There was an article written about me, called “Chew’s puzzling stances”. It is a great pun on my motto: “We are each a piece of the puzzle of life; without each of us, our picture is incomplete.”
Interestingly enough, my “stances” are also puzzling in the adjectival sense, probably because of my personal and socio-cultural-economic experiences.
People don’t understand why I root for the underdog.
I root for the underdog because I know what it feels like to be the underdog. I know what it feels like to be an outsider. I know what it feels like to be helpless, and surrounded by people.
Personal Experiences : Helpless and Surrounded by People
Scenario One. We were at a house party and I had an allergic reaction to wine. I could feel my chest tightening up, I was having difficulty breathing, and no one noticed.
Scenario Two. We were at a fast food restaurant, and my friend was ordering food. My sons were chatting away. I have always been friendly, and said hello to a man who was asking for food. I shook his hand at the greeting. He would not let go. I was afraid to cause a scene.
Growing Up in Silicon Valley
I was born and raised in California, in a city called Sunnyvale, which is now the heart of Silicon Valley. I took ballet and piano lessons starting at age 5, and was the youngest and only daughter in a family of five. Mom immigrated when she was in her 20’s, and after marrying Dad, enrolled in English classes, taught at the local Chinese School, got her cosmetology license, owned a beauty salon, and then retired. Dad immigrated when he was around 7 years old. Granddad wanted him to take over the family laundry business, but Dad didn’t want to do that. Dad went to UCBerkeley, became an aerospace engineer, and worked for one of the major aerospace companies, then retired. My brothers and I were never in want of anything. Mom volunteered at our elementary school, the whole family went to years of marching band performances, and ballet and piano recitals. We knew that when we graduated from high school, we would be heading to college.
Stereotypical Chinese girls are quiet and well-behaved. I was the rebel. I was told that my mom watched the movie “The Joy Luck Club” (based on the book of the same title by Amy Tan), and when she saw the character of Jing-Mei (June), she exclaimed: “That’s just like Felicia!”
I was not quiet. I was not well-behaved. I talked back to my mother, used curse words (until I realized they made me angry and angrier, and some people would refuse to talk with me), and secretly dated boys when I was in high school.
I wanted to go to UCLA. My parents wanted me to go to UCDavis. I went to UCDavis. My parents wanted me to become a pharmacist. I wanted to become a CEO of a company and I enrolled in Economics. That changed after I took my Statistics class. I changed to an English major, then eventually to an Individual Major (Asian-American Studies, based on the program at UCBerkeley).
I was pregnant during my last year at the University (secret dating problems), married at age 22 (my parents refused to come to my wedding), and worked a variety of odd jobs with the schools and the City, before deciding to enroll in the Teaching Certification program at the University. I became a teacher, and moved steadily into leadership roles, eventually becoming the District’s Alternative Education Interventions Coordinator, working with the students who were in danger of failing, mostly because of lack of skill and interest. I implemented a series of “Back Door” classes, “tricking” students into learning Math, Reading, and Writing through Art, Music, and Games.
After that, I moved to the Zuni Indian Reservation, where my salary was around $17,000 annually, and included a two-bedroom flat in the teacherage, and meals during the school day.
From there, I moved into the Cibola National Forest, to help build a fortress for the end of days.
And from there, I moved to Tucson, where my current work is ending systemic domestic violence.
The million dollar question is “Why did I rebel?” What did I dislike so much that I had to go against my family’s wishes?
Guilt and shame
I wasn’t always a rebel. But once I became a rebel, there was no turning back.
I have a long history of guilt and shame.
In Grade Four, I was at a friend’s sleepover. When it came time to get out our sleeping bags and change, one of the girls made a big deal out of wearing a bra. I remember asking: “You have to take your bra off when you sleep?” (I was not yet wearing a bra). And she sneered at me, and made a snarky comment. I felt so embarrassed to have asked an innocent question. I think it was the same way Stephen King’s Carrie felt when the students laughed at her for using a tampon to blot her lipstick.
In Grade Six, I was at a new school, and I had a huge crush on a boy, who we will call Donald. Donald was the stereotypical cute boy with blond hair blue eyes and dimples. He was well-liked. This was the time when I started to hate myself…. because he was also racist. He called me names like “Flat face” and asked pointed questions like: “Why are your eyes so slanty?” I began to hate myself. I wished I had blond hair, blue eyes, a cute ski jump nose, and that I was named Linda.
In Grade Seven, I was at a friend’s house and we were hanging out in her parents’ room. She said: “Oh, you have to leave now, my dad is getting out of the shower, and he’s going to be naked.” I said, “Aren’t you coming too?” She said: “No. He’s my dad. I see him naked all the time.” I think my eyes got wide and I was super embarrassed. Hindsight being 20/20, maybe she was embarrassed, too? We stopped hanging out a short time after that incident.
In Grade Eight, I invited a boy who I had a crush on to my birthday celebration. He asked me if there would be cake and ice cream. (Yes, I had been planning on having cake and ice cream). That was the same year that we sat next to each other in History class, and he would reach over, and grab my vagina, and ask if I had hair on my nipples.
Sex was taboo, and not talked about in my family.
So, when I was in Grade Nine, and a family friend’s son tried to have sex with me, I had a hard time telling my parents. When I did, my mom decided that we would no longer spend time with that family. I felt terrible. I felt like it was my fault because I had “led him on” when he pulled the “I am stretching let me put my arm around you and on your breast” move, and I held his hand so it wouldn’t be on my breast.
And then, while in my senior high of high school, and my first year in college, I felt ashamed because I could not get good grades in my math and science classes.
And in my last year of college, I felt ashamed when my parents did not come to my wedding.
Understanding that “We do the best that we can do”
I was depressed. I was suicidal. A friend, and therapy found me. Therapy helped.
Another friend suggested I take St. John’s wort. I had been on the birth control pill and it made me feel terrible. And, I believed there were naturopathic ways (non pill — especially prescription medicines).
I teach others to listen to their bodies. Ask questions. Find the root cause. I have always done that, and continue to do that.
I have learned that pepople do the best that they can do. They share the solutions that they know about.
“That they know about”.
What we know is limited by our personal experiences and our echo chambers. This is why I share the information that I share. I share ALL of it. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
I have learned that if we do not prepare others for the bad and the ugly, they may feel as though they are facing the problems and challenges alone. That is when they go into crisis mode. And with crisis mode, the response is fight, flight, or freeze.
“Fight, Flight, or Freeze”
This is where I am selfish. Whether another community member chooses fight, flight, or freeze, that choice will eventually affect me. And quite frankly, I don’t want myself, my family, or my friends to be a casualty of war, like in Spike Lee’s “Menace to Society” (the image of the tricycle on its side with its wheel spinning after the drive by is ingrained in my memory.”)
“If Not Me, Then Who?”
The question in the 90’s for new teachers was “If not me, then who?” Some teachers have a problem with the question. Not me.
If we do nothing, we become complacent. When we become complacent, we become slothful. When we become slothful, we eventually cease to exist.
Not pessimistic. Realistic.
Puzzled still? Let’s have a cup of coffee or tea… or contact me through this website for a courageous conversation.
Remember: YOU are beautiful, intelligent, and amazing! #Truth
“We are each a piece of the puzzle of life. Without each of us, our picture is incomplete.”