How I Learned to Laugh

What was the environment in which you were raised? Describe your family, home, neighborhood or community, explain how it has shaped you as a person.

I woke up to the sound of my brother screaming. Worried, I rushed downstairs to the sight of ripped paper beneath his feet and a new iPad in his hands. It was Christmas. Giddy with excitement, I dove into the pile of gifts, searching for the box with my name. I had finally found it: one small box. But, big things do come in small packages, right? Was it a necklace? A new phone? Unable to contain my excitement, I tore open the wrapping paper and there it was…A phone case with my face on it.

I froze, a big fake smile plastered on my face. I looked around, waiting for someone to pop out with a camera and say “YOU JUST GOT PRANKED!” But no. This was reality. My nine year old brother got an iPad, and I got a photo of myself in seventh grade, acne ridden and ugly, enlarged on a phone case. I was mortified.

I tried to hide my phone case wherever I went, fearing that it advertized that I was an utterly self-absorbed human being. I had complained several times to my mom, who had bought me this custom-made 60 dollar plastic cover, but every time she would say, “Don’t be ashamed of yourself.” My parents are never ashamed. They are never embarrassed to sing along in their loudest voices to their favorite songs while grocery shopping or scold me when my friends are over. Their transition from the Asian lifestyle into the Western lifestyle was not a simple one, but they’ve brushed off their mishaps and learned from them.

My dad is a doctor, and my mom was a scientist. Both growing up in Asia, studying abroad in America was merely a dream only for the most selective students. Even after experiencing countless failures and criticisms, my parents did not falter and kept pushing forward. Racist remarks? Fight back. Rejected from schools? Find another school. No money? Find a job. Dust yourself off and move on. In this world, happiness is made, not found. After the struggle that they had gone through, they don’t let anything get in the way of their goal: living life to the absolute fullest. Their silly demeanor does not discredit the hard work put forth, but only emphasizes the fact that they are truly happy. They are strong, determined, and raw. They don’t care that people judge them and live happily without the pressure to be perfect.

My upbringing has taught me to embrace my flaws. My parent’s resilience and unusual personality were contagious and encouraged me to find pride in my most humiliating situations. The more I thought about the phone case, the more I realized that it was funny. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. Life continued. It didn’t matter what people thought of me.

I displayed the phone case like a prize, not afraid of laughter because I could always join in. It was not only humorous, but it also had its hidden benefits: once I had lost my phone, but it was returned to me in the matter of seconds as the kind stranger had recognized my face from the case. It gave me opportunities to make new friends as people laughed at me, I laughed with them. After all, I had a story to tell.

Although I am not immune to embarrassment, I am getting close to defeating the plague that I had once been so afraid of. My family experiences have taught me to be bold, stand tall, and take pride in everything I do. Not expecting order and perfection, I look at the world in a new perspective. I am not afraid to mess up or make mistakes. Big things do come in small packages, and in that small box I had discovered self-confidence.

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