TAF Real World – Week #37 of 51

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose!

This is the pre-game chant Coach Taylor uses to fire up his football team on the TV show Friday Night Lights. I am a huge fan of this show, which began airing its final season on NBC last Friday (watch the season opener here on Hulu!). I’ve already had the luxury of watching the final season on DirectTV, so I’m turning my tafBlog post into my FNL farewell homage.

To those who don’t know, FNL is not about football, but rather, it’s about the universal themes of everyday life, told through the lens of the local high school team. The players and coaches are the center of the small West Texas town’s interest, and the fans live and die with each pass and tackle made by their boys. And through this game of football every Friday night, they create an incredibly strong sense of community. But not everything is perfect for the players of course. Aside from carrying the hopes of a whole town, there are relationships, family issues, recruiters and boosters, and racial and class differences that everyone has to deal with (which from an audience perspective, makes it an incredibly rich viewing experience). But through it all, Coach Taylor guides these young men.

His lessons aren’t out of the ordinary, work hard, give everything 110%, care about your teammates, etc. But one moment in the FNL pilot shows us another side to Coach Taylor. He says,

We are all vulnerable, and we will all, at some point in our lives fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts that what we have is special. That it can be taken from us, and when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls…it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves.

Whether we’re star football players or the audience watching at home, we are not invincible. And when trials come, and they will, we can and need to count on those around us, our teammates, our friends, our family, to lift us up, and to use the adversity to look deep within and challenge ourselves to come out the other side a better person. This lesson resonates throughout the show. Characters will grow and change, but they’ll always grow or change for something better, and they will do it with the support of loved ones. It’s a simple lesson, but because it is so well told, the message is perhaps clearer. And maybe this is what the show means with its signature chant. Clear eyes (knowing yourself) and full hearts (surrounded by loved ones) simply cannot lose in life.

Storytelling like this and the lessons it can impart are what drew me into my current career in film production. Through my work, I hope to have a helping hand in creating meaningful media, and thus, how I hope to Love Out Loud. I’ve had the good fortune to work on Formosa Betrayed and the Write in Taiwanese Census PSA among other things so far in my career. Perhaps I’ll start developing a show about the lives of teens at a summer camp in Indiana and the incredible bonds they form once they leave…

But regardless, Slideshow this year is gonna be epiicccccccc!

– Jon Lee

TAF Real World – Week #8 of 51

Wowee! It’s already WEEK 8 (only 44 WEEKS ’til TAF)! Thanks, Kevin Lee, for sharing your inspiring personal thoughts and applications on LOVING OUT LOUD:

LOL. Love Out Loud.


It’s really hard for me to define love, to put it in words, but I think love –and this isn’t an exclusive rule—is, at a very fundamental level, founded upon memory. We know we love someone or something when we think about the good things that happened to us in our past. I know I love her because I’m just so happy and relaxed when I see her smile, or how everything around me just disappears when I look into her eyes. You know just how safe and warm it feel when you’re in one of his hugs, and that nothing else matters when he talks. The smell of mother’s cooking, the laughter when your best friend cracks a joke, the games you play with your brother. You know love because you remember what it feels to love and be loved.

For example; I remember the exact moment when I realized that TAF was like a second home, that I truly loved TAF. It was the Tuesday night of TAF’09; my first year as a TAFer, and my first year as a counselor. The PD’s had decided to show Minority Report because it addressed issues regarding Ethics and Values, and it just so happened that my co-counselor, Jessica Shen, and I had watched the movie before and knew it pretty well without having to re-watch it. Instead, we both decided it was a good time to write our campers’ their daily letters.

Now Minority Report is not your typical happy, cheerful Disney movie; it has some pretty freaky moments and it just so happened that the movie time coincided with a pretty brutal thunderstorm. The combination of Tom Cruise and the crack of thunder was scary enough to send six of the JH girls out to the Upper Union balcony with Jessica and me. We busted open the biggest bag of Skittles and the eight of us just hung out, messed around, and wrote. Now I love writing; I try to write every day, but to this day; those letters were by far the most fun I’ve ever had writing. Someway, somehow, Jessica and I decided that it was a good idea to co-write the letters together, I would write two, three lines, pass it on to her for her to read, she would write and then pass it back to me. We kept poking fun at each other, making fun of the campers and ourselves, we connected not only ourselves, but with Kevin, Willy, Tiffany, Ellery, Dorothy, Ada and Reggie.

To be honest, it’s a pretty plain moment; and there’s only one reason I why I truly remember it so vividly, but today I can confidently say that Jessica Shen is one of my closest friends; I can trust her with anything and everything, and I turn to her whenever I need to and she’s always there. If she hasn’t heard from me in a span of 30 days, she should fear for the worst. I truly love Jessica, and I will always remember that one small moment we had together.

But my most vivid memory occurred when I was seven years old. It was autumn and my brother and I were talking in this play room/study adjacent to our living room. The living room doesn’t have a door that closes on the study, instead it’s just an open arch and in that study, we have ceiling to floor sliding doors that lead out to the backyard, which had this big Oak tree filled with yellow leaves. The wind was really strong that day, so it blew a sea of yellow over the entire backyard; our pool was blanketed with yellow and the sky behind everything was covered; it was really, really beautiful.

My brother and I started talking, and apparently our mother – she was watching TV in the living room – overheard and decided to turn off the TV. That’s all I really remember because from then on, I just started watching the leaves, and instead of listening to her, I listened to the whispers of the wind through the leaves. I didn’t need to listen to her, because deep down I had already known that my father had been gone for 3 years. Telling a four and three year old that their father had passed is pretty hard for a lot of reasons; but telling a seven and six year old isn’t much easier.

Honestly, I don’t remember too much about my father. I remember playing with him and my brother on these stairways right at the lobby of this restaurant in Asia, and sitting next to him on Autopia; but that’s it. I don’t even know if I could point him out in a group of 20 people; and if I did, it certainly would take longer than the average son. It doesn’t matter though, because I remember, and I will always love him.

I’ll close with this: I think TAFers are amazing. We have the strength and heart to do so much, and we’re so dedicated to everything we love, but I sometimes think we forget to show our love to our parents, and they sometimes forget to reciprocate. A lot of it happens to deal with memory; there are so many memories we have with our parents and kids that we never take to reflect just how special they are until it’s too late. I know TAF is ending when parents come, because that’s when I begin to see the struggles. The struggles in communication, the hardship on balancing cultural differences, and pain of false futility in parents and their children… but I also see the love, the heart, the caring that’s hidden, squealing quietly behind the lion’s roar of love that was shown that week.

To be fair, I’ve never said “I love you” to either of my parents neither, to my mother who’s done such a good job raising me and my brother by herself the last 16 years of my life, to my father before I could put love to words. I haven’t until today. I love my parents and I would be nowhere without them.

After this week, there’s only 40 or so weeks left before TAF, and it’s also just another week in the year; it’s not Father’s Day, it’s not Mother’s Day. It’s just another day; which is why it’s perfect to just go out and hug your parents, to tell them that you love them, to spend time with them. It’s perfect because it’s just another memory, and hopefully it’s one you’ll never forget it.

We want to hear/see/read/experience your thoughts on LOVING OUT LOUD! Whether it’s how you showed love to someone, or how someone loved on you, or maybe even both!

Sign up to post here!

TAF Real World – Week #4 of 51

It’s story time with Liz for WEEK 4 (or 48 WEEKS ’til TAF!)

Put on your PJs and bring your teddy bear…

We want to hear/see/read/experience your thoughts on LOVING OUT LOUD! Whether it’s how you showed love to someone, or how someone loved on you, or maybe even both!

We need a few more volunteers to post, so please LOL and sign up here!

Encourage your friends to sign up. Feel free to buddy up and post together.

Instructions are listed on the spreadsheet.

TAF Real World – Week #3 of 51

Sherry dances with love during WEEK 3 (or 49 WEEKS ’til TAF):

Honk! I Will Dance.

Hey TAF!

This is Sherry Lin here (a JR counselor this past year at TAF for those that don’t know me). For this week’s Love Out Loud post, I wanted do something to put smiles on people’s faces after a long day of classes or work by dancing in the streets of Chicago! I got the idea from Jaeson Ma’s “365 Days of Love” Project. I thought this would be a great way to make people smile. So, I grabbed a bunch of my friends (some Tafers, some not) to do this with me. Hope you enjoy the video (edited by Andrew Lo, thanks!) and keep spreading the looooove!

Untitled from Andrew Lo on Vimeo.

Location: intersection of State and Wacker, Chicago.
Special thanks to Andrew Lo, Bettina Chang, Kevin Chen, Jireh Pua, Elaine Pua, Eshan Pua, David Chang, Peter Tan, Shirley Yang, Vivian Moy, Vanessa Moy
We want to hear/see/read/experience your thoughts on LOVING OUT LOUD! Whether it’s how you showed love to someone, or how someone loved on you, or maybe even both! If you didn’t sign up for a week for the TAF Blog to post your entry during TAF2010, please sign up here!

Instructions are listed on the spreadsheet.

TAF Real World – Week #2 of 51

We want to hear/see/read/experience your thoughts on LOVING OUT LOUD, how you showed love to someone, or how someone loved on you.
If you didn’t sign up for a week at TAF2010, please sign up here!
Instructions are listed on the spreadsheet.

Jeff blogs on WEEK 2 (or 50 WEEKS ’til TAF):

TAF 2010. Two weeks ago, I was still very much the awkward, shy, and skinny kid who entered Helman three years back. I still hated looking silly or vulnerable and I was still terribly scared of large groups of people. Two weeks ago, I was a JH counselor. Counselor. Facilitator. Initiator. Come on. None of these are appropriate descriptors for me, and that week, unfortunately, I let that same negative sentiment linger in my head.

I could not communicate at all at TAF. Sometimes during staff meetings I found it so hard to verbalize what I wanted to say that I ended up just keeping quiet. Sometimes as we sat down as a small group to discuss and share, I gazed around blankly at the attentive faces waiting for me to initiate dialogue, and I honestly had no idea what to say. Perhaps it was a result of the lack of sleep, mental unpreparedness, or some kind of psychological disease/phenomena, but I now know that for the most part, the reason I couldn’t adequately communicate that week was because I feared judgment. I was afraid of looking stupid and of somehow tarnishing the image I wanted to project of myself. I was scared to death of disapproval and rejection. Despite this, I knew- knew in my head- that regardless, there were people like the JH staff who would understand, support, and encourage— if only I told them. I faltered, even there, and looking back, I wish that I had shared my problem with someone. At the time, though, thoughts about the apparent silliness of the problem discouraged me from talking about it, so I kept silent.

On Monday, there was a girl who came to yoyos workshop looking bored. Knowing that there were no more yoyos left to use, I sat down. “What’s up? Are you here to learn yoyo? Have you
done yoyo before?” Her eyes looked up, made a quick mental calculation, and she shook her head. Inside my head, I kicked myself– Oh, God, here we go again. What a buffoon I am. I
look like I’m feeling sorry for her. Way to be a condescending counselor. Tactical fail. I tried again
—“Going to be in eighth grade next year? Are you ready?” What a generic question. What
if she’s not? What’ll I ask next?
She looked up again, shook her head, and spoke—“Can I go to the folk dance workshop?” I was flabbergasted. Open-mouthed, I consented in a voice that
sounded very far away, leaving me stupidly sitting and twiddling a pair of yoyo sticks I had been trying to fix.

All week long at TAF I let little things bother me. It irked me that I’d lost one of the campers so early on. It irked me that I couldn’t be as witty as I’d liked to be. It irked me that I couldn’t contribute meaningfully to staff meetings. It irked me also that I hadn’t brought enough shirts for the ~8 days at TAF. All around in my head, irksome thoughts bounced, slowly battering away at the confidence that remained. The less confident I was, the less able I was to communicate. Sometimes I couldn’t stand it. I would retreat away from everything and preoccupy myself with wild questions of why I couldn’t simply speak.

On Wednesday night I met up with one of the campers. It wasn’t even a conversation I’d headed
deliberately into. I was caught completely unprepared, initially swamped with thoughts about
how small group had gone and about how to do laundry at TAF. I didn’t expect the campers
in JH to have yet experienced life crises or anything like that; after all, this was JH– fun and
games JH. JH we feel good, oh we feel so good JH. That perspective was instantly shattered as
I listened to the camper talk about family problems, about moving, and about being new and
unaccepted. About only being able to disclose thoughts onto pad and paper and about depressive
thoughts of rejection and of not having anybody to confide in for support and encouragement.

Somehow, right then, my heart broke for this camper and for JH. The problems people as young as JH’ers experience are real, life-size, and life-changing. TAF is not just a weeklong fun and games camp– it’s also a sanctuary for healing and affirmation. To some degree, everyone has a need for both of those.

When the camper finished talking, I was dazed. I didn’t know what to say. I floundered for words and babbled something about life and unfairness, but the camper stopped me. “Jeff. I know you’re trying somehow to comfort or advise me, but let me tell you—it’s okay. As long as you’re here to even listen to me talk about my problems, it’s enough. ‘Cause no one else will.” The words slowly permeated into my head like the endless swirls in the table I was peering into.

I nodded slowly, not because I was excusing my own inadequacies as a friend, but because then I understood: it doesn’t matter how quick-witted, insightful, or articulate you are as a communicator— what really matters is the heart that fills the communicative vessel. Is it filled with love and genuine care? Does it care enough to set aside personal wants and standards to meet the needs of others? Does it care enough to stop loving itself so to love others?

Because when it does, wonderful, amazing things happen.
That week, I learned once again how to love.

TAF Real World – Week #1 of 51

Oh hey! Did you know that the TAF Vision is for TAFers to “to make a profound impact on mankind in unique and compassionate ways”?

We at TAFLabs want to know how YOU are making an impact this year in your life beyond Manchester. Our goal is for TAFers to post on the blog at least once per week. We want to hear/see/read/experience your thoughts on LOVING OUT LOUD, how you showed love to someone, or how someone loved on you.

If you didn’t sign up for a week at TAF, please sign up here: Sign up!
Instructions are listed on the spreadsheet.

Here is Andrew kickin’ it off with WEEK 1 (or 51 WEEKS ’til TAF):