What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

So, on Monday, I was very nervous about posting my thoughts on SCA5 because quite frankly, it required facts and citations and I’m terrible at those things. I would make a really shitty journalist. There is a reason I was not in one of those majors that required writing multiple term papers. After all, you can cram organic chemistry and wing an exam (albeit, poorly) but the only way out of a ten page term paper is to write a ten page term paper (even with double space).

The other reason I found it hard was because it is such a polarizing topic. I was prepared to be called a race traitor or naive or whatever. In particular, I was worried about alienating my Asian friends who were against the measure. I didn’t want them to think I thought they were bad people or cause any trouble. After all, people are allowed to disagree with me – and when they do, they are not always crazy or insane!

I admit, I didn’t even know what SCA5 was about until I saw a friend post about it. Because I learn a lot about the news and the world through Facebook (I find that my friends are endlessly fascinating sources of information), I wanted to see what SCA5 was all about. Once I did, I realized that I very much wanted to vote for it. However, as I am usually wont to do, I didn’t say anything about it on Facebook because in general, I dislike talking politics because I hate arguing issues (see the first paragraph re: facts).

But, after seeing an ever increasing number of friends posting “No on SCA5,” I just couldn’t stay silent on the matter anymore because I firmly believe that SCA5 is a good thing (just like some of my friends firmly believe that SCA5 is a bad thing). Furthermore, I didn’t want my black and Latino friends to think all Asians were against SCA5 and that I was among that group.

Now, before I started Mandarin Mama, I tended to post solely on neutral things. You know, pictures about my kids, rants about my day, funny comments, etc. I purposely avoided posting anything that would even contain a whiff of the controversial. In fact, I’m one of those people who absolutely HATE changing my profile pic to support things. I think it’s the internet version of peer pressure and refuse to do it even when I agree with the issue. (This is just my personal baggage. I am aware people are perfectly capable of changing their profile pic to support issues for completely valid and non-conforming reasons.)

But after regularly posting my opinions here, I realized I was sick of being “neutral.” I was sick of being afraid what other people would think of me if I actually voiced my opinions. I wanted to be brave. I wanted to have opinions about Real and Important things (even if my two cents were just a mere pip in the surrounding cacophony of voices).

I wanted to step away from fear. Fear that my friends would drop me. Fear that I would look stupid. Fear that I would be wrong in public. Fear that I would muddle facts. Fear that I would actually have to research facts. (Funny enough, that didn’t kill me!) Fear that I would have to write in a different style than I was accustomed to. Fear that I was becoming more and more myself – and if people rejected me, they would be rejecting me versus some carefully crafted version of me.

It is scary to put my thoughts on controversial issues out there – particularly since I keep telling myself that I am bad at research and facts. But you know what I discovered? Thanks to the internet, facts are pretty easy to find and check. Also? I am capable of writing something that is not just “slice of life.” And the best part? My friends are a lot more gracious and a lot less petty than I am.

Advertisements

The Best Advice Cosmo Ever Gave Me

Like many young women, I used to have a Cosmopolitan magazine subscription. Why, I’m no longer sure since it’s really just the same magazine every single month with a different half-naked woman on the cover. However, between the sex advice that was always the same and the make-up tips for white women (with an occasional bone thrown at black women), there was always one or two “hard-hitting” journalistic attempts. Granted, the article that changed my life was not one of those pieces, but whatever.

I don’t remember the name of the article and am too lazy to use my Google-Fu and find it. However, here’s the gist: When you find yourself being jealous over someone, stop and figure out why. If it is something that you, too, can achieve, then stop being jealous. Be happy for that person. And then GO AFTER WHAT YOU WANT. Perhaps even ask that person for help or advice. But don’t just dwell in your jealousy. DO SOMETHING.

The idea was transforming.

I must admit. I never thought I was a jealous person, but I realized that I actually was. I just disguised it by being petty or mean-spirited and tearing down people who went after the things they wanted.

In high school, I was jealous of cheerleaders and dancers and folks in student government. I belittled them to make myself feel better, but really, what good did that do? I still wanted to be them – but I was too scared to try for any of these things. I told myself that it was a waste of time and not practical, but honestly, I was just afraid of trying and then failing.

Would my life have been better if I had been a cheerleader or a dancer or a student leader? Who knows? But how sad that I wasted four years of my youth being bitter and snide, always yearning from the sidelines? How much better would it have been for me to take a beginner’s dance class? Or run for student government? I could have failed miserably, but at least I would’ve tried. After all, to quote a sales line, “If you don’t ask (in this case, try), the answer is always, ‘No.'”

At UCLA, I was jealous of those in the arts and wanted desperately to be in plays and musicals and what not but was ALWAYS too afraid to audition. That way, I could stay in my comfort zone. I always had a good excuse: being involved with InterVarsity (a campus Christian group) or “studying” or pursuing romantic relationships. Worthy pursuits, but again, so sad.

After reading that article from Cosmo, I realized what an idiot I had been. Not to mention, coward! (Although, that’s no surprise, right?)

So I stopped. It was much easier than I thought it would be.

Did I have a stab of envy every time I saw a particular person in their awesome clothes and accessories? Well, what was to stop me from having a better sense of personal style? NOTHING. (After all, wasn’t that what my subscription to Cosmo was for?)

If I saw someone succeed at writing – I no longer stewed in envy or came up with excuses as to why I wasn’t succeeding. If I wanted to write – then I should write. If writing wasn’t worth the sacrifice, then I should stop whining and not worry about it. (I stopped whining.)

If I read my friend’s wife’s blog and saw all their fun pictures, crafts, outings and trips around the Bay Area with their beautiful children, instead of being envious or making remarks such as, “Well, they’re rich so they can do these things!” or other such nonsense, I copied her ideas. Blatantly stole the suggestions. I mean, I live in the Bay Area! I can go visit the Sequoias, or go to Tilden Park and ride steam trains! Who is stopping me from taking my kids to Dolores Park in SF? Or the beach? Or doing silly crafts at home? ONLY ME! And plus, I am rich! Sounds crass to say so, BUT IT’S TRUE.

I tried to turn my potential jealousy into a springboard for action and to turn my life into the life I wanted – or at least, thought I wanted. If after finding out what it takes to “get” something, I didn’t think it was worth it, at least I looked into it and discarded the option vs. always pining after what seemed to be the “greener” grass.

It was incredibly freeing.

Also, I got a better wardrobe, shoes, and accessories.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, the jealousies concerned a simple fix such as shopping. Other times, it required sacrifice such as choosing sleep over TV shows or reading because I was always yelling at my kids due to exhaustion. (If you only talk to little children all day, giving those things up IS a sacrifice!)

Of course, sometimes, it is a little bit more difficult than merely copying someone. Thus far, most of the things I covet are easily resolved. But even if you are jealous of someone who has great relationships or personal skills, that can be learned! (It may take awhile and a lot of behavioral changes, but it is totally possible.) Or if you want to go back to school but it costs a lot, start figuring out and planning how you can afford it. Doing something is usually better than doing nothing.

My point is, stop wasting time on jealousy. If a person has or does something you’re envious of, find out how they do it. Copy them! Who cares? If you end up liking it, great! You now have what you wanted. You are now an object of envy. If you find out you hate it or it isn’t worth it to you, also great! How stupid to covet something you don’t even want? And how amazing is it to live a life where you are happy with your lot?

In closing, I wish to quote the wise Selena Gomez. “If you want it, come and get it!”

Happy hunting!

Show Me How Big Your Brave Is

A lot of people seem to think that just because I’m a chronic over-sharer and have few problems speaking my mind that I am brave. As much as I’d like it to be so, it’s not true. I am a constant TMI person because I have very little shame in areas that many people are self-conscious about. I don’t really care about modesty, bodily functions, or even outrageous opinions.

In fact, this extreme extrovert persona is just that – a persona. I’m not really like this In Real Life. (Or at least, I try not to be. It would get old real fast.) I’m actually a really wounded little girl inside. Please love me. LOVE ME NOW! (Only kinda kidding.) All this bravado and shit-talking, well, that’s my “idealized self.” I mean, it’s easy to be full of sass when no one is actually in front of me and giving me guff. Who doesn’t want to be like the heroes and heroines on TV and in movies who always have a wise-crack at the ready?

Truthfully, it’s not hard for me to be outspoken because that is my natural tendency. It might seem brave to be broadcasting my thoughts to the world in this forum (you know, due to my million readers and all), but I’ve never been prone to stage fright and am often an attention whore. Perhaps for an introvert or someone less self-centered, the things that come out of my mouth are hard to say. But because my internal censor is often broken (usually to my detriment), it really has never been a problem. (Hapa Papa often says that my mouth writes checks my body can’t cash.)

In reality, I am quite the coward. It took me four years to realize that I hated being a Microbiology major in college – and by then, I only had one quarter left so I might as well finish my degree. What a waste of four years of education that was completely paid for by my parents. It took me nine years to tell my mother I hated being a financial advisor. That’s almost a DECADE of living a life that I hated and made me miserable.

One of my biggest regrets in life was how I ended the relationship I was in before Hapa Papa. I basically forced this poor man’s hand to give me an ultimatum because I didn’t have the balls to end it properly. I dragged him along, making him hope that I would stop my quarter life crisis and go back to loving him when I had already given my heart to another. I was too chicken shit to break up with him because I didn’t want to leave a sure thing (we were thinking very seriously of getting married) for something that was a gamble (Hapa Papa).

Even now, with this blog, I am constantly weighing what I have no problem sharing and things that are important to me but am afraid to write. A lot of times, I tell myself it is because I don’t want to risk publicly exposing the rest of my family (such as my mother) because even though it’s part my story, other people that I love are also involved and it may be even MORE of their story.

It took me more than twenty years to finally tell my mother that her asking my brother and I to pretend and ignore all my father’s problems actually contributed to him never experiencing any consequences of his actions. TWENTY YEARS. Twenty years of lying and willful ignorance, of pretending to be someone that I am not just to protect a man who is not worth protecting. Two decades wasted on a man who never cared about anyone other than himself, who carelessly broke the lives of my mother, my brother, and myself (not to mention others in his family).

After thinking it over, my mother told me I was right and said my brother and I no longer had to pretend. I waited five days before I told my father he was dead to me. My mother was livid. I was finally free.

Twenty years. Two decades. That’s almost two thirds of my life!

How much more of my life am I going to waste being afraid or hiding my true self because I am fearful of disappointing or hurting my mother? (That’s usually the primary reason.) How can I teach my kids to be brave and courageous if I, myself, am constantly hiding? Do I really want my children to give me a false version of themselves because they are afraid to disappoint me? Their mother? Who will love them no matter what?

That thought makes me unbearably sad.

I’ve decided that I want to be brave. To be someone who is not afraid of disappointing my mother. (And it turns out she doesn’t mind me not wanting to be a financial advisor. Just like she didn’t mind me not wanting to be a doctor. She is made of sterner stuff than I thought.) I want to be someone who consistently chooses things that I want or think is good for my family versus what I think other people expect me to choose (in which case, I am frequently incorrect).

I think that’s why Sara Bareilles’s new song, Brave, almost always brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. According to wikipedia, Bareilles wrote the song for a friend to encourage him to come out to his family. The song may have been written about a specific situation, but I think it is so true for life in general.

The part that resonates the most with me is the bridge:

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

How true is that? Truth with a capital T.

You can find the full lyrics here.