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This article is part of Mochi’s Summer 2022 issue, highlighting the Everyday Asian American. Media often covers Asian Americans who are exceptional and defying odds (hey Chloe Kim!) or, sadly, when tragedy strikes the Asian community. In this issue, Mochi is switching things up and celebrating what the everyday Asian American enjoys, what’s on our minds, and what life looks like for us. Check out the rest of our issue here! And if you like what you are reading, please support us by buying us a boba through Ko-fi.

No matter how many times I heard it, I could never get enough of my parents’ love story. They met in Nanjing, China, during their college years. My mom was from Hebei province, and my dad was from Jiangsu province, approximately nine hours apart by car. They were each other’s first relationship, and were married less than eight months after meeting. 

After my dad graduated from Tsinghua University with his doctorate degree, he got a scholarship from Louisiana State University to do research. With less than $1,000 USD in his pocket, the clothes on his back, and an uncertain future, he stuffed the last 35 years of his life into a small navy backpack and moved to America, in pursuit of the “American Dream.” 

Shortly after, my mom joined him in Louisiana. They wanted to create a better life for their future children, so my dad studied hard, while his pregnant wife read parenting book after parenting book, learning all she could about how to be a good mother. Because she was about to give birth to my older brother, she didn’t work and the two of them lived in a dingy apartment off of my dad’s meager scholarship money. A year after I was born, my parents moved to Los Angeles, the city of dreams, brimming with limitless possibilities. 

Photo credit: Pham Hoang Kha/Pexels

When I was young, I always loved hearing their story. I asked my mom to tell it to me over and over, and I’d swoon when she told me about how she found true love. 

I’d climb into bed at half past 11, prop my torso up with a cream pillow, and listen as my mom told me about the Chinese myth of the red string of fate, and yuanfen, the belief that destiny exists. 

That’s crazy, I always thought. To think that every one of us has a soulmate out there that we don’t even know about. And that one day we’ll meet, and it’ll just feel right. We’ll live happily ever after.

It sounded like something out of a Disney movie. And I wanted a love like that.

I was only a child, but I knew I wanted to be in love. I wasn’t exactly sure with whom, but I knew I wanted that dreamy feeling of staring into a boy’s eyes, knowing I adored him, and he adored me. Staring up at the stars together, because silence had never felt so comfortable. 

Because that’s what love was. Romantic walks along Malibu Beach, sharing Dippin’ Dots at Disneyland, giddy Netflix-and-chill dates on the one day a year that rain decided to fall in California, and feeling like a princess every time he calls you beautiful. 

As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve realized that these stories were just that — stories. All sparkle and no substance. Like Tinkerbell. Or the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland.

Photo credit: Leah Kelley/Pexels

I still remember one night when I was around 6, trying to fall asleep in the room my brother and I shared. My parents were in the living room having a heated conversation that was starting to get a little loud and making it difficult to fall asleep, so I tiptoed to the door, unsure of what was happening. I flinched as their voices raised by an octave and became piercing. When their shouting continued, hot tears spilled out of my eyes, and I ran to them. I wrapped my arms around my mom’s leg, blubbering, and asked them why they were yelling at each other.

“Go back to bed, honey. This has nothing to do with you. This is just between Mommy and Daddy,” she said, taking a few deep breaths in an attempt to regulate her voice. 

I went back to bed. I woke up the next morning to my parents making breakfast together, just like they always did. Congee, hard-boiled eggs, and baozi, as usual. So I put the night before out of my mind.

But the fights didn’t stop, I just got used to them. When I was 9, for winter break, my whole family went to Disneyland. But during the drive home, my parents got into an argument that left my brother and me pressing our tear-streaked faces against the glass of the car window, staring back at the Disneyland castle, watching as it slowly disappeared from view, wishing that the perfect fantasy could last a moment longer before bitter reality set in again.

That night, I climbed into my brother’s bunk and hugged him while we cried ourselves to sleep. 

So this is love, I thought. It leaves you silently sobbing into your pillow, wishing everyone would just calm down. Then waking up in the morning pretending nothing was wrong. Eating breakfast as though everyone hadn’t been screaming at each other just the night before. 

So this is love.

I can harbor resentment for all the hurt I went through, and grieve the childhood and family life I never got to have. I can love my parents for all they sacrificed for me, and every goodbye they had to say to give me the life they never had. I can forgive, and still not forget, because some scars run deeper than skin.

My parents are still together, and I honestly think they will be forever. No matter how much I want a perfect family, I’ve stopped putting pressure on myself to solve their problems. No matter how much I want to, their relationship isn’t mine to worry about, or fix. 

I guess it’s naive to believe in soulmates. Or a perfect Disney love story. 

But it’s okay. I’m not going to worry about not finding my perfect person, my prince charming. I’m not looking for a happily ever after. For god’s sake, I’m only 16, and I’m so much more than someone else’s other half.

I want to learn all that I can, and learn as much as I can while I’m young. 

I can narrate my own story. 

Cover photo credit: Photo by Asad Photo Maldives/Pexels

Author

  • Jessica is in college, studying mathematics and creative writing. Her words have been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Reclamation Magazine, and Overachiever Magazine. In her free time, she likes tending to her (honestly excessive amount of) houseplants, and making really good turkey, fig, and brie sandwiches.

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