Where there's a will, there's a way
My mother has never said these words, but the way she went about her life embodied it. I seldom agreed with the path my mom took to get things done. It always seemed misguided, but at the end of the day, it was like magic: she did what she needed to do, her own way. Against all odds.
I throw around the word "role model" a lot, but what I've realized is that the role models in my life were always those that resembled her: resilient, headstrong, and a firm commitment to strive past adversity. One thing I always, always respected about my favorite basketball player, Allen Iverson, was his steadfast dedication to do things his way. While many called him a thug, he stayed true to himself. He rewrote a culture, rewrote a game by staying true to who he was, not conforming to a standard of normality. And my mom was arguably stubborn to a fault, but somehow always managed to make things work out in the end.
I don't have much recollection of my mom until I was four: I lived two years in China with my grandparents because my parents worked too much to take care of me. I came home in 2001 to two adult strangers and a boy several years older than me. "I don't know who you are! I want to go back home!" I said. It was my only recollection from when I was four.
The three were my mom, dad, and brother. As I was told that that night, my parents cried that their son no longer recognized them. But despite how upset I was about leaving China, I had no choice, and it seemed like a happy family.
I couldn't be more wrong. Our family was one of instability and tumult, the likes of which I ultimately cannot share in public. And my mother was hurt the hardest by that tumult. My family moving eight times while I was in elementary school was hard, but through it all I always had the constancy of my mom's care despite what she had to go through. She never hesitated to pick me up from an after-school activity after working the entire day. She always, always left food for us on the table to put in the microwave. To this day, if I call my mom to ask for a ride, she will drop everything and come to pick me up immediately. For my entire childhood, I took it for granted. No matter how much of an inconvenience I or my brother was, she was there. Sometimes, I found it annoying how protective she was. But now, I cannot be more grateful.
I seldom speak of my personal issues just because I don't believe everything can be cured by talking. But I know the person I can talk to, whenever I need, is my mom. Sometimes, I call her for some errand, like needing her W-2s forwarded to me to fill out financial aid documents. But if she's not available, I'll open my phone an hour later to four or five missed calls. Two minutes later, I'll have the forms I need in my e-mail.
She is forever willing to go the extra mile. The past week, my mom flew down to Atlanta to hand me my passport, because she feared it would get lost in the mail. I thought it unnecessary and somewhat a financially irresponsible decision. But in my rash judgment, I didn't appreciate how cool it would be to see my mom again, especially since I won't be back home in several months. I never thought I'd smile at the simple and irrational solutions she offered to some of the minor issues I had.
But again, she did it her way, and in the end, it worked out. I know I can always rely on her to piece things together in the bizarre puzzle that she does. Some people in my life have called my mom "crazy", "insane", and "irrational". But what they've never acknowledged is how much she cares, how much she's willing to struggle and persevere for the people important to her in her life. I remember when a family member got sick and had to stay in the hospital for several weeks, and my mom went there every single day despite working 10 hour shifts to give the family member food and books, an exchange that I know would not have happened had it been the other way around. And when that family member was out of the hospital, my mom wasn't appreciated at all for taking care of him, but she stood by that decision as her "duty".
To that end, I'm happy to say that I've looked up to her and embraced the insanity she's often derided for having. I've learned that only she understands what's best for her, and to step aside and let her be, because she'll ultimately pull it off. Recently, I've taken on a little of that insanity on my own, working hard to a fault in everything I do, and it's pretty damn exhausting. But for my mom, this was her life for the past 50 years, and she sustained it every single day. She marched to the beat of her own drum, even when it was "unnecessary" or "crazy", but she always, always, did it.
It takes a special person to do that. Some right now point to Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and deride him for being selfish. But she is the antithesis of selfish, the antithesis of weak. And I'm proud to call to call her my mom.