Balance is key
My late grandmother had a saying that ruled my father’s every decision, and it now rules mine.
“Balance is key.”
I have heard this since the age of six. It is engraved in my mind and remembered every day. It is both odd and interesting to me that I have never met my grandmother but follow her philosophy with such great stringency. I view every decision, event, and conflict in a balanced manner. I feel like I have been conditioned to do so.
Even as a kid, it felt natural to me to view playground fights in a balanced manner; I was able to rationalize the actions of both the bully and the victim. With my relationships and health, balance is what has supported me. Maintaining a balance in life has made me more strong-willed with my ambitions and goals in life by allowing me to power through various complex situations.
In some ways, I feel that following this saying and hearing it constantly keeps me close to my late grandmother. Having never properly spoken to her, I feel her saying—being a leading force in my life—reminds me of her presence every day.
The lesson of carrying something through to the end
The saying of “to have a beginning and an end” has carried throughout my whole childhood and teenage period. The phrase holds great value in my culture, as most Chinese families instill this sentiment into their offspring to build resilience. Through this, parents hope to educate their children about finishing what they’ve chosen to begin, ultimately building in their minds the characteristic of not giving up easily.
When I was eight, I was obsessed with the ballet, and I asked my mom to place me in a ballet dancing class. Before the class started, my mom confirmed with me for a few times to make sure I really wanted to do it. However, after three classes of ballet, I got tired of being told to practice the same posture again and again. Eight-year-old me was definitely ignorant of the fact that the perfect ballet performance on stage required years of training and practices. I complained to my mom and told her that I didn’t want to continue the rest of the sessions. What she replied with still sticks with me and reminds me every time I hesitate to take a step back: “You should either continue or you can stop taking the class, but if you choose to stop, you don’t get to decide what you’d like to learn anymore, since you have no commitment to your own decision at all.”
After that, I became more cautious with decision making and reasonably started new hobbies instead of randomly starting things lightheartedly.
“To have a beginning and an end” reminds me of my responsibility for my own choices. The phrase turned me into a reliable adult who is capable of dealing with difficulties. The value of resilience—the ability to carry things through the end—is one of the greatest values in human being, since it takes hundreds of days to build up a skyscraper.
“If it nuh go so, it go near so.”
This is a Jamaican Patois saying that roughly translates to: “if it does not go so, it goes nearly so.”
While visiting Lover’s Leap in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, my sister overheard a schoolteacher explain the legend to a group of students. The legend is of two lovers, Mizzy and Tunkey from the 18th century, who were enslaved at the nearby Yardley Chase Plantation. After learning of their relationship, their master organized for Tunkey to be sold off, as he wanted Mizzy for himself. Fearing separation, Mizzy and Tunkey escaped the plantation and jumped off the 520-metre cliff, now known as Lover’s Leap. At the end of the schoolteachers’ explanation was the phrase, “If it nuh go so, it go near so,” which my sister remembered and shared with me once she was back in Canada.
Hearing this saying, especially in this context, reminds me of the importance of stories. Oftentimes, the factual basis for the tale is long gone, and no one cares if the legend is true or not. Yet, the story persists because it speaks to something much larger than itself. Perhaps, a meditation on slavery, colonialism, love, or the human condition. I must add, this saying is used in many ways, including descriptions of juicy gossip. Whatever the story is, there is a reason it exists and continues to be told.
The love you give
“It’ll take some time to realize that the love you give gives back in time.”
Whether it’s an unrequited love, a failing friendship, or a hobby that you had to give up, we have all felt the sinking dread of wasted effort. To invest so much time, energy, and love into something only to reap no reward or satisfaction hurts. A lot.
When I first heard the Vistas’ song, “The Love You Give,” I wasn’t in a very good mindset. I found myself easily irritated, angry, lashing out at the smallest stressors, and wondering, “why bother trying?” If we can predict that things won’t turn out the way we want them to, wouldn’t it be easier to save your energy and not risk the pain of losing?
But as I heard the electric guitar floating over top of an energetic chorus, and the cheery refrain, “the love you give will carry on”—it felt like a promise. Not that everything will work out for you in the end. Not even that being a loving person is something deserving of reward. But that the love you put into the world doesn’t end with you. Even if you don’t see the fruits of it, you’ve put something forward into the world that will keep going. Perhaps that can inspire you to continue walking forward in love.