I am even more inspired by my mom’s dedication and passion for anything she commits to.
What did you learn from your mother about being Taiwanese? (妳從妳母親那兒學到甚麼是一個台灣人?)
I did not have easiest time in school as a child. Being one of a very few minorities in my school, I was always aware of how different I was. In fact, my high school had only 0.4% of us that fell under the Not Caucasian category. I often wanted to blend in, to try to be like everyone else as much as possible. My mom wouldn’t have any of that, she continued to push me to be proud of my identity, my uniqueness, and my heritage. She taught us how humble, steadfast, and resilient the Taiwanese people have always been, that even with its history of foreigners occupying their country, they maintain their cultural identity and pride. She was not about to let their move to the U.S. squash this sense of self. A crucial part of teaching us how to embrace our heritage was by teaching us to speak Taiwanese. It’s hard enough for any second generation to learn their parent’s original language; imagine how difficult it must have been for my mother to teach us to speak Taiwanese fluently in a town with so few minorities, let alone Taiwanese people. Most of her friends chose to speak English to their children, thinking it would help them better assimilate. Now that I am an adult, I am so thankful that she taught us this beautiful language. There are so many cultural nuances that can only be fully embraced through the language. It has allowed me to better understand and communicate with my parents and to connect with my heritage. By the time I finished high school, I was secure in my identity and no longer wanted to be like everyone else and sink into the background. I was eager to explore my roots and share the love for the language that at Cal, I helped co-found and teach the Taiwanese Language class. I am proud of my heritage and owe it all to my mom’s perseverance and strength.
What is the most important thing you have learned from your mother? (妳從母親／女兒學到的最重要的是甚麼?)
The most important thing I have learned from my mother is resilience and tenacity. Coming to the US as a new mom and not knowing a soul other than my dad, she was so isolated that I can only imagine how overbearing the loneliness must have been. She did not speak the language or understand the culture, and had to immediately learn how to drive and become independent so that care for us. Her new life was such the dichotomous opposite to the life she had in Taiwan, where she had family and friends surrounding her and helping her. My mother does not relish change, she craves stability and organization, so this life upheaval must have been especially difficult for her. Yet she was determined to make it work and ended up thriving in her new home. She and my father successfully grew their own business and somehow she was still able to be there and support me in all of our extracurricular activities. She was not only an active member in the Taiwanese community, but also in our neighborhood where we were one of only two homes with minority residents. She served on our neighborhood association board and was a pioneer and advocate for our neighborhood in often heated community issues such as beautification projects, neighborhood expansion, and greenbelt access. Sometimes when I think about the challenges of juggling two toddlers and two parents working, I think about what my mother went through and know my own challenges pale in comparison. When I am feeling weak, I will talk to my mom and she will always give me a straight-forward reality-check, some good practical advice, and then I know that everything will be okay.
Tell us about how your mother inspires you. (妳的母親／女兒如何激勵妳?)
My mother tells me that when she was in high school and college, she used to be shy and more withdrawn. I can even remember as a young child that she seemed more comfortable as part of the crowd, having never expressed her inner voice until then. I am so proud and inspired by her self-transformation into the strong woman that she is today.
Today my mother is an active and respected leader in the Taiwanese community. She is currently a board member of the South Region of NATWA (North American Taiwanese Women’s Association), and has served a variety of officer roles in the Austin Taiwanese Association such as President, Vice President, and Director. My mother’s leadership has also led her to be a pioneer in the Taiwanese community. She founded the Austin Taiwanese Women’s Association and organized TEAM TAIWAN to participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to help promote Taiwan. She also established a Taiwanese Language School that ran for several years, she was not put off by the fact that at the time, there were so few Taiwanese people in Austin and even fewer second generation who spoke the language.
I am even more inspired by my mom’s dedication and passion for anything she commits to. At the recent National NATWA conference, she was asked to host and narrate a talk to be given by Mrs. Tian, an actress of the documentary Hand in Hand. Rather than reading off a script with a sparse bio, my mom took it upon herself to do her own research and find out as much as she could about Mrs. Tian. She then decided to conduct the talk in an interview format and had the audience captivated and engaged. She received high praise and some even thought my mom was a hired professional host or that she knew Mrs. Tian well.