Just Throw Everything Away: A Compendium of Tips for Moving Successfully (Part One)

+Note: By “tips” I mean “my personal actions,” and by “successfully” I mean “without dying.” (Some people may think, “That’s not particularly noteworthy,” and to that I ask, “Oh, really? Since when is not dying even one time in my entire life so far not a big deal?”)


Every year, one of my New Year’s resolutions is don’t hit people, and every year, without fail, I regret putting it on my list. It’s a stretch goal, but I aim for difficult targets because I’m brave. And also because not bringing a shitload of shame to my family is important to me. I want to honor the only stable life I have ever known.

I didn’t grow up with stability in my childhood home, and it eluded me still after becoming a mother, but in this life I now share with Harv, it’s become a familiar and welcome presence. When stability was only a vague concept, I thought it meant being rooted in one place, both physically and psychically.

I’ve learned that home is wherever your people are and that being a stable person isn’t about remaining unchanged. It’s more about not allowing temporary but intense emotions and thoughts to dictate actions; or seeking the destruction of yourself, others, and property as a release; and learning to carry the extra weight of grief or sadness or disappointment without letting it define you. Basically, psychic stability is about not losing your motherfucking shit.

Since marrying Harv eight years ago, I’ve moved across the country twice (Los Angeles to Miami, then back to Los Angeles) and halfway across the country once (Los Angeles to Austin). Although I have not been rooted in one place physically, I am always at home because of Harv and Cal. I am with my people.

So, greetings from Texas. My fam and I moved to Austin in July. My maxim for this transition has been (and still is):

If you’re lost in the woods, burn it down.


Packing is one of my only skills. I know I’ve said “one of my only skills” about eight or nine times in the past. Humility aside, eight and nine are very high numbers so, yes, I’m a person of many talents, but I still like to be chill about it.

Two months before our move date, I spent a week buying packing supplies- hundreds of boxes, cartons of tape, professional-grade tape dispensers, foam peanuts, bubble wrap, color-coded stickers, stacks of packing paper, and ten rolls of Necco wafers. It’s my candy of choice when I’m doing hard labor.

As the mountain of packing materials grew, Harv campaigned for professional packers. Each time he suggested it, I reminded him that sorting and packing were my passion. He never said, “Yes, yes, you’re right. Of course you should do it all.” Instead, he gave me a lot of hard stares and said some bullshit about our previous moves and how I always ended up on the floor begging Jesus to please take me because I’m fucking done with this fucking shit.

I didn’t bother explaining that this time, things would be different. I knew he would be sorry when he saw my fastidious progress- the rows of neatly labeled boxes in each room, separated by size and weight, special notations for “fragile” and “unpack me first!”

At first, I mindfully sorted what would stay behind and what would make the move with us to Austin. After a week, every time I tried to tackle an area, I became mentally and physically exhausted, pain clamping my jaw shut and radiating through my arms.

Fifteen days before the move, I woke up still feeling unmotivated and lazy, but I forced myself out of bed to go to the gym. That simple act filled me with pride as I gloated about my newfound agility and strength since exercising on the reg.

In the midst of those congratulatory thoughts, I fell down the stairs. Luckily, the cup of water I was holding hit my face as I tumbled forward, so I felt awake and refreshed as I lay on the floor. My vision wavered and I felt dizzy as Cal helped me up. By the next day, I figured out that I could prevent the whirling sensation by keeping my head straight. As long as I didn’t turn left, turn right, look up, look down, or tilt my head even the slightest, I felt totally normal.

The vertigo proved burdensome because I still had a lot of packing to do. And by “a lot,” I mean that I hadn’t really started. Oftentimes, I got so dizzy that I would have to sit down or lean against a wall until the world stopped spinning. Then, one second later (like, literally, one second after I got my vision in check), I turned to mull over an item and swooned all over again.

When the movers arrived, I still hadn’t finished, so I continued packing as a team of men carted away boxes. When the moving van pulled away, I was standing in the midst of yet-to-be-packed items. Shit I wanted. Shit I should have tucked away first but left out instead because, idk, it made sense at the time. They were too big or heavy to take onto the plane or leave with my brother.

I sat on the kitchen island trying to sort out my next steps. I felt boxed in, lost in all of the material baggage I had accumulated to fill the empty spaces in my heart.

If you’re lost in the woods, burn it down. 

Instead of looking for ways to save everything, I left all of it behind. I set up another donation pick-up, and bagged up the items that were only valuable to me but to no one else for the garbage pile.

What I learned: Decluttering an entire life and home requires more than a handful of days. Because it’s not just a physical clearing. No matter how much I wanted it to be anything but, the process was a double-edged emotional purge. Freedom and loss. That loss brought grief, but I try not to stay mired in desire for what no longer remains in my life.

Also, next time, I’m for sure gonna hire some goddamn professional packers.


I did not tell my mother we were moving away. Before heading to the airport, Harv snapped one last picture, but I waited to post this picture and a moving announcement until the three of us were at the airport, through security, and waiting at our gate.

My life was wholly comprised of secrets until I became a mother and a wife. I made a commitment never to live on the periphery of truth again, but I slipped back into those shadows when we decided to move. I didn’t share the news for months because I didn’t want anyone to notify my mother. I didn’t want her coming over to confront me or nag me or blame me or accuse me or tell me that this decision was wrong and stupid. I physically left the city and my childhood family behind. I removed them from my life.

I still have a handful of objects in my possession from back in the day. The entire lot fits inside one large plastic storage tub. They are my tangible connections to milestone moments. I rifle through the container once a year, and it’s a rush to see incarnations of past lives literally unfolding in my hands. Everything is a thrill except for one dress. Sometimes, I debate the merits of donating it. My mother purchased the loose-fitting gray dress for me so I would look presentable when I visited an adoption agency because she insisted that keeping Cal was not an option. I kept the baby. And I kept the dress.

The rest of my pre-marriage life is still locked away in my mother’s garage. After months of see-sawing, I voted against going for my belongings or sending anyone to retrieve them. That decision made it possible for me to admit that getting older hasn’t made hard truths any softer. I still wish for things that will never come. I wish my childhood family could have been my forever family. But I have Harv and Cal and a new beginning here in Austin.

What I learned: Stumbling through the thicket of longing is wasted time I will never get back. Sometimes, the life we wanted in the beginning, our Plan A, remains shrouded because it wasn’t meant for us. If you’re lost in the woods, burn it down. Then head towards Plan B.


In April, I flew to Austin to be a part of the Listen to Your Mother show. Austinites sure know how to be supportive because more than 400 people came out. It was one of the highlights of my year. I was just hoping to make new friends in my soon-to-be home city, but I got so much more than I anticipated. I read a piece I wrote for Cal’s birthday: Look at the Stars. Look How They Shine for You. (click the link for the official video of the reading)


After I immigrated to the U.S., learning English didn’t interest me at first, but thanks to my elementary school’s participation in Book It!, Pizza Hut’s reading incentive program, I can read dozens of words good now, because, I mean…what kind of person turns down a free one-topping personal pan pizza?

I still read every day. Most of it isn’t memorable, but occasionally, I’m floored by what I find. So going forward, whenever I stumble upon brilliant writing or not-that-brilliant-but-fascinating-AF writing, I will share it with you.

The Lonely Death of George Bell (New York Times)
Please read this if you are a recluse so it can inspire you to break free from your antisocial confines. Also, please read this if you are loved by many as a reminder to keep it cool with those people, especially if you are old and/or frail. (Heads up: Longer read. Worth it.)

The Baffling, Gruesome Plague That Is Causing Sea Stars to Tear Themselves to Pieces (Vice)
I have no idea what compelled me to click on this piece because I cared zero about sea stars, but damn, I’m tenderhearted for those little homies now. Please read this if you are going through rough times. You think you have problems, but is one of your arms trying to tear the other arm off? 

Zola’s Twitter Tale: Strippers, Hooters, Florida, and Murder (Complex)
I had to listen to some Enya and close my eyes for a few minutes when I got to the end. This story is lit. LIT.


When it’s quiet here on the blog, stay close through the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and on Instagram (@flourishinprogress). I don’t give a fuck about Twitter, but I roll through sometimes (@ElizabethJLiu).

P.P.P.P.S…..Just kidding. Please calm down.

[top image: Harland Miller]

Don’t Play Games with a Girl Who Can Play Better (Notes on Ugly Men and Relationshits)

Harv and I take turns picking Date Night restaurants. His choices are always varied and adventurous, a reflection of his refined palate. My two major takeaways from Harv’s fine dining selections: 1. An amuse-bouche is a one-bite appetizer the chef sends out before your meal, and it’s not okay to ask for extras “in a doggy bag for later” because you will get MAD side-eye. 2. If your server and/or husband offers only a vague description about a menu item, lift your hand into the air while consulting your phone. That’s the white collar sign for “Hold up. Let me Google this motherfucker real quick.” I’m not going to tell you what to order, but sweetbreads are not croissant-like pastries.

Last Friday, it was my turn to plan Date Night. I picked Hot Dog on a Stick. Not only were we able to enjoy dinner without the assistance of any utensils, but I also found a new dress while walking from the mall food court to the parking garage. I stepped out of the dressing room to show Harv, and he gave me a small nod. “You look beautiful,” he said.

It’s still hard for me to accept his compliments. And it’s even harder for me to believe that I ended up with someone so unlike any other man I’d dated. His differences made me wary of him at first. We tend to pick the same type of companion over and over again, not because that type suits us, but because bad and familiar can be more comfortable than good and unfamiliar.

Unlike most men I’ve dated, Harv has never been arrested, evaded arrest, incarcerated, on probation, on parole, or in rehab. He has never been addicted to drugs or alcohol. He has never sold drugs or stolen car parts. He has never killed or maimed. He doesn’t have a GED. Instead, he graduated as valedictorian of his high school and has two Ivy League degrees. He did not have a minimum-wage job, live with his parents, or share a mode of transportation with anyone when we started dating. He has never hit me, called me names, belittled me, embarrassed me, shamed me, or ridiculed me. He has never made me feel like an object or a whore. He does not swear. He believes in God. Most importantly, he never throws away craft store mailers because he understands that the only thing better than metallic embossing powder is metallic embossing powder purchased at a 40% discount.

Harv is a handsome motherfucker. That’s new for me too. I favored ugly men back in the day because I thought that they would treat me better. I stayed away from the pretty boys not only because I thought they would be womanizers and generally untrustworthy, but because I felt too self-conscious and unworthy for a handsome man’s affection. The ugly men suited me- they mirrored what I felt about myself, about my self-worth.

What I eventually learned is that ugly, stupid, poor, uneducated men are just as susceptible to bad behavior as the handsome, smart, successful, and educated. Actually, they may even treat a girl worse because they themselves deal with enormous waves of insecurity and doubt, and they project this negativity onto their partner, reining them in tighter and obsessing harder.

When things became sour and violent and bitter, these men would invariably blame me. I didn’t question their accusations. I asked for forgiveness and another chance.

On the first date with the last man I dated before reconnecting with and marrying Harv, I ended up at a bar. When I headed for the restroom, a male waiter followed me in, locking the door behind both of us. Before I had a chance to react, he reassured me that he meant no harm. In a hurried mix of English and Korean, he warned me, “I’ve never seen you here before. That man with you is not good. You seem like a nice girl. Only be a friend, not a girlfriend.” He left before I could respond.

I wish I had listened to this stranger.

When the abuse started, I was too afraid to fight back. What I find most fascinating about abuse is that eventually I became numb. It didn’t hurt as much. I cried less. I zoned out. Sometimes, I mentally reorganized the contents of my refrigerator during his attacks. I thought about my favorite rides at Disneyland. I weaved my way through It’s a Small World. I spun around in circles on the teacups. I stayed quiet. I let him do his thing.

And then one day, I opened up Myspace and saw a message from Harv. I hadn’t seen or talked to him for over twelve years since we had met as teens at a sleepaway debate camp in Oklahoma, but he found me. His note was brief and friendly. It broke me.

I suddenly became enraged, not only with the boyfriend who was treating me like shit, but with all of the ugly men before him, ugly both inside and out. My rage trumped my fear, and in ways I can’t yet talk about, I slowly extricated myself from that relationshit. I learned something about myself: I don’t like losing to losers. And I learned something about life: Don’t start a war you can’t win. Because I will find a way to fuck you up.

After I married Harv, I went back to this bar, hoping to find the waiter. I wanted to thank him. He didn’t know who I was or how I was connected to the man I was with, but to him, it was worth the risk to warn me. I didn’t get a chance. The bar had shut down.

Good man, I think about you often. I hope the kindness you showed a stranger is returned to you tenfold.

Ex-boyfriend, I hope you’ve learned not to play games with a girl who can play better. (I wish I could be there the moment you realize the truth about yourself. I’m sorry that you’re such a failure and that I actually have everything you only pretended to have.)

And Harv, when sadness was the sea, you were the one who taught me to swim.

P.S. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a picture of Harv on Instagram (@flourishinprogress) with  a line from I Wrote This for You: “When sadness was the sea, you were the one who taught me to swim.” The talented Kal Barteski created this amazing original work (above image) on luxe watercolor paper. She’s got some serious baller status skills.

P.P.S. Holler at me: Flourish in Progress on Facebook and on Instagram (@flourishinprogress).