The two most influential people in my life are my mom and grandma. The way they live their life is full of determination, love, and authenticity.
My grandmother grew up in China during World War II, and later, experienced the Chinese Cultural Revolution, so she never experienced a feeling of security. To this day, she washes her fruit with the tiniest stream of water, never wastes any food, and reuses old packaging. And yet, she has a fierce gratitude and passion for life, largely because she has overcome tremendous difficulty to get to where she is now. She defies age; in fact, I think she is aging backwards. I once told her that I think she can live until she’s 100 years old, however, to that, she replied with a grin, “Only 100?”
Nothing is impossible for her. A few years ago, she decided that she wanted to feel more integrated in the United States. Despite not knowing how to speak much English, and not knowing much about U.S. history, she studied hard for the Naturalization Test, and quickly developed a deep understanding of U.S. civics. At 87 years old, she became a U.S. citizen. Because she wanted a closer relationship with God, she started attending church. At 85 years old, she was baptized. Because she wants to speak English, she wakes up at the crack of dawn to study English for hours and hours a day. Through her actions, she constantly teaches me about the power of unwavering optimism, and that it is never too late to pursue my dreams.
Whenever I am stressed or feeling down about school, the future, or whatever it may be, my grandma always knows what to say to calm me down. Of all the people in the world, I think that she understands me the most, or maybe it’s just that we think the most alike. She constantly tells me to prioritize my health and happiness first, and to not tire myself out. She always tells me how proud she is of me, gives me constant support, and reminds me that I am capable of overcoming any challenge.
Like my grandma, my mom loves me beyond measure. When I was little, I thought I could never escape her ever-present camera. At my band concerts, when the audience looked like a sea of black, and most of my classmates didn’t even know if their parents came, much less where they were seated, I always knew. I just looked for the camera flashes. Without fail, my mom was always front and center, armed with her camera. Besides photos, my mom also has all of my baby teeth carefully locked away, along with years of old homework and memorabilia. She is a photographer, a best friend, an archivist, all out of love. She loves me to an immeasurable degree. Throughout my life, I could be uncertain about everything in the world, but I could never be uncertain of my mother’s love. My mom continually teaches me about love, how important it is, and the sense of security it brings to people.
I used to take my mom and grandma for granted, but with each passing year, I realize how much they care for me and how much they do for our family. I am lucky that I grew up with people like them, and even more lucky that they are my family.