True Love

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True love isn’t just about couples.  True love is between any two people who fight their hardest until the fire must physically go out.

 

I witnessed it on Valentines Day - in a different way from everyone else.

I remember clearly because it was minutes after I had come back from my work break, and had just finished posting my “girl-squad” photo.

We had a patient brought in for a procedure because her symptoms were worsening and the next day she was going to have surgery. 

Usually, when people come into the hospital, they have a family member or significant other with them. So typically, that’s the first deduction you make when they come in, especially when the two look alike. 

But you ever notice how, when people spend a very long time with each other, they sometimes start to look alike? I did my pre-procedure intake, and found that it was a best friend, and not a sister like I’d thought.  Best friends since 7th grade, they said. 


As I continued to ask my routine questions (when’s the last time you ate or drank anything? Do you have allergies to food or medications?), they both contributed to answers, acquiescently…absent-mindedly, as their thoughts were quite obviously elsewhere. Most people, before procedures, nervously hang onto your every question, making sure nothing is missed for the sake of their own successful outcome.  Instead, this pair clearly had thoughts that were less in the immediate present and more in the realm of the big picture - what this sudden chain of events now meant for her, that this was the marker for the beginning of a much bigger battle that was about to ensue, and with a quiet knowledge that things were about to quickly go downhill from here. 

“What are you thinking?” Her friend said, tearily.  “I don’t want to say,” she responded in a low, shaky voice, in between quiet sniffles.  I felt so much pain and sadness behind her watery, reddened eyes.


Her friend responded by reassuring her, reminding her to breathe and thinking positively - because, even though she had the same exact unspoken fears, she knew she had no choice but to be the strong person to support her loved one. 


Imagine, as a nurse or a doctor, there are several other patients that need tending to and so many other monitors and alarms going off that these moments are easy to miss… but I saw it. And I knew exactly what she was feeling because I had gone through this same thing with Gma.


I couldn’t help but think of the darkly ironic way in which the two of them, with their strong, loving bond, came in on a “day of love,” and felt deeply saddened by it, as well as mildly guilty for having posted a photo with such superficial concerns and caption only moments before, even though I had really done nothing wrong.


What could I do? For these strangers that I had just met, and during one of the most significant moments of their lives? Not much, aside from offering a box of tissues, a warm blanket, and telling them to let me know if they needed anything else… while knowing that nothing I could offer would reverse the inevitable. 


She was rolled in for the procedure and I never saw her again.


Anyway.  That’s true love.

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Photos by Jansen Dacuag 

Family Portrait

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Cultural identity was a bit of a mix for me, growing up- as it is for many in the US.  I grew up hopping between Long Island, Queens, and Manhattan, but most of my impressionable school-age years were spent in suburban Long Island.

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I attended elementary school in the town of New Hyde Park, which borders a much more ethnically diverse borough of Queens, so there was some, but minimal, diversity amongst school classes.  I still have plenty of memories of kids saying things like “Ching-Chong” or singing the pee-in-coke song and making fun of my homemade lunch that my mother had carefully prepared, and I had begun to resent (and in retrospect am thankful for having had, and skipping the American junk the other kids ate which contributed to diabetes, obesity, etc).  I even wrote a short story about it in my college creative writing course which my professor had pulled me aside to tell me very seriously to publish but never did (hmm maybe I still should...).

Anyway, I moved to queens for a bit in middle school where I was shocked by both the diversity of backgrounds and the Catholic school environment, having come from public schools in the suburbs.  

Then I moved back to Long Island, to probably one of the the waspiest towns to exist, for the rest of middle and high school.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved school wherever I was, and was lucky that I always found my way and got along fine... I just never really had many Chinese or asian friends.

....the few asian kids I did know, called me a “twinkie.”

I mingled a bit with the asian kids at All-County music festivals- but they were all in the orchestra, and I was there for vocal. 

Again, I didn’t fit.

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I arrived to college and was once again re-immersed in unfamiliar territory, this time in a highly populated asian community, through which I would find myself discovering & learning - about my own culture and that of others, in ways I’d never thought. 

 

Fast forward to present time.  I still find myself in diverse groups, and I think this is why I’m most comfortable this way.  Most of you give little head tilt when I say that I work both in fashion and healthcare, but to be honest I think I’d be extremely bored to be in one niche my whole life. 

Point being, I’ve had a bit of a journey before I got to where I am now, to be in my level of comfort with who I am.  I’m happy to have been surrounded by people who have taught me things, big or little, and it’s why I’m always grateful to meet people who come from all walks of life.

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I had this idea to get a few of us together for this project I wanted to do: to have the same production concept as Crazy Rich Asians, where everyone involved was asian, for the purpose of not only awareness but supporting our community as well. So I rounded up Leo of Levitate Style and Vera of WG Empire to be in this shoot with me, asked Nick from Coastal Flicks who is half-Filipino to be a part, and went to locations in Chinatown, NYC, as well as China Blue restaurant with their beautiful interiors and lovely service.

As for clothing, it was actually a bit of a search to get Chinese designers here in NYC involved, but Vera and I are wearing her line Verafied.

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The whole thing was really about representation as well as experience-sharing - and I love that, along with my personal story as an Asian American, it ended being done alongside Vera, who was born in China, Leo who was born in Hong Kong, and myself being born in Manhattan, all of whom are making our own paths here in New York City.

Really, that’s what everyone is doing no matter the background, but we still need to remember the importance that our long-standing history plays in tying us together, whether we see it on the surface today or not. And some cultures here in this space lack that more than others.

Now that I have a platform where I can share my voice and maybe influence someone positively, I’m going to do my part, especially when it’s around culturally significant occasions like Chinese New Year. 

Happy Lunar New Year everyone, hope you enjoyed the read and images.  Please share if you’ve had similar or different experiences, would love to hear them!

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