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Lessons my 78 year old grandma taught me that I will be passing onto my children:

I was raised by my grandma, much like many other children of immigrants. While my parents worked endless night-shifts at low-paying jobs, my grandma was the one boiling noodles and chopping up vegetables for lunch. She would sit next to me while I would sing along to whichever niche Canadian children’s show I was enthralled in, pretending to understand the foreign language spoken on TV. 

I owe most of my being here to my grandma because truthfully, I don’t know if I would’ve turned out alright without her. She is the kindest and most soulful person I know, and throughout my life, she’s never hesitated to drop wisdom bombs whenever the going got tough. A lot of the times I pretended to brush it off, but the most important lessons still stand out in my brain like bright flashing lights, willing me to never forget. With the stress of the U.S. election affecting not just the United States but the entire world, I hope that these lessons will bring just a little bit of warmth and brightness to your soul. 

Revenge is not good for the mind or body. Instead, rely on karma.

I distinctly remember storming back home one day in elementary school. My grandma was standing in the kitchen peeling fruits and asked me what had happened. I told her that somebody said something to me, and that the next day I would go right ahead and call them an even meaner name. She just stayed silent, gave me my fruit, and sat me down at the kitchen table. With the calm and soothing tones she always speaks in, she said in Mandarin, “Baby, you don’t have a vengeful heart in this life. You don’t fight back by doing the same thing as what they did. Karma is real and unkind words will always find their way back to the person who said them.” I will always remember that day. It took me many years to finally let the words resonate with me, but now they’re ingrained in my brain. What goes around will always come back around, one day. 

Gossiping is for the foolish.

As soon as I could attend kindergarten, my grandma always warned me to never gossip about anyone or anything. She let me know that gossiping was for those with small brains and minds, and that if someone were to trust me with a secret, I was never to tell the next person about it. She didn’t want me to become a judgmental, haughty person whose only joy in life came from bringing down others. This ties back to the whole karma rhetoric, but she always reminded me how important it was to think about how others may feel and if I would want to be treated the same way. It’s classic, but it’s something we so often forget in the rush of the world nowadays. 

Money isn’t a real thing. 

Or in other words, don’t be a selfish cheapskate. My family was tight on money growing up, so I always knew how important it was to save and be frugal. However, when I reached middle school age and started frequenting the mall with my friends, my grandma always told me, “It’s okay to care about money, but it isn’t everything. When we all die, we don’t take this money with us. It’s okay to spend some money sometimes. If you’re out with friends and one of them is low on money, you cover them.” She always reminded me that money isn’t something worth fighting for, which is quite different from the normal mantra of a Chinese family. “After all”, she would say, “It’s just paper and plastic.” 

You should always treat people with kindness. 

I like to think that it was my grandma who began the “treat people with kindness” movement, not Harry Styles, although I do admit he has done a much better job at promoting it. In all seriousness, my grandma never had to tell me this. I could just see it through her actions… all of them. The way she treats family and friends – both hers and mine – was a tell-all of what she wanted me to learn from her. She always says everything with full kindness and understanding and love. Just from watching her, the message was clear: it never hurts to be kind to someone and treat them with welcoming manners. You just never know how badly someone may need it, whether they are a school-aged child or a cashier in their forties. 

Jasmine Yan

Waterloo '23

Hey, it's nice to meet you! I'm a student at the University of Waterloo studying SDS and psychology. When I'm not writing for HerCampus, I sing, play the piano, and spend an embarrassing amount of time scrolling through Pinterest and TikTok.
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