Linda’s 2017 Doodle Letter, Part I
(Hi! Where are you?)
January 18, 2017
It’s been a while since we last met (or perhaps it’s been no time at all). I’m typing this to you from downtown Durham, 6:02pm. The office is quiet and a little chilly tonight. I’ll likely type – and then delete – a few sentences more before getting back to work.
Work tonight means Skype-interviewing a young candidate for the Duke TIP China Program. I imagine myself, at 14, on the other end of that call. Don’t be nervous, my interviewer might say to me, this is a chance for us to have a conversation. Tell me what you’re excited about! What are you doing now, and what are you looking forward to?
My imagined conversation blurs, and then refocuses on a scene in reverse: Hey! 14-year-old-Linda asks a soon-to-be-27-year-old-me. Where are you now (and where have we been?). Have we figured stuff out yet? Where are we going now?
…(and do we still do art?)
I snap back to the present, rolling these questions over my tongue… and the rest of this letter will be framed as a letter to that 14-year-old-Linda… But first!
Where are you now, friends?
Where have you been?
What are you looking forward to?
I would really like to know… if you’d be willing to share:-) Take a moment to pause here and ping me back – I look forward to hearing from you!
Linda’s 2017 Doodle Letter, Part II
(To you, and to her 14-year-old-self)
January 20, 2017
Dear Linda at 14,
Greetings from a (newly minted) 27 year old you! As you can see, we still have a soft spot for the over-use of parentheticals. (We also still have a penchant for editorializing our own writing…)
In answer your questions from above:
Q: Where I am now? A: Durham, North Carolina
Specifically, I’m sitting on a squishy couch in Cocoa Cinnamon, drinking a MATI and trying to stay awake and finish this letter. We’ve matured a lot, and you are now a full-fledged adult. However, yesterday we stayed up until 4am binge-watching a Korean Drama... so define “adulthood” as you will.
Q: Where have we been (last year)? A: See the map below!
26 was a year full of places and spaces and of laughter and tears for us. Not sure how to answer this question with words, so I drew you a road-map/board-game instead:
Here’s the full map:
I’d initially intended to walk you through each and every experience recorded above (lettered, A-Z). I’d even connected them with color-coded pathways:
YELLOW – EXPERIENCES
ROSE - LOVE
BLUE - CAREER
VIOLET – WRITING, ART… AND SCHOOL?
…but then I changed my mind. The drawing above contains a series of snapshots – lovingly created and frozen in time. They represent $3 dinners and board game nights; relationship anniversaries and questions about the future. I want to share all of these snapshots with you – yet I don’t know where to begin. I feel like a toddler with an armful of toys, tottering towards show-and-tell circle. Memories in hues of blues and gold trail behind me as I go. A gust of wind ruffles my hair, and rose tinted scenes flutter and float away into the sky…
So tonight, it is my purple memories that stay behind. And these three I choose to share with you:
1. 2016 is a year where we loved and lost a pet (H, L, N)
2. 2016 is also the year when our drawings began to move (F, J)
3. And lastly, in 2016, we decided to go back school! (I, J, K, M).
Memory 1 – Henrietta the Hedgehog
The last two months of this year was busy: and full of joy and sadness. My little prickly companion (Henrietta) passed away when I was in China – on election night. Losing a pet is hard, and I miss her very much. I share this memory with you because it taught me two things. Yes, there is so much out there to grieve for, on scales big and small. In the 'grand scheme of things', my hedgehog dying wasn’t the worst thing in the world… but that wasn’t the point. My sadness was real and the pain was pure. And that pain also reminded me that others in my community, my world, also have their own sources of grief and sadness - big or small. While there’s no easy solution for that pain, support, kindness and love given so freely by friends and family helped me heal. The listening, the “hey. I’m here”, the small gestures are everything. That was true for me. I think it’s true for us all.
Memory 2: Panda Cub Story time, Stop-motion
Panda-Cub Story time continues! At the beginning of 2015, I created my first bilingual (Mandarin and English) video letter for the kids at Panda Cub Academy. In 2016, I created my first stop-motion animation, in my retelling of 西遊記 or Journey to the West. Next, I’m planning on adding a pod-cast component to the re-telling (inspired by the 3Kingdoms Podcast, a retelling of Romance of the Three Kingdoms!)… so more about that in my next letter?!
Memory 3: Grad School, Education & Children’s Lit
I decided to head back to school this year! And a piece of exciting news: I got my first grad-school acceptance! The Critical Approaches to Children’s LiteratureMasters at Cambridge is one of my top choice programs, so it’s looking very likely that we’ll be heading to the UK for at least a year, this coming fall
This decision to go back to school came at the end (or rather in the midst) of a storm of recurring questions: Why do we hate? Why do we hurt each other, and how can we stop? These are questions we grapple with, still, as a society.There is so much darkness in our world, much of it stemming from a fear that grows in the absence of comprehension and appreciation for those we learn to see as ‘other.’
Yet there is so much potential beauty in this world too – a beauty that grows out of shared experiences. I believe that there is incredible potential in a generation of children who grow up nourished by stories of diversity, influenced by examples of compassion, and encouraged to empathize and act… so much potential in the world that they will shape.
I want to learn more about the social and cognitive effects multilingual children’s books and films have on our early development – the role they play in shaping our worldviews, in shaping the type of people we later become. What role does “children’s literature” play in the adult world?
I also illustrated my statement of purpose for Grad School, which was a pretty fun experience, as fun as writing statements of purposes can be, anyway.
So, I believe that brings me to your last question:
Q: Are we still doing art? A: Yes.
Yes we certainly are.
Linda, at age 27.
(A drawing project borne out of #$@&%*!?!)
January 22, 2017
I wasn’t sure where to place this section, and I suppose placing this at the end of this letter stems from my un-confrontational nature. But here goes: this past year has been a time of great change and upheaval, both on the personal, national, and international front (or perhaps things have always been this way, but we are talking about it more now).
I feel helpless and frustrated: looking at a breakdown in communication, automatic distrust, violence, and fear that seems to surround us.
My boyfriend and I recently started watching this show, Braindead. It’s fairly ridiculous, gross, funny… and thought provoking as good satire always is. The show’s premise is this: brain-eating alien bugs have infiltrated Capitol Hill and are gnawing away at the brains of politicians and regular folk alike. The result is extreme bipartisanship, a violent split between “one-wayers” and “no-wayers”. All this, of course, is part of a dastardly alien plan: keep the humans fighting themselves, so they can’t defend themselves from what is coming – hahaha… wait.
Looking back at myself, I guess I’d call myself an "in-betweener". On bad days, this means someone who is confused about her identity, unable to choose between paths, uncertain about who to believe and what to support. On good days, this means that I hold multiple identities and see through multiple eyes; that in thinking about 'what path to choose', I also think about how to 'weave different paths into one'. That questioning my own assumptions is not the antithesis to believing and defending my beliefs. That persuasion can only happen if I am also open to being persuaded.
So yes. I feel frustrated and helpless. But I am also heartened by the people who surround me, who are seeking to do better, be better. Learn to put words into actions, and stitch individual actions into movements.
I’m not sure what the form of this next project will be
But I think I’ll call it
Something to help me delve into
issues that divide
us into a hated “them” or infallible “us
It’ll contain cartoons
Which could be stupid, or could be cool…
Perhaps a little bit of both
So. Now that I’ve told you
The next step is to do it.
Until then, please read one of the best pieces of writing that I’ve read on this topic this year (written by my friend Laura Casteel). Link below!