The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl: The Strong Willed Child

May 19, 2011

The Strong Willed Child

There's a story my family tells about me.

I am about 3 years old. We live on the 16th storey of a high-rise building. Each morning, my mother takes my sister, who is about 10 years old, down to the street to wait for the school bus. Each morning, my mother takes me with them.

One morning, however, for some reason, I get left behind. I will have none of this. I cry. I throw a tantrum. My father, whom my mother has left in charge of me, loses his patience. In a fit of what can only be poor judgement, he shoves me out the front door of our apartment. "If you want your mother so much," he says, "Then go find her." With that, he closes the door in my face.

This is where the telling of the story stops, and my memory takes over. My sister and parents insist I must have taken an elevator down to the street. But I remember stairs, and a stairwell, so I suspect I walked down 16 stories - which is pretty incredible for a toddler.

I'm not sure how they found me, or who found me for that matter. But the fact that I'm sitting here, telling this story at all, is a sign that things ended up just fine. I wasn't kidnapped, I didn't get run over by a car.

Everyone in my family has a take on this story. My older sister, now a mother of three children of her own, is horrified by my father's bad parenting. My father, ever one to disconnect, never expresses remorse at shoving me out the door. My mother uses this story to prove a point about my restless spirit. She's always wondered how I could possibly have left my country of origin and chosen to live, away from family, all by myself.

When I was younger, the story used to hurt. It hurt because I couldn't reconcile a father, whom I believed truly did love me, with a father who was also easily impatient, impulsive, and frankly, selfish. It also hurt because I imagine that little three year old girl, looking straight into a threat, and hardening just that little bit to forge out on her own. It makes me cry because no three year old should have to harden like that.

Was this moment when I began to believe I couldn't rely on my parents for security? I'm not sure, but I'm sure this incident didn't help what would eventually grow into a lie that I really couldn't rely on anyone. Or that the people I love would always fundamentally disappoint me.

Over the years, the story has surfaced in my memory from time to time. It's no longer a pain point - thanks to a lot of prayer, tears, and taking risks to let God show me truth. But I do think about that little three-year-old. In my head, I see a tiny little girl narrowing her eyes, raising a chubby little fist to the sky. Maybe the thoughts of the little girl have merged with the thoughts of an adult woman, but I can almost hear the three-year-old declare - "You think I have no guts to do this? Just watch."

I think the story reminds me that I have a part of my personality that, when pushed to the limit, when faced with a seemingly impossible task, raises a fist to the sky and declares that nothing is impossible. Don't let the easy-going demeanor fool you. When I'm determined, when I see the goal, when I believe it's worth fighting for - nothing can stop me. I couldn't be stopped when I was three. I'm certainly not planning to be stopped when I'm 33.

This is a good thing to remember in a town like Los Angeles, where I struggle each day to stay focused on the goal of building meaningful and thoughtful community. Where I struggle to be the type of person who is meaningful and thoughtful myself. Where I find myself swayed and distracted by what seems true, and what feels true, rather than what is true.

Every time I want to give up, I see that tiny little girl with a glint in her eye. She'll walk down 16 stories with her chubby little legs to look for what she believes is worth finding. What will I do for what I believe is worth having?

1 comment:

Simone said...

That is an amazing story. That is so hard to imagine. I can see where the strong will comes from. You're a really great writer too!