Choosing To Be Content With Less

We decided to pass on the bigger home. Turns out, Hapa Papa doesn’t want to work until he dies. Slacker.

Although part of me is disappointed and had already envisioned our family in the bigger house, (especially my books in that glorious built in bookshelf!!), mostly, I feel relief. As awesome as the house sounded (and it was so awesome!!), in the end, it boiled down to what Hapa Papa wanted for our lives. He wanted flexibility to be with our family and to have the freedom of paying off the mortgage right around the time Cookie Monster heads to college. (Paying for 3-4 kids in college would also be difficult if we had a huge mortgage to consider as well.) He wanted to replicate what his father had: possibly fifteen or so years of his own time during retirement before passing. Plus, he didn’t want me to feel constrained with our budget.

I want what makes Hapa Papa happy.

Also, I definitely didn’t want to hear Hapa Papa blame me for this financial burden any time something cropped up. And he would blame me! Well, not necessarily blame, but he’d definitely mention it. A lot.

To this day, he still gives me crap about moving to NorCal without discussing it with him. He rightly alleges that if he hadn’t have followed me up north, we would’ve broken up. He’s totally right. But he did move up north so it all worked out in the end. (Never mind the fact that I didn’t take into account how he felt or thought about anything at all and just up and moved.)

And to be fair, I do agree with Hapa Papa. I just like to pin all the responsibility on him because now, I can get a bunch of stuff done to my current house due to misplaced guilt on Hapa Papa’s part. (He told me it was an excellent bluff strategy on my part. After considering an expensive house, all my remodeling requests sound really cheap.)

But as much as I joke about it, I am satisfied with staying put. After all, Hapa Papa is right. We would be trading our easy lifestyle for one that was considerably harder for what? A larger house? What is the point of working so hard (and in order to pay for the bigger house, Hapa Papa would have most likely had to get an even higher paying position which would require more in terms of time and effort) and never seeing the kids (or me)? Why would we choose to forgo swimming, martial arts, art, dance, and music classes for the kids just for more space?

Of course, this doesn’t preclude us moving to a bigger house in the future if our financial and family circumstances change. But for now, even though we could afford the house, ultimately, the trade-off wasn’t worth it for our family. Also, I think I get new hardwood floors and a custom built-in out of this experience (shhh… don’t tell Hapa Papa). So in the end, I still come out on top.

Many thanks goes out to our fantastic realtors, Brady and Erica Hobby of Hobby and Associates Real Estate Services. Their incredible knowledge, competence, and patience made this whirlwind palatable. I am only sorry that this is the second time I’ve engaged their service with no payoff for them. (The perils of me being impulsive and Hapa Papa being the sensible one of the family.)

And thanks to all of you, dear readers. Your comments and messages helped more than you know.

Why I Stayed

(Trigger Warning: Physical and emotional violence.)

I stayed because I was too young to leave. Because I didn’t want to cause my mother any more pain than she was already suffering. Because someone had to protect my younger brother. I stayed because I loved him. I still do. I stayed because he was my father.

It’s hard for me to classify my father’s behavior as abuse because hey, who doesn’t have a story about their parents beating them when they were younger? And shoot, we turned out fine, right? Wasn’t it just a different time? An Asian thing? A Christian thing?

But then, I look back on some of the things that happened and there really is no justification for what my father did to me.

I remember refusing to eat celery at dinner and my father just erupting into a rage, pushing my plate into my lap. I distinctly remember empty shrimp shells falling to the floor. I remember screaming at him and fleeing to my room, my father chasing after me. I locked the door to my room but he just kept slamming his body against the door that I was afraid he’d break down the door. I recall being more worried that the door would be broken. I was resigned to getting beaten and opened the door and scrambled into a corner of my room. My father grabbed the broken post of my four-poster bed and would have bludgeoned me repeatedly had my grandmother (his mother) not inserted herself between us. I remember being forced to apologize for making my father so angry.

Even thinking about this event over twenty years later, my stomach clenches, my heart races, my fingers tremble, and I want to huddle in a corner and weep.

This is why I recognize the defeated look on Cookie Monster’s face when I yell. It is like going back in time.

It’s hard to admit and really remember versus just reciting past infractions in a detached sort of nonchalance. It’s hard because who wants to be a victim? And maybe I was blowing it out of proportion? Maybe I was just super melodramatic and wanted attention? And if it was so bad, how come my mother didn’t know my father hit me when she wasn’t around (she maintains to this day that she didn’t – and I believe her, as incredulous as I still find it). How come my brother seemed to escape the worst of it?

I used to starve myself. Punch myself repeatedly in the stomach. Cut myself. Tear up my pictures. Destroy gifts my father gave me. I tried to slash my wrists but did it the wrong direction and too hesitantly. I tried to swallow a bunch of pills but was too afraid to die and of hell or purgatory or wherever it is that suicides allegedly go so I only took a few over the recommended daily dosage of Advil and then fearfully, prayerfully went to sleep.

I couldn’t even kill myself properly.

I still don’t understand why I would hurt myself as a way to say, “Fuck you” to my father. I’m not clear on how injuring myself would have done a damn thing to him, but that was my thinking at the time. I was only in junior high and high school.

But coping mechanisms are hard to shake. I starved myself when I was upset or did various forms of self-harm well into young adulthood.

And yet, despite living through what my father did to me, I still don’t understand why my mother stayed. My father smothered my mother with a pillow in some anonymous Chinese hotel until she almost blacked out. My father held a butcher knife to my mother’s throat while I called the police on a very memorable Father’s Day. Even when my mother finally was divorcing him last year, I feared for her safety.

But when I force myself to consider her situation, it makes a little more sense and I have more compassion. Likely, she stayed because she had two children. She had a mortgage. She grew up in a society that valued men over women, where violence against women was acceptable. She didn’t want her parents to be right (they didn’t approve the match). She was in a foreign country, away from all her family and support. She belonged to a church and a culture that considered divorce anathema and against God’s will. She was the age that I am now, afraid, alone, and so desperately sad.

I used to judge her so harshly. I still do, in my moments of frustration and anger.

The irony is that the main lesson I learned from my father was thus: Never be the victim. I refused to become like my mother, tread upon and used up by a horrible man. And so, I am become my father. (I hear this in my mother’s voice when we argue. I see it in her disappointment and despair. I hear this as a punishment in my depressed moments, when my brain only spews lies.)

But I fight the lies because I love my children. I fight my darkness so that my children will have less of this shit in their beautiful souls. I fight and fail but get back up because the same ferocity with which I used to protect myself and trammel over others in my selfishness has been transmuted to defend my children from my own worst moments.

I left my father three years ago around this time. My brother left a few months later. My mother finally left after that and the divorce finalized last March.

I don’t know how to end this post. It seems a bit artificial and contrived to take advantage of headlines and trending hashtags. I assure you, it is not. But since my last post, I have been thinking a lot and although I feel ill and trembly at the thought of pressing “Publish,” I also feel ill and trembly at the thought of not.

So, we’ll just leave it at that.

Why I Post So Many Articles About Privilege (Specifically, White)

Disclaimer: Due to the nature of this post, I just want to remind people of my commenting policy (both here and on my Facebook wall). The tl;dr version is that I reserve the right to immediately mallet comments I consider to be trolling or offensive. Plan accordingly.

Ever since I decided to “come out” (so to speak) and start sharing articles on the things I truly believe in (whether parenting, relationships, education, race, etc), my Facebook wall has gotten a little bit heated. I’m still getting used to dealing with comments that are completely and abjectly wrong (okay, okay, DIFFERENT THAN my opinion). It’s difficult for me regarding issues I am passionate about (and have a certain strong opinion on) and see some of my friends have almost diametrically opposed views come out and comment. It is hard to separate my disappointment or aversion to their point of view from their personhood – as I imagine it is difficult for them regarding me.

Some folks have wondered why I keep posting articles about race and privilege and not about other things. Why do I “only” share links about certain aspects of race or privilege? Well, quite frankly, it’s my Facebook and I can post whatever I want. Just like this is my blog and I can write about whatever I want. Also, I think about race and privilege quite often and that’s what I’m interested in.

But why all the white-bashing? Why all the articles about all those evil white people or mean rich people? Why all the race baiting?

Race baiting? No. Just because an article mentions the actual REALITY of many people of color does not qualify as race baiting.

The only people who think race doesn’t matter are people who have the privilege to ignore it and can pass through their daily lives without the constant reminder that they are [insert race].

Hapa Papa tells me he no longer reads the links I post about race because I post too much about it. That is his right and his prerogative. But you know what? It is also his PRIVILEGE.

He doesn’t want to think about race? He stops reading my articles and voila! Doesn’t have to think about race anymore.

How many black, Latino, Middle Eastern, or Asian people would like to go about their day and not think about race? I bet 100%. Except they don’t get to. Why? Because if a black dude walks down the street, he gets to hear all the car doors lock as he strolls by, minding his own business. He gets to watch people cross the street in order to get out of his way. Are all these people doing it on purpose because he is black? Probably not. But it happens often enough that he notices it. It happens often enough that lots of black men notice it.

When an Asian person is asked, “Where are you from? No, where are you really from? No, where are your parents from?” They don’t get to forget.

Asian people don’t get to forget when they hear, “Great job! You play T-ball pretty well for a Chinese kid!” and get blindsided on a Saturday morning when they’re just trying to enjoy watching their kid hit a stupid ball and run around.

They don’t get to forget.

They don’t get to forget their race because no one lets them forget it.

Part of the reason I post a lot about race is that I read a lot of anti-racism sites. In fact, for a few years or so, I had to stop reading these sites because I got so burned out reading constantly about the shit that goes on in the world against people of color.

But then I realized. I am incredibly privileged. I have the option to surround myself with people with whom I rarely have to think about race and just be. I am surrounded by enough Chinese and Taiwanese people that I don’t feel I am in the minority. I can shut that part off if I want to.

However, I do live in the real world and even though I live in the Bay Area, that does not make me immune to some of the more annoying aspects about being a Taiwanese person living in a “white” world. As a result, I often post articles that touch on some of my frustrations.

Why don’t you post more articles about the people of different races getting along? Why are you so divisive? How are you different from the KKK? You must be some kind of bigot.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Dear reader. In general on this blog, I try to avoid anger. I tend to avoid “ranting” because I don’t find the tone helpful or useful to a conversation at large. Plus, who wants to always read strident blogs that spread their anger like a contagious disease?

Well, not today. I’m angry. I’ve been angry for awhile now with some of the comments I’ve been getting.

Oh, SCA5 doesn’t matter to you because your kids aren’t full Asian. They won’t be discriminated against when applying for college.

I try not to care what other people say, but I am human. Of course, I care. And lately, I have started to feel as if I can’t post what I want on my own gorram Facebook page without having to deal with essay long comments telling me how I’m wrong or totally off my rocker. Well you know what? Fuck that.

It’s not even that people disagree with me. I actually have no problem with folks disagreeing with me. I have surprisingly enjoyed reading other people’s POV and either re-evaluating my own position or further solidifying what I believe. I don’t expect everyone to think exactly the same way I do. (Shoot, Hapa Papa and I disagree on a lot of stuff and we’re still married and love each other and get along just fine.) It’s just that I’m tired. (And the thing is, I’ve only had to deal with it over the last few months. Can you imagine what people who are constantly on the forefront posting about hard issues have to deal with?)

What particularly gets my goat is when the hurtful comments come from Christians – especially white Christians. (Disclaimer: I also know plenty of white Christians who are incredible allies and have been great sources of healing and support. This rant is not about them. Also, I truly believe that even if people disagree with me or are hurtful, for the most part, they are good people and don’t intend to be dismissive or cruel. But alas, good intentions don’t protect from crappy consequences.)

When white Christians hear the experiences of Christians of color (also, Western Christians re: non-Western Christians) and dismiss our concerns, it is a slap in the face. If we are all one body in Christ, that is like the liver hurting and the armpit saying, “What are you talking about? This isn’t my experience. I am not feeling any pain. You’re not hurt at all.” Or, “Suck it up. Stop being so sensitive. Stop being divisive.”

You know what is truly divisive? When white Christians tell Christians of color that their experiences are void. Untrue. Not as bad as they claim. When white Christians tell us what to write or talk about. What to express.

Why don’t you talk about XYZ instead of all the ways there is racism? Why don’t you talk more about Jesus? 

You want an example of privilege? THAT’S PRIVILEGE. When someone tells you their pain and their experience and you tell them what they should feel and talk about instead because it makes you uncomfortable or doesn’t jive with how you want to picture or view the world. Because it makes you uncomfortable and possibly racist. And because apparently, being racist is the worst thing in the world.

It’s not. I am racist and prejudiced all the time. But when confronted with it, I try to do something about it and examine my motives and responses.

An appropriate response? “I am so sorry you’ve experienced this. I am sorry for my part in perpetuating this experience. How can I help? How can I learn?”

Do not tell me what to do or give me advice unless I specifically ask.

What does it hurt a person to acknowledge their privilege? No one is asking people to not take advantage of what they’ve been given. Even if people didn’t want the privilege they have, too bad. They can’t take it off. Society will treat people however it wants. That is not a person’s fault. This goes for EVERYONE. Besides, it is possible to have areas of overlapping privileges and non-privilege. (Eg: poor, white male, rich black woman, etc.) Being non-privileged in one area does not exempt a person from privilege in others. Privilege and lack of privilege interact in a multitude of ways.

Look. I’m not trying to make people feel guilty. That doesn’t serve any larger purpose. Plus, people have no control over what race, sex, orientation, etc. to which they are born. But people DO have control over how they respond to other people’s pain and experience.

What is privilege? To go about your daily life and not wonder if an interaction was because of something over which you have no control. To rarely be in situations where you wonder if you are imagining a slight because of who you are. To go about your day with people who are remarkably similar to you.

This is why I surround myself with mostly Asian/Taiwanese people. Is that racist? Perhaps. But is it racist for white people to only have white friends? WHY IS THAT NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT? Right. Because white is default.

I hang out with mostly Taiwanese mommies because I don’t have to constantly explain or justify my experiences. I enjoy being surrounded by people who are just like me. You’re tired of hearing about privilege? Well I’m tired of having to explain privilege and proving that it exists. I’m tired of having to deal with its repercussions in MY life. Plus, you don’t have to hear about it. You can turn it off. That in itself is a privilege. But you know what? I’m tired of not being understood or always having to explain myself and my kids and my culture to others. I’m tired of being “other.”

I’m also tired of being thought of as practically white. You know why people think that? Because people of color know how to “act white.” We know how to adjust ourselves so white folks don’t feel uncomfortable – because God forbid white people feel uncomfortable.

But don’t dismiss my experience because you want to live in a “post-racial” world (a fucking bounder if I ever heard one). Yes, it is better than it was before. But in some ways, blatant racism is easier to deal with than the subtle slights. When someone is obviously racist, we can point at it and say, “See? RACISM!” But when it is subtle and hard to point out, it is like a slow death by a thousand paper cuts.

I link to these articles not because I want to harass people as they are going about their daily lives, brandishing white privilege as a means to make good people feel shitty. I do so that people can possibly misunderstand me and people like me a little less.

This is why I link to articles about race so much. Because it finally highlights MY voice. MY experience.

Don’t you dare tell me to shut up.

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 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.