The Undocumented

Knowledge limbo is the absolute worst: if you think about it, “undocumented” is never a good thing.

If bad phenomenon go undocumented, turns out things are worse than we realize.

If good phenomenon go undocumented, you have to question why the world didn’t know they existed, or at least how the world was lacking before these facts were revealed.

If people go undocumented, they’re essentially invisible. Unimportant.

If everything important should be known, then undocumentation is the barrier to giving proper recognition.

So that’s why the age of social media matters — we’re leaving a public record. Within that record exists essential things. Essential experiences.


I spent the past three months in Columbia. It was my first summer away from home for so long, my first summer living on my own with roommates, my first summer working 40 hour work weeks.

It was both a busy and quiet summer. But my summer experience isn’t really out there. I’ve posted cool links on Facebook, captioned ironic Instagram photos purely to be humorous, and made the occasional inside joke on a friend’s timeline.

Otherwise, I have nothing to show what I was doing. But social media anonymity isn’t always a bad thing; only in this case, I didn’t talk to anyone about my summer either. Some were aware, but as someone who always make sit a point to inform people on what I’m doing with my life at all times, I kept quiet more than I was used to.

Ultimately, Summer 2014’s “undocumentation” may have stemmed from my fear of another kind of “undocumentation”: uncharted territory.

I didn’t like going in not knowing what was going to happen if the journey wasn’t going to be predictably pleasant.

I only like spontaneity when I expect a happy outcome: “pleasant surprises.” That phrase is a little odd, because how can you expect anything from a surprise? If it’s a surprise, you’ll only know it’s pleasant after the fact.

But if there was a chance that an uncertain route wouldn’t yield anything like the great things I’ve had this summer —fun road trips, new friends, first kisses or good conversations — I tended to overanalyze, and more visibly, freak out.

Bad things happened both externally and internally that I couldn’t control. And if I had a basic idea of what I was doing, maybe I would have fared better.

But I was perpetually frustrated: I cracked my phone (something I swore I’d never do, and had been doing good on for a year and a half). I overspent by a few thousand dollars. We got fleas (I currently am afraid to shower or touch the majority of my clothes). I was attacked alive by allergies (they’re finally all gone, after way too many paranoid runs to Student Health Services). And most out of my control: my childhood friend died.

Of course I’d run into trials during freshman year. But when you’re living alone afterward, and you’ve left that consistent bubble of support where you have dorm friends and kind RAs and upperclassmen godparents to help you get through shit, you can’t face yourself as well.

But after my former editor Delia wrote a post on how an abundance of happiness PR can deem unhappiness insignificant, it got me thinking — by refusing to even mention the unhappiness, I’ve diminished the awful surprises. I’ve refused to talk about them, refused to publicly acknowledge them. I don’t want them to seem important.

Indeed, I thought the summer itself was “unimportant,” some sort of waiting period before school started and my normal life came back.

In the past, people have noted that I don’t talk much about certain parts of my life in general, such as my freshman roommate, my paying job, or my community in Portland. So they automatically consider these things unimportant — I’m known as an extroverted and talkative person, so if I’m not talking about those aspects, I must have nothing to say.

I keep things that I have a hard time with to myself, like most people. But in my head, I always thought as someone who identifies as an open book.

There always was something to say, if I thought hard enough. I just didn’t want to dwell on unpleasantries, because there were more negative things to say than good. I can talk about ‘digestible’ hard things, such as boys or journalism,  than talk about the hard stuff, such as facing that my messiness made me hard to live with, that the people at my job were racist to everyone but me because I was Asian and I didn’t do anything about it, and that I don’t get along with most of my high school classmates.

So now I’m saying it all. I’m taking myself out of acknowledgement limbo.

I realized that my trials could sometimes be attributed to parts of my personality — and that was not easy for me to like or face.

I’ll document it: I went through a lot this summer. Things changed. I changed. I saw myself.

I’m lazy. Sometimes I mooch. I can be inconsiderate of my coworkers and roommates. I’m a competitive OCD person, who, despite having accomplished so much, still doesn’t see it as enough. I’m struggling to reconcile my faith with what I’ve learned intellectually, especially after seeing how religious my friends back home are, but thinking they’re trapped in a bubble of conservative Asian-American culture.

And I dealt with all those feelings and realizations by going out. Every night, I needed to be out of the house, with anyone, doing anything, as long as I wasn’t sitting alone reflecting on everything. Calling myself an extrovert probably wasn’t the answer —  the extrovertism in my extreme dose isn’t actually normal.

Hey — I’m not not happy. I’m actually happier, here in college, than I’ve ever been in my life. It’s a consistent warm glow, and these hiccups are only splotches of dark amid a background of goodness.

I’m at the end of this bittersweet summer and I’ve realized that while I haven’t realized anything major, it’s been the small moments that have mattered.

Now I freak out a little less about the potentially bad unknown. My phone’s just as functional. I can clean my room, fleas or not, and choke down any whining. I’ll drop eye drops, binge take Allegra, smell bad and spray on bug spray without complaining. I’ll honor Paul’s memory by being unafraid of living my life with love.

I’m allowed to have things I struggle with that I’m less privvy to talking about. I’m allowed to cut myself some slack. I’m allowed to come clean about trying to improve, as long as I’m not self conscious of others noticing.

And more importantly – I’m allowed to blog about personal stuff. I’m allowed to be unhappy if the unexpected happens and it sucks. I’m allowed to let it happen.

I’m allowed to document the undocumented.



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