Now What?: On Contributing

This whole time, this whole silence, I knew that I should write. I thought about it every day—even made attempts. But when I’d look at what I’d written, it was never enough. Just snippets of thoughts centered on confusion, anxiety, sometimes despair. There has been no cohesion. In order for there to be cohesion, there needs to be attraction. Lately, I feel like Norton Juster’s Milo. Stuck in the Doldrums. Unable to surpass the Foothills of Confusion.

It feels exploitative to write about Boston, snug as nearly everyone I know is nestled into the U.S. West. It feels exploitative, because, just as I recognize their pain, really our pain, I am able to keep distant. Privilege allows me to step away. Like it didn’t happen. Even though I know it did.

This was how I felt about Columbine, about 9/11, about Sandy Hook, about every drone strike I read about.

The world feels too big, too small, too vulnerable, and too mean. And, no matter what, from my feeble attempts at prayer to shocked silence to donations, I end up feeling the falseness of any “contributions.”


I feel like it’s important to say that I’ve been rejected from the graduate programs I applied to. I kept trying to think of how to say it, how to spin it into something out of the nothing it seems to be. I waited and thought that it would come to me and be easy. And now, I see how foolish that was. This waiting and hoping for epiphany is a path of least resistance of my making.

When I first read Allan G. Johnson’s Privilege, Power, and Difference, I promised to always look for and explore paths of least resistance. The book convinced me that hidden assumptions lay in the everyday taken-for-granteds, and that these assumptions generally reinforce social hierarchies that privilege some and disadvantage others in order to maintain inequality.

As I attempted to dismantle this idea that if I only waited, things would be easy, I found internalized ideas about hegemonic femininity. These last few years, I have felt consistently chastised for speaking my mind. I have felt that many people react poorly to what I’m saying because of my wrapper. I shouldn’t argue or disagree, because Asian women don’t argue or disagree. Rather, we’re vehemently racist or passive, sweet support. These are things I cannot prove, but I know them. I feel them. Of the nearly 3 ½ years I’ve lived here, it took me 3 of them to understand the subtle looks, the differential but quick flares of anger, the way students and teachers alike have disagreed with me when I talk about Black poverty in the same way their favorite white race scholar does. It sounds weird, paranoid, even, but I know it’s there.


Tonight I keep thinking, “Now what?” I feel like my country: in pain, trying to heal, full of self-directed violence, each event a new chance at redemption. I brew another pot of tea and check the New York Times website and feel disgusted and sad. I stare off into the distance and allow myself to become empty in the hopes that I’ll wake up full tomorrow with empathy, compassion, and grace enough to exhibit the strength needed to chose love.