“My Parents Aren’t My Loudest Cheerleaders” Club

My father hasn’t read my blog since I started my “365 Project” on January 1st of this year. This is my 103rd piece and still I haven’t received a “good job” or “fun read” or even “nice to make me look like an asshole in that piece.” Instead, I got nothing. At first, I wondered had he read the piece which had gotten press, the one about him giving me a blood transfusion? It got abundant praise from strangers, yet, from him, the hero of my story, I got, “I’m too tired to read at the end of the day; you know I get up at 4 in the morning.”

Initially, I was disappointed. He expressed his opinion on the project and said it was intense and a waste of time. “Why do you have to write EVERY DAY? Can’t you just do it once a week?” Or else, “If you don’t get to it, who cares?”

My Soviet immigrant parents  can’t get behind this artsy passion project; my free internship with myself. I was raised less in the “trophy for participation” manner and more like “what happened to the other 5 points?” when I got a 95/100 on a test. I don’t doubt my parents’ love for me; I simply understand they’re not easily impressed.

“I have to make the art before I can sell it,” I try to explain. “I guess you’re right,” he mutters and we’ve stayed clear of the topic for the last 103 days.

“What’s new?” he’ll ask in our daily conversations mostly about the weather. “Not much,” I’ll answer and think how I’m spilling my life history, my heart, and my soul out onto the world and he doesn’t care to have a read. But it is not his intention to hurt my feelings, I’m sure by this point, 103 posts seems like too much binge reading.

Then there’s my mother. Earlier today I had a lovely phone conversation with her. “How’s the writing?” she asks as if she’s inquiring about tomato plants I’m trying to grow on the windy balcony above the world’s busiest bridge.

“It’s going well,” I tell her. “I’m doing it every day!”

“Do you really think you’ll be able to keep this up?” She asks. This was my mother being encouraging. What she actually meant to say was, “Why are you wasting your time, wearing yourself down when you can sell your soul (and time) back to the Corporate Man and go back to living for 2/7th of your life.”

“Of course, I’ll be able to keep it up,” I continue. “Unless I’m dead.” (You can take the girl out of Russia, but you can’t take the Russian pragmatic cynicism out of girl.)

“I mean how will you be able to keep coming up with new ideas?” she clarifies.

“Well it’s not brain surgery and I AM a writer, this is what I want to do.” I’m seemingly defending myself to my mother even though I’m 41 years old, have a journalism degree from NYU and have worked professionally for 15 years. After we hang up, she will forget all about this conversation while I will fold it neatly into a mental note and store it in the cabinet of mother memories in my mind.

“So have you made any money off the project yet?” She asks.

There you have it! This was the punch to the stomach I had been waiting for every day since I told her of the 365 project. She says she enjoys my writing and even tried to follow my blog, but you know, technical difficulties mean she can only read the ones I share on Facebook (not this one). My own parents will only support something that yields money.

Why else would you “work” if not for money? Passion is for Americans; not Soviet immigrants. Our enthusiasm has to come through as survival, and we’ve made it this far despite my mother convincing me there was an eternal bullseye for unfortunate events placed on our family.

“I’ve made a few dollars here and there on some freelance pieces,” I tell her and feel like a 12-year-old overweight teenager who was never good enough.

It’s not surprising my mother says things like this; it is not her intention to hurt my feelings; she was just making conversation. She will say she is my biggest supporter and cheerleader. The startling fact is, after years of what she will call innocuous digs, which she discounts as silly or comical, they still affect me. I still want to make my parents proud, but for now, I will have to settle on making myself proud first.

10 thoughts on ““My Parents Aren’t My Loudest Cheerleaders” Club

  1. It’s funny because I was just thinking that I felt like a big cheerleader for you. Our parents gave us some tough love, which makes us strong. We don’t NEED verification from anyone. You know that you’re doing awesome. The people around you know you’re doing awesome. Don’t worry about what some old washed up commies think. Haha! wink wink!!

  2. YOU ARE A GREAT CHEERLEADER!!! I am not at a loss (gratefully) for virtual applause, it’s just stupid that I still would even yearn or long for it. Your real life support has been going strong and appreciated (and much needed) since 1981!

  3. There is one advantage of your parents not reading your writing – you never have to censor for them, right? And then you’ve got at least 365 new ideas to discuss with them over the phone. Maybe? I’m clutching at straws in the wind. On a balcony. Above a busy bridge (love that line by the way).

  4. Yes I’m free to write uncensored, which is easier than the first month where I cried about everything I wrote and worried about every typed syllable. Clutch those straws; I’ve been holding on for 41 years! 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  5. I had the same response from my parents when I started floating this mad idea I had for something that I think could be really rewarding for me and really beneficial to a lot of people, but it would take a lot of hard work initially to start up and not guaranteed… my dad jumped straight to the money question, and mum was kind encouraging but more in a “that’s nice love” way. They also grew up in poverty and worked extremely hard to migrate out of Asia and give me opportunities, and only knew work as a means to survive.

  6. One foot in front of the other. I am constantly reminding myself “success is the best ‘I told you so.'” Wouldn’t the greatest immigrant success story be the one where we made money pursuing our passion? Go forth!

  7. The most liberating gift I have ever given myself is the permission to make myself proud first. It wasn’t and still isn’t easy getting to this point because that nagging little voice inside my head still tells me that I am not good enough; yet I persevere. The only child of alcoholic parents who both struggled with mental illness, the disease to please and seek their approval was/is a strong force in this one. It has only been within the last ten years, after my father died to be exact, that I have come to accept that I no longer need their approval to be whole. In fact, my mother doesn’t even know that I blog. My blog is mine and mine alone (with the exception of my followers but they love me for being me) and that is where I feel the most whole, the most powerful and the most creative. Your blog is a testament to you and your talent and I am grateful to have stumbled upon it. Count me in as one of your personal cheerleaders. You go, girl!

  8. Thank you! My mother is also an alcoholic; my father dropped the booze but got a new wife 30 years younger than him and made a new son, 31 years younger than me. It’s not supposed to affect me, you know? I will keep on and so grateful for any pom poms! Keep on, keepin’ on!

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