Today is my birthday. I am 61.
My thoughts on this day are:
Birthday = B-day = Be Day
Be yourself everyday
Accept everyday as if it is the only day you have on earth
Live in the present!
Sons are the most important posterity in Chinese families, so when I was born second daughter in the family, I think I was more disappointed for my parents than for myself. That was the disposition I had during the first half of my life; I prioritized everyone else’s feelings over mine. My mom told me I had the features of a perfect baby: weight, size, fine skin, shiny eyes, rosy lips and a watermelon-seed-shaped face, an attribute considered very lucky in Chinese female beauty. Everything was perfect except the date of my birth; the 13th of the lunar calendar month (translated to October 26th in the western calendar). I was told that the number 13 was not a winning number, in any circumstance. But my perfect features and not-so-perfect birth date were soon forgotten. Four years later, Peter, my baby brother and the love of my parents' lives, was born. To me, he was the perfect one, even though he was the spitting image of an old man, wrinkled way beyond his time. In our culture, when a new-born son is 100 days old, his parents throw him a banquet – which my parents did, lavishly.
My whole childhood was about Peter. And even though the guests at that banquet told me “you are such a beautiful little girl," from his birth till now, open compliments, special treatment and extra attention were always reserved for my baby brother. I was Peter’s younger sister, playmate, baby-sitter, guardian and caregiver. It is said to take 840 hours to build a good or bad habit, and it wasn’t long until I developed a lifestyle in which I lived against my own being. I voluntarily gave up everything, did everything for my brother because he was the only, and therefore extremely cherished, son in the family. Playing sister to Peter was like training how to “be,” except that “being” wasn’t my true self.
Having voluntarily lived in Peter's shadow my entire youth, it was not surprising when this behavior extended into my marriage. Wife, mother-figure, sole bread-winner, chef, maid: after 18 more years of living for someone else, it finally hit me. Fed up, frustrated, unfulfilled and divorced at last, I finally asked myself: Who am I? And it is that question that has carried me through the long, amazing journey to today.
11 years ago, on my 50th birthday, I made a silent promise to myself and my daughter that I was going to start a "Be" plan: Be myself, an individual who knows how to live. I knew that if I wanted Jenny to inherit anything, it would be the ability to be herself in all circumstances, and to live life with true inner peace. Since then, I have grown into a strong woman who respects herself. And although there are many stories in between, of how I came to be and do that, for now, I leave you with this:
I am first on my list, because only then can I help and inspire others.
Today is my birthday. I am 61.