Excerpts from my journal; Spring 2017


Today is the kind of day that makes me thrilled. It’s the kind of feeling that Korea translates as heart-fluttering. Sure, the sky is overcast and a thick grey that puts me in mind of fog porridge, and the temperature dipped down twelve degrees, but apart from all that, today is a wonderful day.

We’ve been very busy lately, to put it mildly, and I haven’t had space in my head to breathe. Everything was pressing down, my pace was quickened, just enough to keep everything taught. Now I can relax, take a step back, and let it out for a bit.

I’m eating better, drawing again, writing more, going out with friends, and feel more inspired. My life is going well, and I realize how the bad things that happen are so transient and don’t last. Stuff doesn’t last. Yeah, I’m happy now.

That could also be because I saw cherry blossoms about to burst today. Hmm, maybe.


Plant our own mound. Start a little molehill and turn it into a mountain. Mmkay.

Of course all my characters are me. I’m still trying to figure myself out. So I keep inserting my mini-me into different situations and seeing what I’ll do. Maybe one day I’ll make sense of me.


Listen, little soft girl. I am not “was just like you as a kid.” I am just like you. I am soft and unsure and wide eyed scared of everything. Only I seem larger than life and bright and confident, leading you here. But it is armor I have crafted, and not even that well. At night it shatters so I have to remake it before morning. Sometimes the light shows through. My light. But that light means the darkness can get in. Anyway what you think of as admirable is only my shoddy imitation of other bright people I have seen. I am like you. I am not like me.

I feel like way too many people idolize kids. I mean, I’ve taught kids. Kids aren’t magical and sweet and wide eyed, breathless with innocence. Kids pick their noses and make fart jokes and think calling the rash on a kid’s hand a brain is clever. Kids are just little drunk people with terrible jokes. 


Excerpts from my journal; 2016


Zoom in and smoke is seeping between the windows and the wall. Someone is burning rubbish behind their house and it tickles our noses and turns my teaching voice raspy. It’s spring, a fit time to burn, since the smoke couldn’t possibly be worse than the drifts of pollution, yellow dust, from China. A sign of the change in me; I now have an app to tell me pollution levels, and check it obsessively. Will breathing kill me today?


I have decided to be like Ernest Hemingway, and write clear and hard about what hurts. Right now, my lower back hurts from doing the dishes. I had to do the dishes because in Korea dishwashers are only for the rich, and people wear rubber gloves because they have to do the dishes and don’t want to mess up their hands. So two more things that have changed since I came to Korea. I have started wearing rubber gloves when I wash dishes, and I care about what my hands look like.

Today I also had to scrub up some mold that had grown on the bottom of my utensil jar and had crept to the cutting board behind it. I wonder if the mold on the cutting board made me sick. I’m sick now, by the way. First time in a long time, and it’s the season. It’s also PTA week this week. I shall tell parents their children are progressing nicely through a clogged nose. That will add to my emotional appeal, if not my rational one.

I talked to two people today. I talked to the cashier at the bakery where I bought my dinner. I didn’t want to make tuna spaghetti, and that’s all I had, so I had to go out. The other person was my brother. I was supposed to play video games with him today but I got sick and had no energy. So I laid on my bed while he made pan-fried fish in America at 1am. We talked about getting old. We talked about life being boring. We talked about what we wanted for the future.

My lower back still hurts. Is that clear?

October 31

Happy Halloween! I work at a Christian school and wore ears for Halloween, and when the students asked me about it and I told them, one child told me that God hates Halloween. Okay, thank you, please let me wear my ears. Always a hard decision to make on how to address that.

Anyway, had my first D&D last night! It was amazing!!

Hello, I’m an INFJ/HSP: Discovery Series

“INFJs are distinguished by both their complexity of character and the unusual range and depth of their talents. Strongly humanitarian in outlook, INFJs tend to be idealists, and because of their J preference for closure and completion, they are generally “doers” as well as dreamers. This rare combination of vision and practicality often results in INFJs taking a disproportionate amount of responsibility in the various causes to which so many of them seem to be drawn.

“INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts…”

Human Metrics*


“Sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), a personality trait, a high measure of which defines a highly sensitive person (HSP), has been described as having hypersensitivity to external stimuli, a greater depth of cognitive processing, and high emotional reactivity.”


Hi, everyone. My name is Audra and I’m an INFJ/HSP.

I found out I was an INFJ about 5 or 6 years ago, and I can remember the exact moment I read Elaine Aron and discovered I was also an HSP, about 3 years ago.

My inner life changed in hugely dramatic ways both those times, and it has continued to shape the way I live and the way I write, and even more, the way I feel about writing.

Living as an INFJ/HSP, which I will call “empath” for ease, is not easy. I had a total breakdown when I found out I was one. Feelings of intense relief, that I was not crazy, or weak, or nearly as alone as I thought, were coupled with anger that I would have to suffer. Because it felt like the world was designed for those not like me, and I would have to adjust. I had always figured that, but hearing that it wasn’t fixable, shouldn’t be fixed, but was in fact a gift, angered me. Why me? It’s a question I’m sure every empath has asked at some point. Why us? Why are we chosen to feel for the world? Why do we have to go through this intense trip when others seem to have it so much lighter? Why can’t we surf along the waves instead of drowning under the water?

Coming out of the closet as an empath is scary. I’m revealing that I am this squishy marshmallow creature, and that’s scary. Because I still resist. I still like to pretend I am not what I am.

In fact, through high school I tested as INTJ, that cool customer who is so calculating and logical and gets things done ON TIME and EFFICIENTLY. Anything to do with sappy, useless feelings I tossed aside. I insisted I hated pink for years too. And probably fluffy things. And I was clever enough to pick answers I knew would get me the result I wanted. I knew what I wanted to be – the boss.

Perhaps somewhere in my life someone said that being sensitive was bad. I don’t recall. I don’t have any memories of other people telling me to toughen up or get over it. It was only ever me who told me that. In my room, hiding from conflict, I berated what I saw as my enfeebled and childish reactions to every tiny thing. I will be stronger when I am older, I thought. I earnestly believed that my sensitivity was something I would and should outgrow. And when it did not happen, I think some inner panic started that took a few years to let go of. Not until the movement accepting introverts and then, slowly, sensitivity began did I start a soul search to help myself out.

So then I retook the test and was honest for the first time. Or I read about INFJs and couldn’t believe someone had painted a picture of me. Or perhaps I got tired of lying that I didn’t like pink. Whatever the case, I found it out.

I was happy with that identity. Finding out I was an HSP was a bit harder to deal with. When I’m sick or tired or otherwise drained, noises and lights physically hurt. It means I have to be a bit more conscious of myself so I don’t turn into a raging, shut-down emotionless machine as a reaction to too much exposure.

Admitting that I am an empath is tough. So I have to thank Lauren Sapala and this post for helping me do it. Even the phrase in the title, “I thought I was sick or crazy,” let me know I had found one of my tribe. Her story echoes mine in many ways. I feel lucky that I was able to discover the reasons for myself earlier than she did, and in a world already a bit more comfortable with introversion as a whole, but our stories are still frighteningly similar. The physical reactions, the self-doubt, the wondering and hoping if one day adult life would toughen me up into a normal person.

I especially love the part in her post about the definition of empath. One reason I’ve always shied away from that word is its mystic, New Age-y connotations, which is code for “not real and not valid.” Perhaps that’s part of the reason I was so resistant to letting myself be an INFJ and HSP. Too close to ESP, which had no place in my logical, rational, hard-boiled upbringing.

All I want to do today is say I am an empath. There’s a lot to say on the subject later. I want to talk about what it means for me as a writer and what it means for me as an expat.

But for now, my name is Audra, and I’m an empath.


*Here are more sites dedicated to the INFJ personality.



**Wikipedia had the simplest definition, but definitely check out Elaine Aron’s site for more detailed information.

How D&D Saved My Social Life

Dungeons and Dragons saved my social life. Oh dear. That sentence doesn’t seem real. But it’s true.

And chimichangas keep me going.

Here’s why. Being a nerdy introvert means that even though I live abroad in a land of fun and shopping and happenin’ night life (that apostrophe at the ends means it’s super cool), I don’t go out and have fun all that much. Well, I mean, I have fun, but my fun usually involves books or Netflix or staring sadly out the window. No, wait, that’s a 90s music video. Never mind.

As I stated so eloquently in this post, just because you move to another country does not mean you magically become more extroverted. I still don’t want to go out. Even if there are cherry blossoms flying through the air and making mysterious sha-la-la music when I walk.

I mean, I had friends. After the first semester here, I had my friends at school, and one or two outside of that. But most nights after work I was still inside, playing games or reading or writing. It was nice, but I wanted more. I wanted to get out and meet people. Being an INFJ, I love people. I just don’t like very many of them at one time or for too long.

Enter D&D. I have to thank my brother for this. He got into it and started DMing himself, and when he told me about it I decided it sounded like the best thing ever and I had to find a group.

(Quick digress – I grew up in a conservative community, so I remember thinking D&D was either a) for devil-worshippers or, b) for closeted nerds with body odor.)

Thank goodness I cast off those stereotypes, because let me tell you, D&D is one of the best things around, nerd or not. And luckily for the world, it’s becoming more mainstream, which means groups are more prevalent, merch is abounding, and it’s easier to find resources than ever.

If you don’t have a clue what it is, watch Vin Diesel play it here. Or Joe Manganiello here. Or the experts here. Or you probably already know.

I bloomed in that group. I found my thing. My THING. I always say I’m an introverted exhibitionist, because I love making people laugh, and I like to put on a show. I think that comes from my teaching experience. So acting out as a character, though I’m no actor, is a lot of fun. And I have a brilliant memory for rules, not to brag (totally bragging). I’ve also Dungeon Mastered myself (that’s a real word, right?), satisfying my yearning need to control others….what?

I was fortunate enough to be part of a big foreigner group on Facebook near where I live. If you live abroad where you don’t speak the language and might not have a gaming store around, I would check those kinds of groups. I just posted a message on the boards asking if anyone had a group and had several responses in a couple days. Or check out Meetup. Alternatively, you can start your own group and put out feelers. It’s always fun to bring more people into the dragon-infested fold.




Brangwen (My character, who is a totally cool and not at all neurotic Paladin of the Raven Queen. Homebrew FTW. Thanks to Hero Forge for allowing me to make my own mini. *heavy breathing*)