All good stories begin in a bar

Today, I shocked an editor at work with my stories of drinking while under 21. I told her I had lived outside of the US. Then I realized how incredible that moment was.

She was the first person who saw me and didn’t assume I was from somewhere other than the United States. She met me, read my Asian American body and projected “Yeah, American.”

All my life, I’ve been defending my American-ness from the othering that afflicts Asian Americans. Like so many of my brothers and sisters, I’m often repeatedly questioned about where I’m from, when I got the US, if I’m a US citizen. A few times, it’s gotten as far as people asking me what East Asian city I want to work in after graduation.

If I’m in a good mood and the conversation’s been easygoing, I dismiss the questions. But often I’m annoyed by this questioning and call it out for its underlying racism — after all, I’m an American citizen as much as anyone else. And I’ll admit I have spun a lie in circumstances where the questioner has no right or need to know the truth, just so I can frame a story that specifically denies him the ability to code me as non-American.

But this moment was the first time that the reverse has happened — I presented as Asian American and was read as an American. It was the first time that someone had saw my body and coded me as an American like everybody else around me. And that means so much.

The Sound

I’ve been obsessed with The 1975’s 2016 single, “The Sound,” over the last few days.

The Sound

The Sound, a song by The 1975 on Spotify

There’s something about the song’s lyrics and underlying beat that’s connecting at a deep and fundamental layer of my existence.

Perhaps it’s the unapologetic poppiness of the song, which speaks to the basicness integral to my personality.

Perhaps it’s the self-centered, ineffably narcisstic personalities referenced in Matty Healy’s lyrics (“It’s not about reciprocation it’s just all about me / A sycophantic, prophetic, Socratic junkie wannabe“) that reflect the flawed parts of me I’ve decided to try to live with.

Or maybe it’s just because the song talks about something that I’m going through in my own life (“You’re so conceited, I said “I love you” / What does it matter if I lie to you? / I don’t regret it but I’m glad that we’re through / So don’t you tell me that you just don’t get it / ‘Cause I know you do“).

That’s something I’d rather not think about.

Hey Siri, play “The Sound” on repeat.

About the Chicago Sun-Terns on #NationalInternDay

I’m self-deprecating on Twitter, but not on here.

On this day that’s meant to recognise the hard work of interns (and bring attention to the many interns working unpaid jobs for “experience”), I want to briefly touch upon my gratefulness to The Chicago Sun-Times for hiring me as an intern this summer — and paying me for it.

As fellow Medill student and Sun-Tern Jane Recker put it, it’s amazing how people in this newsroom treat us as professionals. Here at the Sun-Times, all of us interns are trusted with real stories and projects — maybe more than I would trust myself — and we work like any other member of the newsroom. (I even have my own name tag on my seat.)

For a glorious few hours, my story was featured on the front page of chicago.suntimes.com.

I panicked for a few hours after I first got editing access to the Chicago Sun-Times, because I wasn’t expecting to be trusted with that kind of responsibility. I’ve got to write a few stories and learn so much from the highly talented, professional, and exceeding hardworking journalists working around me.

Thank you all for supporting me and teaching me so much. And a special shout-out to all my fellow Chicago Sun-Terns, who put up with me naming us the “Sun-Terns,” and who didn’t slap me when I walked over and said I’m giving up on myself because I started a section of my article with: “Like many U.S. cities, Chicago has roads.”

Chicago Sun-Times on Twitter

In honor of #NationalInternDay, follow our fabulous summer interns: @colinbphoto, @CarynskiCarr, @theleoji, @yvonnekimm, @MikeMcDTweets, @ElliciaMyles, @rahulhparikh, @janerecker & @AdamKThorp!

The things we’re not taught

In a society that profits from your self doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.

— Someone, somewhere, but the Internet has mangled it enough that I don’t know who or where to source it

I get contemplative every time I see people around me go through major life events: picking college, graduating, quitting their jobs or getting engaged. Usually, I’m not a part of these events.

In June, a few of my closest friends graduated from Northwestern. All of them were part of the class that entered before mine; they were the sophomores to my freshman experience, and I got to know them in various and varying spaces. Many of them were mentors and counselors to me as I navigated this new community — a role that none of them really signed up to play, and one that I have found myself in during the years since.

I know that, in less than a year, I will be joining them in severing the ties that bind me to the people who remain behind at this institution. I know many of my already-graduated friends will promise to maintain ties and keep in touch, and I know that I’ll make the same promise in turn. But we all know that the truth is we were brought together through nothing but curious coincidential circumstance; and when the communal experience of Northwestern University is dropped from our lives, the social and geographical ties that bind us will disappear and we’ll simply drift apart.

Nobody has ever taught me how to deal with this. I’ve never dealt with it well; I simply handle this situation as it comes, and I suspect many other people do the same. We were never taught how to handle the reality that life is ephermeral; that everything happens so quickly, and the people we meet are only a part of our lives for a fleeting blink of an eye, and a moment later: They’re gone.

I have been taught many things in my decades on the surface of this planet: I can solve equations I’ll never need, build machines I’ll never use, recite capitals I’ll never visit. I can tell you plenty about books I’ve never read and about people I’ve never met. I can speak in tongues you’ve never heard and write in scripts you’ve never seen.

And yet: I don’t know how to make friends, and I don’t know how to manage when they go away. I don’t know how to love myself in a way that isn’t destructive. I don’t know to recognise when I’m hurting until it’s too late, or reach out for help until it’s almost unsalvagable. I don’t know how to live my life in a way that it’s not a struggle to convince myself to get out of bed every morning; that today will definitely be a better day than the last; that the world is a beautiful place definitely worth saving.

There’s a part of my brain that wonders how I’ve managed to survive this long; how I haven’t died yet from something stupid at some point or another. Maybe it’s because I’ve managed to piece together a strong social network to fall back upon. Maybe it’s just dumb, blind luck. Maybe it is, as my therapist once said, the “strong mental and emotional strength” that I’ve demonstrated.

Well, I don’t feel very strong, and I don’t know if I ever will.

Google: Like, it’s really not that hard to do better

Gmail messages ‘read by third parties’

Google has confirmed that private emails sent and received by Gmail users can sometimes be read by third-party app developers, not just machines. People who have connected third-party apps to their accounts may have unwittingly given human staff permission to read their messages.

Google’s argument, as reported in this BBC News story, is that it’s entirely within their guidelines. That’s true. It is fully within Google’s terms for third-party app developers to allow employees to read the emails captured by their apps as long as it’s compliant and the user has granted permission.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s OK. This isn’t a technicality that Google can’t get around. The company has quite reasonably alter its agreement with developers so that apps can request two types of permissions: “Automated systems to manage your emails” and “Humans to manage your emails.”

I doubt — and Google has the money to run user tests to confirm this — that many of Google’s users think that they’re granting third-party inbox access to humans when they approve the Gmail “manage emails” permission. When we (because, let’s face it, I’m also a Google user) grant acess to third-party apps from Google’s stores, we think we’re granting permissions to machines and software, not the employees of the company behind them. A separate prompt, “Allow employees of developer UsefulGmailScript to read, manage and delete your email,” would give Google users a heads-up that avoids this problem altogether — and Google can enforce this as a term in their third-party developers agreement, and cut off any apps that they discover to violate their terms.

You’re Google. It’s not like this a tiny company with little leverage that needs this ecosystem of apps to survive. Last I checked, Google wasn’t at risk of bankruptcy and collapse. It’s fairly reasonable to expect Google to do the right thing and stand up for its users in cases where it matters.