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Watching the cast of “Parasite” cluster center-stage at the 92nd Academy Awards, I saw faces like mine crowd the screen and shared with them a collective sense of achievement. Through the language of my grandmother, I traced the lineage of suffering from the first Korean immigrants to America, to the economic struggle of my grandparents, to the linguistic barrier my mother faced when she arrived to America as a child, to my own internal anguish as a Korean American — all culminating in the great exhilaration of this moment of celebration. A moment which seems to directly counter the residual notions of Orientalism and racism towards East Asians that remain in America but, in retrospect, exists in an isolated, carefully groomed setting of perfection and global harmony, a moment which appears to celebrate Korean culture but in actuality reinforces the global influence and dominance of Western culture.
How are you supposed to get your hair braided in Princeton when most local shops haven’t seen the hair type chart or even heard of the word “porosity”? Looking for Beyoncé-inspired “Lemonade” braids? Good luck getting them done here.
I am sitting at my desk in my dorm, attempting to work on yet another lab assignment, when it begins again — a war, which ensues almost daily, between my posterior and my desk chair.
Pull up your schedule for me real quick. ReCal, TigerHub, that one crumpled sheet of loose leaf where you tearfully scribbled out your final courses before add/drop ended. If you don’t already have it filled in, picture where all the club meetings, theater rehearsals, sports practices, and weekly study times would go.
How many times have you heard the phrase “sleep is important?” While most of us wish we could sleep for a consistent eight hours a night, that kind of a schedule isn’t particularly compatible with a flourishing GPA. Over the course of my time at Princeton, I began to realize that this was a very common practice, because let's be honest — there is a lot of work that comes with going to a school like Princeton. At this school, there’s often negligence when it comes to our bodies and sleep. But I’m here to introduce a new method of prospering while still taking care of your body: napping!
In high school, I never received a single letter grade on the traditional A to F scale, and I didn’t even know my exact GPA until I began applying to colleges and had the opportunity to look at my transcript for the first time. I went to a progressive, liberal high school where grades were de-emphasized and our teachers discouraged us from focusing on raw numbers. Instead, we were told to think about our growth holistically within a subject, using growth as a measure for success rather than our test scores and essay grades. In alignment with this mentality, we received “verbal equivalents” (e.g. EXCELLENT, NEARLY EXCELLENT, VERY GOOD, etc.) instead of letter grades. Sometimes teachers would return papers and tests without a verbal equivalent or any other tangible indication of performance aside from constructive feedback. Our school never selected a class valedictorian for senior graduation, and we couldn’t graduate with honors or any other form of distinction.
The myth and mystery surrounding our twinhood fascinated my brother, James Luke, and me as we grew up. It wasn’t the idea that we were twins (Mom always told us she sat out one night and prayed for us, and, of course, fertility drugs helped). It was the idea of twins themselves. Twins were special. The line between fact and fiction is very flimsy for children up to a certain age, and there was such a plethora of both to feed off of. We were the Wonder Twins. We were Luke and Leia Skywalker. We were Thing 1 and Thing 2. We were one person in two bodies. We could read each other’s minds. We were put together in the womb because God knew we couldn’t live without each other. To us, everything was true.
Picture this. The date: March 21. The time: 10 p.m. The place: my front yard. (You’ve likely never seen my front yard, though, so just imagine your own front yard — or, if you don’t have a yard, picture Frist’s South Lawn.) It’s the night of the Worm Moon, the last full moon before the spring equinox. Now picture me standing in the middle of it all (which might be a little weird if you’re picturing your own front yard, and doubly so if you don’t know me, but never mind that), gazing up at the moon, shadowed by wandering clouds and surrounded by winking stars. Perhaps an airplane soars across its diameter, letting the gentle buzz of its engine mingle with the crickets’ chirps. Perhaps a tree’s leaves fall, soar upwards on the wind, brush against the moon’s soft, yellow glow.
From an outside perspective, the stationery store seemed irrevocably ordinary. My friend and I were walking along Newbury Street in Boston during spring break when we first encountered the shop. Its interior held an impressive collection of writing utensils on a table extending the entire length of the store, countless stacks of notebooks to choose from, and small gizmos and other knick-knacks peppered throughout the room. A stationery fanatic myself, I was seduced by the vast range of options, obsessively uncapping and capping different pens and paging through all the notepads to test the strength and grain of the paper against my fingers.
I’ve heard a lot about “manscaping.” What is this, and should I be doing it?
At the end of FaceTime conversations with my parents, they casually but ever so intently ask, “Have you been getting a lot of sleep?” Just as casually, I respond, “I’m averaging six or seven hours” — minus the really late nights when sleep was nonexistent.
Studying abroad is like that whooshing feeling of freedom you get when you start college: no one knows you peed your pants in seventh grade; no one cares that you were a nerd in high school; no one knows anything about your past. After five weeks in Russia’s capital city, Moscow, I’m basking in this anonymity. It’s nice to recreate myself again.
My first memories of Princeton are the awe and pride I felt when I first gazed up at the Hogwarts-style turrets flanking Blair Arch; the muggy, swamp-like air of the final days of summer that made walking feel like wading through a swamp; the utter fear and excitement of entering the Rocky dining hall with a plate of D-hall food for the first time, alone.