Everybody Hurts Sometimes

November 12, 2010

Whenever I talk about finances and education with people, I always bring up the allowance my parents gave me when I was younger. My allowance started at $6, and it was divided into three piggy banks: spending, savings, and giving. Each week I’d get $2 that I could spend on anything I wanted, whenever I wanted (which I could also save up if I wanted to). My savings piggy bank was for something big, like buying a Madame Alexander doll or a Gameboy pocket. And last but certainly not least, my giving piggy bank was for the holidays when we would buy toys or food to be donated to Viola Blythe, a local community service center.

The lesson I immediately grasped was that it was important to save, and I couldn’t buy anything if I didn’t have the money in my piggy banks. The lesson I just realized five minutes ago was that it’s also important to set aside money to donate, and not just around the holidays. I remember I used to volunteer at Viola Blythe at least once a month because, as my dad put it, people need food all year round. The workers there used to complain about the sudden surge of people wanting to help out around Thanksgiving and Christmas. As much as they appreciated the intentions, they would ask them “Why don’t you volunteer at other times during the year?”

So while I’m giving you this message at the beginning of the holiday season, just please keep in mind that this isn’t the only time you should donate food or blankets or toilet paper. Try to make an effort to donate something year-round, whether it be canned food, a warm coat, cold hard cash, or your time. There are always people out there who need help.

Go Back Where You Come From, You Know This Ain’t Love

August 30, 2010

My dad is first generation Chinese American. In the car ride home today we talked about my decision to move to Atlanta – how scared I am because I don’t know anyone, don’t have connections, don’t have a job – and he started telling his dad’s story. My grandfather came to the United States when he was 12 years old. His parents bought him a name and social security number and sent him by himself. Both he and his parents knew that they would never see each other again. Occasionally they might write, and if they’re lucky, a phone call. But at 12 years old, he had to accept that he would never see his parents again, and his parents had to have faith that he would live a better life in the US.

Fast forward to the future to me, the second generation of this family. This is one of the reasons behind my tattoo. I have a responsibility to be the best person I can. I have to reach for the stars and work hard and believe in myself and live up to the greatness of my name. I believe I feel these responsibilities because my family’s struggle to come here is so tangible. I’ll admit that I feel less connected with my mom’s family because they’ve been here for generations. I have no sense of her history. But because I knew my grandfather and my grandmother, both of whom left their families for a better life, and saw their struggles, I feel more connected to their cause. I live a great life now, and I’d argue probably better than most. Every day I appreciate the sacrifices my parents made, and the obstacles their parents encountered.

For anyone out there who thinks that immigrants can’t/don’t/won’t contribute to America, you’re wrong. You’re completely wrong. If anything, those who can trace their heritage all the way back to the Mayflower are the most out of touch with what this country is about. My grandfather cheated the system to create a life in America. My grandmother memorized the sounds of the questions and answers to the citizenship test, which I’m sure most natural-born citizens couldn’t even pass. My grandfather worked every day of his life in America until he went to the hospital. Though my grandmother never learned English, she raised two brilliant children and worked until she couldn’t.

Those who witness the struggles or bear the burdens of freshly immigrating here are the ones who bleed the brightest, most American red blood.

False Alarm

May 16, 2010

Short. Sweet. Let me get to the point.

I’ve been watching a lot of Hey Arnold! recently, and I’ve realized that the show was almost too smart for kids. For its time. A color-penciled animation about a bunch of 4th graders listening to jazz, hanging out in Brooklyn, believing in the power of radio, reciting Shakespeare, and writing not-half-bad love poems…it’s just too good.

My only question is: who’s in charge of the music? Is it Jim Lang?

It Was For Freedom

February 26, 2010

In my Human Rights in Latin America class, we discussed liberation theology. I’m now reading The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?, which also focuses on the Catholic church and religion. In all of these classes and books and films I watch, I always (somewhat selfishly?) think about how it relates to me. For some reason today it all makes me think of my dad’s mother.

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Sticks and Stones and Weed and Bones

February 18, 2010

I had a conversation with an old friend on Facebook today. I knew him in elementary school. Actually, I had a huge crush on him in first grade. Anyway, he goes to the community college in the town where we grew up. I, however, don’t live there anymore. To put it simply, I moved to a town with better public schools, and now I go to one of the most expensive private colleges in the country. So when he asks me what I’m up to, and I ask him the same, I can only imagine what he thinks of me.

Like almost everyone else I knew in my old town, I’m afraid he thinks I think I’m better than he is. I won’t get into the entire story, but it was like this: I applied to private schools in another town because the public schools where I lived were terrible. Some of my friends’ families thought my parents thought we were too good for them. So when I reconnect with friends on Facebook, I’m aware that they know where I am now and what I’m doing. And is it weird that I feel I shouldn’t say certain things about what I’m up to?

For example, I currently have an internship with Tribeca All Access. To my friends here in NYC, that’s pretty cool and not surprising that I’d want it or have it. This internship, however, may come off as pretentious or privileged since it’s unpaid and in New York City. So when old friends or accquaintances ask what I’m doing nowadays, I usually leave out my internships unless they ask.

Another example: scholarships. A good childhood friend of mine told me after we had chosen our colleges that our elementary school offered a $400 scholarship to the alumni with the highest GPA. I had no idea about this, and she told me that she didn’t tell me this before because she thought I would get it. I’m not bitter about it and I’m glad she got it, but I was still a bit shocked. She thought I’d take a scholarship she didn’t believe I deserved or needed.

So is it wrong for me to behave the way I do? Is that more pretentious or class-ist of me to leave out details of my life?