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My father hates crying.

He’s a strong one, a regular underdog. He grew up in a family of five children, in a time when food was scarce and poverty was rampant. Against all odds, he made a good living in China, married a good woman with a bad temper and had his first child within 2 years. Never complacent, he charged to America in pursuit of a challenge and there, he gave birth to a second child, whose fate was forever shaped by his inherent strength.

I was my father’s daughter. I never cried as a child. Independent and strong, I strived to eat by myself and put my own clothes on since I was barely 1. We had a special bond, and he taught me without telling me how to be brave.

Maybe that’s why I became weaker and weaker when my dad left.

He left for China in pursuit of a passionate career and left a gap in my life. Children have small memory capacity, and I must’ve found a way to bridge the gaps. But I think it was then, that I learned to cry. And so I used those tears to fill the emptiness he left in his wake. For a while, I felt like a complete child, as if nothing were missing. Especially not something as important as my father.

When others asked me where my dad was, I simply replied, “China”. They would gape at me with horror and ask, “Don’t you miss him?” Not catching on, I’d shrug, “Not really, I’m used to it” and they would continue to look at me with a mingled expression of pity and shock.

It was when I became a teenager that things went downhill. My mind betrayed me and for the first time ever, I realized that there was a gap in my life. I finally had to deal with the consequences that were not my fault at all.

I knew I saw the world differently from others, because it seemed so easy for everyone else to be popular and sociable, yet I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. Far too uncomfortable. And I blamed it on my father.

He made me question myself, second guess myself. I never thought I was good enough. I was never pretty enough, smart enough, popular enough.

He made me overly sensitive so that I overanalyzed everything. From a snide remark made by a “friend” to the careless jokes from a boy that I liked, I became a scared girl who acted too strong on the outside and was easily hurt on the inside.

He made me feel guilty for being cold to him. For not truly caring about him. He made me hate that small part of me that hated his animal-like temper. He made me sad that I lacked motivation to patch up our relationship.

He left me to fend for myself, turning me away from the path of a strong, independent girl to the dark path of someone who was as weak as a kitten on the inside yet struggling to be hard as steel on the outside.

My relationship with him changed the way I perceived myself and others around me. It made me a girl who picked up on all the subtle hints of tone and expression, a girl who tried so hard to be in control of everything she did, a girl who tried to bottle up her doubts and guesses in a place deep inside.



I thought I was strong and firm. I thought I was my father’s daughter, but I began to realize I was weak. The tears alone should’ve been a telltale sign. He had given me the ultimate test of strength by letting me struggle without a father in my life, and I had failed the test to stay strong.

I became a girl who cried.

And now, I try to forgive him. I’ve heard his story for the first time ever just this year.

I had always seen a two-dimensional him, as dynamic as cardboard. He was stubborn, strong-willed and bad-tempered. I thought that resounded in him through and through. Until I learned that he hated his father because he abused him, verbally and physically. Until I learned that he was given to a strange man at a young age because of his mother’s addiction to gambling. Until I learned that to this day, he does not know who his real father is. Until I learned his grandmother was his role model and he could not attend her funeral because he was poor and stranded in the U.S.

He’s a broken man inside, whose armor is too thick even for himself to penetrate. And it reminds me of someone awfully familiar. He and I shared the same strength, the same pride-fueled and shallow strength.

Today I can say that I’ve learned to grow without him, turning my sensitivity, my doubts into a stronger me. All that has made me go deeper into understanding myself and those around me. My father made me realize that I am a different type of strong.

I’ve misunderstood him for so long. I can try to understand but I cannot be like him. I can’t hold back my tears. I can’t be doubtless. I can’t bottle up my emotions. I face my fears and insecurities. And that makes me strong, perhaps even stronger than he is.

Daddy, I am still your daughter.

But you have to accept the fact that I cry.





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