This is the second of five essays written to summarize my first year working in Korea. I lived and worked in the most unusual environment of my entire life, and while I am grateful that I experienced a lot of uniquely difficult situations, it took a long time to conclude what it really is that I had experienced with 50 other foreigners. For those that experienced that year with me or for those who have always wondered what even happened to me that year— this is to enlighten you. 


Essay II | Anxiety and Instagram

My personality has always been squarely in between shy and non committal— teetering the line of free spirited and hermit. I can admit that Instagram motivates me to go most places, but I’d much rather hide under my warm quilts and scroll through Insta-memes than ever leave my room.

I used to be a lot worse in the States. After I graduated college, adulthood felt like an ocean of things that suffocated me with fear. I would muster up all the confidence in the world to go to the doctor alone, buy groceries and check out on my own, or something easy like going to a dinner party by myself. Adulting felt nearly impossible. My social anxiety mixed with laziness had peaked at 25, and I was in the middle of a city with only one friend.

I moved to Seattle on a whim. Honestly,  I think the idea of living in a cool city and the potential for the onslaught of Instagram shots I could get were the two major proponents in getting me there. I didn’t take into consideration my social anxiety, my simultaneous fears of being alone and socializing with people, and my debilitating laziness would move to Seattle with me. I just pictured a romanticized move where this cold, beautiful, and pretentious-level- of- cool city would welcome me with big,warm, loving arms. That was so not the case. However, once I slowly began to manage a routine, I made a friend or two, and accomplished a relatively decent life in spite of my fears, I wanted to try something even farther from home. I had always wanted to live in Asia for an extended period of time, and I wanted to do it then. When my best friend bailed on our adventure to Korea together, I had already made up my mind I had to go. The solution for an egocentric girl riddled with terror, like myself?  I drafted a message as follows.

Hey, so I don’t know what you’ve got planned for the next year. But would you ever consider moving with me to Korea. I think it would be such an amazing opportunity for you! You could pay off your debt, save, and we could travel together. How cool would that be? You are so amazing, and I really couldn’t think of another person I would want to come with me.

I sent that to 30 of my contacts on my phone.

I found a girl willing to come along with me, and play my Korea bestie role, for the movie that is my life. It was perfect! Without her consent, I assumed that she’d be my side-bitch for my (very self-involved) plan for an adventure. The spontaneity of myself was always soured by my neurotic-ism. So of course, I bailed on her. More than once. But after changing my mind over and over, and barely going because paperwork is near impossible for a procrastinator, I made it on the plane toward Daegu, South Korea.

After two turbulent flights I landed in Daegu. It was late, and I had no idea what I was going to get myself into. So there I was meeting 30 blank stares and maybe 20 other who-is-this-bitch stares and I stared back at them all cowardly. I’d never felt the weight of my social anxiety more than in those first couple of months of teaching at this new job, that felt more like a reality show. I barely could absorb the Korean culture at large, the rules and regulations of my job, or even the fact that I was thousands of miles away from my mother. What I could absorb and was panic-stricken by was that I had been planted squarely into a social nightmare. This compound like job was filled to the brim with high-school level cliquishness, nepotism induced by the Korean administration, casual wide-spread accepted prejudices, fraternity level misogyny running rampant, reticent scandals, and tantalizing boy-girl dynamics overlapping one another. I was shell shocked to all of this (it was nothing like my Christian university experiences), and  I clung exorbitantly to my “Korea bestie” who was right in the middle of all the affairs having arrived three months before me. All of my social anxiety could no longer be sequestered, I wasn’t brave for living in Seattle alone– I was just regular, and this place that took all the  courage I could muster to move to, was a joke of a place to my well-traveled colleagues.

Nevertheless, I knew there was one constant I could rely on.
After a strenuous day of meandering through lessons I felt incapable to teach, and a few grievous attempts to make friends or plant myself firmly in some kind of friend group I’d run to my room to meet my beloveds. The quilt first. I’d bury myself under the warm comfort of that billowy fluff. Then without a beat missed, I’d gently slide my finger on my phone and open my darling app, Instagram.
Instagram cloaked my own ostentation. However, in spite of my cherished app, all my ideas for my grand Korea adventure fell apart. I scorned my “Korea bestie” inevitably, being that she was a human, not a role played out for me, and she quickly realized that all I wanted from her was to pose with me for selfies and be my stand-in till I found a more fitting girl to fulfill her role. Furthermore, I had to begrudgingly face my deeply set trepidations. Worst of all, I didn’t get to live out the vainglorious movie I thought I’d lead in that year. I didn’t know it in the beginning, but it was this treasured app that had led me to encounter transformative people and circumstances. These events and people met would later help me shed my enormously self-involved shield to become a lot less of a filtered and fearful girl.



This is the first of five essays written to summarize my first year working in Korea. I lived and worked in the most unusual environment of my entire life, and while I am grateful that I experienced a lot of uniquely difficult situations, it took a long time to conclude what it really is that I had experienced with 50 other foreigners. For those that experienced that year with me or for those who have always wondered what even happened to me that year— this is to enlighten you. 

Essay I| Unrequited and Grown

I’d never seen such an outright display of adoration. Her entire body contorted into delight when he entered the room. This grown woman expressed such a grotesque level of unrequited feelings. I think I was traumatized watching it. The apple of her eye sauntered into a room with a mischievous grin, scanned the room without fraught, incandescent of boyish charm, and all to knowing of her affection would reluctantly sit next to her with a grimace. Unbeknownst to her, was a hidden menacing smile used to encroach upon a far less approaching woman. How could she let her feelings become so wildly uncontrolled? There were no games done by her—she was all heart, on the contrary, he seemed incapable of behaving with anyone without mind games. I couldn’t bear to watch, but could never unfasten my curious fascination.

I spent the first four months of my time in Korea watching these two co-workers of mine. As the year progressed I collected observations, instances, and behaviours to sum up, what to me felt otherworldly. I couldn’t fathom finding myself that susceptible to a person as she was. There was a stench of misogyny in the entire situation and that angered me. For the rest of the women, this girl was making us look bad, and she wasn’t the only one! There were several women at my very dysfunctional compound job involved with this guy. The cluster-fuck he created was notorious involving ending of girl-on-girl friendships, divisive drunken nights, ‘mistaken’ nights of passion, and it all unfolded with this guy remaining unscathed. All the while, these women were deemed as petty, dramatic, and most of all pathetic. Where were his consequences while the women were scorned, and pitted against one another!? I wasn’t much better, I was just as drawn to this guy, physically. My stubbornness kept me from revealing my attraction easily, but I still had my own secret cravings for his attention. My crush however present wasn’t enough for me to be understanding of the others especially her. Why can’t they all just suppress it? That’s what I am trying to do over here! That notion didn’t bode well with me, and later led me into my own catastrophic night with him mixed up with drinks and remorse. Even still, with his unruly hair, boyish grin, and brooding gravitas that could make any girl melt, I couldn’t connect enough to him to understand the choke-hold he seemed to have on her.

Whenever a batch of new male hires, were on arrival, I feared that there would be the one that could suddenly cause me to become as vulnerable as she was. I prayed there wouldn’t be anyone who could or would dismantle me the way this guy had done to so many others. Unfortunately, my prayers fell upon an vaporous illusion. A new hire bestowed himself, and in spite of myself, he fell into my space, attention, and heart.

It was the eleventh month of my contract with only a few weeks remaining. Dust had settled over my contract and my enticement of the job had withered away. I was weathered and a much less objective observer of my colleagues—I had a newfound ruthless candor when I wasn’t fond of someone. I was in a constant state of sullen anger till he came into a room. My body contorted into delight whenever I met his dancing eyes. He was a twist of vibrant and repulsion, and I loved every bit of it. He had a mystical mind, he perpetually spoke in soliloquy, rationalized to a fault with no conceding, and his incessant subversive behavior repelled most and drew few near. His weaknesses were what I felt strongest in; which only furthered the phantasm that the pair of us worked. He may not have had the cool boy charms, but that’s what made him all the more thrilling to me. I had become capitulated to his off and on affection, and only desired it more when it had left me. I betrayed myself into believing that the potential of this boy was plausible, and somehow, I could love him into the man I dreamed he could be. I had become the girl that I had scoffed at only 6 months ago, and my pride had stricken me unknowing to what was so plain to see to the others. A man who sought to absorb a world without me in it began to feel like my entire world. Worst of all, the closer we became, I couldn’t help but find him to be the human seemingly perfect designed for my whimsy whilst I watched as he went on chasing Korean tail. I had reached that grotesque level of unrequited feeling, and I was a grown woman.

It didn’t feel pitiable. It felt a lot more enormous and infinite. No one told me that inside insatiable love you feel as though you can breathe underwater. Facts become obsolete and feelings are viscerally ferocious. What I missed was that she loved despite the dismal outcome. She knew it was delusional yet she still loved, and I couldn’t see that till I felt it and understood. Unrequited didn’t weaken her and it hadn’t weakened me— it only taught me that my love had the capacity of immense strength and so did she.

Sheila Rosemary

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Sheila Rosemary,

You’re the most exquisite woman I have ever met. Your fingers are magical as you create anything that they touch. Your feet have led you weaving through the world going on the kind of travels I dream of doing. Your lips offer endless and affectionate kisses and drip with stories that will fill any listener’s soul. Your patch-of-white-birthmark is a mere metaphor of the  light inside of you. Every inch of your body reflects the tender spirit within, and you beam sunlight throughout our entire family tree. You’re a sundress in summer, an umbrella in a storm, you’re every wave rapturously returning to the ocean floor.

Beautiful Sheila you are my grandmother, and I couldn’t be more proud of that. I hope I never skip an opportunity to laugh, miss a spectacle to see, pass a cheap flight, or forget a dear friend, reason being — I have inherited your intrepid soul. Moreover, I am compassionate for the vanquished, amorous for adventure, and fluent in giggles because I am your granddaughter. Grandma, you are entitled to the sweetest and richest days for the remainder of your life. I beseech the universe that there are long tropical days, cackling afternoons, glorious sights that bring you to tears, and delightful chats over treats ahead because you are well deserving. Life is full of too much scorn and fear and I have always seen you as courageous enough to believe in good, despite darkness, and relish in it.  Therefore it would be my greatest heartache to see your latter days whither away by the prickly villains and the trepidation that only come along to corrupt our virtue.

I can speak for all of your children, children-in laws, and grandchildren when I say that we are all eternal carriers of your spirit. Your essence bleeds into our skin and satiates our being. We are Sheila Rosemary whenever we whip up a cake, create a sensational recipe out of nothing, sew up a rip on our clothing, give generously, catch a last minute flight to a brand new place, take a stroll in the park, or swap uproarious stories with an old friend. You are a dream and an extravaganza, and we couldn’t be more proud to have such a fierce relic as our matriarch.

2016 was Brilliant

Image result for kim kardashian and kanye west

It’s been trending how bad 2016 was. Its as if we’ve had a global shit show, and the mark of a new calendar year will reset all the bad that 2016 brought on us. There were too many celebrities who died. This is just one example of the items to have attributed to what many felt was a bad year. I’ve been reading these listacle articles that highlight the worst of the global news. I like how Kim Kardashian’s robbery and her lack of social media presence are just some of the things included on these lists, as if that really effected our lives personally. My favorite item of all these lists was the dangerous phenomenon of  “memeification.” There’s a meme for every serious event or notion which may be the beginning of the demise of our western culture. I suppose. No one seemed to mention The Weeknd’s  iconic hair cut though. That was a bummer.

Sure. I will give you this, 2016 definitely wasn’t a magical year. What year is? Aren’t there always hardships? Personally, I can’t say that 2016 was a great year for me. It was uncomfortable, infuriating, and at times even toxic, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

Beyonce made the anthem for 2016 with her Lemonade album, and she nailed my every feeling when she sang, “…with every tear came redemption, and my torturer became my remedy.”

Wednesday, July 21st 2016 was one of those bad days. I woke up with a tear streaked face and my body was aching from another night crying myself to sleep. I  rolled out of bed, tears sprung from my eyes, and I blindly rummaged through my closet to find something to get through the unbearable heat while teaching. That month was the kind of month where I did just enough to get to work, teach faceless students, watch the clock till the end of my work day, come home to cry myself to sleep, and repeat. I was sad. The kind of sad that depletes all the colors away, throbs down to your bones, and can’t be shaken away with happy songs or Ellen TV show excerpts on YouTube. Damn you, summer ’16. It was excruciating.

It didn’t end there, fall was pretty shit too.

However, with all the heartbreak that wreaked havoc in my life, I refused to let it stench my soul. I didn’t just endure it, I let 2016 soak in and change me. In fact, the entire year was a depuration process to create the beginnings of something pretty special within. I have left 2016 wildly more accepting of all my colorful feelings, my intense nature, and my diligence toward deep connections. Most importantly, if there’s anything we can thank 2016 for is that hopefully it made our empathy increase. That’s all hardship is there for, right? Folks, I think 2017 will be remarkable, maybe we won’t get better world news events, there probably will be a few more celebrity deaths, maybe a war will spring up, politics may be horrendous, someone is going to hurt us–perhaps several people will, but this time around? We can say we made it through 2k16— we got this.

To add to the gorgeous goodness of 2016, I will include my favorite songs of the year. Because the 2k16 music game was killer.

  1. Ivy by Frank Ocean
  2. Don’t Touch my Hair by Solange
  3. All Night by Beyonce Knowles
  4. Renegade by X Ambassador
  5. Beautiful Scars by Alessia Cara
  6. Figures by Jessie Reyez
  7.  Celebrate by Anderson Paak

An Ode to Fashion


I’ll never forget this friend I had in college who was always full of lipstick, glitter, and carefree whimsy. One day, she leaned in full of sunshine and whispered in my ear, “Mary a lady always does two things. Never wears sweats to a meal and always says ‘thank you’ when she receives a compliment.” I don’t know why but those whispers stuck. Maybe it was because she always managed to remain square in between feminism freedom and lady elegance, and I loved every bit of it. I wanted to emulate that and add my own soulful Caribbean flare. Ladyhood has countless constructs that should have been thrown out after the 1950s ended, but fashion, I think, the best thing about being a lady in our society.


Fashion to me is more than an interest, it’s a space that takes away words like ugly versus beauty. Otherwise plain girls are suddenly pieces of art to strut down a runway, and obese women with too much makeup have pizzazz, odd or eccentric face shapes are adorned then adored. Fashion is a massacre of rule breaking visually, and once I fell into it– I couldn’t get enough of it. I’m mostly an admirer, but occasionally I dabble with my own trend setting outfits only with the dream of having enough money to always be a woman that is fashionable and style conscious in my own way. 

I believe there are three laws in beauty.
Number 1. No matter your size– your wardrobe should only have flattering clothes that support your own unique style.
Number 2. Eat healthily to live long, but never to fit in a dress.
Number 3. Move your body for something fun or a goal accomplished. Your goal shouldn’t be to go down a size.


My soul feels crushed when I see women exhibit frustration and discouragement regarding shopping for clothes. It shouldn’t weaken our will, but instead the whole affair should empower our femininity. Yesterday, I walked into a store, chose a dress that I knew would drape my curves in the right way, it’d be loose in the right parts, and tight where it counts for both sex appeal and classiness. And when I tried it on (after my purchase–because Korea has weird store rules)– I was right! It fit in the best way possible. It was more than the color, how it looked on the hanger, it was more than knowing my own body type and how material fits on it— it was all of that together to make that purchase easy for me. Moments like that fulfill a primitive part of my womanly-ness. The most satisfaction comes when I see a girl whatever size, friend or foe, rich or poor who can dress with all of the confidence in the world, strutting her colors and sense of style, and it comes together looking effortless. Its powerful.

Fashion exists for all. I wish everyone knew that. I’m constantly day dreaming about what the average bus goer sitting next to me or my neighbor would look like if Tommy, Coco, or Betsey Johnson got a hold of them. image7.PNG
May I entice the reader who can’t find her size for her favorite clothes to learn how your body curves and what clothes works best for it, to consider male clothes, dream up your ideal style and work at it, and never be afraid to make daunting statements– just find the most flattering way to do it. May I entice the reader who is at a loss  regarding their own style, google your favorite singer, celebrity, or instagrammer and copy– because copying is the best form of flattery and creativity is just copying in an excellent and unique way. May I entice all to break a fashion rule, try sexy once a week, try weird once a week, and be confident in your own sense of style. 

Loss of Faith


Sometimes, I try to express clearly what it feels like to be in the midst of a faith crisis. My atheist friends lean their head sideways, squint their eyes, and sort of nod slowly. Sometimes, I think the only way they can liken my experience to any of theirs would be the time they figured out the Tooth Fairy wasn’t the one giving them their money carefully under their pillow while they peacefully slept. So sometimes, for the fortunate intellects, I’ll say something like, “its a bit of an existential crisis”— and that’s not even all together true. It feels embarrassing explaining myself to other post-fundamentals my age, who already figured out the church was a bag load of shit by 21, but I was too busy dreaming of leading worship and starting my own  bible study at 21. I wanted to be one of those with-it church people– the kind who drank, smoked, and swore and led people to “encounter the extraordinary love of God.”  My Christian friends think I am in a season, and they haven’t fully grasped how actual and real this is for me. I am no longer the Mary that dreamt of a life of mission work, faithfully attended bible groups, and was a devout Jesus lover, because I know more than anyone there was a a big part of me that was  playing a long, laborious, very untrue role, and I can never ever return to that again.

How do I convey any of this to anyone with or without  faith  while not sounding like a lunatic or someone suffering from severe multiple personality disorder (these are both still possibilities)?

So begins my attempt.

There’s an insurmountable amount of grief. I’ve been forever severed from something that completed my sense of identity for my entire life: loved by Jesus (I can hear my Christian friends and family saying, but you’re always  going to be loved by Jesus, and its comforting to know they will always believe that. It really is. Sometimes, I tell myself that). That missing portion rears its head especially on the worst days when something goes wrong, and my instinctual feelings scream,” but this wasn’t supposed to happen because– Jesus.” I have to stop and recognize that that’s what it is, a lot of the time, but when I do, there it is that gruesome space that was once filled. The grief lays away in the midst of life’s aches, bruises, and fears. There’s a searing loss of hope that can lead to hopelessness if I’m not careful.

Anger. It was rage in the beginning, but now it flashes through me only every now and again. I can hear out calloused scriptural rhetoric and not just nod and bear it, I can genuinely respect their perspective. The church has a lot of mindsets that irritate me, but its not all bad. I think I would love the version of church I was wanting to emulate in my early twenties– even now. Three things probably still make me lose my chill. 1. Lack of empathy. That’s a human irritation, but I would say that religion does a great job of giving people a free pass to lack empathy. There always seems to be this innate reaction to give it over to God instead of feeling bad feelings and deeply caring for someone. Letting the shit unfold. When I encounter a Christian with real empathy (and I’ve been lucky enough to) I want to kiss them because when it happens, its really special. 2. Along with lack of empathy comes this acceptance of insulation from human normal feelings. There is this common idea that the bad feelings are a sin/a way to keep you from your God. There’s so many things with this idea that bother me, I could go on a long rampage, but I’ll just say this– this kind of thinking keeps people from being people. I don’t get why that would be a desire for anyone, but it seemingly is one. 3. Acceptance of social injustices. I guess the bottom line is: lack of empathy– and maybe its more frustrating to see those ideas spread within the church because its an entire construct built on teachings regarding loving others. Its like what? When did the point become patriotism?  Or whatever else the evangelical church is pushing these days.

Freedom. Let me just tell you since 24 I’ve been on a long journey of shedding so much fears, layers of brain washing, and ultimately all the things inhibiting me from being the vulnerable, passionate, and empathetic woman that I think I am today. Don’t get me wrong! The church and Christ’s teachings will always play a role in how I devote my time, energy, and consciousness to social justice, but what I find beautiful is that I can do this outside of scripture and faith. I am human and full of wrong choices, despite that I strive to do better with the help of the people I love. That’s all there is to it, and within this simpler reality I’ve become much more comfortable with myself. The good and the bad.

Then there’s death. Its crazy that the biggest thing about Christianity outside of it is the death part. I never gave it much thought how comfortable I was with this incessant fear of hell fires. I’d say that fear could have guaranteed the trajectory of my life as a devout believer. It isn’t spoken about much between Christians, but its there— it’s like, are we really sure? I remember the first time I no longer believed in any kind of hell, It was after I had been listening to a pastor challenging the entire belief of eternal damnation, and I thought to myself, “well if there’s no hierarchy here then what’s the fucking point?” That probably was a cue crisis moment, but there were numerous of those because unraveling an entire religion is a lifetime of micro-crisis’. I remember the first year I could finally be honest with myself that I don’t buy it. I don’t buy any of it the Bible, the God, the church, the deity of Christ, any of it— the first plane ride I took was traumatizing. I kept thinking, “There’s nothing after this if I die! I’ll be nothing!” It was the scariest plane ride of my life. Fear of death humanizes us, and its strange how Christianity contorts that very exquisite, human, and connecting thing. Death haunts me more than it ever did at 7 years old, but when I feel it— its so new to me, I relish it, I am just like everyone else in this way, and that’s good for now.  Mortal. Fallible. Human.

Community– or lack thereof. This is a biggie. The church is a lot of things that I cannot stand, but when things were good, and there were points where they were for a while, it was good.  In university it was extraordinary, my friends and I had this grassroots and organic approach to the Christian life. We’d get together demand vulnerable subjects, pray, and deeply connect to one another. It was special, and those friends will always be dear people to my heart. I always have said that I wouldn’t have remained a Christian by my senior year if it weren’t for those meetings with those friends. What I see now is that connection and community are vastly, magnanimously, important to survival. Not just get-together’s or happy hour, but real raw heartfelt community and support seems wildly non-existent outside the church. Sometimes, I consider returning to church just to reprieve myself from some of the lonely aches even for just a little while.  Additionally, there’s just a practiced amount of making intentional and rather intrusive connections with other people if you’ve been in the church long enough. I can’t seem to lighten my intensity and need for authentic deep conversations always and in part, that’s my personality but its also all those bible-studies.

So with all of that has been said, I am still Mary. For a while there, I wasn’t sure who I was and felt that I had lost all sense of me, the Mary that my friends and family knew and loved. The good parts. The parts that were irrationally passionate to cultivate change in her surrounding community, always willing to strike authentic relationships with anyone I encountered, deepen my understanding for the world around me, the desire for passionate love and how to do so when it is difficult, and the curious need to understand both the good and bad in others. All of this is still here within me it just is done without fear of failure, without fear of sin, or at least I am now on a journey toward that kind of person.