On Breakups and Being Yourself

What if I'm Lindsay Lohan?I’m going to a conference next week and I’m a little nervous. One, because it’s the first time I’ll be away from my boys (all 3 of ’em) for 3 days. And two, because I won’t know anyone else at the conference. Not one person. Now, I’ve flown solo at conferences before and ended up making friends, like the divine @themadmom, for one. But I’m still nervous.

“Be yourself,” is the most common advice. At conferences and in life, it seems. (Just click through this Wisdom from Mom Bloggers and you’ll start to sense a theme.) So on that note, let me tell you a little story – 2, actually -- about being yourself.

I did not date HasselhoffIn my teens I went out on a couple of dates with a boy who was a lifeguard at the beach I went to. Let’s call him “Isaac.” One time, we were strolling along the boardwalk eating ice cream, and I noticed he was wearing a necklace. “What does that mean?” I asked him, pointing to the little gold symbol around his neck.

Looking puzzled, he said, “You don’t know? But you’re Jewish!”

“Um, no, I’m not. I go to Catholic school,” I replied, equally puzzled.

“But you sit on the Jewish part of the beach!” he blurted.

This was news to me, since I didn’t even know there WAS a Jewish part of the beach. But that was it for Isaac and me. The next time I saw him, he was with another redheaded girl who was wearing a star of David around her neck.

Jin from Fast-forward to one summer during college. “Jin” and I were both counselors at a sleep-away camp. We took a liking to each other, and our romance progressed to the point where, after we returned to our respective colleges several states apart, he came to visit me for a long weekend. In the middle of that weekend, he abruptly broke up with me. He realized, he said, that we had no long-term potential because he came from a traditional Chinese family and was going to marry a Chinese girl – which I’m not.

Now, this breakup struck me as cruel and unfair. First of all, he’d known all along that I was not Chinese. It’s not like I tried to put one over on him and then suddenly morphed into a WASP. And second, there was nothing I could do to change the fact that I was not Chinese. Or Jewish. (At 16, converting was not on my radar.)

Looking back on these breakups now, I’m actually glad they happened the way they did. Had these guys said they wanted a girl who dressed differently, read Russian novels, or had dark hair, for instance, I might have tried to change myself. But Jewish and Chinese? Sorry, I’m out.

Not to mention that if I’d settled down with either of these guys, I would never have met my husband, a guy who loves me for being myself. (Although he might argue that I am sometimes TOO MUCH myself.) Besides, the college guy would probably have been on board with the whole Chinese mother thing, which would be a total dealbreaker.

So what can you learn from these stories, besides that I don’t have a type when it comes to guys? It’s not “Be yourself and everyone will love you.” It’s not “Be yourself and you’ll have everything you ever wanted.” I guess the lesson is, be yourself because it’s impossible – not to mention exhausting – to be anything but. At age 36, with 2 kids, a great husband, and a lot more confidence than I had in my teens and 20’s, I’ll be taking that lesson with me to my conference. Wish me luck!


Angie Mizzell said...

Woo hoo! Preach it, sister. I'm not sure what it is about me, but I loved going to the writers' conference by myself. And to my sweet 3 boys: See ya! Have fun at the conference.

Amber Page Writes said...

Good luck. I'm sure you'll have a great time... at least you know you have 1 thing in common with everyone there...chinese, jewish, or not.

Hallie said...

Good luck!! I think going by yourself knowing no one is a bit liberating. No one has any preconceived notions about you. Clean slate, if you will.

Have a great time! And for Pete's sake, take a nap while you are there! :)

tineroche said...

You will do fine!! And just try to take the time away to relax and refuel! Right now I wish nothing more than to get away. And your post fits perfect to the day I had today. It's hard to explain but to keep it short I kept thinking today that I was not meant to be a Mom and that how in the world I could ever consider to have a third child. I want to be anybody but myself, but I know that's not going to happen so I have to deal with it. Thanks for another great post!

littlestliu said...

Lol, a Jewish side of the beach? What the WHAT?

Unfortch, Chinese and Jewish men have a lot of pressure to marry within their race. My father (Chinese) was almost shunned from the family for marrying my mom. But my mom showed them how wonderful she is, quai lo ("white devil," lol) or not.

But I'm sure you'll do wonderfully at your conference. If you find time, dear, please go do something to spoil yourself! And have fun. That's the thick of it, I guess.

Mom2Miles said...

Thanks, all!

That's interesting, LittlestLiu - glad your dad's family came around. :)

And Christine, you are a GREAT mom. With 2 adorable, sweet boys to prove it!

Mrs.E said...

Best of luck honey, I am sure everyone will love you!
And I do believe that the bad experiences that a person has early in their life, is there to make them appreciate everything beautiful that will happen later!

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