Just days after her writing her Wild Duck debut, Min Yin returns for this follow up. In addition to critical aclaim as a contemporary philosopher, Ms. Yin is software engineer and mother to 3 children.
Adele, the young British singer/songwriter, swept the 2012 Grammy Awards with 6 Grammys. Of all her songs, “Someone Like You” is my favorite [watch the video]. When I first heard the song on the radio, I was immediately drawn to it for the story she tells and the sadness in her voice. “I heard that you’re settled down, that you found a girl and you’re married now. I heard that your dreams came true…Guess she gave you things I didn’t give to you.” The song started out with a simple fact that the man she loves is now married. What came up next in the song shows how much struggle she went through internally to accept the fact. “I hate to turn up out of the blue, uninvited. But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it. I had hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded that for me, it isn’t over.” Tenderness rose up in my heart and my eyes welled up with tears.
A lot of us can relate to what the girl in the song went through in life. When we were young, we did not know better. We did not know what we want in life, and we did not have a good sense of our passion and talent. For us, life was indeed like a summer haze. Maybe we met someone whom we loved, but we did not cherish that person because we thought we’ll meet someone else better in the future. Fast-forward twenty years. Now, we realize what a mistake that was. Or the other way around. Maybe we did love the other person wholeheartedly, but the other person thought he could do better and did not cherish us. Whatever the scenario, it isn’t the case of “happily ever after”.
Now what do you do? You are middle-aged, may or may not have kids, and may or may not be married. There is no time machine to catapult you back to twenty years ago to start over. What can you do to comfort your aching heart? For me, the answer lies in looking within myself. For the longest time, I thought I needed someone to love me. In all of Disney’s fairy tales and romantic movies, when the girl is finally kissed by the prince, all her problems are solved and it’s “Happily ever after.” Doesn’t that mean that the girl only needs to find the right man, and then she is all set in life? I think the pop culture does a disservice to the young girls and women in the world by depicting such a simple and rosy picture. It’s telling the young girls that you just need to be adorable then someone will love you. But what if over the years the princess becomes to feel life in the castle is boring after all? Suppose she wants to venture out to the big world and use her talents and character strength? Can men look beyond the appearance of women and see their talents? Can men associate women with wisdom and leadership?
For a long time I have been reading Cinderella to my younger daughter. After maybe the twentieth time reading the story, I asked her, “Why didn’t the prince ask Cinderella what her name was while they danced? Don’t you think that is better than having every girl try on the shoe?” My daughter looked at me with a puzzled look on her face and slowly said, “The prince is stupid, isn’t he?” That ended the reading of Cinderella and we moved on to other stories.
What I want to say to all the young girls in the world is you need to find yourself first. You need to know who you truly are inside. Everything else is secondary. A lot of us are running around busily every day trying to avoid spending time with ourselves. Of course, we have our excuses: Work, kids, keeping the house clean, putting grocery in the fridge, all valid excuses. I lived my last fifteen years like that. I did not know that fifteen years could pass like a flash before my eyes. I had three children. I just remember the lack of sleep and running around trying to be at work, at daycare, at school functions and after school activities in time. I forgot I had a passion for words, for literature. Slowly but surely, I feel a void developed in my heart. When I see my kids playing contently by themselves, I ask myself “What do I do for fun?” With a tentative heart, I took baby steps and found my way back to books. I used to read a lot when I was a child. I cannot believe so many years have passed until I sat down with a good book. To my surprise, I am still intensely drawn to good books and I still have the ability to tell a good book from a bad one. It is like there was a small candle burning in my heart, and it was never extinguished completely. However tiny the flame is, it has been flickering throughout the years.
“Nothing compares, no worries or cares. Regrets and mistakes, they’re memories made. Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?” Sometimes I think sadness is good, of course when I am able to look at it from a distance. Sadness comes from disappointment. We all have a mental picture of how the world should be, and without exception we all discovered to our dismay that the reality is quite different. Disappointment arises, is this all there is in life? Fear arises, I may not be able to achieve what I had dreamed in my youth. Did I waste my life away? Though troublesome, these feelings force you to look within yourself. They force you to ask the most important question: “What is the purpose of my life?” It may take a long time for you to find the answer, nevertheless only you can answer that question.
Like a bird, whose wings will get strong only from flying a great distance, you develop your strength and toughen your resolve only through fear and disappointments. We truly learn from mistakes. You have to face your own fear. Nobody can do it for you, and you cannot run away from it. The toughest thing in the world is to be content with yourself. Eventually, going through the pain, you realize that you do not need anyone to love you, you only need to love yourself. You learn to give up the things you thought you must have in order to be happy. And gradually, it dawns on you that you have found freedom.
I was surprised to hear that Adele is only 23 years old. I thought one needs to be 43 to have that much sadness and wisdom expressed in her song. But then, I learned that she had been heart-broken by bad relationships. She said the heartbreaks helped her to learn, to grow, to mature. Gradually, the pieces come together. One learns so much from a broken heart—much more than from reading all the books in the world. Her songs fit the saying, “learn from your mistakes”. To all the young girls out there: Brace yourselves for heartbreak. Despite the pain, it can be a good thing. No matter how dark your world may seem at the time, you will emerge much stronger than you could ever have imagined.
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