“See that man walking beside? He’s going to kidnap you because he
sees you don’t have a mommy,” my mother hissed to me in
Vietnamese as we walked down the streets of Chinatown. I
looked up at the man walking beside me, long shaggy hair, long shaggy
beard, scruffy clothes and ice blue eyes. I quickly decided he was
definitely not someone I’d like to be kidnapped by. So I grabbed my
mother’s hand and held on tight.

Ever since as long as I could remember, my mother’s instilled in me
this fear of being kidnapped. Adbuctors were lurking in every corner,
strangers ready to relieve my mother the trouble of me if I didn’t
behave by holding her hand in the market or by staying by her side in
big crowds of people. She’d even warn me about strange scary men who
would break into our house to kidnap me if I didn’t make my bed.
“They’ll think a boy lives here and will want him to work for them,”
she’d tell me.

I know she told me all those things to make sure I was safe and to
keep me obedient out of fear. While her tricks worked, it also had side
effects I’m not completely sure she intended for.

Whenever she’d leave me and my brother alone in the house to go work
at the farm, I’d have these morbid thoughts of strangers bursting in to
take me away. I’d develop these elaborate plans of where to hide and
how to escape being kidnapped. I’d live in fear of being alone, so I’d
follow my big brother around constantly, making sure he’d always
know where I was. And if he wasn’t willing to protect me, then maybe,
at least, the kidnappers would take him and leave me alone.

Obviously now I don’t have that fear anymore of abduction attempts
at every nook and cranny. But I can still see the lingering
effects it’s had on my thinking. Everywhere I look, I see the potential
for danger. When I drive around in my car, I always seem to briefly
play a “worst case scenario” in my head. For instance, a car cuts in
front of me and immediately I imagine it hitting me and our vehicles
are smashed. When I walk around ever, I imagine myself running into
benches, poles, etc etc. It’s not just physical danger either. Whenever
there’s a boy I’m interested in, I always imagine our worst case
scenario. Either him annoying the heck out of me or me clinging on to
him like an insecure little girl. Whenever I meet new people, I always
imagine them disliking me, finding me loud and obnoxious. Perhaps
that’s why I usually like take a backseat and observe everyone
first before I can get comfortable and open up.

I also think that’s the why I have this pessimistic attitude about
life. I’m always constantly picturing the worst that could happen. And
it’s hard to imagine a brighter outcome because the darker outcome’s
always to obvious that it’s staring me in the face.

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8 comments
  1. Anonymous said:

    I do think our past shapes who we are today, but in the same token, we shouldn’t let our past dictate how we are to live our day to day lives or our future. The past is what it is – a stepping stone, a learning experience – not intended to be dwelled on for too long. As soon as we learn what we needed to learn, we should let go and live our lives like that.
    I know it’s easier said than done because I have let certain things in my past get in the way of how I see and view life. However, it isn’t impossible to learn how to deal and cope with this situation. The more you let your past haunt you, the more you’re empowering it to give it more chances to hinder and hurt you.
    Hope you find a way to deal with the past demons.

  2. Our past experiences and teachings and everything that has come about make us who we are today.  That fear that was instilled in you, in some ways is a good thing, where you plan for the worst, and if it turns out good it is a bonus.  It’s hard to imagine one of the first things you think about when meeting new people is that if they dislike you.  You seem like a great person to meet, someone who can really carry a conversation.

  3. old asian ppl say the weirdest shit. my gramma’s famous line? EVERY single chair/bench/seat/stool in a public place (the waiting room at the doctor’s excluded, but at the bank, the bus stop, the library..) she would point to it and say in cantonese: “don’t sit there, somebody has peed on that chair/bench/seat/stool.” nice. now i think i sometimes sit down just to spite her.

  4. Interesting self-analysis on how your past dictates the present.  I had pretty much the exact same childhood.  I spent many frightening hours alone in my house after school thinking that strangers were going to come in and abduct me.  Asian parents seem to love the “control with fear” technique.  I don’t know how much all of this have contributed to my adult “issues”, but I, too, look at things from a “worst case scenerio” viewpoint.  Sometimes it’s good because it allows me to be realistic and feel things out so I don’t get into trouble, but it also inhibits me from fully going at things and probably achieving more than I think I am capable of.

  5. A psychology major could really have a ball ‘examinining’ your history.  When you think about it, it was really a shrewd move on the part of your mom –  instead of watching out for her little daughter, make the little daughter watch out for herself.  The only problem is that, it seems to have left you with a hint of paranoia… and i hope that cause too much needless worrying for you
    it’s funny which things get passed on from our parents that are either very helpful or actually damaging.  My perfectionism which I inherited from my dad, I’ll always take as a bittersweet gift.

  6. One thing you learn about making posts late at night, which I often do… double and triple check for errors [a bit ironic considering I mentioned that I have a tendency to be perfectionist, esp in writing.  Ah well.]
    What I wanted to say was, I hope the mentality your mom instilled in you doesn’t cause too much anxiety, or detracts from the ‘good’ things in your life.

  7. The phobias and paranoias that our elders force onto us.  *sigh*  You know what’s scary is that we’ll probably unknowingly do it to our future kids.

  8. nice post, Some would say your crazy, but i say your Super Crazy. =)

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