My inspiration: Peace, Diversity, Hmong, nature, Love and Respect
A long time ago, in Chapman town of Chico, my siblings and I played outside on our small unfenced front yard under a warm, cloudy day. Pulling and pushing each other, not too far from our duplex house, we saw a neighbor and his dog. They stared at us with narrow eyes and we stared back. We gather closer and hesitated. In a second, I was hanging, bare feet in the dull sky. I was caught in the dog’s mouth; his jaw tore into my new pale yellow dress while my siblings ran like prey. I still remember clearly of my neighbors eyes of disgust, glaring at our differences. There is something wrong, if it was Okay for a grown man to terrorized children. This memory and many more unavoidable histories became part of my world.
I come from a long history of oppression and wars. My ancestors have resisted oppression and survived countless wars, bloody genocide and slavery in China. They fled into the unreachable mountains of Laos to keep to themselves in the 1800s. Again, uncontrollable wars and silent genocide followed my parents and grandparents by the unpopular Vietnam War. The United States’ CIA had recruited thousands of Laotian natives tribes also known as the Hmong guerrillas force, to fight against the communist Pathet Lao. In 1975, when the last American soldier troops pulled out of Laos, thousands of Hmong families fled into the jungle, crossing mountains and the Mekong river, seeking for sanctuary. Many did not survive to see the neighboring land as genocide took roll and many never found Thailand and continue to hide in Laos jungle to this day. Deaths followed into Thailand refugees camps as people lived with limited resources and crowded poor sanitize housing for years. Many Hmong people who decided to leave Thailand were resettled into countries to starts a new life, in the United States, France, Australia, Germany, French Guiana, Argentina and Canada. Those who decided to stay were deported back to Laos against their will, when the refugee camp closed in 2009. Only very few folks and veteran soldiers knew about the CIA’s “Secret War” and the aftermath of the abandoned Hmong people and their sacrifices for the free land. Sadly, our struggles and obstacles have not cease.
Like most immigrants groups that entered America, the Hmong people* have also experienced many obstacles, also because of their refugees status. The Hmong people were farmers and raise livestock in Laos. A few Hmong families were able to find jobs while majority relied heavily on government aids and relatives support. Many elders were depressed and some experience post traumatic stress disorder from the war in their new homeland. Many became sick as they consume a cheap unbalanced diet and lack of exercise. Unable to work, Hmong parents rely on their children such as translation and running errands. Some families have to work illegally to make ends meet. The children of the first generation experiences a different kind of obstacles as they try to balance family needs, school, and work. Some Hmong children experiences racism and violence, resulting to the first Hmong gangs. Most Hmong children experiences the pressure and expectation from their parents, resulting, stressed teens that leads to unhappy, immobilized adults. Many Hmong second generation becomes stuck in two very different worlds of Hmong culture and American mainstream culture who kept their secret wars silent to themselves.
I speak from research and personal experiences. At a young age, I was aware that I was different from other students. I have come to question my identity as I experiences incidents that degraded my identity. It was only in college, when I learn the names of the unfairness, unjustness, and oppressed system merely base on race, religion, age, disability and gender. I learn that I was passionate about the multicultural and gender issues. Once, I understood my background and how the systems in society kind of worked, it had really move me forward. But even then, there are a couple obstacles that held me back that may take me a lifetime to overcome. I realized that I have internalized oppression from my culture and society. I struggle with self-doubt, lack of confidence, and self-love. My self worth was measure by my sexuality, materialism and positivity in the mainstream culture and reserved, obedient and submissive in the Hmong culture. I was reshaped and molded to grow up to fit the “normal” shape which I did for a while. I followed fashion trend and behaved preppy at school. I kept long hair and dressed properly for my parents. I thought my self-worth was to get a high degree and to be respected and appreciated by everyone because it feel like that was the only way to be enough. I tried to be independent, outgoing, and active on campus, and always challenging myself. Because beauty comes from within right?
At the age of 21, I was burnt out. Life hit me hard and I couldn’t cope. I needed a break from life and people. Each day, It was a downhill blur. I lost motivation. I became immobilized. I was depressed. When asked, what can I do to help, I told them nothing because this was me, in the inside. This was a battle with myself. I have come to realized that certain things just don’t matter. What really matters for me, was the love of my parents and siblings. As strange as it sounds, all I really want in life was my parent’s love, approval, and respect. And so when I did things that made my parent’s unhappy, I was unhappy too, not just because they disapproved, but because I love them. In a way, I sacrifice a bit of myself, a core belief or a life experience, just as they have sacrifice their lives for me. At the age of 22, I have finally comes to term with my Hmong identity with the help of art and with the help of traveling. I have finished questioning my Hmong identity for now. I know I have change and grown but my journey does not stop here. With my depression lurking around, I have to act fast. And so, Buddhism founded me when I was in Thailand. I founded my salvation, my hope, a new chapter of healing. Soon after when I came back, I decided to choose a partnerless life and commit to my self-care and mental health. I am on a journey on self love and peace within myself, but in order to do that, I have to explore my inner self, inner thoughts, my silent wars.
*The Hmong people that I talk about are referring only a small portion of the 4-5 million Hmong people. I am refer to the Hmong that lived in mainly Laos and that were impacted by the Vietnam war.