My mother decided to take a field trip to a secondhand electronics store with me, her dear friend who I called “Auntie” and Auntie’s daughter Annie, who had an abnormally large head and the biggest eyes I had ever seen on any Asian girl. This was an important day, because this was when we would get our very first computer. We had just moved into an apartment with actual electricity and my mother had finally gotten a great full-time job, so the glory days of technology had settled upon us, our eager eyes swallowing up every single computer in that store with desire.
We had finally decided on an ivory-colored IBM computer with a monitor the size of a baby elephant and a tower just as equally big. As the salesman rang it up, I remember catching my mother gazing at a washing machine and dryer set.
“What is that?” I had asked, staring along with her. She told me what it was, and that people actually had them INSIDE of their homes. It baffled me; people could actually wash their clothes AT home? The strategy my mother and I had gotten used to was that we would save our coins for several weeks, and when it was laundry day, we would lug our bundles of clothing in her beat-up station wagon and clunk our way to the nearest laundromat. For a few hours, my mother would wash, dry, and fold as I dove into the latest Goosebumps book I had managed to grab from the school library. The day would be BEST if I somehow found a quarter stuck in one of the machines or on the floor.
Every time I go to a laundromat now to do my own laundry, I feel a sense of belonging to that place and a camaraderie with the people who are there. As I stare aimlessly at the clothes tumbling around and around inside of that massive dryer, I always revert my mind to those days spent in the laundromat with my mother, and laugh at the thought of how much privilege was put into simply being a washer and dryer owner. But that’s how a lot of people work, I suppose. Putting value on a human being based on the materials that surround them… what a joke.
I was always used to working for what I wanted. I was not a typical only child, and growing up with a working single mother really put a lot of things into perspective about what I deserved and disillusions of entitlement were kicked out the door. Even during college, I for some reason really wanted a Mercedes Benz C230 so I worked extra hours, saved up my money, and afforded my own first car. I think that’s why I become really uncomfortable when I see people around me getting spoiled. And it’s funny because it was like salt in my wounds when God moved our family to Orange County. The angry soul in me became angrier, and I disliked many. But the thing is… I became a hypocrite in a way because for someone who preaches that value should not be placed on a person based on their things, I started placing de-value people who had too many things and who seemed to have life on a silver platter.
Whoops. My bad, Jesus.
No matter what the background of the person and what they have in their possession, the most important question is do they know who they are stripped of all of those things. Do I know the essence of Caroline? What the hell is my worth when I have nothing left to cling to nor hide behind? If your life has been one gigantic snowballing effect, what is at the core of that mass?
I love relationships, and I love gathering people together. I love listening to and experiencing stories of perseverance, brokenness, and God’s goodness. I love telling tales of my life and how God has orchestrated absolutely everything. I am great at empowering and encouraging people, inspiring dreams to shine and come into existence, and I am always curious to learn new things and to see God’s smile-print in all things. I love uncontrolled laughter and the love between friends that brings that about. I love that I can be silly and completely ridiculous without shame, because that’s when I feel the most comfortable and me-like. No matter what I gain or lose in this materialistic world, I know that these things are true and I hold them dear, because this is exactly who I am.
When you talk about yourself to people or even listen to them share, try to explore who they are rather than what they have and what they do. It’s also fun to take some time to think about what brings you joy and what you love. Once you come to a place where you know who you are and what the intricacies of your soul is made from, that makes life more fun and purposeful. There have been too many times in the past where people have asked me “Who are you, really?” and my response is usually, “I’m… er…. Caroline…” I feel like I’ve personally gained a LOT of clarity when I wrestled with God for years about what I am and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. And even now, God is still surprising me with details about myself I didn’t know. Example: I actually want to go to seminary? ME? What?
So have fun! And peel away! Vulnerability and truth are both very precious things. But it’s even more precious when you can find people to practice both with.