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To Be Happy

Why am I sad? For this feeling there definitely must be a reason. I am now beginning to understand the feeling of helplessness that comes to most undergraduate students after college. I work these two dead-end jobs that do increase my current skill-set, but I just could never see myself working in these jobs for the long run. I’m leaving for Uganda, Africa in November and so many people are proud of me. I have teachers, professors, friends, acquaintances, and family members all telling me how great I am. But what hurts the most is trying to have just that one person accept you. There is one person whom I know does not like me, and I just cannot get over it. I’ve been much better at dealing with that over the past 2 years, but in this circumstance I can’t shake it off. It hurts because it hits me very close to home. She actually lives at my house; she’s the wife of my dad.

I remember meeting her for the first time in Boston a day or two before the graduation ceremonies. She didn’t talk that much, but I supposed that she was just being shy. When I got to spend more time with her at my old house in Maryland, I assumed that we were slowly getting along. I shared my meals with her and my dad, I would say hi and bye to her, and I would make sure that I hugged and kissed her on the cheek before I left the house. After I had returned from my European adventure at the end of July, I learned that she did not like me. She thought that I was thrifty at the expense of others, spoiled, Americanized and wasn’t thinking about my dad and the financial situation that this family is in. It hit me right in the heart. I did not expect to hear that my step-mother looked down on me. I guess it’s that feeling of wanting your parents to be proud of you, and even though she’s my dad’s wife, I still want her to see me as a stepson who accepts her. So far it’s been difficult.

We barely talk these days. She likes to glare at me or plainly look the other way or ignore me. If I don’t say hi or bye when she comes and goes from the house, then we will not talk. I get the vibe that I disgust her and that she mainly holds disdain and contempt towards me. This is apparent when we are in the same room doing something like cooking, and we both don’t talk. If we do talk, then I am the instigator and she responds in several words at the most.

But what really hurts me is that she sees me as this spoiled person who is selfishly going to the Peace Corps, while leaving behind all of these bills for my dad to pay. That made me feel so guilty. I had second thoughts about whether or not it was fair for me to ask my dad to help pay for my monthly student loan bills while I was volunteering in Uganda. My Peace Corps readjustment allowance would help to pay for about half of the monthly pay, but the other half would need to be covered either by myself or someone else. The original decision was that my dad offered to help, and I accepted. My upsets me stepmom. Her food tasted so good, but I no longer eat it or with her on principle. It sucks, because this means that I can’t eat with my dad too. I wanna be closer with him, but I also want him to be happy with his wife. And he can’t do that as much as he could when I’m around.

The thing is that I feel as if my dad has no idea what’s going on with this situation. I think that he just lets me be to come and go as I please. If I have to sacrifice my relationship and interactions with my dad so that he can be happy with his wife, then I’ll do it. I have been doing it, and I will continue to do it, because I have already put this family through a lot. I have seen myself as a financial burden to this family, but I can make it better. I just need this one last thing; the Peace Corps before I return and get a high-paying engineering job to pay my bills and pay back my parents for all that they have done for me. I am beyond grateful for everything, and even right now I am sleeping in my old room in my old house without having to pay for electricity, water, or rent. And I would do so, if I had the funds at the moment.

So for now I will continue to work to pay my dad enough money so that he doesn’t have to worry about the initial Peace Corps bill in November and the bills every month until I return. I don’t know if I’ll have enough, but I will find a way to make it work one day at a time.

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They Endured

“They endured.”

~The Sound and the Fury Appendix, Dilsey’s final entry

I have a great relationship with my aunt. I get home from landscaping work around 4pm-5pm and then park in my driveway. More often than not I get home earlier than my aunt, and have the entire house and kitchen to myself. I have the ability to use the entire kitchen without her glaring at me, or can watch tv or do laundry without fear of my dried clothes being placed on top of the drying machine because I didn’t take them out right after they were done because I was still at work. I appreciate the quality time that we spend together as soon as she arrives home from work: she opens the door, sees that I’m in the kitchen, and then quickly heads upstairs. She does not leave the master bedroom until I am done cooking, cleaning, eating, and then watching tv. I sometimes say hi to her, and she graciously responds by immediately turning her body and face away from me and hurrying to whatever she was doing.

Sometimes we share jokes, like the time she ungraciously took out all of my clothes from the dryer because I left them there after already having asked if I could do laundry that day, and sure enough I had washed my Spring Awakening t-shirt with the saying “Totally Fucked” on the back. I’m sure that we both had a good laugh about that. The best part is the cleaning. She is a very clean and organized person. The stoves and counters are always sprayed, scrubbed, and wiped before, during, and after every individual meal. Now I’m a clean person too, but I suppose that I just cannot keep up with her. Sometimes I forget to put away my clean pots and pans away because they were still drying in the corner of the counter, and they are all piled up into the Lazy Susan where I am allowed to keep my dishes, utensils, spices, and non-perishable foods.

And I’m sure that she has a wonderful family. I was told by my dad that several of her relatives would be staying here at the house for a week sometime in the middle of the Fall, and asked if I could move out of my own bedroom into my brother’s empty room. I was confused as to why I should move all of my stuff from my bedroom into a room that is already the guest room, but I suppose that they would require more room. I have even heard about her sister, because their Skype conversations travel through the thin wall between my bedroom and the master bedroom. Obviously she brags about her new stepson who graduated Cum Laude from BostonUniversity in Mechanical Engineering, who paid and took out personal loans to pay his way through the last two years of college, funded his own internship in Berlin and his Eurotrip, and will be teaching other teachers in Uganda this coming Fall. I can definitely tell that she beams with pride about me when she complains to her sister how my dad does not have the money to help me pay for my student loan bills while I’m volunteering in Africa, how I show up to the house unannounced, how I need to text her to tell her when I am coming home, how I am a spoiled child who should move out and be independent, how I eat her food during mealtimes, and how I am thrifty at other people’s expenses especially my friends.

I like to think that her persona was modeled after the majority of her life living in the Philippines and her spiritual li. Her Facebook is practically covered with scripture passages and quotes concerning how God will provide and take care of us. They all seem to proclaim great wealth and blessings from God coming this way. One could definitely tell that her actions follow this posting on her Facebook wall: “A person’s most useful asset is not the head full of knowledge, but a heart full of love, an ear ready to listen, and a hand willing to help.” Goodness knows that she is a exemplary model of these traits.

Of course I can’t take all of the credit, because I’m not perfect. I enjoy going out with friends at night, I sometimes splurge and eat out with the money I earned from landscaping during the weekdays and catering during the weekends, I like to smoke every now and then, and it is true that I do depend on my dad right now for medical insurance and a roof over my head. I cannot afford living in my own apartment right now before I go to the Peace Corps in November, and I will need to store my stuff here for the 27 months while I’m away. Yes there is a lot of bills and debt to pay, and maybe I am being selfish for wanting to travel away from it all for 2+ years and fulfill one of my life goals.

However, what gives me comfort is the knowledge that I have a family who loves me. In that respect I am much luckier and more spoiled than a sizable percentage of the world. My dad still invites me to the dinner table as my stepmom physically has her body facing the other way. He still loves me whereas I may only remind her of my dad’s past failed marriage. I am growing closer with my little brother in college, and I am so happy that he is living in a dorm and not at home. And my real mom is doing just fine in her apartment in Timonium. I have a fucking awesome family, and even though my stepmom does not seem to like me, she loves my dad I can respect that. I still love her as my dad’s wife and a member of this once-broken family that endures.