Something I rarely talk about

I kicked off the “My Story” page telling you I am a daughter of immigrants. I didn’t expand on it there because at the time I considered it is a small — although unique — identifier.  But the more I thought about it, the more it I realize that my experiences deserve some time and space.

They had a much greater impact than I want to give them credit for.

My parents were born in China. My dad arrived in the United States when he was a boy so he became fluent in English. On the other hand, my mom made it here after my father returned to China to marry her so her language skills have always lagged.

They settled in New York City and raised five children. I am the oldest. I was sent to parochial school (I wasn’t Catholic) where, for a while, I was the only Asian student in the entire school. My folks did what they thought was best — that private school offered a better education — not knowing the potential stress of putting me and my siblings in a situation where not only were we ethnically different, but religiously. I was there for eight years.

My childhood was filled with instances of being mocked at school, on the streets, in stores, etc. I’ve been called it all — name the slur or stereotype and it’s been aimed at me.

I wanted to spit at them.

But this isn’t a sob story.

It’s about how I learned to live and love, and refused to internalize all the hate that was flung at me.

It’s about how I chose to stay REAL.

Resilience. The truth is that if we allow other people’s opinions, ideas and rants to get under our skin for too long, then we’ll start to believe it. It will fester, clear a path for negativity to course through your soul and erode the beautiful person you are. What people say is about their own securities, their own problems. It’s not a reflection of your true who. Therefore, I let hateful talk bounce off me, and I pray that the perpetrators will release the darkness within themselves.

Embrace. If you love something, embrace it. If it feels just right, embrace it. Hold your friends close. Hang on to your values. Put your arms around whatever it is that makes you feel alive and healthy. I’ve learned to weed out people, places, ideas and expectations and get to the CORE.

Am. I am. You are. That’s it. Just be, my darlings. Pretending sucks up way too much energy. You don’t have to work that hard. I used to want to be blonde with blue eyes. I used to want to impress people for my own ego. I used to say yes when I really meant no.

Love. Love extends, transcends. I’m not talking mushy love — although that has its place. I mean kindness, compassion, joy, listening, extending a hand. People often take their cues from how you treat them. So if I act from a place of suspicion, closemindedness, hate, anger, insecurity or fear, guess what I’ll get in return? Let go and let love, baby.

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Posted on January 13, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Thanks Cindy, that’s enlightening for me. I have been struggling with the tragedies and culture and government oppression that is coming out of China and have made blanket statements about “the Chinese,” in the same way people make blanket statements about “Americans.” We as individuals both receive and perpetuate misunderstandings, hate and negativity about a people when we really mean to express a problem with an organization or individual. Ultimately people hate, resent or are suspicious about anyone who is different — be it homelessness, cultural, religious, political or gender. This brings home the point that it’s important to think more about how our words and attitudes impact others. Thanks for the insights! I vow to be more positive from now on and quit generalizing.

  2. Thank you for sharing this Cindy. I love this; “What people say is about their own securities, their own problems. It’s not a reflection of your true who.”

    So often, we hear the words of others (whether intentionally harmful, or someone’s idea of ‘constructive criticism’) and take them onto ourselves. Knowing your own true self (or as you said, “just be”) can give you the strength to ask “how much of this is mine? What of this am I going to allow into myself?”

    Of course, that can be tricky when you’re young and surrounded by people telling you how wrong you are to be different (if enough people say it, we start to think they must be on to something)… so kudos to you for having (or finding, as the case may be) the inner strength to recognize just how awesome you really are!

  3. Thanks you for putting that out there, and putting it so well Cindy. My parents often gave me the same advice that you are giving here, and I have to say that it got me through some of the roughest times of growing up a mixed-race child. Much of what you experienced, I did also — especially on the playground, on the bus, and in the neighborhood I grew up in. If and when my own children are faced with a similar struggle, I hope to try to teach them this lesson as well. I appreciate the reminder.

  4. I like how you use REAL. Its easy to remember and I love the “Am”. It’s a great reminder for me to just be.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Great job Cindy! Thanks for sharing a sample of your story and being vulnerable so that it may release others to do the same. God bless you!

  6. thanks for sharing your real, raw honesty, Cindy. This is inspirational and great words of wisdom! Passing it on…!

  7. The wonderful thing is that you gave the other children an opportunity to learn about a different culture. Even if some of them did not know how to react, and expressed it in negative ways. I also went through a similar situation. I moved from Caracas, a city of 3 million people, to Lake Placid Fl, a town of a just over a thousand. They were curious and unfortunately, many of them very ignorant. I was called racial names that didn’t even belong to my race, because they only knew of black and white. They even thought I rode a horse to school in Venezuela. I dealt with it by using humor, and after a couple of though years, I made many friends. But in the meanwhile, they were many struggles. Thanks for sharing your story!

  8. Cindy,
    This is simply beautiful! Not only does it help those who are always having a hard time accepting who they are because of how people treat them but for others to realize how their words and acts can really hurt someone. Please everyone, think before you talk. A little random act of kindness can really help this world. Would you have any objection to me copying this story to show others close to me.

  9. Excellent article. It shows real personal strength and determination. Learning to deal with life as you find it, regardless of the people who throw obstacles at you, makes life more meaningful and less stressful.

  10. I love this, Cindy, and can relate as well. I moved around a lot as a child and for a few years was the opposite of you in the catholic school: a blue-eyed blonde living in Japan in the 1960s — totally conspicuous. Then we moved to a harsh inner-city area in the US, then to farm country, then to more affluent suburban neighborhood where the kids were into material possessions and drugs were cool — and also felt different, bullied and said yes when I wanted to say no. Now that I’m a big girl with my own teenagers and some coaching experience I can see the value in the rough times I experienced when I was young: it’s made me more compassionate toward other people who’ve had rough experiences; I can empathize with my kids when they’ve been bullied; and also that we get to choose how we tell our stories — like you I’ve chosen to live and love and let go.

  11. You are so brave. Not everybody is able to talk about that. I love the way you present the information ans I can relate. You have learnt about resilience and that makes you stronger. You sound so comfortable in the way you express your feelings, experiences and thoughts and I love that. You are talking from your heart. Thank you for the article! I have missed your blog. Love!

  12. Thank you Cindy for your honesty as well as the lessons learned. You are so right, we can choose to be hurt and changed by the actions of others. Or we can take a different view and choose to come from a more loving place…Love you..Keep posting:)

  13. “Therefore, I let hateful talk bounce off me, and I pray that the perpetrators will release the darkness within themselves.” My son got negative talk last night at basketball. I’ll be glad to give him this basketball image to find a better way.

    Thanks!

  14. Well said, Cindy. We can’t control others, we can only control ourselves. How fortunate you are to have had a good support system that enabled you to be strong and to believe in yourself, despite the negative external pressures. You are an inspiration!

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