Just who the Hell am I?

Who we are affects how we see the world, yes?

Taking a detour from my usual Aikido topics here, I got this in my mind recently and it’s been stuck. Does who we are affect how we conduct ourselves?

  • How we live our lives?
  • Who our friends are?
  • How we pursue goals?
  • Who our lovers are?
  • How we experience our lives?

I’m drawn back to the famous quote that Rachel Dawes said to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins:

It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.

Is it a chicken and the egg question? It’s a hard one to answer. But I guess I can offer up myself as an example:

I come from a poor family. Growing up it was okay financially. Between my parents they were earning around $70,000/year while my sister and I were growing up. Modest compared to most people in my area which was an affluent portion of California. There was – and still is – a high concentration of highly trained, highly skilled populace consisting mainly of engineers and tech people. Growing up first generation American of Chinese descent also carries a certain societal and social expectation; one of high achievement in terms of academics and in financial status.

However things are not what they seem. Now between myself, my mom, and my father we earn around $45,000/year. Despite my family’s relative stability growing up, there were a lot of things that made life emotional and unstable. Despite my perceived success, there are many things in my life that are lacking.

When you grow up in a family where money is an issue, the day to day rituals usually take precedent over what could happen in the future. Or if you want to take the more blunt approach: “Dreams for the future are wishful thinking.” At least that was how I was raised by my parents.

Sad isn’t it? While I appreciate, practice, and value that practical needs in the present will always be an issue, I must disagree with my folks that, we must have goals for ourselves for the future that are not academic and professional in nature. I just had lunch with my father a few days ago and after I told him that I had majored in teaching, he had a sour look on his face and said something to the effect of:

“You won’t be able to raise a family with that income. You should have gone into finance”.

While I agree with him that teachers can barely earn enough for themselves, I realized that he failed to realize that how one conducts oneself in the professional market before and after getting the job is just as important at the job itself. Which by the way, has been a challenge for me ever since I graduated with my bachelor’s 5 years ago; realizing that what I bring to the table (my personal history, personality, and work ethic) is just as important as getting the job itself. That has been my Achilles heal. Not to mention that my experience is not in finance and starting over now would be a lot of work and would require a lot of money.

So how does this connect with being raised poor and preparing for the future? When money becomes precedent, everything else becomes secondary.

Well maybe not everything, but personal development? Psh, out the window it goes. Self-actualization? Maybe “another” day. It was this type of attitude where having Aikido in my life now – among other things – makes me more appreciative of having the art in my life.

What can I say, I’m a kid from a poor family.

Just needed to ramble this off, this has been on my chest for sometime and I didn’t want to make too much of a scene on Facebook. I will resume my regular Aikido/Martial art broadcast in the next posts. Till next time.

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10 thoughts on “Just who the Hell am I?

  1. “Money isn’t everything, but no money’s nothing.” Rearrange how you were raised in your head. You can reprogram yourself to believe anything you want to believe – it will just take time.

  2. Speaking of beliefs–and I just thought I’d throw it out there because it occurred to me when I read this–is $70k a year poor? I think $40k was the average starting salary for a college grad during the 1990s, so I think your parents were doing okay. Obviously not rich of course, but still, it sounds decent.

    Right now, is it $45k for three people combined? If so, that’s probably poor. 😦

    1. B- it’s pretty poor. Drew lives in a place where a little over 50% of households bring in 100+K a year. I commute there for school and there’s always a plethora of high-end cars. I also hate seeing kids my age drive BMW’s/Benzes/Lexus’s.

      But it’s okay though because I’m going to be able to afford those some day and it won’t be because I will have EARNED IT MYSELF.

  3. CTK – Ah time, the one trump card. Thank you with the advice though, good vibes.
    Mona – Thank you, that means a lot coming from you. By that I mean a very ultra-successful person such as yourself.
    Jaehwan – Sounds like I should have delved a little deeper. What I also meant by poor was the behavior, family outlook, and how my family carried themselves as I was growing up. $70k isn’t bad true, but the fact is my family went through some hard times and it’s $45-$50k/year for three people combined.

    1. Drew, I understand that you’re going through the whole post-college existential phase and all, but try to understand where your parents are coming from. Back in the motherland, they probably didn’t have the luxuries of “self-awareness” that we go through here in the states- making it through to the next day was probably all they worried about.

      I agree with you: Yes, we DO have to have personal goals as well, but you should realize by now that money is still a big part of your life- not EVERYTHING, but at least, like, 90% of things.

      You just have to realize what your living expenses are going to be and adjust yourself mentally to what truly do and do not need.

      I don’t know if that makes enough sense or not, but I hope you get the gist of what I’m saying.

      1. Post – college existential phase? More whole life phase.
        Both of my parents fled Vietnam during the war. My mom’s family (herself included) were however stuck in the region only to suffer and barely survive the regime of the Khmer Rouge. Member’s of my Dad’s family were eyewitnesses to Soviet tanks fighting American troops in Saigon during the Tet Offensive in ’68. To say that my family has seen war and a little bit of hell wouldn’t be too far from the truth.

        That said, yes I know that what I’m pursuing is what my parents never had the chance to pursue back in their home countries. But, wasn’t that the whole reason why they came to this country? For their children to pursue things that they couldn’t (for whatever reasons)? I see part of my self improvement drive in this case is that my parents never had the chance to improve themselves other than worrying what was going to happen the next day.

        As for money, I wouldn’t put it at 90%; way too high unless you’re a business person. Self improvement isn’t about the money, it’s about the progress and journey towards your goals. Money is just the grease, though this aspect I will have to agree with you.

  4. My dad was there when the last American soldier left Saigon. He was captured and was in a re-education camp for 10 years. He had was able to escape Vietnam, but had to go back to help my brothers and sisters escape as well. My father and my grandfather were high-ranking officers and they targeted my family. My dad was the only one of his generation to survive.

    Okay 90% may be an exaggeration, but the way I see it the less time you have stressing about money, the more time you have for discovering yourself. Making oodles of money is just (my) truth and I apologize if it sounds like I was forcing it on you. Also, I’m going to assume that you don’t have some sort of terminal disease and that you’re not prone to freak accidents, (and this is pretty cliche, but this is what pretty much every adult tells me) you still have the rest of your life to figure yourself out. We’re just young and impatient is all. Just take a deep breath and try thinking that things could always be a LOT worse.

    Yes, post-college existentialism. Because when you (or at least most people) hit 40, they’re going to think the same exact thing, which is called the midlife crisis lol.

    1. Ideally, people need to “fill in the gaps”; or work on the things that are missing that are required to get them to where they want themselves to be at. Improving the self just happens to be the thing that I need to “fill in” in order to be a successful person – professionally and personally. What was it? We all have different paths, but all paths led to the top of the mountain. Something like that.

      My condolences to your family by the way.

      1. You still have a lot of time to figure out who you are. I’ve already gone through this phase, so I can relate, I just conveyed my own answer in a way that was unrelatable. Just try to relax and don’t beat yourself around so much. Your parents (like all parents) just want you to be able to take care of yourself, it’s just that they’re Asian, so they can’t help but say it in what seems to be a ‘rude’ way. I feel like an old man lol….

        Don’t worry about it, I’ve long gotten used to this story; sorry about yours as well.

        “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”

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