Blog Season 2?

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I know I’ve been absent in my blogging–I’m aware of this fact pretty often. I have ideas laid out for a few posts but they’re not written yet… classic Simon.

Anyways, I thought I throw in a mini life update(?). If any of the other ones are worth writing, I’m sure their truths will stand through the test of time… or something like that.

とにかく, this September…

I am not going to school (Yay!–for now anyways).

I’m still working as a Behavioral Interventionist, twice a week. Sometimes, working with the kids make me so happy like nothing else.

I’m still leading at Young Life, and it’s an amazing community. It gives back way more than I pour into it. It encourages me so much.

I’m still leading at Rappers Without Borders, and our execs are amazing this year. I’m learning so much from this position.

I’m still watching anime, and I got some new perspectives. I feel like a seasoned anime water now, but I’m watching a lot of trash rn.

I’ve been slacking off on taking care of myself like running, yoga, and stuff like that. Stopped drinking beer every night.

Started out a bit depressed (classic) but doing well now.

Church is something I take for granted all too often. It’s the body.

I had an interview with the school board for a student support position. Kind of anxious about the results but, God is good and He is for me.

I recently had to research for kitchenware and vacuums to purchase on Amazon. It’s really not all that different from looking at phones, cameras, or any other consumer goods.

Physical touch was more important than I had realized, and it brought on a lot of healing.

I’m pretty bad at the ‘business’ side of things, whether it be networking, professional development, and ‘stuff like that’.

Maybe I should cut my hair (it’s pretty long, if you haven’t seen me irl).

I said that I would finally learn a street dance this year but…

My producing definitely pulled back to being a hobby.

This isn’t to be negative, but I could be a much, much better person. I recognize some of the areas to grow in, but then I’d have to acknowledge being blind to so many others. I want to be “transformed by the renewing of my mind”. I want lead a Christ-centred life. If anything though, I do have this desire and I know it is good, and I know my faith in God makes me righteous in Him. And in Him is my identity.

I am lazy. I give up too easily. I get frustrated and upset quickly. I’m not good at communicating. And these are all too embarrassingly transparent. Everyone around me knows. How I made it this far I don’t know. Or… no, I do know. And it’s all too clear. I have to remember this, and walk in boldness.

Thank you to everyone in my life who inspire me, teach me, encourage me, support me, help me, heal me, build into me, lets me build into them, lets me heal them, let’s me help them, let’s me support them, let’s me encourage them, lets me teach them, lets me inspire them, and lets me share Christ with them.

Update is over, for now. As Chris likes to tell me, thoughts are an ever evolving process.

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Me At 22, Part 1: Introduction to Relationships and Community

As with every birthday, I spent some time looking back at my ‘fiscal’ year. Although it always boggles my mind just in realizing the passing of another year, this past year–my life at 22 years old–has been without a doubt the most cathartic year of my life, despite my mistakes and failures. If you’re curious, I would like to share this recap story with you, in hopes that my story might bring you peace, and, by the process of writing it down, I would be reminded and humbled by what I was able to experience; I’ve decided that I want to be steadfast in living in the truth that I’ve come to know dearly. Let me pray real quick: Holy Spirit, please guide me through this writing process. I want to be truthful, encouraging in attitude, and revealing of your glory. Amen.

Alright, before I begin, I want to explain and elaborate on the name of this blog–Moonlight Mixtape. Sonically, it’s something like this. It’s this nostalgic and sentimental state of mind where it’s lonely but peaceful; sad but warm. Its space is a warm summer night with the windows open and the summer breeze being felt on the skin. It’s dark but the moonlight is evident. In this space, thoughts wash in and fade away like tides, of memories bittersweet, profound, and sobering. I’ve grown fond of this feeling/mood, and I feel as though this state really resonates with me, though this head space may have initially been introduced to me through depression. The alliterating word mixtape refers to the concepts in hip hop, such as the sampling, distributive, and entry-level elements. ものがたり [monogatari], which means story, was a close second choice.

My struggle to write my story did not end at the intro, and I have spent hours wondering how to present it all. It wasn’t until realizing that I should break the story into its thematic parts that I started to feel the momentum to write again. I sought out for a organization tool and found a relationship mapping tool called Kumu:

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And here it is, the summary of my life at 22. It’s complicated but it’s unapologetically me. The colour orange indicates categories of things I spend time doing, purple are for responsibilities (something will go wrong if I’m not there), blue are things that I do regularly, and arrows indicate some sort of cause and affect relationship. For example, my hobby in music led me to discover hip hop, through which I met Chris in organizing an event together, by whom I was invited to the church I now attend, which is where I met Tim, who has inspired to become a leader, which was a major reason in why I stopped doing drugs. This chart isn’t complete–or maybe it’s one of those things that can’t be–but it’ll do for the purpose of this blog series. Now then, I’ll start at the chronological beginning, with the story of my 22nd birthday:

I’m always pleasantly surprised by the elevation in my mood when the month of April comes around. In anticipation of and preparation for my birthday (which also coincides with classes being done and the summer being just around the corner), I guess I clothe myself in the awareness that “no one is going to be mean to you on your birthday”. I had been becoming increasingly ambitious in the planning of my birthday events throughout the years, and with the connections I had, I decided to host my birthday at a club last year.

It was a quite the grand idea, and I became more and more excited the more I thought about it. I would be the DJ, and I could play whatever I wanted, since it was my birthday. Soon enough, what had started out from wanting to celebrate my birthday with my close friends quickly turned into inviting most of my friends on Facebook, to its final form of becoming the somewhat official “End of exams party“. And if that wasn’t enough, I organized my rapper, DJ, and dancer friends to perform. I was ecstatic. I pictured music videos. I was in the process of negotiating free drinks. Yes, I was indeed orchestrating all of this, and to my great satisfaction, I achieved a 150+ going and 600+ interested numbers on Facebook. I have never felt so hyped up for something.

Well, the morning of my birthday rolled around with the familiar Vancouver rain that continued throughout the whole day. I think I took a bath, just because, and I couldn’t eat much that evening because I was feeling nervous/hype. I biked over to the venue, and started DJing.

Reality was that, by the end of the night, only about 30 people had come. I remember feeling pretty confused and embarrassed throughout the night, as reality completely mismatched my expectations. It was too bad because I kept waiting for a crowd to appear, so I didn’t even get super into my set or spend time with the ‘day ones’ that actually showed up. But in a way, what happened was kind of amazing. Like it’s definitely safe to expect about half of the numbers on Facebook, and this was beyond anyone’s expectations. What really disappointed me, however, was the fact that so many of the friends whom I really wanted there came near the end or canceled last minute.Needless to say, I was pretty bummed out for a few days afterwards. I stopped ‘dabbing’ since then, and I started to dislike the whole hype culture. I told myself that I would start to focus on individual relationships.

That’s what happened last year. And so, when the time came a few weeks ago for me to plan my 23rd birthday, I was set on the idea of being intentionally different. My manic wheels started to turn, and while brainstorming ideas with Edward, I proudly declared that I wanted to “invert the birthday trope”, which got a good laugh from the both of us. But in all seriousness, I was determined to plan a birthday/event that would be radically different, from purpose to outcome. I wanted to shift the focus from me to us; from celebrating myself to facilitating people coming together.

Although I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted the event to be, I knew that I wanted something that everyone would be able to actively participate in, so that no one would be left out at any point in time. I also wanted to create a space where everyone–including myself–would be interacting with each other, so that we would all be leaving the event with newly formed connections and friendships. As a bad example, I remembered how big birthday dinners would only let me talk to the 5 friends adjacent to my seat. I really didn’t want this, and I reviewed the importance of limiting the number of people attending. Another thing I stressed was the importance of being able to commit; there would be no hard feelings if someone couldn’t come, but because I think the quality of togetherness decreases when people drop in and out at different times, I wanted everyone to start and end together.

So what would an event like this actually look like? Well, an example I came up was having all of us play Minecraft while listening to my music. This would allow all of us to play, interact, and adventure together in a single space, and at the same, I would be able to share and reveal myself through the playlist I’ve curated (which was another aspect to the event I realized that I had really wanted–I’ll expand more on this later). Other examples were escape the room, grown adults playing at a play ground, or even a discussion panel led by me, but as usual, money, time, and resources were constraints.

As I outlined the details of my event, I started to envision my birthday as a platform for facilitating the experience of community, relationships, or maybe even a movement that encouraged these things. I wanted this to be experimental, fun, weird, and built off of everything I had learned from the past year. And this last part was crucial in motivating everything, because the truth was that I had changed completely since last year. I wanted to celebrate the healing, grace, love, direction, and support that was given to me. One of the most tangible example of this is me quitting weed, which will be a year on May 22nd (in 2 days!).

I wanted to use the spotlight I had–because birthdays have more obligation power over people than anything else–to really show everyone who I was, what I had been through, what life meant to me, and the relevance and influence of Jesus in my life–because this was so undeniable to me. Again, I wasn’t really sure how to do this in practice, but my question was: how do I show others who I really am? I thought maybe going all the way back with baby pictures, or sharing my music and the stories that were part of each track. It would surely be a challenge, but I really wanted to practice effectively sharing myself, thinking of the methods and resources.

In a way, all of this would be like a testimony. And I liked idea of my birthday being a testimony. I mean, it’s honestly crazy. I’ve become so different in how I think, how I feel, how I look at the world, how I response, where I look, and why I do anything. I’ve overcome so much of my own shame, fears, and doubts. I wanted to share all of this.

So to summarize, I wanted my birthday to bring people together, and I wanted to use the sharing of my life as a model, example, and catalyst to create a space where we could really try to reach each others’ hearts, and understand on a deeper level that we all ultimately need and want the same thing. And lastly, I wanted something that whatever everyone contributed, whether it was a writing, drawing, or whatever, could be complied into a tangible reminder that this had happened. The event would be something among a presentation, slam poetry, counselling group, discussion panel, LAN party, or what have you. Yeah, it became kind of conceptually overzealous.

But this conceptualization of what I wanted my birthday to be was incredibly special because it’s something that I’ve been working towards for a while. You see, when I had started producing music just about 2 years ago–catalyzed by psychedelics–this ‘grand’ idea of being an artist manifested deep inside me. I understood it as the process of bringing something from my world into the world of reality. And while seeking out how I could share my feelings/art with others, I realized that ultimately, I wanted to give people an experience. At its root, I wanted to connect with people by presenting them an experience curated by me, so that at the end of the experience we might stand on the same page.

I started this out by producing music to bring the places and head spaces I resided into life, to convey myself to the listeners. But in wanting these experiences to be accurate and intimate, I realized that I had to be there and be part of the art, forming somewhat of a performance aspect. And communication would be my performance, so to speak. Continuing down this road, I realized the importance of a multi modal experience. That’s why music videos exist; it’s more immersive. I thought I take it a step further by presenting a whole experience, where I lead some friends through a bike course (at night with the moon out), with music playing, and just enjoying the experience together.

This year, Young Life in particular showed me how to be intentional with relationships with the intention of sharing life together (I know that sounds weird). Once it clicks, so much trust comes from this. Expanding on my artistic desires, I’ve since come to realize that sharing life together, then, is the ultimate art experience, and a community is just the regularity of that. Although communities are everywhere, with the right intentions, everything changes. And church (at least mine) does community perfectly. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful places I know. It restored my trust, it healed me, it shows me how to love. It’s building relationships that are meant to share life together.

As of writing, my birthday had already happened. The result? Kind of disappointing; people were late, people had to leave early, people didn’t bring their laptops, people had already ate, and so on. I was frustrated because I thought I had made it clear in the event description… oh well. But it is what it is. I can’t force people to give me their time and attention. All I can do is show people what I think is good. And plus, I couldn’t turn people away for not meeting my expectations. In the real world, navigating through all our differences and shortcomings is what makes a community thrive.

But it’s really okay. I know my intentions are exactly where I want them to be. I can build upon this experience, and it can only goes up from here. Most of all, this post is enough. Being able to derive these intentions are enough. Being able to express it is enough. Having communicate this with you is enough.

I’m still looking for practical experiences that can bring people together. Maybe I’m looking for team building exercises. Or better yet, maybe sharing life together is the ultimate experience of bringing people together. Wow. Am I stupid for just realizing this? … I think not. I think this makes me appreciate God’s intentions even better.

If you’re still reading this, thank you for taking the time to do that. I hope it was a fun read. As always, feel free to give me feedback contact me! FYI, there will be two more posts for this series, in exploring what had happened in between the two birthdays. As far as birthdays go, last thing I’ll says is:

Thanks, mom.


Random music recommendation

A thank you letter to Digibro

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Note: this is an open letter because I’ve been wanting to address Digibro on my blog ever since I started blogging.

Dear Digibro,

I think that a brief introduction is warranted because I want to explain where I’m coming from. My reaction to your newest vlog, just shittalking other anime youtubers for like half an hour, oh god what have i done, was that I have to talk about it. Whether you know/care or not, you’re a figure I look up to when it comes to writing, critical thinking, and establishing a presence, I’m hoping that you might read this if I post it to r/Digibro.

Simply put, watching your analysis videos is what seriously got me into anime, and I want to express my appreciation. Before discovering your videos, I didn’t know that people were looking at the anime culture critically. Of course, since then, I’ve found other YouTubers who also do this, but none have resonated with me as much as you have.

At the risk of sounding like a fanboy/stan, it makes me so satisfied to hear you talk/rant because it so closely resembles my thinking patterns. And I love the way you articulate your thoughts because I often feel that this is how I should be writing. Here, you say the exact same thing about another person, and I love that. I can’t remember from which video it was, but your advice to new writers was to just keep on writing no matter what, because your writing also sucked for the first few years. You’ve been very humble and open about your beginnings, and admit that you’re excited to continue progressing. The fact that you sought out a mentor, ghostlightning, is a passionate indication of you wanting your writing to improve.

Because of this, I can’t help but be a little envious of what you’ve established. The way I understand your come up is that you’ve just been doing what you’ve always been doing: blogging. But you make it look like an inevitable progression, even though you’ve been putting in the work.

I strongly relate to your act of reflecting on and explaining yourself. The way you reflect on your writing style, the way you look back on the year, and the way you revisit your past and turn it into an interesting reveal about who you were and who you are now is intriguing and inviting. A few weeks ago, I posted a blog describing my blogging tendencies, and like a day later I see you’ve put up On the 3 Types of Videos I Make. Crazy.

The impulse for writing this post/letter was further motivated by a few other instances. One, after finishing Girlish Number back when it aired, I couldn’t help but think that you would actually love it. It just made sense that you would from following your videos. So I felt this sense of validation when you announced your favourite anime of 2016. Two, I also didn’t enjoy Non Non Biyori, even though it totally makes sense that I would based on the other anime that I like. Finally, in the aforementioned vlog, you highlight the issue of weak writing in the anime community by mentioning Gigguk’s unnecessary introduction. I know that this is a particular pet peeve of yours (and I admit to doing this — my bad). I can definitely relate to the frustration because 90% of MAL reviews start out like this and I remember lightly thinking, ‘who cares?’. But I couldn’t help but think that this was what I was supposed to do since it’s so prevalent.

From time to time, I do notice a difference in our opinions, but I think we both welcome different perspectives. Overall, I really wanted to express the sense of connection and understanding I feel when watching your videos. I don’t know if I’ll ever make videos myself but I’ll definitely be around. I feel very passionate about anime (among other things), and I hope to join in on the conversation at some point. Even if you’re not reading this, then, at the very least, my thoughts are now out there.

If you are reading this, thank you.

simok


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Image is of Shinobu from the Monogatari series

Dear wordsmith

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When words leave your lips in a rhythmic dance that paints vivid imageries onto the mind, the uninspired become inspired.

You proclaim to the human kind the kindness found in the syllables of language.

When I hear you string together words, I am myself lost for words.

You create conversations, you open yourself up to vulnerabilities, and you speak with boldness, all the while having fun.

You play with words, with profound meaning and context and subtext and references, with each wordplay revealing more of yourself and connecting me closer to you.

These words become verses and the verses become chapters. Surely, the next chapters of your life will capture the hearts of many. Don’t lose this light. Demand rights and positivity.

You made me realize that the best artists are not always the ones on the radio or even the ones performing on stages at all.

Please continue to speak truth and let your lungs be filled the breath of life. The reverberation of your passion will be echoed throughout my life.

Thank you.

simok


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Image is of Huey Freeman from The Boondocks by SykotixUK

ぜんぶ / 전부 / everything

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At the end of Bakemonogatari, this is what Senjoughara tells Araragi while they both look up at the night sky (spoilers):

“That’s everything.

That’s everything I have.

What I have is no more than this.

What I can give you, Araragi-kun, is no more than this.

No more than this… and everything.”

This scene touched my heart. Her honesty and vulnerability transcended the narrative and became a part of my own experience. Fictional or not, Senjoughara’s actions were a beautiful display of humanity and love.

Since watching this scene, this idea of giving my everything has been on my mind. In anime, we often hear the ubiquitous term がんばって [ganbatte], which translates to “do your best”. While there is, of course, a limit to pushing yourself, I don’t think I hear this notion enough in western culture, and so I find this to be a good reminder on how I should live my life — by doing my best.

In the Bible, we are told to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). Whether you believe in God or not, I think it makes sense that love should be given with all that we have. And I would expect nothing less from God. Even in our relationships, we should strive for love and kindness; we should try our best.

Now the problem is, doing your best becomes increasingly difficult to do as you age. Gradually, it becomes harder to care about things. Things become boring or difficult, and I certainly admit to easily losing motivation. Basically, it becomes impossible to care about things in life without getting hurt or being taken for granted — or even worse — be taken advantage of. We often hear that the way to happiness is to “not give a shit about anything”.

But when it comes to love, at least, I think it’s necessary that we should try to love with our whole being. Otherwise… it’s not love. And I learned that by limiting my giving, I’m also limiting my receiving. Now just to be clear, there is a clear distinction among infatuation, dependence, and love. I am not advocating that your partner should be everything, because they’re also human beings with brokenness and flaws. But nonetheless, we should be striving to give without the fear of losing. The popular Bible verse about love comes from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

And when we witness real love, it transcends time and culture. And it necessarily changes us because when we experience something good, we won’t accept anything less. It’s that simple. This idea of love is all around us, and we can see the passion of love appearing in pop culture:

“Cause all of me loves all of you” – John Legend

“Give me your all and nothing else” – Selena Gomez

And these are just from a quick Google search. But although the love here is love too, it’s not the complete picture of love. Love is not dependant on time or based solely on physical desires. Passion is indeed a part of love, but I think that our pop culture’s idea of passion is often mixed in with sexual desires. And in many ways, this only limits our understanding of how amazing the fullness of love can be. But wait — if love is so amazing, why are we all so broken? Why is it so difficult to find real love?

I’ve mentioned before that I was a camp leader at RockRidge Canyon during New Years. The main theme of this camp was this: we were made for relationships. And as I spent 5 days getting to know a group of high school boys, I soon realized that they, too, have trust issues. Not that this was surprising — unfortunately — but at the same time, it’s really sad to see brokenness in kids. Trust is a necessary component of love, and if trust is broken for a person, it leads to them breaking future relationships with others.

I don’t mean to romanticize kids like they’re perfectly innocent human beings, but I would be lying if I didn’t call attention to the fact that they’re different from adults in that they still have a spark of light in them. Maybe this is a generalization, but I think I have some integrity to speak about this, as I’ve been working closely with two kids on the spectrum for the past 3 years.

Speaking of kids, high school is the most common setting in anime. Even if you’re saving the world, you still have to go to school. I appreciate the fact that in anime, the time of adolescence is not trivialized. The challenges that kids face are very real, and let me acknowledge that it is not easy being a kid; their pain and their suffering can just be as overwhelming. And I think it’s important to have this compassion for kids because we were all once kids. It’s widely known that the anime director (and co-founder of Studio Ghibli) Hayao Miyazaki has a passion for kids, and his work in the anime industry is regarded as one of the best. This is what Charles (TWWK) had to say about Miyazaki’s work in his post, Hayao Miyazaki’s Common Grace:

“[The] theme of children understanding and demonstrating love better than the adults surrounding them is frequent in Miyazaki’s works.” … “He taps into truths that cross the lines of culture, and conveys them with the signature lines of his proverbial brush.”

Charles then goes on to mention Luke 18:16, where Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”. From being around kids, it’s clear to me that kids’ still have an innate willingness to trust that many adults have lost (understandably, to be fair). When bad things happen to kids, their mind naturally floats rather than sinking into depression. These trusting and joyful tendencies are needed to love fully.

On the last night of camp, the boys and I were able to have a great discussion. It was amazing to witness what can happen when you love kids for who they are, even in just 5 days. As I talked to the kids, they seemed to have been inspired by love, and so was I. And it became painfully obvious that somewhere down the line, I had stopped trying my hardest in relationships, and that this was the norm of our culture.

So how can we establish and maintain a culture of kindness, love, and respect? A culture where asking for consent does not needed to be taught because it’s so obvious that consensual sex is better. A culture where it’s obvious that relationships are more important than wealth and fame. A culture where it’s obvious that money doesn’t bring you happiness. A culture where real love has inspired us to not want anything less than the best.

And perhaps even more so, for Christians, how can we strive to reconnect with our ability to trust and give everything? To pour ourselves into the relationships that we have, with such love like 1 Corinthians 13?

I urge you to all find the answer to these questions. I found my answer in Jesus, but that’s just me. In my experiences, it’s worth finding the answer because having the ability and the capacity give your all can be incredibly satisfying and fulfilling. You deserve this. You deserve love. Because you were made to be loved.

I have a lot of respect for those who come out of brokenness and is able to put faith back in love. And obviously, this is never easy. The fact that I was able to do it is a blessing and a privilege. When I look back at Senjoughara, I see what love can do. Coming from a broken family and a history of sexual assault, she said that she didn’t have much to give. But the remaining “treasures” in her life, she vowed to give it all to Araragi. What more can us humans do? What more would God ask for us? This is all He wants.

And for those of you in darkness, suffering a loss, or feeling the weight of this world, let me say this: there will be things in life that will make you believe in love again. Such beauty is still present in this world.

So my thank you goes out to God. For His glory, for His redeeming of my ugliness into beauty, for His healing of my heart into trusting again, and Him giving me His everything first.


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Image is a screenshot from Bakemonogatari E12