Be Thankful AND Show Your Gratitude


Don’t just be thankful–for family, good food, and a roof over your head–be grateful.

According to The Oxford Dictionary, thankfulness is a feeling, while gratefulness is a form of expression. Thankfulness implies a state of being, like being in a state of appreciation. Gratefulness means showing your appreciation for someone or something done or received. It is an action.

I was very young when I celebrated my first Thanksgiving with my parents. It’s an uncommon holiday to celebrate in Singapore, but my family picked up the tradition after my aunt married a Westerner. While Mummy made sure the meat dishes were marinated and cooked well, Dad would toss the salad, serve the chips, and arrange the table spread. All through middle and high school, I never failed to show up right on the “ding” of the oven. I would eat, linger around for some dessert, then retreat back upstairs to my safe haven. Last week, as I sat munching on a turkey leg, careful to keep the golden oil from dripping onto my jeans, it suddenly hits me that I am no longer a child.

I recall the sight of Mummy stirring some hot soup in a pot, Dad pouring out the chips, and I being extremely reluctant to help set the table. Eventually, the food was served—a scrumptious American Chinese fusion. There I sat with my fingers greasy from the turkey thigh and tummy overflowing with potstickers. I could hardly believe my good fortune. I’ll admit that I let this moment of bliss, ignorance, and enjoyment define me. I spent Thanksgiving Day on my own terms, relishing this meal I did not prepare. Would I have realized the extent of my selfishness had I not just been served a plate full of delights I did not deserve? Maybe? Possibly, but most likely, no.

It’s funny how it takes us such a long time to realize our many flaws and blessings. I know there are many of us who don’t dwell on how fortunate we are to have the things we have. My traditional and particularly conservative grandmother would always mumble under her breath that “kids these days always take things for granted!” Growing up, my grandmother did not have access to all the information and goods that I did. She may have been cherry picking a little, but her statement rings true.

There is a woman who sweeps the road in my neighborhood. She sweeps leaves for a solid hour on my street, before moving onto the next. Sometimes, I’d hand her a soda, and her one response would be to thank me profusely for the “kind thought.” I’m only beginning to realize that along with her thankfulness, she continues to clean the sidewalks out of gratitude.

I wish I wasn’t such a brat. I should have helped with the dishes, babysat the kids, tossed the salad, at least. I should have offered my help, because in the grand scheme of things, straight A’s, group projects, and all the minute excuses we make to avoid our responsibilities don’t matter.

Being grateful is an attitude, and showing gratitude is reflected in our actions. Gratitude is a decision you make to tell someone how much they mean to you. Gratitude is tipping your barista a little more, as you realize your own financial capabilities and see that you can help someone out. Gratitude is serving our family and friends out of conscious discipline. Unlike thankfulness, showing gratitude demands thought. It is a different experience that I bet feels twice as fulfilling.

Despite our setbacks, we can only move forward from here. The key to developing an attitude of gratitude is through reflection and application. We should reflect on our blessings and show our appreciation. At the end of the day, it’s the little things that count.

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unnamed.jpgRamen, Nyan Cat, Adidas, you name it. We’re obsessed with them. Children of East Asian descent share a common bond over Asian food, Asian memes, Korean fashion, and just being Asian. We love to yell at those who think fortune cookies originated in China (it didn’t), and indulge in inside jokes that only we understand. We are hyper-aware of the common Asian stereotypes, and we just want to explain seven that we really enjoy.

1. “Why are you so red?”

ME: Don’t worry, this happens all the time.

For real, though: That East Asian friend who turns beet red after two beers is having an allergic reaction. The Asian flush syndrome is common among individuals of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean descent. It happens when the body does not metabolize alcohol efficiently. Most Asians lack acetaldehyde dehydrogenase—an enzyme that breaks down components of alcohol into smaller harmless substances. Unfortunate, I know.

2. *Insert a math equation*

ME: I know I’m Asian, but I’m not a math person.

For real, though: According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Asian countries—like Singapore and Hong Kong—clinched top spots on mathematics performance in 2015. However, the secret to being good at math is not genetics. There is a common belief that Asians are naturally good at math, but their talent is a product of passion, hard work, and ingesting effective teaching strategies. Richard E. Nisbett, author of Intelligence and How to Get It, says that Asian students are taught to persevere in the face of failure, and to receive criticism “in the service of self-improvement.” We could very well be experts in building sand castles if that is what our culture fosters and hones as a fundamental life skill.

3. “Do not drink cold water!”

ME: Hey mom, I love you, but I can drink whatever I want. Drinking a glass of cold water will not cause cancer, it will not make me catch a cold, and it will not make me fat. I will not forsake my lovely cold brew, ugh.

For real, though: Ever wondered why Chinese restaurants readily serve hot water? According to ancient Chinese medicine, drinking hot water is believed to promote blood circulation and toxin release. Mixing cold water with hot food causes an imbalance of your body’s internal temperature, and is thus deemed “not good for you.” As a devoted hot water drinker herself, my mother claims that drinking hot water is simply “better for your health.” I think that drinking cold water isn’t bad, it is just better to drink hot water. Well, according to the Chinese.

4. “Don’t forget where you come from!”

ME: Mom, I promise I’ll have some rice and boiled vegetables for dinner. I just really want pizza for lunch.

For real, though: Sometimes, parents refuse to listen to their small Asian millennial/child (because you’re not officially an adult until you’re 30.) You try your hardest to explain how things are done differently in America but to no avail. You resort to reasoning or educating your parents to become ‘more American.’ Then, you are forced to empathize with their viewpoints, and accept them for who they are, where they come from, and the customs of your Motherland. You are not alone.

5. “No shoes on my rug, PLEASE, I beg you.”

ME: Don’t step on my rug with nasty ass shoes, what’s wrong with you? It’s so hard to clean.

For real, though: It’s true. Always take off your shoes in an Asian household unless advised otherwise. It is customary in Asian cultures to remove footwear before entering the house because the house symbolizes someone’s personal space. In the past, homes in Asia were usually built two feet above ground level for ventilation purposes. This design enabled dirty shoes to be left at the entrance because wearing shoes indoors interrupts the serenity of the home. Many activities in the home are centered around the floor as well. For example, it is Japanese culture to eat on low tables while sitting on floor. That is why it is so important to keep the floors clean. This custom is still in place today.

6. “Wow, you’ve gained a lot of weight!”

ME: What am I supposed to say in response to that? Well, you did tell me that I was too skinny last month, Aunty Wendy.

For real, though: If you come from an Asian family, I can totally relate. You should not feel ashamed for gaining weight because for starters, it is normal, and second, emphasis on weight is exaggerated, and appearance is simply not a taboo subject to talk about, especially in the Chinese culture.

7. “Can you teach me how to use chopsticks?”

ME: I actually fail as an East Asian because I do not use chopsticks the right way.

For real, though: Here’s a step-by-step guide:





D65CA5E8-A8EF-48E8-B081-013FB6DE5BA9   To be completely honest, I am much more inclined to be a poser than an enthusiast for my subculture. I am of Southeast Asian descent (born and raised in Singapore), and am allowing myself to shamelessly declare my distaste for spicy food, glutinous rice, and bak kut teh (a popular Chinese pork ribs soup). My mother thinks that I am a disgrace to my Chinese heritage, but I recieve her harsh critique with as much pride as I can master.

   My friends, let me tell you that the power of globalization, or should I say, “Americanization,” rings true. Despite what I tell myself, people remind me over and over again that I do not truly belong in that little Asian bubble I call home.

   “You aren’t really one of us, are you?”

   “You’re not Chinese enough… blah blah blah.”

   “Woah wait, you don’t sound like us either.”

   There are so many personalities captured in who I am, and it becomes exhausting sometimes. The last time I checked, Miley Cyrus is back to producing country music, and I couldn’t be happier. Yes, Miley, yes! Stick to your roots, Miley! Yeehaw! As elated as I am for my childhood icon to make a comeback, I empathize deeply with Miley, because both she and I fell prey to identity crises.

   Spending a good amount of time thinking about which subculture I belong to is puzzling in itself. Shouldn’t the feeling of belonging be inherent? Attending an international American high school the past two years in Singapore didn’t help. I tried to commit to behaving and speaking in a way that I was used to at home, but was easily swayed by my influencers. Finally, after two partially confusing years of high school, and a vigorous self-prognosis, I have decided to live life with each foot in a motley mix of subcultures. I realized that the more I skim the surface of manifold coteries, the closer I get to finding my authenticity—what feels right, wrong, or meh.

   As I draw closer to the end of my labyrinthine diary entry, my advice to all the people reading this is to be a poser. Be a damn poseur if that is all you can manage for the time being because I can assure you that most of the people around you are doing the same thing. So, if you change your mind about the traditional Chinese pot stickers on Saturday night family gatherings, and decide on burgers, great! If strictly listening to American music makes you feel good, but also like an active contributor to cultural dumping, I say do it. And, if pondering over who I want to be today, tomorrow, or for the next five days makes me inauthentic, I’m offering the sincerest of apologies, because I can’t quite possibly live my life another way. Well, at least for now.