Different Strokes for Different Folks

At one point last year, our family found ourselves spread across five cities in four different countries, making us pros at utilizing group chats to keep us on the same page about life – which usually translated to updates about work and bills. Sometimes relationships. But mostly work and bills. Because you know, my siblings and I wanted to show our parents we were real adults. Real adults that would rather answer 25 questions about our professions than one question about getting married.

All time zones considered, we kept up with staying in touch as best as we could. Each one of us would contribute every once in a while so that the others would be aware of what was happening in our everyday lives.

My dad: “I just landed at the airport. Traveling this week for work.” *Insert commentary about his flight*
My mom: “Came back from lunch with your grandparents!” *Insert 10 pictures of a 45-minute meal*
Me: “Awful weekend at work.” *Insert rant about hotel guests who can’t believe we no longer serve the guava juice they had during their last stay seven years ago*
My sister: “It is so hot here.” *Nothing further to insert*

Everyone's combined contributions

Everyone’s combined contributions

On more than one occasion, however, my brother would be missing from action. Too often we would sign off for the day and ask each other where he was, as if we could actually know when we were anywhere from 250-6000 miles away from the next person.

Yep, pretty much

Yep, pretty much

After teetering on the brink of filing a missing persons report (“Hello, where are you?” “Has anyone seen him?” “WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME ANYONE TALKED TO HIM!?”), we would finally get a response days later. Sometimes weeks. This usually came after a menacing message from my father about the importance of timely communication and the poor reputation of unreliability my brother was building for himself, thus resulting in a Great American Novel of a text message. All of a sudden, I knew EVERYTHING about my brother. What classes he was taking, how often he was working, when his bowels were moving – more than I’d ever wanted to know.

Apparently, I was not the only one who felt this way.

My dad: “Thank you for getting back to us. Good to hear you are doing well. However, you should know that with the number of keystrokes you used to produce that text message, it would have been more efficient to just send an email.”

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The Sound of Music

I knew most of the other Asian kids growing up, and for those that I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting, Mama Kim knew their mamas. And of these Asian kids I knew, everyone played an instrument. The formula was always as follows –

Piano + String Instrument or the Flute

Once in a while there would be some curveball who played something weird like the oboe or the saxophone. Which was cool, because you know, they were trying to “be an individual,” or something, but those kids usually ended up being the first to declare themselves as pre-med, pre-law, or engineering, so in the end they still managed to lower their parents’ blood pressure.

Music education pretty much came to a complete and total stop as soon as I shook my principal’s hand while receiving my fake high school diploma on stage for an overpriced stock photo. So when my sister decided a few years after college to purchase a “Learn How to Play Guitar in 15 Days” kind of kit for what could not have been more than $24.99, she decided to put her lesson to good use.

My sister: Mom, Mom! Did you like my song?
My mom: Yes. I don’t know what you were playing, but I liked it.

I write regularly about how my parentals do not verbally express their love with “I love you,” and how I genuinely have no idea how to refer to someone as “sweetheart,” “pumpkin,” or any other type of diabetes-inducing sweet treat, but I know Mama Kim loves me. I know this because one time, this happened.

Is that music to one's ears, OR WHAT

Is that music to one’s ears, OR WHAT

Me: *Fa la la la insert a Top 40 hit here* Mom, Mom! Did you like my singing?
My mom: I can stand it.

iStudy for iPads

Growing up, there were a few things that I was petrified of saying to my parents.

“Mom and Dad, I got in a car accident.”
“Mom and Dad, I got a B this semester in math.”
“Mom and Dad, I started seeing someone.”

And then there were those things I would never, EVER say to them.

“Mom and Dad, what if I didn’t go to college?”

Oh, no. No, no, no. As the offspring of immigrants, we knew from day one that first comes college, then comes love, then comes marriage and the rest of that K-I-S-S-I-N-G song. “Not going” was simply “not applicable.”

Is there ever such a thing as "too much" homework?

How come parents don’t believe in a thing called “too much homework”?

My younger sister Jamie and I both had a pretty clear idea of either where we wanted to go or what we wanted to study by the end of high school, so the college application process for us was relatively painless. Our brother, on the other hand, was as undecided as it could get.

“I’m a great coach and tutor, so maybe I want to be a teacher. But I know I’m also good with people, so maybe I should go into hotel management like you, Sandy. I really like my psychology class that I’m taking now, though, do you think I should major in psych? I have an interest in photography too, suppose I studied art?”

Needless to say, the above conversation was just about what to study. We hadn’t even yet reached the point of where to study. Eventually we made it there, and soon it became the anticipated waiting game for acceptance (and unfortunately, rejection) letters. When the time came to select a campus, Jamie felt it would be helpful to offer some insight into how she ended up at the school that she did.

My sister: “I chose the U.S. Coast Guard Academy for the free education and the chance to serve my country.”
My brother: “Yes, but the University of Arizona will give me a free iPad if I go there.”

Priorities made in 'Murrica.

Keeping it real, only in ‘Murrica.