By Shania Kuo
I remember, growing up, that my family always told me I took things for granted. And they were right.
When I was a kid, I always wanted to grow up. Nothing was ever enough for me. Not the toys, not the silly games we played at preschool. I always wanted more and I wasn’t shy about it. I would never be able to list all the times I screamed and cried when things didn’t go my way. The amount of times I said my parents never cared about me because all they did was buy new things for my siblings.
By the time I was a teenager, I was complaining about how much my life sucked. I hated everything about being a grown-up. I didn’t want the responsibility; I didn’t want to think about the future. I was stuck in the past, or the present, and I did a lot of stupid things. I hated being different. The stares that never existed in the first place dug into the back of my head and they made me want to scream and yell at the perpetrators that were never there. Rumors started. Sometimes I started them. Sometimes I believed them. Other times I was the subject of them. I lost friends, but I never made new ones to replace them. I failed tests, but I never thought about asking why I did. I lost at sports a lot, but I never had the dedication anyway. School was just something I did because I had to. That’s all there was to it.
Once I reached college, I began to realize just how much more I hated being an adult. On top of my schoolwork, I had to work at a company near my school. I couldn’t afford a car and hell; I could barely pay rent for the cramped apartment I called home. I long stopped calling my parents and each day for dinner was a bowl of instant ramen or a hot dog. My sister and brother often called me to check on how I was doing, and I would always laugh and tell them, “I’m fine, just busy,” because I was too proud to ask for help. Taxes piled up. Money flew away. I wasted thousands of dollars studying for a job I didn’t even know if I wanted all for a piece of paper.
After my graduation from college, everything went downhill. I had over twenty failed relationships all because those idiots couldn’t keep their mouths shut or they just didn’t interest me anymore. I was fired from my job because I couldn’t do what was expected of me. I wasted the thousands my parents gave me on a brand new car and some added extensions to it only to crash it. I begged and pleaded for my parents to take me back home, and I lived in their basement for years. I went outside telling my parents I was looking for a job when all I was doing was drinking and smoking, trying to get away from it all. I was never good enough against the guys who actually wanted the job. The guys who knew what they wanted. The ones who had a chance. I knew my family knew what I was doing. I knew they didn’t care because no one ever stopped me.
Now, I’m thirty years old and I’m on a hospital bed because of the mistakes I’ve made. People always say self-reflection stings, but never could it have stung more than now. Now. I’m hooked to machines trying to keep me alive as the beeping gets quieter and quieter. As the room grows colder and colder. I questioned if anybody even remembered if I existed.
That is, until my sister visited me today.
When I first saw her, I was surprised. My parents barely visited me, too ashamed to call me their child, and my brother was too busy with his own success to worry about me. I asked her why she was there and she said nothing. She only handed me a bundle of blankets in her arms, and when I peered down at them, I saw a pair of curious eyes staring back at me. And in that moment, I could see my own face. Tears blurred my vision.
In a perfect world, what could’ve been?
I would’ve never complained as a child. I’d have told them that each and every day I appreciated what they did for me. I’d have been happy with what I had and tried to make the best out of it. I would have gone out and made new friends, gone to the park instead of staying home, doing nothing.
I would have done more as a teenager instead of complaining about everything. I would have cared about school and realized that all my teachers were there to teach me in order to help me. If I was stuck or got a question wrong, I wouldn't have been embarrassed because I would have known that nothing needs to be perfect. I wouldn’t have cared what people said about me because each and every day I would have looked around and realized that everyone was just like me. Sports would have been serious and fun if I had tried and gotten to know the team better. I would have enjoyed it all if I had made the best of it.
I wouldn’t have been so careless in college. I would have realized I couldn’t do it on my own and swallowed my pride and asked for help. I would have eaten healthier and grown up healthier because I knew I would need the energy. I’d have gone to counseling sessions to talk about my future, my concerns, my achievements, and even advice for my job. Then I could’ve saved up and bought a car and a decent apartment.
Once I graduated, I would have thought about starting a family. Taking my time, I’d have waited until I actually fell in love with the right one and realized that we were meant to be even though it sounded corny. There would’ve been a large wedding with all my friends and family invited. Then I’d move into my new house with that special person, waiting for our precious package to be born. When he or she was actually born, I’d take him or her to see the grandparents and we’d all talk about when I was just a baby.
But none of it ever happened because I never realized what just a few thoughts meant.
Now, looking into the eyes of my sister’s child, I realized what I was missing. It wasn’t just about me; it wasn’t just about my family; it wasn’t just about how everything went wrong; it wasn’t just about how everything would’ve went right.
Now I realized, sitting here with this bundle of joy in my arms as I slowly slipped away
. . .
That the meaning of life comes in a myriad of ways. But the simplest of ways is by making the best of what we have now.