Running Away, Staying Still

24thStIntersection

I was restless and nomadic in my 20s and early 30s. In a span of ten years, I moved to Hanoi, Saigon, London, San Francisco, Hanoi, Geneva, Hanoi and finally landed in San Francisco. To an onlooker, I appeared adventurous, but I was well-aware that my itinerant lifestyle stemmed from a deep fear of forming real attachments and committing to people, places and jobs.

Years before, when my mother passed away, I did not shed a tear for days. I did everything possible to avoid my overwhelming emotions associated with her illness and death. Instead, I moved at a frenetic pace, from school to a part-time restaurant job to hours studying. (read more…)

Self-Help Only Gets You So Far

Old Books_Hodgkin

In the years after my mother passed, my father never spoke of her death. Instead, he often gave me and my sister (14 and 16 at the time) self-help books for our birthday and Christmas presents. Titles included The Courage to Be Yourself: A Woman’s Guide to Growing Beyond Emotional Dependence, and See Jane Win: The Rimm Report on How 1,000 Girls Became Successful Women. I read all of them, along with How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Road Less Traveled, and countless others from this genre, which lined my father’s bookshelves, and he avidly read himself.

I read and absorbed the books, but mistook my father’s silence for a lack of understanding. Only years later did I realize that my father keenly observed and understood the struggles my sister and I faced as motherless teenagers, but he couldn’t speak to us directly about them. My father has always been painfully silent man, rarely communicating about the small details of our daily lives, let alone the overwhelming pain that created a huge chasm in our family. Instead, he relied on the wisdom of self-help authors to solve our problems for us. (read more…)