On Doing Me


I went to a weekend-long festival in England a few weeks ago with my boss’ band, who curated one of the nights. I spent the week exhausted, dehydrated, and hyperaware that I was a triple minority: female, American, Asian. The festival goers were mostly slightly alternative British white guys, and the girls were either their girlfriends or groupies. I had finished my last semester a week early to go and felt overwhelmingly indifferent about graduating. Perhaps it’s because my small liberal arts school only has a ceremony in the spring, and I finished in the winter. I basically threw my fifty-poem thesis at my professor and ran to work. For me, college was a chore I was coerced to do and I did it so spitefully slow that when I finally finished, the deed was insignificant and laden with debt.

For five and a half years, I took a leave of absence and traveled, worked several jobs, felt crazy, went on tour, read brilliant books, slept through banal ones, tried to write essays, stories and poems, and eshewed homework for going out. I lived in six apartments, got broken into three times, broke up with my boyfriend, my grandfather died, put my sick cat down, tried to feel as noncrazy as possible. Everyday I thought about sticking my head into a car exhaust, which my former therapist said was a symptom of depression. (No worries, I’m not suicidal anymore. PMA.)

Despite my #dark veneer, the festival was deliriously fun. I made new friends, saw a ton of music, I made out with my soulmate. (For the record, I don’t believe in soulmates. It’s bologna invented by rom-com screenwriters; our friend, who deemed us soulmates, cried during Friends with Benefits for god’s sake.) Apparently, my friend thinks we’re soulmates because we, and I quote, are both weird. After months of hearing vague things about his weirdness, we finally met at his show in Brooklyn in November. Lightning didn’t strike; it wasn’t love at first sight. Even though he fit the parameters of my type: tall, dark-haired, intuitively stylish yet unafraid of dirt (or, as my best friend would say, Looks homeless), I paid little attention to him. I was more distracted by my ‘friend’ ignoring me, and I was drinking my feelings with free beers. But what was the rush? I knew his band was playing the festival and if he was truly my soulmate, it could wait.

On Saturday night of the festival, I ran into him at the tail end of some band’s set and we awkwardly hugged. He asked me to go outside with him to smoke and when he touched my shoulder, I misconstrued his amateur-hour flirting as an accident. He drank beers with my friends and I, then I danced with him and his bandmates to Michael Jackson. Afterwards at a pub, through the powers of soulmate ESP, he and I silently walked to my chalet. In rom-com fashion, cue the scene: it is late at night, around 3AM. We sit a foot apart on the couch in the dark chalet, chitchatting. I, the ethnic diva, am wearing my favorite black dress and fumbling with the label on the water bottle he bought me. The audience is antsy, Come on! He takes the crumpled paper from my hands and puts it in his pocket. He asks, So are we gonna make out? I suspect, Maybe this isn’t completely platonic. One of my flatmates flushes the toilet and walks out of the bathroom. (/end scene.)

In the morning, we drank coffee, ate breakfast and talked about his band, favorite bands, bad bands, band friends, bands who were playing. He had pretty blue eyes that resembled a methhead’s, he was a vegetarian, he called Point Break a fil-em. I hadn’t come to England with expectations of hooking up, much less with him, but he was a good kisser and my exhaustion felt well-deserved. It was one of the most saccharine mornings of my life. Albeit the ‘soulmate’ thing was quietly reverberating in my brain, honesty bullied my secret romantic and told me to get over it, you sap, and tried to drop-kick my heart back into the familiar black hole of anti-commitment and “doing me.” Love is never paint-by-numbers. I championed single life; relationships deter me from being free. I spent almost six years trying to feel like a normal human being, even though I was suicidal and didn’t care about living. My first priority has been and will always be myself.

Despite my commitment to my independence, I still wanna make out. After all, the heart wants what the heart wants. In England, I was marooned in an indie-rock Disneyland and 90% of the inhabitants were pasty music bloggers (i.e., the worst kind of human). If I could have a 12-hour infatuation with my “soulmate,” I was entitled to it.

In real life, my soulmate lives in another country and I am nursing a crush on that aforementioned ‘friend.’ I don’t know when and if I will see him again and there is no rush, no pun intended. If I’ve learned anything in college, the keys to living happily are: good support system, a warm bed, and not looking at myself in fluorescent light. No homework is worth losing sleep over and neither are boys.

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