The Ones Who Matter (Part 7)

At long last, we have come to the final post in this series. This one is cheating a little bit because it’s about my whole family, but I don’t think I have the stamina to continue this series for as long as I would need in order to adequately credit my them for all they’ve done. Considering that they’ve influenced my life since I was born, that’s a huge time period to cover, and I’m sure I’ve been supported in ways that I’m completely unaware of.

Growing up, my cousins were pretty much my friends. Of course, back then we were a lot more bratty to each other than we are now that most of us are 18 and older. Most of my gaming experience prior to college took place at either my grandparents’ house, or at one of my cousins’ houses. Now that I think about it, nearly all of the trips I’ve taken out-of-state have been with the families of at least 2 or 3 cousins. New Mexico and Colorado (for

My family is a bunch of dorks.

My cousin’s wedding had a photo booth + props. These are the cousins I hung out with the most growing up.

 snowboarding and skiing), Disneyworld in Florida, and my last trip to Vietnam are some of the more memorable excursions — and I guess I actually have their parents to thank, both for taking care of the trip plans and also for allowing me to tag along on those few times when my parents didn’t/couldn’t go. Of course, I have my grandparents to thank for coming to the US in the first place, and for raising their children to value family so highly. Without that, I wouldn’t have had a past where I visited my grandparents every weekend, and saw most of my cousins every weekend because they were there to visit the grandparents too.

I’m not exactly sure what to focus on when talking about my parents. They were definitely overprotective, and I feel like that aspect of them played a large part in me not really having friends growing up. But while they were overprotective about me hanging out with people outside of school and emphasized the importance of doing well in school, they gave me a good deal of freedom as well. They let me play whatever sport I wanted, even though my dad didn’t particularly like the possibility of me getting hurt. The classes I took and the colleges I applied to were all my own decision; then again, that freedom might’ve stemmed more from not having much knowledge or experience with American education. My mom was the one who pushed me to get a job during high school. I don’t remember the exact reason for it, but I’m sure it was something related to independence and also to prevent me from spending all my free time at home.

Regardless, they’ve always given me their support. A good deal of it is monetary — my living expenses during undergrad, and now living expenses + tuition during my master’s program. Even though they don’t make much themselves, they never asked me to get a job during undergrad; they wanted me to be able to put all my focus into my classes. Even when I decided to change my career plans, they continued supporting me (albeit with some reluctance and concern regarding financial feasibility and the likelihood of me burning out).

I guess one of the best ways my parents have influenced me is by not limiting my curiosity. As I said before, they let me play any sport I wanted. While they disapproved of excessive gaming, they never got rid of any of my games, or prevented me from getting any. In a way, my mom encouraged it — my curiosity, not my gaming habits — by taking me to the library every week during the summers when I was still in grade school. She cultivated my love for reading, and I only wish I had the time and ability to enjoy all my hobbies to the extent that I want.

I have a feeling my mom had to semi-drag my dad to the photo booth.

I have a feeling my mom had to semi-drag my dad to the photo booth.

While encouraging my curiosity definitely played into my learning how to knit and crochet, I think a larger part of it was appreciating the concept of doing and making things oneself. My dad has built multiple things around the yard (treehouses, chicken coops, a fountain), and my mom taught my sister and me the basics of sewing and embroidery. They grow many of their own vegetables and herbs, and a majority of the meals I ate while growing up were cooked from scratch. Plus they make stuff from memory — no cookbooks or recipes found online, like I have to rely on whenever I try to make something.

My sister and I weren’t very close growing up. Since we were born eight years apart, I’m sure I was an annoying kid that she had to babysit, more often than not. I don’t have many memories of/with her from when I was younger — she moved out for college by the time I was in 4th grade, so I imagine most of what I remember from my childhood is similar to that of an only child. When I switched to the public high school, she gave me a few pointers on classes to take and whatnot, but we didn’t really start becoming close until after I began college. By that time, she’d already saved/earned enough money to build herself a house, so she began inviting me to stay with her during the winter breaks and the summers that I didn’t take classes.

In spite of growing up apart, for the most part, we have similar personalities. We’re introverted, getting cranky if we have to socialize for too long, even if we’re having fun up until that point. We both are pretty big foodies, though I think I got some of it from her. She’s also crafty; last year she made coasters for me and my parents for Christmas. She cooks more than I do, and she almost feels like a second mom whenever I stay with her ’cause I usually just end up eating all of her food and while doing minimal work in preparing meals.

Her husband, Brad, is pretty great too. He’s more into gaming than my sister (she’s only really into WoW), and he’s introduced me to a variety of online games. It’s hard to keep up with him, honestly, since he burns out rather quickly, while I take forever to begin playing any sort of game with consistency. I’m also not used to playing multiplayer games, so I tend not to play them unless I’m playing with him. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but he and my sister actually met through WoW. I feel like it’s one of those stories where things aren’t expected to work and probably shouldn’t, but they do anyway. They were part of the same guild, and apparently Brad originally thought my sister was a guy because he’d make a dirty joke and she’d go along with it. My sister liked his corny humor. Eventually they started talking on the phone, and he moved to Texas to live with my sister about 6 months later. I’m not sure when they started dating, but I feel like it was probably around my junior or senior year of high school. Maybe sometime in 2008? Regardless, they got married last year and had Owen, my adorable nephew, earlier this spring.

By this time of the night, I'd had a few drinks in me, as you can tell by my flushed skin tone.

By this time of the night, I’d had a few drinks in me, as you can tell by my flushed skin tone.

Anyway, in addition to gaming, he also likes to make stuff. He mainly does woodworking, but he’s also pretty handy with a sewing machine, which he proved by making beanbags for this game called “Corn Hole” (aka the bean bag toss). He’s always eager to show me how to do stuff, and in the past has let me help him with fixing up his Jeep. He also showed me how to drive a manual in that Jeep, but it was kinda difficult since my legs could barely reach the pedals.

I have my sister to thank for my parents being more supportive when I decided to change career plans from MD to PhD. After initially making the decision and telling my parents about it, they balked and kept trying to convince me to retake the MCAT so I’d have that score to use as part of a backup plan to go back to premed if I decided that research wasn’t for me. My parents prefer that I call them every night just to let them know that I’m okay and nothing has happened to me, but during that time I didn’t talk to them for at least a week, if not more. Apparently I came up as a topic of conversation during one of their phone calls during that time I withdrew from everything, and she supported my decision to change careers, if that’s what I really wanted to do. I’m sure that a big part of the reason my parents were hesitant back then (and still kinda are now) is because it’s a little difficult for them to understand research as a career. And since their understanding of both the medical field and research field are a bit dated, they’re worried about my job stability and ability to support myself in the future.

Anyway, I’m not exactly sure what my sister said to them, but she was able to allay some of the fears/worries that they had that were stressing me out. Since then, communication among my family has been a bit more open, and we’ve begun talking to each other a bit more often. I’m really thankful that I have such a supportive and (pretty) open-minded family. While I may not talk with them as openly or often as I do with the other people mentioned in this series, I can’t even imagine what my life would be like now had I not had my family to rely on this whole time. It’s thanks to them that I’m able to have such high aspirations for myself, and that I’m in a position to pursue the career I want.

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