Over the course of the next few days, we are going to have a number of posts from guest contributors, ranging from musicians to event directors. The topics will vary from author to author. Hope you enjoy the guest series! Our first contributor is the talented singer and musician, Lilian Bui aka Lily Bee.
The Myth of the Asian Parent
Although I have no actual recollection of my first birthday, like many other Vietnamese children subject to this age-old tradition, my parents placed me in front of a tray of assorted items. These items, ranging from a stethoscope to sweet rice to a calculator, represented my future. Depending on which I chose, I would be “destined” to follow the path it represented. I chose the stethoscope. For most of my childhood, I believed in this prophecy, envisioning myself as a doctor – white coat, diligent, dutiful, and slightly myopic.
As I got older, I realized that my interests fell outside the realm of medicine. In fact, they fell all over the place. I entered college as a Spanish major, and then later chose to double major in International Studies. I went on to intern for Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez in Washington, D.C., then spent a year serving as a community outreach coordinator for AmeriCorps in Montgomery County, Maryland. I returned to California after my term was over and worked for a ghostwriter for a year before deciding to pursue what I truly wanted to do: music.
On the surface, I seemed like the typical Asian parent’s nightmare: fickle, noncommittal, a wild card. At the core, I knew this game of career-hopscotch had led me to find myself. However, my deepest fear was that what I wanted for myself wouldn’t be enough for my parents. What if they didn’t understand?
I had to confront them. It may not be easy, but it’s inevitable, I figured. I drew deep breaths, rehearsed my lines, and even drafted some handouts for them to explain why music was not only an instinctive choice but also a rational one for me. Their reaction was a complete surprise.
My parents – both war refugees who fled Vietnam at different times to seek a better life for their future families, who started their own business to eventually fund my brother’s college tuition and mine, who dedicated their lives to raising us to be good citizens of the world – showed no opposition. In fact, they offered their support.
“You’re still young. You can afford to chase your dreams. Do it now while you can,” my parents echoed each other. Where was the criticism I had half-expected? What was I so afraid of to begin with? What I had failed to realize was that as I grew older, my relationship with my parents had silently evolved. Although my parents will never stop being parents, somewhere along the line, they had begun to recognize me as an adult, capable of making my own decisions and creating my own expectations for myself instead of living by theirs.
Recently, my band and I went on tour of the Pacific Northwest. Instead of interrogating me about how we were going to do it, my parents simply asked, “When are your shows? Can we come along?” They were at every show snapping photos, selling CD’s, and tweeting (yes, tweeting!) along the way. I realized that being honest with them about my dreams allowed me to grow closer with them.
I’m not asking any readers to drop everything and run off with the nearest caravan of gypsy musicians. However, I do encourage anyone who’s felt like I did – stuck between what I wanted and what others (my parents) expected of me – to dig deep and take that leap. You might just find that the myth of the Asian parent is just that: a myth.
Lilian Bui is a Vietnamese-American singer/songwriter, known to most as Lily Bee. She has carried out numerous tours across the country, showcasing her signature Jazzy/Pop vocals and infectious music. You can find out more about Lily Bee via the following links.
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