Every now and then, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. I worry that I’m not making enough or not living up to my potential. And I wonder what kind of future I’ll have.
But then I think of my mother and I know it’ll all turn out okay.
This post today is for my mother. You see, today is her 60th birthday (a major milestone!) and being half a world away, I can’t offer anything else except to tell her how much she means to me. She is one the most amazing woman in my life. And she doesn’t even look a day over 59 (just kidding… I know, I’m not funny).
It’s times like this when I really wish I could be there in person to celebrate. But choosing this life of travel means that you can’t be with your loved ones on special days. It makes me so sad. But I suspect my mom understands this feeling all too well. She has now spent about half of her life living across the world from her family.
When she was around my age, my mother left her family and her career as a young doctor to follow my dad to the States (who had gone there to study). And not only that, she left two babies back in China, with the promise to return for them once she and my dad have made a life.
She came to the States with basically just a luggage and hopes for a better life. She didn’t even speak English.
For the first few years, it was tough and she took any job she could get. She worked as a waitress, a motel maid, and a caretaker in an retirement home. It’s hard to imagine my young mom then, once a doctor, cleaning dirty sheets and soiled pants. But she did what she had to to survive. It would be four years before she could return to China for her daughters.
Looking back to these early years of when we joined my parents in the States, I know money was tight but we never felt it. I remember life as being full and magical. My mom always did what she could to give us a happy childhood.
As the years went on, there were other periods of hardship where my mom once again had to resort to taking jobs way below her skill level. I remember at one point, our family solely depended on her meager earnings as a cashier/server at a local Chinese fast food joint. She pulled us through the difficult time. I am proud to have a mother whose hands have washed dirty bums and scooped greasy Chinese food. She worked hard and never gave up and eventually found a brilliant new career path.
Once I asked my grandma (her mother), “Were you mad when my mom quit her job and left to go to the States?”
“Of course I was,” she replied. “But she was already a grown woman. Kids all have to find their own way in life.”
At this point in my life, I’m trying to find my new path. My choices have also caused my mom plenty of heartache and eventual reluctant acceptance. I’ve come to realize that we’re a lot more alike than probably either of us knew.
Growing up, it was always thought that my sister took more after my mom while I took after my dad. Maybe they knew it somehow from birth, because they gave me my dad’s family name and my sister got my mom’s.
But while I got my dad’s hands and nose, I’d like to think I have my mom’s spirit. Like my mother, I left home and gave up a bright career to seek a new life abroad (though my intentions were far more selfish). So even though I often wonder where my life will take me, I think of her and I know I will be okay. Maybe for now, I still feel lost and have a job that’s nowhere near my old income, but it’s okay. I know I will eventually find my way too.
Because I am my mother’s daughter and just like her, I am strong.
Happy Birthday mommy! I love you!