It's a Friday night, and my partner is in the kitchen. He's busy finely shredding up some curly kale to marinate in champagne vinegar for my favorite salad, as our homemade red sauce bubbles away on the stove. Meanwhile, a neat wedge of matcha mille-feuille cake sits patiently in our fridge - a special end- of-the-week treat for me.
I'm fresh from the shower, rubbing myself down with watermelon body lotion with my wet hair swept up in a fluffy pink microfibre towel. It's been a long week, and my partner tells me that I deserve to have a quiet night in and just relax. 'Do a mask', he encourages me, 'You've been working so hard.' And I have, I've been working very hard. I repeat this to myself as I soak a cotton pad with my favorite acid toner and begin sweeping it over my cheeks, jaw, and forehead. My skin tingles slightly, and I suddenly realize how tight my shoulders are.
An Asian woman was attacked by having acid thrown in her face, right outside of her home last year. And here I am, another Asian woman, willing to rub a skincare acid into my skin. Surely, there is poetic irony here.
This last year has been a grueling one for the Asian-American community, especially for journalists. According to LAAUNCH, 37% of white Americans, 30% of Black Americans, and 24% of Hispanic Americans remain unaware of the rising rates of anti-Asian hate crimes that have taken place during the last twelve months. And I cannot tell you how infuriating this data is.
I went two straight weeks, mentally thrashing myself with those questions, sleeping about five hours per night, until my body physically forced me to stop. It was right after the Atlanta spa shooting, and all of my energy was invested in writing about anti-Asian hate, pitching anti-Asian hate ideas, and researching history for my anti-Asian hate stories. If I wasn't working on a story, I was on Clubhouse, speaking about anti-Asian hate and listening to Asian-American brand owners speak out.
When I wasn't doing that, I was reading other anti-Asian articles. Looking back on it, it's pretty impressive that I had the stamina to go so hard for two weeks, before finally passing out in the midst of an Asian-American history lecture on a rainy afternoon. It was a wonderful sleep. That perfect, deep, lulled kind of sleep that I wish I could get at night. The kind of sleep that slowly feels like sinking into calm water, before slowly resurfacing, gentle and peaceful. The kind that leaves you feeling so restored and clear-headed when you wake up.
I woke up from that nap feeling more like myself than I had in the last two weeks. I felt lighter, I had no more anxious knots in my stomach nor the oppressive weight of shame weighing down on my shoulders. It felt good to finally be able to sleep. My partner, who had been bustling about in the kitchen to make us dinner, gently encouraged me to take a shower and clean up before we ate. And perhaps it was the nap, but everything seemed heightened - from the herbal scent of my cleanser, to my favorite toner, to the luxuriously foamy lather of my shampoo. Everything felt so good. So good that even the voice in the back of my head calling me ugly, disgusting, and selfish for wasting energy on myself could not even shame me out of the warm bliss of the shower.
And underneath that warm spray of water and the sweet smell of soap, it dawned on me like lightning: I was never going to be the solution to anti-Asian racism. I was never going to be the silver bullet that fixed everything. But that was okay. Even if I wasn't the solution to white supremacy and racism, that didn't mean that I didn't deserve to smell nice things, or enjoy a soft towel, or to treat myself with cake. I didn't have to be bigger than myself to still be important and worthy of self-care and self-love.
But it's still not easy to remember that I can put myself first all the time. My phone and laptop still make me anxious, and I'm always angry whenever I hear about anti-Asian hate crimes. However, I've accepted that it's simply a part of the career that I've chosen, and I'm proud to contribute to the fight against anti-Asian hatred with my writing, as small as it is. However, I've learned that the moments I'm the angriest and I reflexively hate myself for not working, are the moments I need to consciously decide to love myself and take the time to take care of myself. So whenever I feel guilty for indulging in a face mask, or whenever I reach for my curling iron, I take a deep breath and I think about that wonderful, rainy afternoon and that nap that felt like sinking into water, and I remember that I deserve to rest.
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