No matter your beliefs, this year has been a year. I have found myself doing the very best I can to listen deeply, and to come awake to the question of ‘what am I going to do about it.’
My Dad’s recent surgery, losing his leg and ultimately losing how we all thought it would be by now, a life we were holding our breath for…well it isn’t that, it’s this life instead. I don’t think a single one of us is living the life we thought we would, the kind of life we stared out of windows thinking about, or tapped our pencils on our desks creating. Life is too big and we cant control it.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed and immobile at what I have not done yet, what I don’t have, who I don’t love. And what I’ve begun to do is immediately meet these thoughts with the one million beautiful ways I am living a life I never dreamed was possible. I tell those thoughts that I haven’t done enough to take a walk, because with them I am just such a small part of myself, and I don’t want to live that way.
The trauma that lived in our walls growing up, and the trauma now that lives in the floor now, a different foundation, a different ground is all that it is. I believe trauma in it’s essence is meant to wake us up. Trauma will stare you in the eyes and ask you ‘is this really how you want to live.’
I have spoken more with my parents in the past 6-months than I have my entire life. We have laughed and cried together, we are healing. I am granting them the space of entire conversations where I don’t walk away, and they are doing the same for me. It’s so beautiful, and for once, it is finally honest. It’s why I can finally talk to them about more than the weather, something I didn’t think they were capable of, turns out I was the one not capable, I wasn’t listening.
The collision of timing…the election…my family…and my mom’s confessions, deep deep guttural feelings of not belonging, as a first generation immigrant raising a family in an unknown and unwelcoming place…she’s finally said it out-loud as she navigates through the hospital system with my Dad, and services, and endless paperwork, and high-stakes. She tells me she feels she has never belonged, and she craves to be understood.
Her words travel to the center of my heart, and to my bones. I hear her saying these words almost every night for many many nights. I hear her, and I finally understand why this belief lives so deeply in me as well. Finally, I begin to heal here as well, her confession has given me that. I have loved my mother fiercely, but it’s time now to love my mother gently.
There’s a story that’s rising in me with clarity, about what it means to be raised by my mother and father, the conditions, our economic status, our distance, our truth…our family crest that’s been cobbled together by generations of last-ditch-efforts, and prayer, and defeat.
I believe I’ve wrote to you about this before…but a dear friend once told me that she pictures herself with a white flag in her hands, above her, with her arms raised. Large and flowing, and full of momentum. She pictures herself running across a field carrying this flag, her life, as far as she can. She has it in her hands only because she was handed this to carry, she was told to run, she was urged to not stop until she could no longer go, and then it would be time to hand the flag for the next person to run and carry.
Every single time I think of this visual, I feel at-peace. We are all given flags to carry above our heads, we are all urged to run, to feel that press on your lungs, and to breath through it, miles and miles and years and years…wether or not it feels like a burden is how you see this.
It’s an honor really, to have a flag to carry at all, to run at all, to be given anything…at all.
I’m going to keep running, I don’t know about you. For the child I’ll have someday, I’m going to run as far as I can, so that they may also know…this flag is a birth-right, not a burden.
I am awake now to immigrant rights, and stories like mine, and telling them powerfully. I don’t know how yet, but I haven’t felt this compelled to listen in a long long time.
My story is not unique, my story is a million kids who grew up just like me, and a million more who will too.
I will keep writing the stories that are harder to say, so that no matter the flag you carried, you can say ‘me too’ — I think this is the most beautiful thing we get to do as humans, is to love each other and to say ‘me too.’
My friend Jess makes prints, they’re beautiful, and hand-written, and honest. I saw our friend post this one ‘we are our ancestors wildest dreams’ and it’s something I cant stop thinking about…and I don’t want to stop thinking about. It helps me run.
My mom has a grade school education, and my dad, high-school.
We were a family of four living on 38 thousand dollars a year.
We didn’t have any public assistance, my parents were always too proud.
I became used to calculating totals at the grocery store, and sliding things back to the shelves when my mom wasn’t looking.
I didn’t want her to feel bad.
I got used to watching her hands pull the exact coins we needed to pay from her wallet.
And I got used to watching her hands give whatever she could, whenever she could, which even when you don’t have much, almost always, there is something to give.
I started working nights and weekends when I was 15 to help out where I could, and also, to get myself to college.
It worked. My sister and I, the first in our family to complete our undergraduate degrees, and graduate degrees.
In college I’d stack my classes so that on certain days I could drive back and help my mom clean houses the semester she broke her ankle.
This is something I was always ashamed of. I hated seeing her do that work. I’d cry the entire drive there, and the entire drive back, but I’d pull it together when we were together. Something tells me she was doing the exact same thing.
She worked for very wealthy families as a housekeeper, growing up I wore clothes with other kids names on the tags and hoped no one would see.
What we didn’t have in money we had in resilience.
What we didn’t have in excess we had in the lesson of plenty.
We always had enough.
My dad’s face tells the story of a man who’s worked outside for most of his life. His rough hands will tell you more.
And his kind eyes will tell you the story of a man who is satisfied and content with life’s most simple pleasures.
Long drives, afternoons at the lake, hours and hours of playing catch, burgers on the grill.
In comparison to how they grew up, we were practically rich.
This caused a lot of friction, as we stumbled on this concept of enough, and wanting more.
My mom was learning english at the same time my sister and I were.
She attempted to bring us to korean language school, but we refused, we hated this language that sounded so harsh and exclusive and we didn’t see the point.
We pretended to fall asleep in the back seat on the way there, something that used to make me laugh, now makes me cringe.
What I wouldn’t give now, to have an entire conversation in a language she fully understands.
I want for nothing now.
I have created a life that is completely full of opportunity, education, and alignment with people that are doing amazing things in the world.
I am not on the outside, I am on the inside. I am living an extraordinary life.
I have people who would do anything to make sure I do not slip backwards, because this is who I am for them too. This is how life works. This is how life will always work.
I have strong financial goals that I am fulfilling. They are no longer to defeat what we grew up in, but rather, to honor the humble beginnings and all that you learn when there is hesitation each month of what the next month will look like. Money does make certain aspects of life easier, money creates opportunities, there is nothing wrong with this statement, and to my women friends especially I say to you, there is nothing wrong with making money, go make it.
I have zero tolerance for excuses, I am drawn and surrounded by people who are living big lives. I don’t care if you grew up in a million dollar home, or a 50 thousand dollar home, I care that you are kind, and that you give back.
I don’t care where you went to college, or if you went to college, I care that you have a deep desire to learn and grow.
I’m sure I’ll go back for one more degree at some point, and this one won’t have any ties to survival or title, this one will have all ties to impact, how can I make the biggest difference, that’s what I care about most. Whenever I step foot on a college campus, I am immediately at ease and invigorated.
I saw this print, and it stopped me completely. It’s on my mantle now next to pictures of my parents at age 21 & 22.
I am living the life they could have never dreamed up, and I am living it because they lived theirs in a way that I knew, giving up was not an option.
At 35-by all accounts I am in a place I did not think I’d ever be, something I am giving up moving into 2017 is that I should have been somewhere different by now or, that I should be someone else by now. I am doing a great fucking job, and I really want to celebrate that and not diminish it or think it will slip away.
I am me, and you are you.
You are all the ages you have ever been (anne lamott) and you are also every person that came before you.
If you are first generation, like me, you are barely barely removed from the choice one person in your family made to come to america, and risk everything, they sure did not do it for themselves, they did it for you.
you are every person who has fought the fight you are fighting, loved the cause you are loving, wrote the book you are reading. You are the open eyes and hands of every courageous act that came before you, the men and women that share your bloodline and last name, they are rooting for you.
you are your ancestors wildest dreams.