November 19, 2013
"Hi dad. I bought a Canada Goose Jacket!"
"How much did you spend?”
"You are crazy! Are you moving to the Arctic to live with Polar Bears?!"
"Well, if I ever become poor and homeless, I will at least be warm."
My parents have always been frugal especially when it comes to gifts. My first Halloween in Canada, my mom made my costume out of garbage bags and cardboard. Since I didn't speak any English, it wasn't like I understood what kids were saying if they were making fun of me. Life wasn't too shabby.
When I was 15, every other kid in gym wore Nike shoes while I had sneakers from Zellers. When I was 16, my birthday present was 6 marbles in a plastic container labelled “Happy Birthday”. My mom took the marbles from my little sister’s toy bin and re-gifted it to me. Last Christmas my mom bought me two boxes of no-name toothpaste labelled "Merry Christmas". My sister Patty got 4 boxes of tampons stacked in a pyramid shape with the top box labelled "Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday". Her birthday is in July.
The summer I was 17 my sister and I traveled to Guilin, China with my Aunt and Uncle. It is the city of Cormorant fishing. Fishermen tie a string around the cormorants' neck and use them to catch fish. The birds catch the fish but can't swallow them, and the fisherman take out the fish. When the fisherman catch enough fish, they let the cormorants eat. This mutual respect and tradition has been kept for thousands of years.
We were parent-less in this beautiful and foreign place. It was every teenager's dream. We ate good food and we toured around rice patties, climbed mountains surrounded by water and sailed on the rivers. Every angle looked exactly like those traditional Chinese ink landscape drawings. We were loud and obnoxious, partied in our hotel room at nights. It was astounding and one of the best trips of my life. At one of the parks there were 3 bridges:
"The left bridge represents family, the middle one represents health, the right one represents wealth" the tour guide explained.
We were instructed to cross only one bridge, and the path we chose would be what we would be blessed with. My uncle had his own business and both him and his wife were kind and gentle people. To me they already have wealth, family and success. They both crossed the health bridge.
My sister went around the bridges. She didn't want to choose as she hated the idea of fate. Even today she believes that fate limit one's capabilities of what they might be able to accomplish. She is the hipster one in the family.
Then it was my turn. I crossed the wealth bridge without thinking twice. I was sick of not getting nice stuff like other kids in school.
Every present-less Birthday and Christmas I first vowed to never talk to my parents again. I hated them for being so god damn cheap and only care about grades. I then vowed that one day I would have a career that provide me with the freedom to allow me buy whatever I want whenever I want.
The day I crossed the wealth bridge was the day I made a mark to pick a career over family. Flash forward to today, what good is a person's heart who cut off the people that love them unconditionally? Without my parents I wouldn't even be where I am today. And cutting people who love you off to gain wealth and success, is the wealth and success even worth anything?
I permanently moved to Ottawa solely for my career after graduation. I made a conscious decision to move to a city where I knew no one, but where I managed to purchase a home, a luxury car, and a collection of designer bags in my mid 20's all on my own while my parents live on the other side of the country. My bridge blessing did came true.
So there I was. Standing in front of my bedroom mirror with my Canada Goose jacket. I ran my fingers through the coyote fur trim. I've never even physically encountered a coyote, and here I am wearing one. I starred at the black circles under my eyes then stared at my tired face. I was exhausted from work. I noticed how much older I looked compared to my high school self.
I may not have crossed that family bridge, but I'm glad I didn't burn that bridge down.