When will I be enough?

I was born into a completely powerless position: the daughter of the youngest (and only surviving) daughter and divorcee, the only Gao in a family of Tongs. I was an outsider from before I began.

My father deserted us about 2 years or so after I was born. I still remember little things about him. I remember getting so excited when he knocked on the door, and I was the one delegated to unlock it for him when he came home from work. I remember sitting on his lap, watching TV with him, listening to his heartbeat. I also remember not liking him as much as I liked my mom. Guess I knew even then?

I don’t know if he loved me or not during the short time we knew each other. Our relationship was a fling, at least to him. No, Mom and I were in the way of his true love (insert dripping sarcasm here). And since my mom and her family provided him access into the land of the free and the home of the brave, we were of no use to him anymore.

This was the first person who left me. Defenseless. Innocent.

When will I be enough?

Growing up with my mom’s side of the family, I’d believed things would’ve been better for us had I been born a male instead (you know how the Chinese prize males). I’m pretty sure I wished and prayed (to something) that that could happen. Then maybe we would be treated better. Then maybe I would have some value and worth in this family. Then maybe it wouldn’t matter that my mom was a divorced single mother and lacking in formal education. I would be her son – her redemption – after all.

When will I be enough?

At some point, I accepted that I would never become a boy. So instead, I tried to be as close to one as possible. My male cousins liked basketball and video games and guns. So I decided to like those things, too. They had short hair, so I had short hair (the infamous bowl cut -.-“). They treated me badly, so I learned how to cuss like them to fight back, but secretly, I thought I must’ve deserved it since the favorites of the family had instigated it.

When will I be enough?

I grew up like this for a long time. It wasn’t family, but it was the illusion of one and something to strive to achieve. I hadn’t realized that all my efforts to be accepted by a family whose last name I didn’t share only resulted in my voice being denied me.

It became evident in the most painful way.

Ask anyone who’s related to me, and they will tell you that I was being an ungrateful, selfish, hateful child. They will tell you I didn’t know my place, that I bit the hand that fed me. But there’s one problem: no one cared about my side of the story. No one believed the useless little outsider with no power in the family. No one believed she was attacked by a wolf.

When will I be enough?

But everyone accepted that she cried it, that she spun some hateful tall tale against an honorable member of their family and disrespected all of them.

It was then that she found her voice. It was then that she used it – untrained and untamed.

When will I be enough?

I fought against a family I’d tried so desperately to belong to my whole life. I pursued justice at the expense of pride and face. I sought true honor to replace the show we’d put on for over a decade. I clung to the courage to force myself from their trajectory and change the direction in which my life would go forever.

And I became public enemy number one of the Tong family.

A mass exodus happened then. Every relative sided with the wolf (or at least didn’t side with the one he hurt). And at age fourteen, the voiceless girl was forced to find her voice and fight back or forever be silenced and trampled on to continue the illusion of a humble and perfect little family.

When will I be enough?

Mom and I were on our own. She was my one constant through all this. She stood up against her own brother for my sake and my safety. She found a voice to some degree, too, I think. I thought this relationship was unshakable, no matter how much people told me all human relationships were very shakable, including mother and child.

And then one day, it was shaken. She chose a complete outsider over me and let me go to fend for myself. I lived in a garage for one month with no regular access to even the bathroom or a place to keep food, borrowed a room in a house for several months (could use the bathroom, praise God for indoor plumbing), and eventually started my life as a renter. At age nineteen.

When will I be enough?

I’ve never been enough for anyone. I wasn’t enough to keep my father with me. I wasn’t enough to be protected and given a chance. I wasn’t enough to be chosen over a stranger.

Why wasn’t I enough for any of these people, and when can I have a sliver of a chance to be?

I never allowed myself to voice this question; it’s too raw, too vulnerable. But re-evaluating my past, recounting my heartache, only one thing is clear.

Everyone walks away from me.

When will I be enough?

But it really wasn’t because of me, was it? How can it be a toddler’s fault that her father left? How can it be a teenager’s fault that her uncle abused her? How can it be a grown woman’s fault that her mother makes bad decisions?

All in all, there’s no such thing as a nuclear family in my life. There’s no such thing as a family at all. Not here anyway.

When will I be enough?

Somewhere down the line, I met this Guy. He told me He’d never leave. He told me this is the only relationship that is unshakable. He told me that I have always been enough.

I called BS.

Even as I believed in Him to the point where I relinquished my past and my former gods, even as I walked with Him, I was pretty sure He would leave. I pushed Him, tested Him. I drove myself to the deepest shame and guilt, believing I deserved to feel all of the condemnation despite having been already forgiven and justified.

You sure You want to stay? Look at me. I am never enough. They were right. I will never be enough.

I expected Him of all people to leave. He had more right to than anyone else. But He stood where He was, keeping Himself always in my line of vision.

I tried pretty hard to sabotage this one before I got hurt from Someone else leaving, before I heard once again that I wasn’t enough.

But He stayed. And He kept telling me I was plenty.

And ultimately I started to believe Him.

To have gotten through all of that told me He really was here to stay – the only One who never left while being the only One with valid reason to.

I was finally enough.

Some days it’s easier to believe than others. I’m still afraid of more people leaving. I hate wondering if this pattern will continue until I really have nothing and no one. But I guess even with that, I’ll still always have One.

When will I be enough?

To the world? Never. Who am I to be enough for the world? Certainly not one who can save it.

But to the only One who matters, who is already complete without me?


featured in the March 2013 issue of SHADES Magazine