June 28, 2011
We celebrated my mother, Caroline Kang’s 50th Birthday this past weekend. She had over 230 guests attend a grand celebration accompanied with an open bar, chocolate fountain, photo booth and live band. Many people who walked into the ballroom Saturday night could instantly sense the opulence symbolized in the table setting, floral arrangements and formal-wear of the guests. It’s easy to look at our family and presume we’ve lived an easy and affluent life.
But that is far from the truth.
My mother met my father in New Zealand and eloped when she was 17. When they migrated to San Francisco, they began with minimal money. My father joined the police academy and my mother began her 18-year-career with the state. They preceded to have four kids by my mother’s 22nd birthday and purchased a series of investment homes before moving to Sacramento in 1991. While we didn’t own Gameboys, Nintendo or the latest fashions, we never felt deprived. I spent the majority of my childhood in the backyard, making mud cookies and fantasizing about my adulthood.
Even though we didn’t have much, it didn’t mean I didn’t often question why we couldn’t have more. One day while visiting my mother’s friend, my siblings and I entertained ourselves with the vast amounts of toys her children owned. When leaving I ignorantly asked my mom why we have more money (because we lived in a better neighborhood) but they had more toys. She explained that she and my father saved their money, which provided us a better future. They utilized their money towards investments and not instant satisfactions.
That experience taught me that just because you ‘had’ more, it didn’t represent your true wealth. It also taught me that in order to attain what you wanted in life – you had to discipline your desires and focus on your long-term goals.
In my family, I am notorious for being frugal. I’ve always saved my money and placed it in my bank account, which I first opened when I was twelve. Besides my spending habits (or lack of), I also began a regimented diet when I was in sixth grade. I started eating healthy foods and becoming aware of the calorie and fat content of foods. While I enjoyed twinkies, skittles and French fries, I rarely treated myself to them. At a young age I knew I wanted to become a fit and beautiful person when I became a woman one day. I knew that the power of discipline would serve me in not one area, but every area of my life.
When I didn’t want to exercise – I forced myself to. When I wanted the newest fashion, I bought a more inexpensive version. When I wanted to have two slices of pizza, I settled with one (after blotting the top of course.) I counted my pennies, my calories and my achievements. I felt so much power at a young age because I was consciously aware that while my peers were indulging in the latest gadgets, the tastiest foods and the easiest routes in life – I always chose the opposite direction.
My choices led me to be prepared for all the opportunities in my life today. When I wanted to compete in a pageant or fitness contest, it only took me two months to prepare. When we had the chance to purchase a house, we had enough money in my savings. When I met the ‘right’ people professionally, I had the right amount of experience to vie for that job. I had a lot of ‘luck’ in my life because I was ready whenever the opportunity to progress arose.
In truth, there is no such thing as luck. There is no such thing as getting something for nothing. There is always a cause and effect – an action and a consequence. One of the important life lessons my mother has taught me is realizing the importance of my actions.
If I save more – I will have more. If I eat healthy – I will be healthier. If I study – I will be smarter.
And if I work hard – I will achieve my goals one day.
Thank you mom – for being an exceptional example of what a young woman with nothing in her pockets, can achieve in just 50 years of life.