Confessions of a Non-Stereotypical Asian

So here’s a joke you may or may not have heard of … A pediatrician, an obstetrician, and a scientist walk into an Asian restaurant …

To meet a romance author (me!).

Actually, to be honest, they were already seated and I was the one walking in (because hello, Asian time!). 😉

As soon as I sat down that evening, Sesame Street’s song, “One of These Things is Not Like the Other” began playing in my mind. I glanced at the faces of my friends, all of whom I’ve known since junior high, and immediately started thinking … They have real full-time jobs. They went to school for years and years to earn their Ph.D.’s in order to have these well-established careers. They actually have a title that you can check off on forms that’s more fancy than Mr. or Mrs.

And there was lil ‘ol me, a stay at home mom, with my lil ‘ol Masters degree working in a profession totally unrelated to said degree, who just wants to make enough money to support my boba tea addiction.

Yup. You can tell who’s the non-stereotypical Asian here. 😉

I wasn’t comparing myself with my friends because they think less of me—they are all very down-to-earth gals. I was comparing myself to them because I’ve been conditioned to believe all my life that Asians are supposed to be high-achieving, hard-working smarty pants in school who later on become high-achieving, hard-working adults in the working world.

But I’ve never been “one of those Asians”. Sure, I’m high-achieving and hard-working, but I’ve always been below the Asian standard for nerdiness. I only took one AP/Honors class in high school because anyone and everyone could get in (and I only passed, thanks to the help of some brilliant friends). I got accepted into UC Berkeley, but only for the extension program because I didn’t have the transcript or the SAT scores I needed to officially get in. I have never even taken a Calculus class (I dropped out the first week when I saw the syllabus!).

How’s that for being non-conforming? 😉

Instead, I ventured into the counseling field for a couple of years, even though many Asians shy away from anything having to do with mental health, and am now an author who often times feels like the “token Asian” among my author friends.

It’s taken me a few good years to feel more like a “real” author, someone who actually knows what she’s doing and has a job that is more than a hobby. And because I’m still a true Asian at my core (high-achieving and hard-working!), I want to do well as an author. I want to show people—Asians and non-Asians—that people who look like me and are from a similar background and upbringing can be successful without a Ph.D. behind their name. I’d like to pave the way for and inspire other Asians who don’t excel at math or science to do what they’re good at and what they love. I hope to see more Asians take a chance on being creative and to know it’s okay to not be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. Asians can hold a variety of other professions as writers, directors, actors, artists, and dancers—and much more!

It always makes my heart happy to see people being creative, but it makes my Asian heart happy to see other Asians breaking out of the mold to be creative. Which is why I HAD to go support the movie, Crazy Rich Asians, on opening day. I even dragged an Asian friend to go with me. 😉 We are neither crazy nor rich, but we are Asians who express ourselves creatively, and we both truly enjoyed the film. I for one was blown away by the beauty of it all—from the soundtrack (which features Chinese covers of English songs) and the amazing set designs to the gorgeous costumes and jewelry. I also felt a bit nostalgic as I recognized some of the Chinese songs from the movie as ones my parents used to listen to when I was a kid.

The movie truly made my heart–both the creative part and the Asian part—happy, thankful, and proud. Happy because I love a good rom-com and the movie was well-done with just enough conflict, angst, drama, and laughs. Thankful because the older I get, the more I appreciate being Asian and all the craziness that comes with the culture. And proud because even though it’s hard to feel validated—by your family, other people, but most of all, yourself—as someone who is Asian and creative, this movie is living proof that it’s possible.

So, this is definitely a plug from me to go see the movie! If you’re Asian, and even if you’re not, Crazy Rich Asians is good entertainment. You won’t regret it!

In the meantime, enjoy this song from the soundtrack, Katherine Ho’s (no relation, haha) Chinese cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow”.

How does your cultural background influence your creativity?

Parenting for the Love of It

Happy August, everyone! And a warm welcome to those who are new to this blog. I’m so glad you’re here. I feel bad I haven’t been posting regularly, but there was a thing called life—and more specifically, kids—that grabbed my attention for the better part of three months! But school has started, so thank the Lord for that. 😉

Speaking of thanking God, there’s so much I’m grateful to Him for, even the life lessons I’ve struggled to learn. This summer was a big turning point for me personally in being able to tackle and overcome challenges. Because, for the first year ever, the munchkins spent their vacation at home instead of going to summer school. And I had to learn how to adjust my expectations and attitude—big time! Meaning, I had to throw my “me time” out the window and focus on my hardest, most challenging job of being a mom. For an almost only child who is a recovering perfectionist (aka. control freak) who happens to also be highly sensitive, this was no small feat. Mainly because I wanted to make my time with my kids enjoyable. Which meant saying no to yelling, to harboring resentment, and to putting my work first. Instead, I wanted—wanted, being the key word—to say yes to having fun together, to spending quality and quantity time, and to making my kids a priority in my heart, mind, and schedule. (Did I mention, I’m an overachiever, too?) But of course, wanting and doing are often two very different things.

So, did I make it?

Well, yes … and no. 😉 I was pretty amazed at myself (haha!) and would probably give myself at least a B+, maybe even an A-, for my efforts. My kids though? They’re a much harder crowd to please.

During our last week of vacation, I took them out for lunch to one of their favorite noodle places. While we slurped up noodles and crunched on fried won tons, I asked them what they thought of their summer. How did it compare to previous years when they had gone to summer school? How was it different this year since they got to stay home? I pretty much asked the question every which way possible, making sure to hint at the fact that it should have been a very different, totally more awesome, summer vacation because I, their amazing mother, had spent the better part of sixty days with them. I was practically shining my “Best Mother of the Year” trophy by the end of my speech.

And what did they say?

Nothing. *Cue the sound of crickets*

Maybe their mouths were too full to answer? Maybe they were so in awe of my sacrificial nature that they were speechless? Haha, nope! When my oldest munchkin finally swallowed his food, he replied with a straight face, “My mother yelled too much.”

WHAT?!?! How rude! (And yes, my kids like to refer to me in the third person for some strange reason. LOL)

When I relayed this conversation to hubby later, he tried to console me by saying, “The kids wouldn’t have said any of the things you wanted them to say.”

Hmph. Okay, fine. I guess it wasn’t realistic to expect them to break out in a round of applause and give me a standing ovation in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Or for them to break down in happy tears as they showered me with praise. Now that I’m thinking about this, I can see very clearly how out of my mind I was to have even asked the question in the first place. 😉 Especially since my pre-teens no longer think I’m cool and are more apt to roll their eyes and make sarcastic comments. (And for the record, I raised my voice a LOT less this summer! LOL)

Anyhow, I’ve come to realize that I can’t parent my kids expecting to receive anything in return. Of course there are appropriate times for good manners and etiquette, but when it comes to making sacrifices for my kids, it’s not a give and take situation. It’s a one hundred percent commitment on my part to be the best parent I can be. To care, lead, guide, teach, listen to and yes, to sacrifice for them because I choose to. Not because I’ll get anything in return.

You could say I’m parenting for the love of it.

Doing anything you’re passionate about requires time, endurance, and sacrifice. So much sacrifice. But it’s worth it. Because my kids are worth it. 🙂

What are you doing simply for the love of it?