Family life 04/10/2009
 

At times I wish I had more family living near me, or a greater extended family sprawled around the world.  I have always dreamt of having an older brother to rely on (or a gay best friend).  Since I tend to connect a lot better with guys, I have always wanted to have one who was very, very close to me in a platonic way.  Unfortunately, though such figures have come and gone, I can't really claim one guy who I can run to when I am hurt or scared or just have a great secret to share.  More than that though, I wish that my cousins and I were closer.  When I was young, I would always follow them around so closely that they nicknamed me their shadow.  It was true enough, since I only got to see them once a year for a few weeks and that was my only tie to my background.

I have lived my life very much alone, or in a tiny family unit consisting of me and my parents.  I always love to have people over to my house simply because nobody ever visits!  It's always just me, my mom, my dad, and for some years, my cats.  There are no random second cousins or great aunts, twice removed who can swing by to say hi.  In fact, there isn't a single other person in our family in the country, from either side of the family.  So, other than the summers that I got to go back to China in my childhood, I've hardly ever seen my relatives.  Lately, I have also spent a lot of my time on my own, first as I went off to college, then as my dad moved back to China, then as I studied abroad in England, then as my mom moved back to China as well, and finally as I moved out to Singapore to work.

Granted, I am not alone alone.  Yet, I have had nobody I can call family in the same country as me for the past two and a half years, but for the few months my mom came to visit, the couple of weeks my dad has spent back, and the lucky few days that some of my aunts and uncles got to come watch me graduate from UCLA.  Family, after all, are the only people who are linked to you from day 1.  And in my life, they are the only ones who have always been there, even if it was largely in the background and rather out of reach.  But year after year, they are there, growing in their own ways, and eventually we will catch up again.  For me, friendship has not worked out quite that way, since each move brought another group of people to leave behind.  I can never claim a best friend from my childhood who watched me grow up.  The only people who truly watched me grow up were my parents.

I have certainly been blessed with a lot of wonderful people in my life, but once again I find that they come and go.  I'm so used to people leaving my life and becoming a great memory that I didn't even notice I do that, until a close friend pointed it out.  Perhaps I got too conditioned to having to leave people behind with every move we made over the years.  I don't have the mindset that makes me think of someone, pick up the phone and call them, or drop them an e-mail to catch up.  Instead, I just wonder whatever happened to them and how they are doing.  I am always grateful when I do hear from a long-lost friend and get to see how they are doing in their lives.  I love that we are becoming a more globally connected world now and facebook was the first social media tool that allowed me to get in touch with friends from lives past.  I also love that you don't need to be maintaining a conversation with each other to keep tabs on and be able to find each other years down the line.

I like to dream about a handful of aunts and uncles and dozens of cousins bustling around during Chinese New Year, as the whole family makes time to be together.  Sadly, I've only been in China once during that time of year since I left (which was when I was too young to remember anything anyway) and I don't recall a thing about it.  My dad has told me that to truly experience Chinese festivities, I need to spend Chinese New Year back in his hometown, the little place that he grew up in.  Now that truly has small town flair in its celebrations, with all the stops pulled!  Maybe if I have time next year, I can make it come true, in the second Year of the Ox that I will experience since the one I was born in.  2010 will be an important year for me because I will have gone through two full Chinese zodiac cycles.  I'm sure that has some sort of significance.

Someday, I'd like to be able to gather with all my relatives (or at least one representative from each family unit).  But over the years, even our not-so-big family has had trouble reuniting as my cousins married off and started to create their own little families.  Between work, children, spouses, and friends, it's hard to find time to get together like we used to when everyone lived in the same town and the only ones missing were me and my parents.  Now I'm embarking on my own life as well, sacrificing time with loved ones in hopes of building a strong foundation for a successful future.  Work is hardly as flexible as tertiary education was, with more hours and less ease of changing schedules.  Plus, there's a lot less time off per annum.  On the other hand, I am very fortunate to be working for a company that would, like no other, work with me to try to make it happen, if I so chose.  One of the things I will miss most about education is the lovely summer months filled with enrichment learning, extracurricular fun, and personal fulfillment.

Despite all this daydreaming about a huge family, I still don't want more than two or three kids, if only because I don't know if I can handle any more.  Growing up so independent and with all the attention focused on me makes it difficult for me to conceive how it would be with a handful of children running amok.  The grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it?  And that is why I wish I had a companion to grow up with, whether sibling, cousin living nearby, or best friend from childhood.  But, because I know there is this tendency to think that the other way is so much better, I do recognize the benefits of only childhood.  Thus, I don't want to overcompensate by having so many kids I don't know what to do with myself.  Instead, to create that feel, I'd like to live in a neighborhood where everyone knows each other and the kids can play together.  This would also be a great way to expose them to how others live their lives, especially if it's a multicultural community!

 
 

I feel (and have often felt) like I should write more like I am storytelling, relaying the details of my life.  From the feelings to the specifics of names of places, these are all things that I tend to leave out.  I usually write what I did, plain and simple, in my daily journal.  I've been making an effort to include more of what I think and feel for a couple years now.  It's getting a lot better, but there's still a lot more to be done.  Then on the blogging side, I tend to only write about what I think, but not really related to a certain event.  Granted, an event may have triggered my idea, but it's usually something that I've been thinking about for awhile or have at least considered before.

Part of the problem is the trade-off between the time spent in using so much detail and the time I could be spending out, living a life to write about!  This is a very familiar tug-of-war for me, after thirteen years of keeping a personal journal.  I'm afraid that I am slowly drifting away from maintaining it, just because the quality that I want to have takes far too much time to fit into my life.  Yet, I still can't quite put it down.  After all, I've been faithful for a good twelve years and some with little faltering!

This struck me as I was replying to an e-mail from one of my pledge brothers, asking for advice from anyone who had traveled to Europe before.  I can still recall all the places I went and most of things I saw, but what was that website I used to book my hostels?  What airline were those cheap flights taken on?  These are all details that have started to escape me.  Thankfully, a quick search and refresher took me back to the information I wanted, but can things always work out so well?  I'd much rather have solid entries I can refer to from that time, with all those details in there for me.

I don't have a very good memory and those are one of the most precious things to me, so it's sad to realize what I have forgotten.  It's the very reason why I stubbornly continue to document my life, despite the time that it takes.  Between all the things that I have recorded, I think I have a good database of my life.  I want to be able to look back on my life and actually know what happened.  I don't just have trouble throwing away physical things - memories and knowledge are the same for me!  I hate that my French and Chinese language skills have deteriorated so much over the years and that I probably can't remember the way to get from my house to the local library back in Topeka.

So, I love to have all this information.  Plus, it will all be very useful for writing my autobiography!  :-P  I'm going to have to get the nearly 50 volumes of handwritten journals to be transcribed.  The benefit of electronic copies is the searchability and accessibility they offer.  Though most of my entries aren't very exciting, there are definitely some jewels hidden in there that could be really great material.  I'd also need my thousands of pictures and videos to be consolidated and put into some sort of a timeline corresponding to my written entries and life events and experiences.  How cool would that be?  Then I could virtually relive my life (to some extent)!

For now though, I will take to my friend Ninja's philosophy: live a life worth writing about!  (Or, in his case, worth making a movie about.)