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Reflecting the Truth

by Nov 2, 2018

When anyone meets my mom, they tell me she is cute and sweet–which she does not understand. Eventually space and time will reveal true acceptance.

This past week was a big step for me. It was the first time I had ever decided to leave my mom alone for almost a week; I went to Seattle for a seminar. My mind and heart wandered to her even as I was across the country. It is manageable to go through any program at NUHS as a full-track student and pair it with another program (dual program), having a family, or even a full time job.

I am one of those enrolled in the full track for the MSOM program, I work part-time, and serve as a board member/president for the Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine Student Association (AOMSA), but my life at home is also that of caregiver for my mom. She is dependent on me. She has really bad rheumatoid and osteoarthritis that have caused her to be unable to drive anymore.

Rinas Tree

At times when the weather is gloomy, it takes her a while to start her morning routine; and on certain days she can’t even do simple things, such as swiping her hair from her face. She has been wheel chair bound and not walked for five years. My father had been the patriarch of the household. Fifteen years ago, prior to his passing, he was persuaded that she needed knee replacements. At the present time she experiences some aches and muscle stiffness, but even more so with age. She tends to “waddle”; I call her my Asian Penguin! It was hard for me to leave her for a bit, but going to Seattle really opened my eyes, it was as if I had never seen myself before. 

Leaving my mom for a short period of time allowed me to accept how far I have come, and to be proud of who I have become. As far as going back to what my mom does not understand when others see her, it reflected on me. My parents were forced to flee Cambodia to come to the States, meet each other here, then raise me in the “burbs of Chi” once I was born.

My upbringing was more that of a traditional Cambodian girl, because my parents knew society would raise me as an American. As many Asian cultures during my time, I grew up with no praise or much encouragement. I was to keep striving for the best. “You don’t need to be praised or reminded of what you do. Just do better”. I can praise so many people on their accomplishments, support others through their journey, or even pick someone up when they are faltering. But the truth is, I have never done this for myself.

Have you ever looked into the mirror and realized who you are? My trip to Seattle had allowed me to see myself for the first time. One morning in my hotel room, as I stood there looking at my reflection, I realized who I was. I have wrinkles around my eyes, but they were crinkled with wisdom. I have a smile that can be seen many feet away, but it masks a broken heart; shoulders that help support so many, but that also manage to always hold me together, too. Contagious laughter, when only moments before I was crying tears of sorrow. 

Most of all, as I looked at the big picture, I saw what others saw: I am who I am. I went through what I needed to go through, and I may not be perfect in other’s eyes, but I sure am perfect in God’s eyes. He made me in His own image, for I know my heart reflects what he wanted me to shine. As a reminder to myself: do not be so hard on yourself! Things will work out the way they are supposed to, and in divine time.

I had left my mom a week earlier, saying, “See you later”. The day I returned home, my Asian Penguin opened the door, looked at me, and complimented me for the first time with her genuine smile, “Welcome home my beautiful baby girl, now I can have someone to argue with again”.

: )

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About the Author

Rina Sem

Rina Sem

Rina Sem is a student at the Lombard, Illinois campus studying in the Master of Science-Oriental Medicine program. Though working in the medical field for 10 years, she is keeping the promise she made to her father to complete her master’s degree. Rina is a first-generation American of Cambodian heritage, and passionate about her studies in the field of complementary and alternative medicine.

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