aapi, asian american, Essay, Korean-American, Literature, philosophy

The Thing That’s in a Korean Name: Goodbye “@aechjay”

I had the username “aechjay” since I was 15-years-old back in 2002 when I created it as a screen name for AOL instant messenger. I had been experimenting with lots of screen names since 1998. The one that I settled on was “aechjay” and it stayed with me for the last 20 years. I used it for all my social media sites since then.

“Aechjay” is the written pronunciation of two letters: “h” and “j.” This has always been like a secret code between myself and my most trusted individuals in my life. there are very few people in my life who still refer to me as “HJ” in conversations or in correspondences because today I go by “Grace.”

“HJ” are the initials of my two-syllable middle name, which was not always my middle name. It represented my given name at birth when first emerged as a human being on this earth in Busan, Korea. My father named me “Hyun-ju.” “Hyun” is 어질 현. It means benevolence. (It can also mean dizziness and chaos in some contexts though I don’t know the specifics of this function; but I love that meaning.) “Ju” is 구슬 주 and is used to describe marbles and pearls, denoting beauty, wealth, and royalty.

Hyun-ju is a very common name for girls/women in Korea. When I go to hair salons in K-Town, one of the stylists is usually named Hyun-ju. growing up, I ran into many Hyun-jus at Korean churches in New York and New Jersey.

“Hyun” is difficult for most English speakers to pronounce. It’s the same reason why everyone mispronounces the car company Hyundai. Ever since I moved to Brooklyn at age 5 with my parents, not a single teacher or peer pronounced my name correctly. They all had their own interpretation of how to pronounce my name.

Hyun became “hai-un,” “hyoon,” “hun,” or “hen.” Sometimes it became their own hallucinatory sound—some of which I can’t even recall. They would simply decide for me what to call me.

When my family moved out of Brooklyn to Palisades Park, New Jersey in 1995, I was suddenly in a densely Korean populated part of the state, and everyone could pronounce my name correctly. but this was brief. In 1999, my family moved back to New York but to Rockland County, New York, and not just any part of Rockland County but a notoriously very white part of Rockland County which was known around the county for being very racist. I went to Pearl River High School and my parents officially changed my name to “Grace” on school records but not on Paper with a capital ‘P.’ By this, I mean that my family and I were still undocumented. The school records, therefore, would be very inconsistent with where “Grace” was placed, but where it mattered like the yearbook or the attendance sheet, my Korean name “Hyun-ju” was always there.

I would be terrorized whenever teachers on the first day of the school year or substitute teachers when teachers were absent read my name aloud in class. They would say a foreign sounding word as they read my name which made all the white students laugh hysterically and made the few minorities in class cower with embarrassment and shame that they projected onto me and received from me, which had them maintain distance from me for a few hours or days or sometimes the rest of high school.

It’s interesting. The school I attended was all-white and mostly Irish but I learned how to pronounce impossible names like Deirdre and Siobhan without issue. We all did. It’s as if we had to. Hyun-ju was not a part of that possibility. Hyun-ju never received such privilege.

Actress Uzo Aduba went home as a child and asked her mother to change her name to an anglicized name. Her mother told young Uzoamaka, “If [white people] can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”

But my Korean parents did not have such confidence. Asian parents rarely have such confidence. They went to their Korean reverend and asked, “What should we rename Hyun-ju?” The reverend said the most common name among Korean American girls ever: “Grace.” There’s even a documentary about it called The Grace Lee Project by Grace Lee.

“Grace” and “Hyun-ju” are both extremely common in both Korean America and Korea.

In 2002, I adopted “aechjay” as my screen name as a way to both hide my Korean name and be unabashedly transparent about it but in code. Korean Americans in my social circles knew what it represented. To everyone else, it was a mystery.

I kept it ever since but over the years, I’ve been seeing “aechjay” on more websites. When I tried to get “aechjay” as my pinterest username, it was already taken by some white chick named Hannah something. Why the fuck does “Hannah” need “aechjay”? She doesn’t. Everyone here can pronounce “Hannah.” There are even some Koreans named “Hana.” So, what the fuck? Why would you take that away from me, Hannah?

In 2004, my family finally got our green cards. In 2005, my dad got his US naturalization which allowed me to get it because I was just two weeks short of being eighteen years old. Had I been eighteen, I would’ve had to file for naturalization all over. I remember the officer at ICE saying, “You’re a lucky girl.” I don’t remember if she called me by my name. What I do remember is that she herself was foreign. She was Chinese American and had an accent. She was short, stocky and wore glasses. She looked like a boss behind that large mahogany desk in a black office chair with two white men and the American flag standing behind her. She is pinned on my mental vision board for the rest of my life.

Now that we had our Papers, we could go and change our names. Guess what? My whole family changed our names. Both of my parents had the same trauma around their names because of racism and microaggressions they endured since 1992. Imagine having to live with shame with your own name. Not because there’s anything wrong with it, because there isn’t. It is a given name with love, deep meaning, honor, and connects us to our ancestry. But once we leave that physical point of ancestral connection, that name becomes disconnected as well, and the Others in the Other Land treat that name as a foreign object just as they objectify us as foreigners and therefore object to our very being. Not having my name pronounced correctly is like keeping me on an eternal doorstep of the place I thought I was invited to. I stand outside that brick building, downstairs, in front of the door while I can see the bright light through the window upstairs, and can hear the bustling, the networking, the communicating, the calling of one another’s names with such familiarity.

I hate that I was ever made to hate my name.

I changed my name officially to “Grace” in the year 2009 as I was graduating from college. As I was leaving with that new name on my passport to travel abroad, I felt a sadness, like a loss. I kept “Hyun-ju” as my middle name even though this is technically a lie because “Hyun-ju” is what came first, but there I was prioritizing “Grace” just to accommodate America’s mainstream—America’s whiteness, America’s English, America’s colonial history and its Anglo roots.

Rage. Confusion. Confliction. Amputation. I was an amputee with a foreign object sewn onto my body so that I could more easily be identified and more easily pronounced by Others here in this country and in Other Western countries where I traveled to with my new American passport.

When I started teaching at UCLA in 2016, I noticed that students had the option to list their preferred name on attendance sheets to avoid precisely the trauma I lived with all throughout elementary, middle and high school. This made me feel a little better because this choice not only allows international and emigre students to have agency in what to be called, but also gives space to gender queer students who have a preferred name.

But when I saw that the college I was teaching at had the preferred name as part of their system, I felt a light tissue layer of anger lift from me, but I continued to feel the heavy, dull pain of my name deep inside of me. Not sure where. Perhaps my pelvis. Shaped like a bean. Magnetic. Dark blue surrounded by red. Reverberating in a very low frequency of self-inflicted shame, projected rage, and non-stop confused sadness.

In 2016, I went to the Margaret Herrick Library to look at Hollywood archives for a research paper I was writing on Asian American masculinity in 1930s movies. The white librarian there started to jot down my middle name as he was checking me in with my driver’s license. I corrected him and said, “You’re writing down my middle name. Grace my first name.” He said, “Oh! Hey, don’t be embarrassed of your middle name.”

I was so stunned that I couldn’t speak another word. Throughout the rest of my time at the library, I felt such deep conflicted rage at what he said. What right did he have to tell me how to feel about my name? And what right did he have to lecture me as a white man who never lived with the burden, terror, shame and trauma as I had who went through over a decade and a half of loops to get the Papers so that I could officially change my name to “Grace” in order to accommodate people precisely like him? What right did he have to tell me to not be ashamed of something when people like himself are the reason why I have this shame in the first place? What the fuck? Seriously. What the fuck.

I still feel so much anger when I reflect on this moment. Even as I type this, I just want to throw a heavy metal object at his head. Maybe something like an Oscar. “You don’t get it, do you?”

But in 2021, I started to reconsider it while meditating for long periods of time. I’m not aechjay anymore. I’m more certain of who I am than I was in my teen years and throughout my 20s. I’m not aechjay anymore.

I’m Grace Jung.

It’s how I get introduced before I get up on stage to a crowd of people—my audience—who laugh at my words and bring a feeling of elation, acceptance, applause and praise.

It’s how I introduce myself on my podcast K-Drama School in my monologues.

It’s how I introduce myself at parties, at auditions when I slate, and in emails when I make a cold-contact. “Grace Jung” is what I see in the director credits when my film screens at film festivals. “Grace Jung” is what I see on the cover of my published books.

I saw two old friends from my recent past last night. The woman T is a filmmaker. The man A is an actor. They are Koreans from Kazakhstan—a married couple with a baby daughter. I haven’t seen them in over five years. They are still both very beautiful and still emanating love for each other and for everyone around them. T said, “You’ve transformed since I saw you last. You have a whole new identity.”

T was not wrong. “aechjay” was so close to my heart and my being, but it was also tied to my sense of shame around my name which came with anger/hatred/mistrust which are symptoms of racism in this county.

In 2021, when I was meditating, I kept feeling this deep urgency to let go of “aechjay” but I couldn’t. I would start to change it as a username handle and then immediately revert back to “aechjay.” But since last week, I have begun changing it here and there.

Even my website, which used to be aechjay.com is now gracejungcomedy.com.

Our identities change when our relationship with our past changes, and as that happens, our spirit changes. It finds realignment with where we are physically, mentally and emotionally. I have made leaps in the last two years that I never thought I could. During that process, I shed the heavy metal bean inside of me, too.

For now, goodbye, @aechjay.

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aapi, Art, asian american, comedy, Essay, Gender Studies, ideology, korea, Korean-American, Literature, philosophy

the INTJ-female Korean American rationale

The first Google search engine result when I look up “INTJ woman” is an article written by a fucking MAN.

Can you believe that shit? The system is against us. This is why we’re always yelling at you or rolling our eyes and just not bothering. We just can’t be bothered. We must ignore you.

The rest of the search engine results for “INTJ woman” were articles all written by white women. I don’t have anything against white women other than I don’t (can’t) always relate.

This essay is about INTJ-womanhood as me—a Korean American woman with the INTJ personality type.

The thing about these Myers-Briggs personality categories is that they just offer a surface-description of personalities and don’t offer any explanation as to why it is (nothing ever just is [unless you’re on psychedelics or meditating very deeply or something]).

I am the INTJ personality type. INTJ stands for Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking and Judgment. It’s also referred to as the “architect” personality type.

I took this test about 10 years ago and had the same result whenever I took the test again since (2 more times).

I can relate to this personality type a lot. For one, being INTJ-female is the rarest. INTJ women make up less than 1% of all women. I’m bad at math but it’s like 4 out of every 500 women are INTJs (according to those other sources written by white people).

here’s a descriptive list of INTJ females:

independent

confident/assertive

eye-on-the-ball/focused

appreciates alone time (isolation)

not a good team player

doesn’t respect or trust most authorities

no-nonsense

type-A

creative thinkers

appreciates authenticity

are good leaders by design but does not want to lead most of the time

extremely private

hates incompetence

hates time-wasters

hates inefficiency

loves (good) art

loves newness/innovation

appreciates professionalism

appreciates good skill/talent

A weird Google search engine result for “INTJ female” is the question, “Are INTJ females attractive?”

What a stupid fucking question. Why don’t you cut to the heart of what you really want to ask which is, “Are INTJ females bitches?”

That really depends but if you ask me, I’ll say that if an INTJ woman is being a bitch, she’s being a bitch because the situation 100% calls for that reaction/response, and she is nothing but RIGHT.

INTJ women are efficient as fuck. We hate wasting time and energy on anything not worth our damn. So if we take the time to engage, we do it because we feel it is worthy of our engagement, even if it means giving someone a talking to, yelling, or expressing assertion and/or correction. But most of the time, we really don’t want to be bothered with anyone’s shit.

Why are we so bent on being corrective? Well, have you seen the world? It needs constant correcting and changing. We can see the mistakes, errors, injustice, etc. We see them very vividly and clearly. They torment us.

So when we speak up, trust that we know what we are saying/doing. Thank us for offering some guidance.

Even if you don’t think we are right, you will never ever change our minds. We will always wonder, “Why aren’t they just thanking us for telling them that they walked out of the bathroom with their skirt tucked into their underwear?”

You think that INTJ women are “insensitive.”

We are. We have no time for sensitivity. You know why? Because we see the bigger picture. We’re focused on getting the job done and not so much on anybody’s fucking feelings.

Does that mean INTJ women don’t feel? Absolutely not. I feel everything all the time. That’s why I have to ignore certain people when I enter the room or disengage a lot of the times. As an INTJ woman, I have a hard time not being a deep empath. I feel everything very intensely so I developed boundaries as a skill. This took many years to hone. I did it for my survival and my own sanity.

We’re intuitive and quick to judge not because there’s anything wrong with you but because we are highly sensitive. The irony is that we may appear insensitive. But whenever you see anyone being insensitive, you can bet your money that that person is acutely sensitive. That is, in fact, how the world is, and how most people are.

INTJs are not good team players.

Yeah, this is true. I don’t like being part of assigned teams that I had no part in creating. Even when I create my own team, I still find one or two players I regret adding (and they become reminders of my mistake/error, and I despise them for it even more).

I don’t like working as a group or in teams. Why? Because of the same problem mentioned earlier. I see how everybody is doing something wrong. I can see a faster path or direction but the rest don’t. And I have trouble communicating that politely—in a way that would not hurt anyone’s fucking feelings. I’m gritting my teeth trying not to say, “Are you stupid?” So I either shut down completely (disengage) or I speak up and watch people cry.

Noticing when something goes wrong and being attentive to it makes INTJ women great problem solvers but it doesn’t mean we can always solve the problem. The fact is, harmonium is required in a team mission. Feelings should not be injured. Ideas should not be shot down. But INTJ women are impatient and we have a hard time dealing with the “normal” slow-paced “warm-up” to reaching those goals. We’ll be rolling our eyes the whole way through. Even though a part of us knows that this is the right way, we still won’t agree with it or trust it. If an INTJ woman is particularly silent during group work, just know that she is doing everything she can to PRESERVE harmonium by not speaking up and damaging morale. Just thank her for that. She’ll contribute when she feels ready/wants to.

INTJs are not good with authority.

Yes. Of course we’re bad with authority. We don’t trust anyone but ourselves. How could we trust a fucking stranger who was randomly assigned to be the leader in our lives? Does it mean that we NEVER trust authority? Not true. We all need good mentors/leaders/examples/teachers. INTJ women have GREAT role models and teachers at all times. In fact, see who INTJ women look up to. You’ll learn a LOT.

INTJ women befriend many strong and successful women. We gravitate towards them naturally because they’ve already EARNED our respect as fellow successful women. They are living the life WE aspire to. So they are our respected leaders/examples, and when they say “go” or “sit” we will militantly oblige. However, if anyone who is an authority figure LOSES our respect, there’s a good chance that they will never regain it back fully in this lifetime. (Perhaps we can begin again in another lifetime. But as for this, it’s over.) There are jobs I had where I saw my performance dipping real fast in direct correlation to how much respect I had for my supervisor. No matter how much I tried or how much they tried, once the respect was gone, there was no bringing it back. Scary for some people but completely logical for fellow INTJ women like me.

Bosses have been baffled at my behavior and comments. If they tell me to do something that I don’t understand, I never do them. If I do, I’ll fuck it up. If they say something that offends me, I straight up tell them that what they said was rude (because it is rude to be sexist, racist, classist, stupid, etc.)

It’s not that we stubbornly wish to be this way. It’s that we have major trust issues. This difficulty with authority comes from experience. We’re not just anti-authority a priori. We have lived experience with untrustworthy authority figures be they parents, teachers, any adult, any older person, church leaders, politicians, bosses, etc. Call us jaded. Call us stubborn. Call us pitiful. Call us enlightened.

The fact is, all leaders have some dirt, and it’s a good thing INTJ women are here sitting with our legs crossed in the corner with a cigarette, side-eyeing some rich fuck who thinks they’re hot shit just because they think they have the right to be. We can’t even bother to laugh. It’ll exert energy onto an undeserved place.

For INTJ women, we don’t respect anything that insists on being a GIVEN. We need to see the goods, the work, the proof. We need to see it and feel it. And even then, as long as you have authority, there’s a good chance we still won’t trust you because the very notion of hierarchy is absurd to us anyway.

We’re just like, “Why aren’t you under a tree somewhere smoking a joint and coloring in a sketch book? Instead, you’re sitting here talking way too much about shit that nobody cares about and calling yourself a leader. Just buy some big shoes and call yourself a clown instead. That’s all you’ll ever be: A CLOWN. And a shitty one, too.”

INTJs make good/bad leaders.

INTJs have the make-up to become good leaders but we hate leading because it means we’ll have attention. The INTROVERTED part of our personality and our agitation with authority make us detest being leaders. We won’t lead unless it is absolutely called for. I noticed this about myself very viscerally when people asked me to co-produce live comedy shows with them. I would think about it and make a long as list as to WHY it would benefit me in the long run to do such a thing because producing shows is a huge fucking pain in the ass. I hate doing it. I hate my co-producer while doing it. I hate everybody while doing it. It’s a nightmare. Everybody sucks.

I did it twice, and I never want to do it again. Co-producing live comedy shows as an INTJ woman is a fucking nightmare. If you’re an INTJ woman, I think you can relate.

We don’t like it when a million parts are moving and people keep asking me STUPID fucking questions. Whenever anyone asks me a question, I almost always ask myself first if that question is stupid. 65% of the time, yes, it’s a stupid fucking question (why are they asking it?!).

It annoys me when people make me repeat myself (inefficient; shows that they lack listening skills). It annoys me when people don’t know how to help themselves (incompetent; shows that they lack problem-solving skills).

In this regard, we’d make terrible leaders, and we know it fully.

Good leaders are attentive and respectful of all questions and contributions. We fully know that we don’t have the emotional bandwidth to handle that, so we will naturally back out.

We’ll only step up as leaders IF AND WHEN a situation absolutely calls for it. And that’s not to say that we’re not bossy anyhow. We are hella bossy, and not fucking sorry.

INTJ women are not sorry.

This is true and not true. I am sorry all the time for the way that I am, and this is why all the blog posts you read on INTJ women say that “INTJ females are the most misunderstood.”

We can’t help but be who we are and how we are. Greater self-awareness and mindfulness help a lot but can only go so far when we start to feel like our own space is being taken up by others.

We are radically independent (like hamsters!!!). We are fastidious and quick (we love efficiency!!!). We like PARTICULAR people. We LOVE them. We dislike or are not interested in most people.

We are misunderstood because of this. And people think we are unapologetically bitchy or mean. Not true. The damage that our personality types cause do bring us grief but we’ll never show it or tell you to your face. We will tell our closest allies or our therapists or ourselves when we’re on mushrooms, and do what we can to adjust to your needs.

But we won’t guarantee it. Because we really fucking love ourselves for who we are and how we are.

I love myself so much and I am grateful to my personality type for protecting me at all times. This personality is an armor. That’s why INTJ women are so misunderstood. That’s why your stupid fucking question, “Are INTJ women attractive?” is the wrong question.

To assume that INTJ women are unfeeling, disassociating, insensitive, or lack insight is a grave mistake. We are hypersensitive, always feeling, fully in-the-know of how we impact people, and that is why we compartmentalize the way we do, and we do it by ignoring or not responding or withholding or whatever demeaning words you want to replace the aforementioned with.

We’re the rarest because we’re special, and we’re required in all societies. Having one of us in your corner is a blessing, so count us in your prayers every night, little babies.

But leave us alone to do our thing at our own pace. That’s the greatest gift you can give us. We’ll notice you doing this and grow lonely and come to you on our own. Respect the dance of push-and-pull (밀당). But don’t over-do it. There’s nothing we dislike more than affected anything (words, behaviors, art, conversation, etc.). If it’s not authentic and not called for, we’ll just be like, “Why the fuck is this in here?”

INTJ women are creative.

Yes, and we have to be. Creativity doesn’t just apply to the arts although I am an artist. Creativity applies to any kind of critical thinking. Whenever I work in groups and I see people thinking just one way, I lose my shit because I’m like, “Hello? Why are you not looking out the fucking window? There’s a bigger world out there.”

We manage our creativity by spending time alone to recharge, meditate, self-reflect, grow, heal, and listen to our “muse.” We need that alone time to hear our own independent/authentic voice so that we don’t repeat what others say (inefficient!!!) or offer a no-good idea (incompetent!!!). We’re the hardest on ourselves. If an INTJ woman hurt your feelings today, check in on her. She probably demolished her own feelings that same afternoon. You got off easy, kid.

“The INTJ Korean woman is a fucking weirdo and she scares me.

Yeah? So what. No one asked you. Sit down. Go read a book in the corner or something.

Being Asian American, I often encounter confusion, chaos, and offense as a reaction to who/how/what I am. I don’t believe in uncalled for politeness. I abhor despise small talk. I don’t understand hierarchy. Living this life in the female body as a Korean, Korean American and Asian American is tough.

The world expects me to be subservient, unopinionated, quiet, “respectful,” caregiving, emotionally available to others and not myself according to information they got from the dumbest places ever–wanna hear it? OTHER SCREENS. Projections imagined/constructed by filmmakers, TV writers, internet bloggers, etc–people who are not ME and have no business creating and projecting some hull of what I am supposed to be on massive mediated screens that you absorb and wind up believing (ugh–when the fuck will you learn?)

These non-Korean-American-female-INTJs with influence think they know something. Now is your cue to laugh: LOL. They don’t know jack shit.

I am the opposite (or completely off-the-wall something else) of all of that which was imagined FOR you by those who are NOT me. And I wasn’t always like this. When it came to those I really loved and admired, I poured all of these very limited affective labors (awareness, sensitivity, respect, dedication) onto them, and they all let me down. Sometimes the JUDGMENT side can be weak when it is tarnished by admiration or love (this is why we often times don’t adore or love or respect). ‘Tis a lonely life for the INTJ woman.

And our judgment protects us because of the pattern we noticed in our lifetimes which developed the mantra, “There’s nobody you can rely on but yourself.” And we firmly believe this despite its limitations which we know about already so don’t fucking come at me.

So say all you want about what your expectations of me was, and how I am blowing your mind right now. That just sounds like YOUR business.

I got my own to take care of. Any reaction you have in response to me is all about you, and it has nothing to do with who/what/how I am. I just am and I have my own reasons for it unrelated to you. So sit down. Go in the corner and read a book or something.

That’s all I can think of for now. I’ll re-post if I think of more INTJ-female related stuff.

If you’re an INTJ Asian diaspora woman, please share your experiences. Thank you.

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aapi, asian american, cinema and media studies, comedy, Film, korea, korean drama, Korean-American, TV

a new video for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM)

in honor of the late Korean American comedian Johnny Yune, I made a “drunk history” video (an homage to Derek Waters’ Drunk History).

enjoy.

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