I think I’m going to think myself into a hole
I’m going to spiral down the abyss
and it’ll be my fault for falling in the first place
I think and think and think
about things that matter
and especially about things that don’t
Right now the tattoo on my left hand preoccupies my mind
something I impulsively got at nineteen (or was it twenty?)
“how cool would it be to get a hand tattoo” I thought
You dumb fuck
I often think of the things about me that contradict
and how this is probably the reason why it’s so hard
for people to understand me
I think about being both American and Asian
two things that can’t exist at the same time
well, according to some people that is
I think about the word “Chindo,” short for Chinese Indonesian
and how it does and doesn’t
embody my ethnic heritage at the same time
What am I then if not Chindo?
I’m Chindo in the way
that my Chinese heritage is Taiwanese
and my Indonesian heritage is native
But not Chindo in a way
where my ancestors moved to Indonesia from China
and have settled there for generations, much like the people who coined the term
I’m Chindo in the way
that you can’t find “typical” Chinese features on my “typical” Indonesian face
not that there is such a thing as a typical “Indonesian look”
I’m Chindo in the same way my mother is Chindo
Chindo in the way
that our Taiwanese identity is Americaized
and our Indonesian identity is Indonesian
Chindo in the way
where we have gaps in our understanding of Mandarin
because no one ever properly taught us
Chindo in the way
where we learned the Indonesian language from the many years living there
makes me wonder if we’d even learn in the first place had we never lived there
My mother and I are Chindo in an Taiwanese-Indonesian American way
Some say that 25% is not enough to identify
but if that 25% of me is taken away
what am I left with exactly?
25% Han Chinese and 25% Javanese from my mother
25% Bantenese and 25% Bataknese from my father
how am I to be whole without these four quarters?
The umbrella term Indonesian itself
can’t cover all the different ethnicities within the country
an oversimplification of a whole nation and of who I am as well
I’m tired of being told my percentage isn’t enough to identify
I think about my mother and grandmother
two women who shaped me into who I am today
who lives in the same state of discomfort and displacement that I do
My grandmother, my mother, and I
women who were destined to live far from home
not that any of us can pinpoint where home is to begin with
I think about how my grandmother, my mother, and I
are tied to island nations
and how we all live like moving islands ourselves
Is this life hereditary then?
I think about how my children will inherit this identity crisis
even if their father isn’t of mixed heritage
all because their mother carries so many cultures within her
I think about all the cultures I’ve been exposed to
from my time living in Tokyo, Seoul, New York, and even here in London
all the habits I’ve picked up from each city, each country, each person I meet
I think about how I don’t wtite about my Muslim background
and my complicated relationship with religion nearly enough
to be born Indonesian means to be born religious
The mere thought of talking about the disconnect feels blasphemous
But I look back at memories of early morning eid prayers fondly
now quietly observing mass prayers held at parking lots from afar
instead of being a part of it, quietly feeling left out to some degree
I think about how being Muslim in a America
meant being afraid, borderline paranoid
because the actions of extremists is somehow your fault
I think about growing up in Los Angeles
and how I was never the only Asian kid in class
but the Asian American community was always too East Asian centered for me to feel included
Too brown to be a model minority, what a joke
I still remember the anger and frustration I felt
after finding out my mom and uncle were seen as lesser Asians by relatives
all because they were half Southeast Asian
It makes me think about all the people
who criticize me for clinging to that 25%
because these quarters were all I had to cling on to
Especially all the men I’ve dated
who lack any empathy for me and my complicated identity
picking and choosing whatever parts of me suit their narrative of who they think i am
No one has invalidated me more than the men of my own ethnicity
Yet the ones who don’t share a heritage with me
fetishize me for being the way that I am
either that or they tell me I’m not the kind of Asian they’re looking for
I speak english too fluently
and I’m too headstrong, unlike other Asian girls
too tan and too round eyed too
Have these people even met an Asian person before?
is that why they always ask “no, but where are you really from?”
sorry I’m not blonde haired, blue eyed enough to say I’m from LA
Why do I have to properly educate you about this when you’re older than me?
Trying so hard to fit me into boxes I don’t fit
desperately clinging onto biased views of what I should be
based on shallow things like how I look
Seems like every conversation about identity
is met with criticism
sometimes even from my own family
It’s comforting and heartbreaking all at once
to know that my mother and grandmother
are just as out of place as I am
I don’t want my children to feel out of place, but I know they will
I’m thinking myself into a hole
I’m spiraling down an abyss
and it’s my fault for falling in the first place
you enamored me from the first time we met
two and a half years ago today
I wonder what your hands feel like
are they rough and calloused?
accumulated from all your hard work of the last decade?
I wonder what it feels like to run a finger across the palm of your hand?
the intersecting lines acting as a guide to my journey through you
from the day of your birth
to when you took your first steps
where you call home
your first pet
who your first love was
and if they were your first kiss?
or even your first heartbreak perhaps?
if not them then who?
how was that experience for you?
when was the first time you drank?
were you hungover the morning after?
what’s the most juvenile thing that you’ve done?
I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours
tell me one regret that you may have
and if it’s the only thing you regret in this life
speaking of life, when was a turning point for you?
what are your hopes for the future?
is there a dream you have yet to accomplish?
your biggest fears?
what makes you cry and why?
what is something that makes your heart tremble?
I want to know everything there is to know
like if you had a good childhood
or who you consider to be your very first friend
how is your relationship with your family?
do you call your parents often?
who is someone you look up to?
do you believe in love?
why? or why not?
what about life after death?
who are you when no one is looking?
are you stubborn like me?
because it seems like you are
tell me about the lowest point in your life
about a core memory you have
I want to know all the whats, the whens, and the ifs
like what happens if the lines on your palm intersect with mine
I want to get to know you
to find myself in the deepest depths of
to keep going and going and going and going
to dive further
I want to drown in you
I want to run My finger across the palm of your hand
to trace the lines that map out your life
to see you for who you really are
to tell you how much you mean to me
I want to hold your hand
I want you to hold my hand
please let me be the one to hold your hand
During the collaboration process with Slate Magazine, I was asked to choose five people from a list of potential candidates that will be featured, and to illustrate portraits for each individual using the designated color palette that has been chosen as part of the article’s theme. Displayed above are the unused portraits of Clint Eastwood, Quincy Jones, Yoko Ono, and Rita Moreno prior to the finalization of Dolores Huerta’s portrait as the article’s chosen featured illustration.
In addition to creating five portraits of prominent figures over 80 years old, using the same color palette, I was also asked to create three potential logo designs for the article. All unused logo designs are as displayed below.