Florida 🏝 Filipino 🇵🇭 Pao! finding out you’re adopted at 22 😱 día de muertos 💀 teaching English in Korea 🇰🇷 (37)

Don’t Be Strangers * Podcast Show Notes

xinyi @ don't be strangers
26 min readJan 14, 2023

Welcome back to Don’t Be Strangers, a podcast and community focused on fighting adult loneliness and the myth that “making friends is hard”. **I’m your host XinYi, and I typically meet my co-hosts for the very first time while recording! If this sounds fun to you, please consider applying to co-host a future episode.

Today I’m chatting with Pao whom I actually had my first ever conversation with on this podcast. Sure, he applied and we had a few back and forths in terms of setting up the call, but I had no idea what to expect when I logged on. And I must confess that I’m often easily swayed by how people communicate virtually via text. So something I recognize that I personally value is the use of emojis and exclamation points, because otherwise, I read sentences with a tone of almost indiference? So Pao, if you’re listening, my first text-impression of you was that you were very serious. And I was doubly intimidated by the topics he proposed. But standing behind my mission to share the stories and perspectives of everyone who is gracious enough to come on, I didn’t let it deter me.

Now, you may have a very skewed perspective of Pao given that introduction, but let me say — he completely surprised me and I absolutely adored this conversation. It truly surpassed all expectations and allowed me to dig into conversation topics that I need practicing with. This conversation today touched on…

  • the Filipino, Spanish, and Chinese cultural perspective on celebrating and honoring our ancestors
  • teaching English and living abroad in Korea
  • finding out you’re adopted at the age of 22
  • our first experiences with death (I’ll add the trigger warning of suicide)
  • finding out that Pluto is no longer a planet

There is so much gold in this conversation, and even though the topic of death was extremely intimidating to me, Pao taught me that it’s completely possible to talk about scary topics in a very light-hearted, encouraging, and positive light. There was also a bunch of storytimes in this conversation, so if you like that stuff, you’re gonna love this! With that, please meet Pao…

Unknown Speaker 0:00
Hi, everyone, this is how I live right outside Tampa, Florida, one of the most beautiful states in this country. I love living here, but not really because it’s so hot. But we’d love to I love traveling, I would love to live somewhere where we experience all all seasons. I’ve traveled abroad, I’ve lived abroad after COVID. I am itching to travel a little bit more. So that’s a little bit about me and hope to get to know you a little bit more, can you?

Unknown Speaker 0:31
I know I told you, you could ask the first question, but I immediately thought of one. Which is I wonder though, why part of your email says in Korea? I thought that was really interesting.

Unknown Speaker 0:44
Why is my email power in Korea? That’s a good question. I actually lived in Korea for two years from 2010 to 2012. And so I this is gonna sound really lame. I have had an AOL email account prior to that. And I thought, well, if I’m going to communicate with my friends and family back home, I need to get up with the time so I created a Yahoo account. So help so one of the times yeah, so that’s, that’s why I have a Yahoo account. And that’s why I named it Paulo in Korea, because I created it while I was living in South Korea. Well, you

Unknown Speaker 1:23
they’re teaching English. Oh, what

Unknown Speaker 1:25
else could I do you know that I think teaching English is one of the gateways to living in in Asia for a lot of people. So I decided to go to Korea because my, my brother and my older brother actually did teach abroad in Japan. And I thought, well, let’s do something a little different. So I chose Korea. Yeah, really fun. So Ginny, I know it’s October, Halloween is just around the corner, I wanted to touch on something that’s kind of related to Halloween and very much related to something that I’ve always been interested in, which is death sort of a turn off for a lot of people. First basic question was, do you remember your first exposure to death? And what was that like?

Unknown Speaker 2:10
So I would say that my first true exposure to death was actually the death of my friend’s mom. And it actually happened before our eyes while I was hanging out over at her place. So I had graduated or was about to graduate from college at that time. So I would say around 2021 years old, when I occurred, and that was very, very traumatizing, because her mom was not necessarily I believe it was a heart attack. So her mom wasn’t necessarily super old. So it wasn’t something where it was like, Oh, we were expecting this day, for example, in the case of like a grandparent or something, and it’s like, okay, they’re, they’re getting to the point where it’s like, oh, we’re kind of waiting, not like, like, we want you to die. But it’s like, okay, this is the natural process of life, there will be an end, and you’re approaching it. So her mom was not anywhere near one would say like the normal like end of life age range. I remember like, after that, obviously impacted my friend the most because she had a very close relationship with her mom. And this all happened in front of us, honestly, speaking, coming out of that experience, there was like this disbelief. And I’m not sure if for context, like I knew her mom relatively well, because he was a really good friend of mine. So like, I always hung out at her place. And by extension, I had a lot of exposure and like conversation and like a relationship with her mom to like her daughter’s like, very good friend, I think I kind of came out of that, like, in this shock, disbelief phase, my friend. Obviously, I got hit really, really hard, of course, a lot of time to process and I was like, I can’t believe that like happen. Like, I wasn’t consciously saying that to myself, but I think that was like what was happening like subconsciously, because I felt like I almost couldn’t process it. I was okay, that happened. Did that really happen? But yes, it did happen. I was with my friend through like the funeral process. Yeah, that was like my first and last, like true exposure because my other loose exposures would be my grandma was passing but this is a scenario where like, she’s closer to like, end of life. And she passed in Malaysia, where my family is from and so there was also like, my family, my immediate family, at the very least is like situated in Dallas. And so there is sort of like that distance disconnect like, Okay, I heard about it, you know, after it happened. And it was physical distance. Right, right. Right, exactly. And also Because of the physical distance, there wasn’t also like a really tight connection. Like I didn’t know her super well, like, I did care about her. And like when I was younger, and when we lived in Malaysia in our first years in America, she came with us to help take care of me and my little sibling. Yes, like I knew this person. But then at the same time, it was like, at that point, when she passed, I didn’t quite know her as well, just due to time and like, Yeah, time and space. What about

Unknown Speaker 5:32
you? Well, that’s, that’s really interesting. Just going back to your experience with your friend’s mom versus and it was a great comparison with your grandmother’s passing, because that is sort of a different way of looking at how people keep trauma in their brain. Because when you experience it firsthand, like you did, when you were younger, and seeing it in person versus hearing about, I assume that you probably got a phone call about your grandmother’s death. So I think there’s a different way of people processing that and not to belabor or, or open up an old wound. But how did you after your friend’s mom’s passing? How, how did you recover from that yourself being so close to them?

Unknown Speaker 6:14
I don’t remember having like a formal recovery process by any means. I think, a lot of what ended up happening following. Again, I think that might have been linked to not because I wanted to necessarily, like I don’t think there’s any, like, correct or incorrect way to like grieve or like processed or traumatizing situation. But like, again, going back to the context of like me thinking that to a certain degree, I was like, I can’t believe this happened. And like almost like subconsciously, emotionally, like distancing myself from it, maybe to like protect myself, I say subconsciously, because I wasn’t consciously choosing to do these things. First. A lot. I think part of my processing was like helping my friend, because like, my friend was so emotionally traumatized that like, a lot of a lot of time that I spent, like with her afterwards to just like, be there for her physically to like, let her event flash distract her as like she needed because my perspective on things is that like, sometimes, it’s not always necessary to like dig into like the root cause, like sometimes you just need a little distraction that you can like, ride through this current wave of emotions or whatever, until you’re at like a better place to process things. So it’s not always necessary to like, okay, let’s like sit down and be super serious and like, figure out the root cause, maybe because it was so traumatizing. The correct path to take right now is to have a bit of fun, have a bit of distraction, so that you can improve and elevate your emotional state, so that you can get yourself to a point where you are comfortable diving into like, the more serious harsh like reality of life.

Unknown Speaker 8:07
You’re right. You know, that’s a good point that you made about the grieving process isn’t a step by step direction, because we we go through the stages differently. Some of us don’t even experience any of the is. Do you remember the five stages of grief? I

Unknown Speaker 8:25
don’t remember them off of my head.

Unknown Speaker 8:28
Yeah, so just a little background on me and why I’m even interested in death was I actually worked for my town’s funeral home, right after high school and my my big dream and not everyone can say this. But it was interesting to me. It was a job that I felt contributed to the community. A lot of people don’t see that perspective on it. It is a very physical and emotionally demanding job. Just a little background on why I’ve even brought this up. I actually went to school for mortuary science. And so the stages of grief was something that we learned and something that we we understood that not everyone is going to to hit like denial, anger. There was bargaining, depression, acceptance, I believe are the five stages of grief. And you’re right, not everyone goes through it the same way. But for me, I think I’ve experienced a lot of trauma witnessing someone commit suicide in front of me experiencing multiple funerals as you can imagine accidents. I think trauma in itself kind of holds its own bucket something that people try to either hide from or try to heal from, but it’s something that really forms this impression in our head on what death or how we interact with death. So it’s it’s really, really an important part of our lives. I feel

Unknown Speaker 9:47
what is your personal perspective on dealing having gone through as much like trauma as you have

Unknown Speaker 9:53
no healing is so vital. I listen to a lot of YouTubers who deal with that topic of healing, whether it’s divorce or death now as an adult versus when I was experiencing all the craziness as a teenager and young adult, realize now that it’s so important to heal properly, not to just, you know, brush things under the rug, like I did. Just going back to that example of the gentleman who committed suicide in front of me. It was during work, I was working for the mortuary. I was in the back in the moor trying to tidy things up. And it was on a weekend, the mortician on call was actually in the the office, older gentleman, he comes into the back room where I was, and he said, there’s a there’s a gentleman outside in the parking lot. He’s parked in the fire lane, can you go over there and let them know that you can’t park there? And I said, Yeah, I’m sure it was close to lunch, probably around 1130. In the morning, I go out there. And right across the street from the funeral home, is a little lunch area restaurant. And because it’s so close to the launch, all these people are already gathered across the street. I took note of that, as I approached this man that’s parked in the fire lane. He is sitting in his car, but his door was open, his legs were outside. And he was looking at the ground. And I looked at him and said, Sir, you’re parked in the fire lane. Do you mind moving it because we had a pretty open parking spot area, you could have parked anywhere. He didn’t say anything to me. He just kind of looked to the side of his car where his window was, and he tapped on it. And on the window. There was a piece of paper that I guess he had taped. And I looked at it and I kind of repeated Sir, do you mind moving your car. And next thing I know, he pulls out a gun and he points it at his head. And he pulls the trigger in front of me. Obviously, I’ve never seen anything like that before. So I stood there for thought like maybe a few minutes, I could still hear the gun. Going off. The thing that brought me back to reality was a woman screaming across the street. She was one of the people going into the restaurant, there was already a group gathered. And I heard that scream and I kind of snapped back to reality. And I looked in front of me like this is this is happening in real time. You need to react the gentleman was sprawled out in his car, there was blood going everywhere. The gun had dropped to the floor of his car. Soon after that. We obviously call the police. There was a lot of police there. My regular boss had come in, it was the weekend he was off. He had come in and he approached me and he said, Are you okay? I said I think so I’m in fine. And mind you I’m 18 at this time, so pretty, still pretty young and never really experienced a lot of that scenario. And while they took him to the hospital first and then went to the medical examiner’s office after that, immediately after that I started cleaning up the parking lot with my boss and he offered counselling or someone to talk to and I refused that says that. No, I think I’m okay, I’m fine didn’t really affect me. And maybe in my early 20s, when I would have random dreams about it. It wasn’t like, like a ghost kind of dream. But it was more of this is the reality that happened in my mind was letting me relive that. And I say letting me because I don’t think at the time, I wanted to relive that over and over again. And at the time, I had a really good support system. had good friends and family that I talked to you and I and you know just looking back I think I did myself a disservice by not really addressing it head on that this really happened. So I think for me my process was shut it out. Don’t think about it. Just keep moving on. Because as a as an 18 year old I think it would have been harder to to move on. If I kept replaying in my head and you know, affecting how I process life.

Unknown Speaker 13:57
Are you able to find any closure on it? Did you end up getting counseling or therapy on?

Unknown Speaker 14:03
I never did? Yeah, I never did. That’s that’s a good question. closure for me was several days later, that gentleman came to our funeral home. So we ended up doing his funeral. And for me closure was sitting with him with his body kind of speaking to him. And I did this to a few of the clients that we had because a either I knew them personally or b i needed closure myself. And I guess that’s that’s one way I got it off my shoulder and I remember talking to him his body. It’s gonna sound crazy but talking to him and just saying that, I hope he’s found peace because he did that for a reason. I will never know unless I speak with the family that he left behind. But I’ll never know so I was trying to get it off my system by just telling him that it’s okay what he did not that I necessarily needed to forgive them. People that are suicidal or suicidal can Have a B or C. It wasn’t me trying to get forgiveness. But it was just me trying to process what was the

Unknown Speaker 15:05
initial intrigue to even study this field?

Unknown Speaker 15:10
That’s a really good question. I was born in the Philippines where we celebrate Diosdado SmartOS. They have a dad and I was always kind of intrigued when my family and I went to the graveyard, or the cemetery and we visited relatives, I thought that was just so interesting to be somewhere that a person resided in that I’ve never met, but had such a huge impact in my family tree and my family itself. So I think being part of that celebration of life celebration of memory in the Philippines really kind of triggered my interest in preserving people’s past and memories. There’s something beautiful about how people lived in the past. I’m very interested in like old houses, I watch a lot of YouTube videos where people do like old house tours. It’s that embracing of our our history is is what really intrigues me whether that’s people or things that they they owned or homes.

Unknown Speaker 16:06
Oh, when did you move to America then

Unknown Speaker 16:09
I moved to America, seven years old, it was the early 90s The whole plan was to go to America for a better life. Not that we were suffering. In the Philippines, we we did pretty well. My mom has a lot of Filipinos are was a nurse. And so she studied both in the Philippines and in America to be a nurse and so she was paving the way for things I got from the Philippines. From my time in the Philippines. I never truly let go and I and I think you probably have a very similar story because you did you immigrate to

Unknown Speaker 16:48
be graded here, I think around like the same age like six to seven years old. So I was originally from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Unknown Speaker 16:56
Oh, nice. Do you remember kind of your transition? Yes,

Unknown Speaker 17:00
I remember my transition to be quite frank, I don’t think my memories about my childhood are extremely clear. But I I just remember that like the first few years were a huge struggle in terms of like cultural differences, language barrier, like all that. Absolutely. In Malaysia, I had even like at that age of like five or six years old, had been introduced to English. And because English is a prominent language in Malaysia, being a melting pot similar to America. I remember, like, at a very young age, like my parents tried to speak to me in English, and I like told them in Mandarin, like oh, yeah, I’m never gonna need to. I would always like we’ve all done Mandrin. And that was like at five or six years old. And then we

Unknown Speaker 17:49
I had the same experience too, because when we immigrated here, my family put me in school. And you know, in the Philippines, we have the Spanish influence. When you say the vowels, we would say it’s similar to how the Spanish would say, Ooh, and so when I first started going to school, I struggled with the language like you did. I was brought up to the front of the class, the teacher was like, Alright, stand up here and recite the vowels for me. And I says, ah, a Oh, and she said, No, wrong. Say it again. You and so it went on for a few seconds. I felt horrible. I was like, oh, no, she had another classmate say it and it was a E I owe you. So I sat back down, defeated, came home and express kind of the frustration I had with the schooling system and how I felt like an outsider to my parents. And I actually said, I want to go back to the Philippines. And so this the struggle was very real. I can completely relate to your experience, but it is hard for younger kids to transition but I think it’s even harder if you’re like a teenager you don’t have that runway to learn the language like we did

Unknown Speaker 18:56
right? How many languages are you fluent in?

Unknown Speaker 19:00
English southern English? Tampa English No, I I can still speak a little bit of Tagalog the last time I went to the Philippines when I tried to speak in Tagalog. They told me that I had an accent, which was kind of reverse of when I immigrated to America and I tried to speak English like you have an accent. Like oh, so I can completely understand Tagalog so they can gossip about me behind my back. Like I know what you’re saying. And then when I lived in Korea, I tried to learn Korean but of course, once you’re removed from their environment, and you don’t speak it or hear it all the time, you kind of lose it. Oh, far

Unknown Speaker 19:37
did you get with Korean in living in Korea for two years beginner intermediate advanced,

Unknown Speaker 19:43
I want to say intermediate. I say intermediate because I got to the point where I didn’t need Korean friends to go with me to places that like a bank or something. I used to have a couple of friends that I would ask like, can you go to the bank with me? Because you The very first time and I think it was like the fourth or fifth month that I lived in Korea, I obviously had not grasped the language very well, I decided to go to the bank by myself because I had gotten paid. And I wanted to send money back to my American bank account. Lo and behold, I didn’t ask anyone to go with me at the time, but I decided to go by myself. And there was a box and one of those sheets that I marked, and it took all my money, instead of like, a certain amount all the way back to my bank of America. And so I was like, Oh, no. This is gonna suck. So I lived on my credit card for literally a month. And it was a learning curve, because I was like, Okay, I’m gonna ask a friend to go with me going forward. But to your question, I studied Korean, I went to one of the universities there in Busan, they partner you up with a Korean college student, and then you just kind of go back and forth, and you learn Korean and then they learn a little bit English, and then we drink. The drinking culture in Korea is crazy. It’s insane. I think intermediate but now I can still read it. But I wouldn’t be able to pick up a conversation.

Unknown Speaker 21:03
But I imagine if you wanted to, you would be able to pick it up? I think

Unknown Speaker 21:06
so. I think so is in you. I think for homework, I want to ask you to try to learn how to read Korean because I think you can pick it up within 30 minutes to an hour

Unknown Speaker 21:16
just like learning the alphabet or like the sounds. Yeah. I’ve heard that actually. Yeah. Have you tried it the extent of me trying it was probably some variation of Duolingo or something like that. Not very seriously. So but now it feels like I’m being challenged. The thing is, I was thinking, I do want to try another language soon or go back to Mandarin because my personal like language learning journey was like, obviously, I was like Mandarin Chinese oriented upon coming to America because my parents are fluent in English as well, due to their education, it’s very hard for them to switch back to like Mandarin to speak with us whenever we’re like just always using English and their environment is also English. So it’s like reinforces the English, right? Like you’re seeing like the TV in the background is in English, then your thoughts are naturally going to like switch over to English, right? You are fluent in other languages. Interestingly enough, I don’t get a lot of like Mandarin practice at home. And it didn’t matter to me initially, because I rejected my culture, like trying to trying to assimilate into American culture of being a child and like wanting to have friends. I was like, oh, being Chinese and speaking in Mandarin is not going to help me assimilate or find friends. Exactly. You know, forget this. I think it wasn’t until like high school, I started having a bit more pride in my cultural roots. And so then I decided, okay, let’s like, attend, to get back into it. So then I started Mandarin classes, and I took like, took it into college. And so that was like a couple of years of like, intense studying, through my school out of school, it got a bit harder, because I feel like language studying requires a lot of discipline for you to be very interested and for you to be able to, like sit down and say, I’m now going to consume not only consume media, like whether that’s text, or like, you know, something auditory, or like visual in that language, but then also to study it, you know, as in like, look up vocabulary practice, the usage of this vocabulary became a lot harder for me to practice Mandrin even though yes, my parents are technically a resource. It’s not that fun to talk to them.

Unknown Speaker 23:33
I bet it would be easy, I bet it would be really fun. I find the generation that our parents belong in, they have a lot of stories, especially, you know, being immigrants, first generation immigrants, their stories would really surprise you like the transition for them. You think we had it bad some of them had it really, really bad trying to assimilate into the American culture and the language and letting go the family support system that they had in their country. So I think if you give your parents a chance, and just ask them questions that you normally wouldn’t ask, it really will open up a lot for you as as their child and it’s happened with me just asking questions to my parents, like, what was your experience, like, when you immigrated here when the plane landed, and you realize, Oh, this isn’t in the Philippines anymore, and they as an adult, they can talk to you as an adult now, it’s not like they’re trying to cover anything up so they’re freely expressing their emotions. So it’s really interesting. So I asked you to do that with your parents. I think you might find some really interesting stories behind that. I am curious

Unknown Speaker 24:34
certainly, I think there are some challenges with the personality of my parents. I do love them dearly, but like my dad has a tendency to be come very repetitive. So you ask him like one question like I don’t know about his childhood and then it would turn into like a three hour lecture or like a moral where he’s repeating basically like the over and over and I’m just like, like my dad, like you just said this once and like been done and funny. And then we could have like, carry the conversation because then like, you know, then there would be like another question you could have showed a different experience. I was.

Unknown Speaker 25:06
I totally get it

Unknown Speaker 25:09
an entire afternoon like that one topic.

Unknown Speaker 25:14
No, your dad is basically my dad. My dad says the same thing. We’d be talking about rice paddies for a whole hour. I was like that. We switched topics like two minutes ago. So let’s, let’s focus. But really, I think if it’s like herding cats, I completely agree. But if you ask them about like their their true feelings about their experience, it’s, it will surprise you. It will surprise you. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 25:37
I’ll consider it. What is your career nowadays, it’s still related to the field that you studied and what you were doing.

Unknown Speaker 25:47
I am not in the mortuary business any longer. Sadly, it is still a dream of mine, I actually was taking classes for it, I dropped out because going back to our parents, my parents didn’t really like the career path it pointed me to. And it kind of goes back to this stereotypical your parents would want you to be like a lawyer or a doctor. And in my case, the parents wanted me to go to medical school. In the middle of being taking these classes at funeral school, I got accepted to the pre med program at a big university, I pursued that my parents dreams versus mine. And I ended up not going to medical school. And that was kind of one of the reasons why I left to go to Korea because I felt like I needed to breathe a little bit after you know, pre med and the thought of going into more more school. So I never pursued mortuary science again, I did kind of question it a few months ago to see if I could take it back up. Because it is still a passion of mine. And I still feel very passionate about it. It’s the the girl that got away, I feel no. So right now I work for an insurance company, an office worker, not passionate about it. But it pays the bills. Still in the back of my mind, though, you’re never too old, never too old to go back to school.

Unknown Speaker 27:01
I completely agree. Because I feel like especially if you still feel this way. I really need something. How old are you now? I’m 36. That’s like, over a decade of like, that’s a real passion?

Unknown Speaker 27:13
Yeah, it is. It really is. I think it’s more than what Hollywood or people might assume it is. I guess let me ask you this. What are your thoughts? When you hear a funeral? What do you what are you thinking in your head? What does the picture look like?

Unknown Speaker 27:28
I don’t really have like beyond that one experience of like participating in that one funeral. I don’t really have much thoughts or bias on it other than they are helping with like the grieving process, you’re so an extent closure for the families or the people related to I guess, you said the client, I’ve never thought of using the term client or the dead. But yeah, I don’t think I have a lot of

Unknown Speaker 28:01
that’s actually a really good perspective on it. Because most people would say when they think of funeral home, they think of a dark room. And you can hear like water dripping in the corner somewhere echoing throughout the building and tables of bodies scattered all over the place. But for the most part, it’s not that for me funeral homes are places where like you said people grieve, people say their goodbyes, or even celebrate a person’s life. It’s really a place where people can gather as a final send off for someone that they love and care about. From your perspective. I know you said you’ve only been to one funeral. But for most people, they think kind of like negative pictures of what a funeral home and a funeral director does.

Unknown Speaker 28:41
I think it is pretty somber because of the way that pop culture depicts the process of death. But I also feel, I guess you could call me like a rebel overall, because I try to keep my opinions sort of separated from like the masses, to a certain degree, but also because I do feel very mixed, cultured in a lot of ways. So there is the similar to what you were saying about like the Filipino tradition to respect our ancestors and the belief that our ancestors are connected to us, because Chinese culture and the need to respect the dyad the idea that we wouldn’t be here without them, which is very literal. And we also believe they are real and present. And I’m not sure how much I personally believe this, but this is like something my dad has passed on to us that you know, our grandparents and our great grandparents exist and we need to ask for their blessings. And they are like guiding us that sort of coloration on this topic, as well as the fact that like I have been since the beginning of the pandemic, diving more into like Spanish and more specifically Latin American culture. So when you brought up like Diaz De Luz motorcycles, I was like, Oh, yeah. Because I was in Playa Del Carmen Mexico during Halloween last year. What are those, like past year? So yeah, that’s about a year ago, my digital nomad group, they hired someone to kind of give us I don’t really know what sort of like Taurus offering this was exactly because I didn’t work. But I like someone who was willing to kind of like come through and like talk to our group the details behind the significance of that day for the Mexican culture. Yeah, it was really fascinating, because they were like, oh, yeah, like, for us, it’s just like, a fact of life. Like when we don’t fear it, because it’s like, there’s life there’s gonna be death and like, we celebrate this. So for us, we see this in like a very positive light. And then they were also talking about, like, the role and deed skulls that they give to them. And how it would have like the the names of the children in which the guide was, like, kind of joking aside. During the presentation, he was like, you know, I’ve never been kind of like thought about it. But like, it’s actually it’s kind of morbid. Like your name on it, but like, you know, it’s part of your culture. So you don’t think about it, you’re just like, okay, cool. So I thought that was like, also a very interesting perspective on death because of this. And because I consider myself relatively open minded, that I’m always just kind of like, assimilating different perspectives on like, any given topic, which is, I guess why you could say, like, part of the reason why I do this podcast, right, yeah, exactly. Curious about learning about the way that people view and experience,

Which is a good overall reminder to you, as the listener, to not be so critical on yourself either. I want to highlight something that Pao said that really caught my attention, so I’m reading it back…

I hope people listen to how different all our experiences are. It’s this web of just beautiful tales of struggle and defeat and success and relationships… woven together you get this picture of people just trying to be people.

I got chills listening to him say that but in real time and again when I was editing this.

On this topic, my intention for 2023 is create more engagement within this community — to help you meet people who will make you feel like you belong. I want to focus in on instagram because I feel like it’s personally helped me make a lot of great friends, so I want to be able to create a space where you can, too. As of right now, I’m envisioning more posts and stories that will try to engage the community by posing questions that they can not only answer, but browse and reply to other people’s answers. I was also loosely thinking of doing a podcast club as inspired by bookclubs out there. The idea would be to have a group of people listen to an episode by the same due date and gather to discuss the topics! Would you be interested in that? Please write to me @dontbestrangers on instagram and let me know.

Today is Friday the 13th, Jan 2022, and I am recording from Barcelona, Spain. I’ve been here for about 2 weeks after a month in Malaysia visiting family. In my last episode, I promised to write a love letter on my experience going back as an adult but… lo-and-behold I haven’t. I’m struggling a little bit with finding time for writing not because I don’t have time, but because when I want to make space to create art, because I express myself in many different outlets, it’s a bit hard for me to choose writing as my outlet of choice. I’m always torn between drawing, editing photos, and writing.

I do want to spend a bit more time processing my recent travels, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer for life updates. But I’d love to hear about yours! How has 2023 been treating you thus far? Write to me soon, and don’t be a stranger!



xinyi @ don't be strangers

musings of a creative chimera + nowhere girl🌙🐉 ✨ illustrator, videographer, whatev-er. 📍 somewhere between knowing & searching (host of @dontbestrangers pod)