Failed Asian. Still Happy. Life Still Loves Me Long Time.
In light of so many recent stories of people accusing Asian parents of treating their kids like Robots and kids running away from home because of the incredible amount of pressure and expectations that come with being an Asian kid…stereotypically and in real life…here’s my story.
Family members: You’re such a good mom Kathy…
Kathy: Awe thanks…
Family members: Who knew you’d turn out so good, we’re so surprised. Way better than expected. Who would’ve ever thought you’d live a good life.
(Insert Kathy with RBF FACE)
THAT NEEDS TO STOP. IMMEDIATELY. NEVER TO BE REPEATED.
Cause it sucks, it’s cruel and it’s completely unnecessary.
They make it sound like I was a complete loser…which I was not. But for most first generation Koreans…I was the epitomy of the FAILED ASIAN.
But just because I didn’t follow the laid out plans of the “Good Asian” does NOT mean I was for lack of a better word, intended to fail in life.
LIFE PLAN A: You get good grades, you play piano or violin, you join a sports team IF it doesn’t interfere with your studies, you graduate with honors, you attend an Ivy League school, a UC school or Stanford, you graduate, get a high paying job, get married to a nice successful Korean man, buy a house in Irvine (Which I may wanna do someday), you not only keep up but kick the Joneses asses and spit out 2.0 perfect little kids who are perfectly fluent in English, Korean and if possible, Mandarin.
If you did that and it makes you happy, FANTASTIC. Good for you. Seriously, that’s so awesome!
As for me? I didn’t do any of that.
LIFE PLAN KATHY: I got passing grades, I played the piano but quit to play soccer, I barely graduated HS, I attended a JC and transferred to a University, left school cause it wasn’t for me, worked as a teacher, underwriter and Customer Service Rep, got married to a white dude who was raised completely different from me and I’m currently living in a house in Fountain Valley but in actuality closer to Santa Ana and I have 2.0 absolutely crazy little boys who drive me absolutely crazy.
Does this make me better? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Does this make me less successful, than those who did Life Plan A? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
And because I didn’t fall into the “Asian mold” growing up, I had a seriously hard time getting through childhood. I just didn’t fit in anywhere. Some of the Asian kids didn’t like me because I was “Too white” and the white kids didn’t like me cause I wasn’t one of them. I felt stupid, lost…ashamed. I had a geometry teacher in high school tell me: “Chris is super smart, why aren’t you?” and another one tell me “You’re the only Asian I know who didn’t get an A in Bio…” Yep, that didn’t help my already deflated self esteem at all. My brother was the Anti-Kathy. I always thought “Thank God at least Chris brought my parents some much deserved happiness and pride!”
Years later, I apologized to my parents for having a daughter who failed in so many ways and my mom immediately shut me down.
Kathy: Sorry mom and dad for having been such a difficult child. I wish I could’ve been better for you guys.
Mom: You weren’t that bad.
Kathy: Oh come on! I was a disappointment! It must’ve been embarrassing for you when your friends would show off about how their kids got into every UC school (Berkeley was the Holy Grail in the early 90’s) and got a 1600 on their SAT’s.
Mom: I don’t know why you keep on saying that. You were a good kid overall with a good heart, that’s all that matters.
Kathy: Yeah, but even you would tell me about so and so who got into Berkeley and bought a house in Irvine and is married to a doctor…
Mom: Who cares, it’s their lives and if I’ve learned anything in recent years is that being book smart doesn’t mean you’re life smart. You and Mike don’t care what others think and don’t feel the need to keep up with the joneses to be happy. You just are happy. Your dad and I used to be annoyed about that but we’re both very proud of that fact now. You live below your means…that’s smart and most importantly, you and Mike love God. He will never put you through anything you can’t get out of. Whatever struggles you go through, as long as you have faith, he will pull you out of it. Did I at some point wish you had married a Korean guy? Yeah, because we would’ve been able to communicate better but your dad and I love Mike and we would’nt have our Josh and Matthew without him. Let all the insecurities of the past go. I am very proud of the way you turned out, don’t let the past dictate who you are now and teach my grandboys the same lessons I just shared with you.
Kathy: Thanks Mom.
Mom: Plus, I had several moms tell me tell their kids got 1700’s on their SAT’s and got into colleges they didn’t get into. Idiots.
Kathy: True that mom.
Mom: Oh, and don’t ever tell Mike about us having at one point wished you married a Korean man. That was just fleeting, we love him.
Dad: Sometimes more than you.
In a way, I felt like my parents gave me the push and okay I needed to just move on, to not feel like I messed up their vision of what they wanted for me…so I’ve closed that chapter of guilt and feelings of “Asian Fail” years ago and I haven’t looked back since.
Please don’t misunderstand and think that I am saying that all Asian parents are evil. They are not. They are some of the best people I know who might not show a great deal of affection but will sacrifice everything to make sure their kids have a shot at the American dream and a good happy life. The words “I love you” aren’t spoken often but they show abundant love through their actions. But for a lot of Asians, there is that added pressure because of that sacrifice and need to please, to perform. So even if you have no desire to attend college, you apply and major in something you have no interest in but will possibly make you a lot of money and you do it because you want to make your parents happy. I definitely see honor in that but I have also seen failures that come with that too and that’s more detrimental than anything and it’s heartbreaking.
So to all my fellow Asian peeps who never fit into that perfect mold of being Korean, Chinese, Japanese…etc. There’s nothing wrong with you. Whatever residual insecurities you have because you couldn’t live up to a certain standard, it’s time to let it go…I’m sure you still survived, and I’m pretty dang sure your life is still pretty rad.
And to all the kids out there struggling because you fall into the same category, hold your heads up high. You’re going to be just fine. I promise.
Am I saying get bad grades and don’t go to college? HELL NO. Do everything the best you can but if you fall short, it’s all good. You’ll just find other ways like I did to survive. You are not alone. You are not a defective Asian. There is nothing wrong with going against the status quo of the “Asian flow.”
You don’t need to make a lot of money to be happy.
You don’t need to keep up with the Joneses to be happy.
You don’t need to marry someone of your own race to be happy.
You don’t need to live in a certain zip code to give the illusion that you’ve made it.
You don’t need to put on a show of having your sh*t together.
Aren’t you tired?
The “How to be a good Asian” life manual? Burn that crap.
Because even some of my Asian friends who annihilated and kicked Life plan A’s ass are like “Crap Kat, it sucked!” but they are living their dream and happy. And then there are friends who are living the Plan A life and struggling because they can’t keep up the charade and it’s keeping them from being truly happy.
And that sucks cause it might look like a good accomplished life but if you’re not happy, it means…nothing.
Like everything in life…we all want different things because we are not the same and that’s a great thing! Success doesn’t have one path…don’t be ashamed to go on a different one.
THAT’S PART OF THE FUN OF BEING A HUMAN IN THIS WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES.
So set yourself free from the binds of what you’re supposed to do because everyone else is doing it and look to be successful in your own way.
But don’t think that you can sit on your ass and life is going to come together so magically just because the universe says it will…Go out and make it happen. MAKE YOUR LIFE HAPPEN.
Thanks for reading…love you long time.