Sunday, December 6, 2009

Just Another LA Asian Girl?

Most people know that I grew up in a predominantly Asian suburb within Los Angeles County, that I then went to college in a small town just 20 miles east of where I grew up, and that I began working immediately after graduating in LA. That mere synopsis is enough to convince everyone that I'm indeed a LA Asian gal. Why else would I not have left?

Upon taking time to get to know me, the intricacies that outline my life and the parental restrictions placed upon me while growing up come to surface and that perspective often changes.

First, I am proud of the fact that I was born in St. Louis, Missouri. So proud that in fifth grade, while everyone was fighting about who go to do their state project on Hawaii, California or Texas, my selection of Missouri immediately stood finalized since I was the only one. So proud that the miniature St. Louis arch was among one of my prized possessions growing up and I often went to admire it and ask my dad about the time he took me up in the elevator of it when I was a kid. So proud that when I saw a trucker hat that said Missouri, Show Me Yours (because it's the "show me" state), it became part of my weekend gear to represent my birthplace. So proud that when I saw an ugly orange t-shirt that said Missouri Loves Company with a picture of the state and its neighboring states next to it, I exclaimed I want that shirt! ...and subsequently my brother bought it for me as a surprise (but it was too small so I haven't worn it yet) which made me squeal with delight upon receipt. So proud that when the NCAA March Madness final game was in St. Louis, I boasted of that being my birthplace at which point, I heard - that sucks, it's the crap hole of the US. Hmmmm.......

Second, I never had the option of leaving California. As all my friends surveyed all the colleges and universities they would apply to, I was instructed not to apply to any out of state schools by mummy dearest. At the time, I didn't understand and vowed with all my might, to apply no matter what she said. And then I realized there was a hefty application fee and since I was also not allowed to work (even though at 15 I could easily obtain a working permit), it did not seem doable with all my extracurricular activity demands. Years later, I would come to realize this simple restriction was to prevent me from applying to the same school as my high school boyfriend who was one year older, and from using work as an excuse to interact with the rebellious kids all hanging out at the mall and meeting older college guys who preyed on the high school girls working the booths in the center aisles of the mall. That all makes sense now but at the time, it just felt like my parents were clipping my wings and preventing me from flying which meant I would never soar since I could never even fly. Then, when college ended, and my grades bleakly stared back at me, hauntingly indicative that I would not be able to obtain a reputable job, I tried using my vivacious personality to get my foot in the door. Miraculously, it worked, but asking for a starting position anywhere outside of Los Angeles seemed stupid since my connections had been made here. So stay I did.

I didn't actually discover LA until I moved there two and a half years ago and actually lived in LA, LA. I say that because Arcadia is not LA. Arcadia is a suburb, a community of homes, full of peacocks by the Arboretum, a beloved racetrack where we graduated high school and the Santa Anita Fashion Park, which despite the changes over the years, still feels like the same mall as it did in 1992. And then there is LA which is ... well... odd. Busy. Different. Judgmental. (or so it feels...) Similar to how it's portrayed on television - LA is the place where people come from afar to try to make it as a star, materialistic to the nth degree and not somewhere my kids will ever grow up! As I think about it more, the more urgent getting out of LA seems to be. The traffic is horrible, the housing prices are ridiculous and the smog is gross. Here, obsessions over worldly matters of prestige, materialism, success, wealth and fun collide with good ol'd traditional values of honor, loyalty, faith, integrity, chastity, and kindness. And so with that said, it's easy to declare "I hate LA!" without any remorse and feel justified by such a statement.

I was reminded of how detrimental such a resentment can be when my BFF, who went to Berkeley for school and then moved to San Fran where she began working and has been ever since, was staffed in LA for a project. She began complaining to me about how rude everyone in LA was, how despicable the traffic was and how much she missed SF for its public transportation and easy going people- basically everything opposite of what made LA such an awful place to live. Attacked by my own BFF, I strongly felt the urge to defend my city. I explained that traffic wasn't that bad if you knew when to navigate where, that the people she encountered was a one time occurrence and NY people were worse, and that LA was awesome for other reasons. I reminded her of the beautiful sunny weather, the nearby beach, and the cheap and diverse but authentic food options. She slowly softened and agreed there was truth in my rebuttal but stubbornly stuck to the fact that the ugly traffic still outweighed the beauty the city had to offer. I sighed and let her be.

Six months later, as she came to an end of her project in LA, she told me how much she was going to miss LA. She raved about the food, the weather, the proximity of her family, and told me... I think I'm done with SF and ready to come back to LA for a bit. She was done with SF and I was ecstatic at the idea of her moving back! And then... as fate would have it, I ended up in San Jose for a special project of my own, and I too fell in love with SF, at the lack of traffic, the kind people, and slowly, I too welcomed the slightly colder weather, fell in love with places I discovered to eat at, and started to forget that my family was not with me.

So... it got me thinking.. this mentality I had is not good and what have I learned? And this is what I came up with....

1) The grass is always greener on the other side.. so don't take for granted what you have or always wonder about what you don't have.

2) We human individuals adapt well... maybe not immediately, but eventually so persevere and be patient.

3) Avoid negative complaining and strive for positive thoughts of remembering what you are blessed with.

Be that of good cheer.

I may be just another LA Asian girl for now.. but that doesn't mean it won't change some day later and if it does, I will cope and adjust. LA is part of me... but there is always room for more.

1 comment:

Andy Phillips said...

As your bf, I felt a grave responsibility to write a comment on your blog, stating to the whole world that I love your blog... and you!