Five objects for the afterlife
As I think about what objects I want to bring with me, I begin with the questions, how would I want people in future generations come to know me as a person? How do people get to know me as a friend in real life right now? What is the process of conveying who “Julia Wong” is through the stories these objects tell? In all honesty, I think a lot of people know a great deal about my likes and interests and general character. But there are only few people I would say I can be 100% myself (although I believe different people bring out different sides of my personality). I think of myself as having multiple layers— where there are obvious traits and passions like the vibrant yellow color, giraffes and joyfulness, there are also layers of sensitivity and sentimental nostalgia to my character.
I chose five objects from different stages of my life, throughout which, in retrospect, is when I come to discover more layers of myself and see my character grow and evolve. And that is how I present myself to others, having multiple layers that I would reveal as I get more vulnerable and comfortable. The important memories and people in these seasons of life are also reminiscent from the objects, which remind me of how much of my growth is because of those around me.
The process of getting to know me is also somewhat similar to how my personality has evolved. The first thing people would notice about me is my love for the color yellow and giraffes, and that I am generally quite joyful. When I was growing up, I had a very happy childhood and my life was marked with many many blessings, whether it was family, friends or places and exposure I got to experience.
As friendship develops, people may be able to understand that I value relationships, culture and my heritage a lot. They get to see the more sentimental and sensitive side of me, and understand how I treat friends and those around me, how I value my roots and what I am influenced by. In a way the stone seal also speaks to the dichotomy of my identity— for people who know me as ‘Julia’ in the context of boarding school / college / fellowship in America, their perception of my personality may be a bit different from those who know me as my Chinese name in the context of home, my local secondary school and home church.
As I grow older and pursue more of my passion in creativity and the arts, going to design school and doing a variety of projects, I also understand myself more as a creator and designer, what I like to communicate in my work, what gets me excited and what I care about in this world. I’d say this next layer is only developed after I left home when I was almost 16. Those who grew up with me also initially found it a bit unexpected that I had gone down this path of creativity — they had expected it to be only a hobby, less so a passion.
The innermost layer, my most comfortable self, is shown occasionally as a friendship matures. The letter from my best friend reminds me that there are people who completely know me and understand me and would walk with me alongside, and that to me, means the world. It brings me joy that while I am also discovering aspects of my identity, others are discovering it on the same page as me.
If someone find these five objects from my grave, I hope they can see and touch the marks that I’ve made, which gives a lot more insight to how I am as a person than just found objects. The sentimental value of such objects are much higher since I have created and interacted with them closely.
From an archaeological point of view, I’d imagine that in the future, handwritten letters and handmade crafts are no longer very common, and may even become obsolete. Choosing these personal objects are also a way to give context to the age and culture I grew up in, which may be very interesting to future generations. Apart from just learning about my marks, reading the letter from my friend can also give insight into the way language is used in my era, and how people, especially friends, interact with one another.