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I Want to Have the Levels of Gratitude of a K-Pop Idol
...even if I’m the smallest peanut in the room.
Indulge me a little here: During the height of COVID, and in the face of low personal mental health and fear of the rising vitriol against AAPI cultures and communities, I found BTS. (Which I guess isn’t that surprising as someone who simultaneously has the interests of a 70-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl.) At first, the bops of Butter or Dynamite were just earworms to me, but as I dug a little deeper, got into one-too-many late-night YouTube rabbit holes, and poured over interviews, I thoroughly caught the bug.
What struck me was, of course, the amazing singing and dancing, the unique skills of each member, and the complete and unapologetically Asian-ness of it all (something I still desperately yearn for in my own life). But I think the thing that really won me over was the heartfelt displays of humility and gratitude. (Whether or not this is a carefully crafted PR strategy, I don’t really know or care.) Call me a simple gal, but I still think there’s something really beautiful and special about seven grown men professing their love and appreciation to sold-out stadiums when they obviously don’t need to at this point in their careers.
My stakes are a peanut, by comparison.
Even still, as I’ve wondered about how to share my work and what tone to take, I find myself coming up against this anxiety-provoking idea of Self as Billboard. Because I want to be real. I want to be human. I want to be imperfect. I want to be myself.
But I also want to be taken seriously. I want to be professional. I want to sell my work for what it’s worth based on how much blood, sweat, tears, and time went into each piece. I want to be embraced as a maker and welcomed into the communities I’ve admired from afar for years.
I feel like I walk a fine line: sometimes I dip into the “fake it ‘til you make it” side and then I feel a little sick, like a total fraud, and then other times I talk myself down too much and get in my own way of feeling proud of what I do and what I create. Every post I make, every email I send, I’m exhausted trying to figure out where I should fall on that line.
But amidst the scramble, the one thing I always find myself wanting to express is gratitude. I feel touched when someone says something kind about my work. I feel honored when anyone wants to buy a piece and have it be a part of their lives. I feel really fulfilled when I capture nice photos for my portfolio, even if they’re just taken on my laundry rack on a $6 napkin backdrop with an outdated iPhone, and others like or share it.
For me—despite never knowing when I’ll emerge into this persona of The Artist, or The Woodworker, or A Business, or A Brand (if ever)—I’ll always want to be A Human who’s approachable and just grateful to be doing whatever “this” is.
And as crazy as it sounds, BTS kinda showed me the way.