Tag Archives: age

Thank you from an almost thirty-year-old

When I was 16 going on 17, I read Toni Morrison’s Beloved. When I was 16 going on 17, I tried to read Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. That year in AP English, my teacher’s comment requesting that he keep my homework musings on home kept the tender embers of desire to be a writer alive. Thank goodness.

4 years later, I re-read Beloved in a Black Studies and literature course. The other young women and I marveled at our brilliant professor, especially as she was young, black, female, and did I say brilliant. That year I was applying for a teaching program and ripping down Teach 4 America posters on campus. My mentor and advisor stopped our meeting to make copies of bell hooks’ Teaching to Trangress. I didn’t know it then, but he was handing me yet another mentor. Thank goodness.

About 9 years later, I was teaching and learning about excerpts of Pedagogy of the Oppressed with middle schoolers. I had them playing with Morrison’s language to learn about poetic line breaks. These writers and thinkers paved the ground I walked on, and I kept their work alive, while stoking the fires in my young charges. They taught me how to break open my heart and let them in. They flood me to this day, and I have cried more than ever. Thank goodness.

About 13 years later, I am teaching undergraduates, and today I tacked up a collage of Kendrick Lamar reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes at my desk. Morrison was a poet, who became a professor, who wrote novels, who changed us. I ponder now about my work, my writing, and what’s next for me.

Age is a funny thing. While I am so ready to be 30, I am still 16 going on 17. Still eager, still social introvert, still reader, still laughter, still nervous and moving. But also, I am so not 16 going on 17. Not pining after some baseball player, not wishing to fit in with the right clothes, not wondering about college, not crying under the sheets, not anguishing about my thighs, not writing poems in a secret notebook. Nope. Now I talk too much sometimes. Now I risk not fitting in more. Now I cry in public—all the time. Now I love my body more than ever. Now I don’t wait for no man. Now I write poems in journals and journals and journals. Even read them aloud. Might even call myself an artist or something, sometimes.


Age in a funny thing. When my mother was 3 years older than me, she gave birth to my brother. About a year later, she gave birth to me. When I am 33, I may give birth to a book. About a year later, another. In her thirties, Toni Morrison raised two boys and wrote her first novel.


Age is a funny thing. Sandra Cisneros might call age an onion, layers on layers that you feel at times. I think it’s more like leaves on a tree, shimmering all at once in the wind. And as these leaves flutter and I stare—mesmerized in the sun—I am full of wonder, joy, appreciation. Disbelief.

When I was a toddler, I would cry when given gifts. I would overwhelm myself. I don’t know exactly why I cried at 3. Now at 30, I know I cry because I feel so much. I am full of all those who made me me, as I am becoming me. I am full of immense gratitude that my body cannot hold without release. So I cry. I cry because I am 3, I am 16 going on 17, I am 30. I cry because—thank you.


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On Age: The Wisdom of Youth

“You know you look like you eighteen, right?” said the store-owner skeptically. Without knowing it, I was speaking to Regina Y. Evans, the owner of Regina’s Door, which is a social enterprise, vintage shop in Oakland that I was peaking into when our conversation began. I was happy that she noticed that “Black don’t crack” applies for Asian folks.

After we parted, I thought about my age and walked down the construction-ridden Webster Street passing 18th, then 19th—for this is the view in Oakland’s downtown now. The ripping up of old buildings, the invasion of hipster art and white-owned shops. It is getting even more personal to me now that the edges of Chinatown are being engulfed.

Like this disrespectful gentrification, I can learn from the layers of the past that was there. In this case, I reflect on myself. Age, experience, and purpose have been on my mind recently. On my brother’s birthday a few weeks ago, I thought he was older than he was because I had it fixed that I was 28. For whatever reason, I have been collapsing these last years of my twenties. Maybe wanting my uncertainties to finally reach clarity. Or for desires and needs to be better met. For a sense of confidence I still crave. With all these conditions and the sense of being that I wanted, I sometimes lose track of what I have achieved and who I have become—as I continue to become even more.

I started to think about the younger versions of myself. While there are wounds to be studied, cleaned, and healed, there was a liveliness and strength I sometimes forget and can still learn from.

For instance, as I ponder and plan intentional steps for entering graduate school, I found myself so careful to the point nothing seemed to fit what I wanted in a program. I wanted a school that did not isolate itself from the surrounding community, students and faculty of color, a school large enough and a program supportive enough of taking classes outside the writing department. I wanted an Ethnic Studies program and an Asian American Studies program. The list goes on, and I actually think it is a reasonable one and well-informed by past experiences and current goals. However, this thorough list was keeping me from going for it.

Interestingly, my older self wants to be cradled in a world not made for me. Yet my younger self would have not have been so hesitant; it has been ready to break the cradle and reach for independence.

For example, I forget my courageous 17-year old self. The one that did not question the fact that learning and college were made for her. (And it was. And it wasn’t.) The one that assumed she could do anything rather then be filled with caution. (Travel across the world? Check. Make new friends? Check.) The one who fought for what she needed rather than feel full of fatigue, heavy with grief, or cringing from cynicism. Looking back, I feel that my younger self demanded these experiences, knowing I could find what is worthwhile in them.

As I approach 28, I desire those experiences but wait and think them through. I imagine my hesitation, caught between biking down a hill and thinking about biking down the hill. The thinking is often more frightening than the act itself. As I get older, I want to find myself caught in the act more often—present and demanding of the world. I want to ask myself what I want and what to do to get there. To shrug off the sense that time has shortened, that my next steps need be painstakingly planned, that there is no room for risk-taking.

In giving value to my younger self, I won’t downplay the growing sense of nuance, knowledge and sense of self that comes with more experiences. Yet with awareness, we can benefit from all the parts of ourselves, playing synergistically. As living more may temper the fires of youth, youth can fuel the embers of wise living. Being wiser and gaining experience shouldn’t mean we stop still in our tracks, frozen in fear of what’s possible. I want the growing wisdom to clarify what I want and need, and the strength to help me communicate and achieve it. I need the younger versions of myself to inform this wisdom and strength.

I am so grateful for this more complex awareness of myself and the concepts of “young” and “old.” I am my 17 or 18-year old self. And I hear the wisdom of old age saying There will be pain and the spirit of youth screaming I will survive!

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