Recently, my dear old dad has taken to referring to my older sister and myself as “leftovers.” It’s not a term born from his own vocabulary, but one he acquired after reading a particularly formidable book called “Marry By Choice, Not By Chance.”
I’m rather late to the game seeing how the book made headlines upon being published a few years ago, but it is an outrageously misinformed work filled with outdated ideas on the importance of young women getting married early on written by a woman with questionable values that was so ridiculous, it made it to the hands of Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.
The phrase refers to young women who choose to pursue career endeavors or strive for some personal goal rather than making marriage a priority. Thus, if you’re in your thirties and unmarried, you’ve sealed your fate – you’re doomed.
At the time, I laughed it off. My dad’s perception of modern society aligns with the author’s old fashioned views and I’m long past raging over his views (sometimes.) However, the term itself struck a different chord than the one he intended, and I’ve been mulling it over for the past week.
“Leftovers:” (noun) Something that remains unused or unconsumed.
At the ripe age of twenty five, I think it’s safe to say that I am experiencing the notorious phenomenon that is quarter-life crisis. In fact, it’s been a perpetual feeling for the last year or two. Somewhere along the way past college graduation and coming to terms with the fact that there are no more summer vacations to look forward to, I’ve learned several crucial things:
- Number one, and most importantly: there is no more fucking around, ever. The bubble I left behind after graduating has officially burst.
- My parents are legitimately getting old. My dad had a stroke in 2014 that left him with a permanent limp, and he is retired. My mom still works a minimum wage retail job and is now suffering from sciatica among a myriad of health issues.
- We still don’t have a permanent home.
- My sister and I are officially the heads of the household.
- And finally…I’ve come to terms with the fact that it is my entire family, myself included, who are the leftovers.
It’s been a slow realization, but with each passing year I’ve been confronted with things that confirmed that we are disadvantaged in many ways, particularly rooted in my upbringing.
Most immigrant families begin their lives in negative in the United State. Moving to this country with an entire family requires a different kind of thinking and most importantly, courage and open-mindedness. We lacked these traits in so many ways.
I realized this when I moved out to pursue my so-called independence and came head-to-head with the fact that I didn’t know how to cook or clean.
I realized this when at the age of 23, I was the first one in my family to get my driver’s license. We always had to depend on others for travel because my dad refused to let us learn to drive or even get a car.
I realized this when my family finally moved out of our crap apartment into a nicer place, with my sibling and I supporting us entirely – minus my dad, because he refused to come with us, even to upgrade our lives.
I realized this when I began to plan the next few years of my life and, somewhere along my thinking, I screeched to a halt: not only do my parents not own a home, they don’t even speak to each other. They haven’t for my entire childhood into adulthood.
At this point I’d like to remark that if it sounds like I’m whining and exhibiting clear signs of daddy issues, it’s because I am and I do.
In fact, we’re not quite leftovers – we’re left behind. We are the ones who are unconsumed – by modern life, by progression. For my entire life, I’ve been unable to make own decisions, largely because I was so dependent on my dad and because we are not financially well-off.
Now that I have some control of my life – not all by any means – I have to determine how to become consumed without drowning.
It’s tough to be a product of the diaspora. Every immigrant family story is different, some far more horrific than others. This is my story, and the next chapter is blank.
But the pen is in my hand, and the ink is permanent. It’s not up to some vague deity to determine what the future holds–it’s up to me.