The full circuit
My mom’s motto: Don’t slack in high school. I think my mom’s biggest regret in life was not taking high school seriously. Not caring about grades, her future, nor her career. I mean, who could blame her? She lived in a bubble where someone always offered to take care of her. Small town, small desire for anything. But eventually, my mom realized that what she was doing wasn’t what she wanted. So on the quest to make something of herself, she moved to America. But life isn’t always that easy is it?
Starting from scratch was a difficult thing for my mom. It was as if a newborn baby was thrown out on the streets. She was exposed to the real world for the first time all while learning a new language. Home sickness was always on the back of her mind, as she began to miss having dependency on someone. And then, she met my dad. My dad was like her hometown all over again. He was a Japanese immigrant, and gave her back the feeling of being reliant on someone. So of course, she married him. Happily Ever After.
However, there is a problem with this little story. My mother also realized this halfway through her fifth anniversary with him. She went back to her status quo. You see, the whole purpose of coming to America was so that she can make something of herself, but eventually she found herself repeating the same circle, running the same laps, a dog chasing its own tail. But of course she can’t tell her own kids she regrets marrying their father. So instead, she blames it on her inability to become independent. And independence correlates with confidence within oneself. And Confidence=education. So what’s better than to pressure your kids with your own problems for “their own good” than to face them yourself?
Words and whatnot
There are many things in life that I can’t control. For example, being the second generation of the family. With both of my parents being immigrants, I did not have access to an English mentor, so English pronunciation and vocabulary has always been a big problem. This realization hit me when I was about 5, on my first day of English preschool. Back then, I switched between Japanese and English preschools, and I still remember the nervousness of being filled in a room with people speaking an unfamiliar language, the feeling of wanting to have my mom by my side, and wanting to go home. I felt foolish and an outcast for not being able to talk the same, or comprehend the same as the other students. There was a drastic difference in how I acted in my Japanese classes, where I was more outspoken and made a lot of friends; compared to the English classes, where I sat in the corner counting down the clock. I was ashamed of getting pulled out of class to learn enunciation or receiving special forms for my parents to sign. If anyone made the slightest comment or reaction to my pronunciation, I was humiliated. I was the ugly duckling and I imagined the others bickering and mocking how I speak. Of course, that never happened and it was all in my head. It took me longer than it should have for me to accept this remarkable attribute that I had.
Naturally, my pronunciation got better and my confidence grew but what really soared up my confidence was this key factor: acceptance. I was no longer abashed if people were to make fun of something I said and I learned to just laugh it off— because it really doesn’t matter. No one is going to talk about me behind my back and mock me for the occasional slip ups because it’s really not that important. Having an accent or mispronouncing a word isn’t going to make people think less of me nor make me inferior. And although I still get embarrassed sometimes when people correct me, I am proud of myself for being comfortable in my own skin, and everything I have to bring.
Half and half
I was always born with two identities. My Japanese side, which I use at home, and my American side, which I use more often. From childhood, I always juggled with both, going to Japanese schools on Saturdays and regular schools on the weekdays. I was always standing at the middle of the balance scale, not leaning towards either. It was how I always handled things, right in the middle where it wouldn’t hurt anyone—- rather, never being able to make a choice with anything. However, as I grew older, I began to realize where before when I was excited to go to Japanese school to see my friends; I was filled with dread when Saturdays dawned. A big whiteboard with Japanese math calculations, kanji, and Japanese history blocked my view from seeing what was behind all of this, the whole reason I went to a Saturday school; to never forget my roots. Being Japanese was a fundamental part of who I am, and I took it for granted. Being able to speak another language, and to know I have someplace in the world where warm, loving hands are waiting for me to visit them was something I underappreciated. I am able to live between two completely different worlds and I don’t have to choose… I can keep on standing right smack in the middle of the balance scale for as long as I want to– for both identities are who I am.
Image by Monica Takuma
I took a deep breath as I took my first few steps towards an unfamiliar, strange building. Grasping my mother’s hand, I clung to her hoping that I’ll never have to let go. It was my first day of school, and I didn’t know anyone. Biting my lip, I glanced around looking at all the strange faces. Voices of an unfamiliar language crowded my mind. My mother, unfazed, pulled me along as she started chatting with a stranger. I noticed they talked in my recognizable language, Japanese. I took a look at the girl behind the stranger and I realized she looked just as nervous as how I felt. Hey. I said in Japanese. She responded back in Japanese. I was relieved. I felt comfortable with this girl because she was just like me. A new school, a strange language, but the rest of the day felt a little less scary knowing I had someone beside me.
Image by Monica Takuma
I was always jealous of my elementary school’s after school program, ESP. It was a program where children got to stay after school and hang out with their friends more. I always wanted to be in the program but it was only possible to sign up if both my parents couldn’t pick me up from school. I felt desolated and was jealous of my classmates for getting the extra playtime with their friends. Eventually though, my mom also took a job offer and wasn’t able to pick me up from school like before. This is when I realized how much I took my parents for granted. I didn’t realize that my mom always taking care of me, making my lunch, dropping me off and picking me up from school wasn’t something all parents could do, and that her compassion should be appreciated more. I’m grateful that I never had to be in an after-school program like ESP and that my parents would always be here for me whenever I needed them.
Image by Monica Takuma