Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode, you will hear about What I Carry and Where I Came From, Part III.
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Hello and welcome to episode #85 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about What I Carry and Where I Came From, Part III.
What I Carry
It will be difficult for you to find me carrying a clutch purse or one with two straps that goes on one side of your shoulders. Most of the time, you will find me wearing crossbody purses and backpacks. That’s because something happened when I was fourteen.
I was young and didn’t have much money to my name, but one day, I decided to put the thirty dollars I got from birthday gifts into a clutch purse. I awkwardly carried it to go out with my older sister and mother. We went into the city to eat the tastiest beef sandwiches in town. After eating lunch, we started walking back to the car, which was only a few minutes from the restaurant.
Out of nowhere, a thin young boy dashed by me, grabbing my clutch purse. I stood shocked and frozen in my tracks. My thirty dollars were gone forever. A little boy had invaded and robbed me of my carefree existence. I learned that there was indeed evil in the world and that others could hurt me. Those few seconds forever changed my behavior and relationship with purses.
Since then, I have owned mostly crossbody purses and gotten rid of all clutch purses. By wearing them, my hands are free to do whatever I want. By wearing them, I won’t place them somewhere and forget or allow valuables to be taken from me. These reasons to wear crossbody purses are the most sensible and safe. It only took a few seconds of something happening to change what I carried on the outside of me permanently.
As I thought about what I carry on the outside, I began to think about what I carry inside of me. As I pondered, it became clear that it was more frightening than the stolen purse incident!
What have I carried inside of me? I carried the pain of abandonment, the sting of being the black sheep, the hurt of being deemed stupid and ugly, and the agony of feeling unwanted and unloved by my family.
Mom sent me away to live with Grandma when I was five, so I unconsciously decided I was abandoned, unwanted, and unloved. Mom dressed me like a tomboy while she dressed my three sisters like ladies; I unconsciously decided I was not like one of them and was an outcast. Grandma said I was stupid because I was from my father, and I believed her. Grandma and Mom said how beautiful my sisters were, and I unconsciously thought I was the ugly duckling of the family. All these thoughts and feelings I carried with me as a child, teenager, and adult. It is frightening to know that I carried them all for decades and knew not how to unburden myself from them.
Not realizing that I carried those thoughts, perspectives, and feelings, they affected my behavior, actions, and relationships negatively. I wasn’t a happy human being. Fortunately, however, through time, maturity, and personal development education, I grew and learned to unload some of the pain. I also gained new perspectives that would help me move forward. For example, I can choose and determine my self-worth rather than leave it in the hands of others to decide or judge. I can declare myself worthy, beautiful, intelligent, unique, and lovable. I am because I say so.
As I grow and unload the many burdens I carry within myself, new ones appear that look similar to old ones. For instance, when a boyfriend broke up with me, the abandonment issue would rear its ugly head to attack me again. When I couldn’t pass an exam, the label stupid showed up to torture me.
The load I carry inside me sometimes seems to get heavier and heavier. But there is good news. I am aware that I carry many things inside of me that affect who I am. I can take action to unload or lighten the load by being aware. Beware! Though you carry stuff on the outside, you also carry things on the inside that may not be what you want. Figure out what they are and take action to unload what you don’t want.
Since we may already carry many negative things, there must also be positive things too. By being aware, we can choose to carry more positive things. They weigh less than the negative ones!
I choose to carry more compassion, kindness, and good thoughts. What I carry and what I choose to carry will determine the quality of my life. So, be aware of carrying what you want, and don’t carry the things that will weigh you down!
Where I am From, Part III
Never in my life did I dream I would move to another country to live and work, but I did. And a very common question asked of foreigners is, “Where are you from?” I would say I was from the United States. Sometimes, I’d say I was from America since some people in Asia seemed to prefer hearing it that way. I thought my answer was straightforward enough, but I would get another question. Someone would say, “I mean, where are you really from?” I would repeat that I was from America. And then I would feel demeaned. My inside voice would say, “Don’t you think I know where I am from? What answer were you looking for?” I thought a basic inquiry gave a simple answer, and it would be the end of it. I was wrong. I was judged by my appearance, and it was assumed that I was not from America.
I was born and raised in America. When someone questions the validity of my identity, the fire in me wants to shout and say, “Do I need to show you my passport to prove where I am from?” I also want to say, “Don’t you know America is made up of all kinds of people with ancestors from other countries? Do I need to educate you about the makeup of the United States of America?”
After the boiling heat subsides from my face, I tell myself that others don’t have bad intentions. They may have different ideas of what a foreigner should look like in each country. Their background and knowledge contribute to what they think or know. Even I was at one time guilty of ignorance.
When I was in college, a guy from Hong Kong named Evan asked me, “What are you?” I thought it was a silly question, and I responded that I was Chinese. I thought it was apparent. Evan’s reaction and words shocked and infuriated me. I wanted to scream profanities, punch, or kick him where it would hurt. He matter-of-factly said, “You are an American. You are born in America, so your nationality is in America. Your ethnicity is Chinese because your relatives and ancestors are from China. You are an American-born Chinese.” The seventeen-year-old me was stunned to learn these facts.
Fast forward to several decades later, when I moved out of the U.S.A. It occurred to me that others couldn’t get it straight, either. When people ask, “Where are you really from?” they are really asking about my ethnicity without realizing it.
As I travel throughout Asia, I am asked, “Where are you from?” Now I say I am Chinese-born in America or I am an American-born Chinese. I eliminated the confusion, clarified, and specified where I was from. Despite my clear response, I sometimes hear people say, “But you don’t seem like an American.” Once more, I remind myself that people have different backgrounds, knowledge, or concepts, and it is up to me to educate them or leave them alone.
Regardless of what others think or assume about where I am from, the most crucial is that I know my nationality, ethnicity, and who I define and create myself to be.
I was never most patriotic until I moved to a foreign place. It is because I started to make comparisons. I realized and appreciated the country where I was born and lived most of my life more than ever.
Working abroad, I taught various subjects, including American history. As I taught about the birthplace of the American Revolution, the Boston Tea Party, The Boston Massacre, and The Battle at Bunker Hill, I felt a connection to my country like never before. I grew up in Boston, but I never appreciated all the historical sites that were so close to my home as a child.
As an American history teacher, I began to share with enthusiasm. I talked about Boston beyond textbooks. For instance, I’d ask my students, “Did you know that Boston has even more things where they were #1?” “Like what, Teacher?” my students inquired. I would happily tell them that America’s first library, subway system, public school, college, park, beach, chocolate factory, post office, and newspaper all started in Boston.
Even the first Thanksgiving in the colonies was in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I would proudly continue to share that the first telephone, cookbook, disposable razor, sewing machine, police department, World Series game, and school for the blind all started in the Greater Boston area where I lived. Sharing the knowledge gave me a thirst to return to Boston. I hadn’t been back in decades; I am sure I would joyfully embrace its rich history and tell the world I grew up there.
Suddenly, I am hungry for some clam chowder, lobster, baked beans, and seafood from the Atlantic Ocean. I want to run in the Boston Marathon, watch a Red Sox game, revisit the bar from the T.V. series Cheers, retake a stroll around Harvard University, and walk along the Charles River near M.I.T. once more. It is so rich in history and culture.
Besides being proud to be from Boston, I have also come to appreciate America even more from teaching about it. As I teach about the founding of the country, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, I find myself moved in the fight for freedom and the struggle to have rights. It reminds me that we should never take for granted the freedom we enjoy; it is America’s greatest treasure. Who am I? I am proud to be an American. Where am I from? I am fortunate to be from America.
Key Takeaways: Though I carried a clutch purse, was robbed of my money and was traumatized by it, I learned that more horrifying was what I carried on the inside. But by being aware, I can control what I carry on the inside and choose what will help me move forward.
Though people often ask where I am from while I lived in a foreign country, I have come to appreciate and be proud to say I am from America.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called How to Predict your Future and Certainty vs. Uncertainty. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!