Anyone who knows me knows I have manic bursts of wild thoughts and creativity. I’ve gone back to my roots, in a way, and am starting to record my thoughts via blogging. All my life, I have been obsessed with blogging and shouting into the void semi-hot takes on philosophy, psychology, sociology, economics, linguistics, and politics. These new writings are lengthy and deeply personal, and more self actualized than anything I’ve written in the past. I’m finally okay with this social gaze and don’t feel the need to posture. So, this is basically a prolonged form of the short snippets of thought I post in normal statuses. This first one is dedicated to my dear friend Esther, who just got married, and whose wedding brought me closer to the important people in my life.
Side note: I was reading something my clever pal C wrote about the Freud’s ‘death drive,’ and also thought about Lana del Rey, and am thus referring to this series as ‘Lust 4 Life.’ Also, a thank you to Adam who reminded me of how important one’s relationship with their parents is. (I say this making an obvious exception for those who have grown up with truly abusive parents.)
It feels like this is the first time in a long time I’ve found any semblance of self-love. It’s not easy to be at peace with yourself when your brain is buzzing with so much information about your past, present, and future; your traumas; your happiest moments; your many sorrows; your proudest moments; the things that make you feel guilty; your childhood; the inevitable fear of death; and everything else we have to process as humans both at any given moment and all at once.
Animals freeze when they are under too much stress. Rabbits freeze before they die. People who are sexually assaulted either engage in fight, flight, OR freeze. The freezing is what results in self-blame and victim-blaming but it’s a phenomenon anyone may experience. It makes sense why we freeze when our minds are overburdened with so many thoughts — some of which are beautiful and dear to us, and some of which are haunting.
My best friend from childhood (and first friend ever!) got married this past weekend. This followed a few big life changes for me, including my father having a heart attack (and recovering very well, so thank god), my hamster dying, and my first serious boyfriend — the only one I’ve had since I’ve regained any of my self-confidence — meeting my parents.
It finally makes sense why I was so mad at my parents, mostly my mom, for so long. They struggled so much, and loved me so much — even before I was born — that they literally sacrificed so much of their happiness for us. It’s difficult to understand that when you’re a child who is unfamiliar with how the world works… Who has yet to see any real struggle, or overcome any real adversity.
It’s also clear to me now that adversity makes you grow up really quickly. The adversity I experienced was real but it wasn’t debilitating — in fact, it was minimal. My parents made sure of that. I grew up slowly (and am still a child at heart!) but had to sacrifice all of my self-love and self-esteem at a pretty young age. I was plagued with anxiety, both genetically — through my DNA — and also through my circumstances.
When you’re a child who doesn’t understand adversity, you don’t understand why you’re being punished. That’s why positive reinforcement just works better. You don’t understand why you can’t have your way; you think your ideas are the best. You don’t see beyond yourself in so many cases. It’s difficult to learn respect for others and to engage in self-awareness. You want to be praised rather than avoid being reprimanded. Overcompensation finally makes sense to me now.
I was overcompensating all the time as a child. I put on shows (always creative presentations or ‘contests’) to get validation. I needed validation from someone and, frankly, anyone. It usually wasn’t my parents who gave it to me. It would sometimes be Esther’s parents — especially her mother — who would give me validation. Later on, she helped me get a full scholarship into college with a very well-written recommendation letter. I, however, cannot discount my own strengths as an intelligent, worthy person, in any of my successes.
I rarely reflected on Esther’s mother — who was probably an aunt to me in ways — until now. I am understanding why we call our parents’ friends ‘auntie’ and ‘uncle’ in Chinese culture. We are all interconnected. We are supposed to respect and nurture one another. This becomes difficult when your parents escaped some of the most harrowing times in modern history (this being an authoritarian communist regime) and want you to be safe. Sheltered. But they want you to thrive, but they don’t want you to see the same horrors they saw.
They want you to become the individualistic, free humans you are. My parents were strict, and I sometimes perceived them to be cruel from the viewpoint of a child — but they never tried to control us. Today, I have filial piety because I choose to exercise it, not because I was taught it. I WANT to learn about my family’s history. I WANT to know everything. I am crying out for them to finally tell me their secrets, which they should not feel burdened by.
My parents have protected me from so much. I appreciate it more than they’ll ever understand — and more than I’ll even understand. But it doesn’t mean I’m not ready to go into the world and live. There are a million ways to live, not one. All of those ways are meaningful in their own right. My parents taught me this while still managing to discipline us in the most important ways.
I learned to be a truly honest person (as much as I can be, that is) through the values they instilled on us. I can say I wholeheartedly value truth, justice, equality, freedom, creativity, and solidarity above all else. I am moved by human connectedness. I have empathy. I learned some of that empathy from my parents, but most of it on my own.
That’s the thing. Empathy is learned, and there is no replacement for it. No amount of schooling can teach you empathy. It’s something you have to develop through self reflection and introspection, and it’s not easy. It’s never easy to think outside of yourself and your immediate needs and values. But a part of being a self actualized human is finally realizing that you have to. That you’ll never truly be happy if you only think about yourself and your own needs.
The greater good is a concept I used to be afraid of, because it meant the rights of the individual can sometimes be sacrificed. I didn’t think I did, but I do believe in the greater good. This does not, however, include instances of deceit, such as when people of color (and any other marginalized groups) are systemically blamed for America’s problems — when they are treated inhumanely, mocked, portrayed negatively, incarcerated, and killed without remorse.
I believe in the greater good in the sense that humans can come together and collectively use their ambitions and selflessness to achieve altruism. It’s really an Eastern philosophy that runs deep in my veins, and is something bigger than myself. I’ve always wanted peace even though I was unruly, fiercely creative, nonconforming, and — most of all — a confused child. Whenever I put someone else down, such as my little sisters, to feel better about myself, I would experience deep-seated guilt.
And for any of the unfair things I did in my 28 years of life, I am remorseful. I acknowledge that I am not perfect, and no one is perfect. It takes strength to accept that. It takes strength to admit you’re a vulnerable human being just like anyone else. It’s okay to ask for help, because — in theory — you should be able to reciprocate that altruism. I think it’s an inherent human trait, that people want to to do good. They want to feel proud of themselves — and for genuine reasons, not superficial ones.
I’ve decided to be both vulnerable and patient. All my life, I’ve struggled with patience. I — like many others — enjoy instant gratification. My sister’s boyfriend said it best: delayed gratification is worth it. I think it’s worthwhile to be not only ambitious, but to also realize that you can’t get everything you want right away. That’s not how the world works. But if you are patient, and you are actively working to improve the world around you, I hope you get to enjoy some of the beauty this world has to offer.
The most moving part of our trip, which went really well for everyone involved, was when my mom told me my dad wanted to be a pilot as a child. It’s because he wanted to fly and to be free, she said. I’d say he did a pretty good job.