Someone the other day said it perfectly. This is bigger than gun control. This is bigger than mental health. While both of those things are important, but the much larger issue at hand is that someone felt devalued in his masculinity because we as a society had created this notion that in order to feel worthy, a man needed to have gotten laid multiple times by beautiful women. That for this individual, he believed that his worth came from the attention only beautiful women could give him and that in itself is a tragedy. That other “non-beautiful” women were not worthy of his time either and that his idea of “beautiful” pertained to the “hot blondes” he was surrounded by.

We, as a society, created a place in which many believe that a female refusing advances from a male is her fault and in order for her to defend herself, she needs to pull the “I have a boyfriend” card because only then will those males leave her alone out of the respect of that “other male.”

We, as a society, teach our children to be safe from predators, but not to teach them to not be predators themselves. Should they fail to be careful, that is their fault for any crimes committed upon them.

We, as a society, created a world in which the males who do not treat their female counterparts in misogynistic ways do not feel comfortable to teach their male peers the same and will often chuckle when the “jackass” of the group continues on his merry way.

I don’t want to say that all men are bad and evil, etc. I don’t think even rapists are inherently terrible themselves because they have been taught that they way they go about treating women is okay and that someone who is “promiscuous” deserves it or because she is asking for it with the skimpy clothing. The female race should not tempt the heterosexual males unless they want it themselves. That is the message. And even then, many feel a sense of power and entitlement to do what they please to the females.

One of my biggest irks is when men argue that being whistled at is a compliment and that women should be flattered by it. I, at the age of 14/15, was leered at – mind you, in jeans a t-shirt – by men as they were driving by. It is not flattering. It’s disturbing. It’s degrading. I am a person, not an object.

So many times, I have given into these societal teachings. Giving men at the club a fake number. Dancing with them for fear of retribution. Having to dance with a purse behind my or a friend’s ass to prevent random guys from grinding up on us. That I would feel so much freer dancing at a gay club than at any other club because the possibility that someone will grind up on me in a sexual way is way, way lower. That I have to always watch my surroundings when I’m walking at night. That I couldn’t say no to a partner for fear of what he would do.

Even now, I find myself falling to some of these traps. It’s hard to forget because I still don’t feel safe. That should not be the world we live in. That should not be the world anybody, male or female or trans, should live in. But to be honest, I don’t even know where we can begin to change the views of this society. I see what it does to the ethnic minorities and unless you live in a special enclave where this ideological thinking is pervasive in everything that you do, I cannot see it making it very far, which is really unfortunate.

So we will continue to blame the lack of gun control. We will continue to blame the lack of mental health services. Blame the parents who didn’t provide enough for their children, whatever else we want to blame.

But ourselves.


Further reading:

Lost Identity

I should go to bed, it’s late, but I also want to get this out before I forget.

Yesterday was April 30, the anniversary of what is commonly known as the Fall of Saigon among the Vietnamese diaspora. I don’t know how to fully interpret it. I could bandwagon and say that this day is important as it marks the beginning of the large refugee migration within Southeast Asia and many of our lives would not exist had our families decided to stay instead of leave their countries. I could do that, but then I don’t feel like it’s genuine to me.

I have lived a sheltered life. While I may have had a “party” life a while ago, at the same time, it has been pretty sweet. Growing up, I never knew what it meant to be poor. I just knew what it meant to be happy. And also that mother just liked to save lots of money, but I couldn’t figure out why and never questioned it. It took me years to realize the lengths my parents went through to do this for me. Sometimes they would tell me the stories of their journey, but it wasn’t very in depth and just about how they had to travel by this tiny boat and my sister was so good and well-behaved despite being so young.

But my parents provided for me. They kept me safe, they provided food, clothing, and shelter and it didn’t seem very difficult. All of it seemed normal that both parents worked, that my dad would come home around 7 or later and despite his lack of physical presence in the house, he still had a strong hold on what was and wasn’t acceptable in the home. He still taught me values that I hold dear today without all the hardship.

I used to, and sometimes do, wish that I would have suffered. I don’t know how to say this that doesn’t offend others who have gone through a lot of struggles and I don’t want to trivialize all of that, but in a way, I envy all of those who did. It’s not to say that people who don’t struggle can’t learn the values that come from sacrifice, etc, but for me, I just feel as if I didn’t have that deeper understanding of what it means to be poor, what it means to fear for your life, what it means to really be hungry and to not know when your next meal will be. I have always had a sense of comfort and safety and rarely have I been in positions of that level of vulnerability.

I watched the movie, Journey From the Fall, that shares the story of a family who was in the boat people movement, except the father, who was taken to “re-education camps” (which, by the way, American history books totally gloss over like it’s nothing wrong, when in fact, South Vietnamese soldiers were tortured, beaten and starved). I watched it and felt this deep lack of understanding of what my parents went through. The movie is sad, it’s heartbreaking, it’s a terrible movie to watch if you want to feel good afterward, but it reminded me of all my parents had to go through and how hard they worked before I was born to get to where they are today.

And I wish I was able to do that. I feel so lazy and unambitious and all these other terrible things. I haven’t found what truly motivates me and I just don’t know how to get there. But my parents – they knew. They had a family to provide for, a life to make for themselves. They had goals and dreams and they worked hard to get there.

So Black April isn’t just about what happened when the Northern Vietnamese overtook the Southern capital of Vietnam, but what it represented. It represented a migration and displacement of people. It represented that people are willing to fight one another instead of support each other. It showed me that my father was most likely very traumatized and because of that, has refused to return since he got here about 30 years ago. But I am still uncertain of what Black April means for me and I don’t know how long it will take me to find that meaning.

PSA: Carpal Tunnel

I kid you not, I was scared last week that I would get carpal tunnel and have to wear a brace like a coworker of mine. So I evaluated my work space and realized that I was too low for the table, grabbed a set of pillows (eventually bought a better one) so I could prop myself up. Since then, I haven’t felt any strain on my wrists and it’s almost back to 100% functioning.

This has been a public service announcement.

Courtesy of ergonomics.

Warm Fuzzies

Today I had a client who told me a lot about her life and I was in awe of everything that she had gone through, everything that she had survived. I was doing really well in session when she started crying (I tend to cry when people cry). It didn’t hit me until I got home and started thinking more about what I could do for her and I realized how much counter-transference I was holding on to. And I want to cry. I want to cry for her pain, for her losses, but most of all, I want to cry for the strength that she has been carrying all her life. Of the few people I’ve been given the opportunity to work with this year, she is one of the ones who’s really moved me. I know as a clinician, I shouldn’t let this get to me, but I am more than a clinician. I am a social worker. I can’t just separate the feelings aside from the work that I do so easily. I feel and I care and to be honest, I think that’s why I chose the profession I chose. If I wanted to do therapy only, there are other programs, but this one, this one is near and dear to my heart.

I’ve been feeling a little disconnected lately from the work that I’ve been doing, mostly because I haven’t seen some of my clients in a while. But today, today was a really good reminder about why I chose to do what I do.



Sometimes, I think this is what most people need. It’s not about whether or not someone understands the problem you’re dealing with, but that someone can take the time to understand. But sometimes, best of all, it’s nice to know that you’re not the only one.

My first year in grad school I was afraid and anxious. I kept wondering if I was qualified to be there and if I was capable enough to survive grad school. Yes, I know that there are other people who do well and are able to do it, but I didn’t feel like I was excellent enough a student to be there. So when I found out that some of my other classmates felt like I did, felt overwhelmed, scared, and afraid, I felt so much better knowing that I wasn’t the only one who had this feeling of self-doubt.

Even if you can’t personally relate, validating someone’s feelings can just mean so much more to them. I know it does for me.

Back to the work!

Four more weeks!



I’ve been grappling with this one for a while now. I am conflicted because I feel as if I have been in a space where I could envision the future, but to be with someone who doesn’t have fantasies like I have, who doesn’t have the what-if talks like I have with myself, it’s been odd. I always knew that – I love to plan and have things booked in advance if I can; he sometimes struggles with thinking two to three weeks ahead. It’s not to say that one is doing it better than the other. He is more about the present and I like to look to the future.

But now we’re in that space in our lives where we’re “supposed” to be doing things that frankly, I don’t think we’re both ready for. As he eloquently put it the other day, we both want the same things but at different points in our lives. (Might need clarification on what his “things” are in comparison to my “things”…). In essence, isn’t that what most long-term relationships are about? That you’ll eventually be ready for the same things at the same thing and who’s to say that just because someone is ready for one thing now that the other needs to hurry it up to get with the program? Then I wonder if the roles were reversed – if he was more ready to move forward and I wasn’t, would I still be pressured to catch up?

Then the bigger question, why in the world are we being told to hurry it up? Daddy gave me a talk the other day and basically told me that I don’t have forever to wait and I need to get moving along in this relationship of mine. That was unexpected because I never thought he would ever encourage me to settle down, etc. I knew it would come from mother, but not Daddy. But why? Why am I being questioned constantly about whether or not this “waiting” is right for me? In a way, I want to rebel and tell everyone to fuck off because they can’t possibly understand the dynamics of the relationship without being in the relationship. (Unless you’re trying to psychoanalyze, then maybe, but even then, it’s still speculation.)

We shouldn’t have to follow a timeline and I wish that others could understand that. Only we can create those timelines for ourselves and it’s our responsibility to have that discussion to figure out what does and doesn’t work. For now, it is working just fine for me. I don’t need a ring, I don’t need a house, I don’t need kids. I need to take things one step at a time. I need to figure out who I am in a world that doesn’t revolve in expiration dates. I need to have a partner in crime who’s also allowing his timeline to settle and when we want to reach our relationship milestones together, then that’s when our timelines will coincide. Not when my parents want them to. Not when the world wants them to. When we want to.

Redefining My Standards

I just spent the last hour internet stalking people through LinkedIn, to see where people I know had progressed in their professional careers. I also stalked two of the staff members at the agency and confirmed that one was indeed, a psychiatric rockstar. Granted, my peers and other folks may have had a different path, a different goal, and hell, a few more years to achieve what they did than I did, but at the same time, I just stand in awe at what people have been able to accomplish.

It’s been tough for me to be in the environments I was in as a child. Years, I was compared to by everyone else that came into my parents’ lives.

Why can’t you write pretty like N?”
“I heard that my cousin’s daughter did something great recently.”
“There’s no reason to not get A’s if you aren’t lazy. Don’t be lazy. Like your friends. They’re lazy. Why can’t you find better friends?”
“You just need to work hard and get a good job.”
“Why psychology? You will make no money. No job security.”
“Oh, you want to do social work? So you can find a county job? Yes, find a county job. They have great benefits.”

The thing is, I know they all have good intentions and they mean well, but for someone who grew up as a middle child and kept wondering if she’d ever live up to the prodigy that was her older sister, it was hard. I started to place myself to these high standards and when I couldn’t reach them, understandably so, I would blame myself for not having worked hard enough and then I became more unengaged. People commended me for getting decent grades or getting into a good school, but to be honest, I never felt as if I really worked hard for it like my peers did, like my efforts couldn’t match up to someone else’s efforts. If I didn’t sweat and toil, then it wasn’t work and I couldn’t count that as my own.

It’s taken me a long while and it will probably take me some more time to realize how to restructure and reframe my goals and how I measure them. I can’t continue to hold myself to high standards. Let’s be honest – I will most likely never be published in a peer-reviewed article because I just hate writing and research and trying to make myself sound academic. It’s just not for me. At least not any time soon. But I can’t compare myself to those that do publish articles; I am not them and their accomplishments cannot become my standards. The fact that someone was able to get into a great school on a great scholarship in order to do great work doesn’t mean that is me and that is my goal. My parents’ goals cannot be my own. My friends’ goals cannot be my own. Only I can set my own goals and I have to do them in a way that is realistic, but challenging. Maybe I don’t have to sweat buckets and labor under the intenseĀ  sun, but it will be more than I do on an average day and maybe that’s going to work for me.

I am my own person and I have to find my own way to do things. I get really turned off when people suggest I do things that I probably should do. It’s a weird natural habit. You want me to eat healthy? Eff that, give me a fried chicken wing. You want me to go to the gym? How about… tomorrow? Or next week… or when my schedule dies down. It’s not that I’m incapable of doing these things, but if other people plant those ideas in my head, I cannot harness it on my own. I need to do it on my own and what would be helpful is to have those people supporting me. Maybe none of the “It’s good that you’re doing XYZ” but more of “Would you like me to go with you?” or “I heard this salad is bomb dot com. You want to try it?” No judgments, no “good” or “bad” things. Just… support.

Bringing it back to the standards and goals and accomplishments, yadda yadda yadda… I have to realize I have my own set of accomplishments. They are not the “standard” versions like graduating from school or anything of that sort. They are more like being able to have success stories. To report back and feel as if I’ve made it through somehow with a client. To know that I have become a changed person, that I can change everyday. To know that I am a very introspective person – I may not be able to connect myself to all of the appropriate social nuances right away, but give me the time to analyze situations and I’ll eventually get there. I take the time to care about people and to put thought and effort into the things that I do. Those are my accomplishments. That in the midst of the crazy world, I am able to be human, to hold and have compassion (except stupid and slow drivers on the road…), to know that when I love people, animals, and things that I do, I am able to put pieces of me in all of it and feel nourished and whole.


I suffer from anxiety. I thought it was only limited to schoolwork and things like research papers, but as I think more about it now, I really do have a lot of anxiety. I was thinking about what I would do after graduation. I’d have to go on a job hunt. How adventurous do I want to be? Do I only want to build skills in family and children services? Do I want to work with other populations like adults? A part of me said no, I don’t want to branch out. The other part says I should because it’s helpful and it will make me well-rounded. I then went back to think about why I was afraid to branch out.

And it comes down to anxiety. I am afraid. I am afraid of not doing the right things all the time, especially when it comes to working with the clients. I am afraid that I won’t be good enough and won’t have the skills to apply for positions with other populations, that no one will want to train me and will expect me to know it all.

My first few weeks of internship were so nerve-wracking for me. I was very anxious, very scared, very doubtful of my abilities. While I am a firm believer that everyone needs feedback on their performance on ways to improve, at the same time, I feel as if I need feedback as validation of the things I can do well.

I am an anxious person. I take twenty steps and can’t remember if I locked the car. Sometimes, I’ll run back. I hate driving next to cars on the road, or driving up behind someone while in their blind spot because I’m afraid they won’t see me and try to merge. I have difficulty initiating hangouts with people for fear that they won’t find me interesting enough to keep around or spend time with. I have difficulty going to large parties without someone I know for fear of being too afraid to meet new people and not look awkward being alone. I am afraid all the time and I judge myself all the time.

I used to think I was just a person of habit and that I liked to stay in my comfort zone because it was comforting. I’m now starting to think that I stay in the box because I’m so afraid of how I’ll measure up once I leave it and I don’t think I can do it alone, at least not now anyway. Maybe someday.