My Liberation Notes

I just finished watching My Liberation Notes, perhaps my favourite series for 2022. Watching it comforted me. Ah, these thoughts I had, they’re quite universal.

The show’s lives and characters feel like real people, and parts of them reflect what’s going on with me too.

In one episode, during a thunderstorm, Kim Jiwon, who plays the timid and introspective Mi Jeong, remarks how lightning calms her. She says, “People are scared of thunder and lightning but strangely, I find them calming. The world might finally come to an end as I wished. It feels like I’m stuck but I don’t know how to get out. That’s probably why I hope everything ends all at once. I’m not unhappy, but I’m not happy either. I wouldn’t care if the world ended now.” 

Whenever there’s a thunderstorm, I feel a surge of emotions I can’t quite explain. It’s like a mixture of excitement, calm, resignation but it almost feels empowering too, when I accept this ‘fate’. I often think, I would be okay if the world ended during a thunderstorm.  On days when I feel exasperated I often say “aliens can take me now,” “I’m okay, the world’s too cruel anyway.” 



While I favoured Mi Jeong and the quietness of the moments she spent with her father’s farmhand, Mr. Gu, I realized that I was a lot like Mi Jeong’s older sister, Gi Jeong (played by Lee El). The first few times, I would skip  Gi Jeong’s scenes because I found her too talkative and annoying. But I would rewatch the episodes while waiting for new ones and relate to most of her word vomit.  

Gi Jeong was often referred to by close friends as “pick-up girl.” Her nickname stems from a question she asks blind dates:

If someone beheaded the love of your life, would you pick up his head or run away?

For Gi-Jeong, she would pick up his head. Gi Jeong is tactless and speaks her mind. She’s often thinking aloud. While I may share most of her opinions, unlike Gi Jeong, I usually keep these to myself or talk about it in private. Even though I found her character initially annoying, her question made me think. And I answered.

I’m also a pick up girl. I would pick up the severed head of the one I love. Sometimes I tell my friends that I’m the type to have no dignity in love. “I’m a crème brûlée!” I tell my friend. Hard on the outside but all gooey and sweet when you crack the shell.

Like Gi Jeong, I don’t believe in playing games. I don’t want someone I love to sit in anxiety. I’ll respond first, or too soon. Today is always the best day to meet. I can never wait. Maybe in the past I was more cautious, measured my responses the way Mi Jeong did in previous relationships.

I also relate to Gi Jeong’s exhaustion as a woman who constantly feels the need to preen herself. 

“I want to shave off my hair. All of it. My hair has never made me look any better but I hold onto it as if it’s a symbol of my femininity. I wash and blow dry it every morning until my arms are tired. It feels like I’ve been struggling over something meaningless all my life. If I shave it off, I won’t have any more false hopes and it’ll make me feel lighter.”

Gi Jeong would visit the salon to have her hair done, even have eye surgery to take the years off her face. Meanwhile, Mi Jeong was always bare-faced.

I used to have my nails done regularly, hair straightened, and legs waxed. Whenever I felt the onset of my bushy eyebrows growing, as well as my “whiskers” I would start panicking and being miserable. I often felt ugly without the beauty procedures. But after moving away from Manila, I’ve stopped half of these procedures. Even a haircut is a once a year event. Like Mi Jeong, I often feel ordinary and dull. Uninteresting, unremarkable. But I know that for people who love me, I’m like “the drizzle that slowly that soaks them.”

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Some days I’m also like their brother Chang Hee (played by Lee Min Ki.) Chang Hee talks and complains a lot, then a sense of awareness washes over him and he realizes he’s the same as those he badmouths. I’m probably the same.

Once, Mi Jeong was asked by her coworkers what she likes about Mr. Gu. She answered, “he has no shell.” Mr. Gu is always transparent. You know when he’s having a bad day without saying anything. He doesn’t hide his distaste, or awe, or tenderness. He doesn’t dance around his words.

I thought about how I’m the exact opposite. I carry a shell wherever I go. I protect myself through this veneer of nicety, what I call my customer service smile and politesse. So noone can never reach me, unless I let them.

The three siblings live in Sanpo, in the outskirts of Seoul. This is always a sore spot for them. They often wonder what their lives would be like if they had grown up in Seoul. Will they carry themselves differently? Would people also treat them differently? 

Like the three siblings, I didn’t grow up in the metropolitan. I went to the capital for university and work. But there was always something different about me. I lived in the dilapidated dorms of the university and was so unlike the girls who went to posh all girl’s schools in the capital. The kind of girls the kind of boys I liked, liked.

They always had a kind of feminine quality that only those raised in the metropolitan had. Chauffeured to exclusive catholic schools, meeting boys in soirees. Soft and refined. Kind because their pampered existence allowed it.

Now that I think about it, it’s okay. Because Mr. Gu says women with sharp instincts are scary and I like that. It takes a certain kind of person to be with a scary woman. My friend once said I wouldn’t want to be with someone who didn’t like scary women anyway.

My instincts have softened since moving away from my own Sanpo. I can shift into a woman from “Seoul” who walks with the stroller she wants. But I like to think the scary woman from Sanpo still lives inside me.

I think I still have a lot of things to process from this series. But I’ll save that for another day. Here are my last two thoughts for now:

One, I feel at peace with the way it ended.

Two, maybe I’ll start writing again, putting my thoughts out there whether they make sense or not.


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