Growing up, I was spoiled. Clarification: I’m still spoiled, but at least not to the point where I’m rotten. I acknowledge that I’m blessed and privileged; I never had to worry about helping my parents financially, and I had the ability to partake in extracurricular activities, which my mother would be happy to drive me to and pick me up from… all on time.
One of the people who spoiled me and my sister from the very beginning was my bachan (grandmother in Japanese). The first thing she did when she opened her front door (after a quick hug) was ask those special questions fit for princesses: “What shall I make you to eat?” “Do you want something to drink? Help yourself.” “You want a snack? Let me cut up these apples.” “Here, have some oranges – I took all the membrane off.”
Even though my sister and I received the princess treatment, my bachan also taught us lessons that shaped who we are today. She made sure to instill within us the knowledge that things do not come that easily. Having lived a rough life of losing a mother at an early age, which forced her to grow up fast, she made sure to pass on some grit and lessons learned. Like they say, with age comes great wisdom.
"Like they say, with age comes great wisdom."
I want to pass on some bachan wisdom that I’ve learned, in hopes that it inspires or empowers you to take on the world.
If my bachan were to have one famous quote, it would be this one. She didn’t (and I don’t) believe in half-baked work. If you’re not going to give it 110%, then what’s the point of doing it at all? Produce work that is not only proper, but work you will be proud of.
My bachan had a tough life. Her mother passed away at a very young age and she was left in the care of her step-father, so she always emphasized not only listening to my mom and dad, but to also be nice to them. She made sure to remind us that we were fortunate to not only have parents, but to have ones that were so attentive to my sister and I. While our parents can nag sometimes, we should look past it and remember how fortunate we are.
I have too many memories of sitting in the kitchen and watching my bachan cook something up for the dinner table, struggling with being hungry and wanting to swipe my finger in whatever she was preparing. Impatience and being crude didn’t fly with her. But what I once thought was a cruel and unusual punishment as a very hungry kid at dinner, I grew up learning was a lesson in respect for others – to make sure everyone received their food, and that everyone had the privilege to share a meal together.
No good deed should go without a thank you. My bachan made sure that I said thank you to anyone who lent me a hand, even if it was my sister. Thank you is a phrase that is meant for everyone, and words that you don’t forget to say.
My bachan took daily walks in the morning, even when she stayed over at our house. While my family had no idea who lived a block down from us, my bachan knew everyone, and everyone knew her. I would sometimes accompany her on these walks, and realized people knew her because she greeted everyone with a “good morning” or “good afternoon,” regardless if they acknowledged her or not. I once asked why she put in so much effort, and she would say “because that’s the right thing to do.”
It is the right thing to do. I still have a hard time greeting people who walk past me, half of the time because I am so engrossed with whatever it is I’m doing on my phone. But then I remember this lesson, lift my head up, make quick eye contact with the next person walking toward me, and flash them a smile. Regardless if you get something in return or not, acknowledging people and their presence is an act of goodness.
"It is the right thing to do. I still have a hard time greeting people who walk past me, half of the time because I am so engrossed with whatever it is I’m doing on my phone. But then I remember this lesson, lift my head up, make quick eye contact with the next person walking toward me, and flash them a smile."
My bachan didn’t have the ability to complete her education, so she always emphasized its importance. Every time I called her while I was in college, she never forgot to ask “so you’re going to graduate in four years, right?” to which I’d say that I would try my best, since impacted colleges and majors were a sad reality, and the typical four years is not that easy to accomplish. But I did not disappoint: not only did I graduate in four years, but with magna cum laude, and as an honors scholar. I dedicated my college career and my drive to my bachan. She would remind me that education is something that you shouldn’t take for granted. You should always strive to learn more (you can always learn more) and to better yourself.
These are lessons that have been so ingrained in my upbringing that they are now somehow an innate part of my conscience. Not only do I feel they have given me an edge to which makes me unique amongst the crowd, but they make me feel like I’m a better version of myself.
Cheers to you, bachan. May your words live on not only in my heart and the family’s, but now to everyone who reads this.