In Praise of Friendship is a portrait series of people with whomever they share a meaningful friendship, with a purpose to promote and explore the complexity of friendship. Friendship is fluid, as it can be shared beyond friends such as family, self and romance. Mainstream media often overemphasize and prioritize romance over friendship, when the love shared between friends is just as exciting, meaningful, nourishing, and transformative. Like romance, the end of a friendship can also be heartbreaking. This project is intended to highlight these diverse qualities of friendship.
* Mike: Us being romantic partner and friends go hand in hand, but also separate. We really had to define each for our own and figure out what makes sense for each of us.
* Cierra: We live together, but we understood we needed to have two bedrooms. He has a space to create, and I have my space to create. Sometimes in relationships people just assume how it’s supposed to be, but we were able to recognize our own needs by listening. We check up on each other throughout the day as we do our own thing, and we do make a point to try to eat dinner together.
* Mike: Time management became to mean being considerate.

-Mike M (he/him) & Cierra M (she/her)

*Mike: Especially around having our baby, Cierra inspired and motivated me to reconnect with my dad. Our friendship has inspired me to show up for my dad even though he has not been there for me. Having a baby really put a lot of perspectives for me.

-Mike M (he/him) & Cierra M (she/her)

*Mike: I am drawn to her being focused and having the thought process to never give up. She is always introducing me to new things, which doesn’t happen a lot as I feel that I am always the one to. She keeps my brain going. She allows me to understand what relaxation means when I am working too hard. Such as walking and meditating, which has been helping me with thought process.
*Cierra: It has been a tug and pull thing in terms of being supportive of what we both do.

-Mike M (he/him) & Cierra M (she/her)
“I think the reason why we are really close is our age and also because we went through a family trauma together. Through that shared experience we understand each other the most. We are always there for each other. Our strong foundation of getting through the challenges together is what helps keep us together.

We argue so much but we got each other’s back outside of home.
We are very playful with each other. We are each other’s backbone. It’s chaotic and it’s complex, but we find solace in each other.”

- Yahshel (she/her) & Mary M (she/her)
*Mary: I like that she is super outgoing and that it is so easy for her to meet all these new people. Because then I get to meet other people through her. I follow her around.
*Yahshel: She’s literally my fart. All of my friends from high school and even now, she becomes friends with because she’s always right behind me.

-Yahshel (she/her) & Mary M (she/her)
“I think that friendship starts with yourself. It’s not about what a friendship can do for you, it’s about what you can offer to the friendship. Not like it’s transactional, but you need to be happy with yourself. In sharing that, you make a friend. There is that saying, "if you want a friend, be a friend." How do you know who’s going to be a good friend to you if you don’t know who you are, what you need, and what you can offer to someone else?
Lately, I am the only one with me most of the time, being my own friend. I hear about all this negative self-talk, and it’s not about being cocky, but I don’t do that to myself because I’m my own friend. I wouldn’t talk to my friends that way so then why would I do that to myself? Not to say I am totally confident and self-assured. Everyone is working on that. I think we naturally treat others the way we'd like to be treated, so I try to do the reverse too. I try to treat myself the way I'd want others to treat me.”

- Hong-Van P (she/her)
“I recently found an old school work of mine from a long time ago which asked what do you want to be when you grow up? And I wrote happy. Even now that I’m an adult, I still feel that way. I just want to be happy and share that with other people.”

- Hong-Van P (she/her)
“The main thing I do for self-care - the root of whatever the activity ends up being - is listen to myself the way you'd listen to somebody you were taking care of. I eat if I'm hungry, sleep if I'm sleepy, go outdoors if I've been indoors awhile. Sometimes I simply listen to myself, like my own thoughts, since lately I haven't been around as many other people to hear their thoughts. I like taking a walk and listening to music, as well as reading. I am voracious about reading. I like to read about things that I would otherwise have no experience with. I don’t know what closer way you can get to someone else’s thoughts other than through their writing if you don’t know them in person. It’s a way to get to know other people and get to know the world.”

- Hong-Van P (she/her)
*Evelyn: my friends have been my family beyond my relatives. Sometimes we don’t find that unconditional love in our families and that doesn’t mean that we can’t work on that. For me, I wanted to have good solid friends and my friends are my family.

*Marleny: We feel spiritually bound. Connection of our ancestry and breaking generational curses , we are both in a place where we are trying to do that and helping and supporting other womxn. We are thriving in ways now we weren’t before, creating something new and building safe space for the next generation. They say blood is thicker than water, but you know what’s thicker than blood? Mud. You cannot heal in the place that broke you. And my friends were the ones who picked me up. I am a stronger person now through that and I am not going back to where you keep me mentally. Now I am a woman that has a village, I am not alone anymore.  

*Evelyn: Having really good friends showed me how to care for them and to be able to ask for things that I want. Through that experience, I was able to become a better sister. It has made me be a better family member. I am learning to love all these different ways that are uplifting and I wanted to be that way for my sister. I wasn’t like that before. Love has worked like an ecosystem for me through friendship.  

- Marleny (she/her) & Evelyn (she/her)
*Evelyn: Marleny helped me to enforce boundaries and stand up for myself. She helps me to have courage

*Marleny: You need to be your best self! You get really good at practicing healthy boundaries when you’re loving yourself. If you can’t love yourself you can’t love anyone else.

- Marleny (she/her) & Evelyn (she/her)
*Bryan: Growing up in a very codependent culture where being together means everything, whether it is with family and friends, I kind of lost a sense of who I actually was. The first six months of the pandemic made me realize I had no sense of self, so there was and is immense inner work I am working through. Part of this work includes setting boundaries, for myself and for those I care deeply about. This time also revealed the importance of self love and how neglecting this seeped into the crevices of my relationships. I am learning to lean more into genuine care and compassion. It all starts with me.

-Bryan D (they/them)
Reconstructing a new future that my inner child self wanted, cutting the past and creating a future of interdependence.
Reconstructing a new future that my inner child self wanted, cutting the past and creating a future of interdependence.
*Cara: Growing up you look at parents as supporting figure verses them as their own individual selves and the qualities that makes them, them. Learning more about my dad has been beneficial to our friendship, growing outside of just father-daughter relationship. He also affects my relationship with other friends around my age because it teaches me how to treat them and how I want them to treat me, uplifting each other to do better. Hopefully I am uplifting my father to feel motivated to be a better person, the way he does for me.
*Doug: It has been an evolving thing as Cara gets older. Before it has been telling her “you have to do this" whereas now it is more about me giving advice and letting her make her own decisions and way in the world.

- Cara B (sher/her) & Doug N (he/him)

*Cara: healthy boundary is knowing when to be there for each other. My favorite characteristic about my dad is that he is very loyal to the people he loves. I don’t think many people are like that these days. Also, my dad has been coming to all of my shows and everyone would say that is my manager.
*Doug: Cara is very empathetic to people. The hardest part is as my kids are getting older, when to step in and when to let them fail, when to pick up the pieces and when to keep them from failing. That’s an ongoing thing with me. As I get older I also need to start living more of my life instead of my kids’ life. It’s all about interdependence now.

- Cara B (sher/her) & Doug N (he/him)
* Spencer: With both of them, it was that I could be myself. I could just be stupid, intelligent, insightful, funny or whatever it is that I want to be in that moment. I could always be me and that was not something that I had found yet. I was still in the closet and hadn’t come out as bisexual or nonbinary. Tiffany at one party was cornering me with her Cancer♋️ energy and aggressively forcing me to be myself. Tiffany and Aaron both have been people I could be myself with even if I didn’t know what that meant yet. That was a big thing for me.

* Tiffany: It has been affirming to be friends with them because being a student athlete and being a Black woman there were all these expectations on me, as well as pressure to look feminine. I think about ways I am embracing my queerness and who I am. Their presence in my life has given me the freedom and confidence to be myself and not conform to what society expects of me. Especially when I was not a student athlete anymore and was confused about who I am. They helped me find that and invent it for myself.

* Aaron: I am very introverted so making friends is not my strong suit. There is genuinity with them that I really appreciate and that gives me confidence to be more sure of myself.

-Spencer D (he/him/they/them), Tiffany B,(she/her/they/them) Aaron S (he/him) (1/3)
* Spencer: having an open mind and honest communication is what helps with maintaining our friendship. It has been about communicating and commitment to what that communication determines.
* Tiffany: people that are in my most intimate circle are those who don’t assume or put expectations on me. I would like to think that I extend the same courtesy.
* Aaron: I just know if they are actually mad at me they will say it. If not, I just keep sending them memes. If they don’t reply to those, I guess I messed up. This is the first friendship that I am actively maintaining and that I feel a deep connection with.
* Tiffany: we also give each other space and practice boundaries. Asking if that person is ready and willing to receive emotional availability has been important as well.
* Spencer: If I have something I need to share and work through with them, I ask if they have the capacity to handle what I am going through right now because everyone has their own life. They taught me in this friendship to take care of myself and if I need their help I know I’ll have it.

-Spencer D (he/him/they/them), Tiffany B,(she/her/they/them) Aaron S (he/him) (1/3)
Additional message to each other:
* Tiffany: I love you fuckers.
* Aaron: I miss going out. We haven’t gotten drunk together in a long time. It’s really fun having friends to be drunk with and you don’t get mad at. We keep up with each other’s drunk level.

-Spencer D (he/him/they/them), Tiffany B,(she/her/they/them) Aaron S (he/him) (1/3)
Jeong is a Korean term that is defined as “a type of deep-seated love which can be directed to all, living or not” according to SeoulSync. To expand, it can be both simple and complex. According to Christopher K. Chung, M.D. and Samson J. Cho, M.D. it can include “feeling, love, sentiment, passion, human nature, sympathy, heart” as well as “basic feelings such as attachment, bond, affection, or even bondage.” “In essence, jeong refers to the emotional and psychological bonds that join Koreans. The uniqueness of this phenomenon lies in its ubiquity and its source: the collective nature of Korean society.” 

For Koreans who've endured much political turmoil throughout its entire history of the nation, extending Jeong to each other has been a necessary form of survival skill and self-preservation, and ultimately a revolutionary act of mutual aid and collective care.

During this wave of violence against Asian American and Pacific Islanders, I, as a Korean American, can only think of this form of survival that sustains us as a way to not lose heart. When I feel Jeong, it helps me to not be led with fear in this country. I consider acts of kindness and loving gestures that uncover, reveal, and lay bare hope as a practice of harm reduction. To learn more, I asked a few people in my community what Jeong means to them.
*T: Jeong equates to radical compassion effortlessly embedded in Korean culture for me, when those around you attentively recognize your needs even before you recognize your own. Jeong is often embodied in the smallest acts of care.

-T (she/her)
*T: Jeong is as if another person foresees two steps ahead of the step you're about to take, and ensures that path is free of any obstacle that you might trip on. It's a warm embrace, feeling safe and comfortable within collective care.

-T (she/her)
*Nam Ye: “To me, Jeong is a reminder that people and nature are rooted in the same place. We have to nourish each other.”

-Nam Ye (she/her) & Choonja (she/her)
*Choon Ja: “I feel Jeong when as a neighbor, Nam Ye checks on me day and night on how I am doing. Her care and presence is Jeong.”

-Choon Ja (she/her) 
*Kyung Ah: Frankly speaking, having lived in the States as a single mother and an immigrant woman of color over 20 years, I have found myself having forgotten what Jeong is. I've only recently gotten to the point where I'm learning how to protect my energy, and providing better care for myself. It is only recent that I've been able to extend Jeong to myself - as a form of self compassion. I am grateful for my daughter, Kaidon, whom I'm able to share Jeong with.

-Kyung Ah (she/her)
Public Story
Copyright Mary Kang 2022
Updated Aug 2021
Topics Friendship