It’s been a few years now since I stopped being excited about my birthday.

Every year, the weight of my disappointment in myself grows heavier; all of my numerous, unrealized goals come rushing painfully back at me. Responsibilities grow, conflicts become more convoluted, and meanwhile it gets harder and harder to stay true to my own sense of self.

Maybe that’s just growing up?

But maybe it’s a sign of personal growth that this year, I tried hard not to be moody and taciturn around my birthday. I know that the people who send their greetings or think to get me gifts do it because they care. So, I try to be kind to myself on my birthday and grateful for the love others have shown me.

I made a rare trip to Koreatown in Santa Clara to visit a bookstore that I haven’t been to in years, since my language partner moved away. If you’re in the South Bay, 서울 문고 종교 서관 has a limited quantity of new releases, all-time bestsellers, and Korean books on religion. But the real gem is the used books collection. I spent an unreasonable amount of time combing through the shelves until deciding on a couple birthday presents for myself.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Yes, that book on the left is a history book for elementary school kids about 사서 (四書), or the Four Books of Confucianism. Since Joseon-era scholarly study was almost entirely rooted in Confucian teachings, I learned some relevant Korean words on the topic while reading 성균관 유생들의 나날. I figured I might as well pick up this book to learn a bit more.


I haven’t really looked through the book, but I can say that while the writing is quite simple, and I’m surprised by just how much detail is packed in a book for elementary school children. There’s a separate section for each of the four books (논어, 맹자, 대학, 중용) and places where they break down Hanja.

The second book is a collection of essays by bestselling author 공지영. I don’t know if  I can say I’m a fan of her work (too damn depressing), but I do admire her writing. I’ve been doing a lot of writing in Korean and I’m trying to improve not just my sentence structure and vocabulary, but overall composition; I figured I should get in the habit of reading good, creative nonfiction as a first step.


(This book’s table of contents is so weirdly cute.)

After books, I stopped for coffee and deliciousness at Cocohodo. Cocohodo is famous for pretty much one thing: 호두과자, or Korean walnut pastries.

Processed with VSCO with a4 preset

호두과자 is a walnut-shaped pastry, with a bready outer shell made of dough containing pounded walnuts, and filled inside with red bean paste and walnut chunks. In its entirety, it tastes like I’m eating a soft, sweetened walnut… which was confusing for my brain because a walnut-shaped pastry, made of walnut dough, filled with walnut chunks, which tastes like a walnut but that isn’t a walnut….! Heh. Anyway, it was my first time trying it and it was quite incredible with black coffee.

This post is late. I’ve been 28 for a few days now. It’s still hard to shake the feeling that it’s not just this post, or this blog, but that I’m late at everything I set out to do. But I know that’s not true. I know I’ve accomplished a lot in the past year, both related to Korean and not. I know I’ve achieved things I never even had a goal post for in the first place. So I’ll continue to tell myself, at least until the birthday-ish feeling wears off, that there’s really no reason to be so melancholy.


  1. Aiya Kadi says:

    I can’t believe there is a Walnut shop in the U.S! I’ve been wanting to try walnut pastries ever since I watched weightlifting Fairy Kim Bokju

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Archana says:

      Oooh. I’d never heard of them before but they’re so good! They have a few locations in the U.S.


  2. Happy birthday! It’s a good idea to read creative nonfiction. I should do the same to improve my Japanese writing skills xD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Archana says:

      Thanks so much! It’s hard to pull myself away from fiction though haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Shanna says:

    You articulated exactly how I felt. Especially the second paragraph. I was going to write a birthday-reflection post too, but ended up deleting the half written draft. Maybe it’s time to go back to it again after reading your post (;

    Birthdays also really made me realise how small my social circle is :P

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Archana says:

      Hugs. You should! It took me a long time to write this. I know everyone’s like, age is just a number blah blah but every birthday is just another opportunity to ask myself “you’re one year older, what exactly you accomplished in the past 365 days?” It’s hard to be kind to myself in the face of that self-scrutiny. Sighhhh.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. says:

    I get you on the feeling about being late for everything you do or start. I’ve always felt like I was behind others in the game of life. When I think like this I sometimes think about this passage from The Alchemist “The hills of Andalucia were only two hours away, but there was an entire desert between him and the Pyramids. Yet the boy felt there was another way to regard his situation: he was actually two hours closer to his treasure….the fact that two hours had stretched to an entire year didnt matter.” More simply something I heard from a Korean M&M’s ad, 인생은 속도가 아니라 방향이래 (although 속력 is technically more accurate lol).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Archana says:

      That’s a beautiful passage, thanks for sharing! Hahahaha, you’re right 속력 makes more sense than 속도 (*flashback to high school physics class and learning about vectors and scalars*).


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s