My parents never discussed my purpose in this world. 

What do I want to be? Who am I? Where do I fit in?

Those questions simply weren’t posed to girls like me growing up in our Chinese culture. As a young person, I tried to please others. I tried to be everything to everybody. Chinese girls like me were taught to be subservient. 

Vera & Carlos’ wedding photo August 1969

My culture taught me that my place was to keep up the house, cook, care for my husband and children. Don’t misunderstand, I am not complaining about my upbringing. That’s just how our culture was, especially then.

Only after immigrating to the United States, experiencing the world, and navigating some of life’s hurdles did I come to appreciate this American idea of finding yourself. This Western philosophy and other aspects of individualism and self-agency are foreign to our culture. 

The emphasis on finding yourself ranks among the many aspects of American culture I appreciate. This type of thinking affords so much more opportunity, especially to women, that I could have ever dreamed of in my culture.

I am a happier person now that I understand myself better and appreciate what I want out of life. I know where I fit. I take control of my journey. 

Vera and Carlos with their granddaughters April 2018

Life becomes more navigable after you learn and accept who you are and who you are not. I try to remind myself that I do not need to live my life to suit others’ expectations of me. Instead, I must live so that, when I look in the mirror, I am happy with the person staring back at me.

Of course, I did not evolve into this American way of thinking overnight. I only attained this evolved philosophy because of my lived experiences. 

When I was 47, I experienced a tragedy that shattered my worldview and sent me spiraling into a dark depression. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. Everything I believed in had been stolen from me. So it seemed, anyway, in that moment.

I made a few life changes around that time. A friend helped lead me to Jesus, and I found strength in Him. I sought help with therapy – another taboo in my culture. I learned how to embrace myself and, for the first time, I started to appreciate the importance of self-love.

I remember saying to a friend: I am a valuable person. I am a human being. I have a life. I have self-respect, and I should not be destroyed by situations beyond my control. I must survive. 

This marked a big step in my self-love journey, and I began to take personal ownership over my life.

Continue reading Vera’s post, originally published at Women’s Outdoor News.


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