Apparently, I really have a lot to say in my brain. I had thought about finishing this series with this story but uncertain whether it is too personal to share it or not. One day, I was talking to a friend who gave me a compliment about my work. She said: “you must feel good that your work is to help people.” I said to her: “no, not really, I mean, I am very privilege to be part of my clients’ transformation process. They invited me to go into their lives and to see their transformation. It’s a sacred process and I am honored to be part of that process. It’s quite a privilege.”
So, this is the final piece to conclude this series.
When I was little, I heard about this story from both my mom and my uncle, who is 2 years younger than my mother. As I mentioned earlier, my grandparents really emphasized the education. So, when my mom, who is the oldest in the family, started the first grade, my grandfather enrolled her into a “better” school district. It meant that she had to take an hour train to school every single day since she was 6 or 7 years old. All my aunt and uncles followed the same footsteps.
Here is my mom’s version of the story: “Your grandfather believed the education is very important and the ticket out of the poverty, He didn’t want us to be behind. So, we took the train to the school every single day, back and forth. However, we were poor. We only had enough money to buy the train tickets and if you missed the train. You had to tolerate the hunger for the next train to come home for lunch. So, I always remember how important it is to be puncture and to think things through to make it efficient.”
Here is my uncle’s version of the story. “We were so poor. If you didn’t catch the bus, you watched other rich kids who had money to buy some snacks outside the school while waiting for the next train. I was so angry at your grandfather. He couldn’t have thought about giving us a few dollars more?”
Do you see the difference? One of them is a survivor and the other one is a victim.
One day, on the way to work, I walked up the hill in front of my office. I thought about the conversation I had with my mother the day before. She was asking me about the snow and whether it had the impact on my practice. She said: “I am really worried. You are not an American, (meaning middle-class White Caucasian speaking American English). If the weather doesn’t help, I am worried whether you will have enough for the month.”
At that moment, I thought about this story I have heard for over 30 years for many times. I have a sudden urge to call my mom and tell her this:
It’s going to be OK. I know it and I am sure of it. If you can ride a 40-min train back and forth as a 6-year-old to pursue a better future, I can do it. If my grandmother can learn how to cut hairs at the age of 45 to support her family because she moved the entire family from the country to the city, I can do it. If my great grandmother can marry into a wealthy family as a child bride and survived the abuse my great grandfather’s family put onto her, I can do it.
It is in my blood to make it in this country that is so foreign to my mother. They don’t understand why I choose to live in a place with snow and cold in 4-6 months and doing this thing call “counseling” working with people who have various stories that they couldn’t think would happen. Just like years ago, no one would understand why a father would want to send his 6-y-o to study in the city. However, because of my family before me, I can fly higher and further to this unknown territory.
When I thought about going back to the doctoral program, I went to see my grandmother. I asked her if I should do it and if she didn’t want me to leave, I would stay. She told me: “A parent’s job is to raise her children better than she is. I don’t want to tie you down. I want you to see this big world.”
I can almost see my grandmother, my great grandmother, and my father up in the sky and told me that “Of course you can make it. You are a survivor, not a victim.”
Is there any family story that has a significant impact on how you become who you are? How is the storyline play out in your life?
Here are the pictures with my mom, my sister, and my brother. Even though they are far away, I think about them every day. Even though they don’ quite understand my life in this foreign country, they have tried their best to understand and to support me.
So, in Feb of 2017, I went home, physically, and I am home now, mentally.