Perhaps it is too soon to reflect on the year past, but I’m currently occupying that space between here and there. In other words, I’m getting ready to move from Northern Thailand to Central Thailand. And instead of doing the impatient-dance, I’m diving into deep creative waters (at least as much as I can).
Last year around this time, I was getting ready to move from Cambodia back to the U.S of A – or so I thought. What followed instead was a period of uncertainty and great stress after where we thought we were going to live fell through.
I had always considered Hawaii home, the home in which I could return to if my life fell to pieces. But what happened during this time was a tug-o-war between my mom and me regarding what to do with my life, with my BF standing in between. And so for the first time, I turned my back on Hawaii with the harsh realization that it was no longer my safety net.
Although you could say, I now understood what it was like to be turned away from family. And I’ve taken that experience to heart; it’s something that has made me contemplate what home is. While it was shocking, it was short-lived as my Thai family contacted me soon after I had returned to Thailand with the news that my mother wanted me to call her.
In the beginning, our conversations were strained, but mostly they felt as if nothing had ever happened. Sometimes I didn’t want to contact her because the thing about my mom is she doesn’t use email, social media, and she doesn’t even know how to check her voicemail on her flip phone. So I’m limited in when and how I contact her; there are times when I feel like I’m communicating by snail mail.
Recently, the BF walked in on me talking to my mom, and afterward, he made a remark about how I sound when I talk to her.
“You say ‘yeah’ a lot.”
“Oh, that’s just Hawaii,” I said, as in, that’s the way we speak in Hawaii.
But he got me thinking about how I have to adjust the way I speak, and the language I use when I speak to my mom because we don’t share a common mother tongue or culture. At this point, my speech is probably unconscious, habitual, and yes, I’m seriously considering recording our next conversation.
The good news is it feels like my mom and I are back to our old selves. I’m grateful. Despite our differences, we are close in a way that transcends verbal or written communication. My relationship with my mom is something I definitely talk about in my upcoming memoir…
Interestingly, a lot has happened since I posted all the reasons why I haven’t published my memoir yet. First of all, I haven’t done anything which might confuse some people, but basically what I mean is I’m continuing to grow distance and perspective between what I’ve written and where I’m at now.
Secondly, I signed up for a free “conference” called the Memoir Summit hosted by The Village Writing School in which writers like Marion Roach Smith and Ruth Wariner shared their advice and stories about writing memoir. I won’t go into all of it here but watching the videos really helped me think about my book in a new way.
For example, Marion has this algorithm she uses for memoir writers: It’s about X, as illustrated by Y to be told in a Z. So that got me thinking…My story is about BELONGING as illustrated by my Asian + American upbringing and experiences abroad as told in a memoir.
I knew my memoir had to have a universal theme, but this simple sentence helped me hone in what exactly my book is about. Sure, there are subthemes of mother-daughter relationships and the Asian American experience, but I feel like I have greater clarity moving forward. And this isn’t to say, I might fine-tune or shift my theme.
Something I’m also considering as a broad hook is HOME, what does it mean, where is it, and so on. Funnily I ended my book on this theme, called Finding Home, and the only other person to read this late addition said she really enjoyed it (which surprised me), so I think I was starting to put my finger on the pulse, so to speak.
I’m so excited.
Over the years, I’ve signed up for the University of Iowa’s free online International Writer’s Program with courses in memoir and fiction writing, identity, etc. This year it’s about Stories of Place, and I think that’s a lovely coincidence considering how thrilled I am over tackling my book’s theme.
I could go on and on about this year of do-overs, but I know no one reads blog posts. And if you do, then I appreciate your time. Actually, I can’t go into anymore because I have to protect the not-so-innocent. But never mind!
Here’s to being here, learning from do-overs, and to a future of moving forward.
Will you be writing a yearly reflection?