By Tiffany Ujiiye, Assistant Editor
“Why do you need to stay out so late?” my parents would ask me. “What are you doing? Where are you going, and who will be there?” These are some of the questions I must answer before leaving my house, and because of this, I try to moderate my weeknight outings. Now, one might think that I resent my parents for questioning my nocturnal habits at the age of 22, but that assumption is wrong. I do not hate my parents for questioning me, their adult daughter.
The reason for this is because I understand them. I’m not saying that I know what parenting is, but I have a teeny tiny clue at what it might be like. It’s a very small understanding, but it’s enough to make me step back and realize that my parents are not enemy of the state No.1.
One evening in my freshman year of college, I failed to text my mom where I was after getting off of work at 12:30 a.m. My fellow coworkers and I had a long night at the UCI Student Center lifting tables and chairs for a banquet the next day. Naturally, we were hungry afterward and found ourselves at the In-N-Out across the street for milkshakes and fries.
Two a.m. came, and I drove home. When I came home, the kitchen lights were on, and sitting in front of my seat at the dinner table was a dinner: a bowl of fluffy white rice, udon noodles with sprinkled green onions and a small plate of glad-wrapped pepper chicken sat on a woven placemat with chopsticks and a glass of water. The condensation on the glad wrap was still foggy and mildly warm, meaning my mom had been up waiting for some time before plating my meal.
The milkshake and fries were still sitting in my stomach along with the guilt. If I had only texted her when I left work, she wouldn’t have stayed up and prepared dinner for me. I felt horrible and loved at the same time.
And so that night I had two dinners.
Since then, I stopped having a short fuse with my parents whenever they asked me where I was going or what I was doing. I understood that they loved me. Their texts, calls and questions came from a good place.
Four years after finding my mom’s home-cooked meal, I was out on another evening at the Commissary Lounge in Costa Mesa to meet a few friends for drinks. I arrived with my best friend, and after a few too many drinks, she was incredibly intoxicated.
At around 3 a.m., I decided it was time to head home so I could make it to work on time the next day, and as designated driver with only one beer consumed, I asked if my friend wanted to leave. She looked straight into my eyes and said she was staying. After all, it was her birthday weekend, and our friends at the bar had offered to drive her home for me since they’d be staying longer.
I rolled my eyes, “OK, call me when you’re safe at home,” and we went our separate ways.
She never called. I sat in bed checking my phone periodically, and at 4:30 a.m., I called her — with no answer. The hours passed, and I must’ve nodded off because at 7 a.m., I woke up to find no new messages. My imagination ran wild with teen dramas, car crashes and TV news reporters from Channel 5.
“Oh my god,” I thought to myself, “What if she’s not OK? It’s my fault. I should’ve dragged her drunk body into my car and delivered her home safe and sound.”
I tried calling for the fifth time before she answered. With a zombielike voice heavy with a hangover, she said, “Sorry, I fell asleep on the couch and forgot to call you.”
Ugh, the relief.
It didn’t matter if I was angry with her for being careless or angry with her for making me stress out. All that mattered was that she was on her couch at home in one piece with her phone.
The feeling to truly worry sucks. It’s staying up at odd hours and waiting for some reassurance that the person you love is safe. It’s hoping that you’ll see them again and not wondering if you could’ve done something different for them. Sometimes to worry is having an incredibly colorful imagination of everything wrong happening at once and then replaying that over and over again.
To understand where people are coming from, not just my friend or my parents, puts everything into perspective. Too often people throw out a classic line of, “Well, you just don’t understand” or “You don’t understand what it’s like to blah, blah, blah.”
Then explain. Allow yourself to find a commonality with others. You fail the world and yourself if you don’t take the time to look for those parallels. The human experience covers an infinite spectrum, and we can thread them together by sharing those moments. Otherwise, we barricade communities from each other and dig canyons between families. You ultimately deny yourself the opportunity to understand and be understood.
Tiffany Ujiiye is the new assistant editor of the Pacific Citizen.
Originally published on June 20, 2014