Mortazavi’s Compliment

The Investment exam today was not mathematically complicated, but required me to know the concepts very well. I expect at least an 85% score.

When I turned in my exam, Professor Mortazavi asked me if I was graduating this May. I said that I was, and he was disappointed. He wanted me to help him with a project. Now, this was an unexpected compliment! I want to be involved with this project, but that means I have to stay over the summer. I need to ask him for how long…

The University is planning to expand the number of SmartRooms over the next few years. Prof. Mortazavi was asked by the committee responsible for this expansion to develop a timeframe in which the University can upgrade to these new rooms. If I end up helping him with this project, I can improve my resume and add a very important person to my list of references. In the very least, I should be proud that he would even consider me as his aide.

Family vs. Friends

What distinctions, if any, do you make between friends and family members. How does this affect the way you communicate with persons in each category?

I make several distinctions between friends and family. Friends provide me a sense of social belonging more than a family. Being a part of a family is important, but acceptance of friends is a general indication of how well society would accept me as an individual. Friends are voluntary, whereas a family is given at time of birth. The fact that friends choose to associate with me makes them uniquely valuable.

Friends also help provide emotional integration and stability. This is because I can self-disclose information to them that I cannot to my parents. There is a limit to what I can explain to my family members since I do not command the Cantonese language as well as I do the English language. For instance, the stress, obligations, and career planning of a college student are difficult issues for my parents to understand. While growing up, they dealt more with issues of survival. Therefore, I rely on friends to listen to such concerns. They facilitate reflection, which allows me to integrate my emotions into my self-concept, which then provides stability.

K.E. Davis from Psychology Today proposed a model of friendship. I use the acronym “E.A.T. C.R.U.M.S.” to remember the qualities that I like in friends:
Enjoyment – we have fun together
Acceptance – we accept each other as we are without the need to change each other
Trust – we trust each other to behave in the best interest of the other
Confide – we feel comfortable self-disclosing to each other
Respect – we agree with the decisions the other person has made in life
Understanding – we are not continually confused with the other person’s behavior
Mutual assistance – we can expect help from each other
Spontaneity – we do not feel like we have to play a role around the other person

I consider a person a friend if the relationship demonstrates any one of these qualities. Though, the more of these qualities that a relationship has, the better we are as friends.

Moreover, best friends are differentiated from good friends by two more attributes:
Advocate – we are the champions of the other person’s interests
Self-sacrifice – we are willing to help the other person even at our expense

Whereas best friends are as important as family members, I generally value family members more than friends. For family members, there is assured assistance without the expectation of reciprocity. In many ways, the support of family is unconditional. Moreover, family members have known me the longest. They know my weaknesses. They have watched me grow. As a result, they are the main figures that reassure my self-worth.

These distinctions between family and friends do not affect my communication with them. The distinctions, however, affect how much effort and time I put in the relationship. The way I communicate with people is generally dependent upon who I am talking to.

Family Excuses

In my family, there are three distinct generations. The members of the first generation are the immigrants. Their ages range from late 40’s to early 60’s. The ABC (American-born Chinese) members of the family are the second generation. We are between the ages of 18 and 26. The third and youngest generation is between the ages of 7 and 13.

Every weekend – and I mean every weekend – at least two families get together to eat. Eating dinner together three or four times a week is not uncommon for two-family meals. The multi-family meals occur every other weekend. There is no set schedule. This is just the pattern.

Western holidays and birthdays are simply excuses to have a party. This past Sunday, for instance, my fourth aunt put on an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids (members of the 3rd generation, that is). The kids went around her small house, rummaging through furniture and odd places for plastic eggs that held money. Every kid will have the same number of eggs (we have socialistic tendencies, you see), but three kids will find and keep the special $5 eggs (we love capitalism, too). Ironically, though Easter is a Christian holiday, no one in our family is Christian. At best, religion for the adults extends only to the occasional rituals of polytheistic Buddhism. Yet, the purpose of the egg hunt was not to celebrate the rebirth of Christ, but to celebrate the coming-together of families.

These family get-togethers facilitate everyday talk between all three generations. Each family member generally talks within his or her own generation. Yet, I can see how the third generation parrots the problems the adults are facing, (i.e., all the kids strongly dislike the third family for its members’ selfish nature).

Stories are told at dinner. Rumors about family friends or friends that the families know are exchanged. Since the second generation has flown from the nest, the parents update everyone on how they’re doing. Nothing public that I tell my mom, for instance, goes unknown to my relatives – Mom keeps my secrets but blabs away about everything else. Plans are made for future three-day weekends. They are usually camping trips that my fourth uncle organizes. And, if the adults don’t want the kids to know what they’re talking about, they’ll start talking in Vietnamese. [To tease my parents and relatives, I would string together all the Vietnamese dishes that I’ve learned to say in that language into a non-sense sentence. For example, my aunt would whisper in Vietnamese about how my third aunt is being difficult again, and I would interrupt with “beef-noodles-vermicelli-pork-wrap-ice-cream!” To someone who doesn’t speak Vietnamese, it sounds very much like I was saying something coherent in that language.]

The celebrations and rituals in the Chinese culture are many. We celebrate the Harvest Moon with specific foods. Once a year, we visit my grandparents and brother at Rosehills Cemetery. Lunar New Year is the time when all the kids get paid for their hard work at being kids. When the elder family (headed by the eldest brother of the Diec family line) visits, there is always a special dinner every night of the week. This past summer, when the youngest sister of the Diec line came with her family from France, we had the first family reunion in fifteen years! That was an amazing celebration: non-stop fun for the kids for over a month and a challenge to the adults’ stamina.

I am fortunate to be a part of a large family that has so many celebrations, rituals and excuses to get together.

Sunday Reflections

Another weekend has come around. There will only be five more before my college career is over. My goodness, time is passing quickly by.

This week was characterized by procrastination and brief moments of thoughtfulness. I still have many assignments to make up. The list of tasks I wrote on Friday is still long. So, I best finish the Assessment Paper today.

Sheila wrote me last night. She said that she is depressed. I am afraid that she is encountering a lost sense of purpose. She might also need to repair a shattered sense of self-worth. That damn ex-boyfriend deserves to be strung up by the testicles for what he did. Yet, even then, Sheila won’t feel any better — she would still berate herself for not having realized his lying, cheating heart sooner. As any good cousin ought to do, I should contact her and listen to her troubles.

Yesterday was the Jazz Festival. The Lindy Hop Dance Demonstration went off without a hitch. The group did a good job, and everyone enjoyed the jovial atmosphere. Being exposed to lindy hop and East Coast swing is a very good thing for me. Some time from now, I will be able to build upon my beginning skills and perhaps dance like Kenny & Maureen.

I am concerned for Raam. These recent conversations with him are disturbing. His goals and ambitions are being downgraded. Can I tell him that he is justifying mediocrity? He wants to switch from Social Work to an easier major. I suggested Communication since it is relatively easier, but at least it has some practical value. His preference is Art. That is the easiest major of all, with no practical, income-generating value. Christina is apparently not skilled nor disciplined enough to be the breadwinner of the two. She speaks of buying video games and expensive game consoles at a time when the two of them barely have enough money to eat and live. Does she even realize how much Raam is sacrificing in order to keep them financially afloat? Raam will have to be real strong to deal with Christina’s underdeveloped maturity. He will be challenged. If he can overcome the challenges, then a better man he will be for it. Unfortunately, I am afraid he is blinded by euphoria. He is romanticizing his relationship. Raam does not realize that he is playing the role of “father” and “caretaker” to Christina. There is no partnership between the couple. She is dependent upon his guidance, like a daughter who needs her father’s wise guidance. Does Raam fancy himself to be that wise? There is nothing more I can do than just be Raam’s friend. I don’t agree with the decisions he has made so far, but I am in no position to tell him how to live his life, nor would I want to if I was.

My parents called me this morning to remind me to do my taxes. Another task for this weekend. . I am going to try to find some online way to file my taxes. That’ll make my life a little easier.

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