Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Fish Out of Water

When I was young, I wasn’t very good at math. I struggled when it came to simple addition and subtraction problems and each year, the formulas and equations seemed to get more and more difficult. If you’re familiar with the stereotype, Asians are supposed to be good at math and my mother made it clear that my below-average grades were unacceptable. In an effort to push me a little harder at school, my mom convinced the school to allow me to skip a year of math to an advanced class. It was, as you see, unheard of that an Asian wouldn’t be in one or two years ahead of her peers in math class. The school clearly did not look at my history of math grades because they complied with her request and I started taking advance algebra as a freshman.

Growing up, I felt dumb. School didn’t come easily for me. My grades didn’t just suffer in Math, but in Science, English and Foreign Language. The only class I seemed to excel at was History, which might as well had been drama class in my parents view. I went through school with a small voice constantly whispering in my ear, “You’re just not smart enough.”

It wasn’t helpful living in the shadow of a natural genius. The Chinese women who were friends with my mom were constantly comparing their kids to my brother. He was the all-around perfect kid – perfect grades, played every instrument perfectly, perfect SAT and ACT scores (yeah, I know). I would constantly overhear these women over tea telling my mother how lucky she was to have a son as wonderful as him. My brother was constantly recruited by the Asian community to tutor their kids, teach them violin and help them discover the cure for cancer. I, on the other hand, was never asked to participate in such prestigious mentorship opportunities.

I remember sitting in my room in high school begging God that I wouldn’t be too dumb to get into college. I was so afraid of what people would think of me and if I didn’t get into college, I would have to face everyone and admit how dumb I was. Then my parents would probably have to move because all of my mom’s Chinese friends would look down on them for their disappointing second child and I would end up homeless without a penny for food. This may sound like a ridiculous fear, but I spent most of my high school nights sitting in my closet praying for a brain like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.

There’s a quote by Albert Einstein that says, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I think so often we put ourselves in situations where we are fishes in trees. We’re discouraged and defeated because no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to get past the first branch.

Lately, I’ve been having conversations with friends about the ‘what’s next’ step in our lives. We’re all in our mid-twenties and there’s still so much of life ahead of us. It’s exciting and intimidating at the same time as we try to find a job that we will excel at and make us happy at the same time. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re all afraid of the next chapter and if we really have what it takes to succeed in our lives. We live in a world that measures our worth through Ivy league acceptances, flashy career paths, even the red lining on our heels can pump up our worth a little more. And in the back of our mind, there is a slight whisper reminding us, “You’re just not smart enough.”

If you’re reading this and you’re going through a season of discouragement, take a deep breath and count to 10. Life isn’t measured by test scores or the degrees you have. There will come a point in your conversations where people stop caring what college you attended (unless it’s for sports reasons). When the questions of academic fades away, ask yourself, who are you? To borrow the line from “The Help”, are you good? Are you kind? Did you know you’re important?

In the past few years I’ve been fortunate enough to find my way into the kind of waters where I belong. My mom tells me that her Chinese friends now ask her for my advice when it comes to raising their “rebellious” teenagers. I’ve also received the honor of helping their teenagers prepare for college, editing essays and giving advice on different schools. A couple weeks ago while I was reading a college admission essay for one of these Chinese women’s sons when I heard a little voice whispering in my ear, “You’ve always been smart enough.” Here I am 10 years later being asked to help in academic areas I never dreamed would be possible. It got me thinking about how often we sell ourselves short. Sometimes it’s easier to believe only what we’re told to believe. I never needed a new brain, I needed to accept who I was and be content that that alone was good enough.

And the moment I did, this fish found her ocean.

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The Perfect Pair [The Not-So-Third-Wheel]

It’s been awhile since my last post and I blame it all on my laziness and convictions of having writer’s block. Let’s be honest, it’s really all laziness. I had coffee last week with my friend and blog reader, Jess, who asked me when my next post would be. Honestly, it jump-started my heart a little and encouraged me that I’m not just writing to an online abyss of nothingness. So, for all of you faithful readers and even you passerby-ers, this blog is for you.

I had a conversation recently with my friend John about couples. He had recently met my married couple friends, Ashlee and Brandon and talked about how cool they were and how you don’t feel like the odd-man-out when you’re around them. I mentioned that all my couple friends were like this and that surprised him. As we talked more about it, I realized how he had a handful of couple friends while it seemed like all my significant friendships came in pairs.

The thing is, whenever I’m around my Noah’s Ark friends (Get it? Pairs?), I don’t feel like the third wheel. More importantly, I don’t feel single. The more I started to ask around, the more I began to realize that my awesome “family dates” aren’t as common as I thought.

So, I thought I’d tell you about some (not all!) of the awesome couples I get to spend my time with. In no particular order…

MEET JENNY AND SEAN
I’ve known Jenny since middle school and she is one of my dearest, closest friends. Whenever I’m back in Oklahoma for a visit I spend more time with them than my family. They joke that their guest bedroom is my room and to pay for my stay I have to help dust their house. One of the things that I love about this couple is that they are truly like family. Whenever I come in town, even if Jenny has to work, Sean will make time to spend time with me, meeting me for lunch, taking me to breakfast and laughing at my jokes. Whenever I need advice, I know I can call them and they will put me on speaker phone and tell me why I shouldn’t ever settle.

MEET ERICA AND ANDREW
I knew I liked Erica’s other half when after a dinner party, Andrew turned to Erica and said “Sarah is hilarious. I can’t wait to follow her on Twitter.” Little did he know that my Twitter is pretty uneventful (jokes on him!). When they have dinner plans with each other, more often than not, they send me a text inviting me. Their home is like my second home and when they were living across the street from me, I was over there almost every night at one point of another. When I was moving to my new house earlier this summer and needed some last minute help, Andrew was there from start to end moving all of my furniture with a truck. No complaints, no guilt trip, no “okay, but you owe me.”

MEET REBEKAH AND TRAVIS
Every other week I get to spend time with one of my favorite Nashville couples. Rebekah and I used to work together and when I switched jobs we were bummed we weren’t able to see each other regularly. To remedy the distance, we started having date nights together every other week which impressively enough, we haven’t missed one yet! What I love about Rebekah and Travis is that they are better together, they are happier together and even though I’m there, Travis will stare at Rebekah like she’s the only girl in the world. The only time he breaks his stare is when he wants to make some snarky Asian comment, which if you know me at all, you will know makes me adore him more. I think one of the reasons why it’s great spending time with them is that Travis and I are a lot alike. We are generally happy and content people. But then people like Rebekah come along and show us that we can be happier than we even thought was possible.

MEET JENNIE AND ANDY
I try not to throw the “best friend” card around ever, but if I did I think that card would go to Jennie. It’s also an extra bonus that my bestie has the coolest boyfriend ever. Jennie and Andy can be seen as quite opposite people but they are one of the couples that was just meant to be a couple always. Seriously. You can’t have Jennie without Andy and vice versa. Sometimes when I fly out to LA to visit, Andy will have to pick me up at the airport because Jennie is still at work. We’ll spend the day driving around listening to music (while I make him cry at my lack of musical knowledge) and sneaking in a snack at In-N-Out Burger. What is one of Andy’s best qualities is that it isn’t weird hanging out with him without Jennie. There’s no awkward silence lulls, I don’t have to ask him what his favorite color is and I don’t feel like he feels obligated to hang out with me. I know this to be true because whenever he come to Nashville for music stuff, he calls me and hangs out with me every time, even though he doesn’t have to. One of my favorite memories is from a few weeks ago when I was visiting them in LA. We were all sitting in the family room and Andy was playing the guitar and singing  songs, every now and then he would get up and put a record in and tell me who it was and why I should love their music. We all sat there for hours listening to song after song, laughing and telling stories and it is to date, my favorite memory of my existence.

I wanted to introduce you to these friendships because I think we so often forget what the real deal looks like. When we’re walking around in a culture that cheapens relationships, being surrounded by couples who not only respect each other but are head over heels in love with one another is rare.

I’m starting to see how intentional God has been in bringing me so many significant couple-friendships into my life. They are a constant tangible reminder to me not to settle. They encourage me to be confident in who I am and to find someone who loves me the way these guys love my girl friends. It’s also an amazing incentive to hold out for a man who will fit right in to my amazing friendships, who will watch sports with Sean, talk music with Andy, make Asian jokes with Travis and drink beer with Andrew.

If you’re reading this and you’re single, I hope that my amazing friends can help set the bar for you. And if you ever get the chance to meet them, ask them about their story. It’s just as sweet and perfect as you expected. It’s easy to try to avoid the couples in loving relationships when you’re single. You may think that it’ll just spiral you into a greater depression, but I promise you it won’t. It gives you hope – hope for what is yet to come and the promise that Future Husband is going to be someone who is knock-your-socks-off incredible. Surround yourself with people that you want to be like and before you know it, you’ll start to see that you really are one of the lucky ones.