Software Engineer @ Google, Composer. joonpark.me / joonparkmusic.com
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Adler Planetarium - Chicago, IL (July 4, 2019)

As a cynical idealist twenty-something living through the craziness that is 2020, it’s easy for me to think historic moments are so 2008. I mean, this year has hit us with so many “unprecedented” moments that I now go through the days believing that nothing can faze me anymore. But as I watched Kamala Harris give her victory speech tonight, something that I thought had been lost stirred in the back of my mind. It was this strange combination of hope, nostalgia, and another fuzzy feeling akin to realizing you have something in common with a complete stranger. …


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She changed lanes to slide past the Honda that had apparently decided it was going to take it easy today. We were in no rush — my flight wasn’t for another two and a half hours — but I didn’t mind because being in the left lane meant that I was ever so slightly closer to the majestic view that was flying by my window. The seemingly never-ending mountain range, in all their snow-covered glory, stretched out before me as far as the eye could see.

As a proud resident of one the largest cities in the country, my love of these landscapes can seem a bit strange. But then again, perhaps the key is in the lack of frequent exposure. Yes, it’s true: mountain vistas, especially when sprinkled with a soft-white winter blanket, can be a sight for anyone’s sore eyes, but this felt more to me than just another pretty view. Maybe it was the clouds, so perfectly uniform, that looked like I could reach out and touch them. Maybe it was the light, and how it bounced perfectly off of those clouds to paint the purest array of colors I had ever seen. …


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History used to be my least favorite subject (sorry Mr. S, Mr. E, and Mr. T, I still really enjoyed your classes). Maybe it was because I was always more interested in imagining the future instead of looking back, or maybe it was because my naive brain pretended that, surely, real life could never be as interesting as fiction. But just as my preference for vegetables grew with age, my understanding of what history is has also changed.

It may have started with the Chicago Architecture Boat Tour. Often recommended by many as the number 1 “must-do” attraction in the city, the tour gently floats you along the Chicago River for 90 minutes as you creatively bend your smartphone arm around other tourists in order to get the most incredible photo-ops the city has to offer. I’ve always had an affinity for tall buildings, and downtown Chicago has those in spades. But it’s not just their height that makes them fascinating. The details on their outer facade, the construction materials, the influence of the building’s design on the architecture surrounding it — all these subtle minutiae make up the rich and complex story of a building. …


And I’m going to paint the solar systems on the backs of her hands…

— Sarah Kay, “B”

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They say that eyes are windows to your soul, but I feel as if my hands have always held my sense of self. Sometimes I find my sweaty palms tightly gripping my sense of confidence, afraid that if I let go, I won’t find it again. Other times, I reach out to a friend’s shoulder, forgetting the the things that I dropped in the process.

These hands have held batons in front of wind ensembles, played the keys of a saxophone, created computer programs, written essays. They’ve held the hands of others, been offered to strangers, and rejected by those who treated me better than I deserved. I’ve been told that the way to success is to be really good at a single thing — the dizzying variety of experiences carved onto these palms would suggest that I’m doomed to a life of mediocrity. …


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It’s the most pristine day you could possibly imagine. Sky so blue you could swim in it. Sun smiling down from above, breeze gently caressing the green grass beneath our feet. We look at one another, knowing how many miles we’ve trodden to get to this view. One by one we take in the snow-capped peak in the distance: Mount Assiniboine. The highest point in the Canadian Rockies, and one of the main attractions of our getaway adventure. Its grandeur looms above the rest of the mountain range as if to make a firm statement regarding the majesty of this view. The lakes gleam far below, the water so impossibly clear. …


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Most will simply recognize this as “the Bean,” but Chicagoans will quickly realize how difficult it was for me to get this photo.

I walk out of work, and the frigid evening air hits my face. Winter here seems like an old blanket that you always have around your room — never out of reach. As I walk along Daley Plaza I think about how it will soon be filled with brown A-framed mini-houses welcoming tourists and natives alike as Christkindlemarket opens in just a few weeks.

I turn North and head towards the river. The East branch, giving backdrop to the iconic DuSable bridge — my favorite detour. …


Ambition — I must always remember, is a choice. Often it is noble and can help. I crave a simple life — but I also want to have an impact — to do something meaningful and important. I hate that I feel I am running out of time. I must always remember that time is all there is and we are always running out of it.

- A passage from Marina Keegan’s Journal

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I want to do a million things.

I want to walk down streets in Europe that I’ve never heard of in my life. I want to hear guitars strumming as I pass by, filling the air with the sound of dreams. I want to go to eccentric restaurants all across the country and try dishes that some wouldn’t even consider food. I want to learn about every theory of nature, connecting the smallest of particles that may be light-years away. I want to read all of the great writing that has ever been published — and will be published. I want to stare up at the night sky with miles of darkness around me and be engulfed by the milky way. …


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I will try to make my way out west to California…

— “When the Sun Goes Down”, from In the Heights

I open up the windows all around my apartment, excited that the cool summer evening air is finally back for us to enjoy. It’s no surprise that in the middle of April, the city of Chicago has been teasing us with t-shirt weather one day and snow a few days later. But tonight, as the almost-forgotten touch of a gentle breeze washes over my arms, I know that summer weather is here to stay.

From my couch I can see the streets of Chicago stretching out to the Northwest. The city shows off its glowing night gown, spreading its streetlamp-studded fabric as far as the eye can see. My piano sits quietly in the corner, just an inspiration away. It seems to call out to me: “Hey, why don’t you come over here and make something of yourself?” I don’t have an answer. It’s something I ask myself every day. I look down at the back of my hands, as if to search for some meaning, but find only what’s left of last summer. …


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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So I’m sitting here in my new home — decorated to the brim with holiday lights and festive ornaments, of course — and it feels so cozy. How can you blame me, a brand new homeowner tackling his first holiday season? I can see the blanket of snow starting to form on the lawn, I can hear the neighbor’s kids playing across the street, the music playing from our Google home… I’m sure you can imagine the scene. …


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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“We… shouldn’t.”

The silence that followed was deafening. Not actual silence, of course — the winery had plenty of bustle on a Saturday afternoon. Cars driving themselves in and out of the gravel driveway, kids running around chasing the resident dog, whose parents were too busy tasting to care, the welcome sign gently creaking in the warm summer breeze. But I didn’t hear any of that when she said it outright, just like that. We shouldn’t. We shouldn’t give it a shot. We both knew it. …

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