I regret not doing a lot of things before settling down and creating a family. I should have traveled more to explore the world. I should have invested more thought and energy in my future. I should have read more books, watched more movies, slept in longer. I even think I should have gone out to drink more with my friends. But most importantly, I should have spent more time with my extended family. And I deeply regret not doing so.
My parents were extremely protective of me when I was living under their roof. The extent of their protectiveness was admirable — until a sex education class in the seventh grade, I had no idea how babies were made. To put it nicely, I was an innocent, sweet girl who believed that the world was filled with happiness and all people were to be trusted to have nice hearts. To be blunt, I was very ignorant. I had the naiveté of a 5-year-old in a middle schooler’s body.
Now, with my own child, I understand why my parents wanted to shelter their daughter from the world — reality is no Disneyland. I’m also grateful toward my parents for bestowing on me the privilege to have a positive outlook of the world. But this wasn’t always the case.
When I was 13, I parted with my mom, dad and little brother, who lived in Korea, and left for the United States. I left the safety of home and moved thousands of miles away to attend high school — and I realized that I was living in a bubble. Outside my utopian world, being kind was seen as weak, rules and regulations were bullshit, discrimination was obvious, and many, many young high schoolers were struggling with the uglinesses of the world. When I tried to communicate these experiences to my mom, she quickly changed the subject, preaching about “bad influences” and I how I should be a “nice girl.” She clearly didn’t understand that I felt connected and related to these “bad influences.”
When I first ditched class to join a group of 14-year-olds smoking in an alley in front of the school, talking about the harsh vicissitudes of their short lives, I quickly adapted and sympathized. This was almost 10 years ago, and technology was not as developed as it is today — I wouldn’t own an iPhone until the next year. Thus, even having a phone conversation with my mom, who lived in a different country, was difficult and required a prepaid phone card. The physical distance between me and my family left me feeling as though I had been abandoned. It created the delusion that my family was too busy for me, that I was insignificant to them. And my parents’ denial of these emotions only further alienated me from them.
Accordingly, the entirety of my teenage life and adult life was spent resenting, disobeying, and ignoring my parents. When my family came to visit me in the United States, I didn’t even make time to go on a family trip. I failed to show up at my little brother’s soccer game. I was quick to avoid having any conversations with my dad. The numerous times my mom tried to hang out with me, I rejected her. I still loved my family, but I was just not ready to open up to them. I told myself that I needed more time, that I would always have time to make up for my absence later. And then, suddenly, I got pregnant and created a new family — my “nuclear” family.
Too abruptly, I was out of time. Out of time to wholly devote to my extended family. Out of time to go on family trips together, to play-wrestle with my brother every other day, to spend quality time with my dad, to fall asleep cuddling next to my mom. Now that I finally realize that my parents were only trying to protect me, like how I want to shelter my son from the world, now that I realize how foolish I was for resisting my family’s love, now that I want to compensate for my many years of ghosting, and now that I desperately want to just curl up by their side and spend time with them, I can’t. I’m physically and emotionally restricted — and it’s deeply saddening.