I guess you could say I grew up in a very cushioned life. While my siblings and I had to find our way through a lot of unexpected things in childhood like navigating the grocery store or letting your mom know what documents she needed to sign to enroll you in school — as you do when your parents don’t speak the language or aren’t native to the country you’re born in — I can’t really say we “struggled” through our childhood. To be honest, I was kind of a spoiled brat at times. I threw tantrums like the best of them over Sanrio goods, of all things. The fact that I was able to be punished by being sent to bed with out dinner says a lot.
I never really had to challenge my way of life. I always had that veil of first-generation pride to carry me through my guilt of having a good life. You know, because my life is a such a struggle just because my parents had to build a life here for me. It’s like society says because I’m really not a spoiled brat, because I am actually a decent human being, that my life is in some way an inspiration because of the fact that my parents weren’t born in this country, that they went through an ordeal to get here to provide that cushioned life for me and my siblings.
I didn’t do shit. I didn’t struggle. Yes, English isn’t my first language, but I learned it at three years old. Sure, I had to help my mom and dad through some translation and cultural education, but my struggle wasn’t any worst than the kid next door in the suburban neighborhood I grew up in. My parent’s struggle is a different story… for a different time.
So here’s where it gets complicated for me. I was raised under the impression from teachers and kids at school that my life was in some way difficult because of my first-generation status. So, I grew up under the impression that the ones in need were the ones like me. Obviously, through the combination of aging and adulting, I know differently. But there are certain knee-jerk reactions that happen that always surprise me.
Tonight, my boyfriend and I were enjoying our first date night in our new place. We just moved in together, and like everyone else, we had our arguments over petty things. We also work different schedules. I pull 10-hour days, give or take, from 7 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m., while he teaches night classes from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and runs his own business during the day. By the time he gets home, we have enough time for one short documentary about the dying coral or melting ice caps before one of us is dead asleep on the couch.
So, tonight for the first time we took some time for ourselves. We crafted some cheese-stuffed patties and grilled up burgers. Then watched another guilt-driven environmental documentary and went for ice cream. We were planning on packing up for a day of climbing tomorrow, but then his phone went off… repeatedly.
Someone was lost on Mt. Baldy and my boyfriend’s search and rescue team was called out to help. He responded, saying that unless they find him tonight, there’s a slim chance that he won’t make it out alive.
Knee jerk: Fuck! Really? The one night we actually plan to have together?
Reality: Fuck! That guy could die up there.
As he’s packing up, I have these guilty feelings for having the initial reaction I had. This very selfish point of view that this dude on Mt. Baldy is ruining my night.
In the end, it’s the best people that show us the worst in us. I’m sure I’m not the first person to feel the way I felt about him leaving. It’s like my heart is being this little bitch about it, while my brain is telling me how fortunate we are that he can go and do this amazing thing. But, the ugly is that I really am sad he left at all, not because of the lost man on the mountain, but because my babe had to leave.
I’ll just be over here in my warm, dry apartment, finishing my ice cream.