomfortable walking through your front doors, but still I persisted. I was desperate to find that same sense of belonging.

As the change occurred within me, I began to be quiet. I listened. I watched. I systematically categorized people as “safe” or “unsafe”. I began to mourn the friendships that I once believed to be supportive. I could see that when I no longer checked off all of the “Christian” boxes, I was no longer worth pursuing, nor did my heart/thoughts/values matter anymore. I had too many things to sort through and not enough answers. Jesus felt far away and I had never experienced such a silent time in my spiritual life. Some of your members tried.  But it was often people I wasn’t close with so it made me grateful yet simultaneously anxious. The ones closest to me that I could bring myself to reach out to would eventually slip into silence, or the occasional “ We should get together” when they uncomfortably found themselves face to face with me.

 

A consistent theme began to show up: Non-Christians were the people who surrounded me without preaching, without spouting off scriptures.  They didn’t need me to fit into a mold, they didn’t need some kind of elaborate change to take place in my journey, and they sat with me in my pain without forcing anything. Non-Christians seem to be more comfortable with angry truths without immediate resolution and letting people work things out in silence. I was guilty of this before everything happened. I talked too much, didn’t listen enough, and wasn’t comfortable sitting with someone in their pain. I now understand how divisive and isolating that is.

For self-preservation, I began to observe. For the most part, I listened to the words people spoke or shared. I listened as your members words spoke to me while they were actually writing to someone else on the internet. Their words slapped me with the blunt self-righteousness that I also once had. I don’t think your members know how easily they slam your doors shut with the words that they speak.

Systematically, your members showed me which of your doors I could never enter. I don’t know which place is safe, but I do know which ones aren’t. It’s not God’s fault. It’s your people, those loud ones I mentioned. Arrogant. Proud. Unwilling to listen to those willing to be vulnerable enough to share. Fighting for “TRUTH” at all costs even if it costs the commandment to “Love your neighbour”. As I’ve been observing, arrogance and pride masquerade in many different ways. Condescension and an unwillingness to apologize is one of the most common ways I’ve seen it. Many of your members treat others as if they are “illogical”, “unknowledgeable”, and “too emotional” without being willing to listen to any other schools of thought. Don’t get me wrong, I have studied and understand the concept of absolute truth, so I won’t need your members to explain that logic to me. I get it. But I also think that we oversimplify and miss the point. All I wish for is a bit more patience, or kindness, or just a plain acknowledgement that some of the topics your members address can be really painful and personally relevant subjects. Meanwhile, for your members, it’s just a non-truth that needs to be debunked for the sake of politics or in the pursuit of truth.

I know some of your members might be upset by this “attack”, claiming that I’m too sensitive, or I haven’t put in the work to get right with God etc.  I suppose that is their prerogative to feel that way. I just had to say this because it’s been so long since I have walked into one of your buildings, and even longer since I felt like I belonged there.

Writing that sentence broke my heart. I didn’t leave because I hated you, I left because I couldn’t stay.

It saddens me to say this, but the most love, kindness, patience and acceptance that I’ve found have been with people outside of your doors and outside of your organizations. So for now, I guess that’s where I’ll stay. I’ll drive past your doors each Sunday and wonder if the day will come again when I will ever feel safe enough to enter.

.

 

How Aziz Ansari has changed my life for the better and hopefully yours too.

This whole Aziz Ansari situation has opened up a door for me to say some things I have been holding in for years.  I didn’t necessarily want to, but the narrative has deafened all other thoughts while the words gathered and churned loudly in my mind.

To start, there are some people who will read this and learn about something deeply embedded inside of my soul and wonder why I didn’t tell them.  While I am not sorry for doing what I needed to do in order to find healing and protect myself, I am sorry if it upsets you to be reading this instead of hearing it directly from me.  I don’t want people to act differently around me. I’ve also held it in because I worry that speaking out will somehow negate my opinion on certain topics. It’s almost like I can hear some people’s thoughts, “Oh. That’s why she’s fighting for women’s rights. She hates men because of what happened to her.” Please hear me. I do not hate men.  I do hate how society is structured for situations like what happened with Aziz Ansari to be normalized. That’s what I want to change.

(Also, true feminism is not at the expense of men’s rights, in case we need to clarify that. If you want to chat more about feminism, let me know.)

Years ago, I was hanging out with a friend. Well, he was more than a friend. We were definitely interested in each other, so I had a conversation with him. I told him that I was a virgin and that I planned to keep it that way until I was married.  He assured me that it didn’t matter and that we could continue as we were. Later that week he went back on his word, forced what he wanted without asking and changed the course of my life. I hadn’t consented. I hadn’t been given the opportunity to consent. Naively, I thought that what I had told him before was enough.  Afterwards I cried and he held me tenderly. It was weird. As he was leaving, I made a joke about not being a virgin anymore and laughed (bitterly), because humour is my defence mechanism and what I resort to in awkward moments.  We spent a lot of time together in the weeks following. I was confused. I was hurt. I hadn’t said no in the moments leading up to what happened.  I hadn’t had a chance, it had progressed so quickly. But I also hadn’t expressed to him that I had changed my mind. Because I hadn’t. The thoughts and questions were numerous and flooded my brain more quickly than I could process them.

I had been clear in our conversation about how I felt about sex, hadn’t I?

What had I done for him to interpret that I had magically and silently changed my mind?

I liked him. So, I must have wanted it, right?

Who takes someone’s virginity violently, aggressively and without checking in with them, without even asking if they were ready?

He’s a nice guy. He wouldn’t do that unless he liked me, so I’m probably just being sensitive because my plans for my life have changed.

It goes on and on.

So, I spent a lot more time with him. I tried to “redeem” the situation. Maybe we would date. Maybe I was so into him subconsciously that I really had wanted that to happen. Maybe it was his intense feelings for me that led to that situation. Every time I came to that conclusion, I immediately knew that it wasn’t true. Because men are more than just wild animals with no control over their actions. I felt anxious and trapped by the thought of being with this person, yet I couldn’t understand why I kept spending time with him. I felt like he owned me.  I felt cheap, dirty, and used- but I figured that was all I could get, now that I was a “slut”.

I also was determined to not let what had happened affect me or my life. I decided that I would take this secret with me to the grave. No one needed to know. Obviously, this doesn’t work.

As time went on, the right people came into my life at the right time. The healing process began. One night, I told a brand new friend what had happened in a weird moment of desperation and trust. That was the first moment I acknowledged what had happened and was even able to accept the word “rape” in my vocabulary.
Another new friend gave me a book, “Dear Sister“. I cannot fully express the freedom I experienced from reading words written by strangers that seemed to come from my own soul.

Sometimes it is easier to share your darkest moments with complete strangers. It won’t change their perception of you. You can walk away from having shared that secret and never have to talk about it again.

I could tell very easily from social media who would be supportive and who would not be. (It’s interesting what your Facebook comments say about you.) So I either built up walls to protect myself from hurtful words unknowingly directed at me as a victim, or cut out interactions with those people altogether.

Time went on. Later, I was hanging out with a different guy; another friend- someone I trusted- someone I liked.  I was trying to be honest and have a clear conversation, once again; this time about how sex was traumatic for me. After I had finished sharing what had happened to me, he tried to initiate sex with me multiple times. I had to tell him no more than once. I had to push him away more than once.  It triggered an anxiety attack. His surprise at my staggered breathing and tears was what finally made him stop.

Right now, my impulse is to clarify that when someone shares their story of sexual abuse, they do not want to be comforted by sex with you. The fact that I even feel the need to clarify this weighs heavily on my spirit. Part of what is so upsetting about assault is the violation of trust.  The fact that someone’s desire for sex can supersede their ability to acknowledge another person’s pain and vulnerability is extremely distressing. In fact, I considered that experience to be a more profound and piercing violation than the first.

If you are in a position where someone has placed their trust in you, respect that, and listen to them. If you are not sure what they want from you, then ask them. Respect that they know what they need, and ask them to tell you. If you are too distracted by wanting to have sex with that person to listen to what they are saying, then it’s probably a good time to remove yourself from the situation.

Now, both of the men in these stories would be considered “nice guys”. They are well-known and well-liked. They are kind, funny, talented, and people enjoy being around them. I don’t think either of them meant to be inherently selfish or destructive in either of these situations, in the same way that Aziz says this wasn’t his intention.  However, lacking the intentionality to confirm comfort and reciprocation from both parties indicates that they are clearly products of a society that hasn’t been properly trained in the language and culture of consent.

Consent is not the absence of a “No”. Consent is the confident and eager articulation of  a “Yes”.

The reason I shared this post is because I’ve sadly grown to understand that my stories are more relatable than I wish they were. I know that there are some of you who have experienced a moment that sounds similar to mine. I also think that there are some of you out there who are lucky enough to not have experienced something similar and therefore don’t believe it happens as much as it does.  Maybe my story will somehow show you the truth.

“Consent should never be assumed, and it is something that can never be negotiated or induced.”

Needless to say, the Aziz Ansari situation shines a light on the problem: Consent should never be assumed, and is something that can never be negotiated or induced. I would venture so far as to say that the only assumption we should ever make about consent is that we do not have it until we definitely have it. How do we know that we definitely have it? Because someone says yes, and then says yes again, and then again. As adults having sex, I think it’s totally sexy to actually check in to A) See if your partner is still in it to win it and B) Actually enjoying whatever you’re doing together.

How to know if someone wants to have sex with you:
1) If you are attracted to someone and want to have sex with them, it should be assumed that they don’t want to have sex with you unless they explicitly say that they do.

2) If someone has told you that they don’t want to have sex, it should be assumed that they don’t want to have sex unless they explicitly say that they do.

source3) If someone has said no to your request  for oral sex, or anal sex, or any other kind of sex, you don’t have to repeat your request. They know that you want it, and you should assume that they still don’t want it unless they explicitly say that they do.

The other reason I’m sharing this is because sadly, I think that some people believe that girls are just “making stories up” to get guys into trouble.* For every girl who has the courage to come forward, there are sixteen** holding tightly and silently onto their truths and reading your comments. I don’t share this to incite anger towards perpetrators, because there’s obviously a bigger issue at play here. To say that every “perpetrator” is evil or intentionally harming people is not hitting the mark. We have to be dissatisfied with the rate in which these things are happening. (1 in 4 women, 1 in 4!) I actually care about creating a better, safer society for everyone.

One of my amazing friends summed this up on her social media recently,

“I care about this person thinking consent is “blurry” when it is absolutely clear that anything short of “hell yes!” is no. I care about this person caring more about having sex than asking if their partner wants to have sex, and “risking” them saying no. Because why the hell else wouldn’t you ask? Would you not want to know, for sure, that the person you want to have sex with is actually into having sex with you? I care about this person thinking that “no” means “keep trying” or “convince me.” Because it absolutely doesn’t. I care about this person thinking that because the victim flirted, she consented to something other than more flirting. Or that because she didn’t leave, she consented. She didn’t. I care about this person hearing you questioning the victim and, in their next sexual interaction, thinking “who knows what she wants! She should be more clear,” instead of “who knows what she wants! I should probably ASK HER and make it clear that i’m Ok with whatever answer.” And then actually being ok with the answer.”

So, while this post is partially about me finally being able to relay part of the narrative that has been missing from my story over the past few years, I desperately hope that it’s more about initiating change. Let’s shift our views about sex and consent.

 

To my dear ones out there who are listening to the deafening sound of your heartbeat racing to match mine because my story sounds too familiar:  You are not alone. It’s not your fault. You ARE worthy of love and greatness. You are NOT defined by your pain or by your anger. How you feel is valid and you do not have to convince me about your truth. I believe you. And #metoo.
There is purpose in the pain, join me in the journey.

 

On average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence
*Only 2 – 4% of all sexual assaults reported are false reports
**Of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported to the police
1 – 2% of “date rape” sexual assaults are reported to the police
**1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
11% of women have physical injury resulting from sexual assault
https://www.sexassault.ca/statistics.htm

Oh Canada, National Humiliation Day

July 1st is a date that brings mixed emotions for me. I am incredibly proud to be Canadian. My father is from Hong Kong and my mother descended from Norwegian settlers. I am a literal manifestation of the cultural mosaic we claim to love and celebrate in Canada, I have no other land to claim as my home. However, claiming Canadian soil as my “own” doesn’t sit well either. Every time I see signs for 150 celebrations, I cringe a little. Can I still be proud? How do I live tethered to a horrible past while living in respectful remembrance? 
How do we rectify the truth that our success and flourishing economy has been built upon lies, oppression, and even slavery?
Not everything about the past 150 years on this soil should be celebrated. In our honest history books, you would read that we have broken treaties, corruption is at almost every turn, and death and terrorism and cultural genocide are strong narrative themes.  And if you think that our contemptible, racist history is limited to treaties being broken, you are sadly mistaken.
July 1st holds a significantly racist tinge to it for Indigenous peoples, but it also holds a significant pang for the Chinese community in Canada. Not being part of an Indigenous group, I can’t speak for their oppression. However, I can add more to the discussion about our nation’s corrupt and racist past.
“The progeny of Chinese and whites cannot procreate, or their offspring would be so imperfect that perhaps in the majority of offsprings it would be no better than a mule… they are a fungus, a foreign substance, and unhealt(h)y substance; they are not freemen.” – Report of the Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration: Report and Evidence pg. 303 (Printed in Ottawa, 1885)
(My nieces are a pretty perfect example of how wrong this conclusion was, if you ask me.)
On July 1st, 1923, the Chinese Immigration Act was enacted, prohibiting Chinese immigration to Canada. At the time, thousands of Chinese workers had been working and dying on the treacherous CN railroad (For which we stole land and killed Indigenous people to build our nations economic success, yay. Go us.) and hoped to bring family members to join them. Until July 1st, 1923, a Chinese Head Tax had been instituted to discourage Chinese immigration once Chinese workers were no longer required for construction of the railway.  The government had found the Head Tax “in parts, defective”, and decided to prohibit entry altogether.  This act separated families indefinitely and it wasn’t repealed until 1947. Then, Chinese-Canadians were finally granted rights to VOTE. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until 1967 that Chinese immigrants were actually able enter Canada under the same criteria as others.
Did you know that only 11 years ago, on June 22nd, 2006, our Prime Minister at the time finally issued an official apology?
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/pm-offers-apology-symbolic-payments-for-chinese-head-tax/article711245/
What’s the Chinese Head tax?:

There has been a video circulating on the internet these days. It raises the concerns many Indigenous Peoples are justified in having about the Canada 150 celebrations that are planned across the nation this summer. While this video raises awareness and relays some hard truths, what it doesn’t do is offer any practical solutions. If we are to boycott these celebrations, what should we do on July 1st instead of joining in? How are we supposed to act, what should we be doing in order to bring about positive change? Conversations are compelling, but conversations only become powerful when paired with action. So, here is the constant question on my brain, now that we’ve raised the concerns: What now?

Do we hold a trial and convict John A. McDonald and his colleagues posthumously for racism, murder, fraud, and other crimes? How can we learn from our past without becoming anchored to it? How do we move forward without dismissing just recourse? What are some realistic conclusions that we could honestly follow through on to bring reconciliation and harmony?
How do we work towards an inclusive land where we are working together for a better future for every person? (even-no, especially- if that means being willing to work a little harder)
We’ve also accomplished some incredible things as a nation: On July 20, 2005, Canada became the first country outside Europe and the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide after the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act.
You can read about many other steps forward we have taken here:
What I wonder is, “How can we celebrate our achievements while reflecting on and acknowledging the dark spots in our past?”
I’m guilty of having a lot to say, but lacking some kind of applicable thought in conclusion.
Racism and prejudice are still alive and well in this country and I wish I could say that I am immune. None of us are immune. If you think you are incapable of subversive racism and prejudice, you are sorely mistaken. Unless you are consciously working towards understanding those around you who look, live, and believe differently from you, you will slip into that treacherously comfortable place among those who agree with you all of the time.
I’ve got nothing.
But here are the practical things I’m trying to do in order to be a better citizen on earth, period:
1) Get over Myself
 Stop being so defensive. The end.
2) Listen
It is so hard to listen to people who differ from me if I’m caught up in my own defensiveness. I’m trying to become better at listening and understanding that not everything in disagreement with me is an attack on me
3) Trying to change myself first before trying to change the world
At the end of the day, I can only truly, 100% effect change through my own actions. I can’t control others, and I can’t control what happens. I can control my own words. I can control my own attitude, and I can be a force for change by listening and being present
4) Show Up
Be present for people and for the things that matter to them.
I am ashamed to say that I have only partially participated in some of our local Indigenous celebrations. I feel so strange being so uninformed about traditions that are as Canadian as the earth that I walk upon each day. I want to participate, but I want to do so respectfully and without somehow becoming ignorantly guilty of cultural appropriation. I could really use some guidance in this area, so please, HELP!
At the end of the day, I am thankful for the land that I call home. I am thankful for those who cared for it before me, and I am thankful for the privileges I now reap as a result. I don’t want to lose sight of what was taken so that I could thrive here today.
Maybe this year’s celebration is in asking the question:  “What now?” and being willing to just listen.
PS. If you are someone who is getting frustrated by all the conversation regarding the 150 Celebrations, instead of thinking, “Why don’t they all just get over it?” Or “Stop being so sensitive”, I encourage you to take a second, take a breath, and instead of asking, “Why are we even talking about this?” ask, “Why am I so upset by all of this?” I too, shared some of your sentiments once. But when I took a moment to ask myself some hard questions, I found myself in a more compassionate position and maybe you will too!

It’s Gone

I’ve never been ready. I’m still not ready. I don’t know how to express what’s inside and I’ve never been able to prepare myself for the responses I may receive. I’m still not prepared. This was an immensely difficult post to write and share, and my only request is that any responses could be thought out sensitively and lovingly. I’m battling this out the best way I can, and I fear that in sharing, I may retreat even further. I know that as soon as I share this, I will want to wither up into a ball. I will feel small, judged, useless, and far, far away from where I want to be. However, I also hope that in sharing, I leave some of this darkness behind. With that hope leading the way, here we go.

There are parts of my story that I just can’t talk about yet. This part of my story has been clawing its way out for a while now and I suppose the monster finally got out.   I’m sorry in advance, this is not an uplifting post. I know that this blog has served to bring light and love and hope to some, and that has always been my prayer and my purpose. More than that, I’ve always made it my purpose to be honest and genuine, no matter how raw it may be.  There is a gaping hole in my soul that can’t seem to be filled, and to keep it inside seems to be untrue to you and untrue to my journey.

I don’t know how to start, because the brokenness of my spirit seems so fragmented that I’m not sure I can.

The gaping hole? My faith. It’s gone. It wasn’t a decision. It can’t be forced back in. (Please, I beg of you not to try.) I’ve tried. I’m still trying.  Oh if I could only describe to you the desperation in which I have called out to God, the broken-hearted tears that I have sobbed, the emptiness in scouring the Bible for that glimmer of truth and light that used to always find me in the darkness.

The best way I can describe how I feel is as if someone has died; someone so dear to me that a piece of me died with them. I suppose that is true in a way.

I’ve had dark moments, but in those times- the light always shone in the window to guide me home. Today, I am lost in the woods and the candle has quit burning.

It’s not like I’ve become a drug addict, I’m not sleeping around, and I don’t party so hard that I don’t know what day it is (all things thought to lead to a lack of faith within the church world) My life looks the same.  I just. Don’t. Feel. God’s presence anymore. Surprisingly, life didn’t end there.

But I won’t sugar coat it either and try to tell you that everything is ok. I’m less patient, I’m less kind, and I’m less capable. My depression, which used to hit me hard somedays but always lifted shortly after, has become persistent, overbearing, and debilitating at times. I’m not going to deny that this isn’t a massive battle for my mental health as well as my spiritual life.

I am just a girl who has had some crappy things happen. In the midst of the pain I sought God’s comfort. I sought Biblical counsel. I desperately ran after healing. I busied myself with things that I love doing. I tried to do the right things and often failed, I’ll admit that. I tried to find meaning in the healing, and purpose in the journey. More and more, as the feelings of being lost, hopeless and the overwhelming desperation settled in, I felt myself floundering and often wondering why I was doing what I was doing, but I was just trying to survive. I still am.  I needed a break from feeling completely, and utterly broken. I think the worst part is having grown up in the church. I know all the answers that I could possibly hear:
1. I need to pray more.
2. I need to go to church more.
3. I need to just let God love me more.
4. I need more time in a community (which is effing hard when you are dealing with external and internal demons)
5. I’m probably making sinful choices that block me from sensing God’s love.
6. “Here are the top 10 verses when faith is hard.”
7. ETC…

(I even know that some people will be thinking, “no, you don’t do anything– it’s God who does the work”)

I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that I resented every word.  Songs that used to encourage now discourage. Quotes that used to inspire now breed hopelessness. I always wanted to be a better version of myself, because I was never good enough– and now I just wonder why I felt that way? Outside of the church, I have never felt more loved for my brokenness and struggles– loved Just as I am. Seem backwards to anyone else? Please hear me when I say that I don’t think it was the fault of any church body that I attended. I just wasn’t in a place where being at church seemed to help more than hinder. (I attended an amazing church for the past few years, I want to say that right now.) I  don’t understand how being in the midst of those people made me feel terrible, while being with non-christians felt more uplifting/less judgmental/more safe. I think it’s because so many people within the church seek to live honestly with their struggles, and I didn’t want to think about what I was going through, I didn’t want to be asked, I just wanted to hide from the pain.

Oh what I wouldn’t give to just love Jesus and walk with him like I used to. We were so close. He was my best friend. And now, I feel like He’s moved on. Like he was my imaginary friend and has decided to make me grow up from my childhood fantasies. I feel like I’m the desperate one post break-up who just doesn’t get why things had to end.

Right now, there are so many people who think I’m still the girl who loves and leads with a godly heart, and earnest faith. Oh if I could only just BE that person again. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time. There are moments, when I feel so lost. Because now, with all of these questions- if God isn’t real. If Jesus didn’t live and die for me. If my whole relationship with this “living” “loving” God has been a lie, then my whole life’s purpose has been shattered. I still live for love. I still live for people. I still believe every person is created/here with a purpose. I just don’t know what is at the root of that purpose anymore. And I’m not saying that I reject the idea that God exists either, I’m simply admitting that I struggle with it immensely. This is NOT where I wanted to be at 26 years old. This is NOT how I wanted to feel, and this is a faith journey/struggle that I NEVER expected, perhaps that was my problem: believing that this “Blessed Assurance” would never leave me.

I’ll leave you with my last journal entry, I think it really captures the internal battle that wages on. I can’t face the thoughts in my soul, but maybe someone else is struggling with this too. Power to you, my fellow desperate faith-vagabonds, my soul aches for you and with you and our journeys. I hope and pray (to anyOne who will listen and care) is that your souls find rest and peace.

December 14, 2015

I’m back. It’s been another long haul. I wish I could blame my silence on the fact that I can’t find my journal, but the fact of the matter is that I was avoiding the act of journalling. I didn’t want to self-reflect. I didn’t want to think about the things that have been consuming my mind– the questions and fears that I have been relentlessly pushing as far away as possible. There is a dark, ugly, black pit in the midst of my soul and I fear it grows everyday.

Doubt.

I lack faith in all regards. I lack it in a way that I have never known; In a way that terrifies me, yet brings me to a new horizon of true, honest questioning.

For the first time, I’m standing in an understanding of how calloused, insensitive, and ridiculous Christianity can sound to an unbelieving mind. Sadly, that is because I currently possess such a mind.

Although, most days, I still can’t admit it. It hurts too much.  I still possess all of the “Biblical, Apologetic knowlege”  that my hungry mind and eager soul has consumed over the years. My mind, when I allow it, is wrought with an internal struggle; an endless debate.  I desperately long for intimacy with Jesus, yet feel hopelessly lost in the thought that He might exist solely as an imaginary character that I have loved, cherished, and clung to all of these years because a religion enabled it. Simultaneously, my flaws are both embraced and disgraced. I love and hate myself because 1. God is love, yet 2. He “calls me to be Holy and Righteous, which are attributes far from how I would describe myself these days.  I celebrate and despise myself because we should love everyone, including ourselves but I still wonder how that lines up with conservative Christian opinions on many topics.

However, in the midst of this struggle, I have never felt more earnest, genuine, or willing to be unbiased in my questioning.  Is THAT love? Am I ignorant? Who is right? Can love and righteousness co-exist? How can/does love have limits? Can faith and science be reconciled? Where does faith come from?

For the first time in my entire life, no answers bring me peace.  Nothing makes me feel safe, nothing makes me feel sure of anything except that I am sure that I will never be the same. I will never fit in where I once did– and I will never fully understand any of the ideas that I currently question.

I say this out of desperation, not of arrogance– I’m not sure if there are any answers that exist that I haven’t heard, nor speeches that could help me in this journey. I’ve always been one to enjoy the journey of life, but this one can’t help but feel like a massive shackle that I will never shake. It all seems too big.

I still find myself talking to whom I used to call Jesus. I still call Him Jesus. Because I’m not prepared to give up on “It” being Him. He’s all I’ve ever known– But I can’t deny this growing knot inside. “What if I just needed Jesus to exist? What if I just believed that He is there so that I could feel more at peace about the unknowns in life? What if I want to be a Christian so that I can be the person that everyone has thought me to be?” I’m trying so hard. I only hope that if I’m totally wrong, and that the God I’ve loved and served with my whole heart for over 25 years is truly there listening and loving me- that He truly is as patient and kind as I always used to say that He was; As kind, and patient, and loving as I believe that He would be.

God, if you are real, I desperately need you to show me.  I don’t know how I go from believing with every fibre of my being that you love me and hear me and care for me, to this listless sense that I’ve been living a lie and talking to an imaginary being for my whole life.
What is happening? Why can’t I feel you? I know, I know.. it’s not you, it’s me, right? You’ve never left.. I’m the one who “turned away”, right? But why, when I’m turning and turning and turning around, I still don’t see you? I still don’t feel you?
Emotionally, everything inside of me wants you to be true; to be real; to not be a fairy tale.  But I can’t wish you into reality anymore than I could with a dragon. I want to be sure that you are real- that would be easier.  All I know is that my so-called faith as of late is nothing more that this: a desperate hope that you are true.  But for my lack of trust, I can’t help but feel as though I wouldn’t really deserve your love if it is there.

love ehjae

Why I was ashamed to be a Canadian

I think the best way to begin this is by telling you about my family history.
My father arrived to this beautiful country all by himself as a teenager. After finishing high school in Manitoba, he came to study at the University of Saskatchewan where he met my mother, received his two degrees and proceeded to work there for another two decades.

Over my entire lifetime, I have had to learn about ignorance because it wasn’t something that even existed to cross my mind as a child. My household was a literal example of cross-cultural acceptance.  I simply thought it was normal that people had different backgrounds and cultures. I learnt about Norwegian customs: we celebrated Christmas eve with Yule Bread, the Nativity scene, and lefse. I learnt about Chinese New Year: All of the superstitions, what the big meal meant, and how to get that red envelope from my elders 😉 Two of my great aunts spent several decades overseas, one in India and the other in Ethiopia, so we heard all kinds of stories about life across the globe and how differently people lived, yet how similarly we all love.

Most importantly, I learnt about how crucial it is to embrace people and make them feel like they are home. My mom has taught English as an Additional Language to immigrants, and my dad worked as a researcher out of the University for years. Through their jobs, we met several different people from all over the globe.  Over the years, on holidays and for different family events, we welcomed foreign students, new immigrants and some people who just couldn’t get all the way home for special holidays. I remember my dad once telling me that it was important to him to do so because so many people welcomed him and made him feel at home when he came to Canada. It never really was a question, if we knew someone would be alone for a holiday, they were to be invited to the Chan household.

Tonight I sat in shock as he recounted the following story to me. He has an assigned parking spot at the location where he has been working. When he came to park in that spot, he was surprised to find someone sitting in the spot. After pointing to indicate that it was his spot, the driver refused to move for him. After a bit of a standoff, he had to go back to work, so he got out of his car and asked the lady to move out of his parking spot. Her response still confuses me. “You’re trouble. You immigrants are the problem.” She then threatened to call the police and told him he was in trouble.

Ok, let me just stop there. I’m very confused by this statement. So, his immigration to Canada over 4 decades ago somehow relates to YOU parking in HIS spot HOW? This person repeated this phrase and sentences similar to it over and over again, somehow insulted by his simple request to park in the spot that he was entitled to.

In light of recent events around the world, the issue of immigration/refugees has garnered quite a lot of spotlight. Ignorant, rude, racist statements have been exchanged over social media and fear has somehow overtaken this once open-hearted nation. My father, who always seems to find a way to make new friends laugh, yet possesses a quiet, strong way of taking in the world around him has never been one to “cause trouble” because he believes it wouldn’t change anything. Perhaps he is right. I’m sure there are people who will always harbour this kind of fear, anger, hatred and ignorance in their hearts. But I have to believe that the more we talk about how wrong these kinds of occurrences are, the less it will happen.  My heart is broken, and it took me a while to figure out why.

My heart is broken, because I realized that it had nothing to do with my father being an immigrant, and everything to do with the fact that he wasn’t white. And some white person somehow believed that she was more entitled to a parking spot for that simple fact. Here’s a thought: Unless you can trace your ancestry back and are 100% native to this land, all of us have been immigrants, or come from people who immigrated at some point.  And, not only have we broken the hearts of those who cared for and loved this land before we set foot on it, but have flourished simply from being here, instead of somewhere else.  How does that entitle any of us to anything more than another? This kind of hatred and ignorance is something that I had believed in my heart of hearts wasn’t part of Canada. I don’t know that I could say that I’ve ever felt ashamed of being a Canadian until tonight. Because tonight, I am ashamed of sharing citizenship with someone who could be so wrong.

But then, I think of others who have immigrated to this country. And it makes me proud to share citizenship with someone who could be so right. And this is what being a Canadian is truly about. My father has taught me a lot of things about being a Canadian: do not create conflict- but stand up for yourself and what is right, respect your government, seek peace,  care for your neighbours and your neighbours’ neighbours, always do what is right-even when no one is watching, work hard, do your best, be proud of who you are, show grace and forgiveness even if it is unsolicited and probably undeserved.  I suppose I have a lot to learn from my father, who it seems, has grasped the true nature of being Canadian better than some who were born on this soil.

Initially I was angry, and wanted to post an image of that person, but I knew it would only create more anger and backlash for that person. I guess you could say that I then became ashamed of my own anger and hateful attitude.  Plus, I just don’t believe this kind of hurtful behaviour really deserves specific attention. Despite my own initial anger, I know this is not the Canadian way.

In conclusion, I’m not ashamed of our country at all and I’m sorry if the title threw you off. I’m ashamed that we still have people like this here. Because I do believe that we are a nation that stands for multiculturalism and tolerance and peace. None of these attributes were represented in this woman’s actions, but I believe that my dad did stand for these things in his response. Initially what I wrote began as an angry outlet, which I didn’t necessarily intend to share, given the amount of anger already floating around on the Internet. It soon became my attempt to write a different sort of post- one that doesn’t just stand by and let this kind of behavior simply happen without note, but brings to light a more positive outlook instead of feeding the monster I call the angry Internet troll. Peace, love, grace and patriotism do prevail- I LOVE being Canadian. It’s true: pride ourselves on being kind, polite, and welcoming, and we do love beer, maple syrup and hockey (along with apologizing too much, eh?).

But let’s not fool ourselves, we still have much work to do. Above all my patriotism lies with the human race and all of the people fighting to let love win. Far too often, people stand on two sides of an issue and fire different kinds of hatred at each other. I’m hoping this encourages people to stand for justice while keeping in mind that love and kindness go a long way.

My dearest Canadians and fellow citizens of this beautiful planet, let us open up our hearts again. Fight hate and fear with love, grace and forgiveness.

xoxo

love ehjae

 

Chan