I guess I should have done this earlier in the week, but I didn’t really start thinking about it until I was on my way to a New Year’s Eve party. I’ve come a long way in the past ten years,1 and I thought it would be nice to commemorate some of that growth in this blog, which apparently I only get the urge to write in once a year.2
I started this decade at the age of 21, and I’m 31 now, so my 20s are now firmly behind me. Good riddance, I say. Being in your 20s is bad and exhausting and as much as I am constantly filled with existential dread about aging and mortality, I don’t know that I’d like to repeat that particular stretch of my life.
For most of the decade, I suffered from poorly controlled depression and anxiety, undiagnosed attention deficit disorder, and a lot of negative self-talk and general feelings of self-loathing and low self-esteem. I went to therapy for a few months during my senior year of college (late 2010–early 2011), mostly because I was stressed to the point of having an actual nervous breakdown while trying to write my senior thesis and juggle all of my classes and extracurricular activities, but I dropped it after college because of my lack of regular health insurance and because I wasn’t really ready to sit down and do a deep dive into my psyche for a really long time. I started going to therapy twice a week in April 2017, then down to once a week about six months later, and since I switched to my new therapist in October 2018, I’ve been seeing her every other week. My first therapist and I clashed in some ways, which is why I ended up switching to a different provider, but I’ll always be grateful to him both for his insights, which illuminated many of the root causes of my struggles, and for putting me on the right medication regimen after eleven years of taking a drug that wasn’t right for me. I always feel a little uncomfortable talking about my mental health, but I’m also a strong believer in destigmatizing the pursuit of treatment and being honest about it, because maybe it’ll give someone the push they need to make a change in their life. The person I was before therapy and the person I am now are two radically different people, and I’m not perfect by any means, but I like this version of myself a lot better than the old one.
We started the decade in the midst of a recession, and for the first few years I really despaired of ever finding a career or doing anything with my life. That’s a large part of why I decided to take on a year-long teaching position through South Korea’s English Program in Korea (EPIK) in the fall of 2012. I think that was one of my best decisions of the decade. It was hard, and I don’t think I was as prepared for it as I needed to be, but more than any other big move in my life, living and working in a foreign country for a year taught me to adapt. I threw myself into work, into Korean language classes, into eating new foods and learning about a culture I had limited experience with,3 and as much as a significant portion of my time there was colored by depression and homesickness, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It remains the most interesting year I’ve spent on this earth so far.
Toward the end of my time in Korea, I decided I wanted to go back to school and that I wanted to get into publishing, which led me to Emerson College’s master of arts in publishing and writing. Knowing what I know now, I probably would have done things differently. You really don’t need a master’s degree to be in my field, and although it enabled me to move to Boston and that’s how I landed my job, I really deeply regret putting myself in so much debt. That was probably my worst decision of the decade,4 but I didn’t really know what else to do to reach my goals. (That being said, I am really grateful for all of the friends I made during my time in the program.) If I could do it over again, I would have saved up and just done a copyediting certificate course, read some of the books I read in my book publishing overview course, and maybe taught myself how to use Adobe InDesign. That’s pretty much the only information I ended up needing for my job, honestly, and all I had to do was pay a cool eighty grand for it. 🙄
That particular regret aside, I may not have been totally financially responsible in other aspects of my life, but at least those expenditures were entertaining. Here’s a bunch of concerts I saw:
- Muse (March 2010, October 2010, August 2011, September 2013, May 2015, January 2016, Lollapalooza 2017,5 April 2019)
- Lady Gaga (September 2010)
- Metric (as opening band for Muse in October 2010 and for Imagine Dragons in June 2015, and as main act in March 2016 and February 2019)
- Super Junior (March 2013, both days of Super Show 5)
- Dream Concert (giant multi-group K-Pop concert in Korea, May 2013)
- Girls’ Generation (June 2013)
- Fitz and the Tantrums (May 2014, November 2014, November 2015, June 2016, November 2016)
- Lorde (Boston Calling 2014, Governors Ball 2017, and as headline act April 2018)
- Big Data (as opener for Fitz and the Tantrums in November 2014, as main act March 2015)
- Airborne Toxic Event (March 2015—got a free ticket from the band’s manager because they were staying at the hotel I was working at)
- Florence + the Machine (June 2015 and October 2018)
- Sondre Lerche (April 2016, April 2017)
- Ellie Goulding (June 2016)
- Haim (Governors Ball 2016, as main act May 2018)
- The Killers (Governors Ball 2016, Lollapalooza 2017, January 2018, February 2018,6 Boston Calling 2019)
- Flight of the Conchords (July 2016)
- Ingrid Michaelson (November 2016)
- Harry and the Potters Yule Ball (December 2016, December 2017)
- Regina Spektor (March 2017)
- Bastille (March 2017, September 2019)
- Franz Ferdinand (Governor’s Ball 2017, as main act June 2017 and April 2018)
- Phoenix (Governors Ball 2017, as main act July 2018)
- Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton (December 2017)
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Live (April 2018)
- The Kooks (May 2018)
- Red Velvet (February 2019)
- Vampire Weekend (September 2019)
- Tiffany Young (November 2019)
- SuperM (November 2019)
And some stand-up comedians:
- Jim Gaffigan (October 2014)
- Nick Offerman (October 2015)
- Margaret Cho (October 2015)
- Liberal Rednecks (October 2016)
- Trevor Noah (February 2017)
- John Mulaney (November 2017)
- Hasan Minhaj (September 2018)
And some musicals, plays, and ballets:
- Mamma Mia (Boston, October 2014)
- The Book of Mormon (Boston, September 2015)
- Spring Awakening (Deaf West revival on Broadway, October 2015)
- Hamilton (Broadway, October 2016)
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (London, March 2017)
- Rent (Boston, April 2017)
- 1984 (Broadway, June 2017)
- The Nutcracker (Boston Ballet, December 2017)
- Romeo & Juliet (Boston Ballet, March 2018)
- The Sleeping Beauty (Boston Ballet, May 2018)
- Les Misérables (Rochester, NY, November 2018)
- Cinderella (Boston Ballet, May 2019)
I also saw a ton of concerts at Symphony Hall, either by the BSO or by the Handel + Haydn Society:
- Mozart’s Requiem (BSO, October 2015)
- All-Haydn Program: Symphony Nos. 8 and 84 (“Le Soir”) and Violin Concerto in A Major (H+H, January 2016)
- Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”) & Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, February 2016)
- Shakespeare night: Strauss (Macbeth), Dvořák (Overture to Othello), Tsontakis (Sonnets, Concerto for English horn), and Tchaikovsky (Romeo & Juliet) (BSO, February 2016)
- Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”)7 (H+H, February 2016)
- All-Bernstein Season Opener (BSO, September 2017)
- Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (“Choral”)8 (H+H, October 2017)
- Incidental music to Beethoven’s Egmont + Grieg’s Peer Gynt (BSO, October 2017)
- Amadeus Live (H+H, November 2017)
- Handel’s Messiah (H+H, December 2017)
- Bach Christmas concert (H+H, December 2017)
- Méhul’s Overture to The Amazons, or the Founding of Thebes, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 (BSO, January 2018)
- All-Mozart Program: Symphony Nos. 34, 36 (“Linz”), and 41 (“Jupiter”) (BSO, February 2018)
Notable cool things that happened this decade aside from all of these events:
- I got into K-Pop in October 2010 after a friend in the Muse fandom linked me to the music video for the Girls’ Generation song “Genie.” It’s sort of like when I got into Tolkien in 2002 in that it had such a lasting impact on my life. I always joke that I saw The Fellowship of the Ring one time and life as I knew it was over, and being introduced to K-Pop was a similar experience. It put my life on a totally different trajectory than I could ever have predicted, and as annoying as the fandom is sometimes, I’ve met so many wonderful people through it and I’m so glad to have them in my life. My favorite groups are EXO, Red Velvet, and Girls’ Generation, but I have a soft spot for SHINee and Super Junior as well.9
- Being a super curious person who likes to be in the know about everything,10 I started studying Korean pretty soon after I got into K-Pop. I taught myself how to read and type in 한글11 all by myself and did a little studying on my own before I moved to Korea, where I took intensive night classes twice a week for about nine months. I tried to study on my own again when I came back to the US, but Korean is one of those languages where you really need a native speaker’s guidance once you start learning the more complicated grammatical structures, so I didn’t get back into it until I started taking classes through the Advanced Study Program at MIT in the spring semester of 2019. I’m about to enter my third semester in the program in spring 2020, and although it’s been challenging,12 I’ve really enjoyed getting back in the classroom. (It is weird to be taking it alongside undergraduates, though!)
- In July 2013, while I was living in Korea, I managed to get into an album signing that my favorite group, EXO, was holding in the city I lived in (Daegu), so I have a copy of their first full-length album, XOXO, signed by the original 12-member group. It’s one of my most treasured possessions and I still smile whenever I think about how Kim Jongdae told me I was 대박 (awesome).
- Got into the viewing gallery for a second EXO fansign about a month and a half later when I was visiting Seoul for the weekend with some friends. No signing, but it was nice to see them again!
- I also got to see a handful of K-Pop artists perform at music show recordings that summer: EXO for “늑대와 미녀 (Wolf)” at Show Champion, and Henry Lau for “Trap” and f(x) for “첫사랑니 (Rum Pum Pum Pum)” at SBS 인기가요 (Inkigayo).13
- Set out on my own and moved to Boston in August 2014! So far, I’ve lived in three different apartments, all in different neighborhoods, and I like where I’m at now (West Somerville) the best.
- Made lots of new friends, whether online or through grad school or my job. Feels nice to actually have a pretty wide social circle for once in my life!
- Got a job with a retirement account and a pension and a bunch of vacation time and sick time!!!
- Went to the UK for the first time and got to see lots of cool sights (Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle, the Harry Potter studio tour, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on stage in the West End, some of the colleges at Oxford University as well as J. R. R. Tolkien’s house and gravesite and the Eagle & Child pub, the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, etc.).
- Went to a bunch of author events at local bookstores and book fairs (Book Expo America in 2015, London Book Fair in 2017, several iterations of the Boston Book Festival) and got books signed! Notable meetings include Lindy West in 2016 and Tamora Pierce in 2018.
- Copyedited two books for the MIT Press, including Fire, Ice, and Physics: The Science of Game of Thrones by Rebecca Thompson. I met her at an event hosted at the MIT Press Bookstore in November 2019 and she was so delightful!
I’m sure there’s other things that happened that I can’t quite remember at the moment, but I just wanted to jot these down and focus on the positive stuff that happened in the past ten years. Things have definitely been slowly trending upward for me since the beginning of the last decade, and I hope they keep doing so!
- Most of that growth has happened in the last three years or so. Nothing like a global political shitstorm to make you want to make some changes in your life, eh?
- Thank goodness I can use my web hosting costs as a tax write-off, I guess.
- Aside from having spent two years as a K-Pop fan, but that’s one very insular aspect of Korean culture that doesn’t have very much to do with day-to-day life in Korea. It would be like being from another country and enjoying American pop music and thinking that every nugget of cultural information you got out of that experience was the basis of American culture. (There are definitely K-Pop fans who think like this, and they are exhausting to interact with.)
- Although, if I’m being honest, most of my financial decisions during this decade were decidedly Not Great
- Partial—their set was canceled three songs in because of a goddamn thunderstorm. That’s when I really quit going to music festivals.
- In their hometown of Las Vegas!
- MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE!!!
- Look, I really love Beethoven, okay?!
- If anyone asks me one more goddamn time about that other three-letter acronym group, I swear to god I’ll lose my mind. Every time I mention that I like K-Pop among people who don’t know much about the genre, they always assume I like BTS, and I’m just like… you realize there are hundreds of groups out there, right? Just because that’s the only one you know doesn’t mean I like them. Ugh. Just a pet peeve of mine. Nothing against them, I just… fundamentally don’t care about them, lol.
- Look, both my sun and Mercury are in Sagittarius—I never stood a chance.
- Hangeul, the Korean alphabetic writing system
- I really struggle with speaking because I get so nervous it’s like my brain completely goes dead whenever I’m asked a point-blank question, ugh.
- I was also asked to stick around to fill in the audience for 2 PM’s “하.니.뿐 (ADTOY)” and CL’s “난 나쁜 기집애 (The Baddest Female)” prerecordings at Inkigayo, so that was cool.