Too White, Too Black and Not Enough Asian

In 2013, an article by National Geographic was published featuring a visual portfolio of what they expected humans to look like by 2050. I remember the awe I felt in the pit of my stomach when I realized that a lot of those future humans — looked like me.

I am “mixed”. White, black, and Asian with a sprinkle of Native American. When I was a little girl with tightly coiled curls and large almond eyes I was called a “mutt” by other kids, and yes, sometimes their parents.

If you’re mixed too, you’ve probably heard a few, if not all, the following:

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1 Year Working in the Emergency Department: A Reflection

I’ve been working for 7 years.

Most of those years were spent at a desk in a cubicle. I spent my time shooting the shit with my coworkers at the coffee pot and browsing the internet. I shuffled papers. Ate snacks out of the company pantry. I did what was expected out of me (and more if I had a great boss) and waited for 5PM. I had some fantastic jobs and I had some not so fantastic jobs. All of them, however, didn’t feel important.

At 23, I got offered the job that would change my entire life.

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If I Died Tomorrow: A Message to My People

I’ve always known that life was fragile.

When I was seven-years-old, I attempted to draft my first will. “My beanie babies went to my mom. My hot wheel collection went to my grandpa. Oh and please play the Pocahontas song at my funeral — you know, the obvious requests.”

I wasn’t sad about it. I just knew that death was a part of life. It scared me, yes, but I knew there was no escaping it. As I got older, I noticed that no one liked to discuss, let alone acknowledge, this inevitable end. In our American culture, we are obsessed with avoiding old age and death. We nip and tuck every wrinkle. We drain life savings on months of life support for those who’d rather be on the other side already. We shun our elderly and deem them useless. We’ve had it all wrong.

I want to acknowledge, out loud, that today could be my last day on Earth. I’d be lucky to someday have smile wrinkles and a sagging bosom. I’d be blessed to have achy joints and sun spots. Those are the evidence of having made it. Of having lived. Not everyone lives long enough to see a wrinkly face smiling back at them in the mirror.

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25 Things I’ve Learned at 25

1. Family isn’t always blood – blood isn’t always family.

2. Micro-expressions >

3. A firm handshake goes a long way.

4. 99% of the time, it isn’t personal.

5. Relationships are bank accounts: you must deposit to withdrawal.

6. Love isn’t all you need.

7. The gift of life is the greatest gift of all.

8. You’ve only one set of teeth: take care of them.

9. Tomorrow isn’t promised.

10. Good nutrition doesn’t require killing animals.

11. Your parents are human, too.

12. No one has it figured out.

13. Nature is the best form of entertainment.

14. It’s not about what happens, it’s about how you react.

15. Being in control is an illusion.

16. There is no such thing as “too dry” when it comes to wine.

17. Kindness has no ulterior motive.

18. Retail therapy is never worth it.

19. People are generally good.

20. Love languages.

21. How you treat people that you don’t have to treat well is a true testament to your character.

22. Listening > giving advice.

23. We are all the same all over the world.

24. Intelligence is knowing you know nothing.

25. Happiness is a choice.

Why I Don’t Post Content of My Baby on Social Media

I am the last generation whose baby pictures exist in an old dusty photo album sitting on a bookshelf. Every blue moon, my mom whips out the album so she and my other relatives or friends can coo (or point and laugh) at a much smaller and shyer version of myself. I like it like this. Although embarrassing, it’s intimate and perhaps even — special.

25 years later, children are plastered all over social media. Monthly updates, baby’s “firsts”, and even delivery room pictures are shared instantly. Babies I don’t personally know fill my feed as mini IG models in “sponsored posts” for clothes, diapers, and carriers. Mothers today can build social media empires off of family-centric posts and heartfelt instagram captions. Admittedly, my favorite YouTube channel is about a vegan mom living in Maui with her three beautiful babies. I wouldn’t be the mother I am today without the inspiration of these mothers. However, I can’t help but feel like I am intruding on their personal lives. Why should I, stranger from the internet, know their child’s full name or what their first words were?

When my son was born, I started thinking deeply about privacy. It was no longer my life, but ours. Would he want to have his childhood on public display? Would he want my random old classmate from high school to know what his first words were? When he took his first steps? Or even, his name? Maybe the answer will be yes. But he isn’t even aware that he’s a human being yet, let alone what social media is. He can’t give me consent. He can’t give his say.

Knowing that what goes on the internet stays on the internet, I can’t justify sharing his baby pictures with the world. If my son someday chooses online anonymity, I want to grant him that. No amount of “likes”, comments, or convenience could allow me to take that option away from him. His identity on the internet is his to foster, not mine.

As the online world becomes ever increasingly its own social behemoth, I practice caution with what I divulge. I know can’t protect my son from everything. Chances are he won’t care that I did or didn’t post about him. Maybe he will even be disappointed that there’s not an archive to look back on later in his life. I simply hope that he will understand that I wanted him to choose. That this is my personal choice as the person who speaks on his behalf. A choice that’s understandably not for everyone. A choice that’s met with the occasional eye roll or “ok Jamakea, you’ve gone off the deep end” look. But that’s okay. Part of being a mom is accepting that you’ll look crazy sometimes. That what you think is best will be met with speculation and eye rolls. It’s part of the package.

I already have thousands of pictures of my son. Our camera rolls are bursting at the seams. I message a photo of him to someone at least daily. I mail prints to faraway aunties and grandparents. Our walls are covered with his happy little face. 25 years from now, he may not have a Facebook album to look back on but at least I will be able to embarrass him by whipping out that old dusty photo album.

The Day I Woke Up a Child and Went to Bed an Adult

I woke up to the sound of my alarm clock. Its blaring noise always made my ears bleed as it screamed at me to start my day. With my eyes half open, I shuffled down the ladder of my wooden bunk bed. I was still in summer mode and not excited for another day of third grade.

My mornings typically went like this:

  • Brush teeth.
  • Make lunch (usually pb&j’s).
  • Get dressed.
  • Eat breakfast.
  • Kiss my still-sleeping mom goodbye.

But something different happened that day.

My mom was already awake. I could hear the tv on in her room. It was unusual for her to be up so early as she worked nights. I remember feeling worried. She told me my Yijah (grandma in Thai), who lived in New Jersey, had called her with news — one of the twin towers had been hit by a plane.

My mother and I plopped down in front of the tv as we watched the chaos unfold. It didn’t matter what channel, it was on every channel. I watched people jump out of the flaming towers. I watched the second tower get hit. My mother’s fingers delicately parted and combed my unruly curly hair as we watched hundreds of people die in real time. I don’t think I blinked once. My mom still kept doing my hair. She told me I had to still go to school.

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Dementia: Losing Someone While They Are Still Living

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My grandma’s favorite quote was, “life is what happens while you’re planning it.” She’d say it casually while peeling mangoes or teaching me how to wrap Christmas presents. An amused smile always rested on her face while she said it– as if she was bewildered by the trajectory of her life.

My grandparents took my father and I in when I was not even a year old. My mother had unexpectedly asked for a separation leaving my father heartbroken and faced with his new reality as a single parent. I slept in my grandma’s giant walk-in closet in a humble little house in the desert canyons of Southern California. She took care of me as if I were her own baby. I woke up in her home on Christmas mornings. She hid my Easter Eggs. She played ABBA and Smokey Robinson and danced with her two index fingers wagging in the air. I loved her.

My grandparents retired when I was 12. They were in their mid 50’s. My pop had saved, scrounged, and invested every penny they made to make this happen. His master plan included traveling across the U.S. in a modest RV with sporadic international trips. To make this financially possible, they were to retire to a town in Arizona notorious for its spring break culture and retirement community. This town was six hours away from my father and I. For my grandma, it might as well have been on the other side of the world.

Our family unanimously blames that move for being the catalyst of my grandma’s downfall. My grandma had little living family left, most of whom were estranged. My father and I were her everything. She wore us around her neck in a gold locket that she would subconsciously touch throughout the day. As if some small part of us lived within that locket. Being moved to Arizona made her feel robbed of her happiness — her greatest treasures, stolen. What was weekly dinners turned into (some) holidays and birthdays. The first Christmas I woke up without the aroma of my grandma’s orange rolls baking in the air was, and remains to be, one of the saddest days of my life.

Like so many who find themselves depressed, my grandma turned to the bottle. My grandparents had always been social drinkers so her indulgence went unnoticed for quite some time. Her drunken bouts were her just being “my crazy grandma”. Until, the phone calls started that is. Grandma’s fingers always seemed to find her cell phone and dial my father and I during her binges. She’d be drinking at home alone on a Tuesday. For hours, she would rant on how much she despised living in Arizona. How much she resented my pop. How much she hated life. Seeing her name pop up on my phone cued an eye roll and eventually inspired anxiety. I was just barely a teenager. My father eventually told me to stop answering her midnight calls. What I would do today for her to call me just one more time.

Our family was terrified when my grandma got a DUI. When she got her second, we were in disbelief. My tiny little grandma? My sweet and gentle grandma who couldn’t help herself from feeding baby quail and stray cats? My grandma was now going to be facing a jail sentence and time in a half-way house? She’d call me to tell me about her fellow inmates. We’d laugh at the absurdity of her predicament. Somehow my grandma and I could always found a way to laugh.

She would never drive again. In an instant, she had robbed herself of her a whole lot of independence and even more of her pride. Although the binges ended, the drinking didn’t. Having a couple of cold ones was the theme of my grandparent’s story. Of their identity. For them, sobriety was not the answer.

The first time we noticed something was off, we passed it off as being the effect of too much drinking. She’d mistake us for other family members. She’d forget long gone family pets. She’d tell the same story over and over again and lose every cell phone my pop bought bought her. Yet when the drinking binges ended, her confusion didn’t. The phone calls ceased. The birthday cards stopped arriving.

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