Sure, I can laugh at this old photo of me now, but I wasn't laughing then. Facing discrimination in a post-Vietnam era, my Filipino mom did what she could to help her children fit in. In another attempt to American-ize me, she picked me up early from elementary school one day just to get my hair permed.
She hated that my hair was "pin straight and boring," she'd say. She wanted it "to do something." The perm did something alright. It backfired. It made me stand out even more, resulting in the boys pointing and laughing at me the next day. I lay my head on my desk and cried.
Fitting in and belonging are basic human needs. They create self-identity and boost self-acceptance. As kids especially, we want to be like everyone else because we think it's easier.
Five perms and 30 years later, it didn't get easier. At 40, I moved to San Diego and again found myself trying to fit in. I met a divorced father who coached sports after work. Everyone in his world was married or divorced with kids and everyone knew everyone else. Because I've never been married or a mother and had a thick East Coast accent, I didn't fit in. I sat in the football stands among all these families but felt so alone. Feeling displaced in my new life triggered my childhood trauma.
So, I drew upon my experiences in adapting to different "cultures" and began my aloha journey. From living in different states and working in different industries to dating different types of men with different family dynamics, I transitioned to my new life by adopting a new attitude in love, kindness and compassion. Since then, I realized that standing out while everyone else was trying to fit in was my superpower!
I'll never forget how much I hated those perms, but I have forgiven my mom for doing her best to love me.