How my quarter-life crisis gave me a newfound appreciation for my parents
Rachel Wada / art director
I’m 26. I’m at a midway point in my life where I’m desperate to hold onto the youth I feel slipping through my fingers, yet I want nothing more than the fabled stability adulthood brings. It’s a gut-wrenching feeling of fear, uncertainty and an overwhelming desire for everything to just “be okay” – even though I don’t know what that means yet. This mental tug-o-war got me thinking about my own parents, wondering how they navigated through their mid-20s, and the trials of confused identity, misguided purpose and hopeless transition.
At 26, I live with my brother in my parents’ home. I’m almost two years into my first serious relationship and still trying to jumpstart my career. Meanwhile, my mom got married at 23, and had my brother that same year. I was born two years after – when my mom was the same age that I am now. It’s mind-blowing when I compare my mom’s life experiences by the time she was 26 to what I’ve accomplished in the same amount of time. I could not even imagine being in my mother’s shoes.
My mom grew up in Iwata, Shizuoka, which is a small, rural city in Japan. According to her, Iwata is frozen in time – nothing ever changed, nothing ever happened. In her early 20s, she had the opportunity to leave her dead-end desk job and travel to Canada with her dad, who had a close friend that lived there at the time. Following that trip, she made the life-changing decision to stay in Vancouver for good and to start a new life in a foreign country where she barely spoke the language. She then went to a Japanese-English Language School and earned an Office Administration Certificate at a community college. I recall stories of how my mother lived with her Russian homestay family, where she gained a lot of weight from all the new and foreign food she was introduced to. And somewhere along the lines of adjusting to her Canadian lifestyle, she met my dad.
My dad was the second youngest of six siblings to their Chinese immigrant parents who made the move to Canada in the late 60’s. They did not come from much, and struggled to make ends meet. My dad would often tell us about how he found his first job in Vancouver by walking into every restaurant in Chinatown and asking if they would hire him for any position available. Working at the Hon’s Restaurant on Keefer Street, along with two other part-time jobs, he worked tirelessly to provide a better life for his family and my mom. He would eventually change careers, working as a real estate agent for a couple more years. During that time, my parents got married. Soon after, my mom got pregnant with my brother and I came around two years later. During this time, my dad had saved up enough money to pursue more business opportunities overseas in Hong Kong and Beijing, which meant leaving my mother to raise the two of us all on her own. In his broken English, my dad would often gloat about how he would not be the same man he was today if it weren’t for my mom being supportive of this decision to allow him to pursue his passion, and how our family has her to thank.
I understand that times are different. We live in a different sociopolitical and cultural climate than our parents’ generation. Moving to a foreign country, overcoming cultural and language barriers, being in an interracial marriage, and raising two children by herself – there is no way in hell that I can even imagine doing that myself today. This newly developing relationship and understanding of my parents has allowed me to be all that much more grateful of all their trials and tribulations.
But as I age, I realize that there’s more to my parents than simply being “mom” and “dad”. As much as I had grown up thinking that they’ve always had their life together, I’m starting to relate to my parents more and more as individuals, with real feelings and anxieties and mistakes. I’m realizing that our worries are becoming more the same – money, future, savings, health and that growing up doesn’t get any easier and parents can be insecure as well. It’s taking growing up on my part to appreciate the grownups in my life, and that’s one thing I can be grateful of for my quarter life crisis.