07 / home–bound

Almost a year ago, my first newsletter, “Coming Home,” spoke openly about my resentment towards my younger self and committing to a journey of self-compassion. Re-reading it now, I cringe at the harsh language I used, which is accurate to where I was at the time. I spent the past year healing through Cognitive behavioral therapy, a four-month sexual liberation + healing intensive, and creating my first art installation for The Cosmos Summit. Today, I want to share with you the journey of my first art installation, Coming Home.

Nine months ago, The Cosmos officially decided to produce the first large-scale summit created by and for Asian women and gender non-binary folks. As the creative director, one of my tasks was to create an immersive art installation for our attendees. We had no theme, no money, and no traditional experience. My brain went into survival mode, and I wanted to run away. Luckily, The Cosmos team is nimble, smart, and dedicated.

After a few weeks of brainstorming, we landed on “Home—bound,” and it couldn’t have been a better theme for our community. But again, my brain went into imposter syndrome mode. Who was I to create an artwork about home? Who was I to create an installation with zero experience? Many months in, I realized my annoyingly persistent fears, rooted in self-preservation, were preventing me from doing the damn thing. I let go of my own unrealistic expectations and the pressure to please everyone. Instead of focusing on creating something conventionally beautiful, I focused on listening to my inner creative voice.

I believe we are born feeling at home in our bodies. Sometimes, trauma threatens our sense of safety. Other times, we simply stray and feel lost from our bodies. I disconnected from my body during familial and sexual trauma to protect myself. But I blamed myself for what had happened, and I felt ashamed for my seeming inability to protect my younger self. I allowed toxic emotions to stay trapped in my body instead of allowing it to process through my body. Earlier this year, in my first newsletter, I realized that even when I am “safe,” I still felt disconnected from myself. My silent shame became unconscious self-resentment.

I wanted to create a sacred space to tell my younger self, your experiences are valid. I believe you when you felt abandoned. I believe you when you said nothing. I believe you when you said no. You do not need to carry your shame alone. You are not irreparably damaged. No, you are resilient and intrinsically worthy of compassionate love. Your strength comes from your softness and capacity for empathy. You do not need permission or approval from anyone. You know yourself more than anyone else. And from now on, I promise to trust, protect, and soothe you.

Coming home to my body is about meeting my neglected younger self with compassion and forgiveness. It is the ability to sit with and within myself without judgment. A chance to mother myself and restore my sense of safety. The path home is a process of self-love through reflection and curiosity.

The Cosmos trusted me to create this experience not because they wanted something perfect, but because they wanted my perspective. Another unique aspect of this installation was that only Asian women and gender non-binary folks were within in the space. I didn’t want to create another Instagram-able, vapid pop-up. I wanted to create an anti-selfie installation. Upon entering, folks were instructed to turn off their phones and put on noise-canceling headphones.

From the beginning, I had a visual of an enclosed, grounding, soft space created with white fabric. But I continuously doubted the validity of my creative vision. Half the battle of making art is overcoming self-doubt, and the other half is actually producing it. After finalizing the vision, my event producer found a talented art producer based in Brooklyn. I’m so used to creating small scale artworks where I physically have a hand in everything that I struggled to trust a complete stranger to bring my vision to life.

Overall, I learned 1. When creating artwork, fear will always be present, but I can’t allow it to get in the way of the making. My job is to listen to my creative voice and make the thing. Not judge it. 2. Collaboration is key in accomplishing large scale projects. It’s ok to depend on people and ask for help. 3. A deeply thoughtful experience will be more impactful than a perfectly constructed experience.

My only goal was for people to leave the art installation with a feeling and anything else was just a bonus. Observing people’s experience first hand exceeded my wildest expectations. People hugged me, cried into my shoulder, thanked me, and sent me kind messages. By inviting people into my personal experiences, I gifted people a space to define what Coming Home means for them. I’ll never forget that day.

p.s. If you have specific questions, shoot me an email. I’m happy to share resources/my experiences!

Check it out

When I first met Cass and Karen, complete strangers from the internet, on January 2018 I didn’t expect anything. Much like a really good first date, our 45 min coffee went on for hours and I actually felt energized afterward. Fast forward to almost two years later:

  1. I created the branding identity including the logo, name, and guideline.

  2. I led a design team of two amazingly talented humans Irena and Yenny.

  3. I facilitated a zine-making workshop during the NY retreat.

  4. I helped organize the New Year Market that supported and highlighted Asian women and gender non-binary folk.

  5. I designed the “fuck I’m tried” t-shirt.

  6. I created my first art installation Coming Home and helped produce the Home—bound summit.

  7. I met the most generous, driven, and genuine Asian women and gender non-binary folk through The Cosmos events and slack channel.

Oh yeah and all of this was outside of my full-time job. Yes, I am tired and no, it wasn’t always easy, but I am nothing, but grateful for the opportunity to be apart of something greater than me. I am happy to give back to my community in such a meaningful way. Now that the Summit is over, I am saying farewell to my role as creative director as I head off to my year-long adventure abroad (more on this in the next newsletter).

Photo taken by Kristie Chua

Three notes on gratitude

  1. I’m thankful for my design team who made my job so easy. Without them, The Cosmos would not be what it is. This was truly a team effort and I’m sad to say goodbye to them.

  2. The Asian women and gender non-binary folks who showed up so fully and vulnerably at the Summit. You showed me the power of community.

  3. Cass and Karen for being empathetic, intelligent, strong leaders for The Cosmos. I am proud of all that you’ve built and admire how you continue to fight for our community.