The thing with oppression is that it is so subtle. And women's oppression, in particular, says the small things don't matter and are stupid. My internalized training from being a woman and a Chinese woman is to always put others before me. If you didn't, you were not a good mom, daughter, wife, girlfriend, etc. (Another phrase for a Chinese girl is an empty rice bag; implying that all they do is take, because at the end of the day they are married out to the in-laws family.) Added on top of my 'usual' identity messages, was the extra layer of being in an abusive home. That meant living in constant fear, and again the underlying feeling that I did not really deserve to exist.
We all have our own childhood messages. They do not need to be as extreme, but can still be very strong, and stay with us.
As an adult, I've made mistakes through the years where I did not put myself first. Hawai'i was finally one major life decision, where I said YES to ME.
First I said YES to a trip to Hawai'i. That was huge. The excuse was a friend's wedding, but I had never treated myself to something that big before. And aside from the wedding day, I really did not have much to do for the rest of my 8 day trip. It turned out after one unexpected surf lesson, I surfed the entire rest of my trip. By the last day, I told the beach boys I was planning on moving there. They laughed.
To back up a little, by the third day of renting a board and napping on the beach, I had totally and completely fallen in love. I wanted the incredible feeling (of surfing or trying to surf!) to be a regular part of my life. Then I thought "this is crazy," as we often do when we want to do something for ourselves that makes us incredibly happy. Then I thought of my mom, whom I loved most dearly in the world. And I thought, if my mom wanted to do something like that for herself, I would totally tell her YES. And then I thought, if that's true of my mom, then the same should be true for me. I'm no different. I also deserved to be happy doing something that I loved most that brought me incredible joy.
And so... I told the beach boys I would be back. I was going to move there.
And I did.
Lest I give you the wrong impression, no part of moving to paradise was easy. Everyone I told was sad or jealous I was 'leaving them.' I actually broke up a new relationship I was in at the time, which was a big deal too. As the theme throughout my life is generally putting the guy before me. However, I had made the Hawaii decision before I met him, and when we started getting more serious, I told him I was still going to Hawaii. That was big.
Living in paradise is not as picturesque as it sounds. I was really, really scared and lonely when I first arrived. I remember my girl friend, Jenene, texted me from Boston when I first arrived in Hawaii: "Welcome to Hawaii!" That made me so happy, as I felt more lonely than ever even though this is what I wanted. I was truly ecstatic to be there however, and couldn't believe it for the first few months--- I'd wake up and suddenly remember, I'm in Hawaii!
I journaled pretty much throughout the whole time I lived there, though slightly less when I lived with the abusive boyfriend. It really saved me during the times I didn't know anyone and felt really alone in the world.
Here are the 5 Lessons moving to Hawaii and surfing for two years taught me:
1. Calmness. I realized there was a peaceful place within myself that I had never felt before. It was enlightening and reassuring.
2. Freedom. There is nothing quite like the feeling of flying over beautiful clear blue ocean waves. You forget all of your worries. You are one with the wave. It is an exhilarating thrill, that you can only understand after you've experienced it yourself.
3. Humility. I was simply taken away by the beauty of the cliffs, the sunsets, the rainbows and of course, the waves. I was in awe; I felt connected to something greater than myself.
4. Self-Belief. You quickly learn that you can only do it if you believe you can. And therein lies the paradox. To graduate to riding a bigger wave, you have to believe you can, before you've actually done it. Some days, nothing goes right (or left). But other days, you can do no wrong, you're confident, you're flying, you're queen of the seas.
5. Powerful. You ride waves you didn't think you could get. You tumble underneath waves and pray to god you can hold your breath long enough, and force yourself to relax. (Life has so many paradoxes.) And afterwards on the beach, you look back out at the ocean in grateful awe and wonderment. How lucky I am to be alive.