Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 10:42:44 AM
Lately I have been reading Neil Pasricha’s The Book of Awesome. I watched his 3 A’s Awesome speech on TED several months ago and watched it for another three times later. The next thing I knew: I was so persuaded by his arguments that I ended up ordering his Book of Awesome on Amazon. This young man started his speech with his parents’ immigrant stories of settling down in Canada. He, then, shared two sad personal stories of his. A couple years after marriage, one day his wife came home from work and told him through tears, “I don't love you anymore.” He said that was so heartbroken before he found out an even sadder piece of news—his best college friend committed suicide because of years of severe depression. In his last part of speech, he encouraged the audience with the message that life is too short for us to twirl and swirl whenever it deals us a blow and life is blessed with so many things that are often taken for granted. After I was half way through his book, I was so surprised a man can be so sensitive to and so thankful for so many little sweet things in our life such as “wearing underwear just out of dryer” and “when cashiers open up new checkout lanes at the grocery store”. And I realized the message he was trying to get across to the readers was exactly what I needed at the moment: start to embrace our inner three-year-olds and to see and appreciate life as it is. As I learned to gradually see my life the way he does his, it struck me that I could also compile my List of Awesome and perhaps write about a few. My favorite one on my List of Awesome is about my mother. So here it goes:
My mother is not considered highly educated even according to the standard of her generation. She gave up schooling after graduating from middle school at age 15 and hopped on a train from Chengdu to Shanghai all by herself at age 16. As I grew up and asked her to tell me about her life stories, I found out that she did not quit school because she was a bad student. Well, she told me she was not a big fan of school, though. My grandpa on my mother’s side, who I have never met in my life, passed away at his early 40s because of severe illness, which means my grandma ever since became a single mum with four kids to feed and take care of all on her own. My mother, the second oldest daughter in the family, volunteered to leave school and started working. The rest of her stories that I know is: A few years later, she met my father who was working for the same company in Shanghai. They married. They had an apartment. I was born. And before I know it, I am where I am, home.
There are two things about my mother that I think are pretty awesome. The first is her willingness to quit school at age 15 in order to lessen the financial burden of her mother and her courage to venture into the society and work in Shanghai all by herself at age 16. After I went to the United States four years ago, sometimes when I was back home in the summer, my mother and I would have this interesting conversation/discussion about which was harder: her leaving Chengdu to work in Shanghai by herself at age 16 or me going to the United States to study and work in an English department on my own at age 22. I have had fun having such conversations/discussions with my mother because I realized it turned out my mother and I were both proud of our experiences of pulling off a new stage of life through hardship, alone.
The other great thing about my mother is: she loves me unconditionally through nagging and action as well. I am not going to talk about nagging since I guess most mothers are expert at that and they probably would say, what my mother would say, “I nag YOU because I care about you. Why don't I nag other kids?” However, what I appreciate the most about my mother is this small thing she does with fruits for me. Sometimes I tear up because I could not think of a greater way a mother could show she loves her kid so much. The thing is: since I started to remember things especially after I grew to be busier and busier with my schoolwork, whenever I am home in my room studying, my mother would cautiously open my door and hand me a bowl of fruit. You see, my mother has a “thing”: she thinks some fruit a day keeps doctors away, so her kid should have some fruit everyday. I know she is right and I love fruit. But when I get busy with schoolwork, I’d rather stay focused and not use a fruit break. Then there she is, showing up at the door to my room and handing me a bowl of fruit. Sometimes it is a small bowl of lychee or grape, other times it is a big bowl of nicely cut combination of different melons of different colors. But, it never is just an ordinary bowl of lychee or grape or melons. It is a bowl of lychee or grape without the skin so they are READY ready for me to eat and a bowl of melons cut from only the very center of the original huge deal because the center section of the melon is usually juicier and sweeter than the part that is closer to the skin. That’s right. When my mother gives me a peach, a mango or an apple, it is NEVER just a peach, a mango or an apple. It is prepared in a bowl and served in a way that I would say is meant only for a princess. When this first started, I felt guilty because I knew in a way my mother was doting on me so I might as well just spare that 5 minutes peeling off the skin of that bowl of grape myself. Then I realized my mother loved me so much that she was happy whenever preparing that bowl of fruit and it had become her thing. So instead of feeling guilty, later over the years, I learned to let my mother love me the way she had been used to and take the bowl with a heartfelt “Thank you, mom!” whenever she hands me one. This is the most awesome thing about my mother. She taught me how to accept love without taking love for granted.
From Neil Pasricha’s speech and book, I learned we all have our List of Awesome. One day we all probably could make the List our own Book of Awesome. Perhaps not all us have the impressive vocabulary or writing talent to get our own Book of Awesome published and perhaps make some money out of it and make ourselves famous. Not me at least. But it is always comforting to know that by starting to reflect on our own List of Awesome, we learn not to take our life and all the blessings in it for granted. And that is truly AWESOME.