Getting There

I'm riding in a roller coaster going full speed. 

The Go button has been pressed for a long time and will not be released anytime soon. I feel like I'm going to fall off any moment, but I'm strapped tight into my seat. I have not yet fallen out. I'm safe and well.

As I processed Life with a friend last month, I saw this image flash in my mind. I thought I'm only inside the seat because of my ability to cling tight to the safety handles, but now realize that the hands holding on may not have been my own.

In January, I wrote:

2017 will be a year of building, maturity, and even fulfillment of year-long promises. I'm believing for the ceiling of my faith to be shattered - and rebuilt with impossible dreams and unimaginable realities. I'm preparing myself for surprises to sweep me off my feet - and fill the gaps with utmost delight and adventure. 

The first few months of 2017 glistened with excitement and favor. I jumped into the crisp, fresh pool of water presented before me. I waded onward excitedly. Perhaps too enthusiastic and less cautious about what lies beneath the waters. 

There were days my heart cried in joy from seeing my creative and professional desires manifest in real life. But there were also days I laid in my bed wide awake in ungodly hours, lost in my anxieties and aspirations. 

This year plunged from the high with a series of events that required a deep probing of my heart and confronting years-old internal processes. I'm still knee deep in journey and coming at you in the midst of shedding away and shaking off. In July, these words spilled out from that raw place:

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"True beauty comes from embracing the ugly. When we look at it - and though it hurts, 

angers & frustrates the beauty addicted heart - say 'I love you' and mean it."

 

For years, I prioritized nurturing my idealistic mind while neglecting more frequent and relevant happenings of reality. I'm learning to set aside my idealist tendencies to let the pain of reality sink in. My idealist mind keeps me going forward, but my connection to reality keeps me rooted. 

A timely surprise accompanied this awakening - and affirmed that my creative fuel has not dwindled despite the unpredicatable swirls of life.

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I've been longing for a space to freely write and found it during a trip to Chuncheon at the end of July (see #pieanachuncheon). I thought I lacked a proper space and time, but all I needed was a fresh perspective.

As soon as I returned to Seoul, I chopped off my hair. Again. For the millionth time. 

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It was my way

of 

telling myself:

 

"Hello, new

 

beginnings!"

A week later, I attended an insightful exhibition at the Seoul Museum of Art - and landed on a solution to months-long brainstorming for #pieanart.

 
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# piean A R T

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since then, I began to share about artists that I've been meeting. Interviewing artists have definitely been a highlight in the midst of the mess. They are not mere sources of inspiration. Connecting with them has been affirming my artist identity and strengthening creative vision. Here is my bit about the legendary Krzysztof Wodiczko - and his exhibition at the MMCA Seoul. If you can read Korean, see the full interview here.

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At the end of August, I finished and shared my first full-length Korean writing piece! For non-Korean speakers, it's a piece about my search of a place in Seoul as both a native and outsider. I've been writing this for months and finally found the glue to hold the scattered words together into something legible and connected (*happy tears*).

I realize this: Whenever I'm surrounded by art and connecting with people, I'm in the clear! These interactions may happen for minutes, but I can confidently say that those moments make me feel so, completely alive. I feel my heart growing and my personhood building up. 

Fast forward - we're at the tail-end of 2017.

I couldn't shake off the looming emptiness that took over after waves of sparkles and excitement. My heart is always bent on the the something more. As long as the vision I chase after is rooted in the temporary, it will always bring emptiness. Sure, the level of fulfillment I feel from writing a book will far exceed the satisfaction from completing an article. But the former measure is incomparable to my satisfaction from convictions and experiences connected to the eternal. 

I'm still searching for answers, but here are the lessons I'm learning: 

1. Recognize the value of documenting things in-between

I cherish the self-reflections, emotional turmoils and endless conversations with loved ones. Those vulnerable, painful moments fuel the productions that come after. I realize that the ultimate goal is actually not the goal itself, but the process towards the goal. 

2. Realize that worthwhile things take time

Have patience. Always easier said than done, right? I'm always wanting to partner with the New Thing at work. My ultimate desire, though, is to be known as the finisher, not the starter, of what I put my hands to. Rather than beginning so many projects, I want to record what I finished. I remind myself: I'm getting there! Worthwhile things take time. Just gotta laugh a little and enjoy life through the unveiling. 

 
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
— Steve Jobs
 
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On 25, Womanism and Pink Leather Jackets

I turned 25 last November and am already at the halfway mark. So far, it's been wild and emotional with growing pains and professional milestones. I have a feeling I still have many surprises coming my way - and these pink babes have been taking me into new adventures and discoveries.

Here are unshared moments from #pieanaturns25 celebration day! Documented by my artist friend Lydia:

I don't know about you, but I'm feelin' 2 5

 

In April, I cranked out these babes again - but before I take you there, I must rewind to 11 years ago.

Back in 2006, I had a life-changing auditory revelation. My first listen of Corinne Bailey Rae introduced me to a world I always longed for, but didn't yet have the context to materialize into a real-life expression. My newfound love for R&B, jazz and pop music transitioned me out of K-pop all day. This also sparked at a time when my intuitive, quiet adolescent self finally found ways to articulate externally. This evolution eventually took the shape of the rambunctious, loud, present energy that largely defines my personality and expression today.

Over a decade later, I can proudly say that the beats and lyrics of "Put Your Records On" have stood steadfast and true through tumultuous and beautiful years of blooming in creativity and confidence. 

Lookin' like my favorite song #pieana

 

Girl, put your records on,
tell me your favorite song
You go ahead, let your hair down
Sapphire and faded jeans,
I hope you get your dreams,
Just go ahead, let your hair down.

You're gonna find yourself somewhere, somehow.
 

I shared this selfie from the same day. Two weeks later, I discovered another Corinne. Korean artist IU!

Look at this cute clip of her fangirling over Corinne Bailey Rae (begins around 00:30:00). Her love for Corinne led her to these lyrics on her new song "Palette."

Strangely, I like simple things nowadays. 
But I still love Corinne's music.

On April 21st, I came home from an inspiring event hosted by Magazine B - and listened to IU's rendition of her 25 years of living. I immediately burst into tears. The lyrics talk about how she's just beginning to find her true self. She ends started the song with the words: "I'm truly found." This is what it's about! When I see her, I see someone just doing what she loves - and though it may be getting a whole lot of attention, she is unphased. She will continue on this way and be an inspiration for so many. She really is an artist bridging gaps of generations while staying in trend. 

In her early years, I dismissed her legitimacy for her cute, typical K-pop poster girl image, but my eyes opened since her album remake of old Korean classics in 2014 called the "Flower Bookmarks." I wrote about my growing interest for IU back in Fall 2015 after a trip from Korea. 

Both her title song and album is called "Palette," and she shared during an interview: "As a child, in art class, I loved the palette more than drawing itself. The palette is a tool, but can be an art form on its own. The different colors and genres in this album and my current self resembles a palette. Rather than drawing a perfect picture, I wanted to share my own palette."

Funny thing - in 2015, I started sharing my world of colors through an ongoing project called #pieanapalettes on Instagram - and on blog in form of fashion, food, and beyond.

The song inspired me so much that the following Monday, I went to work in this particular ensemble. Blazer working woman to shed some light into an otherwise hectic, stressful May issue deadline day.

#월요병 

뭐예요?

We finished up our May issue today, so I decided to bring the weekend party into the office. Ain't nobody got time for Monday gloom!

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GET IT GURL 

Coincidental or not, the new Netflix series "Girlboss" released on April 21 as well. It is "loosely" based on the life events of clothing brand Nasty Gal's founder Sophia Amoruso. Her killer taste for fashion, unapologetic attitude, and incredible drive for her business sparked fading reminders and promises back to life. In 2015, I read her book #Girlboss, and was completely inspired to live out my dreams.

I believe these connecting dots are not coincidental. They're a reflection of a movement reverberating across the world right now. I'm talking about a collective movement of women rising up to take their place while being their truest selves. True womanhood doesn't sound controlling or authoritative - or try to force itself into unfitting suits. It sounds like kindness, looks like authenticity, and carries love. 

For awhile, I've been developing my personal narrative of womanhood in both individual and community levels. I see how ideas I've been cultivating and talking about are bleeding into mainstream entertainment and media scenes. Contrary to what people may say, I believe women are more united than ever - and thus more powerful than ever!

A movement focusing on the dignity and true essence of a woman over external factors that will equate her to a man.

I want to continue to explore this, especially the happenings in my current city Seoul. Stay tuned!
 

Hall of Delight

In 2013, I dreamt of a digital platform featuring the stories of wonderful people in my life. Meanwhile, I navigated through the uncertainty, joy and vulnerability of friendships with women. In following months, I entered a journey of intentionally getting to know and loving myself. Since then, I shared bits and pieces about my expanding awareness about womanhood. (Read my most recent post "Strangers, Sisters."

Four years later, I'm still knee-deep in the journey of cultivating self-identity in the context of community. The more I learned to embrace my unique identity, the more I'm able to see and speak out the gold in other women.

Marcel Proust once said (thanks Kinfolk!):

 
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
 

I believe that you're only able to love others in the extent you love yourself. As I share truths and adventures, laugh and cry, or just simply sit and reflect with other women, I get a clearer perspective of my fearfully and wonderfully crafted DNA. 

At the brink of 2017, this photo project became a reality:

hall of delight

People ask me about #pieana. I always knew that its vision was bigger than myself and that its destination will be in community. 

I remember being in a room full of women few years ago where I felt that every woman inside the room, whether or not I knew her, believed in me - and something sparked.

The world tells us to find our spotlight by dismissing each other. But the incredible amount of healing I received from friends, sisters and mothers over the years attest that we need each other. 

As 2016 is coming to a close, I want to honor and celebrate #women. They inspire me everyday to dream big and love well. #bettertogether

Months later, I'm standing in the midst of another wave of revelation about womanhood. This is only the tip of the iceberg - of many other stories and projects to come. 


I present to you, Hall of Delight -

There are so many amazing, courageous women around me. They might not be a Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfey, or even Beyonce (yet) but their character and lives are definitely worthy of spotlight. Even in a humble platform like pieana. Here are many women who say yes everyday and let their true selves shine. Here are women whose stories are worthy to be shared and celebrated. 
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"So elegant and beautiful you are! Thank you for lavishing me with love & good times this weekend."

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"동갑친구s hayyy! My heart wells up with thanks whenever I think about our friendship. She carries wisdom and maturity beyond her years and loves so well. I learn a lot from you and cherish our times together."

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LYDIA

"Woven beautiful with wild & tender, 
keepin' it real since 2009 #growingtogether"

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JESS 

 

 

"My dear friend, she's beautiful inside and out! We share so many memories from our post-work adventures around Seoul. She gets me and loves me well through my wacky moments. Thank you for speaking truth & life into me. Keep it up #girlboss"

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                                       Truly one-of-a-kind! You've been                                          such a joy to be around from the                                          beginning. You ooze childlike                                               wonder that creates space for                                              people to be themselves.

 

To let loose, receive love and love wildly in return.

I learn a lot from your humility and wisdom. Keep sharing that light with the world."

 

"I'm so blessed by your deep care and compassion for people. So thankful we got to grow together in cg this past season! My ultimate shopping buddy & fellow editor #onlythebeginning sis!"

#3. 144 Hours of an Editor

On the second day of March, I started my job as an Editor at a Seoul-based magazine. Since then, my lifestyle has evolved to fit around the fast-paced, tight schedule of interview appointments and article deadlines. While the work is exciting and feeds my extrovert & creative self, it also looks like loads of hard work and discipline. The plus has definitely been meeting a diverse group of people, especially in the art and culture scene, all the while connecting, learning and being inspired. I'm also finding a knack in portrait photography, and the art of listening-turned-storytelling. Here is a week-long snippet of the places I go, the people I meet, and the work I do:

Sunday 4/16 Easter Sunday

Sunday obviously isn't part of my work week, but this day definitely kicked off the week for me. A day of reflection on new life. I felt the tangible shift of seasons in the air. Lush greens broke out through the atmosphere overrun by the cold. And I always appreciate my ladies' time!

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Monday 4/17 An interview and a delightful discovery

I spoke with the Chief Director of the local tea brand Tea Collective. I've been following the brand since the launch in early 2016 - and thought it would be a great fit for the May issue of SEOUL. The store officially opened last week and the magazine printed yesterday! I look forward to sharing the article soon. If you're looking for a quite and stylish space to relax and drink quality tea, be sure to check out the cafe in Cheongdam.

On my way home, I came across this gem of a store, and almost cried from happiness. I've been following & Other Stories (Sweden-based luxury women fashion brand from H&M Group) for years and love its art direction and sensible products. I especially love their collaboration collections called Co-labs. They opened their first store in Apgujeong earlier this year - and I finally got to visit its multi-floor decked out with beautiful clothing, accessories, shoes and beauty products. Thank you for coming to Seoul. :)

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Tuesday 4/18 Catchin' up and getting perspective

I caught up with a coworker from my old workplace after four months. Joni was one of the people I openly shared about my desire to move to Itaewon - and here we were months later, neighbors! I got perspective for the steps I felt led to take in the past few months. Some required courage and even risks, but every step has intentionally led me to where I am now. One visit home to California, move to Itaewon, and new job later, I can proudly say that I'm moving towards the life of my dreams. Doing what I love, and doing life with people I love. :) With age, the concept of "dreams" is getting simpler and more aligned with daily life.  

Wednesday 4/19 MMCA exhibition sketch shoot

I photographed the background sketch of the new When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists exhibition at the MMCA Deoksugung. It was my first time at the Palace and fell in love with its regal and beautiful scenery. I also loved getting an insider look of installing an exhibition and being part of intro film interview of the museum's Director, Bartomeu Mari. 

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Thursday 4/20  Selby & Seoul Sunset

@ Daelim Museum

@ Daelim Museum

I found out that Todd Selby will be having his solo show at the Daelim Museum - and was absolutely ecstatic!!! I've been following his work for years - and Selby + Seoul combo seemed too good to be true. But true indeed! I attended the press conference earlier this past week - and met him in person (!!!). More on that later!

This is the bright side of one of world's most polluted cities. Or am I just being naive? Hah. I caught this unfiltered, beautiful array of palette across Seoul's sky on my way home - and was completely mesmerized. These moments make me thankful for living in this city.   

Friday 4/21 <Magazine B> COVER B TOUR

I got picked to attend Magazine B's <COVER B TOUR> opening party. It's a Seoul-based brand documentary magazine that features one well-balanced brand per month. The event continues until April 30 at the @walkandrest store in Hongdae - and features their sold-out issue about the city of Seoul. Get a copy for 10% off and get educated about your city! Side note: Korean magazines have been my main source of inspiration. More on this soon!

#2: Conquer Your Ocean

In this day and age, truth is relative. My truth is truth, but yours is too. Or because your truth sounds nicer (how about this - "trendier"), I'll discard mine and hop on to yours. 

I stumbled upon this Youtube video and it's been on my mind. I didn't plan to develop posts around the theme of education, but my train of thought is going in that direction - and I'll follow.

How will you imagine anything if the images are always provided for you?

To defend ourselves and fight against assimilating dullness into our thought process, we must learn to read. To stimulate our imagination, cultivate our own consciousness, our own belief systems... to defend and preserve our own minds.

This month, I met and photographed three artists this month. Their work is featured in the MMCA Gwacheon's newest exhibition Lesson Zero. It aims to "pose questions about teaching and learning, the customs and circumstances of education... and remind the viewer of the individuals who resist group norms of socialization." (Coincidence? I think not.)

I was especially delighted by my conversation with an Italian artist Valerio Rocco Orlando. He shared how "learning is a constant movement" and discussed about his community-focused film work. He said how though he studied theatre and film in college, "my medium is encounters. It’s more about the desire to spend time together instead of just developing technical skills." I contemplated on how my personal value for relationships has shaped my thinking, artistry, and even lifestyle. 

I was brought right back to my last years of college. During my senior year, I taught art at the UCLA Community School for a quarter for my Art Education minor. Few months before, I experienced a life-changing summer after teaching art to students in Mexico for a month. I remember smiling and crying in the following months while creating this recap video. At the end of these experiences, I learned: 1) that I'm not classroom teacher material, 2) the utmost value of education and well-equipped teachers. Though I may not be a teacher, I'm an artist with a passion for public education. 

I was also reminded of this particular post I shared not too long ago:

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I believe that the forming of healthy, original minds takes place somewhere in between a commitment to education and a supportive community. During college years, I became aware of the uncommon privilege I had of being educated in a western, forward-thinking culture. Not only that, my elementary to high school education took place at the heart of Silicon Valley - and after, in a well-respected institution in Los Angeles.

I'm still learning, and I constantly return to this: No one knows it all. Everyone is in their unique process. 

No matter where we are in life and how old we are, we're in the journey of discovery. As long as our hands are opened and hearts are willing for the new experiences and relationships that break and build us towards the better versions of us. Honestly, even though we're not actively seeking, waves of life sway and turn. So why not actively pursue the things in front of us? I wonder what will happen if we begin to look at our lives not as a flat pool, but unpredictable, risky, yet sooooo fun. Vast, terrifying, yet all the more wild. Feel the weighing magnitude of an ocean, breathe it all in, and pick up your custom-made rowing paddle. We'll never know what lies ahead until we get there.