There’s a Thai word “greng jai” that has always annoyed me. It’s basically used to describe a person who doesn’t want to be an inconvenience to anyone. They don’t want to be a bother, and it’s supposed to be a positive trait. We have this same idea, too, in American culture, but I feel it does more harm than good.
Sometimes I feel like an anomaly. I’m a 45 year old American Thai-Chinese woman who was born in Hawaii, who has lived on three continents, and who was raised by a Thai immigrant mother and a working class white male. I can’t squeeze into an “ism”. My dress size is small in America, but extra-large in Asia. I’m too American in Asia and not Asian enough in America.
I remember the first time I used chopsticks. We were at Aiea Chop Suey (HA!); it was my mom, my younger brother, and me. We were not given any silverware, just those horrible off-white plastic set of sticks.
“Uh, I said. “How are we supposed to eat this?”
My mom was already eating. She laughed.
I’m binge watching Season 24 of America’s Next Top Model (don’t laugh). In fact, I’ve watched every season (not every episode though) because I’m a wannabe model. Funnily, I take really bad photos, but counteract this by making goofy faces, and accepting the fact that I’m not photogenic.
But what has struck me, as I watched the girls in the house interact with one another, is how many of them carry pain inside them. At first, I thought it was ironic as heck that some of these stunning young women grew up being told they were ugly or funny-looking (this is a repeat theme throughout the seasons), but there’s more to this than just this.
I feel good.
However, if you’d have told me what my life would be like if I moved back to Thailand before I did it, I’m not sure I would have returned.
I know now why we can’t see in to our future – doing so prevents us from ever meeting up with it.
What has haunted me since we’ve left Cambodia is all the stuff I gave away, all the stuff I left behind. My mind tosses and turns like a salad, over and over again, remembering this particular thing or that object that I miss. Because when we left, we left thinking we were going to the United States. We left believing we were never returning or not returning anytime soon.
Know thyself – the Oracle at Delphi
When I was sharing what happened between my mom and I, someone remarked, ‘that was good of your mom to recognize that she was mad at herself for getting mad at you’. And I thought, that’s interesting; are people not aware of their feelings?