Reader Mail: Getting My Act Together

Q: A couple of months ago I started reading your blog. I was taking an English class whose theme was "identity," and it sort of sparked some of my interest in ethnic studies. My first year of college I didn't really know what I wanted to do and was scrambling for classes, and I stumbled upon and really got into ethnic studies.

But after becoming an Angry Asian Man for about a year, I was pretty much fed up with it and decided to switch into cultural anthropology. Since then I was getting into The Daily Show and Colbert Report, and I realized that I was interested in people in general and that ethnic studies was such a narrow window to a broader spectrum, but I digress...

Anyways, it's pretty late and I'm too sleep deprived to make a clever segway to what I wanted to say, which is to ask when did you get your act together? You seem pretty well off and happy about your job/life.

Myself, I'm going to be choosing a job that I'm not so sure about: pharmacy. I've been a pharmacy technician at a retail pharmacy chain for about 3 years now, and during my first year I floated at at store which was near a gated community as well as across the street from a retirement home.

I don't know if it's me being paranoid or not, but I get a lot of blank/angry stares from rich and/or old white people. Once I was working on some prescriptions and this old war vet with a Vietnam War Vet hat on was staring at me like he hated me so much, and I asked him if he needed any help with anything. I swear to God he looked at me right in the eye and said "I killed your dad in Nam!" and I was f*cking stunned. Good thing it wasn't my home store. What scares me is that that store is actually around 10 minutes from where I live. I mean WTF?

There was another time at my own store a usual customer (who was sometimes a jackass but never seemed racist) told me to go "learn some good English." That pissed me off so much that I couldn't see straight, and I literally had to hold onto the counter so I couldn't lose my balance.

But a year after I met one of the most beautiful women ever, and I somewhat realized that I wanted to be the bread maker in the relationship. Once I realized that, I wasn't as tired at work as I used to be. But yeah. These past few years I've finally felt like I've come out of my shell a bit. I'm scrambling to get my act together so I can get into pharmacy school, but at the same time trying to enrich myself by painting, drawing, and trying to work on my skills with women. You'd think someone that works mostly with women would be good at talking to them right?

What I'm scared though is that when I finally get into pharmacy school in a year or two I'll be pretty much spending all of my time trying to get my pharmacy license, and I'll have lost my momentum that I've gained in the past few years. I'm actually skipping a lot of parts that I'm talking about, but I've realized that this is pretty much one giant paragraph but it's almost 3 in the morning, so sorry if it seems like there's some bit holes missing. So yeah. When did you get your act together?

- Pharma Tech

My Answer: Do I have my act together? My wife would scoff at that idea and remind me that if I had not met her, I would be lying in a ditch drunk as a skunk lamenting, "Cruel world... WHY???!!!!"

Seriously though, it was the culmination of a number of key changes in my life:

1) Getting married to my beautiful wife. I really would have been lying in a proverbial ditch had I not met her. Settling down with someone grounds you. Marriage kicks in a series of events which stabilize your life. You get a house. You have kids. You stick to a good paying job instead of drifting as a free agent.

Plus when you've resolved yourself to settling down with one person, it frees up a lot of time and energy that you spend on women. You're married, you're having sex regularly, so you're not thinking about banging every hot lady in sight. When you take sex out of the equation when dealing with other women, all of a sudden you have the time to develop a cure for cancer. The blood that was trapped down there when you were dating around now flows up to your brain. You can now actually focus on an activity without going "SHWING!" every five seconds.

Keep in mind that marriage only works if you're both on the same page. If you don't want the same things in life, or if neither of you are supportive of each other's dreams, then the marriage is going to end in divorce or worse: you're stuck in an unhappy marriage. But if you have a loving and supportive wife, then you're mentally and emotionally free to do achieve anything.

2) Getting a stable career. You can't put a ring on her finger and get married unless you have a stable career, right? If you go into pharmacy, then you should be earning some big bucks. Money is not everything, of course, but it sure does help.

There's this notion that your career should be your passion and that if they are not one and the same, then you failed and you're not happy. But there are very few people that I know whose job was truly their passion.  Most Asians I know are the product of Tiger parenting and got a traditional stable high-paying career.

Are they happy? More or less, because they have the money to indulge their passions on the weekends. This is why you get so many Asians generating content on the Internet. The Internet allows you to indulge your passions part-time. You can build a business, write a book, sing on YouTube and not have to quit your day job.

Now don't get me wrong. If you hate a job, then there is no point in sticking with it. But if the biggest flaw of the job is that it's boring, then take the money and run. It's funding your lifestyle.

3) Weightlifting. Speaking of passions, weightlifting has been my passion for some time. I've always been a skinny guy, so when my friend introduced me to the gym, I took to weightlifting like a fish to water. The activity challenged and developed me in so many different aspects: physically, emotionally and intellectually. You become physically bigger and stronger. You become mentally stronger, because you must exercise self-discipline to train.

People also see you differently, because let's face it: people respect strength. They don't respect vanity, and people see bodybuilders who develop bloated cartoonish physiques as narcissistic. But if your forearms look like they can rip a phone book in half, then people tend not to mess with you.

Like all love affairs, my passion for weightlifting evolved over time.  Once you become a master of something, you can only learn so much after that. You keep up your love for the sport by teaching others. So my passion for weightlifting transformed into a different passion: teaching and writing.

The bottom line is if you are an expert in something people give a damn about, then you will have followers from all walks of life, all creeds and colors. This is what made Bruce Lee so universally loved and admired. People of all colors recognize and acknowledge supreme skill. They may not respect your race or ethnicity, but they will respect your talent.

4) Dealing with racism. I wish there was something I could tell you to lessen the sting of dealing with racist fucktards, but there isn't. There are racist fucktards no matter where you go, and they always blindside you with their racist micro-aggressions when you least expect it.

I always have the same all-purpose answer to whatever racist comment or act I encounter:


Comes in handy, because I don't have to think about what to say or how to say it.  It's simple, to the point and works for every situation. Plus it sets you up for the next line in your comeback.

So the next time that customer comes in and says, "Speak English, boy!" you can say to him, "Fuck you. You must be deaf. Does it sound like I've got an accent?"

Unless of course you've got an accent, then maybe the racist motherfucker has a point.

All joking aside, you obviously shouldn't be dropping F-bombs on your elderly customers. But a lot of Asian people tend NOT to respond to a racist microaggression for various reasons: they're caught off guard, they're afraid, they don't know what to say, or (like yourself) they're at work and are acting in a professional manner in spite of the customer abuse.

But a racist remark is how a non-Asian belittles you as an Asian. He's telling you, "Know your place boy and shut your pie hole." A racist remark is an act of aggression, and sometimes people freeze when they are verbally assaulted.

My department offers a course on self-defense for women, and one time I was filming the course so that the women could see how they reacted in the scenarios. One woman repeatedly said, "FUCK YOU!" in the scenario. Afterwards in the debrief, the woman stated that she kept cursing, because she wanted to tap into an aggressive mindset. Instead of being paralyzed, she reacted aggressively.

Now not every situation requires a verbal and physical beatdown, but something about cursing releases you from the paralysis of silence and inaction. For me I don't even have to curse. I just talk in a tone as if I am cursing. People can sense aggression, and if people sense that you will become violent, then they become the quiet ones.

Again, not something that I recommend for every situation. But there are times when you should be angry. Just don't be angry all the time.
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