If I Had To Do College All Over Again

Since we’ve been talking about college so much, whether about missing it or getting into it, I thought I’d share what I would do differently at college if I knew then what I know now. (Of course, some of you know how I freak out about alternate timelines so this is only in the case that my current timeline wouldn’t be affected because if my action were to erase my three beautiful babies I would just GAH!!!)

Anyhow, my mild hysterics aside, here are some things I would change:

1) Study. I was a smart kid in high school and got by with minimal studying and relied mostly on my smarts. Unfortunately, what I failed to realize once I got into UCLA was that EVERYONE who got into UCLA was smart so I wasn’t anything special. Therefore, the students who actually studied would do better than the smart but lazy students. Futhermore, no matter how intelligent a person is, smarts are meaningless in the absence of actual knowledge. My being smart was useless since I didn’t have ANY knowledge about physics or advanced microbiology.

2) Change majors. I had this weird idea that being “Undeclared” was a highly laughable situation for hippies who wanted to “find themselves” and had nothing but contempt for them. I mocked people who kept changing majors but in reality, it was a case of “the lady doth protest too much.” Why was I so hung up on being consistent and faithful to a major that I didn’t really understand what it was when I chose it? I was sixteen years old when I applied for college. (I didn’t turn eighteen until my second year at UCLA so I was nicknamed “Jail Bait.”) Why would I expect my sixteen year old self to know ANYTHING about majors and what they entailed?

I don’t really know what I would’ve changed my major to. I knew pretty early on that I no longer wanted to go the Pre-Med route but was too afraid to tell my parents since I had convinced them to let me go to UCLA on account of UCLA having a great medical school. I was worried that if I changed my major, my parents would tell me to transfer to Cal (which was far too close to my parents’ house for my liking).

It’s not that I didn’t like Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, it’s just that everything was so SMALL and required a microscope. And looking into microscopes make me nauseous because of the constant changing depth of field when going back and forth between the microscope and my lab book. It made me motion sick. I should’ve taken that as a sign.

However, looking back, I would’ve liked to switch to Chemistry (I found that endlessly fascinating but was terrified of Physical Chemistry so I chickened out) or Psychology (too bad I thought it was such a pseudoscience at the time). Or Asian American Studies (which screams, “Hire me”) or Business (I didn’t want to take more math). And now that I’m older, perhaps even Computer Science (at the time, I didn’t even understand what programming was – just that I wasn’t some geeky Asian dude who played video games all day or the fact that my father said I wasn’t smart enough to do it).

3) Get a job. Technically, I had a job as a Program Assistant my senior year but I didn’t really do anything and am surprised I kept my job all year long. I didn’t know how to do interviews. (I showed up to an interview in glasses, barely combed hair, a thermal long-sleeved shirt, and torn jeans. I also marked that I had a misdemeanor because I thought a speeding ticket was a misdemeanor. One of my friends who was really good at her job was completely appalled that that was how I showed up. She coached me so I could actually get the PA job.) I didn’t know how to write a resume. I didn’t have confidence that I could do anything at all – so having a low stakes job in college would’ve been really helpful. However, I was convinced my parents didn’t want me to work and focus only on my studies, so I never asked. (Sense a theme, here?)

4) Be less self-righteous and rigid with my beliefs. Granted, I graduated when I was twenty so as a teenager, I thought I knew everything. I was convinced that I had being a Christian all figured out and that my parents were total hypocrites and Pharisees (when really, so was I!) and was such an ungrateful little shit. Besides, it’s really easy to be all “Jesus loves everyone and we should give all our money to the poor” when you have never worked an honest day’s wages in your entire life and had everything handed to you on a silver platter. (I went to UCLA during the dotcom boom so we were pretty flush.)

5) Not be so obsessed with boys and being in a relationship. How many hours of my life did I waste on drama with boys? GAH. So stupid. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Some of the boys were fine people. (Many were not.) But how sad that I focused so much of my self-worth and time on boys instead of myself? LAME.

6) Pursued interests other than my Christian Fellowship. I loved my Christian fellowship (InterVarsity). I learned so much about Jesus and most of my conviction about social justice came from them. However, they were not the only things I loved or cared about. I wish I had taken the lead role in a musical my senior year instead of turning it down. (I said it was because God wanted me to spend more time with non-Christians on my floor, but really, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to memorize all those lines and songs and would fail in a spectacularly public way.) Instead of letting InterVarsity take over my entire life, I wish I had the strength to pursue other interests without bowing to the pressure (whether intentional or not) to do EVERYTHING InterVarsity.

Sadly, like so much of my life, much of my decisions in college were influence by fear. If there is one thing I am realizing my blog is about more and more, it’s about living a life without fear. Who knows what I could’ve become had I not been so afraid of my parents, my self, or other people’s opinions? Alas, I will never know. But it definitely encourages me to live my life NOW without fear.

What would you do differently?

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.

The Myth of Meritocracy

ETA: Apparently, this post has attracted a lot of attention. (Much to my surprise although Hapa Papa has graciously mocked me with, “Do you NOT know how the internet works?”) At any rate, if you are new to my blog, might I kindly steer you to my Site Disclaimer & Comment Policy? You don’t have to read it, but you are responsible for adhering to it. I don’t mind if you disagree with me – that is totally your right. Just like it is my right to not allow any personally insulting or attacking comments. Free speech is guaranteed by the government, not my blog. 

When Hapa Papa and I were first dating, he used to mock me for using big words in common, every day speech. He told me that I was being an elitist and that no one normal could understand me so I should stop showing off. I was greatly offended. I told him, “I had twenty SAT words drilled in my head every week from the 7th grade through Senior year in high school. I read over a hundred books a year. These words are a part of my vocabulary. What the hell were YOU doing in high school? Didn’t you study for the SAT?”

Hapa Papa just shrugged and said that he took the SATs once during his senior year. He didn’t study for it. Didn’t really know he could study for it. He just showed up to take the SAT his senior year. His parents had never spoken to him about college other than telling him he couldn’t go to an expensive one. He assumed he’d attend a community college or something like that. His parents didn’t encourage him to go to college. (ETA: For those of you who are new to my site, Hapa Papa is half Japanese and half German. I am Pro SCA5 even at the supposed detriment to my own children.) He knew nothing about college applications. No counselors told him what to do. He only took one AP class (he can’t remember which subject: English or History) and applied only to one school, Cal State LA (CSULA), and got in (along with some scholarships). That’s it.

I was astounded. More like incredulous. I thought his parents and school were horrible.

“They didn’t tell you anything? You didn’t study at all? You just, ‘showed up’ one day to take the test?”

“Yep.”

“Did you go to school in the inner city? Are LA schools really that bad? How is it possible you did not know ANYTHING?”

My sheltered little brain couldn’t conceive of a world in which the parents and teachers did not provide a united push for the sole goal of getting their kids into college. The thing is, Hapa Papa actually went to a pretty good school in LA. (The school where they filmed Grease.) College just wasn’t a big deal for him or his parents. Even now, I still have trouble processing this fact.

This scenario of his would have NEVER occurred in my family or my friends’ families. NEVER. As in IMPOSSIBLE. ZERO% chance.

By the time I was in 7th grade, the next six years of my educational life were geared solely to get into college. I had tutors. Bought SAT books. Took as many AP classes as possible. Joined extracurricular activities in order to look good on my college applications. Took summer school for “easy” throw away classes so I could make room for more AP classes. I had piano and voice lessons. I was in choir and marching band and the Colorguard. Took the SATs (both the original SATs and then the SAT I and II) multiple times in multiple years. Took PSATs. Took assessment tests for the standardized tests. Took multiple AP tests. Went to college fairs and information sessions. Our classes were geared to getting us into as well as succeeding at college.

All my friends were like me to varying degrees. My best friends made up the top 5% of my class and I rounded it out, the dumbest of all my super smart friends. And even then, my weighted high school GPA was well over 4.0. (I’d tell you the exact number but I really don’t remember.) College was NEVER not an option.

Another time, we were hanging out with Hapa Papa’s CSULA friends, (who incidentally, were mostly Latino), and they started reminiscing about college. Wanting to contribute to the conversation and bond with them, I started talking about the dorm life and how the cafeteria food was amazing and like restaurant quality when I realized his friends had all fallen silent and just kind of gave me a blank stare. Embarrassed, my voice petered out and never finished what I had started to say.

Later, Hapa Papa gave me shit for being completely tone deaf to the situation. His friends worked through school and either lived with their parents or in the super cheap fraternity house. Their dorms weren’t fancy and they didn’t have amazing restaurant quality cafeterias. He called me a spoiled little rich girl. I felt foolish and ashamed.

I remember a Latino friend at UCLA telling me how angry he was when he realized just how different his schooling was from the majority of other UCLA students. He felt constantly out of place and kept thinking he didn’t deserve to be at campus even though he was in the top of his high school. He had started to think he was stupid and slow at picking things up when he realized it wasn’t because he was stupid. It was because the other students had ALREADY learned these subjects in high school and were taking them again for an easy “A.”

I remember a black friend at UCLA who was clearly smarter than me, worked harder than me, came from a similar socioeconomic background and completely deserved to be at UCLA and yet, people always assumed he got in because of affirmative action. Even back when I was at UCLA, a time before Prop 209 killed affirmative action, at most there were one or two black students in my classes of three hundred. There were so few black people on campus, even though the student population in the late 1990s was approximately 35,000, they knew all the other black students by sight if not by name.

Where am I going with all this?

This past week, I have seen many of my Asian friends post “No on SCA5” on their Facebook feeds, linking articles on how the bill is racist and discriminatory and how it is a new version of the Chinese Exclusion ActSCA5 would repeal provisions of Prop 209 and allow the State of California to deny an individual or group’s rights to public education on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. In layman’s terms, SCA5 would re-allow CA to use race as admissions criteria for UCs and CSUs. Basically, to re-allow affirmative action in UCs and CSUs.

According to UC data, the UC’s 2013 freshman class was 36% Asian, 28.1% white, 27.6% Latino and 4.2% black. At some campuses, including UC San Diego and UC Irvine, Asians are more than 45% of admitted freshmen this year. As of 2010, Asians made up only 14.9% of CA’s population.

If SCA5 passes and UCs and CSUs want to increase Latino and black student populations, due to the immutable properties of math, Asian and white student populations will decrease. And since Asians make up the predominant group, it is highly likely Asians would be the most affected. Understandably, many people (especially Asians) are up in arms over this.

I get why my Asian friends are angry and upset over SCA5. When I was applying for colleges, I remember debating whether or not I should tick off “Asian” when applying. After all, that could hurt my chances to get into school. And now, if SCA5 passes and isn’t repealed, when it comes turn for my children to attend university, their chances of getting into their colleges of choice will also be impacted.

It doesn’t seem fair. Why should blacks, Latinos, and heck, whites, get my kids’ spot just because of their race? They should work hard, get good grades and EARN their way – just like the rest of us.

But what is fair? On the surface, merit-based ONLY (the status quo) seems fair. But is it?

I want meritocracy to be true. I don’t want to admit that I did not get to where I am by myself – that I had help. But truthfully, I did. I benefited from tutors, better teachers, schools, and environment. I grew up without the expectation of violence. I had trusted advisors (who had already gone to college) show me what I needed to do in order to get into UCLA or similar institutions. Many of my extra-curricular activities were possible because my family had enough money so that A) I could do these things and pay for the materials they required and B) I wouldn’t have to work because I wasn’t expected to contribute to the family income.

In addition, I grew up in an environment where attending college was the rule not the exception. Being Taiwanese and the daughter of two MBA graduates makes it assumed that I would make good grades and go to a good school. Whatever you think of the “model minority myth,” society constantly reinforced the idea that I was smart, great at math and sciences, and would likely become a doctor.

I want to believe that I am singularly awesome and responsible for my success. I don’t want to believe that the black or Latino student who didn’t get into UCLA likely could’ve gotten in and done BETTER than I had they my advantages. Who wants to think that of themselves?

But when I honestly look at myself and my work ethic (or complete lack thereof), if situations were reversed and I was in an environment where succeeding at school was considered being a “race traitor” or I had few examples of academic success or all of society was telling me that I could only be successful as either a rap star or an athlete but never an intelligent human being and that I was most likely a thief, a thug, or a drug dealer and going to be knocked up at fourteen or incarcerated, I really don’t think I would have the mental fortitude or personal strength to overcome all of that. 

Even just from the anecdotes I included at the beginning of this post, without doing any research at all (which also backs up what I am saying), it is evident that there are huge differences in student backgrounds.

Money, neighborhoods, schools, race, and cultural expectations make it impossible to have a level playing field. 

Obviously, not ALL blacks and Latinos grow up in poverty. That is clearly false. However, at 12.6%, Asians have half the poverty rates of Latinos (23.6%) and African Americans (24.2%) in California. (Whites are at 9.8%.) So, even though not ALL blacks and Latinos have to overcome immense hurdles, many do. Besides, I’m not worried about the rich and middle-class black/Latino kids. They would get into the UCs and CSUs without affirmative action. But this helps blacks and Latinos who may not have the same grades (especially weighted grades) or access to AP classes, tutors, etc. and had to overcome overwhelming odds to get the opportunity to attend school.

Furthermore, even though Asian households have the highest median income in America, that fails to distinguish between different ethnic groups with different histories. When divided up by ethnicity, the majority of economic and academic success is concentrated in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indian Americans. Cambodians (14.6%), Hmong (16%), Laotians (13%), and to a lesser extent, Vietnamese (26.1%), have college graduation rates lower than the US national average (28%). Additionally, one in five Hmong and Bangladeshi people live in poverty.

These are the Asians most likely to be hurt by SCA5. (Not the vast majority of Asians who are protesting on Facebook.)

There are no easy answers. There are limited spots. But sometimes, people in privilege have to give up some of theirs in order to allow other people a seat at the table. That is the burden and responsibility of being in a “majority” or in a seat of privilege. And in this case, I would consider Asians to be in the majority since they occupy a huge portion of spots at the UCs and CSUs.

Remember, Asians benefited greatly from the advocacy and rights of blacks and Latinos. We benefit from their fights for racial equality yet rarely do anything to help out their causes when we could. We Asians think that we achieved all our successes by ourselves when we wouldn’t even be in the conversation if it were not for blacks demanding their civil rights. We can’t have our cake and eat it too.

How hypocritical for Asians to demand opportunities in situations where we clearly benefit but not offer others that same opportunity where we would NOT benefit? Where would we be in other areas (bamboo and glass ceilings) if many whites did not give up some of THEIR privilege? Where would we be if blacks and Latinos had not fought for equal opportunities in employment, housing, and education?

Though much of our personal successes are due to our hard work, how much of that would have mattered if our rights were not secure in the first place? We Asians forget that we stand on top of the backs of our black and Latino friends as they paved the way and fought for our right to be here. 

What good does it do us if we succeed at the expense of blacks and Latinos? Who will come to our aid when we need it? (And believe me, we will need it.)

We are too afraid and pinning too much of our hopes and dreams on getting into certain schools. The truth is, there are so many opportunities out there. It SEEMS like a zero sum game where there is one pie and fuck it we’re losing some of our slice to blacks and Latinos. But in reality, our kids who would succeed at UCs and CSUs would succeed in many different schools. They will be fine. There are SO MANY pies. (Mmmm… pies…) UCs and CSUs are NOT the only game in town. There are many ways to succeed.

We do not need to fear.

Ultimately, is SCA5 fair? I don’t think so. But until I see Asians rallying with equal fervency against the unfairness of impoverished schools, the many Latino and black kids in underperforming school districts, living in areas of violence, drugs, broken families, and hardship, which, unsurprisingly, leads to it being much more difficult to do well in school (especially if you may be the first kid in your family to go to college), I am going to vote Yes on SCA5.

Suggested Reading:

Top 5 Anti-Affirmative Action Myths About SCA-5

NY Times: Asian Americans in the Argument

Civil Rights 101

14 Important Statistics on Asian Americans

Poverty in California

Reflections on the Rise of Asian Americans or Don’t Believe the Hype

Intelligence Squared Affirmative Action Debate (Hat Tip: Andrea Lee)

Myths and Realities of Affirmative Action for College Bound Students

Minorities and Whites Follow Unequal College Paths

A New SAT Aims to Realign With Schoolwork

Who I Want to Be

The other day, I unsubscribed from reading a popular blogger because I finally couldn’t stomach his writing anymore. It’s nothing personal against the guy. He’s a decent enough writer and has written some good pieces and in general, I don’t think he’s so terrible. However, after months of reading his posts, I had to quit for my own good. I realized that the majority of his posts were rants and screeds against things that he was angry about or things that were wrong with America/the world/atheists. After reading them, I’d feel angry, too – either at the writer, which is silly because these are his opinions and he’s free to have them, or about the situation in general.

So I quit.

I admit, I took a peek at the site just now just to make sure he was still ranty (yes, he is), and got sucked in for fifteen minutes or so.

At any rate, I get why he rants. There are lots of things in the world to be upset about, particularly if you are a human and are wont to be annoyed at things that run counter to your personal worldview. I am a ranter. I get angry and hold long grudges. (Just ask Hapa Papa. Poor, poor man.)

But I don’t want to be that way.

It’s EASY to rant and be angry. There is plenty of fodder for that. In fact, I’m sure my own writing has its fair share of screeds (dripping with sarcasm, to boot).

I want to be defined by the things I love and find hilarious and life-giving versus by things that I hate and find annoying and infuriating. Even in this space, this blog, I know I’ve had some depressing, angry, or frustrated posts – and I think those deserve to be here because that’s life, right? But I don’t want to ONLY write sad posts about my father or overwhelmed posts about my kids (though these do tend to be popular).

I want to be Real – in whatever moment I happen to be in – whether positive or negative. However, I hope to focus more on the positive. I firmly believe that what we highlight and repeat to ourselves colors everything we see. When I am in a rut of frustration, I tend to see only the annoying habits of Hapa Papa, my mother, or my kids. (Obviously, I would never see my OWN annoying habits – that’s just crazy because they don’t exist!) But when I force myself to stop being such an asshat and focus on gratefulness, those annoyances fade (they’re still there, mind you, but not so heavy and oppressive) and the whimsy and fun and beauty of my life come to the forefront.

I want my writing to be a witness to some of the pain but mostly, to the delight and joy of my life.

Earlier, I mentioned that venting was easy, somewhat implying that exuding happiness was difficult. That is a lie. A false dichotomy.

Choosing joy and hope and love and all the good things in life is no easier or harder than choosing sadness and despair and hate. I know because it is far easier for me to choose joy and hope and love than sadness and despair and hate than it used to be. I just had to re-train my brain to look for the good rather than the bad.

May you all have an easier time choosing joy and hope and love.

 

Grief on the Side

An old co-worker and friend of mine died yesterday morning. He would’ve been 44 in less than a month and leaves behind a wife and two teenage children. Although I knew it was inevitable (he had been in a painful struggle with cancer for a long time), it is still a shock to my system. (Obviously, my grief is nothing compared to his family and closer friends.) 

It’s a mixed bag, right? When people we love and care about die after suffering so much physical pain. On the one hand, we do not want them to be gone – for death seems so final to me (although the thought of a Heaven and him being in it brings me comfort). On the other hand, we do not want to prolong their suffering and pain. So though I am sad he has left us, I am relieved there was an end to his pain.

I must admit though, part of my grief (despite losing a friend who was a person who drew others in with his fun and positive personality – geez, even my attempts to describe him fall so flat, as if reducing him to a caricature of himself) is the thought of this happening to ME. I am sad for his family who are left behind, and I cannot stop thinking about ME. How I am so grateful that this is NOT happening to ME.

I am a selfish ass.

When I consider the possibility of my babies in a life without Hapa Papa, I can’t breathe. Not to mention just the practicality of WHO WILL PROVIDE FOR US? and OMG IT WILL HAVE TO BE ME!

Of course, my mind veers to the practical, daily providence side of things. Because to think too hard or too long of an actual LIFE without Hapa Papa, I just can’t. I feel an ache in the back of my throat and eyes just thinking about all the things that my kids (and by extension, my friend’s kids) will miss and all I want to do is cry.

After I heard the news this afternoon, I just stumbled about, letting my kids zone out on the iPad. All I could think about was how grateful that we were all healthy and alive and that I loved my kids. Of course, fast forward to this evening right before bed when I reached new heights (in terms of volume) of screaming and yelling at Cookie Monster and Gamera (POOR Glow Worm!) and I feel even more like a giant piece of turd.

I don’t know why the juxtaposition of these two events sits so heavily on my heart. I suppose it’s some trite message about how we never know when we’re going to die so we need to cherish the moments we have with our children.

Mostly, I just feel guilt.

But since I already wrote a post on being a monster, we can skip that guilt-fest for now. I think I am just going to chock all that yelling to misplaced grief, stress, and the sad fact of life for the moment. I’ll make better choices tomorrow.

At any rate, I miss my friend. We had somewhat lost touch in the past few years, but that did not dampen my love for him.

Rest in Peace, Nellie. My heart breaks for your wife and two beautiful children. You are with Jesus now and we are without you. Seems a bit selfish of Jesus if you ask me, but that’s just me feeling sad. You were one fucking awesome guy and it sucks that you’re gone. You are loved.

The Winner’s Mentality

Every time I watch a game, I am reminded again of my utter lack of a killer instinct and winning mentality in sports. Hapa Papa says that is because I don’t play any.

I beg to differ. I’ll have you know that I played on the tennis team in high school.

I can say with great assuredness that any time I started losing momentum, I would almost immediately resign myself to having lost the game and pretty soon, game, set, match, I’d given up the game.

Now, one could argue that had I more competency in tennis, I would’ve been more confident and sure of my win. Or it could be my being female. Who knows? All I know is that I am not a clutch player. I would rather take the guaranteed loss than risk my heart and try, then lose.

But I suppose Hapa Papa could be right. Perhaps if I had grown up playing sports and had enough proficiency, I too would want the game winning shot.

All I know is that thought terrifies me. I think it’s also part of the reason I wasn’t more successful as a Financial Advisor. (It has an 80% fail rate.) Even going into the job, I didn’t think I could do it. How could I succeed with an attitude like that?

I was always waiting for my manager to call me in his office and say they were letting me go. Any time a client called, I would internally freak out that they were going to tell me they were unhappy or wanted to leave. (Although when clients fire you, you usually just see the account transfer out. There rarely is any advanced notice.)

What is my point with all this? I guess that fear pervaded so much of my life. It was in my bones. And I can’t tell whether that is because this Loser’s Mentality is because I just wasn’t confident and competent or whether this is because I have a character flaw and am destined for failure in all that I do. (Which, logically, I know is ridiculous. Because if I failed at everything, wouldn’t that mean I succeeded at failing? This hurts my brain on a Monday morning after a late night JT concert.)

 

One thing I am pleasantly surprised about, though. For someone who yells at my kids a lot, I am actually rather calm when “crises” occur. I have taken multiple calm trips to the ER (mostly for Cookie Monster because this boy sure gets injured!) and have even administered an Epi-pen shot (also Cookie Monster) without totally going berserk. Not sure how I’d react in situations that require CPR, but I did learn it (a few years ago – I should have a refresher course) and if someone were to require it, I’d probably be able to do so. Especially, if that someone were my kid.

Hmmm. Now that I think of it, I read a book called Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing by Po Bronson (affiliate link used) that does explain a lot of it. (Same authors of NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children.) You can read an excerpt/NY Times article here.

The tl;dr version is that we all have two copies of a COMT gene. One version makes us a Worrier (excellent under every day circumstances and crumbles under pressure) and one version makes us Warriors (bored under every day circumstances and thrives under pressure). 50% of us have a copy of each gene while 25% of us have both Worrier genes and 25% of us have both Warrior genes.

They ran experiments for performance under stress and found that while you would think the Warriors would perform best, it was also not entirely true. Under similar beginner skill levels, Warriors would perform best. However, once the level of experience increased, Worriers would perform better because they had more experience and a better memory from which to draw.

Anyhow, my blathering aside, I guess that it just means I do not have the skill or experience needed to be a clutch player but I DO for parenting my children. That’s comforting on a Monday morning. 🙂

Revisiting Past Creations

I haven’t written poetry in at least eight or nine years. Sometimes, I look back and think, “Gosh, what utter self-absorption. What sentimental dreck.” But then, I go back and read them and some aren’t half bad. (At least, in my personal, unbiased opinion.)

Anyhow, I miss that part of me, but unfortunately, most of my poems sprang from a deep sadness and were a way to cope with depression and typical drama. (Years of therapy have definitely helped!) I am not sure I can even write a poem if I wanted to now. Not because I am in a good place – I find the idea that art must only come from depression to be sad and trite. Mostly, it may just be because I am out of practice and haven’t gotten into that type of mindset anymore. It is a muscle that I’ve let atrophy.

At any rate, this is just a long preamble for me to say that I will likely start sharing some of my poems on this blog. Just because I am a glutton for punishment (and praise!).

This is the last poem I wrote.

In All Seasons

I say
Today
I will blast through the dam of my soul
and tears will spring forth from a well
of thirst
salt water carving its course down
my radiant cheeks
full and round
bursting with joy
as I say,
“Glory Be! Praise the Lord, O My Soul!”
Even if it be through gritted teeth
It is still so.

– 10/13/05

I am surprised by how difficult this entry is for me to post. In fact, this post is harder for me than some of my more obviously “vulnerable” ones on my father. I suppose it is because while my posts about my father are vulnerable, they are my experiences and feelings. Who can dispute that those are indeed my feelings and experiences? Even if a person disagrees with me, my thoughts are still my own and perfectly valid.

However, if I create “art” (see, I can’t even bring myself to write “art” without quotes. As if what I created is insufficient to be called Art. Well, perhaps just art with no Capital A.), that can be judged as good or bad. may think myself quite the poet or wordsmith, but now, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak.

It’s like the deluded people who audition for American Idol. They think they are the next pop star but in reality cannot carry a tune if their life depended on it and are astonished when the judges boo them. (What they really should be astonished about is that no one in their life loved them enough to say before they humiliated themselves on national TV, “Sweetheart, you are good at many things. Singing is not one of those things.”)

Hmmm. I suppose that is an inaccurate comparison. Mostly because you are either on tune or not. That is not a subjective situation. That is an indisputable fact.

Anyway, you get my drift.

Well, good poetry or bad, it is not the SOLE reason to write and share. In fact, that applies to all art and creation. Yes, we would all ideally create only beautiful, wonderful things. But if that were the limitation we put upon ourselves, likely, there would not be any good (dare I say, transformative) art all. If the main driving factor behind our creations is whether or not something will be “good,” we have already hobbled ourselves, tamping down our free expression. But, if we are free to create utter crap, then we open ourselves up to making something that could possibly be True and Good.

Keep in mind, we likely have to throw away a lot of crap on our way to making something good. For some of us, we may have to throw away a lot MORE crap before we get to make anything mediocre.

That’s ok.

For so much of my life, because I picked up certain things really quickly (such as sight-reading music for singing or playing piano), I found it very difficult to try activities in which I did not immediately excel. Obviously, innate talent is a consideration, but ultimately, most activities worth doing well are only done so after much failure and practice. I wish I had been more willing to accept “failure” along the way to becoming proficient at dancing, drawing, and perhaps basketball.

Well, it’s not too late for me yet! I have enjoyed taking dance classes in my adulthood, and one day, when I am willing to make the time sacrifice, I will take drawing lessons, too. That’s one of my favorite things about becoming older and more comfortable with myself – I have mostly stopped caring about failure. I am more interested in getting what I want and sometimes, the only way to succeed is to fail along the way.